An Award of all things!

My blog has been properly active for about 6 weeks, in which time I have got quite addicted to it! My wife however, often mocks my enthusiasm for my blog. She does not feel the pressure of having to write regular posts to keep my (30) adoring fans happy. Therefore, it was with much delight that I was able to show her my blogs new Liebster Award, (very kindly awarded to me by https://adivir.wordpress.com/), to prove that at least someone appreciates my efforts! I now regularly tell her, “I am an award winning author!” Yet for some reason she still mocks – I don’t know why?

So, to continue this fine award tradition, first of all I have to answer the questions set for me by Shivangi . As an award winning author I should get used to doing interviews! Here we go:

  1. What is the meaning of your name?

Keep Exploring Stuff: My actual name or my blog name? I’m not sure what my actual name means, I would imagine it comes from something Biblical? My blog name is a bit of a play on my last name (Keep) and what I like doing (Exploring Stuff). Put the two together and you get this award winning blog!

  1. What is your blog site all about?

Keep Exploring Stuff: Well, simply, it’s about trying to see and do as much as I can, exploring wherever I am.

  1. What inspires you to write?

Keep Exploring Stuff: Hmmm, that’s a difficult one. I guess seeing something that to me is new and different.

  1. Who is your favourite film star?

Keep Exploring Stuff: This changes from time to time. Right now I’d say Matthew McConaughey. And although it’s not a film, his performance in True Detectives is outstanding.

  1. Which is your favourite creative work(could be anything)?

Keep Exploring Stuff: The Bends by Radiohead.

  1. Apart from blogging, tell us your hobbies?

Keep Exploring Stuff: So many to list! I love taking photos, listening to music, playing guitar and eating good food! And obviously travel, but that’s quite hard to call a hobby. And also a huge F1 fan! Got to see Lewis Hamilton win the World Championship in Abu Dhabi last year – incredible!!

  1. What is the best thing about you.

Keep Exploring Stuff: How does anyone answer that question? In a couple of weeks, my new (laser fixed) eyes!

  1. Which festival do you enjoy the most ?

Keep Exploring Stuff: Can I say Glastonbury?

  1. What makes you sad?

Keep Exploring Stuff: The occasional bout of homesickness, for both Australia and England.

  1. If you were God, what would you do first?

Keep Exploring Stuff: That’s too difficult! Probably cool the planet down 1 or 2 degrees, make some ice, save some Polar Bears?

  1. What is your next blog about?

Keep Exploring Stuff: Formula One.

——————————————————————————————————————

Now for my new nominations. There are some “rules” which it would be great if you, as a new nominee, would do in order to accept the Liebster Award:

  1. Link the person who nominated you (that’s me) to your blog post and let them know you answered their questions.
  2. Answer the 11 questions given to you by the nominator
  3. Nominate other bloggers (11) for the award that have fewer than 200 followers.
  1. Create 11 questions for your nominees to answer.
  2. Let the nominees know that they have been nominated by going to their blog and notifying them.

So now I have to nominate 10 new bloggers. Check out my nominations below.

http://muddlingthroughmarlborough.com/

https://markhahnguitar.wordpress.com/

https://onewayticketon.wordpress.com/

http://wayfarerkate.com/

http://eatdrinkseeaus.com/

http://cycleaustralia2014.com/

https://slowmolife.wordpress.com/

http://travellight.org/

https://sillisoup.wordpress.com/about/

http://adventuroustraveltales.com/

Congratulations all, for also becoming an award winning blogger! I apologise if you have won this award before. Here are my 11 questions for you, hopefully not too difficult to answer:

  1. Describe yourself in 3 words?
  2. What’s your blog about?
  3. What do you find most challenging about writing it?
  4. Favourite place you’ve been to?
  5. What’s top of your bucket list?
  6. John or Paul?
  7. Favourite author (apart from me and my award winning blog!)
  8. If you were going to a fancy dress party what would you wear?
  9. What do you want to be when you grow up?
  10. Favourite album of all time?
  11. Paris or Venice?

A slightly different side of Dubai

At the weekends in Dubai, it’s very easy to spend your time moving from one shopping mall to another, from one cafe to the next, from a designer clothes shop to a frozen yoghurt parlour. This kind of thing happens even more in summer, when it’s not really possible to go outside.

So last weekend, making the most of the what feels like the last of the cooler weather, we spent a fantastic day exploring “Old Dubai”. Long before the days of Dubai Marina, The Palm and the worlds tallest building, Dubai was known in the region for being the center of fishing, pearling and sea trade, located at the mouth of the Creek that separates Bur Dubai and Deira.

Starting at Deira Metro Station we began walking up the Eastern side of the Creek. You can still see a lot of trade activity here today, with large dhows loading or unloading their cargo. Everything you can imagine seemed to be coming or going here, from washing machines, to bikes, to 22 piece kitchen sets!

Walking in the early afternoon sun was hot work, so we stopped at The Chelsea Arms, famously known as the oldest pub in Dubai! It’s at least 35! Continuing along the Creek, past the dhows renovated for Creek dining cruises, you eventually reach the famous Dubai Souqs – most famously markets for Gold and Spices. The Souqs are fascinating, packed full of people trying to get the best deal for whatever they’re buying. Walking through the Gold Souq, it wasn’t long before an Afghani trader was following us, trying to sell us watches.

You smell the transition into the Spice Souq before you see anything, a rich aroma of cinnamon, cumin and other spices wafting all around. However, it feels like there are more tourists looking around than people actually buying stuff. I assume the weekday trade is different.

IMG_5208

Highlight of the day for me was jumping on an Abra, a small wooden boat that, for just 1 Dirham (0.30c), will ferry you from one side of the Creek to the other.  They don’t feel at all safe, they don’t even have sides to them and fumes belch out over all the passengers, yet they provide great views of the Creek waterways, are an amazing experience of the Dubai of old and if you want to cross the Creek in 5 minutes, kind of essential.

IMG_5217

Beach Bum!

Whitehaven

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Places.” It might be because I grew up on the South Coast of England, and spent most of my long childhood summers at either East or West Wittering, that still today, the beach is my favourite place to be. I love everything about it. When you are on your way to the beach I think there is something special about the first time, from afar,  you set eyes on the blue ocean, sparkling in the distance. What Caroline calls the “Haaahhh” moment! I don’t think you can beat the smell of the fresh salt air, the sound of crashing waves or the feeling of swimming in the ocean. For me, I think it’s where I am most relaxed.

Not every experience at the beach is always so romantic. As a child, many a day, in the midst of an English summer, have I spent hiding under a blanket from the rain, eating ham sandwiches, and arguing with my sister over who got what flavour of crisps! However, now when I look back on that, it’s only with the best of memories.

These days though I’m an Aussie. No more wet, cold afternoons at Wittering for me! Nothing but long stretches of golden sand and waves to surf on! It’s fair to say, moving to Australia only crystallized my love for the beach!

I’m very fortunate to have been to possibly one of the best beaches in the world, Whitehaven Beach. This stretch of beach and surrounding water on Whitsunday Island in Queensland, Australia really needs to be seen to appreciate how stunning it is. If you ever get the chance to go, grab it! You will not be disappointed.

I’m also lucky enough to call Dee Why beach, on the Northern Beaches of Sydney, my home. Ever since we moved to Sydney we said we would love to live at the beach and just under 5 years after moving there, we made it!

Homr!

As I write this though, I am in Dubai, obviously not short of a beach or two, although in my opinion, they are not in the same league as the natural beaches of Australia. I can’t wait to get back, but until then, Kite Beach is not a bad place to hang out for the time being!

Dubai

Bang on the curve

Some time ago, a friend and I were sat on a Greyhound bus, making the hot, slow journey from Los Angeles to Dallas across the south western states of North America. I can’t remember exactly how long it takes, but it feels like days, leaving California and winding through Arizona, New Mexico and into Texas. If you haven’t traveled much by Greyhound, it’s definitely an experience – you see and meet a true spectrum of Americans. At a late night rest stop in El Paso we got talking to a guy, probably around a similar age to us at the time. You’ll have to imagine, a local from somewhere around El Paso talking to two pasty, white kids from the south of England – a starker contrast may never have been seen! As we were wrapping up our conversation the guy says, “You finished with that?”, pointing to my recently purchased Coke. “Er yeah. “Why?”, I replied. “I want to use it as a spit cup.” came back the response, with no explanation as to what exactly a spit cup was. “It’s all yours…..”

Anyway, I was making this particularly journey in the days when Steve Jobs hadn’t even dreamt of an iPod and you couldn’t carry 100 books on one device, so, needless to say, boredom quite quickly set in. To pass the time on the endless roads we would have all sorts of pointless conversations – Who killed JFK (hence the trip to Dallas)? What was in Area 51? Was hitting a Baseball just luck? Granted we were not solving the worlds problem but it got us through a few hours. At some point we started counting all the countries we’d been to in our lifetime. This swiftly turned into a competition – Who had been to the most countries? We started making lists. Turned out it was quite a close call. We started getting into the details. Was The Vatican really a separate country? Can we count England, Wales, Scotland etc? I can’t remember who was leading on that particular day but we’ve kept this competition going ever since.

Over the years we kept spreadsheets with our country lists on, adding to the tally every time we went somewhere new. Reasonably recently I got recommended to use an App called Been. Really simply you enter into it all the countries you’ve “Been” to and it shows you on a map of the world, counts how many countries that is and, as a result, what % of the world you’ve been to! You can see my map above –  38 countries or 15% of the world!

If you speak to people who travel a lot, I think they generally agree seeing more of the world doesn’t scratch the travelling itch, it makes it itch more. Rather than appreciating where you have been, it just makes you realise what more you have to discover. Living in England for most of my life, I’ve managed to tick off a fair bit of Europe. The move to Australia didn’t help me. It’s quite far from a lot of places so not easy to add to my tally. Since I’ve been in the Middle East, I’ve crossed off some places that might not be immediate first choice holiday spots, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. Still need to add Oman, Bahrain, Qatar, Lebanon and Jordan.

For some reason I live by a bit of a stupid premise that I should have visited one country for every year of my life. So, the title of this post sums up where I am right now. I am bang on the curve. 38 for 38. Can I get 40 by 40? Maybe. 50 by 50? A bit more ambitious. What about the century? Makes me start thinking about holiday destinations, can I tick off somewhere new?! Definitely makes that 6 month career break to South America idea even more appealing!

Would love to hear where you’ve been…….

#beenapp @been_app

Battle of The Bulge

No, I’ve not decided to write a history blog and this is not a post about a German counter offensive through the Ardennes forest during World War 2.  It’s just the title for my 2nd 30 day, or rather 28 day challenge of 2015. (See previous post “One month at a time”) For February, I decided to try to get rid of all the Christmas weight I put on while back in England (The Bulge) by exercising everyday of the month (The Battle). I blame Andy and Laura Williams for even having to do this challenge – their Christmas tactic of having Quality Street permanently on offer while watching Christmas films is lethal.

Exercising for me is a little bit like my first month challenge, which was reading.  I really enjoy it, its just not something I get round to doing as often as I would like. I manage to squeeze in swimming at the weekends, but during the week by the time I’ve done a day at work and got home at 8pm, my last thought is putting on the trainers and going for a run! I’m also not lucky enough to be in a position where I can run or ride to work – anyone who has run the gauntlet of Sheikh Zayed Road in Dubai in a car will know this is not a stretch of road you do on a bike! My office are also not generous enough to have a gym at work, which also rules out exercising mid-day.

So what this basically boiled down to was, I had to exercise before 6am, or after 8pm. Just writing that sentence makes me want to flop on the sofa in front of the TV!

But challenge accepted, I managed to exercise 26 days out of 28 – not bad when, pre-challenge that number would more likely have been 8 from 28!  And, as with the January Challenge, I really got into the routine as the month went on. I definitely found it easier to exercise before work than after. I’m a morning person, so getting up 30 mins earlier to exercise was less of a problem for me than trying to do something when I got home.

As with all challenges, there are upsides. When you get up at 6am in Dubai and head East you get to see the most spectacular Middle East sunrise, like a fireball coming out of the earth. You don’t see this if you’re still under the duvet! And as much as I kind of hated it at the time, when I exercised in the morning, before work, I found I was much sharper and had more energy during the day. So yes, I can officially confirm, exercise is good for you!

But more importantly, the whole reason for doing this challenge in February was to shed the Christmas indulgence and I won the battle! Dropped 4Kgs in Feb, and am now back to my fighting weight! Mission Accomplished!

Until next year Quality Street!

Getting the Bug

I couldn’t really say when I fell in love with the whole idea of “traveling”. As a kid I was lucky enough to go on family holidays abroad, and while they were definitely the traditional 1980’s holiday destinations that a lot of families from the UK would have gone on, they were still a really exciting experience. I remember my first trip abroad. I was 4 I think, and we went for a 2 week holiday to Nerja in Spain. I remember thinking how exciting it was, flying for the first time. I even remember we flew with Dan Air – can you believe there was an airline called Dan Air? It’s also the holiday where I learnt to swim, and even more excitingly, dive into a pool! In the life of a child, that holiday in Nerja held some pretty significant milestones! For my parents however, I think it probably ranks as the worst holiday of their life! Every ailment a child can have, I think I had in those 2 weeks. Heat rash, stomach pain, foot pain, leg pain, earache – the list goes on! Thinking back on it, it’s a wonder we ever left England again! Luckily the experience didn’t put my parents off too much, we did leave England again, but I think they left a few years gap to make sure they got over it! I won’t mention the following family holiday ailment disasters!

I think the proper traveling bug came a long, long time later. I’d finished my 2nd year of University and was faced with the 3 month summer holiday with no real plans. Not a bad situation by any stretch, but I was definitely wanting to do something a bit more adventurous. So, I decided with a friend to go Inter-railing for a month around Europe. To this day, almost 20 years later, it’s still one of the best experiences of my life. Armed with nothing but a backpack, a passport and a rail ticket, the sense of freedom, at first quite daunting, later becomes unbelievable. Waking up in the morning and deciding just to jump on a train to go to another country, with nowhere to stay and not really any idea where to go when you leave a train station (The Lonely Planet became my best friend) is pretty exciting.

So I spent a month exploring a few countries of Europe. We travelled from France, to the Czech Republic, to Austria and Hungary, through Italy and as far south as Greece. Along the way I met some incredible people and also some truly horrible ones! I learnt to never really trust anyone. I read some brilliant books, passed on to me by fellow backpackers. I realized I loved taking photographs. I grew up.

What was my favourite part? I really came to love Paris. I think it gets given a bit of a hard time by a lot of visitors, but spending time there for me was a real highlight. It’s such a beautiful city and now I think it’s one of my most visited foreign city in the world. I could definitely see myself living there one day.

What do I remember most? Somewhat strangely I guess, a most vivid memory of this trip, is hearing that Princess Diana had died. I was checking in to a hostel in Budapest and the girl on the check out said, “You mum has died!” Before I could stammer how she could possibly know this, she realized she’d made a bit of a translation error and quickly corrected herself, “No. No. Your Princess has died.”

It’s safe to say I learnt more about Europe, and probably myself, in the 4 weeks I spent wending my through it, than I’d learnt in my previous 19 years. For this reason, I would recommend to any parents to encourage their kids to have this experience at some point in their late teens.

When I got back from Europe, the travel bug was firmly planted. I immediately started planning the next trip – a round the world adventure, the tales of which I think I might save for another time.

P.S The map for my post is taken from the awesome Travellers Point website , where you can map your travel journeys.

Blogging Boot Camp!

So for the month of March I will be going back to school slightly as I aim to perfect the art of blogging! Bear with me as slowly try to improve my blogging skills and hopefully, one day, a visit to my blog might be a more enjoyable experience for you!

Task one is just to explain a little bit about me and why I am here. I think they mean “here” in the blogging sense, as opposed to what is my purpose in life? Not sure I could get that down in a blog tonight……

So, little bit about me. I’ve spent most of my life in England but then moved to Australia (with my then girlfriend and now wife, Caroline) and now we’re living the expat life in Dubai.

The content of my blog is pretty broad at the moment. Two of my favourite things to do are travelling and photography so basically I love seeing and experiencing as many new things as possible and then taking a photo of it! I’m also trying to slow my life down a bit, take in more of what is going on around me and spend more time doing some of the things I love doing, like reading or listening to music. So, anyway, what you’ll see here, if you have a look every now and again, is some photos I think are alright, some different places I’ve been to and some of the slightly more interesting things that I’ve been up to.

Why do I write a blog? When people ask me that question I seem to give a different answer each time. Partly because, when you live overseas, it’s a good way to show friends and family back home what you’ve been up to. But then, so is Facebook. It’s also partly because I watched a great Ted talk a while back about trying something new each month and doing it every day for 30 days and I thought, that might be the sort of project I could blog about. I also thought I could see if I could write a blog for 30 days! And partly I think I write a blog just to see if I can!

So that’s it at the moment. I’d probably sum up my blog as a space where I download random things I’ve done. I’d quite like to hone that over the next few months to something a bit more definitive, but for now, it might be quite eclectic!