In which we present a regular round-up of news from the world of Grown-up Travel
Are these the unluckiest travellers ever?
Think you’re an unlucky person? Well, have you ever been robbed at gunpoint by a man dressed as “Mickey Mouse” during a train ride overseas?
We thought not.
And no we’re not taking the Mickey, this unfortunate incident was unearthed during a study by Compare Travel Insurance of the most unusual travel insurance claims received by Allianz Global Assistance in the last year.
The traveller’s story was confirmed by police and his insurance claim was paid.
But he’s not the only one unable to stay away from trouble overseas. One poor traveller slammed face-first into a tree-trunk when her brakes failed while zip-lining through dense canopy in Costa Rica.
Another holidaymaker found himself in a spot of bother in Canada after deciding to get a tattoo, but unfortunately he suffered an allergic reaction to the ointment prescribed and ended up with an invasive rash.
He’s not alone in his allergic reaction misery – a newlywed couple learned this the hard way when the bride reacted adversely to a liposuction procedure, proving that plastic surgery abroad may not always be the best idea.
Another traveller found herself in a spot of bother after her engagement ring came off and fell deep into the water while shark diving in the Whitsundays.
Pack a positive attitude for a great trip
My work is all about Europe. But more fundamentally, it’s about living with abandon through travel. I love to take life by the horns and make it an adventure. By being open to differences and staying flexible, I have a better time in Europe — and so can you. It’s not what you spend or pack that makes your trip memorable; it’s the state of mind you bring.
When I’m in Europe, I’m immersed in a place where people do and see things differently. That’s what distinguishes cultures, and it’s what makes travel exhilarating. Europeans drink mud for coffee, slurp mussels in Brussels and snails in Paris, and sit down to dinner at 10 p.m. in Spain. Germans wait patiently for the traffic light before they cross an empty street, while Roman cars stay in their lanes like rocks in an avalanche. Savour the differences.
Accept that today’s Europe is changing. Be mentally braced for some surprises, good and bad. Among the imposing palaces, soaring cathedrals, and dusty museums, you’ll find a living civilization grasping for its future while we romantic tourists grope for its past. Contemporary Europe is alive and in motion. Keep up!
Be ready to ad-lib, to be imaginative while conquering surprise challenges. Make an art out of taking the unexpected in stride. If your must-see cathedral is covered with scaffolding, look the other way: Climb its bell tower for an unforgettable view over the town. If your favourite artist’s masterpiece is out on loan, take a tour of his runner-up works. Good travellers — like skiers bending their knees to make moguls more fun — enjoy the bumps in the road.
Some travellers actively cultivate pre-trip anxiety, coming up with all kinds of reasons to be stressed. Don’t be a creative worrier. Many of my richest travel experiences have been the result of seemingly terrible mishaps: A lost passport in Slovenia, having to find a doctor in Ireland, a blowout in Portugal, a moped accident on Corfu. In each instance, not only did things turn out all right, but I made new friends and added to my stack of fond memories. For me, this is the essence of travel.
Great Olympic escapes
Feeling inspired by the Games? Then plan some athletic endeavours of your own.
What’s the attraction?
You may have noticed: there’s a bit of sport going on at the moment. It’s fun to watch, but if London 2012 is to succeed in its legacy promise, the Olympics is also meant to inspire: to get us off our sofas and out running, riding, rowing or archery-ing.
“We’re seeing the best of the world on our screens,” says Olwen Law of horse-riding holidays specialist In The Saddle (01299 272997; inthesaddle.com). “Who can fail to be inspired by the stories of those who sacrifice all for their sport?”
Luckily, there are many options for travellers who want to give Olympic sports a try, whether it’s a gentle immersion to a new sport, or a week of intensive focus to improve your technique.
Swim like Rebecca
Swimtrek (01273 739713; swimtrek.com) runs open-water swimming holidays that encourage both novices and waterbabies to swim historic straits (the Hellespont, Alcatraz) and shores (Lycian Coast, Sea of Cortez). The seven-day Short Swims Croatia trip (departs 15 Sept; £810pp, excluding flights) combines island-hopping and coastal swims, as well as stroke analyses to help you improve.
Swimming Without Stress (01239 613789; swimmingwithoutstress.co.uk) runs four-day residential courses in Pembrokeshire for complete beginners or experienced swimmers, for £360pp based on two sharing.
Gybe like Ben
When Weymouth & Portland’s National Sailing Academy (01305 866000; wpnsa.org.uk) reopens on 14 September, there are courses for all abilities, including a two-day RYA1 Adult Beginner Course for £190.
Or consider the Caribbean. “The British Virgin Islands are known as the sailing capital of the world thanks to the weather and constant tradewinds,” says Chris Lait, founder of Drake Academy, which runs luxury sailing trips around the BVI (020-7117 6375; drakeacademy.co.uk; 14 nights from £2,499pp, excluding flights). Learn how to tack, gybe and helm, or simply snorkel, swim and laze.
New Viking invasion at Lindisfarne
This week’s horn-helmeted arrivals are more peaceful than their predecessors who “laid waste the house of our hope and trampled the bodies of the saints like dung in the street”.
This week Lindisfarne celebrates its long and frequently bloody Viking heritage.
Back in 793 AD the Vikings made their first raid on Holy Island, and indeed their first recorded raid on the British isles, attacking themonastery on Lindisfarne.
Later that year, the scholar Alcuin wrote to Aethelred, King of Northumbria, saying that the raids were the fault of the sins of the population and its rulers, rather than the decision by a few Vikings to go out for a bit of looting and pillaging. Alcuin, who was originally from York but was writing from the safety of Charlemagne’s court at Aix-la-Chapelle, said, “fornications, adulteries and incest have poured over the land, so that these sins have been committed with no shame and even against the handmaidens dedicated to God. What may I say about avarice, robbery, violent judgments? – when it is clearer than day how much these crimes have increased everywhere, and a despoiled people testifies to it.”
He didn’t like their hairstyles much either, adding, “Look at your trimming of beard and hair, in which you have wished to resemble the pagans.”
The 793 raid was apparently not too devastating – although Bishop Aethelwald’s stone cross was broken, the Lindisfarne Gospels appear to have been undamaged, while the remains of St Cuthbert and the other important relics that were on Lindisfarne – which included the head of King Oswald and some of St Aidan’s bones – seem to have survived unscathed as well. A couple of generations later, however, in 875, with the Vikings by now occupying most of northern England south of the Tyne, and their leader Halfdan threatening to attack northwards, the monks decided that it would be better to move their treasures somewhere safer – St Cuthbert, on his deathbed, was reported to have said that, if the place appeared threatened, they should “take up my bones from the tomb and remove them from this spot.”