If you are reading this section of my blog then that must mean that you want to know a bit about me! So here goes…
My name is Lewis, I’m 27 and I live in the Lake District, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the North of England. The Lakes District is known for its expanse of lakes, mountains and overall outstanding natural beauty.
Travelling isn’t something I do for a living, it isn’t even something I earn money from. I work a full time job – my job being a Designer for an Engineering company near to where I live. I work many of my own weekends and as many extra hours as I can to fund my trips and I strongly believe that if you want something or want to experience something then you need to work hard to get the rewards and remember, work to live don’t live to work!
Apart from school education I am not professional trained in literature or journalism! This blog is merely a way for me to contribute my own experiences and thoughts into this ever growing market that is the travel industry.
The following Q&A comprises of questions that real people I know have asked me before and the answers I seem to remember giving them…
What got you into travelling so much?
I have always been fortunate enough to enjoy family holidays from a young age, my first trip abroad was to Minorca in the Balearic islands, Spain in 1999, I was 6 years old and what I remember of it was that it rained pretty much the entire 2 weeks we were there and the flight home was also delayed 6 hours! As I’ve grown up and started working jobs I have always appreciated my holiday time and make the most of it as best as I can, ensuring I use all of my annual leave!
Where is the best place you have visited so far?
Tough question! I can’t really specify a single country from the entire planet as I’ve been to so many great places, however from the different continents…
- In North America I have only been to New York in the USA, its one of them cities that everyone kind of knows even if they haven’t visited in person through films and even games. In person it doesn’t disappoint!
- In Europe I especially enjoyed visiting Liechtenstein, the tiny principality has everything you could want from a travel destination, all put into a tiny area! I found the place to be spotless and the people to very friendly!
- In Asia without a doubt, Singapore is my favourite place visited so far, the tiny city state is spotless, with not a piece of litter anywhere. The surroundings are incredible and the food is amazing as there is so much influence coming from every direction.
What is the strangest place you have visited?
In 2018 I visited Ukraine with a friend for a couple of days, we were staying in Kiev and we took a day trip up to the Chernobyl exclusion zone. At the exclusion zone we visited the Chernobyl town, the Nuclear power plant itself (as well as having lunch in the site canteen that is less than a hundred meters from the reactor itself), a former soviet radar DUGA tower that was used in the cold war to spy on the West and also the now crumbling town of Pripyat where the workers lived before being swiftly evacuated when the disaster happened.
Photos of the trip to Kiev and the Chernobyl Tour are on my Instagram feed @lewispickthall
If you are interested in doing the tour yourself: chernobyl-tour.com
What is the worst place you have visited so far?
In all honesty I can’t really answer the question properly, I travel to new places with an open mind and remind myself that it is going to be different to home in many ways. There are countries that I won’t go back to in a hurry (mainly because I want to travel to so many new places) but there isn’t anywhere that I wouldn’t go back to at all from the places that I have visited so far!
Certain cities I definitely wouldn’t rush back to and some I found just really dirty and unsafe, however the majority of these have actually been in the UK!
Is there anywhere that you wouldn’t go to?
Unless the country is unsafe to visit from war or political instability, there isn’t really anywhere that I wouldn’t visit. There are some countries that I would be interested in visiting however due to ‘red tape’ it could make future travel more difficult.
For example, a country that I do find interesting is Iran. However as a British passport holder any future travel to the US (which I plan on) would require a visa as my ESTA would be cancelled just by being present in this country. This is due to the travel restrictions imposed by the US government for non-US citizens who have visited certain countries since March 2011, more info can be found here
As a general rule to myself before visiting any new country regardless of how close to the UK and what continent, I read the foreign travel advisory for that country on the UK government website, this site has every country and territory and is regularly updated to provide information on safety/security, local laws and customs as well as visa requirements for that country.
Best food and drink you have tried and in what country?
The best type of food I have tried is definitely locally cooked fresh Thai Food in Thailand, whilst there I got a new found love of ‘ribbon’ noodles, which are tape like noodles. Mix that in with some sweet chilli chicken, fresh vegetables and some spring rolls on the side and you’re onto a winner!
The best type of drink I have tried has got to be Czech beer, one of the most famous lager being Staropramen. You can buy it in bottles in many supermarkets and on draught in some pubs in the UK, but in my opinion the best place to try it has got to be in Prague itself! Croatian wine has also been one of my favourites to try, having tried plenty on my week long sail around the Croatian islands.
What made you want to start a blog?
After visiting 30 countries (Liechtenstein being my 30th!) I wanted another way to start sharing my experiences of travel other than just through photos. I have always been quite keen on amateur writing, in the future writing blog posts should also keep me occupied while in airports and on long flights!
What camera do you use for your Instagram and blog post photos?
All of my photos this year have been taken just using an iPhone X, in the past some of my photos have been taken on a iPhone 7 Plus and before that on a Samsung Note 4.
Do you ever feel anxious or get worried when you travel, especially solo?
Absolutely! There are some times when I am travelling to somewhere new that I even get that knot in your stomach when coming into land at the airport. This could be for many reasons; bag goes missing, missed connections, transport no shows, the unknowns of group tours I am due to go on… the list goes on.
The best things to go to reduce these feelings I’ve found are;
- Plan as much as you can prior to departing on your trip, I mean everything that you can do; flights, accommodation, transfers, transport, excursions. Booking a lot in advance may mean that you are you committing yourself to a strict schedule, however when you are travelling solo this may be easier and less stressful as it means you have less to worry about when on the ground in a foreign place.
- If possible try a take just carry on luggage then you know that you are in full possession everything you own and there is not a chance of the airport losing your bag!
- Keep well in yourself when you are travelling, this means getting as much sleep as you can prior to departure and in transit, eat nutritional food, drink plenty of water and freshen up where possible, because when you feel crap, you think crap! Its amazing what some sleep, a good meal and even a shower can do for your thoughts and how much it can help you think straight when having to sort things out.
I have a full post of staying well when travelling and how to deal with basic travel medical problems here
Any advice for something afraid of flying?
I am lucky to never have really had an fear of flying (and having flown over 30 time in 2018 alone, its just as well!) however in the past I have found watching videos on YouTube on how and why certain things happen when flying – turbulence being one of them! certainly helps put your mind at some ease.
Another thing I think of is the fact that there are thousands of flights in the skies every day all piloted by very skilled professionals, carrying passengers that have gone through very vigorous security checks before boarding these flights so the chances of anything bad happening is very low
One final thing you can also do is a sky dive from a plane, that will make you feel alive!
What essentials do you recommend taking on a trip?
I have a full packing list post which can be found here (post coming soon) however the 5 things I absolutely do not go anyway without are:
Passport, iPhone (with charging case), travel insurance cards (EHIC and own policy card), my Revolut currency card and at least 5 pairs of daily contact lenses
What are you best sites to book with?
I have a full post of this subject which can be found here, however in brief…
- flights: Skyscanner, Kayak
- accommodation: Booking.com, HostelWorld, Airbnb
- transport: Rome2Rio
- excursions/group tours: STA Travel, TourRadar
Do you have any travel goals?
I guess everyones who travels seriously has the goal of visiting every country in the world, I know for a fact that in my current situation that this would not be possible partly down to cost, but mainly down to time. I only get so much annual leave a year!
However one of the realistic goals I have is to have visit all of the countries in Europe, which I am making good progress with, with 15 more to go until I have been to them all as well as the 4 ‘Eurasian’ countries Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan (yes 1/10th of Kazakhstan is technically in Europe!)
What do you do when you are not travelling?
These days I honestly don’t get that much free time. If I am not working on my day job, I am doing some kind of work or planning for an upcoming trip.
I do try and keep active as much as I can, living in an area such as the Lake District, there is something physical for everyone here as we have mountains, lakes and a lot of challenging roads to cycle on.
I also have a fairly big circle of mates that I try and spend as much time with. I have also travelled with some of this group to places in the past (Prague, Budapest and Crete to name a few)
Any advice for someone wanting to travel?
JUST DO IT! If you have no serious commitments and can afford to do so, then get yourself out there, even if you do go on your own, staying in hostels, doing group tours or volunteering on projects… its surprising the kind of people that you will meet, many of them are in the same mindset as yourself and are hungry for a bit of adventure!
If a long haul destination sounds to intimidating at first then try something small, try something like a neighbouring country for a weekend (if you live in Europe, it is so easy just to fly or drive somewhere for a weekend!) and then depending on how you manage go somewhere a bit further away… and a then a bit further!
If something doesn’t quite go to plan on your first trip, don’t give up! Sometimes things that you didn’t want to do happen at no real fault of anyone and somethings things can be avoided give lessons to learn from!
But the main thing is remember that you are only here once and its your life, do you want to be forever regretting the time that you wanted to do something that you were able to do and didn’t?