How to Travel After A levels Rather than go to University. The Grand Tour 2018

high on a mountain grand tour

Results are in… off traveling? Grand Tour?

Cora + Spink have teamed up with Ben Morris as he prepares for his latest voyage… this time on a Grand Tour of Europe. 

Ben is a bit of a dab hand at the old travel game, but even he has decided to get serious this time. Here we meet Ben as he starts the preparation for his Grand Tour in 2018.

Before the grand tour

Like a scout, always be prepared!

Cold, wet days are the ones that really drag you down. Stood by the window, staring out at another sky of tumbling grey, or looking down at the puddles filling in the pot-holes. The closest things to exciting are the brief arguments of late-night pub revellers or 20 seconds of R&B being played with too much bass from noisy passing cars.

Perhaps it’s the monotony of everyday life. Perhaps it’s the bleak streets of Birmingham. Perhaps it’s even my impatience and inability to keep these itchy feet in one place for too long, but after you leave to wander the Earth once, it seems impossible to stay grounded in one spot.

The last time I went away however, I made a series of rookie traveller errors. I brought the wrong stuff, used the wrong equipment and spent far too much money on alcohol. This time around, I only intend to make one of those mistakes again! (Bottoms up!) This is made even more difficult this time around thanks to extra baggage – my wife!

Travel partner

So I urge you to come and join us on a magical trip across seas and sands, rolling hills and running lakes. And just in case you’re looking at a trip abroad yourself, here are my five functional pre-travelling tips to prepare yourself for time away:

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1. Sunglasses or Snow Boots?

The first time I travelled, I wasn’t so adventurous. I spent half a year in Spain and Portugal. Whilst it was without a doubt one of the best experiences in my life, now I feel it’s set me up for a much more ambitious tour. So here’s the plan:

Grand Tour Map with Cora + Spink Europe 2018

In general, although the maps and poor MS Paint skill seem to show meticulous planning, I do believe that you can plan too much, so this may not be the exact path followed, but it is a guide, and for good reason.

Our journey starts in the south. Portugal, Morocco, Spain, South of France, Italy, Malta, Greece, Turkey and Cyprus. These all have three things in common – Sun, Sea and Sand. The second phase of the journey will take us through parts of Eastern Europe and back through the heart of Europe. Then the last phase will take us through the cold climates of Scandinavian countries, and finally back through the northern Eastern European countries to then collect any places of note through central Europe that we’ve missed.

In order to travel as light as possible, the key to planning a route is working out what you’ll need to wear, and where.

Ticket to ride

If we only bring the light summer clothes and a jumper or light jacket each, that should be enough to see us through the warmer climes, then we can get thicker clothes as we move through to the cooler weather, and either ship back our shorts or abandon them at charity shops. Not having a big winter coat tucked away in your backpack for a long time will without a doubt help you keep that load down.

2. Shoes and Suits

Yes, I admit it, I’m a sucker for a suit! Lord only knows how I’m going to manage to get through Italy without needing a second backpack.

The reason I bring these things up are because I decided that my journey abroad last time around would be made infinitely better by bringing four or five suits. Now, I don’t for one second expect that these items made it onto your personal packing list, but after having to carry those around with everything else, I’m decidedly not including them this time around.

The question you need to ask yourself (that I didn’t) is “Do you really need that?”

Suits you sir

Another prime example of something people bring too much of is footwear. I had casual shoes, pumps, sandals, trainers and smart shoes with me – not to mention slippers! Repacking for this long trip, I know that I’ll bring one or two pairs and wear another. The fewer of these you have the better. Sandals do not cost much if you get them from the right shops, so it makes sense to buy those abroad. Pumps, I will trade for boots when we’re half-way through.

Ask yourself questions like “Will this item get to my destination safely?” Will your laptop be safe with airport luggage handlers? Ask “Do I need room in my backpack?” Are you planning on bringing things back for family and friends? Do you need room for extra luggage you will buy abroad? “Do I reaaaaally need this many shirts?” Finding places and regularly washing your clothes will always be the best way to keep a load down. Try and book places that offer free or low-cost laundry use.

3. A Lecture on Luggage

Oh boy, did I make this mistake on round 1! Let’s talk about suitcases for a second. In very quick terms, suitcases are good when you’re being brought everywhere in taxis in big cities. Never again will I bring one on a proper travelling trip. (They don’t call it back-packing for nothing, you know!)

Breaking my 2nd preparedness tip, in an attempt to pack my guitar, (What was I thinking?!) I brought with me the biggest suitcase known to man. This made packing a lot easier, however, it made travelling with it a heavy burdensome nightmare.

Get a decent sized, good-quality back-pack instead. The weight gets spread evenly across your body so it’s longer before you feel that ache you do when you’re lugging heavy luggage with one hand. You might think that wheels on luggage is a good thing, but realistically, in a lot of these countries the pavements aren’t smooth, if there are pavements at all. The cobbles in Spain and Portugal not only announced my arrival to every house on every block, but also ripped my wheels to shreds and ruined what was a well-wearing suitcase.

I have also found that by packing a smaller rucksack into your luggage, when you do reach your hostel/hotel/yurt/crack-den/other accommodation you can explore the area with only what you need and leave your back-pack in your room. Well, maybe not if you’re heading for the crack-den, but what’s life without a few risks, right?

4. Packing Perfection

Working in retail has its perks, believe it or not! The trick of the trade involves folding clothes up so small you can fit them into one of the tiny bags most people use for bathroom bins.

In general, rolling works better than folding. This works better with thinner items like shirts grouped together on top of heavier items like jumpers, jeans or shorts. If you’re bringing shoes in your luggage as well then the best thing you can do is put your “delicate items” inside them. Not only does this utilise free space but it keeps the shape of the shoes.

packing shirts in Cora + Spink travel bags

If you work bigger to smaller then often, you can find somewhere to stash the smaller items that seem leftover. Try and get a backpack with pockets for ease of reaching passports and itineraries (these pockets are better placed inside to prevent theft) and a cushioned interior for your laptop or tablet if you’re bringing one.

Remember, just because you have the room, it doesn’t mean you need to fill your luggage right to the top. Weight and room for that extra t-shirt you want to pick up in every country you’ve been to will thank you as your journey continues.

5. Where do you come from? Where do you go?

The last tip is a bit of two tips in one and essential for another rookie mistake! There’s nothing worse than reaching your destination with 13% left on your phone battery to find out that the adapter you brought with you doesn’t work in this country!

Research where you’re going before you set foot in it, and if you can, work out where you’re going. I often use websites like www.helpx.com and www.workaway.org to find work while abroad. These hosts tend to offer food and accommodation in exchange for your time and labour. The kind of thing you can do varies massively. You can work in backpacker hostels (a firm favourite of mine), vineyards, renovate homes and even live for a time in eco-villages across the world.

Other sites of use are www.rome2rio.com which helps work out the best way to get between countries, www.couchsurfing.com where you can find somewhere to stay from like-minded travellers and www.blablacar.com – a site that will help you find people driving the same way as you and often turns out to be a much cheaper way of getting from a to b.

So that’s it – we’re all packed and ready to go. Come and join us on our journey. If you’re thinking of travelling, I urge you to follow your heart – you really won’t regret it. Until then, follow us on our journey here and see where we are throughout our adventure at www.instagram.com/rabbitdrive

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