Such a massive trip, and extensive blog, obviously requires a concluding review. Globo Trip began almost exactly one year ago, when I departed Tullamarine International Airport for Africa. On that early post-Christmas morning, I farewelled Mum, Peter, Nick and Andrew in the terminal and boarded the aircraft for my first ever independent trip. I intended to travel until Christmas 2013, though with no flights booked, I left open the option of returning home early in case I discovered that travel was not my passion after all. That possibility was quickly dismissed and the idea of returning permanently to Australia became an almost unbearable thought for most of the year. Before I left, I planned the first half of the year in extreme detail and actually stuck to the day-by-day itinerary rather closely. The third quarter of the trip required ample planning while I was travelling, because of various meetings. In the final two months though, I allowed for much more freedom and flexibility with plans (deciding movements only a couple of days in advance, as a maximum), which is how I intend to travel in the future.
Prior to the trip, I had virtually no fears whatsoever about travelling independently in Europe and Middle East, but I was petrified by the group tour through Southern Africa. That fear was quickly allayed as I was fortunate to have a tremendous group of people to enjoy the tour with; many of whom had also experienced such anxieties. The tour was so fantastic that I postponed my departure point by another three weeks. Unsurprisingly to me, this six week block was certainly the best period of Globo Trip.
Despite the positive experience though, I am loathe to ever join an extended tour again (excluded Antarctica or activities like trekking in Nepal). The enjoyment of an overland tour is entirely dependent on how you connect with the group, so I can appreciate how tours can easily be horrific ordeals. Also, I didn’t really feel like I was properly “travelling” until after I had departed the tour in mid-February. I certainly prefer planning, deciding and controlling where I go, how long for, what I see and what I eat independently than mindlessly following the directions of a tour leader.
Once I departed sub-Saharan Africa, I truly was travelling independently and quickly became accustomed to it. I have been asked numerous times (usually with a hint of condescendence or utter perplexity) this year whether I liked travelling alone, to which the answer was always an adamant “yes”. That’s not to suggest I don’t enjoy travelling with other people, but I rarely have any issues being on the road on my own. And most backpackers in the hostels seem to have the same mentality.
The route of my trip this year was rather convoluted, for an assortment of reasons (the visa-free period for Australian tourists in the Schengen Area had the most significant effect; also weather, meeting people, financial). I travelled from sub-Saharan Africa to Europe to North Africa to Europe to North Africa to the Middle East to Europe to the Middle East to Europe to Southeast Asia. Accumulatively, I visited forty countries across three continents.
This year has certainly lived up to my expectations and exceeded my hopes. I refuse to concur with the common defeatist mentality that something like Globo Trip is “a once in a lifetime experience”. I have met too many people who have devoted their lives to travel.
I think comparative lists, which I have quite an affection for (along with statistics), are the perfect tool to summarise the myriad aspects of Globo Trip. So enjoy analysing the plethora of lists I have compiled!
Statistics of Globo Trip
- 3 continents
- 40 countries
- 52 cities with a population over 500,000 (that I stayed at least one night in)
- 88 UNESCO World Heritage sites
- 362.75 days
Summation of Globo Trip (chronological order)
South Africa (4 nights)
Highlight: Summit of Table Mountain
Best Food experience: Spinach and feta omelettes
Highlight: Namib Sand Sea
Best Food experience: Chicken curry by Cook Charles
Highlight: Flight over the Okavango Delta
Best Food experience: Eggplant chips by Cook Charles
Highlight: White-water rafting on the Zambezi
Best Food experience: Boma buffet dinner, sampling many different types of game meat
Highlight: Spotting leopards at South Luangwa National Park
Best Food experience: Chips (it wasn't a great country for food!)
Highlight: Swimming at Kande Beach on Lake Malawi
Best Food experience: Roasted pig and condiments
Highlight: Evening in Stone Town on Zanzibar
Best Food experience: Tropical fruit juices on Zanzibar
Highlight: Canals of Amsterdam
Best Food experience: Pea and bacon soup
Highlight: Grand Place in Brussels
Best Food experience: Three course lunch: pate and condiments, rich beef stew, chocolate mousse and unlimited crusty bread
Highlight: Bari Gothic district of Barcelona
Best Food experience: Patas Bravas in Madrid
Highlight: Riverfront of Porto
Best Food experience: Francesinha
Highlight: Camel-trek at Erg Chebbi
Best Food experience: Moroccan eggplant "moussaka"
Highlight: Afternoon of walking to the great sites of Rome
Best Food experience: Four course meal with Davide: raw sausage, tasting plate of beef three ways, ricotta ravioli with a cream sauce and selection of four cheeses
Highlight: Sipping wine in front of Monte Carlo Casino
Highlight: St. Peter's Basilica
Highlight: Colosseum of El Jem
Best Food experience: Meal in Tozeur with Nadia: Tunisian salad, harissa, bread, olives, chakchouka (chicken, chickpeas, rice sauce and pancakes) and stew of salty fish, lentils and beans
Best Food experience: Kushari
Best Food experience: Hummus, labneh, fattoush salad, mixed grill and pita... too much food (first night, was not used to their portions) but delicious!
Israel and Palestine (11)
Highlight: Old Town of Jerusalem
Best Food experience: Shwarma in Ramallah
Highlight: Mont Klint
Best Food experience: Traditional Danish meal prepared by Nadia: frikadeller (pork meatballs), smørrebøred (open sandwich of pickled herring, curry salad and rye bread, stew of sausage, sour cream, tomato and paprika, chocolate brownie
United Kingdom (16)
Best Food experience: Roast beef with potatoes, green beans, Yorkshire pudding and gravy
Highlight: Cruise on the Seine
Best Food experience: Roast duck with puree apple and sauteed potatoes
Highlight: Walking tour in Berlin
Best Food experience: The Giant Schnitzel Meal
Czech Republic (3)
Highlight: Views of Charles Bridge and the Old Town of Prague
Best Food experience: Spicy sausages with horseradish for entree, beef in paprika sauce with mouth-watering potato dumplings
Highlight: Imperial architecture of Vienna
Best Food experience: Sacher Torte
Highlight: Hiking in Cappadocia
Best Food experience: Creamy eggplant dip covered in burnt butter and doner kebab with rice tomato sauce and yoghurt (very rare occasion I was impressed by food in Turkey)
Highlight: Tour to the "UFO" building
Best Food experience: Tarator (cold yoghurt soup)
Highlight: Views on Santorini
Best Food experience: Taverna meal with Shamba: fava bean salad, stack of grilled haloumi, vegetables and basil pesto, pork stew, zucchini fritters, mastic cream with rosewater syrup and orange cake
Highlight: Old Town of Ohrid
Best Food experience: Macedonian baked beans and cevapcici (plate skinless sausages with pita and grilled peppers)
Highlight: Hiking in Durmitor National Park
Best Food experience: Fried pork stuffed with cheese and ham
Highlight: Listening to the Hawthorn anthem after winning the Preliminary Final against Geelong
Best Food experience: Roasted peppers with garlic
Bosnia and Herzegovina (5)
Highlight: Bosnian Tour from Majdas Hostel
Best Food experience: Boreks in Sarajevo
Highlight: Views on Vis Island
Best Food experience: Tasting plate of seafood and cheese and peka (slow cooked lamb and vegetables)
Highlight: Vintgar Gorge near Bled
Best Food experience: Venison goulash
Highlight: Views of the Danube
Best Food experience: Porkolt (paprika stew) with fresh pasta, sour cream and fried pork lard
Highlight: Evening in Helsinki
Best Food experience: Mousse balls with beetroot, mash and game sauce and beaver stew with root vegetables and mash
Highlight: Cruise on Halong Bay
Best Food experience:
Highlight: Tuk-tuk tour around the Temples of Angkor
Best Food experience: Fruit shakes (mango, pineapple, coconut or banana)
Highlight: Kayaking at Si Phan Don
Best Food experience: Deen's Indian restaurant in Nong Khiaw (authentic experience, we'll just say the sticky rice)
Highlight: Seeing cohabitation of multiple cultures
Best Food experience: Where to begin? Hawker food in Penang
Top 20 highlights of Globo Trip
1. Group dynamic on the Cape Town to Zanzibar overland tour
2. Safaris at South Luangwa National Park, Zambia
3. London, United Kingdom
4. Hiking at Petra, Jordan
5. Afternoon walk between all the great sights of Rome, Italy
6. Excursion to the Pyramids and tombs at Saqqara and Dashur, Egypt
7. Bosnian tour from Majdas Hostel, Bosnia and Herzegovina
8. Contrasts of Jerusalem, Disputed Territory
9. Canoeing on the Lower Zambezi River with countless pods of hippos, Zambia
10. Temples and tombs around Luxor, Egypt
11. Paris, France
12. Greek cuisine, Greece
13. Hiking up dunes in the Namib Sand Sea, Namibia
14. Chilling in Dahab, Egypt
15. Food in Florence, Italy
16. Santorini, Greece
17. Hiking in Cappadocia, Turkey
18. Cruise on Halong Bay, Vietnam
19. Barcelona, Spain
20. Three countries in twelve hours with Davide Sordella: Italy, Monaco and France
Top 10 favourite countries
Close between the top two, but the vastly superior cuisine tips the verdict in Italy’s favour. The beauty of the architecture in Italian towns is unparalleled in the Western world, the ancient sites and history is remarkable and character of each region is intriguingly different.
Phenomenal country that provided the only big “culture shock” I have ever felt. Crowds, pollution, traffic and general chaos of Cairo: what an incredible city. The Ancient Egyptian sites are far more impressive than I expected and totally unique. Diving at relaxing in Dahab offered another brilliant experience.
Three of the most astonishing natural wonders I have ever seen were in this beautiful country.
Greece boasts sensational food, ancient history, Mediterranean lifestyle, sublime scenery (Meteora and Santorini) and pristine beaches (Naxos).
Another natural wonderland: a barren and desolate land with surprising diversity of landscapes and an abundance of life.
6. United Kingdom
My “rest” period came half-way through the trip in a country with the culture I am used to. I caught up with several great friends in the UK and London is my favourite city in Europe.
Everything you expect: hospitable people, colourful markets, dramatic landscapes, endless paddy fields and tasty and light cuisine.
I love the food, everyone loves the beer, I love the unpretentious attitude of modern Germans and I love the contrast between the country’s two great cities.
Intensely busy and vibrant medinas and a diverse range of spectacular empty landscapes are all in the same country.
Seven days (or one) was enough to be encapsulated by this (very very safe and stable) Middle Eastern country.
Top 10 favourite cities
1. London, United Kingdom
2. Rome, Italy
3. Jerusalem, disputed territory
4. Paris, France
5. Cairo, Egypt
6. Barcelona, Spain
7. Florence, Italy
8. Berlin, Germany
9. Istanbul, Turkey
10. Munich, Germany
Top 10 favourite hostels
I definitely prefer small and family-owned hostels. I found it much easier to meet interesting people at these establishments than the big warehouse-size hostels. Including a decent breakfast (not just toast and jam) in the price is another meritous aspect (only 8 & 9 failed on that count).
1. Bob Marley Hostel, Luxor, Egypt
2. Hostel Mostel, Veliko Tarnovo, Bulgaria
3. Majdas Hostel, Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina
4. Dahab Dorms, Dahab, Egypt
5. Porto Spot Hostel, Porto, Portugal
6. Aslan Guesthouse, Sanliurfa, Turkey
7. Dina’s Hostel, Cairo, Egypt
8. Jazz Hostel, Bled, Slovenia
9. The Magic Sponge, Kampot, Cambodia
10. Hostel Mancini, Naples, Italy
Top 10 favourite man-made wonders
1. Petra, Jordan
2. Pyramids of Dashur, near Cairo, Egypt
3. Pyramids of Giza, Egypt
4. Colosseum, Rome, Italy
5. Old Town, Jerusalem, Disputed territory
6. Temples of Angkor, Cambodia
7. Pantheon, Rome, Italy
8. Temple of Hathor, Dendara, Egypt
9. Alhambra, Granada, Spain
10. Santa Maria del Fiore, Florence, Italy
Top 10 favourite natural wonders
1. South Luangwa National Park, Zambia
2. Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe/Zambia
3. Namib Sand Sea, Namibia
4. Cappadocia, Turkey
5. Lower Zambezi River, Zambia
6. Halong Bay, Vietnam
7. Todra Gorge, Morocco
8. Okavango Delta, Botswana
9. Matobo National Park, Zimbabwe
10. Si Phan Don, Laos
Top 10 favourite “views”
1. Namib Sand Sea from atop Deadvlei, Namibia
2. View of Porto and Dom Luis Bridge, Portugal
3. Santorini Caldera from Oia, Greece
4. Cappadocia from Goreme panoramic view, Turkey
5. Petra from the mountain behind the Royal Tombs, Jordan
6. Sunrise from the top of Mt Sinai, Egypt
7. Florence from Piazzale Michelangelo, Italy
8. Flight over the Okavango Delta, Botswana
9. Victoria Falls from the Zambia side, Zambia
10. Venice from any vantage point on the Grand Canal, Italy
Top 10 favourite places of worship (still active)
Christianity wins, congratulations.
1. Santa Maria del Fiore, Florence, Italy
2. St. Mark’s Basilica, Venice, Italy
3. St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City
4. Cordoba Mosque-Cathedral, Cordoba, Spain
5. Kairouan Mosque, Kairouan, Tunisia
6. Saint Chapelle, Paris, France
7. Al-Azhar Mosque, Cairo, Egypt
8. La Sagrada Familia, Barcelona, Spain
9. Il Gesu, Rome, Italy
10. Blue Mosque, Istanbul, Turkey
Top 10 museums and art galleries
1. Prado, Madrid, Spain
2. Yad Vashem, Jerusalem, Israel
3. German Historical Museum, Berlin, Germany
4. Louvre, Paris, France
5. Army Museum, Paris, France
6. Vatican Museums, Vatican City
7. Doge’s Palace, Venice
8. War Cabinet Rooms and Churchill Museum, London, United Kingdom
9. The Grand Egyptian Museum, Cairo, Egypt
10. Museum of the Risorgimento, Turin, Italy
Top 10 favourite countries for food and beverages
Greece covers all the bases with aplomb. Excellent street food, fresh fruits, cheeses, pastries, bakeries, quality cheap restaurants and diversity of dishes are all widely available. I was impressed with literally every meal I ate in Greece.
Almost a dead heat for first place. Malaysia boasts three sensational cuisines (Malay, Chinese and Indian) in one country. I need to nit-pick in order to separate. The quality of red meat is certainly inferior in Malaysia. Another problem is that all the food is made to be eaten immediately, which is not beneficial if you have an eight hour bus journey.
Italy also covers all the bases and the heights of Italian cuisine exceeded the two ranked above. But Italian food is often overpriced, undersized and hit-and-miss. Tourist trap restaurants are quite difficult to escape from in this country.
The best country I travelled to for Middle Eastern food, which I love (when cooked well!). Tasty, fresh and generously proportioned meals were hallmarks of Jordanian fare.
5. Palestine (including East Jerusalem)
Almost as good as Jordanian, but food was slightly more expensive in Palestinian territory. Pastries are AMAZING! Dare I say they taught the Israelis to cook?
Freshness, colour, diversity of dishes and lightness of flavour make Vietnamese a distinctive cuisine. Lack of traditional desserts hurt its ranking
One of the biggest surprises of the trip was Tunisian cuisine. Excellent street food and fresh fruit, interesting range of dishes I hadn’t sampled before and wonderful sweets
Mmmm stodgy meat, potatoes and cabbage… what more could you want? Beer! And the world’s best bakeries
This was another surprise in the culinary stakes. Croatia achieves high marks in the diversity of dishes and as the best country I have travelled to for seafood
Hungarian cuisine has all the key attributes of Central European food, but the liberal addition of spices and sour cream gives Hungarian greater complexity. Horrifically unhealthy though!
Top 10 favourite places for food and beverages
1. Florence, Italy
Simply put, every single dish I ate was absolutely extraordinary.
2. Georgetown (Penang), Malaysia
This is the only city I have ever travelled to where food is clearly the main reason for visiting. Hawker stalls are everywhere! Eating three meals are day in Georgetown is simply not an option. Chinese dim sum for breakfast, Chinese-Malay noodles for morning tea, Indian-Muslim noodles for lunch, Indian sweets for afternoon tea and Malay curries for dinner… what a day!
3. Athens, Greece
Outrageously cheap gyros, excellent tavernas, colourful markets and top-notch sweets shops
4. Hoi An, Vietnam
Vietnamese flavours reach their peak in the refined contemporary dishes of this beautiful town of mixed cultures
5. Munich, Germany
6. Naples, Italy
7. Vienna, Austria
The cakes, schnitzels and snags
8. Melaka, Malaysia
Indian, Chinese, Chinese-Malay… even Portuguese! Hard to go wrong
9. Naxos, Greece
Delicious rustic cuisine that emphasises simplicity and fresh fresh fresh island produce
10. Budapest, Hungary
Deliciously unhealthy Magyar fare
Top 10 favourite food “experiences”
1. Noodles at Hawker stalls in Malaysia
Hawker stalls line every corner in Penang and serve a multiplicity of delicious and inexpensive noodle dishes (either fried or in a soup)
2. Hummus, Jordan, Israel and Palestine
Bowls of mouth-watering hummus everyday
3. Neapolitan pizzas in Naples, Italy
Thin base, fresh tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella, basil and maybe some ham. Why are these glorious pizzas found only in Naples?
4. Gyros, Athens, Greece
Slices of pork, chicken or beef roasted on a spit and served in grilled pita bread with tomato, onion, chips and tzatziki
5. Falafel, Jordan, Israel and Palestine
Either a plate of falafel, or eaten in a wrap with fried eggplant, pickles, tahini and tabouli
6. Kushari, Egypt
Rice, pasta, noodles and lentils, mixed together with a spicy tomato sauce, crispy fried onions, chickpeas and lemon juice
7. Shwarma, Jordan, Israel and Palestine
Slices of beef or chicken of the spit and served in a leffe wrap (almost like a pancake) with pickles, tahini, chilli sauce and tomato and cucumber salad
8. Makroudh, Tunisia
Very sweet pastry made from semolina, flavoured with dates and soaked in honey
9. Francesinha, Portugal
Grilled sandwich of thin steak fillet, bacon, chorizo and cheese with a fried egg on top and lashings of a spicy port wine-based sauce
10. Boreks in Turkey, Bulgaria, Greece, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia and Slovenia (lunch staple)
Pastries of flaky dough and filled with cheese, cheese and spinach, meat, potatoes or sour cherry. Comes in a variety of shapes
Top 10 favourite beverages
1. Fresh tropical juices and fruit cocktails, Tanzania
2. Augustiner beer, Germany
3. Hot chocolates in Granada, Spain, Turin, Italy and Vienna, Austria
4. Banana, apple and date smoothies, Tunisia
5. Mint tea, Morocco and Tunisia
6. Strawberry juices, Tunisia
7. Fruit (mango, coconut, banana or pineapple) shakes, Vietnam and Cambodia
8. Sugarcane juice, Egypt and Jordan
9. Beer with banana juice, Germany
10. Juice cartoons (pomegranate or apricot) in Turkey
Top 20 "off the beaten track" destinations
1. Matobo National Park, Zimbabwe
Phenomenal landscapes and yet usually omitted from overland tour itineraries in Southern Africa.
2. Canoeing on the Lower Zambezi River, Zambia
Perhaps a once-in-lifetime experience and certainly one of the highlights of the year was canoeing on the Zambezi in a remote area of Zambia. Modern development is absent from this area, which has preserved the pristine environment despite not being a national park.
3. South Luangwa National Park, Zambia
One of the primary reasons why I booked Dragoman’s overland tour was because it visited this national park, which is not common. We spotted four leopards (very difficult), hundreds of elephants, hyenas and many other species in this beautiful park. Our tour guide labelled South Luangwa as his favourite national park in Africa. We were basically the only tourists there.
4. Porto, Portugal
I think this city is massively underrated: one of Europe's most beautiful
5. Skoura, Morocco
Expansive oasis with the Atlas Mountains as a backdrop. Most tourists go straight past on the Marrakech to Todra Gorge route
6. Tozeur, Tunisia
Intriguing vernacular architecture, proximity to beautiful oases and gorges: long way from the resort beaches of Tunisia
7. Colosseum of El Jem, Tunisia
One of the most stupendous structures I have seen, almost as impressive as the Colosseum of Rome. There were five other tourists there when I visited with Nadia.
8. Dougga, Tunisia
My favourite Roman ruins site after Pompeii, dramatically situated at the top of a hill overlooking a verdant landscape. Foundations are remarkably preserved. Half a dozen tourists there.
9. Pyramids of Saqqara and Dashur, near Cairo, Egypt
Superior experience to Giza. These pyramids are situated a long from Cairo in the desert and a long way from hasslers.
10. Dendera, Egypt
One of the most impressive temples i have ever seen. 2300 years old and structurally sound. Remarkable carvings and vivid colours. Absolute travesty this is not World Heritage listed. One other tourist present.
11. Wadi Mujib, Jordan
I only visited this spectacular canyon because a Korean i met was very enthusiastic about it. That would have been a terrible oversight. The vivid red canyon is thin and high and features a clear warm stream at its base. Scrambling up waterfalls was great fun, descending not so much.
12. Hebron, Palestine
History and the present of the city are tragic. Great experience to visit the epicentre of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict
13. Ramallah, Palestine
Surprisingly vibrant seat of administration of Palestinian Authority. Locals were bursting at the seams with delight to see a foreigner
14. Mont Klint, Denmark
Pure white cliffs, emerald green forest above, black-pebble shore below and a rainbow over the sea. For Danish day-trippers
15. , Lokken, Denmark
,Beautiful old beach houses overlook a windswept coast. Has an "end of the world" feeling to it. Vacation destination for Scandinavians and Germans, but not backpackers.
16. Ulm Munster, Germany
This cathedral is massive; in fact it boasts the world's tallest spire. It totally dominates the skyline of this small city and the surrounding country. I was really impressed by this structure. Ulm is definitely not on the tourist trail. I visited only because I had a contact there.
17. Sanliurfa, Turkey
18. Veliko Tarnovo, Bulgaria
19. Zabljak and Durmitor National Park, Montenegro
Lovely small town and spectacular national park. Only just being discovered by tourists.
20. Kampot, Cambodia
Quiet riverside town that just enough foreigners have discovered, so it has a nice travellers' vibe without being ruined
Top 10 worst experiences
Obviously it wouldn't be possible to travel for a year without a few unsavory ordeals. The review of Globo Trip wouldn't be complete without some reflection on these memories. One "negative" list I think will suffice.
1. Writing “Globo Trip”
2. Missing the ferry departure from Egypt to Jordan because the ticket seller told me the wrong departure time, forcing me to stay in a post-apocalyptic town overnight and at the port for ten hours the next day
3. Being hit with a $250 visa fee for Tunisia, when I expected it to cost only $30. I’m quite certain the border officials robbed me, but you don’t really have a choice but to pay in that situation!
4. Food poisoning in Seville. This resulted in the most painful and definitely most voluminous vomiting episode for the year
5. Suspected food poisoning in Siem Reap. Fainting in public was not pleasant
6. Shared an eight-person dormitory in Granada with a seven-person band. They came in at 4:00am each night and were very obnoxious!
7. Hassling in Tinerhir (service town for Todra Gorge, Morocco) and encountering a physically aggressive and abusive deranged man
8. Crazy dogs in Savannakhet, Laos
9. Hassling in Cairo, especially at the Pyramids and the Islamic Old Town
10. Suspected food poisoning at Si Phan Don, which made me desire an end to the trip
Top 10 things I miss about Melbourne (other than the corny stuff)
Its not all doom and gloom returning home, there are a handful of things I miss
1. Public lavatories are FREE
2. Public lavatories are EVERYWHERE (I don’t think you appreciate this until you leave Australia)
3. Population not dominated by Asian drivers
4. Footpaths are pedestrian-only zones
5. Barriers (fences and gates) separate me from crazy dogs
6. Tap water
7. Bowl of cereal everyday (including my special breakfast bowl)
8. Never greeted with “G’day mate!”
9. Motorcycles are seldom seen on the road
10. The streets generally don’t smell of waste water (as the pipes are deep in the ground and not exposed beside the footpaths)
Thank you everyone for reading this blog, it really means a lot to. I've strategically placed this message at the end of a very long entry, so only committed readers receive the gratitude!
That's all for now but hopefully not forever!