How to lose your job … and travel the world

One of things I am often asked is how to go about leaving a perfectly normal job, car, house, dog, friends and a social life to travel on a long term basis. It is, in truth, a difficult question to answer as each person has their own perception of needs and security as well as expectations and fears.
In order to come to some conclusion we need to analyse our routines and take a deeper look at what ties us to the life we live and what we can do in order to fulfil our dream of travelling the world.
For some it is easy, at a young age we have probably not bought into the consumer lifestyle and for gap year travellers it is quite a simple step to get on the well trodden path. For others and older travellers perhaps, and I mean here anyone who has a real job and some commitments, the path is a little less clear and guidance is needed.

1. Lose your job.
This is not actually the most difficult step. In reality once you have set your sights on the dream of travel the work ethic can seem a little more difficult to maintain especially when you are staring at your PC Screen and drooling over the background picture of a paradise island or standing in front of a class of sixteen year olds teaching the mysteries of calculus!

We are all different though and it can be daunting to toss away a perfectly decent job for the uncertain future of travel to distant lands. Let us be clear here, In order to be semi secure, unless you have oodles of cash, certain transferable skills are a necessity and can make life on the road a lot easier. Teachers will find the TEFL or similar qualification a boon to making money on the road, other skills such as sports instructors can find avenues of work in some great locations. The hospitality industry is the same worldwide and with a little effort jobs can be found here as well. For the most part working abroad is not as difficult or as stressful as we may first think and it requires just that step forward onto the plank in order to overcome the fear.
Difficulty 5/10

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Carry on Glamping

I was lucky, growing up I had the opportunity to take European holidays to exotic places like Benidorm and Torremolinos in the Costa del Sol. Ah the memories of acres of concrete and unfinished hotels, sweaty bodies, fish and chips and warm English beer. The age of the charter airplane had come into full swing and us Brits were taking to the continent like rats leaving a sinking ship, everywhere we went we demanded England with sun, no foreign food and definitely no garlic!

With families departing the UK for foreign climes the home tourist industry suffered a slump; traditional holiday destinations closed their hotels, shortened their seasons and made do as best as they could. British weather and the lack of assured sunshine meant tough times ahead and no hope of improvement anywhere on the horizon.

Well that has all changed, yes there are very many more low budget airlines about and we still take those holidays abroad but the dreaded credit crunch has insinuated itself into our vacation planning. The British are choosing to stay at home in greater numbers than ever over the last decade and that has meant more pressure on the available accommodations in the more popular resorts and a return to that most basic of vacations….the Camping Holiday!

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It’s 5’clock somewhere: Key West – Conch Republic

I have many favourite places for a great party weekend but the one that tops the list is a small island just in the Caribbean at the end of a long set of causeways called Key West. Almost not a part of the United States, the Conch Republic is a complete mindset away from the normal day to day living and many find that once there they just have to stay.

One thing I have said many times about great places is that they usually require a bit of an effort to get to. Key West is no exception, the drive down from Miami usually takes about four hours or more by car depending on the traffic, Greyhound have a frequent service out of Miami and that takes a little longer. There are direct lights in from many US cities however the flight from Miami is by far the most fun, the journey takes only thirty minutes and takes you over the keys for some spectacular views.

sunset over key west

Passengers are shuffled around to balance the load and the flight attendants manage to get a quick round of drinks to all on board just before touchdown at the still quaint Key West airport.

Because of its location as a destination for many conventions and festivals, accommodation on the island can quite often be pretty full. It pays to plan ahead a little to secure the best options for somewhere to stay, especially around fantasy fest time. There is a great youth hostel at the South Point with an adjoining motel; reservations should be made ahead in season. For others who want a little more luxury there are several standard motels such as the Best Western chain that have locations near the action and more than a few independent operators that are worth trying out. Bearing in mind the somewhat alternative nature of the island it may be best to check on the clientele that frequent your chosen spot to make sure that there are no surprises in store!

sunset at mallory dock

The island is not as small as it seems and has enough room for a military airport and a state park however for most tourists all the major areas are very walkable and for times when the day’s exertions have taken their toll pedicabs and regular taxis are in abundance. Most of the action centres on Duval Street and the roads that branch off of it with the addition of Mallory Dock for the sunset celebrations, some of the best bars in the world have staked their claim here.

Before I get into the nightlife section, I know that’s what you really want to know about, I should mention the other activities that are available, and I have even done some of them! For partying scuba divers Key West is a dream destination, the reefs are warm and shallow and most of the dive boats set off after midday. Novices can get their training in the pool prior to diving and it is an excellent location to learn to dive. Boats and planes take visitors out to the islands of the Dry Tortugas for day trip sand sailing boats ply their trade for champagne sunset cruises off the coast. A great cultural spot is the revered home of Ernest Hemmingway complete with memorabilia and cats galore, this is a great spot but pick your time carefully to avoid the masses. There are few really good beaches on the island however sun worshippers can make use of several of the hotel pools for a moderate charge or a drink or two.

the party is always on at sloppy joe's

Okay back to business; let us start with sunset as everybody else does. Nothing is more iconic than the setting of the sun off of Mallory Dock, the cruise liners dock here and the antics of the street entertainers draw crowds in their thousands to get the ball rolling for the evening and cheer the setting of the sun. Get started with a frozen drink and some conch fritters and you will feel at home in no time. It’s time for food and also the start of some happy hours, a great place for seafood lovers is the Half Shell restaurant not too far from Sunset and for the more adventurous Bo’s fish shack is a real find, just ask a cabbie. If a sit down meal on Duval street is more your cup of tea you can do no wrong by choosing to eat at Caroline’s just opposite the Hard Rock Cafe, their blackened Cajun chicken is awesome and would feed an army.

Moving on to the real party I have to say Sloppy Joes is not only an institution but is fair price wise considering its headline billing. Make your friends back home jealous by waving to them on the stage webcam in the bar, dance to the great live music and meet new people from all over. For a more vocal experience pop into Irish Kevin’s bar a few doors along. The acts here are hilarious and that one beer can turn into several. A couple of other great bars are Captain Tony’s Saloon and the Hogs Breath; both bars seem to heave all night long with the usual live music accompaniment. A novel bar, the Bulls Head attempts to attract customers of every taste. The ground floor pub is raucous saloon style, the first floor is hustler’s heaven with its pool tables and the notorious Garden of Eden roof bar is a clothing optional outdoor patio with a DJ that goes on into the early hours attracting exhibitionists and relaxed nudists in variable numbers depending upon the weather.

Key West’s most spectacular event is fantast fest, body painted and costume adorned party people roam the streets in a festival that is just so Key West, leave your inhibitions on the mainland and dance the night away.

You are never far away from a good time in Key West, the locals are good natured and the visitors come with one aim in mind at that is to have fun no matter what the time of day and, in the words of Jimmy Buffet, its 5 o’clock somewhere.

24 Hours in London

Samuel Johnson, a great British poet, writer and essayist, once said – “if a man is tired of London then he is tired of life, for there is in London all that life can afford.” He was not wrong, arguably next to New York, London is probably the world’s most exciting city; a teeming cosmopolitan metropolis where anything can be found and a great time can be had by anyone with the right attitude.

With just 24 hours to make the best of our stay we will have to plan carefully and move swiftly, a one day travelcard for use on the buses, tubes and trains should be the first priority. Coming in from Heathrow airport is simple as the airport station is in the tube zone covered by the card, the same applies for Eurostar arrivals. Visitors arriving into Gatwick can get a travelcard included in their ticket into London.

tower bridge

Where to stay in London is easy, quality, on the other hand, is a different matter altogether. Hotels can be expensive and you can end up paying a lot of money for a very mediocre room. Fortunately budget hostels abound with plenty of choice at the lower end, you should use the hostel booking engines to secure your bed ahead of time and good locations are Russell Square, Kensington and the City.

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