How many languages do you speak?

I have been all over this app called duolingo the past week or so, I have decided to finally step up my language game and try to learn a new one. What better time learn than when stuck in quarantine? The free time shouldn’t be wasted.

I have decided on Portuguese (I will explain my choice in a moment) and although just getting through the basics it is very fun so far.

I can confidently tell Portuguese speakers that I am not a shark but I do eat bread.

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I always felt that learning a new language would be amazing, I just have never got round to actually starting. And I never knew what language to choose. But when I travelled around Brazil in 2016 with friends from São Paulo, I learned the very basics and thought it would be nice to keep the ball rolling. I didn’t keep the ball rolling. But I still wanted to learn and when I heard of this app I gave it a try.

It is a very convenient way to learn. I have been doing it daily in short bursts, and the thing with this is I don’t have to focus at certain times of the day in classes. I choose when and where I learn and this is a game changer for me, even if it takes me a little longer. I can imagine so many people are enjoying learning a new language in this way, the app states that more people are learning Irish around the world than there are native speakers.

I am not learning due to a career or for better career/financial prospects, more so because it sounds like an exciting challenge and it is great brain training. So thank you Brazil for helping me decide on a language to learn about. And similar to the US and UK variation of English, I would be interested to learn the differences between Brazilian-Portuguese and Portuguese-Portuguese.

I hope to keep it up. It’s like learning an instrument, real progress won’t happen overnight but with gradual steps. And I know a few of you do speak more than one language, I would love to know how many and what made you choose. If you only speak one, what one would you pick if you could?

Speak to you all soon! (in English for now).

 


 

Due to the Coronavirus outbreak I am somewhat limited as to what I can do in London, but I aim to post as much as I can during this time. I promise to have some great posts coming your way once this is all over as I continue to explore London.

Stay home, stay safe and happy blogging!

Sam


 

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What do you love?

After the recent and rather pessimistic question in my recent post What do you hate? I felt it was time to lift the spirits and spread a little more happiness throughout the WordPress Community. I took this picture back in 2014 on a beautiful riverboat trip in Belem, Brazil during sunset. I remember how relaxing it was and how happy the staff were, they are the ones you can see dancing in the photo and got the whole boat up onto their feet.

I love travel. I love my supportive family and friends that have supported me in anything I do and have done, even if it means having to leave them temporarily as I travel to the other side of the world. I love having the freedom to travel and live freely. I love music, particularly rock music and the band Muse, and taking photographs of the places I am able to see and live in an era that makes it possible to share this with the world.

I love blogging, conversations and debates and sharing my thoughts and views on this blog with the bloggers I engage with daily.

And with this, I ask you…

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Thank you again to all my followers and regular readers, and hello to you if you are new to my blog!

New to this site? Click here to visit my About My Blog section

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Happy blogging!

The travel stories sound great but… did you tan?

I must admit, after booking a flight to Cairns I have had a few concerns with being exposed to unrelenting sunshine.

Then again, looking at the forecast for the dates I will be there, it seems to be very cloudy. I do hope we get a few sunny days.

However it took me back to this post about our desire for a tan, and how in the UK a sun tan is what people want to see most from our time away on our two week long Spanish holiday. It is like a trophy almost. People gather around at work to listen to your stories of that bright golden thing in the sky and what it felt like on the skin.

Let me know your thoughts on this. I am sure many people from the UK and other nations with similar climates can relate. Those that live in warmer climates, just show a little compassion to your grey skied neighbours 😉


I was with three German friends yesterday, they were travelling from Stuttgart to Newcastle for a weekend break. They underestimated the Scottish sunshine as I watched them come back from a day trip to Edinburgh. It’s there and craves attention from time to time. One of them came back more red than a Stuttgart away shirt.

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Of course, the featured image isn’t northern Europe. It is Belém, Portuguese for Bethlehem. I loved this city and the regions around it, if I was in danger of sunburn it was this place. It is a shame, I used to tan so well. Maybe it was the parental guidance as a child and my clear lack of self reliance to apply enough sunscreen. I am fine with this though, it isn’t the main focus of my holiday.

It seems to be the main focus for so many people. When I arrive home after a trip, more often than not my skin colour will be the topic of conversation. Whether I tanned or not, I have to go through the cliche who-has-the-browner-skin competition.

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I have five right arms. Great for carrying groceries, terrible for balance.

For many Brits, holidays abroad are simply for the sunshine. To be able to sit down outside with a beer and do nothing. To get a great tan and show everyone back home. It seems like this is what is perceived of my reasons to travel too. Not the stories of what I did or where I went, what food I tried and how much of the language I learned. Just how hard I tried to sit still to get brown enough to prove I went away in the first place.

I do often come back with a little colour, but this shouldn’t be the only evidence that any journey was worth it. If anything the lack of tan may prove I was busy doing other things, venturing away from the hotel pool from time to time. If I go all that way I want to make it worth it. I want to take this opportunity to do what I cannot back home and sample a new experience that my great grandparents were not able to.

I wonder if I went back in time and visited my great grandparents, would they take any interest in my change of skin colour at all, considering the huge amount of curiosity they must have gathered knowing I had travelled overseas? Or would they spend the whole day sitting down with me asking what such an experience was like? The smells from the restaurants, the appearance of the natives, the warmth of the rain and the height of the mountains.

The tan fades. Experiences don’t.

 

Originally posted 19th June, 2017

Reposted 1st February, 2018

Reblog- 28 cities of South America: a traveller’s ranking — story every day

I enjoyed this post courtesy of Alex/Story Every Day, a post detailing 144 days in 28 cities in South America.

That is a city every 5.14285714 days according my iPhone calculator. Pretty damn impressive!

Although I have visited Brazil and Argentina myself, I cannot really cross Argentina off my travel list. Heck I was in Brazil for a month and I feel wrong crossing Brazil off my list. Huge countries need a huge amount of travel to better understand the nation.

I visited Argentina twice in two days in 2016. The first time, crossing the border for the day to visit the Argentinian side of the Falls do Iguazu (Number 26 and 27 on Alex’s list). The other border crossing was for steak and wine at a restaurant we were recommended near the falls. Our driver took us over the border, we got out passport stamped and she had a little nap in the car whilst we dined. She was a lovely driver and was very helpful with local info.

The bridge between Brazil and Argentina. Is this the only one? I’m not sure.

The blog post linked reminded me that there are entire continents seperate from ours that many people do not get to visit. Even those of us fortunate to have had a couple of the countries stamped into our passport merely get a glimpse of life there. Entire continents with vast countries and cultures. Within these countries, multiple cities with seperate identities. Entire families and ways of life. Incredible people, arts, transport systems, architecture, foods, drinks, sports, climates, political and religious views… All happening whilst we do our own thing thousands of miles away in a place we call home.

In reality, I don’t want to get too attached to the place I call home. The blog post below is 28 reasons why!

South America is beginning to feel like home. But after 144 days of schlepping across this gigantic and diverse continent, my time here is coming to an end, and with departure approaching I find myself reflecting with bittersweet nostalgia on everything I have experienced here. It’s been a swashbuckler of a journey. In those 144 […]

via 28 cities of South America: a traveller’s ranking — story every day

Açaí you there!

I was instantly reminded of my amazing month in Brazil as I walked by this stand. I haven’t had Açaí since then (August 2016), in fact I don’t think I have seen anywhere to buy it until now.

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I guess a city with a population of over four million is bound to offer a great variety of food and drink, cuisines inspired by the countless nationalities that have settled here. This isn’t always the case in the smaller cities, Newcastle for example, the city I lived in before moving here. It just cannot compete in terms of diversity.

Have you tried it? With Summer around the corner there is no doubt I will tuck into this little tub of heaven again, and I look forward to doing so.

Obrigado in advance!

Marrying for a passport

I love working in the tourism/hospitality industry. I see new people everyday, hear constantly varying accents, listen to interesting stories and learn about new places to visit. Some days make me want to attach a hip flask to my belt, at least there is a balance.

I need that kind of diversity to keep me stimulated at work. It hasn’t been enough to keep me in my job as I will be travelling to Sydney soon, I don’t think any job would prevent me from travelling but this one has kept me in one place since 2013. It is the many nationalities I see daily that probably triggered my move, a constant reminder that there is a world out there that I choose not to see every time I do not hand in my leaving notice. I was born in one corner of the world, many people stay there. I have colleagues that are confused as to why I could leave a job to do something as ‘unimportant’ as travel. I couldn’t disagree more. Employment is important and money is obviously a main fuel for the ability to travel, however work isn’t always a sacrifice needing to be made. I will work in Australia to fund my adventures, why work where I have always lived when there may be an employer out there willing to hire me on the other side of the world? From experience in working abroad in the past, a job can be so much more enjoyable in a new environment. New people, new climates, new food, all much needed stimulants in my life. It is like a life hack I have always sought. That being said, I will miss my job and the stories along the way. Some stick with me and I often find myself questioning life along the way. The story I am about to tell is no exception to this and as always, I would love to hear your opinion on this, regardless of what side of the fence you stand.

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So two days ago I met a very attractive female, I am guessing in her 40’s. She was very friendly and in my circle so it was inevitable that I would converse with her at some point. Her accent did not match the passport she had on the desk next to her, she left it out whilst arranging her handbag. She got out of a taxi not too long before this moment, so I am assuming she only just arrived from the airport. The passport was British, I thought it would be a good ice breaker to ask the question.

‘So where are you originally from?’ I finally asked out of curiosity.

‘I am Brazilian, Sao Paulo.’ She responded with a smile. The question, thankfully, was welcomed.

‘Ah okay, so where do you live now?’ Wondering where in Britain someone from the land of golden beaches and palm trees would plan to settle.

‘Scotland’ She chuckled. ‘It is a long story’.

Of course, ‘a long ‘story’ is often seen as an invitation to ask more, or at least makes us want to. What I didn’t ask is whether or not she did indeed arrive from the airport. Anywhere in Scotland to Newcastle (the most northern city in England before the Scottish border) would be a very short flight indeed. Car or train are the usual and most practical choices.

‘So what made you move to Scotland?’ I asked.

She then looked at her British passport and tapped it twice before glancing up at me with that smile that didn’t really go away. This really happened! I chuckled and accepted her answer. I don’t know if this was the most appropriate question to ask, however I felt she said the bar quite high with her last action.

‘May I ask, are you still married to this person?’ Spoken a little softer as it isn’t really a conversation you want others to listen in on.

Of course not! But he is one of my best friends now‘ Was the answer, which gave me the impression that he was as in on this as she was. She didn’t seem to be bothered by my curiosity, probably because I didn’t really show any signs of shock or offence. I felt like I was talking to a Bond girl, you know when Bond is at a bar and the girl, in a very relaxed and composed manner, speaks openly in a way many others would feel uncomfortable doing? Thankfully, the topic was marrying for a passport, not the way she plans to see me die as I tell her how pretty she was.

Since then I have questioned whether or not this is acceptable. Not that I feel marriage is something that people should feign, but we are all victims of circumstance. I didn’t do anything to be awarded a British Passport, other than be born here. Thankfully, I have enjoyed the benefits of living here and the freedoms a British passport provides, currently ranked 3rd in terms of its power on Passport Index which is an interesting site to view if you want to view how many countries you can enter visa-free.

I have visited Brazil and Sao Paulo and loved it. It would be illogical however to compare travelling for one month to living in a nation and I would be lying to suggest this incredible nation was without problems. All nations have problems. As much as I love looking back at my photos I know there are people in them that would move to a more prosperous place if they could. I have friends that have a great life and live in SP. I also know a couple that live in Edinburgh, he is from Brazil and they married for love and are still together in the UK.

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But the question still goes through my head. If someone is to contribute positively to another nations society, working hard and finding love once here, is marrying to get here as much of a free pass as say, having a winning lottery ticket? We don’t often show hate to people that have won the lottery, despite the lack of work that went into achieving a life of luxury other than handing a £1 coin to the cashier in exchange for a ticket. There is actually less work ethic shown here than marrying for a passport, and agreeing to marry someone for a passport is probably more moral than pretending to love someone that is purely being used for a passport, as weird as it sounds to say that. I am sure that it is the deceit that is frowned upon in this case, there is honesty in a winning lottery ticket, incredible odds in replace of skill. This is known by all and is an accepted way to become wealthy beyond belief.

What would I do if I was living in conditions that I hated, knowing the ways in which I could free myself from them and into a life I enjoyed with more freedom? I do not know but I know people do, and I now know someone that has.

Featured Photo by STIL on Unsplash

Does your town have a Ghost Bike?

I have a few photos from various countries of bikes being used for things other than riding. Everything about a bikes design is built with the belief that a person will be on top of it, so seeing a bike upright without feet on the pedals and hands on the grips can be a little eerie, like finding a glove without a hand in it or a clothing lying in a field. Where is the person?

Take this photo of a bike, taken by the beach in Rio.

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Okay, this one isn’t as strange as it has been used as a stand for souvenirs. It is probably very difficult to ride like that anyway, but it looks cool and I decided to take a photograph. Looking at the background it does seem like bikes were pretty common here, I can’t remember seeing so many whilst I was there. This is another great example of the power of photography. Our memories change over time, our photographs don’t. Photographs are a way to look back in time for what it was, we might see things we couldn’t remember being there, or didn’t realise at all.

I also took this picture of this bike in Austin, TX.

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This one has a different story. I cannot remember what was on the sign other than the name of person that died and the words ‘Ghost Bikes’… I decided to google Ghost Bikes today and it is a pretty fascinating read. They first appeared in St Louis, Missouri in 2003 and since then 630 ghost bikes have appeared in 210 locations around the world.

From the website GhostBikes.org it has the following to say about the phenomenon:

Ghost Bikes are small and somber memorials for bicyclists who are killed or hit on the street. A bicycle is painted all white and locked to a street sign near the crash site, accompanied by a small plaque. They serve as reminders of the tragedy that took place on an otherwise anonymous street corner, and as quiet statements in support of cyclists’ right to safe travel.

The bike was found on a bridge, I am pretty sure the same bridge as this one, although I may be wrong. It was definitely taken shortly afterwards.

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I thought this may have been a one off at the time. Clearly it isn’t and it shows how the internet can bring people together, people that have a shared story of loss with a mutual passion or profession. The following countries have Ghost Bikes, some in multiple locations:

Different nations, very similar stories and I am sure there are ways to find out about these people and a little insight to their lives that were tragically cut short.

Travel Diary: So long America, it was fun :(

I wanted to find an image that represents the USA in differing ways for this post, I decided on this picture taken in Austin, TX.

The famous yellow taxi. Glass highrises dwarfing the one storey eateries lining the grid traffic systems. Right lane driving. These all stand out to me as a British traveller.

My home city of Durham bans building over two storeys high in some areas to prevent obscuring any views of the cathedral, or so I was taught on a geography trip back in school. Grid systems would be ideal, sadly this is impossible when our city was built when horses were the main mode of transport. It was also important to build in an area that was difficult to conquer, common throughout Europe. It is a city that has always taken my breath away, not just because of the views but the effort needed to walk up to the market place. You can see why the centre is pedestrianised, and how this spot was perfect for the building of a castle and cathedral.

Credit: Van Rhijn Aerial Photography

But this post is about the New World. Today, I received notification that my US visa expired. It isn’t something that I have looked to renew as I have spent the years since 2010 in Malaysia, Brazil and short breaks in Europe. A lot happens in this space of time. I lost my father and uncle in recent years which of course took the wind out of my sails. I had no ambition to travel at all but thanks to great friends and amazing family, I got back on my feet. I would love to have went back the States and it feels weird that I haven’t, I made great friends and still keep in touch.

Sometimes we don’t get upset that something is over until it is over. I haven’t thought much about the visa still being valid but now I see it isn’t, I slumped a bit. If anything it is a reminder that I need to visit this great nation once again, one so vast that one image alone cannot portray the United States of America accurately. I miss the food, the friendly people, the numbered streets and alphabetised avenues and people thinking I’m Irish or Australian.

My visa expiring has inspired me to visit again one day!

Travel Diary: Spain: 4 days to go

Today, it is all about the Euro. Many of you liked yesterdays post so I thought it would make sense to let you all in on my next few days worth of plans (or lack of), before boarding that plane to the Mediterranean.

For the record I am not taking much money to Spain. Roughly…hold up, where is the Euro symbol on my keyboard?!

*does a quick Google*

*Alt+E doesn’t work, grabs iPhone*

Roughly €500. €400 of that will be on a Travel Card, the rest you can see in cash. Now, back to the laptop.

I will probably take the least amount of money out of my friends, I don’t feel I will need as much money this time around. It is only for a week and it won’t be involving many costly activities or travel outside of the resort. I will buy cheap food, drink and the occasional taxi to and from popular districts. I also need to save £3000 for Australian customs later in the year, I have been warned that not having this amount in my bank account is enough for them to turn me away, and I don’t want to travel for 35 hours to be turned away.

It seems this isn’t often checked but that is not a risk I want to take. Sometimes in life risks are the best things we ever do, other times they are just plain silly and if anything, hinder any opportunities awaiting us. Can you imagine the awkwardness of a 35 hour flight back? I hate being rejected from a bar for being too drunk let alone an entire country.

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I have found Travel Cards to be very useful. Mine is operated by MasterCard and therefore can be used anywhere (in certain countries only) for up to three years. Any bars, restaurants, ATM’s. I was warned there would be a (grabs iPhone) €2 charge at ATM’s but with no charge for using the card directly anywhere this won’t be a problem. I would much prefer to lose a card and be able to cancel it instantly than lose a whole wad of notes with colours almost as bright as the sun. The kind of notes Hubble would be able to detect on the surface of Mars… whilst it was observing Jupiter.

Are you one to take plenty of money on a trip, or does it depend on where you are heading? I have never been one to take extortionate amounts, then again any long term travel I have done was paid for by working out there, thankfully I was paid by my current job half way through my months travel in Brazil last year. It has been a long time since I went on the typical week or two week holiday, in fact it is the first ‘lads’ holiday I have taken in my life, tradition for males in their 20’s.

27 isn’t too late, right?

The people in our pictures

People we have never met still contribute to our memories. The strangers in our photo albums, frozen timelessly into each picture. These people will never age. They will always be wearing that dress, those sunglasses. They will always be holding hands with that partner, laughing with that friend. Where are they now?

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I wonder how many people making up this crowd are still in South America today, maybe in Rio itself. Living a life that I only managed a glimpse of whilst travelling around Brazil for four weeks. I love this about travelling, that first time experience whether it be eating a forkful of new food or sipping a local traditional drink. What is new to us is all that some people may have ever known. Knowing this is true for tourists to my region has made me want to venture out as much as I can. Life is far too short to only sample our own neighbourhood, especially considering our location is purely down to chance.

What lives did the other attendees travel back to? The 78,000+ capacity stadium is three times larger than my hometown, and my hometown had plenty of stories. Many would have married and possibly had children since I snapped this crowd shot. How many people have not made it to see the day this post has went online. Even if they did not make it, their footprints did and this presence has contributed to my memories. I thank them for that.

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It is wonderful to consider the thousands of people we have preserved in time through photographs. All the emotions and behaviours present that very second… I bet there are some incredible stories hidden behind the anonymity. It is hard to see these individuals as anything but extras, obviously this couldn’t be less true. We simply don’t have the time or opportunity to hear them all. Maybe one of these people are following my blog, I could well be following them.

Even though we did not realise they brushed shoulders with us somewhere in the world, they did. Some of these people may walk right by us again someday, somewhere. How would we know? How would they know? It may take 50 years before we look at that photo again, too late to ever knowingly brush shoulders once more.

Their boat may sail before we can watch it depart, this doesn’t mean we cannot read the story they left behind for us.

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