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I’m a Libran. I like balance and harmony. In other words, I don’t like to rock the boat, start or be involved in arguments. That is not to say sometimes I don’t want to, but usually I’ll just let things slide and find a way to look for the positive side of things.
But, times will come in your life when you have to speak up and out. Today is one of them.
I am happy to take any criticisms of our work here at y Travel Blog and anywhere else we may appear. Critique is what helps us improve and move forward. I like criticism that is constructive, relevant, true and comes with a respectful tone.
I am a teacher, so I know how to give criticism to help a child grow and develop. If I gave a child feedback that was condescending, off the mark, and not based on a thorough review of their work by me, how could I ever help that child?
A couple of months ago, I put in for a review of our site at Travel Site Critic. Not really knowing who they were and who was behind it, I decided to do it as I really want to know how to improve our site. I never heard anything back about it and completely forgot until I heard someone else mentioned the site today.
“Oh, let me go and see if they reviewed us”. As we are currently going through a complete site redesign, I thought we might get some credible feedback.
To put it mildly, I was really annoyed with the negatives that were written about our blog, more specifically, the condescending tone that came with it, not just because it was directed towards us, but towards a community of backpackers that I am proud to say I have been involved with for 14 years.
Not only this, but, it was obvious that the review of our site was scantly done and totally inaccurate.
I am still left wondering how on earth they came up with the following:
“In our opinion, what’s missing from y Travel blog is depth. There is no question that Caz and Craig are experienced backpackers, but are they experienced travelers? From what we could see, they seem to have learned much from their fellow backpackers, some of whom seem young and naive. I guess what we’re trying to get at here is that y Travel blog seems to be written more for party backpackers than for serious travelers who really want to get to know the world, as opposed to being entertained by it”.
As my typical Libran self would do, I switched over to a more positive web page to take my mind off it and surround myself with rainbows. But it kept niggling and niggling at me.
So I reread it and thought about what might be true from this and how could I learn from it. I hunted around on my site to double check my posts to find the reflection of my shallowness. While there are lots of stuff about partying on there, there is also a lot of depth that has come from 14 years living and traveling around the world.
I thought my ebook: “Living an Empowered life through travel–20 lessons travel taught me about life” just might somehow show some depth to our experiences.Not sure how they missed that one on the home page. Maybe I need to rewrite it–perhaps “20 lessons on how to Skull a Pint,” might suit our blog better.
The niggling eventually got too powerful and I kicked my airy Libran sign out and brought out instead perhaps a fiery moon sign of mine or just my Irish heritage. I don’t feel like this review is accurate or fair. There are a couple of points I need to dispute.
The first thing I wanted to know from this is what is Travel Site Critic’s definition of experienced “travellers”, and how have they themselves lived this. If you are going to review a travel site, make sure you come from a place of knowledge, or get a new business. Our post on “What travel is not and what it is” and “How to travel without travelling“ would define for us that what travel/travellers means.)
Yes, we are absolutely experienced travellers. We have travelled extensively through 35 countries since 1997, taking care to immerse ourselves in the local culture. We haven’t just bar hopped around Dublin and drunken ourselves stupid on Thai whiskey buckets (although we thoroughly enjoyed this).
We know what it takes to travel with a purpose and live out of a backpack 24/7…
… to travel in public transport (ever taken a 9 hour/97km dirt road journey sitting in the back of a pick-up on sacks of potatoes and bicycles while crammed in with 20 local villagers, hiding under a tarpaulin as the rain pelts down and you slide off almost to your death to the treacherous valley below? Thank goodness for Benjamin, the lovely Ugandan man I sat and chatted with the whole time; he continued to do all he could to keep his Muzungu safe, and that he did.)….
…to eat food from the street carts whilst living in Bangkok for six months straight shoulder to shoulder with the locals…
….to sleep on the escarpment of the Great Valley Rift or in a tent while a Masai warrior stood guard all night in case of hungry lion or leopard attacks…
…or on the rocky ground after a day of hard trekking to see the orangutans in the jungle of Sumatra as our guide stood watch with a giant knife in case of a visiting tiger…
Does jungle trekking through the jungles of Uganda to see the gorillas, white water rafting the Source of the Nile, hiking to see the sunrise over Mt Bromo, coming face to face with a cheetah, or traveling Africa “local style” and independently for five months on public buses, trains, boats, and pick-ups(which is a bloody hard and uncomfortable form of “travelling”) count towards us being experienced “travellers” with “depth” or is this not “serious” enough and still labels us as party backpackers?
What about the week we spent in a remote village with the beautiful Laotian family eating simple meals under the stars, as she told us in her broken English how for 10 years she lived in the nearby cave with the whole village due to the constant bombing of their riverside village by the American planes? We spent the week fishing with her son, and trekking through the villages, and watching as he built his dream falang bar – with one arm, the other lost when his curious 11 year old self picked up that shiny piece of metal in the rice fields.
Does all this qualify us for being experienced “travellers”?
This doesn’t even touch the surface.
Would you consider living and working in another country part of becoming an experienced traveller? How about 5 countries? Do you know what it takes to move to a foreign land and start your life over from scratch, time and time again? Do you understand the experiences you gain from this? Do you know the network of friends and family we have all over the world as a result?
Would standing up in front of 600 Thai high school boys to thank them for welcoming me into their school to be their teacher for the next 6 months, when they couldn’t understand a word I said, count? Did I increase the depth of my experience when they embraced Craig and I into their school and lives, spending time with us on the weekends, playing soccer with us after school, and greeting me at my 3rd floor school office “bedroom” of a morning to carry my books to class?
…how about tutoring a buddhist monk and being invited as the only foreigners to their religious ceremonies at one of the most important Wat’s in Bangkok…
…or what about when Craig, who is mostly shy with a background in professional sports, stepped out of his comfort zone with no teaching qualifications or experience to teach English to classes of 50 students at one of the most prestigious high schools in Thailand? Would that count as having depth to your experience? Is he a traveller now or still just a party backpacker?
Does working in the bars in London and Dublin not count? Working on a Pearl Farm in the Kimberly region of Australia to help cultivate some of the world’s best pearls? Teaching English to European students on vacation in Dublin? What about teaching the Irish “travelling” minority students? Or starting my first teaching experience straight out of University in the worst area of London, with Somalian and Bangladeshi refugees, and crazed students who threw chairs around the room. Is this deep enough?
Sure, I haven’t written about all of these experiences yet, because this blog has only been going 8 months and I have 14 years of stories to catch up on, not to mention the recent international move in July from the States back to Australia, the full time jobs we work, parenting a beautiful 3 year old, the miscarriage, and the financial disaster of a bad real estate investment in the States that practically sent us bankrupt has got in the way in the meantime.
I am sure if you looked hard enough you would have seen several posts mentioning a lot of our experiences, namely the About Us page, Our Mission, 23 experiences not to put on your travel bucket list, 29 experiences to put on your bucket list, as well as the published writings page which showcases the depth to our experiences and our thoughts on how travel has changed our life.
Is our tag line not ‘It’s all about the memories” and do we not advocate “make your life a story to tell?”
You can be sure some more in depth experiential posts will be coming up in the future – a positive thing perhaps?
I am sorry, my American friends – but what the hell does this mean?
(Yes, from living in the US for four years we learned that “hell” is a curse word. When you live in foreign countries you tend to learn how to adapt and get along with people from many walks of life. Part of this means treading lightly so you do not offend your wonderful hosts. But I am sorry “hell” is appropriate here.)
This is the statement that really fired me up.
I would first like to know what are you referring to here and which blog posts show that we have taken information from fellow backpackers? Everyone who crosses my path is a teacher, including you, Travel Sites Critic. But what I would like to know, faceless person is what makes you so old and wise??
And what do you know of any of the people I have met in my travels? Young and naive???
These are people who are stepping out of their comfort zones every day to live the life of their dreams. They are venturing forth into an untamed wilderness to discover much about themselves and life. In my 14 years of travel, I have met backpackers from 18 years of age to 70 – each one has been inspiring, uplifting, entertaining, full of good cheer and good fun- youthful -yes, but young – no.
Do you mean to say you know my Swedish friend Kim, who taught me not just to rock climb in Krabi, but to look deep within myself to see the beauty that lies there? Do you know my brother Stilts, who has been travelling since 95 and inspiring me to do the same? Do you know Paul and Kelly who showed us how to embrace the beauty that is in everyone? Is this who you are talking about as I have mentioned them before in posts?
Hang on a minute….You are not talking about all our guest writers or our backpacking blogging friends who we celebrate each week on this travel blog are you? You are not talking about the winners of our post URL fanpage competitions and our fans of the month? You couldn’t be.
I can’t think of any other fellow backpackers we really talk about on this blog. You mean these people who write inspiring posts week after week on their blogs? Young and naive?? I don’t think so. People who are making a difference is who they are. These are people who inspire us every day. We know their names, we know their stories, and we love learning from them.
I tell you one thing Australians don’t like and that is when you pick on our mates. Better to be young and naive then old and beat up by life.
Now isn’t this the killer statement! I wonder what those who are begging for water in Malawi, or roaming the streets of Vietnam with no arms and legs would say about this statement? Or what about the person who has just lost their entire life savings from the global financial crisis and has to return to work aged 65? Wouldn’t you think they would rather be entertained by the world then get to know it? Don’t you think they know enough?
Who are you and what have you done? Why are you such a serious and important spiritually divine traveller? Since when did serious have to mean boring? You can’t be an enlightened person and have fun at the same time? Do you have to sacrifice one for the other? Aren’t they part of the total package to life?
I think dedicating 14 years of your life to travel, and making all the sacrifices that goes with it qualifies you for being a serious traveler. You think we don’t know the world? What an absurd statement.
I knew nothing about Germans except their role in the holocaust until I sat with them in the beer tents of Oktoberfest. I stumbled out of there praising them for their warmth, their sense of humour and hospitality. A party and a couple of steins smashed to pieces any preconceived judgements I previously had of them and I found myself and my world taking one giant step forward to reconciliation and forgiveness.
I lived in a house full of South Africans, Irish, English, Australians, Italians, Zimbabweans and many other nationality drop ins for 2 years in London.We spent many nights partying together in clubs, bars, houses, and on the road. We laughed, we danced, we cried, we sang songs from our home countries, learned dirty words from each others, and got along really well over many pints of beers. You think I don’t know something of their cultures and their worlds?
My best friend and I danced on the tables of Ios in Greece with people from around the globe. To this day, we still end up with aching bellies from the roars of laughter brought about by the memories we have of the Swedish in the inflatable baby’s pool who asked us if we would like to go to the “Willage” with them. They had water pistols for protection. (Much funnier to us I know- the Swedes are hilarious though, you just have to spend time with them to learn that).
Do you know how many diseases laughter can cure?
Or the Croat who came and gave me a bottle of wine on the street because I was wearing an Argentinean hat- the team that just beat them in the 98 Soccer World Cup? Enemies on the field united as friends over a bottle of wine.
Or what about the sunset cruise on the Zambezi River, we were the only whites on the boat full of black Zimbabweans. They drank and chatted with us as we played with their children, showing us the depth of their hospitality so we may love their country and perhaps stay a little longer in their politically destroyed country that now lies in financial ruin with people cutting off others arms for food.
Party backpackers know nothing of the world? We know plenty and sometimes the partying helps you to forget some of the things you do know, allowing you instead to focus on the warmth, love, and kindness that every single human being has within them no matter who they are or where they are from. The partying has the ability to unite people where many roads of seriousness has failed miserably.
Sure Craig and I party- “first to arrive and last to leave” as we always say. It is our ambition to have fun, to be the party, and to create many joyful memories. The parties are part of the travel experience.
Who wants serious in their lives? Is serious what makes you important or qualifies you as having depth?
Serious? Have you turned on the news lately? Have you walked down your street and noticed the creased brows from strain and worry that comes with people’s every day lives?
Have you seen the homeless people on the streets, the children suffering from leukemia, the war torn streets of Iraq, or have you had a young and naive party backpacking friend die on the travelling road? A friend who reminds you every day to go out and live life out loud and forget being serious.
This is no dress rehearsal and there’s no prize at the end of this thing called life, for those who were the most serious and who got to know the world the best. The prize comes to those who live their life every day in total joy. Ask any enlightened guru and they’ll tell you that joy is our highest state of being. And that is what the party is.
Do you think everyone in their life is aiming to be serious and to get swallowed up by it? or do they want fun, adventure and a party?
Do they just want to let the worries of their day fade into the background as they sit on a hammock with an ice cold beer and talk with a random wise fellow backpacker about the joys of life?
Yes. Craig and I are party backpackers. We live and embrace joy. At the end of the day we’ll always strive to be someone you’ll want to sit and have a beer with. We’re not going to laden you down with stories of our spiritual awakenings (although we have had them), burden you with the seriousness of the road, and what a mess the world is when you step outside of the party.
We’re going to listen to your stories, share ours, hopefully inspire you to dream big and encourage you to laugh and laugh and laugh. We’ll give you a back slap, maybe a hug or two as we say…
“Life is all about the memories? We sure are glad you came along for the ride to help create more of them with us!
Please do feel free to drop us some constructive criticism in the comment box below on how we can make your experience at our blog a more enjoyable one. Don’t worry it won’t inspire an irate blog post from me, that is reserved for those who have no idea what they are talking about.
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