Well, this is an exciting blog post to write! In a stroke of great fortune, I received an email last week from the rather delightful team behind the Post Office Travel Blogger Awards 2018. As my first piece of recognition of my blog, I have been shortlisted in the Affordable Travel category! This feels like such an achievement and I’m really chuffed.
As part of our shortlisting, we have each been asked to detail how we would spend the £5,000 prize. I don’t think it will come as any surprise that of course, I would love to embark on another adventure with my Dad.We would plan to use the prize money to follow in my Grandfather’s footsteps through Southern Africa.
Please take a read below and if you’d like to support me in this exciting Awards, you can vote here! Thanks in advance 🙂
Travelling with my Dad
Before I started blogging, and whilst I was fresh out of university in 2015, my Dad and I took on China as a proper bucket list adventure.
We’d had an unexpected mini trip together the year before, and we realised we made pretty good travel buddies. We both like to get up early and we like to clock some serious mileage walking and cycling – two key aspects to match in a travel buddy! We share the same love for the heat, trying unusual foods, meeting local people and going completely out of way to follow our passion for trains..!
So we went to China. One of my Dad’s top two places in the world to explore and we traversed the country, top to bottom and East to West. We got lost, we got on their ultra-fast trains in the wrong direction, we ran out of cash, our cards got declined, we pounded the streets of Shanghai in 50c heat and I even noticed my Dad smiling and ogling at newborn pandas. A surprising reaction for a rather serious workaholic man.
We planned the route together, zigzagging our way across the country. My Dad embraced every experience and was by far the oldest backpacker around. He happily stayed in homestays with local families and never complained when I stopped to pet every stray puppy in the searing heat. The best kind of travel companion if you ask me.
It was an amazing adventure and one of my Dad’s lifetime goals achieved. And we’d love to do it all over again, this time to visit our other dream destination – Southern Africa.
Why Southern Africa?
My Dad has actually planned many of our family travels to follow in the footsteps of his parents who were in the Armed Forces. Malta, Singapore, Malaysia, New York, it’s been a special and unique way to see the world. Having lost his parents before the age of 20, he has embraced the opportunity to follow in their footsteps. We have learnt more about their lives by re-tracing their travels in photos and then going to the same spots. It’s special and a little bit different, and gives some real meaning to our travelling as a family.
My Grandfather told everyone he knew that he and his pet monkey (yes, really) travelled the world, but nowhere stole a place in his heart quite like the Southern African nations of Zimbabwe, Zambia and South Africa.
And so, of course, we want to visit here next and hope to do so in 2019.
The other reason why Southern Africa is of personal interest to me is related to my university degree. I studied International Development at the University of Leeds and had an incredible fully funded opportunity to fly to Ghana for a semester abroad. Six months in West Africa was incredible and started what I imagine will be a lifelong love for the continent of Africa.
Following this stint living in beautiful Ghana, I returned home and chose to focus my entire degree on African nations. I developed a particular interest in land reform in Zimbabwe and maternal mortality across Sub-Saharan Africa. I have been looking forward to my opportunity to return to Africa. However, working full time in London has really meant I have had to wait and save to embark on this epic journey.
What do we plan on doing?
We would love to visit Victoria Falls as probably number 1 on the bucket list. My Grandad said it was one of the most spectacular places he ever saw. He also said the local people in Zambia were some of the kindest he had ever met. Durban was tropical paradise and Cape Town was beautiful, so undoubtedly we would like to travel to all of these places.
But did I mention we both LOVE trains?
In case you missed that, both of us love trains. I can’t tell you why I love train rides abroad so much. The longer the better, and the more historic and unusual, the better.
I have made my travel adventures much more complicated and expensive by needing to do a certain train journey. However, since starting my blog (and full time job), I haven’t had the same opportunities (or time) to embrace some of the epic train journeys I’d like to.
And Southern Africa has a few of these trains. Some routes and even carriages date back over 100 years, and to journey on these, perhaps as my Grandfather may have done, is exciting. Two in particular really jump out at me which are The Bushtracks Express and the Royal Livingstone Express. Both of which are two historic and grand train journeys, traversing one of the world’s most incredible landscapes. Another key route I would love to experience is the Bulawayo route, a sleeper train that finishes in the epic Hwange National Park.
As I mention in my ‘About Me‘ page, I try to provide factual and detailed guides to destinations. But, the other key element I try to incorporate into my writing is honest and balanced information. I particularly like to help change perceptions and plan to do so in some of my upcoming blog posts. I would love to promote Southern Africa (and of course the whole continent) as a safe and beautiful destination. One that should be considered on every travellers’s bucket lists.
Well, thank you for reading! I really appreciate it and I would be incredibly grateful if you had a spare moment to vote for me here too: www.postoffice.co.uk/travel-insurance/blogger-of-the-year