My name is Simon, and I am addicted to travelling. I’ve always been a fan of going on holiday, that once a year kind of thing. When I was younger I was fortunate enough to have some decent holidays. My dad took me to Tenerife, Tunisia and Ibiza amongst others. It’s only been in recent years that my passion for travel has started to grow.
My holiday preference is still very much in the ‘travel on a plane, stay in a hotel’ variety. I’ve never been particularly interested in the thought of backpacking, much in the same way that camping has never really appealed either. Give me an airport lounge, a drinks trolley and a comfy hotel bed.
Today I’m going to talk about my obsession with travel, where it has taken me over the past 10 years or so and where I hope to end up in the coming years. Grab a cuppa, this is going to be a long one!
My love for the USA begins
I think it began back in 2006 when I first visited America. I’m writing this a just passed 11 years to the day after that trip. I decided that I wanted a new challenge and a marathon certainly ticks that box. I could have entered London (which I have done since, check out my blog post) but I figured if you are going to go big, you might as well go REALLY big, so I entered the 2006 New York Marathon. It was a whistle-stop trip. I flew out on Friday, ran the marathon on Sunday 5th November, then flew home late on Monday. You see quite a lot of New York during the 26.2-mile route, a lot of the none-tourist areas. Basically, the real New York City. We would meet again in a few years time.
The bit in between
It took another 6 years before I made my way back to America. In 2007 I went to Zante in Greece for the classic summer holiday. A couple of weeks in the sun coupled with lots of food (and lots of drink). It’s actually a holiday I look back on very fondly. Nice and simple and I made a really good friend on that trip too. The following year I visited Egypt. Seeing the pyramids is amazing, one of ‘those’ moments. Having seen them on TV and in books when growing up, to actually be there was awesome. Egypt was also my first experience of “all-inclusive”. I’ve since learned that the all-inclusive offered by my hotel in Sharm el Sheikh, should not be used as the yardstick for international all-inclusive experiences!
In 2010 I embarked on what was to be my biggest trip so far, three weeks in Australia. We would spend Christmas Day in Melbourne, and spend a total of seven days there. After a short flight, we’d then make our way to Sydney. Here, the plan was to see in 2011 by watching the iconic harbour bridge fireworks. The trip was unforgettable.
You may not recall the weather in the UK from late December 2011, here’s a reminder:
My adventure started in the early hours, driving down a motorway that felt like it was covered in icebergs. For the days prior to my travel, the news had been reporting flight cancellations. There were delays and general chaos at all UK airports. The advice from our airline, travel as normal. To start with, things actually went to plan. We skipped through all of the normal airport processes, into the lounge and then on to the place. From here, things started to go wrong.
We sat on the plane for several hours, each time we attempted to depart there was an issue which halted us. Every further time we tried to leave, we had to be “de-iced” again, delaying us further. Finally, after about 4 hours, we were on our way to Hong Kong where we were due to change planes. This delay meant that upon reaching Hong Kong, we had missed our connection.
Dude, where’s my case?
For everyone who has ever travelled, what happened next might be your worst nightmare. After a few hours delay whilst they arranged a new flight, we were back on a plane and heading for Australia. Once we arrived in Melbourne, we made our way to the luggage carousel and waited. Then waited some more, and some more. After a while, everyone else had gone and only a few lone cases remained, none of which were mine.
Not to bore you with the finer details, but I went without my case….for a WEEK. I wasn’t actually re-acquainted with it until my first day in Sydney. This does create its own challenges. You need clothes, toiletries and such for a whole week, but my travel insurance (ALWAYS GET TRAVEL INSURANCE) worked on a day to day basis. Each day I had to decide what I needed the most, sticking where possible to the budget set. I spent a lot of the next week looking very ‘touristy’ in my “I love Aus” t-shirts.
Fortunately, I was wearing a shirt and jeans on the flight out and so after a quick trip to a laundrette, I looked a little less of a scoundrel on Christmas Day. I had to be creative on Boxing Day when we visited the Melbourne Cricket Ground to watch Australia v England.
Sydney, you were awesome
Once I was reunited with my case in Sydney, I was ready to really start my holiday. We had a couple of days to explore before New Year’s Eve, taking in all of the amazing sights – the Opera House, the Bridge, the Zoo. For New Year’s Eve, we took the decision to buy a ticket to a bar in a prime spot, rather than spending the day queuing in the sun. It was one of the best parts of the whole trip. To be so close to something you have seen so many times on TV was amazing. I’ve been very fortunate to have seen so many wonderful places. This is one that will stay with me for a long time.
Hi America, I’m back
After a trip to Lanzarote in 2011 (Oz drained my bank balance a little), my next big trip took me back to the USA for the first of ten trips in the next 6 years.
For this voyage, we planned a fly-drive route with some friends (who we actually met in Zante). The itinerary was to fly to San Francisco, then make our way down the Pacific Coast Highway. We would make pitstops in Monterey, San Diego and Los Angeles, then begin heading back to San Franciso via Las Vegas. Here we would make a trip to the Grand Canyon and upon leaving Vegas, conclude the trip in Yosemite, via Death Valley.
I loved every second of this holiday, it’s still one of my favourites to this day. Driving down the big open highways, up the windy hills and visiting huge cities. It was my first trip to Los Angeles and Las Vegas, places I love and have returned to a number of times since.
After my first trip to Belgium in 2012, and my first trip on Eurostar, I made my way back to the place it all started for me in 2013, New York. I can’t quite put my finger on what it is about New York that I love too much, without being too cliched. If you have not been there before, it’s everything that you know from the television and the movies. Lights, noise, hustle and bustle. This time I was able to explore a little more, I even found time to propose to my then-girlfriend.
For my birthday in 2013, I was treated to a weekend break to Paris, again on Eurostar. Another travel destination with iconic scenery. Paris is VERY cold in December, but I really enjoyed it. We got to see the Christmas markets and everything was in the festive mode. Paris is a city that had a lot of history and that’s not really the sort of thing I would normally find interest in, but it’s hard to not be in awe of the place.
When you plan a honeymoon, you tend to lean more towards grandiose. We were no exception, starting in Las Vegas before spending a 10 days Maui and Oahu, returning back to the UK via New York. As I have already mentioned, I’ve built quite the fascination with New York. The same can be said for Las Vegas, I’ve visited them both now six times each.
The trip to Hawaii is a long one and it’s also one that you cannot do all in one go when flying from the UK. Given that it was north of ten hours to Las Vegas, a couple of days in the Cosmopolitan hotel broke up the travelling nicely.
Hawaii is very much a honeymooner resort, with beautiful scenery and wonderful sunsets. When arriving in Las Vegas, the hotel reception was bending over backwards to improve our stay due to it being our honeymoon. Once we arrived in Hawaii, those NOT on honeymoon were the minority. No special treatment this time! That being said, the resort was fantastic and we had an amazing time.
I travel for work
People who do not travel for work, often think that having to do so is amazing. I’m probably not going to dispell that when I talk about where I have been able to visit thanks to my line of work. It can become a little tiring. You spend a lot of time away from friends and family etc – but, you are being paid for it! No one is really going to feel sorry for you though.
Given my love for New York City, it’s a nice treat to be able to attend a conference once a year there. This particular event is a twice-yearly conference, split between Las Vegas in January and New York in August. As a result, I’ve clocked up several thousand more miles on my travel log. Even though I don’t get too much time for sightseeing when there, it’s still good to see the place again.
I’ve also been able to travel to Los Angeles for work. Again, it’s another fantastic place to visit but you don’t tend to find that the office locations are near the beach!
First trip to Florida
November 2015 saw my first trip to the kids fun capital of the world, Orlando. I really enjoyed myself, as was to be expected! (Might have been a touch better if the Magic Kingdom sold beer). We spent Thanks Giving in Orlando, which is an experience. Despite it being a public holiday, Disney World and the surrounding area does not close. If anything, the whole place was even more amped up and excitable. The parades and fireworks were wonderful!
On the same trip, I made a pitstop in Tampa to visit the training complex of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. I’m a big fan of the NFL (and the Bucs) so this was an exciting experience, more so than Disney World for me.
After experiencing the Florida sun for a week, we drove down Miami for a couple of nights, en route to Barbados. I’d not been to the Carribean before, so another destination was checked off the wishlist. It’s only a short trip from Miami to Barbados. It wasn’t long before we were back in the sun and sipping a banks beer (or cocktail if you prefer). Given the short distance from the UK, I would be keen to revisit the Carribean at some point. I’ve heard really good things about some of the other islands.
Friends in cool places
A good friend of mine lives in Los Angeles. I’ve been lucky enough to travel out and see him and his family a few times now. In 2012 we made a flying visit whilst on the West Coast tour. Most of this particular meeting involved alcohol. The next trip wasn’t until April 2015. On this occasion, we stayed at their place for a few days and they showed us some cool places in and around LA. On the very same trip, we borrowed their car and drove down to San Diego for a few days. San Diego was another place we saw back in 2012, this time around we were able to see more of Downtown. I particularly enjoyed the Gas Lamp district and their zoo is pretty impressive too.
In the summer of 2016, we once again headed out to spend some time with our friends, this time coinciding with 4th July weekend. It’s an exciting experience to be in the US during the “holidays”. This was the second time I had experienced such a thing after Thanks Giving the previous year. We flew out a couple of days before the 4th, spent a few days with our friends and on the day itself watched an impressive fireworks display from the HMS Queen Mary, now based in Long Beach.
Asides from seeing our friends, the best part of this 2-week adventure was our trip to the Amphitheatre in Irvine. This may not be a venue that you are familiar with, it’s held in quite high regards in America. We had the pleasure of seeing Rascal Flatts perform live there, the band who sang our first dance song when we got married.
East Coast tour in 2016
In the Autumn of 2016, I took a week-long trip down the East Coast of America. Starting in New York (obviously), I then travelled down to Philadelphia on the Greyhound bus. I’ve never visited Philly before, there was plenty to see and do. It was here that I experienced my first live NFL game in the US. As a big American Football fan, this was really exciting! I also devoured my first Phill Cheesesteak (yum) and, visited the infamous ‘Rocky steps’.
Following a couple of days in Philadelphia, the trip concluded in Washington DC. There are a lot of things you can plan in advance to do once in D.C. See the White House, the Monument and so on. What you can’t plan to do, is check out the Presidential motorcade, something we were fortunate enough to witness. You can see the highlights of this cool trip, in the vlog below.
My 2017 travel log
I will be seeing out what has been an eventful year of travel in Florida. By the time the year ends, I will have visited Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Houston, Cancun. Dubai, South Africa, Mauritius and Tampa over the previous 12 months.
This year has been one of the most exciting so far for me. I managed to visit a number of new countries and cities, something I love to do. In addition to fuelling my Amercian travel addiction, I even found a new destination that I will likely return to, Cape Town. I don’t know too many people who have been there, chances are I would have visited there earlier if I did as they would no doubt be raving about the place just like I am. The climate is great, the food is great (and cheap) and there is a LOT of wine if you are that way inclined. We also had the pleasure of visiting Table Mountain, another of those fantastic natural beauties.
My trip to Dubai, South Africa and Mauritius was the first time in a while that I had travelled East rather than West. It was great to experience something completely different. Despite the number of planes I had to use in order to do so!
Travel plans for 2018
So far I already have the prospect of the annual conference in Las Vegas in January. I’m then heading out to Minneapolis in February with some friends. This is a follow up to our 2017 Superbowl adventure in Houston. In March, I’m making the short trip to Dublin to watch Sam Smith in concert over the Easter weekend. I do plan to book a holiday, with the early front-runner being New Orleans and Nashville, but we shall see.
My love for travel and more specifically my desire to relive my travel experiences has lead to me creating a travel feature for my Youtube channel, called “departures. Be sure to subscribe as I will be regularly uploading a vlog covering trips and adventures that I have been on, including my recent holiday.
I also plan to talk about my future trips and look back on places I have been. Further to this, there will be travel essentials and tips, plus thoughts from other travel fanatics. The trailer for my new feature is now live, I hope you enjoy.