The next challenge is…

Most people like taking a holiday for a few weeks each year. It’s a break from the norm, a chance to seek adventure, or simply just relax, but ultimately they know that they will be returning home. Travelling long term or indefinitely is different, it means abandoning the security of life and taking a leap of faith. It’s not for everyone but I think it could be for me…

I’ve done it before and although sometimes it was hard and there were a few scary moments along the way, I look back at that experience with nothing but fond memories. Up until a few years ago, I believed my travelling days were behind me. I was firmly on the career path aiming for a nice house, complete with exciting kitchen equipment (I do love fancy kitchen equipment!).

Then 4 years ago I met Rob. He still dreamed of travelling and talked passionately about all the possibilities it offered for our life together. At first I was dismissive, thinking it would never happen. I was in debt, I’d spent years working for my career and everyone around me was settling down, buying houses and having children. So I figured that’s what I was meant to do as well, but in the back of my mind I knew I wasn’t ready for all of this.

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I’m happy for those that want or have a beautiful house, I’m a little bit jealous of their fancy kitchen equipment, and I love their amazing children. However this is not for me, maybe at some point it will be, but right now, its not. Rob slowly made me realise that I didn’t have to live that way if I chose not to, there are so many other routes in life you can take. Sometimes you just need someone to say out loud that its ok to want something different, to almost give you permission to follow a different path.

Now it’s not just Rob’s dream, it’s our dream. I honestly can’t imagine not jetting off to Mexico in December. It has definitely cemented our relationship and now all we have to do is make it happen. So we’ve made a plan, cleared the debt and we are about to live our dream!

So what makes me want to travel? I find it hard to give a definitive answer…

Am I bored of the 9-5? Living for the weekend with just a few measly weeks off a year? Yes, this is certainly a factor in wanting long term travel. I’m looking forward to a break in the routine, not having to go to work everyday, waking up in the same place and giving up the delights of ordering the online shopping every Friday night.

Life at the moment is too easy, its mundane, and the weeks and months seem the same. For the whole of my adult life there has been a goal; from studying, to getting a new job, to uprooting my life and moving to a different part of the country. I need a new goal and once I’ve achieved something, I quickly look for the next test.

Travelling is a new challenge for me. I know that when we head off, things like months and weeks will no longer be important. Our lives will instead be punctuated by places, the next bus we have to catch and the things we want to do once we get to our unknown destination. Its exciting not knowing where we will be and not having any firm plans, and it’s far from mundane. It’s an adventure and maybe it’s the promise of adventure that makes me want to go travelling.

In all honesty I don’t know what it is. Most probably it’s a combination of all these things. It just feels right and sometimes that’s a good enough reason. The closer we get to our departure date the more excited I get! Every now and then, my stomach does a little flip and wave of excitement fills me. I have no idea what the next chapter of our lives will have in store for us. What I do I know is that it will be a challenge and an adventure. With all my worldly possessions on my back and a bearded Yorkshireman for company, I’m ready for this challenge.

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Midweek eat! Chilli, lentil and chickpea soup

I really love this time of year here in Scotland. As autumn sets in the air is crisp and the trees look stunning in the early evening sunset as they turn beautiful shades of red, amber and gold. The countryside develops a warm fiery glow. It also means we get to stuff our faces with lots of delicious comfort food. You can’t beat a lovely hot soup to make you feel nice and cosy whilst the wind whips the leaves from the trees outside….

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Soup also means cheap and easy food, which fits perfectly in with our extreme savings budget. This week we managed to spend just £44 ($70) for our entire grocery bill despite our autumnal craving for rich food. Next week we plan to bring you our entire week of food so you can see we aren’t just eating a fancy meal one night and crackers for the rest of the week. But for now here’s a delicious hearty soup recipe to warm the cockles…

Chilli, lentil and chickpea soup

Ingredients

  • 2 tsp cumin seeds (or ground)
  • large pinch chilli flakes
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 red onion, chopped
  • 140g red split lentils
  • 850ml vegetable stock
  • 400g tinned tomatoes, whole or chopped
  • 200g carton chickpeas or ½ a can, rinsed and drained (freeze leftovers)
  • small bunch coriander, roughly chopped (save a few leaves, to serve)

above soup

 Method

  1. Heat a large saucepan and dry-fry the cumin and chilli flakes for 1 min, or until they start to jump around the pan and release their aromas.
  2. Add the oil and onion, and cook for 5 mins.
  3. Stir in the lentils, stock and tomatoes, then bring to the boil.
  4. Simmer for 20 mins until the lentils have softened (add half the chickpeas after 15 mins)
  5. Add most of the coriander and blend the soup with a hand blender or in a food processor until it is a rough purée, pour back into the pan and add the remaining chickpeas.
  6. Heat gently, season well and stir in the remaining coriander.
You can serve it with creme fraiche if your budget stretches to it, but it tastes delicious without!

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Carrot cake and lemon buttercream

When I first came back from travelling in 2009 I developed a strange love of baking. I was unemployed, had no money, lived with my parents (at the age of 29) and was extremely bored, so one day I decided to make a cake. I have no idea why, but I became quite obsessed with it.

Maybe it was a strange type of therapy. My time mainly consisted of applying for extremely dull jobs and hearing nothing back. However small it may seem, baking added a bit of productivity to my day. Or it could be that a slice of cake and a good cup of tea is amazing and solves most of the world’s problems! (Don’t argue, that’s what my gran says)

It’s been an age since I cracked out the old mixing bowl, but the sudden arrival of the cold Autumn weather has got me craving comfort food. Yesterday I made my favourite cake, introduced to me by a good friend amidst the height of my baking addiction.

Carrot cake and lemon buttercream

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Cake ingredients

100g butter
150g self-raising flour
150g light muscovado sugar
1.5 tsp mixed spice (or to taste, more if you like it)
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
90g sultanas (or chopped walnuts, or a combination of sultanas and walnuts)
1/4 tsp salt
2 eggs , beaten
Orange – zest and 1tbsp juice
250g (peeled weight) carrots

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Lemon buttercream

100g butter
200g Icing sugar
lemon – zest and 2tbsp juice

Cake – Method

Preheat the oven to around 180C
1. Melt the butter and set aside to cool slightly.
2. Grate the carrot
3. Put the flour, sugar, spice, bicarbonate of soda, sultanas and salt into a big bowl and stir.
4. Beat the eggs into the melted butter.
5. Mix orange zest and juice in to the butter and egg mixture.
6. Combine the dry mixture with the butter mixture.
7. Stir the carrot into the cake mixture.
8. Add the mixture into a suitably sized cake tin (I just grabbed whatever was in the cupboard) and bake in the oven for around 45 minutes. Cover with baking parchment if the cake starts to brown too much.

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Lemon buttercream – Method

1. Melt the butter and set aside to cool slightly.
2. Sieve the icing sugar into the butter and mix.
3. Keep mixing and gradually add the lemon juice.

Once the cake is cooled spread the buttercream on top, then enjoy with a cup of tea.

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Budgeting tips on the road – Jimmy Eats World

This week we are pleased to welcome a guest post from Jimmy Eats World. Jimmy Dau is a fellow food lover who is currently eating his way through Central and South America after selling all his possessions and hitting the road. His blog follows his passions for food, culture, photography and travel. Here he brings us some excellent money savings tips for a life of travel….

Budget planning and keeping costs down on the road

There’s no specific science to budgeting on the road. Ask anybody travelling and they will have a particular method. So far I’ve been on the road and have managed to come in around where I have planned to do so. I wouldn’t say that it was due to military like monitoring, but down time put into to the research and planning well before leaving. I’ve been asked at times by readers and friends, “What budget should I work to?” It’s a question I wish I had an answer to. However, just like buying clothes, car or a shoes, it comes down to personal preference, what you want to get out of the trip that ultimately affects how much you spend. Before I start on blabbering about how to stick to budget, lets rewind back to before we purchase that one way ticket and assess our travel goals and and plan.

Setting expectations and a plan

Everybody is different in their travel goals and priorities. The older we get, I find that the more specific our travel goals become. As a young whipper snapper many moons ago, I was like most kids: Fresh out of uni and living off beer and pizza and smashing the bars at night. So you can imagine where most of the budget would go to. Ten years later, my tastes are a bit more refined and I don’t go out as much. Most times I’m finding out where the best places to eat are or waiting for the right photo opportunity at sunset. It’s what we want to get out of an adventure that defines our budget and length of travel and the greater the diversity in activities and priorities then the more pre travel planning is required.

Before I decided on how long I would travel, I researched how much time I would need in each country based on the activities available in each country and then the cost of accommodation, food, and transport. Of course you could research the Big Mac Index to calculate the purchasing power of your currency in each country, however there are plenty of bloggers out there who have already done the hard work for you. Particular ones I’ve used are from Wandering Earl and Nomadic Matt. Matt has a good guide to each country and the costs of accommodation, food, tourist destinations and transport. I had a clear idea in mind what I wanted to do in terms of activities so I factored these into the overall costs.

Being a bit of a spreadsheet nerd I created a spreadsheet by week and activity which added up the weekly costs. I knew that I would spend more on eating and activities such as scuba diving so I allocated more of these to the budget. I did this for each country and estimated the number of weeks I would need to spend based on the research I had done for each of them. So when you have done this, then you know how much you need to save and spend on each area and how long I could spend away. Of course things will change and you will need to make adjustments and projections once you’re on the road. On the other hand you may want to plan the other way around and figure out what you can do with a fixed budget.

spreadsheet

Click on the image to view the spreadsheet

 

Keeping costs down on the road

So, you’ve touched down and then what? Below are my tips on keeping costs down based on the four months that I’ve been on the road. Please note that these are techniques that I use for myself. As I liked to cook, I found ways of reducing my overall costs by doing something I loved.

Make your “mistakes” early.

You will need to learn for yourself, make mistakes, you will get ripped off by taxis and spend more then what you should. These thing will happen but it’s best to have it happen earlier on so you can get a feel for the value of what things are worth. This will happen in each country, you will go to. In Legals Nomad’s book she says most likely your first meal in each area will be expensive and not the best and I’ve found this to be true. You’re new to an area, you’re tired and all you want is something in your belly. The same principle applies to transportation, the area you choose to stay and how you do your grocery shopping.

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Tuk Tuks in some countries may be seen as a rip off but in Central America they are widely used and very cheap

 

Talk to people

Hostel staff can be great so the best places to go, where to eat and ship. However, ask more than one staff member and even other hostel guests. A lot of the times, most of the staff are fellow travellers. As nice as they are, some don’t have the same travel goals in mind and don’t know the area as well as a local employee would. The very minimum, the staff will know where the happy hours are where you can save money on booze.

Ask locals where they would eat

You will probably need to catch a taxi, so ask them where they eat, and be specific on where THEY eat. Take the same approach to strangers. If you’re a gringo they will most likely point you in the direction of a KFC or other western franchise. However, these places aren’t the budget options that they are in the western world. Be specific on where they would eat as a local and they will appreciate it even more because you want to learn more about their culture.An example of this is a fellow blogger here in Colombia who struck up a conversation with his taxi driver he ended up giving him a tour of the city for $5. Try to learn a few phrases in the local language on where you can get local food.

Local markets should be one of the first places to go to

The local ‘mercado’ market is where you can find an abundance of food. You can also find out what fruit and vege that are in season and unique to the area. There are a lot of crazy things that you may not know, but all you need to do is ask and they will let you try and chances are it will be cheap. You will always get the best local hawker style food here as all markets have a section for cooked local foods.

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Just show some interest and they will let you try

 

Cook and share food

Not only is it a great way to meet people, it’s more economical to cook or buy food for 2-4 people. Most recipes are for four people because it’s just not possible to buy, 1/4 onion, half a carrot and 1/8 of a capsicum. Majority of the time, they will return the favour but more often than not you’ll make good friends out of the exchange. Don’t limit this to those in your hostel. There’s nothing wrong with inviting local people you’ve met over for a meal at the hostel. Just check with the staff beforehand.

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This cost $10 between three people to make

 

Leftovers

Chances are you will have leftovers whether be from the meal itself or ingredients you didn’t use in a meal. You can use these as snacks or can be transformed into other dishes such as fried rice.

Snacks

When you have the munchies or are out on a day trip, try to pack some snacks. These don’t have to be gourmet and not intended to replace meals, however you still need energy and fruit/vege is handy in places like Central and South America where the food is meat heavy but fruit and vege are cheap at the supermarket.

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This guacamole cost $1.50 to make. Enough for four people and great on a bread roll by itself or with some ham

 

Travel Slowly

If you are constantly travelling from place to place then you will spend more money. Not just on transport, but on the first point I made: You will pay more for cabs, food, accomodation and everything because you haven’t had time to find your bearings and find out where and how you can best minimise your costs. I’ve been in Medellin now for a month. The first I did was find people who were interested in the slow travel and before we knew it we found an apartment. As a result we cook more, don’t pay for hostel beer prices, have peace and quiet and a place for friends we meet along the way to visit.

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King size bed for the same cost per day in a shared dorm? Yes please

 

Don’t be a slave to the budget

There will be times where something will present itself that will cost more money or the overall city/country will be expensive. Don’t let that stop you. When I was in Cost Rica, I was haemorrhaging money but I had already knew it was expensive. I was only passing through but there were adventure activities available which I wanted to do. Although I hadn’t originally planned on zip lining or paying $20 to go for a walk in the cloud forest, they were things that fit into my travel goals and I knew that Colombia, Ecuador and Bolivia would be cheaper countries so I could recoup the expenses by then. As long as you can still exercise some sort of fiscal discipline over the course of the journey then you should be able to make things balance over a longer period of time. Just be ready to adapt and change plans constantly.

Reward yourself

You need to splurge or reward yourself from time to time. This could be a nice meal or a bottle of wine. A reminder that travelling should be rewarding and fun still.

Keeping track of it

With smartphones and technology it’s easier to track expenses. I intended on updating my expenditure and spreadsheet each week so it would give me a projection on my overall expenditure. However, since leaving I haven’t touched it as I’ve been using an app called iExpenseit to track my spending. Whenever I spend my cash on something, I record it under specific categories. Sometimes immediately, sometimes at the end of the day. It’s an intuitive app so any new categories you create it will remember it.

As I say, there is no one correct method to budget setting and tracking. Hopefully what I’ve taken you through is a good starting point and during your research you’ll find other methods to aid you in budget setting and and tracking. However, feel free to contact me if you have any questions as I am more than happy to assist.

I’ve updated my blog to provide a breakdown of what I spent in Central America with screen shots of the iExpensit reports as well as a copy of the planning spreadsheet for anybody to download

Thanks Jimmy for the fantastic words of advice! We will definitely be following them once we are on the road. Here’s where to go if Jimmy has wet your appetite for more:

Website: jimmyeatsworld.com
Twitter: @jimmydau
Facebook: facebook.com/jimmyeatsw0rld
Google+
Instagram

Midweek Eat! Mama’s Pizza

MIDWEEK EAT!!

We love our culinary delights, but in our travel savings mission we have drastically cut our usual fancy pants food budget. We bring you tasty treats from our budget for two people. We spend £60 ($90) a week on groceries (including food, toiletries and everything else for the house) and most weeks we are closer to £50 ($75) mark. We want to prove that budget doesn’t have to mean bland!

Mama’s Pizza

Ok I may not be Italian and my mum never cooks this, but who doesn’t like pizza?! A cheese covered vessel with endless options for toppings, you really can’t go wrong with this Italian favourite. Most people buy frozen pizza or takeaways nowadays, but honestly this homemade recipe is worth the little bit of extra effort for a true taste sensation. We are always disappointed when we don’t make our own. To keep things fresh you can change the toppings every single time you make it.

Ingredients

Pizza dough

• 250g/9oz strong white flour, plus extra for flouring

• 5g/¼oz salt

• 30ml/1fl oz olive oil

• 5g/¼oz fast-action yeast

• 180ml/6fl oz water

Tip: Make a big batch of the dough (double the quantities) and freeze what you don’t use for another day, this save loads of time the next time you make pizza! Just take it out of the freezer the night before you want to use it.

Toppings

• Tin tomatoes

• Tomato puree

• Pesto

• Oregano

• Salt and pepper for seasoning

• Any vegetables or meat (we used, onion, peppers, tomatoes and mushrooms)

• Cheese

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Preparation method

1. For the pizza dough, mix the flour, salt, olive oil, yeast and water together in a bowl. Make sure the salt and the yeast are on opposite sides of the bowl.

2. Turn the dough out onto an oiled work surface and knead for 5-10 minutes, or until the dough is smooth and elastic. Cut off a small piece of the dough and stretch part of it as thinly as you can. If you can see the shadow of your fingers through the dough – the light should shine through the dough like a window pane – without the dough tearing, it is ready to prove.

3. Shape the dough into a ball and tip into a bowl.

4. Cover with a damp tea towel and leave to rise for an hour.

5. Divide the mix into two or three balls. Roll out on a floured surface into circles. Place each circle on a flat baking tray.

6. Place on a baking tray and then into the oven and heat the oven to 220C/425F/ Gas 7, for 5 minutes. Then you’re ready to add the topping.

7. Mix the pesto, tomato puree, oregano, salt and pepper into the tin tomatoes and spread on the base.

8. Sprinkle on your favourite toppings and cheese then place in the oven at 220C/ 427F/Gas 7 for 25 minutes.

9. Serve with a salad.

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Be Inspired! Danny Bent: Adventure, Love and Bicycles.

Welcome to Be Inspired! Celebrating all the incredible people in life who inspire others. Ranging from unsuspecting heroes, to those performing epic feats, to people who have changed their lives or the lives of others in a remarkable way. It’s a chance to remember all the things that can be forgotten on a day to day basis. Life is amazing and so are people!

This week we have the pleasure of interviewing Danny Bent, a remarkable human being who cycled 15,000 kilometres from the UK to India to raise money for ActionAid. Danny is the author of ‘You’ve Gone Too Far This Time, Sir!’ which captures his inspirational journey.

In this jaw dropping cycle ride Danny’s courage knows no bounds as he battles food poisoning, extreme cold, huge trucks, thirst and malnutrition, dodgy border guards and a seemingly endless list of obstacles on his one man mission. Along the way he meets some extraordinary people, including the mad, bad and truly amazing!

The challenge is epic. The book defines the word inspiration. It’s funny, fast paced and heartwarming (there wasn’t a dry eye in our house!). Warning, it will make you want to be awesome!! 

Danny-Bent

1) How did your family and friends react when you said you were going to cycle 15,000km from the UK to India?

My Dad was dead against me going. He thought I was either going to be beheaded along the way or freeze to death in the high mountain passes. My mother on the other hand was calm – very much out of character (I’m a total mummies boy) – and when I asked her about it she said that I’d said in a leaving assembly at school 20 years previously that I wanted to cycle round the world and raise money for charity and so she’d been waiting for this day for 20 years.

2) What’s your most memorable moment from the experience, the one that always makes you think “that’s why I did this!”?

Sitting in the slums in Mumbai hearing how the money raised was being used to empower women. The struggles they had been through to be where they are and the final reactions of the men to their success!! I wept with joy and vowed that I would have cycled 10 times as far just for this moment.

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3) On the flip side of that, what was the worst part of your trip? How did you get through it?

Being held at gun point and being ill and the state of the toilets you visited all tested my resolve but I saw them all as good stories to tell the folks back home and so enjoyed every minute of each of them.

4) On the way you had a few scary moments. Were there any points where you really feared for your life?

The trucks and state of the roads along the way were the scariest parts. At one point I was being passed by a continuous stream of trucks on a tiny road where I had 10cm of tarmac for my own. I lost concentration at one point and fell into the road – for some reason there was a tiny gap in the trucks and I fell into that and managed to jump out of the way in the nick of time before the next 10 tonnes truck careered past. Someone was looking after me at that moment!

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5) Your epic journey is very inspiring to me and many others. Who inspires you?

Every person has different boundaries and every person who fights past that barrier is an inspiration for every one they meet. The person who thinks they can’t run who straps on their trainers and does a lap of the park. The person who struggles to socialise who talks to the person sitting next to them on the train. We all have make believe barriers and can all feel the elation of smashing them each and every day.

6) Did you always plan on writing a book about your adventure?

I’m dyslexic and failed English at GCSE so I have always struggled with writing in an academic sense. When at uni I started writing for local sports magazines and letters home to my family I realised I had a knack for writing a lot about not a lot in an entertaining way. I then won a journalistic award and then my mind was set on the book. It’s more proof that we are more capable than we or anyone else can possibly imagine. If I told my teachers I had a best selling book they’d laugh at the joke.

Danny-Bent-work-force

 

7) You have done a few other challenges on top of the epic bike ride. Is there anything you would draw the line at through fear?

I think my dad made me face my fears. If I feel fear my natural reaction is to dive headlong into it. For example I love drawing and go to a life drawing class. At one point I wondered what it would be like to be the model – having all these eyes on you in the nude. I shrivelled up in response to my fear but within a month was standing their as proud as punch wearing nothing in front of the class I had once been part of. It felt wonderful smashing that fear about my figure! And I’d recommend it to everyone!

8) What is it that drives you to take on these challenges?

The one fear I can’t beat. Fear of the mundane. Fear of a real job. Fear of doing what I don’t enjoy for the rest of my life! 🙂

 

9) In the book you have a couple of gruesome situations, which leads to our favourite type of question! Would you rather sleep in a horrifically dirty room and wake up with maggots in your hair, or accept a putrid drink off a local out of politeness and suffer severe diarrhoea?

Love this question. I’d go for the maggots every time!! They totally cleaned up my beard! 🙂 But I’d accept that drink again if I was offered – unless you were with me then I’d politely pass it to you.

10) What’s next for Danny Bent? Any more epic challenges? Or another book in the pipeline?

I just returned from America having orchestrated a 2000 person running relay from LA to Boston raising $100,000 for the victims of the boston bombings. I’m writing about that now and it’s incredibly emotional book. My next plan is a relay run around the world. Uniting nations, people and countries through our love of running. (I’m also hoping to pogo across Togo with my best friend Emily in November for fun)

Danny-Bent-running

A massive thanks to Danny, a top bloke indeed! I am sure this tickled the fancy of our readers! Here’s where to go for more of this awesomeness:

Buy the book  ‘You’ve Gone Too Far This Time ,Sir!’

Online:  www.dannybent.com and Twitter

The latest charity challenge: One Run For Boston