Blogger BackChat – Backpacks and Bunkbeds

Neil of Backpacks and Bunkbeds is quite fond of cheese, a good beer and football (the Englishmen kind). He hates needles, pigeons and onions.  Although he’s only been blogging for a year or so, he’s been travelling on and off since 2005. Now based in London, Neil still travels when he can to escape the dreaded 9-5, and already this year he’s been to Grenada, Croatia, Ireland and Spain. Next year (yep he’s preparing already), Neil’s heading back to Ireland (for a friend’s weddding), back to Turkey (his sister’s wedding) and then embarking on a new adventure with a joint trip to Loas and Cambodia.

You’ve been black water rafting, white water rafting and even been skydiving.  What has been the most terrifying moment of your travels?

Nothing beats getting on a train in Poland only to find it full of footy hooligans. Police lined the station platforms at each and every stop along our route.  With riots shields, shotguns and dogs, they weren’t messing around. In return the fans/hooligans offered missiles, flares, balaclavas, drums, drinks, drugs and general rage.

Four hours of gut wrenching torture later they departed and we could finally breath.  Cue nervous laughter all round!

You’ve done volunteering in Africa and Asia. What’s been the most inspiring part of your travels so far?

Volunteering in Sri Lanka wins hands down.  Sri Lanka was the first stop on my gap year and I just loved every second of it.  It inspired me to see more, try more, be more.  I loved my volunteer placement there, coaching footy to the greatest set of kids, and I also made the best mates, a few of whom I am still good mates with now, six years later.  I was pretty nervous when I started travelling, but Sri Lanka showed me just how great travelling is.  I haven’t really looked back since.

You give tips on hostels and even a 10-step guide to pissing off your roommates.  What’s the weirdest experience you’ve had in a hostel?

I once slept in a giant bunk bed with 20 other backpackers in New Zealand, and I also slept in a 90 person dorm in Fiji.  But nothing beats seeing a drunken roommate coming into to your room at 4am after a heavy night and watching him trying to take a piss in the bin.  Distrusting yes, but also highly amusing!

After your road trip around Ireland, what top three tips would you give to beginner road trippers?

1. Check the driving laws for the country you plan to drive around.  For example, in the Ireland where we road tripped, there is a 50ml (20mg for those within two years of passing their test) alcohol limit, while other countries however are zero tolerance.  Russia is one example of this, and also Croatia has a zero tolerance for anyone under 24.  Best to do your research on all laws that may affect you and your party.

2. Scour the internet for discount codes and vouchers.  All the major car rental brands have voucher fields in their booking forms.  Before pressing that ‘confirm rental’ button, check to see if you could save yourself a couple of quid.

3. Have an epic soundtrack!

You have a pretty amusing post how NOT to impress a girl whilst on the road.  What’s been your most awkward traveller to traveller moment?

I fainted whilst getting my ear pierced in Oz.  My then girlfriend (who at that point I’d only been seeing for a week or so) had to not only witness my cowardly act, but then also had to nurse me back to health.  I did tell her I was sh*t scared of needles, but she said it would look cool … so it was her fault really.

You have a guide to London on your blog. What are your top three things to do in our grand capital?

1. Hit the markets and eat.  My favourite is Portabello Road, but Borough Market gets a lot of good press too.

2. Go to a gig.  I love live music and we have some amazing gig venues in London.  Whether it’s huge venues such as the O2 or Wembley, or smaller more intimate venues like Koko in Camden or XOYO near Old Street, they all make for a great night out.

3. Watch some sport.  Whether it be live, or just on a big screen at a proper English pub, spend a day watching sport.  I go to watch the footy on a regular basis with my dad, but if football’s not your thing there is rugby, athletics, basketball and even hurling and Gaelic football.  Travel to the game on the underground, have a beer, eat a pie, chat to the person next to you about how terrible the number nine is, moan about the weather and how cold it is. Essentially, experience being English.

You’re a fab photographer.  Could you share a couple of your favourites with us?

Fab?  … It’s something I aim to improve in the near future, but compared to some of the other blogs out there I’m definitely playing catch up.  Anyway, here are a few that turned out ok …

Great Ocean Road

Cape Tribulation

Spot Surf Camp, Australia

If you had to persuade a travel hater to travel in one sentence, what would you say?

You’ll become twice the person you are now … and may even get a tan.

In 50 words max, what advice would you give to someone hoping to follow in your travel blogger footsteps?

Start a blog for your love of travel, writing, photography etc.  Don’t start one hoping to make money or get sent on lots of trips, it doesn’t really work like that.  Also be prepared for your blog to take up a lot of your free time, that includes learning the ever changing technology that powers it.

Where to next? 

I’m off to Loas and Cambodia with the Mrs in April next year.  I’m also hoping to fit in Bulgaria for snowboarding, a Scottish roadtrip and a northern lights hunting trip in Iceland before then though.  Five months seems too long to have to wait before travelling again.  Itchy feet!

Thanks very much, Neil!  Don’t forget to check out Neil’s blog Backpack and Bunkbeds, ‘like’ his Facebook page and follow him on Twitter: @packsandbunks.

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