OST - Why and Who... and What?
I'm not rich, firstly. I work a regular job, but one that affords me time off at Christmas and a mid year break. I'm British but live in Australia, and it's here that the first seeds are sown regarding the nature of my travels. When I lived in the UK, I didn't spend nearly enough time in Europe. I loved Europe but my income and career was such, that apart from maybe the 'typical' British summer holiday, I didn't utilise its close proximity as much as I should have. Although, to be fair, cheap flights weren't available to me and neither was the Chunnel. It was only really when I moved to Australia, and became so immediately aware of its distance from everywhere, that I realised what I was missing. Australia is obviously a wonderful land but I began to crave all of those things that Europe had to offer, and that Australia could not. This is also why I prefer to eat local food and wine when overseas. There are many fine restaurants here and wine that can be found from all over the world, so why eat and drink what I can find on my doorstep? It makes little sense to me - it gives me a much better feeling for the place I'm visiting and it makes me exceedingly happy to do so, so why the hellas not?
I like people .... and I enjoy the company of others but have also toured the globe on my own and am equally happy in both solitude and amongst the throng, but I suppose, ultimately, I don't suffer fools gladly, and whether I travel on my own or with my partner, Kati, I never fail to witness my fellow travellers missing out on what's around them or making bad choices based on a lack of organisation, time, energy or insight, and this saddens me. Just because sometimes we feel there are restrictions placed upon us, due to our financial, intellectual or relationship situations, it doesn't mean that we can't eek out that little bit extra that may turn a good trip into an amazing one, or a bad experience into a joyful one.
Because I must travel such vast distances to get to Europe, for example, I cram every boarding pass and billet into my itinerary as I possibly can. An overnight stopover in a city that I probably won't get time to visit properly, and to break up the journey, is a regular occurrence and it's worth noting that this can also save quite a few pennies too - Pennies that can be spent on luxuries elsewhere.... So don't necessarily click 'Next' when you see a flight time of 43 Hours on Skyscanner. I also communicate with the hotels and apartment owners, both to establish a rapport, so there will be no surprises at the other end, and to guarantee the best possible price. I will travel out of season slightly, again to help the budget go further and to avoid the more heavily populated months.
I firmly believe that certain cities are best seen at certain times of the year and I choose them according to season. I don't stay in chain hotels unless it can't be avoided, and I prefer the family run, I prefer character to functionality, and I try to avoid TripAdvisor like the plague when choosing where to dine - preferring the advice of well chosen locals or the sense and feel of the atmosphere of the place I wish to dine in. I plan my trips so as to visit as many places as possible in the time I have available... without it becoming too tiring, obviously, and always pick a place that is primarily for rest and relaxation somewhere in the middle, for battery recharging purposes. I travel with routines so as to avoid mishaps and I take the small unavoidable misfortunes that befall a long haul traveller on the chin.... Unless it's a problem caused by Qantas, who I detest... but that's a story for another day.
My outlook must be based on my life thus far - I studied Fine Art as an Oil Painter and Photographer. I was, and still am, an avid reader of contemporary literature and the 'Classics', I have worked in hospitality amongst the bottles & kegs and as a chef (I love good food), I have also written comedy and had a little success as an actor. By nature I am a romantic, passionate about many things, but above all else, I firmly believe that we have only one chance on this planet and that we must enjoy it wholeheartedly, with spirit and with style.
This leads me to OST - I miss the past, the old values, the classically romantic and beautiful destinations of yesteryear. I want to feel at home where I'm staying, I want to know which city I'm in just by waking up in the morning and seeing the decor of the room or the view from the window. I want to support the independent owners, the family bistro, trattoria and taverna before they disappear due to the demands of the fast and familiar eater. I want to casually wander the streets and happen across things, rather than stand in line to see the obvious. I want to sit in bars and cafes all afternoon, watch what's happening around me and get a sense of the place, rather than rush around ticking things off my itinerary and getting hot under the collar. I want to drink what the locals drink, I want to feast on local produce and tradition. I want to get value for my money and I want to be treated like a human being rather than just another tourist.
I want to make life easier for my fellow travellers and not to be a burden or to make their, often long journey, even more arduous, and I want to help bend the rules, so that things often thought out of reach, can be easily obtainable. I want to relax, have fun, experience the landscape, and I want beauty, whether it be in a golden sunset over the caldera or a simple plate of Orecchietti and a glass of Sangiovese in a busy piazza..... I want to bask in the poetry of foreign language, in the warmth of an ancient city's hospitality and the character of a small island's culture. I want the best that I can get. It's my holiday, my money, my life, my experience. I'll be damned if I'm going to do things half arsed, be an ignorant git or travel blindly amid the box tickers and flag carriers.....
Well done for getting this far, by the way. I just thought it worth while to clarify a few things about this blog and my opinions. There might be finer hotels than the ones I recommend but they may be too big, too corporate, too anonymous, too characterless, too expensive or simply have too many unnecessary facilities that are superfluous to my needs. My restaurant choices may appear odd, but one can only talk of ones own experiences and if I happen to catch a place on a good night, then I was lucky but surely we read blogs and gain experience to increase the likelihood of happiness and contentment rather than seeking the same moment. If the clients are all smiling and there is a buzz about the place, the waiters are happy and behaving as individuals, then theres a better chance of as good experience than if everyone is heads down into their phones, flicking the food with their dangling forks and if the waiters are grumpy and uninterested. It says more than any TripAdvisor review ever can. Maybe use this tool to find a place, but use your own judgement on whether to take a seat or not.... and don't be afraid to walk out should you change your mind or get that bad feeling in your hungry bones.
Finally, I am unbiased - as independent as it can get and will always remain so. It's old school travelling and it has its principals. I will only ever say what I feel ... even if it gets me into trouble. There will be products mentioned, like my little Leica, and who doesn't want to own some Steamline Luggage or clean their teeth with Marvis Toothpaste from Italy, but they will be mentioned because I love them, I use them, I buy them or they are just bloody marvellous and so very much old school traveller.
Cheers, and happy travels.
Old School Traveller