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Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Are we the most innovative site in Ireland? My mum thinks so, but we find out formally tonight!

2013 Web Awards Finalist

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Shane's solo holiday. Day 4.

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

I admit it. I am a terrible diarist. Always have been. 

Anyway, I have an excuse because rock climbing is exhausting and trying to compose a blog post after a long day's climbing in the Greek heat is not easy.

So here I am on Day 4.

Today was a rest-day from climbing - and I needed it. Yesterday, I applied many of the lessons that Simon had been advising me on. Progress was made. But I am still stuck on 5c+ as my highest lead level (pathetic).

Yesterday we were based in Grande Grotta, a wonderful hollowed out section of cliff overlooking the sea. After finishing, we all (me, Simon, Frank, Antoine, Emanualle) stopped by a cafe for coffee. Simon is a great talker and damn interesting too. His tips for climbing were well received, by me anyway.

Afterwards, I had a shower, a nap and then went out for shopping. Along the way I met Frank and his wife and we sat own at a bar for a drink and a chat. He is a really fun guy - so hence my shock at today's news... he was knocked over by a moped and broke his collar bone.

Holy shit!

So now he is out of action. A real pity as he is a great climber to watch and quite inspiring for me. He refused to let me down on one route and I went farther than I thought possible. All in good humour as well!

Tomorrow it is just me and Simon. (Antoine and Emmanuelle were booked in for 2 days only.) Seven hours of close attention - I hope I am up to it.

Myself, I hired a bike and cycled to a remote beach for a swim. It was extremely hot with a long uphill followed by a meandering downhill, but I loved it. Really secluded with only a few others around.

I think I earned the beer I am having right now :)

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Shane's solo holiday. Day 1.

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Ever hear the phrase "eat your own dogfood"?

It is used in software & other businesses (like dogfood production!) to answer the question about whether you use your own product.

Well, I do. 

I invented Wandermates for people who travel solo and want to meet other travellers - and adventure sports people.

So here I am in Kalymnos, Greece at a climbing camp run by the excellent Simon Montmory. I was here at about this time last year and had a great time.

I decided to come back for more.

I had big hopes that my climbing skills might have improved over the past year as I spent a lot of time practicing indoors during the winter months. But - now that Day 1 is past - I have to admit that not practicing since May was probably a bad idea :/


However, Simon himself continues to inspire with his amazing monkey-like climbing skills. Frank (the other chap on the camp) is also extremely good. So in any event if I can't perform any moves myself, at least I can watch masters at work.

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Tip #8 for Solo Travelers ... Learn a secret language

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

You know when you are abroad and you meet someone from your home country ... sometimes you just want to be able to chat privately.

The problem is that if English is your native language, you're kinda scuppered. Everyone knows English, so any private conversations are immediately broadcast to all.

What you need is a language that no-one else knows!

For my own part, I have one fall-back. I am reasonably fluent in Irish Gaelic and can have meaningful conversations in it ... if & when I meet a rare other Irish person who speaks it :/

A photo my Irish dictionary

When I do get to those rare opportunities to speak it abroad, it can be quite funny.

I can sometimes see people looking at me and trying to figure out what this gibberish is. They see me - a white western European - speaking a language that to them sounds like a mixture of Chinese and Native American.

Privacy guaranteed :)

So, before you go off on your solo travelling adventures with Wandermates, pack an obscure dictionary. Surely someone somewhere also speaks Klingon!

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Tip #7 for Solo Travelers ... Always pack ear plugs!

Thursday, 27 June 2013

Do you want to sleep when traveling solo? Really?

Well, then don't delude yourself - pack some earplugs.

They have saved my night's sleep many, many times from snorers, partiers, late night arrivers, etc.

In fact, they are so important when I ran out of then in Moscow a few years ago, I asked the hostel owner to tell me what they are called in Russian. 'Bear-Rushia' he said.

So off I trotted to the pharmacy and when there, pointed furiously to my ears and gabbled 'bear-rushia, bear-rushia!'

I slept that night :)

A photo of my guidebook

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Tip #6 for Solo Travelers ... Pack a headlamp

Friday, 21 June 2013

As a solo traveller you will be doing a lot of things in the dark. Getting buses late at night, trains in the early morning, arriving at hostels with lights out, etc, etc.

So best to have your own lamp with you.

I recommend using one of those miners' headlamps, like that I am wearing below (in a cave in Co.Clare, Ireland with Clare Caving Club.)

A photo of me with a headlamp down a hole

Headlamps are cheap ($20), light, easy to pack and VERY useful in many circumstances. For example:
  • Unpacking your bag in a hostel late at night
  • Walking on an unlit road
  • Reading on a bus
  • Etc.
So do yourself a favour. Pack a lamp before you go solo travelling with Wandermates :)

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Tip #5 for Solo Travelers ... Print your own currency converter

Thursday, 20 June 2013

The best way to waste money while abroad is not to know how much each note is worth. Vendors know this because they see you fumbling with notes.

So do yourself a favour. Print a simple currency converter. BUT to do it right, it must be made as follows...
  • On the left put the LOCAL currency
  • On the right put YOUR currency
That is, (if you are Irish like me) do NOT print "10 euro = 13.73 shekels" - because there are no 13.73 shekel notes.

Remember, you will be looking at local notes. You need to know in a flash approximately what they is worth in Euros. The best way to do this is to put the local currency first, then Euros.

A photo of my cash converter

Print 2 copies (about the size of a credit-card)...
  1. Put one in your wallet so you can see it every time you take money out.
  2. Stick the other in the back of your guidebook as that is the other thing you'll carry everywhere.
So where are Hryvnias from? Ukraine. That foto is from the back of my LonelyPlanet guidebook from 2004. A great solo travel trip.

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Tip #4 for Solo Travelers ... Ditch your phrasebook

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

To clarify - I am not one of those arrogant travelers who makes no effort to learn other languages & expects everyone to speak English (I speak Spanish & Gaelic as well as English).

But years of solo travel experience have taught me that you don't need much to get by.

I have found that if you learn the following 5 phrases (accompanied by lots of hand-signals), you'll be fine in 90% of circumstances...
  1. Excuse me
  2. Hello
  3. Thanks
  4. Thanks very much
  5. Goodbye
A photo of my phrasebooks

As well as those, the following 4 English phrases are understood pretty much worldwide (apart from a few undiscovered tribes in New Guinea).
  1. Hi
  2. Thanks
  3. Sorry
  4. No problem
So ditch the phrasebook. Write these few words on the back of your guidebook & you'll be grand.

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Tip #3 for Solo Travelers ... Ditch your backpack

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

That's right - ditch the backpack! Carry valuables in a simple cotton bag.

No-one ever thinks a cotton bag holds anything valuable. Just look at my green bag below pictured in the Vatican.

That bag has travelled the world (via Wandermates with me attached) holding my laptop, money & camera and other valuables and has never let me down. So take me word for it - don't buy a fancy new backpack before your solo trip.

Grab the filthiest old rag of a bag you can find and you'll be better off.

My bag in the vatican

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Tip #2 for Solo Travelers ... Text your passport details to yourself

Friday, 14 June 2013

It's a pain! You arrive at another hostel and need to dig your passport out from the bottom of your backpack again to fill-out the check-in form.

So skip the hassle. Text yourself the following details & they are at your fingertips everytime.
  • Passport number
  • Place of issue
  • Date of issue
  • Date of expiry
Easy! If you have a smartphone (& who doesn't) take a foto of your ID page & have that handy too. (See Tip #1).

My mobile phone with a passport text

Psst! Remember that our solo traveler app Wandermates is specially designed to work on iPhone, Android, Windows & pretty much every other goddamn smartphone. (It took us ages!)

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Tip #1 for Solo Travelers ... Scan your passport

Thursday, 13 June 2013

Single travelers should never be without a scan of your passport in case you lose it on the road. It makes it much easier to get a replacement from your consulate.

It also means you can print out a copy and use it when checking-in to hostels or at border crossings for filling out visa details.

Here's an example of mine I photographed & emailed to myself before my own travels last year.

A scan of my passport

Learn more about my own solo travel adventures on Wandermates.

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