Tag Archives: maps

To detour is not to er

Path through a green forest in Germany

How do you find your way somewhere new? These days GPS usually predominates over ye olde book of street maps. Do you ever do what I do when you know the general area but don’t know specific streets and just decide you will find your way without the aid of GPS or map simply by driving and following your nose. Whenever I use this method of getting places, it often results in a longer journey and several u-turns, but I do cover new ground and sometimes discover new routes, or sights I’d never seen before along the way.

I was traveling in Europe recently and I hate to look like an obvious tourist, so one thing I did was try not to look at my tourist map very often, or else I’d photograph sections of the map but then only consult them on my iPhone, so it might just look like I was just using my phone like every other technologically preoccupied person wandering along the street.

At one stage I was on my evening walk along a path on the side of a hill above a German town. The path was turning the cover to the left, away from the direction I wanted to go in. To the right was a gap in a fence and a sign I didn’t fully understand (it was all in German) that indicated a route that went downhill and to the right. I stepped into this area and began to follow the downward path. It was like I’d plunged ‘Into the woods’ or into Wonderland. We’re not used to tall, lush, bright green forests back home. But here was a true fairytale forest. The kind of place you expect to trip over elves or see a sword floating in an enchanted pool.

Away from the slightly busier walking track it also felt eerily quiet, like a place someone could sneak up on you in the depths of the deep dark wood. I hastened through the wood in case anything undesirable was lurking in there, but I couldn’t help but be struck by the beauty of the bright green wood, its giant trees far overhead with their spreading branches providing the shady paths.

And as it happened, even through I had taken the detour through the wood, instead of going back a tried and true way, I came out the bottom of the forest, not far from the path I needed to be on to head home.

Sometimes single mindedness gets you everywhere, but sometimes a detour is worth the time and in the bigger picture provides you with more inspiration to think outside the box.

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The art of packing: leave the sausages at home with the bathtub

Hand bag on top of wheel-along suitcase seen from above against a tiled floor with one foot

“All my bags are packed, I’m ready to go” – I’d love to be able to sing that right now, but unfortunately it isn’t true yet. I’m packing for travel at the moment (or supposed to be packing). The more you travel, the more you realise there is an art to the packing – having lugged a sleeping bag around in the European summer for three months and never used it, I know you regret every excess kg in your bag when you’re on the move. There may be people out there who love to pack, but I wouldn’t say I’m one of them. I tend to leave it until the last moment so that it’s super stressful, and yet I still want every new fangled slash-proof-water-resistant-bag-container-contraption and every super-dry-wicking-bamboo-hemp-hybrid-hyper-lightweight-piece-of-clothing to be just right.

If I’ve learnt one thing from friends’ mishaps it is never travel with fresh food. Confiscated moon cakes, sausages in the suitcase that went off during a three-day monsoonal detour, leaked chilli-full fermented cabbage Kim Chi in the bag and soft cheese confiscated due to its apparent similarity to explosives all tell me to leave the food at home if I want to preserve sweet smelling (or at least neutral-odour) clothes and belongings and not have to go through the heartbreak of seeing perfectly good food thrown in the quarantine bin.

What can we learn from the great travellers of yore about the art of packing? I’ve been reading a biography of Gertrude Bell recently. She did a lot of travel in the middle east, as well as climbing a number of peaks in Switzerland. Of course she had one thing I don’t: an entourage. If you want to bring your own china tea set or bath on your desert travels, it’s recommended that you engage a team of strong, dedicated helpers with their accompanying pack beasts, and you probably won’t be able to manage 5 cities in 10 days if you want to travel with the ultimate comforts of home.

Packing is really distilling life down to its essence, working out the bare minimum possessions you can survive with day to day. I always find something freeing about leaving my house behind and living only out of what is in my suitcase, it makes me realise what is important in life and how much I relish experiences, places and people, and how much possessions and caring for them can hold me back. I have many possessions I treasure, but in the end I find being able to leave them and get out into the world a richer, more engaging experience.

Music to pack by

In an effort to get myself to achieve anything, I normally need to think creatively and turn whatever the task is into a project. For example, I could pack a bit everyday for the time it takes to listen to one of my Packing Songs.  I can’t say any of my previous playlists have been dedicated to the art of packing, so this is a venture of the moment and I’ll see what I can come up with that isn’t just incredibly twee. There are a number of packing, moving and travelling playlists already out there, so I’ve just got five songs here that are meaningful to me. If you are packing to travel like me, or packing to move: here’s to packing and traveling light:

spotify:track:6ZSTinOwx5dKFYc6iYyGDn

spotify:track:2KESN3Vjy8fzMvzSH0vgkP

spotify:track:1c9ZZvFtpbpnWZPLX3ebh3

spotify:track:0xyFNJSyGzEPAezW6zNs7s

spotify:track:6Deb529ZxTKzOe5u1lgnCO

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