Papa, Do You Have a Bike Helmet, Too?

As I mentioned in a recent post, I now write for the Bike Citizens Magazine. My first article has been published, here’s a little intro – click on the link below to read the full version.

“Papa, do you have a helmet, too?” my two-year old daughter asked. For a brief moment I did not know what to say. Because while she wears a bike helmet every time I take her on the bike, I am not wearing one myself, not when I’m bringing her to the day-care nor on my commute to work. As parents often do, I rescued myself by telling a half-truth – that I wear a helmet when riding my race bike.

In fact, by not wearing a helmet, I am making a wise, rational, scientifically supported decision. Wonder why? Read my article about it in the Bike Citizens Magazine!

The helmet goes with the rest of the racing gear

The helmet goes with the rest of the racing gear

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Amsterdam is a cycling hell

As of recently, I have a new side-gig – I am writing for Bike Citizens Magazine. Bike Citizens develops its own cycling-related products and offers a platform to the community of urban cyclists. To celebrate this latest development in my writing career, I wrote the following summary of why Amsterdam is a cycling hell.

Amsterdam has a reputation of a cycling paradise. In the 12 years I live in the Netherlands, I’ve been to Amsterdam countless times. Yet I have never been tempted to cycle in the Dutch capital. Because Amsterdam is not a cycling paradise – its a cycling hell. Let me tell you why.

Cyclists

Yes, cyclists in Amsterdam can be a part of the problem, too. Its just that the amount of cyclists in the city is absolutely staggering – over a million of them! They blatantly disobey traffic laws and park their bikes on every possible (and impossible) spot, contributing to the traffic mayhem. In Amsterdam, cyclists actually make it worse for themselves.

Bicycle parked - check! But where are the pedestrians are supposed to walk?

Bicycle parked – check! But where are the pedestrians supposed to walk?

Cobbles

The cobbled streets look nice on pictures. But cobble stones are the reason why the Paris–Roubaix race is famous and feared. Cobbles are a bicycle-killer. Amsterdam is full of stone pavements, and they are not fun at all to cycle on.

Cobbles look good on picture, but are a nightmare to cycle on

Cobbles look good on picture, but are a nightmare to cycle on

Scooters

There are tens of thousands of scooters in Amsterdam. Theoretically, they are allowed to use bicycle paths if the scooter is restricted to 25 kph. In practice, the speed restriction is easily removed and enforcement is lacking. The result is that scooters that are 2-3 times heavier than the cyclists, are also 2-3 times faster. Since the formula for kinetic energy, as you undoubtedly remember, is E=1/2 mv^2, scooters have about 10 to 30 times more kinetic energy than cyclists! Consequences of even minor collisions can be devastating.

Taxi drivers

Taxi drivers are a plague for cyclists everywhere, in busy capital cities most of all places. The ones in Amsterdam are (understandably) especially frustrated by the million bicycles constantly cutting them off in the narrow streets. Taxis and cyclists are engaged in a decades-long struggle for control of the streets of Amsterdam. Trust me, you really don’t want to get into that fight – it is a fight that has only losers.

Tourists

If you see these - run for your life (these ones are cycling against the traffic, too)

If you see these – run for your life (these ones are cycling against the traffic, too)

First of all, tourists are the worse cyclists. When you see a bunch of them coming at you on those rented bikes – run and hide! For some reason, they think cycling drunk and/or stoned along the deep canals in the chaos of Amsterdam is a safe and enjoyable activity. Pedestrian tourists, who are not used to the amount of bicycles are a menace, too. And I don’t need to explain you why in all likelihood a Darwin award will soon be issued for the use a selfie-stick while riding your bike.

Even the famous canals are not safe from cycling tourists

Even the famous canals are not safe from cycling tourists

Trams

Don’t get me wrong, I love trams. But for cyclists in Amsterdam, trams are a nightmare. They are fast and furious, and are relatively quiet – in the busy city traffic, you don’t hear a tram coming until the last moment. Trams use a big chunk of road space, pushing cars into the bicycle lanes. Most unfortunately, tram tracks are a death trap for a bicycle – not only are they slippery when wet (and its often wet in Amsterdam), they are of exactly the right size to catch you by the wheel when you least expect it.

Amsterdam traffic mayhem in a nutshell - cars, trams, cyclists and pedestrians all move at once

Amsterdam traffic mayhem in a nutshell – cars, trams, cyclists, scooters and pedestrians all at one picture

The good part

Let me finish on a bright note – its not like ALL of Amsterdam is a cycling hell. There is some truth in the city’s reputation as a great place for cycling. Its just the downtown that is a horrible place to pedal. On the whole, Amsterdam is over 200 square kilometres. Of these, only the city centre, just 10 square kilometres, is filled with taxis, trams and tourists. Outside that small area, cycling in Amsterdam is every bit as fun as you can imagine.

 

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The repulsive face of modern European antisemitism

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Ever seen them BDS’ing a Chinese supermarket? Me neither.

Last weekend, when visiting the local supermarket, I had an unpleasant encounter with the repulsive face of modern European antisemitism. As I was doing my regular groceries, I noticed several people in identical white jackets rummaging through the shelves. I guessed it was some kind of internal quality control and haven’t given it much thought. But as I left the store, I realized it was an external control – these people were searching the shelves for Israeli products. And they were calling on the shoppers to boycott these products. I don’t need to tell you how disgusting the similarity is between these people and other times in the European history of the 20th century.

Spot the differences…

These people of course have the right to demonstrate. I have no problem with them criticizing Israel. They are entitled to their opinion. But don’t let them tell you they are against “occupation”, don’t let them tell you they are “anti-zionist”, not antisemitic, don’t let them tell you they are concerned about the suffering of “Palestinians”. Because it is all bullshit.

They say they are against occupation – that’s bullshit.
The only occupation they are concerned with is the Israeli “occupation”. Never mind the Oslo agreements, never mind Israeli disengagement from Gaza – let us even assume Israel is in full control there. What about the other occupations? The nearby market is full of Moroccan goods – I don’t see them searching there for products from the Moroccan-occupied Western Sahara. When have they checked the Turkish stores for products from Northern Cyprus – occupied by Turkey? Have they ever inspected the Chinese supermarkets for products of Chinese-occupied Tibet or the Russian stores for products made in Russian-occupied Crimea? Never. Only the “occupation” by the Jewish state gets their attention.

They say they support oppressed people in the Middle East – that’s bullshit.
I haven’t heard them protest the oppression of the Kurds of Iraq or Turkey. They were silent when Yezidi’s were being massacred by the Islamic State. The suffering of Shiites in Pakistan, the Christians in Syria and Egypt, the miserable life of gays everywhere in the Middle East (outside of Israel, where gay pride parades are a regular event) are never their concern. Ruthless bombardments of civilians in Yemen by Saudi warplanes haven’t led to a single sound of protest. All their attention is gobbled up by Israel – in their mind, only the Jewish state can be an oppressor.

Saudi bombardments of Yemen? Its Arabs killing Arabs, that's OK.

Saudi bombardments of Yemen? Its Arabs killing Arabs, that’s OK.

They say they are concerned about the rights of the “Palestinians” – that’s bullshit.
And if you wonder why I put “Palestinians” between brackets – look up who is Zuheir Mohsen.
I have never seen them demonstrating for the rights of “Palestinians” in Lebanon, where they are officially excluded from dozens of professions – “Palestinians” can’t be a doctor or a lawyer in Lebanon. Never have these people said a word about “Palestinians” in Syria, where a fourth stateless generation is born, inheriting a refugee status, for decades crammed by the regime into miserable camps on the fringes of society. I haven’t heard them protesting the abuse of the rights of the residents of Gaza by the brutal regime of Hamas or raise their voice against the corruption of the thugs governing the “Palestinian Autonomy”. Only when Jews are perceived to abuse the rights of “Palestinians” are these people heard.

They say they are not antisemitic, “just” anti-Zionist. That’s bullshit.
Last time I checked, Zionism was the aspiration of the Jewish people for self-determination. They are not aganst the right of Swedes, Iraqis, Albanians or even “Palestinians” for self-determination. It is only the Jewish people that are denied that right – and denying Jews a right that other people have is the definition of antisemitism.

Checking Moroccan products next week? I don't think so.

Checking Moroccan products next week? I don’t think so.

So what is their motive?
Why do these people demonize and abuse the Jewish state? Why single out Israel for a “special treatment”? Even if Israel does violate human rights, even if Israel is an occupying power, why don’t these people protest other occupying forces, why not demonstrate against any other, much graver violators of human rights? Well, because boycotting Jewish goods is safe and fun. It is a cheap thrill, it gives them the feeling they are doing the “right thing” with little chances of getting hurt in the process. I totally understand them. Getting away unharmed from an inspection of Moroccan goods at the market will be tricky. Try rummaging through the shelves of a Russian store and you might end up with a broken nose. Attempt a boycott of a Chinese supermarket and you’ll end up facing an angry mob. Calling for a boycott of Israel, on the other hand, is free of dangers, and it gives the guilty pleasure of doing something you know is wrong. Its like picking your nose – you know you are not supposed to do it, and its not polite, but when you can get away with it – you do it.

When photographed, they try to hide their faces. Its like they're caught nose-picking - deep down they know its wrong.

When photographed, they try to hide their faces. Its like they’re caught nose-picking – deep down they know its wrong.

Its the same reason “anarchist” or “left-wing” so-called activists travel to Israel – to have a taste of the action. Why not? You can shout at soldiers in the morning, have a swim in the Med in the day and end up discussing how great you are over a beer in a local pub in the evening. Best thing is – there are little risks involved. Worse thing that can happen to you is a bit of tear gas, or you’ll get delayed at the airport for a few hours. But oh the stories you’ll tell. Compare it to the risk of rotting away in a Chinese prison for supporting the Tibetans or disappearing all together in a shallow grave in the desert for standing by the Sahrawi’s in Morocco, and the choice for Israel-bashing is an easy one. The modern Jew-haters, just like the old ones, are cowards, liars and racists. They just don’t always shave their heads.

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Legalize it – a humane solution to the European migration crisis

Europe has an immigration problem. Nothing new here. In short, people in Africa and Asia want to come to Europe and stay because things are better in Europe. They calculate the risks of the attempt to reach Europe versus the benefits and make a decision to go. The thing is – Europe has preciously little to offer these people. Most of them have no qualifications, do not know European languages and are ill-adjusted to European customs and society. No wonder Europe does not want these people. Besides, the benefits they will get from coming to Europe are much smaller than they think. There are no jobs waiting for them in Europe. Most chances are they will still live in poverty, just in a colder climate. And sadly, many of them will die while trying to reach Europe.

The Australian solution

I think the best solution to the crisis (which is, that many people die in the Med trying to cross) is to reduce the numbers of those attempting to cross. There are several ways to reach this. One option is to increase the risks of crossing – that is, to stop rescue operations. Sounds harsh, but this might actually greatly reduce the number of casualties as much fewer people will attempt to cross. To put numbers on it, say 1000 people attempt the journey and 10 of them drown (1% is about the current death rate on the Med). If you start a rescue program and reduce the drownings to 0.5%, but 10 000 people attempt to cross, then 50 will drown. You’ve just caused more deaths at sea – exactly what happens at the moment. On the other hand, if you cease all efforts of rescue, perhaps 5% will drown. But if given these odds only 100 will attempt to cross then just 5 will drown, so fewer people will have lost their lives as a result of NOT making an effort to rescue at all. A more dangerous crossing will also cost more so less people will be able to afford it.

Another option is to reduce the potential benefits of crossing – that is, to send them out of Europe as soon as they enter (works fine in Australia). Of course, informing the potential migrants about the high risks and low benefits is absolutely crucial here. The long-term solution is to improve the situation in the “source” countries of migrants. This would be the best, but ultimately, the people of these countries are primarily responsible for their states, not Europe, and there is very little Europe can do to help them – Europe has got its hands full with its own problems already.

A legal alternative would benefit both Europe and the migrants

A solution that is humane, profitable for both Europe and the “source” countries and politically absolutely unreachable is a common European migration policy. This will create a legal alternative for the illegal migration and potentially can address the good, the bad and the ugly sides of the European migration crisis.

Europe needs qualified migrants – its a fact. Within the EU there are just not enough people with the right qualifications and more importantly, motivation to do the type of jobs available. Italy, for example, has thousands of vacancies for pizza bakers but Italians don’t want the job. Holland needs hundreds of IT specialists, which are just not available in the EU. Ideally, the EU could work out an agreement allowing a limited number of migrants to come to the EU to work for say 3 or 5 years – a sort of EU “green card”. The migrants can get work experience, learn the ins and outs of life in a democratic society, send money back home and return to help others improve their lives.

Unfortunately, in recent past, migrants who were brought into Europe to fill job vacancies were unqualified and did not leave but rather brought their entire families. In times of economic downturn these migrants came to depend on the European social system, so there is quite a resentment among Europeans against such schemes. New migration policies can only be accepted if they include a strict condition that that work migrants leave after their period. The terms need to be strict for the policy to be acceptable to EU citizens – that is, no family reunion, no staying after the term under any circumstances (marriage, contract extension and such), and no job market distortion. To mutual benefit, part of the taxes collected from these legal migrants can be used by the EU to sponsor programs to improve the quality of life in their countries of origin. And since the migrants will know they will have to return to their home countries, they will invest there themselves and save money to prepare for a “soft landing” after their term of stay in Europe.

Opening a legal option will fulfil the moral obligation of Europe to help people in need, like the Syrian refugees. Many of them are qualified, skilled and experienced people who would be much better off working in Europe than idling in camps in Jordan or Turkey. Offering the refugee communities an opportunity to send an “envoy” to Europe who would provide for his family residing in the region is making the best of a tough situation.

Visa quotas as a policy tool

Visa quotas can be a simple mechanism to address the bad sides of migration. Linking the amount of (temporary) job visas to the performance of the migrant groups will give the migrant communities a powerful incentive to invest in each other. Right now, for example, only about 20% of the Somalis in the Netherlands have a job. If that would mean next year the amount of visas for Somali’s is reduced by 4/5th, the Somali community would certainly do its utter best to help their compatriots to become a tax-payer instead of a tax-receiver.

The benefits of legal temporary entry will also mean the communities will help the authorities control migration, as being a law-abiding community carries benefits in terms of more (and possibly longer) visa’s and perhaps an extra stimulus in terms of lower taxes. This makes economic sense – if the EU countries have to spend less money on controls and penalties of a well-behaved group of migrants, the group should profit directly from its collective good behaviour.

Quotas for legal entry will give the EU a much-needed foreign policy tool. Numerous countries depend on cash sent home by migrant workers. With the quotas in hand, the EU will be able to say to dictators and human rights abusers like Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe or Isaias Afwerki of Eritrea “do as we say or else we cut your cash flow by reducing visa’s”.

Back in Europe, police forces are facing a very difficult task when attempting to investigate crime in migrant communities. Police officers do not speak the languages of all the communities and many migrants are reluctant to work with police, either because of bad experiences with police back home or because they are being loyal to the community. Using the quotas and visa extensions as a reward for cooperation with police on issues such as reporting illegal migrants or criminal activities will enable the police to do its work with and among the migrant communities.

Finally, with a solid system of legal migration, Europe can be tough on the unwelcome, hostile people who mix with the migrant flows. Like the Muslim migrants who threw Christians overboard because they were not praying to Allah – these are certainly not the kind of people Europe wants to enter its borders. Drying the illegal migration routes by offering a legal alternative is in my opinion the best way to prevent such people from entering the EU.

What are the odds of the EU agreeing on migration?

I realize this scheme for an EU-wide migration policy is a utopian concept that will probably not happen in the near future. But of the various EU members, perhaps there is a small European country that will be prepared to give rational approach to migration a chance?

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There is no Greece

A Greek colleague of mine told me I have no right to have an opinion on Greece unless I lived there. I think its nonsense. I haven’t lived in countless other places and I still have an opinion on them. Nobody has lived on the Moon, but we all can have an opinion about it. By the same logic, most Greek who have not lived in Germany have no right to an opinion about it – they most obviously do. So I do have an opinion about Greece. And in my opinion, there is no Greece.

In a bizarre show of loss of touch with reality, the vast majority of the Greek, including their own government, believe they can say “OXI” to the rest of Europe. They decline all offers of help because they come with demands to demonstrate willingness to be helped and to do their share, and still want to remain a part of the EU and the Euro zone. The age-old truism that you can’t eat the cake and leave it whole does not seem to be able to “land” in Greece. But it will land, and it will be a very rough landing. As of last week, Greece simply ceased to exist. Having failed on its credit obligations, it has become a failed state – in line with other bankrupt countries like Zimbabwe and Sudan. Like the fathom image of the sun on your retina after you close your eyes, the Greek government and people are still there, but as the economy grinds to a halt and the institutions collapse they, too, will disappear.

As the country dissolves further and further and more and more services and parts of society cease to function, a torrent of refugees (there is no other word to describe it) already leaves Greece. For now, these have been largely the young, and even they are reluctant to leave, preferring to live on their parents couch off the pensions of their grandparents. As the reality of living in a failed state with no prospect of improvement in the coming decades will become clearer, all who are able to leave will leave. The real Grexit will be the mass migration of Greek who are capable of doing so. With the young and able leaving, the ones left behind are the sick and the elderly – which already triggers a downward spiral of an economic downfall and even higher migration rates.

The Greek economy has been sick for a while. Main cause are loans that were not covered by assets. Whether the Greek who took the loans or the Germans and the French who provided the money for the Greek banks to loan are to blame is by now rather irrelevant. Other countries have been able to overcome similar problems – Ireland, Cyprus and Iceland have all rebounded from a recent debt crisis. The ills of the Greek society are much deeper though and thus Greece, unable and (or?) unwilling to mend its ways, is rapidly disappearing. The Greek people are ill in the most literal sense of the word – Greece has the highest rates of obesity in Europe. What I find most astounding is that Greece has also the highest rates of smoking in the world. The adult Greek smokes an average of 3 000 cigarettes a year. A 5 to 6 BILLION Euro goes up in smoke in Greece every year – literally. If the Greek would quit smoking, they would have saved some 30 BILLION Euro since the start of the crisis in 2010. Talk about simple and efficient measures to help the economy – I’d say the EU should demand a ban on smoking as a condition to an emergency aid package.

It does not take a genius to see that the sick and ageing population, combined with an unprecedentedly low birth rate and mass-migration of the youth will lead to the disappearance of the Greek people within a couple of decades. Besides the human tragedy that envelops as we speak, this process is a unique opportunity. Greece, its economy (or lack of it), its demographics, its demise, are an illustration of what lies ahead for most of the rest of Southern Europe with Italy as the next in line. All the ingredients to repeat the Greek tragedy on a larger scale are present there. Greece is an opportunity to study ways to prevent or at least reduce the impact of the fall.

I doubt we will be able to learn the lessons from the Greek crisis. Which is sad, because its not only Italy that is next – it may very well be that the whole Euro zone, the EU and even all of Europe are bound to go down the same road. Worse of all – there are serious signs China is headed the same way. The Chinese economy is, like Greece, poisoned by irresponsible loans and is full of Potemkin villages. China has an ageing population of chain-smokers and, like the Greek, the Chinese view themselves as a cradle of civilization that must be if not admired then at least respected by the rest of the world. We might survive Greece disappearing and may even overcome Italy collapsing. But what are we going to do when China goes “boom”?

 

The Greek like to say they “invented” democracy and claim the rest of Europe should respect their democratic choice. They conveniently forget that in ancient Athens, only adult free male citizens were allowed to vote. Most significantly, citizens who failed to paid a debt were automatically stripped of their voting right (Atimia) and this disqualification was inheritable. The Greek should study their own history a little better before preaching about democracy. Next time a Greek says “democracy” – say “atimia”.

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Tour de France, the biggest traffic hindrance in the world, defines the boundaries of Western Europe

This weekend, the biggest annual sporting event is coming to my small European country. I’m talking of course about the Tour de France, which will start in the city of Utrecht. This small European country a record-holder – its the 6th time the Tour starts in the Netherlands, more than any other country (except France, of course).

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The Tour caravan passing Rotterdam in 2010, when Rotterdam was the starting point

Now, I am going to be brutally honest about it – I really don’t care about the Tour de France, or, in fact, about professional cycling all together. I find it an incredibly dull sport to watch. Its like watching waterfalls on the Zen Channel. For endless days, there’s nothing to see except a bunch of guys on bicycles. Sometimes they crash. That’s it. The only thing more boring to watch is car racing, with the NASCAR at the glorious top as the most boring thing ever on TV. Seriously, I would rather watch the broadcasting of Latvian Parliament during the summer recess than NASCAR. There’s a bigger chance something will actually happen.

But I digress, as usual. Back to cycling – not only is the Tour extremely boring to watch, the outcome is also set from the start. The favourite will win, and a few years later he will be stripped of his victory due to a doping scandal. He will, as usual, claim he “had to do it”, because not using doping would have made him helpless against the opponents who all use it and he would have had to “give up the sport he loves”. The notion that by using doping he already gave up sport as a concept, that he might as well have ridden a motorcycle and that he has damaged the sport he claims to love beyond repair is too difficult for his dope-laced mind to grasp. To me, the Tour is certainly not a sporting event – its nothing more than a big traffic hindrance. But it does have a practical use.

In Europe, there is a constant bickering about the definition of the regions of Europe. Since the West and the North are the richer parts, countries do not want to be labelled as “Eastern” or “Central” European – the ones further to the East claim to be Central, and the more centrally situated countries strive to be known as “West European”. Other continents have a very useful tool to decide which country belongs to which region – the continental football association regional scheme. Wondering whether Birma is a South Asian or South-East Asian country? Check the map – its South-East. Does Mexico belong to North or Central America? North, of course, since its in the North American Zone.

Asian Football Confederation countries (

Asian Football Confederation countries – see how easy it can be? (source: Wikipedia)

The UEFA, on the other hand, is not divided into sub-regions, which opens the door to a debate about which country belongs where. Europe is divided into sub-regions by various authorities like the UN Statistical Division or the CIA Factbook, but these divisions are rather arbitrary and are too debatable.

Europe sub-regions according to the CIA World Factbook (source: Wikipedia)

Europe sub-regions according to the UN Statistical Division (source: Wikipedia)

 

 

 

 

That’s where the Tour de France comes in handy. Since the 60’s, the Tour has been visiting countries other than France on a regular basis. Put them on the map, and you’ll see a very distinct geographical limit of the Tour. I find “countries visited by the Tour de France” a very fitting definition on “Western Europe”. Portugal is the only exception here, but I think this map is a clear call to the organizers of the Tour to correct this obvious mistake and to include Portugal in the Tour route as soon as possible. All we need is a similar set of tools to define other regions of Europe. Anyone has a suggestion?

Countries visited by the Tour de France over the years

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Am I practicing what I preach? Hell yeah!

I have written on a number of occasions how I find it strange that people who travel are in such a rush. As an alternative, I suggested taking the time, going to less places and staying longer in one destination. But I wondered whether I practice what I preach? To check whether I follow my own recommendations, I looked at a recent example – the Grey Wave camper vacation in Western Europe, and at an older one – the big Round-the-world trip.

“Grey Wave tour”

Our trusty camper

We’ve spent a whole week on this camping and would have stayed longer but they were closing for the winter

Let’s start with the recent trip. In September of last year, we rented a camper van and traveled for 3 weeks, going to Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg and France. Four countries sounds like a lot, but its less than it seems. Firstly, we’ve been to all these countries before, so we were under no pressure to see as much as possible. Secondly, we stayed mostly in the border region of these countries, which limited the travel times.  All in all we stayed in 5 different locations – on average, that’s 4 nights at a place. So not bad, for a short trip to familiar places, I would say.

Our route for 3 weeks

Our route for 3 weeks

Our big Round-the-world trip took us to 4 continents, 15 countries and countless destinations over a time span of about 10 months. But we managed to stay calm and never (well, almost never) rushed around.

First leg – Europe and the Middle East

Starting with a day in London, just to board a plane, we went to Ukraine, spending almost two weeks spread between Crimea and Kiev. From there we went to Israel for a few days with the family and crossed to Jordan just to see Petra. Excluding the week in Israel, where we were on a family visit and basically just dragged along, we’ve been to 4 ‘destinations’ in two weeks.

Second leg – Indian subcontinent

After a few days in Delhi to acclimatize, we went for a couple of weeks to Rajastan (Bikaner, Jaisalmer and Jodhpur), and then to Rishikesh. From Rishikesh, we went on a trek to Hemkund and then left India, going to Nepal. In Nepal we mostly hiked (Around Annapurna and Annapurna Base Camp treks), and spent the remainder of our time in Pokhara, Kathmandu and Chitwan. We then returned to Delhi for a few more days, before flying out to Bangkok. All this took us 3 months, with a total of ~13 ‘destinations’, depending how you count them.

Third leg – South-East Asia

Here we’ve been a bit more mobile, going to no less than 5 countries and a variety of destinations I will not bother listing (“the banana pancake trail”). Sufficient to say we’ve spent about 3 weeks each in Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos. With a few days in Singapore, I count ~17 ‘destinations’ in 3 months, which is a bit busier than our time in Nepal but we were certainly not in a rush.

Fourth leg – Oceania

Most of our 3 months in Oceania we spent in New Zealand, where we drove a lot around, camped on remote beaches and hiked a variety of tracks. After New Zealand we spent three weeks on a remote atoll in French Polynesia, and stopped by at Easter Island. The ‘destination’ count does not really work on this leg, but I can tell you we were in absolutely no hurry.

Pearl farming

Pearl farming can feature on Discovery Channel’s “Dirty Jobs”

Fifth and final leg – Peru

Originally our plan was to make a brief stop in New Zealand and spend more time in South America. We chose the comfort and safety of New Zealand though and cut our final leg down to Peru only (hurray for flexibility!). Our two weeks in Peru were split between Cuzco and Lima, with side trips to the Nazca lines and Macchu Picchu.

 

Sure, we sometimes stayed in a place just for one night and moved on. Overall though, we usually spent between 3 days and a week in a place, taking day trips and/or longer tours before coming back to the “base camp”.

Conclusion

Having critically reviewed my own travel habits I can now safely claim to live according to my own preaching. Of course, sometimes I do travel at a faster pace. But most of the time, I do my best to slow down a bit. I’m not saying this gives me the right to claim moral superiority or something. But I think I can safely say I know what “slow travel” means. Its not like I avoid the tourist highlights. I just not limit myself exclusively to them.

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