In this month's Talking Travel series, we chatted to regular TP contributor Glynn Hammond (aka nzhamsta). A prolific traveller and blogger, he has mapped over 40 trips and shared more than 2000 photos. Glynn is an avid believer in making the most of travel opportunities, having spent his life balancing work with long trips overseas, and takes his inspiration from the Mark Twain quote: "Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover."
Most recently you spent four months travelling through Europe and the Middle East both on organised trips and also on your own. What do you like about organised travel and what do you like about making your own plans?
I like to use organised travel for places that are less “easy” to travel around independently. Some of the Middle East falls into the “easy” category (Dubai, Oman (wonderful place by the way), Egypt), whereas in other places it falls into the “less easy” (on this trip, Syria). The use of an organised tour can eliminate all the headaches regarding transport, accommodation, arranging guides and so on. The downside is that you are with a group and that does not suit those people who do not like being herded, having to be ready by a certain time or be left behind, group meals and so on. The make up of the group is also very important.
The trip went to all the places I wanted to go (with the exception of the Western Desert oases) and was well organised with a decent standard of transport, accommodation (notwithstanding Egyptian plumbing), guides and food.
With regard to the balance of the trip, I had spent many years in the UK and so had travelled to Europe several times. This trip therefore cherry-picked several places that I had not gone to before (Athens, Verona, Split, Krakow and so on). I spent a lot of time planning, booking early to get the best deals on flights and trains, hotels etc. Being the type of person I am, I do like to have things organised in advance. I came to grief many years ago when I did not have bookings and thus could not find anywhere to stay when I arrived late in the evening and I had to crash out on a relative’s floor. Not appreciated by anyone. So I suppose you could call the first section and final section of my 2011 trip an “organised tour”, but organised by me for me that suited my interests.
Planning things for yourself allows you to choose where you want to go, the type of accommodation you like (a nice hotel in some places, hostels in others) and so on. However, if something goes wrong, then it is up to you to fix it. You cannot call a travel agent or tour company to complain and get them to fix things. Luckily, all my bookings were honoured and everything worked fine.
Was there anything you wished you had seen?
I would have liked to have spent more time in Poland and Germany as there is a fair amount of history and culture (and excellent beer!) in both places. However, given that I had a fixed itinerary, changing it would have been both time consuming and costly. But having missed out this time, both places go back onto my list for next time.
Your motto on your TP profile reads "Life needs adventure…". What has been your most memorable adventure?
I define adventure as being anything not ordinary. Thus a weekend away in Sydney and Canberra meets the definition (although a lot of people in Australia would hesitate to define Canberra as adventurous!). The definition also can be used for elephant trekking through the Thai jungles, cruising down the Rhine looking at castles and crossing Canada on a train.
Best adventure so far... travelling through the old Soviet Union back before a certain wall fell over.
Where's the best place you've visited so far?
You cannot beat Angkor Wat at dawn, sitting in front of the main temple with the mug of hot coffee so thoughtfully provided by the chair rental people, watching the sun come up from behind the temple. Also, sitting in a cafe watching the chaotic traffic in Hanoi, walking along the Great Wall of China, slobbed out on the beach at Phuket, and sitting by the Rhine on a beautiful summer’s evening with a large stein of excellent beer also rate highly.
What do you like about TP?
I found TP by mistake. I was looking for some information about something and a blog was listed on the Google search results. I then rummaged around the site and thought that this would be a great way to record my travels. I did have my own site but was concerned about how I was going to update it. I would need photo editing software, web design software all loaded on my laptop. I tested TP with my Fiji trip, liked what it did and so decided to start using it properly. I have since taken down my old site, saving myself $10 per month hosting fees.
I like the way it does everything that one would need to record one’s travels. It looks after the photos, creates decent maps (how are my enhancement requests coming along guys?), is easy to tweak the layout, colours etc. The organisers answer your queries and solve issues promptly. I have yet to use the accommodation booking part of the site yet. It is also great to read what other people are doing, where they are going and what they think of the places they go to.
Check out these recent interviews in the Talking Travel series: