Getting married again, Bedouin style

It was kept from us until the last moment – and for good reason. “Let’s just say it will be a celebration” is all we were told. We had our suspicions when we saw what looked suspiciously like an elaborate bridal carriage in the camp restaurant earlier in the day. As we arrived back to […]

Learning to dive in Aqaba – new skills and old problems

This post is part of the Digital Nomad project with National Geographic Traveller. You could call it unfinished business. A day trip to the Great Barrier Reef on Christmas Eve 2000 has since been remembered for a rushed and quickly aborted ‘free introductory’ dive. Once we signalled that our ears didn’t feel quite right, we […]

Introducing the National Geographic Traveller Digital Nomad project

I’m excited to introduce the National Geographic Traveller Digital Nomad project, which will see the two of us heading to Aqaba in southern Jordan tomorrow (Saturday) for what promises to be an intensive and fascinating 14-day trip. Disclosures up front: we are undertaking the Digital Nomad project for APL Media, who produce National Geographic Traveller in the UK, for whom […]

Safety – should we trust our own judgement?

Every journey we take, whether we’re walking up the road to post a letter or flying to the other side of the world, poses a certain level of risk. Some of the risks are easy to identify (getting run over, being involved in a plane crash or a terrorist incident), while others are impossible to […]

75 years ago – the night when everything changed

This is one of the longest blog posts I’ve added on 501 Places, and other than a short introduction, I’ll leave the words to my parents. It’s a travel story in the loosest sense of the term, but one which I’m sure none of us would ever wish to undertake. My parents spent their early childhood […]

Stairs in Graz

The perils of trying to making sense out of nonsense

Often I read travel articles and blogs which make an attempt at informed analysis about a place from which the writer has just returned.  And it’s hardly surprising: most of us at some level attempt to make sense of what we see and experience, usually by framing it in the context of our knowledge of our […]

Surabaya – an unlikely tourist destination

Some cities make a real effort to put on their best face for visitors. And then there are places like Surabaya: gritty, crumbling, and staggeringly chaotic, you’d be hard pushed to find even a local person who would call it beautiful. Few visitors stop to take in its sights such as they are, although thanks […]

A quiet year on 501 Places

Good intentions and all that… This time last year I wrote a post which, foolishly as it turns out, explained what I thought I’d do with this blog in 2014. “Posts on almost daily basis”, I promised. After an early flourish I’ve barely managed one a month. So what’s happened? For a start, I’ve had a busy […]

Tell-tale signs of a free press flight

There once was a time (long before I started this writing lark) when airlines were only too willing to offer free flights to travel writers. The usual payback for them was a mention in the factbox at the end of the article that would later be produced. The world has moved on and now you […]

What would Lenin say now?

Our journey from Tampere in Finland to Vilnius in Lithuania followed the journey of the Soviet Union, from the early plans for revolution to its grim consequences Lenin first met Stalin in 1905 in the Tampere Workers’ Hall in Finland, the same building which now holds one of the world’s few remaining museums dedicated to the […]