Welcome to the first of my ‘Portrait of a Traveller’ series, guys. One of the joys of travel is getting to know the unusual array of personalities you encounter. Well, this travel portraits series provide a postcard snapshot of the everyday people you’ll find on the road. I hope you enjoy…
I have to admit when I checked out James Treacher’s online profile, I felt a twang of envy. This is a guy who has managed to make a living out of our travel passion. He’s a content writer for Touriocity. (How cool would it be to spend your days writing about exotic foreign cities?).
Anyway, jealousy aside, I had a chat with James to find out what it is that drives his passion, the lessons he’s learned on the road, his travel recommendations, and more.
How often do you travel?
I try to go away at least 4-5 times a year – but many of these occasions can be short city breaks over bank holiday weekends. A cheap and really great way to see a city.
How do you make it happen?
I like to travel as often as I can. In the UK and much of Europe there is a general trend to travel in the public holidays, i.e when the schools are out.
Companies often expect those without children to be in the office to cover those who are away. However, if you hold fast and book your holidays early, it is possible to get some excellent deals in Europe and much further afield if you book out of season.
As mentioned above, book well in advance, out of season and over long weekends to make the most of your time. I have often travelled to the far east for only a week. The flight is the biggest outlay but eating and shopping can be very affordable. Plan your itinerary as precisely as possible. You can do so much in a day if you put your mind to it!
What was your first travel memory?
My first travel memory has to be going to Jersey with my extended family. I must have only been 8 or 9 but I still remember the spectacular sandy beaches and warm rock pools – which at the time seemed utterly huge to me.
My cousin and I would spend the days swimming in the surprisingly warm seas and rockpooling for crabs. Indeed the proximity to the island of Jersey to France does help in making outdoor activities far more bearable.
What is the greatest lesson you’ve learnt from travelling?
The greatest lesson I have learnt is to plan, plan and plan! It is well worth the time investing in a guidebook such as the excellent Lonely Planet series and set out each day, complete with times to ensure that you get the most out of your trip abroad.
Doing this can save in time, money and will be sure to leave you far more satisfied. Investing in a few key tours of attractions you may be particularly interested in is also helpful, to ensure that you get the most out of your trip.
What is your favourite travel memory?
My absolute favourite travel memory has to be snorkelling on the reef of Pileh Lagoon, Koh Phi Phi island, in southern Thailand. You cannot help but be utterly dumbstruck at the sheer beauty and glorious technicolour of the reef here.
What makes me giggle, looking back at the experience, was that it was beautiful yes, but the reef was also teeming with tiny stinging jellyfish! At the time the guide insisted that they were harmless and was “part of the experience”. Gotta love Thailand.
What is your favourite country to visit?
I absolutely love South Korea. I was completely taken aback when I first visited Seoul, the capital city. The rate of development is insane – with high rises and stunning architecture on every corner. You will be delighted to find the odd Zaha Hadid or two.
My favourite districts have to be Garosu-gil for the insanity of its high class shopping – here you will find KPop stars and Seoul’s urban elite searching out those bargains.
I also adore Hongdae, the university district. Here you will find Seoul’s hip and cool. The gaudy neon frontages of the many Korean BBQ joints and independent fashion retailers is something to behold. Eerily beautiful and just very cool. Here you will feel that you are truly in the centre of one of the happening places in the world.
What do you think are the greatest challenges to travel and how do you overcome them personally?
The greatest challenges to travel I have faced is the seemingly insurmountable language barrier. Google Translate has saved me on more than one occasion. It has an incredibly simple to use interface that allows for type translation of English and a number of languages. This is an app you must make sure you download before your trip.
Amazingly the app also allows you to use your smartphone camera to instantly translate text, as well as truly futuristic two-way automatic speech translation. This powerful little tool can be used to translate anything from menus to bus routes. Awesome.
Where are you headed next?
My next big trip I am planning is to Tokyo and Kyoto, Japan! Needless to say I cannot wait. I have wanted to visit Japan for years, having spent countless hours watching Anime, Japanese dramas and following the best of JPop. I am planning to go in spring to catch the cherry blossoms.
It is said that spring-time is the most beautiful time to visit Japan. There will be many tourists yes, but with the blossoms and seasonal Sakura flavoured desserts, I cannot wait to go. Another huge reason I want to visit Kyoto in particular is for the temples and shrines the area is famous for. I will be most definitely paying a trip to Kinkaku-ji, the famed “Golden Pavilion” and Kyoto’s most iconic sight.
What do you do it all for?
For me travel is incredibly important. I think it is the greatest way to get a real sense of yourself and your place in the world. It is also the most effective way to learn about different cultures and traditions.
For me the more authentic the experience the better. I try to avoid the crowds by designing my own itineraries or investing in a few decent tours around the cities I am visiting.
Read our next installment of the Traveller series and find out what drives (and funds) Gabrielle Secomb-Flegg’s travel passion.