Category Archives: Algo Mas!

Normal Service Resumes

After 18 months away from the UK, our first sight of ‘Blighty’ was from the Cruise liner Windjammer Restaurant window as we drank our mugs of tea and scoffed a bacon sandwich. The early morning sun was shining over the Docks of Southampton, we were home!
It was a strange feeling being back in England and as we drove away from the port, an assembly line of Kebab shops and Chippies filled the main road, trees were lush and full . Derek my splendid brother in law had picked us up and as we headed into The New Forest, I have to say I marvelled at how compact everything looked in this green and pleasant land.

Both sets of little old grey parents were waiting to greet us at my sister’s house, there was a lot of hugging and a few tears – they hadn’t changed at all, maybe a bit smaller and they were in good spirits. Betty wasn’t letting her Bradley out of her grasp, after all she’d only been waiting 18 months for his return! Within a few hours it was as if we’d only just been away on holiday.

I wanted them to notice we’d changed, we were intrepid travellers who had ridden buses, climbed volcanos, saw the Big Heads and stood atop of ancient Incan cities…but when you go home things are still the same and we didn’t look any different. But inside, our goals, our attitude to daily life and something in our minds had changed. I hadn’t expected this and the positivity is still here. Travel had definitely opened up our minds.

In the weeks before coming back, I had made a mental list of everything I was grateful for, a list of all the beautiful places we had seen and a list of all the wonderful things we were returning home to. I was determined to make all these small positive thoughts set the tone and the attitude for my homecoming. It’s working and I’m happy. My life back in the countryside is pretty sweet but I could do with some summer sunshine!

So it’s been 8 weeks since we sailed into port and I’m putting on my best smugface as I have to say it’s been great coming back. I wish I could whizz back and tell my crying self in the Puerto swimming pool that it’s all going to be ok “Don’t worry about slotting back into your everyday life as if you’ve never been anywhere, don’t be anxious about going back to work, you’ll be better than fine and the best bonus is that you won’t have the post trip blues!”

The transition back to regular life was ridiculously easy. This was all down to the organisational skills of Mr E who had arranged everything and I mean everything before we actually left Puerto and a month before returning, all I did was pack the bags and cried. Mr E picked up his new Learner Car and the moving van was ready to collect, new furniture all arrived on the day we moved back into our dinky Corsham home, Sky and BT internet was switched on and the post stopped being redirected. Our fantastic renters had moved out and into the house next door and I swear the house was cleaner than when we left it. The only bummer was that we had to wash everything that had been in storage and Eileen at the local Laundrette did a great job with 4 ginormous bags of musty smelling towels, blankets and bedding all for the economical price of £50. Luckily the sun was shining and we could scrub the stink away in the garden before putting things back in place in the house.

We had cleared out huge amounts of ‘stuff’ before we packed up the house but I have now filled 4 charity bags with more ‘stuff’ we absolutely don’t need or want. So it was definitely a good job I bought new work shoes in Florida as I totally needed them…as I unpacked another 4 pairs of work heels, I can’t be expected to remember everything, now can I!

I have been thanking my lucky stars I had a new job to start and I was returning to the same company I had left in October 2014, I half expect them to ask for the leaving gifts back! My company car was delivered the day before I went back to work and I set it on autopilot down the M4 to my head office in Luton. Back to Comensura, back to C.net, back to excel spreadsheets, back to a lovely set of people who welcomed me with hugs and back to getting my brain in gear again. Last week I had the Eureka moment, this was week 5 when my brain put all the compartments back in order and finally brushed any remaining sand out of the corners.

Mr E has picked right back up from where he left off but probably hasn’t been quite as happy to resume work as I have – he’d rather not work. He had a great month and has a full complement of learner drivers again. His outlook has changed too, he’s become my own DIY ‘Matt Blashaw’ without the tool belt. This was the man who couldn’t put up a picture without drilling through the wall, but now he is sanding walls, painting doors, changing door handles and power washing garden walls! Unbelievable,  there’s no stopping him.

It’s been a joy seeing our dearest friends, catching up on news and seeing how big the kids and babies have grown while we’ve been away. A lot can happen in 18 months!

So what have we learnt from our trip away…everything. But that’s for another time!

What did the Evans pack…?

It’s time to pack up our from our Mexico home this weekend!
We arrived in November 2014 with 4 bags and although we have disposed of a lot of clothes and flipflops along the way, we are still going home with 4 bags! But to be fair, we have worn a selection of clothes for tropical sunny days and coats, boots & trousers for the chilly altitudes of South America too.

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The Evans don’t do backpacking and we haven’t stayed in any hostels during our time away – it’s really been one big long lovely holiday. But we had a budget and Mr E, master of finding outstanding deals delivered with huge success!
So although I can’t offer any backpacking tips, I can share with any future travellers or holiday makers a few snippets that might be useful..

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Packing Cubes
Once you go ‘zip up pack’ you’ll never go back! Making packing your luggage so easy, these useful waterproof bags keep clothes flat, tidy and organised. We loved the Ikea Travel Bags that come in a variety of sizes.

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Ziplock Bags
Ridiculously useful and probably the best couple of quid you’ll spend. I can recommend the Ikea Reseal bags as they are super sturdy and big enough for all your travel bits and pieces.
Use them to put in your empanada lunch, bus snacks, electrical stuff & chargers, first aid, suntan creams, smelly socks, wet swimsuits, passports and just about anything you want to keep clean and dry. Travelling to Puno in Peru through snow, our bus was so steamed up the floor was dripping wet and our daybags got soaked but ziplock bags saved the day!
Helpful Tip: shower caps are super useful for popping sandy flipflops or muddy boots in.

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First Aid Kit
We cashed all our Boots Card points in to buy an extensive first aid kit before we left the UK, thankfully we didn’t need to use most of what we carried around with us. But the essentials we did use were; painkillers, antihistamines, plasters, antiseptic cream, sting & bite cream and diarrhoea tablets. Throughout Latin America we have found there are plenty of pharmacies everywhere who will readily dish out antibiotics. Jot your symptoms down and even in Spanish the helpful pharmacists can supply medical help and all the drugs you need.
Helpful tip: ask the pharmacist to write down any advice and prescription dosage. You can Google translate anything you’re not sure of later.
Always check with your GP in advance of travel of any necessary inoculations and especially if you have prescription medication.

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Bug Spray and Bug Plug
Chikungunya, Dengue Fever and Zika Virus are all nasty diseases we have wanted to avoid, so preventing mosquitos sucking out our blood has been a priority each evening. We spray, cream up and pop a plug-in insect repellent in our bedroom. I keep a small bottle of repellent in my daybag at all times.
Helpful tip: cream up your ankles before getting on buses and planes to prevent itchy flea bites.

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Loobag
When you travel throughout Latin America you’ll have to pay to use a public toilet and very few of them actually have toilet seats. The tiny charge includes the attendant giving you a wad of loo roll, so the ziplock loobag is always to hand in our daybag. I keep tissues, tampons, hand sanitiser and a sick bag..some of those bus journeys can be nauseous!
Toilet paper goes in the bin and not down the loo, so sharing an open loo bin with your partner needs some consideration. I found biodegradable doggy pooper scooper bags can be purchased very cheaply and are useful especially at certain lady times of the month.
Helpful tip: keep some loose coin change in the loobag incase you have to, well dash to the loo!

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Footwear
Our biggest mistake for our South America packing was that we took way too much footwear, actually it was mainly me as I couldn’t resist buying Havaianas in Brazil!
In our bags we each had a pair of training shoes for city walking, Birkenstocks for beach wear and a pair of hiking boots for Chile, Peru and Ecuador. In hindsight we should have chosen a combo trainer/hiking shoe like this one from Columbia. Unlikely to use our hiking boots again they were left behind in Ecuador, donated to the local trail guides.

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Teabags
You can buy teabags in Mexico but they are totally rubbish, so our top notch friends rallied to our call and posted us a stash of lovely jubbly UK teabags ..gotta have our morning cuppa. When travelling we would take the powdered milk sachets from hotels and restaurants so we could always make a brew. Most hotels we stayed in would provide hot water for tea when asked at no extra charge.

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Techy Stuff
The Tablet
Samsung Galaxy Tab4. Both of us purchased Samsung Tablets and we love them, sorry Apple but it’s Samsung products for the Evans.
The Camera
It took us a good while before we left the UK to decide on what kind of camera to buy for our trip. Ideally I wanted an SLR camera to be able to take fabulous photos of our travels but in the end I opted for a Samsung Galaxy Camera 2 I wanted good quality photos but from a camera small enough to pop in my pocket. This excellent point and shoot camera provides options to take photos in Auto Mode, Smart Mode or Expert Mode where you can set the aperture and shutter speed. The camera has a touch screen that is the same as the Galaxy Tablet, has wifi so I was able to upload photos to Facebook, Instagram and Twitter instantly whenever we had a free wifi spot. I added a micro SD card as I found I took more photos in a couple of days than the memory allowed but when I had good wifi I used Dropbox to back up my photographs to my tablet. There is also a Samsung Smart Camera App you can download that let’s you share your photos to your tablet or smartphone.
Helpful tip: by us choosing the same manufacturers tablet and camera, we only needed one charger that fitted all 3 devices.

Here’s a few things we didn’t pack but we found were brilliant for our travels:

Post Office Platinum Credit Card
We chose this credit card to use on our trip as there are no foreign transaction fees.
We did have to advise them of our travel plans, which is a bit old fashioned but you can phone or use the online application. They did put a block on the card when we returned from South America to Mexico (luckily I had cash for my shopping in Chedruai supermarket) but with one call this was quickly rectified.

Airbnb
Staying in hotels is great for a few nights but whenever we wanted to stay somewhere for more than 4 nights we chose to book apartments through Airbnb. Not only did we get to stay in some fabulous properties but it gives you a chance to unpack, get the washing done, cook a meal and really chill out.  We would definately recommend Airbnb!

Hotels.com
There are 3 reasons why we liked using Hotels.com
1. They offer great rates on a massive range of hotels.
2. By creating an account, most booking are paid for directly with no fees from your bank details you provide, therefore eliminating having to withdraw more cash from ATM’S that do charge fees each time you use them.
Helpful tip: check cancellation procedures and timeframe’s before you confirm a booking in case you decide to change or if your transport plans are cancelled due to strikes or adverse weather.
3. When you have booked 10 nights the 11th is a free night to the value of your average nightly spend.

Few other extras that we packed that were useful;
Spare Padlocks  – even though I’m a master packer, I misplaced the padlocks on too many occasions!
BUBBA Cups – save money and take your own cocktails to the beach for sunsets.

However and wherever you go.. love to travel!

Packing up and saying farewell!

My first post is one of mixed emotions, as we pack away our home and handover work responsibilities we are also saying farewell to family, lovely friends and colleagues.

Our adventure starts in 3 weeks when we leave for Mexico with plans to travel to South and Central America over the next 18 months.

I am visiting friends, having nights and weekends away, much to the eye rolling of Mr E who is calling it the biggest farewell tour ever..

My first challenge will be to get a vast array of stuff into 4 bags!

Hope you’ll join us as we go…