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Photo Essay: Our Greatest Travel Fails of 2016

Photo Essay: Our Greatest Travel Fails of 2016

Travel bloggers so often focus on all the ‘awesome’ and ‘wanderlust-inspiring’ things about travel.  We try to be realistic here at The Travelators – whether it’s talking about the sh*thouse roads in Armenia to the rather ‘meh’ atmosphere of Dubai – but even we fall into the trap of just showing the ‘good bits’ in our photos. Hence why we thought it appropriate to display some of our travel fails from the last 12 months.

Don’t get us wrong – we love travelling and we are lucky to be able to do it. And the worst days often make the best stories. But here is the truth: Sometimes travel sucks.

Sometimes you just want to go home and eat mum’s roast lamb. Sometimes you’re cold, hungry, sick or all of the above. Sometimes dragging your ass up a mountain on that allegedly ‘life changing’ trek just doesn’t feel worth the effort.

So here’s a collection of photos showing 15 of our less-than-perfect travel moments over the last 12 months across Eurasia. We hope you get a giggle out of it!

1. Laundry Fail

Visit Angkor Temples Cambodia
KG checking for stains on her white singlet at the Angkor Temples in Cambodia. Conclusion? Stained AF. Hostel laundries just aren’t designed for white clothing.

2. Shower Fail

Visit Song Kul Lake Kyrgyzstan
After not showering for 3 days on our trek to Song Kul in Kyrgyzstan, we decided to go for a quick dip in the lake. The only problem? This lake is 3,000 metres above sea level. Just a tad chilly.

3. Drinking Fail

Brandy Tasting Noy Brandy Factory Yerevan Armenia
KG enjoying her brandy tasting at Noy Brandy Factory in Yerevan, Armenia. Or not.

4. Patience Fail

Everest Base Camp Trek Nepal
Tom managed to capture the exact moment KG launched a death stare at our poor porter on the Everest Base Camp trek. After 7 days of our porter talking non-stop, and KG battling a chest infection, she nearly snapped after she was interrupted and told to ‘Listen’. Woe-betide any man who tells KG to be quiet and listen! #ohnoyoudidnt.

5. Driving Fail

Pamir Highway Tajikistan
Our Kyrgyz driver for our Pamir Highway trip also turned out to be a mechanic. While this was great news for our car, it also meant we stopped to assist every broken down Kyrgyz car on the Pamir Highway. We were here for over an hour, just chillin’.

6. Sand Dune Fail

Khongoryn Els Mongolia Gobi Desert
We were so excited to see the iconic Khongoryn Els sand dunes of the Gobi Desert in Mongolia that we jumped at the chance to climb them. Unfortunately, our guide decided we should make this climb straight after dinner. Cue an hour of climbing with sand blowing in our faces feeling like we were about to vomit up our boiled mutton. Noice.

7. Spice Fail

Spicy South Korea Food
Our waiter in Busan, South Korea warned us that this chicken hot pot was ‘very spicy’. We didn’t listen. Before….
Visit South Korea Spicy Food
…and after. Tears, red face and lots of water!

8. India Fail

Visit India Backpacking
After only three weeks in India, the country was starting to wear us down. This picture perfectly captures Tom’s mood after one too many days of tuk-tuks, rubbish and street vendors.

9. Museum Fail

Taxidermy Gobi Desert Mongolia
Perhaps the best worst taxidermy we have ever seen. This was in a small museum in remote Mongolia, so perhaps we are being a bit harsh. We assume it’s some kind of small cat, but we can’t be sure. 10/10 for effort.

10. Scooter Fail

Motorbike hire India Hampi
We were pretty pumped to hire a scooter in Hampi, India for only $5 per day. Turns out there was absolutely no suspension. Tom’s bum paid the price.

11. Local Cuisine Fail

Vegemite Australia
Despite being able to enjoy delicious curries every day in India, KG just needed a taste of home. Here she is preparing a gourmet cheese and Vegemite sandwich. Delish.

12. Hiking Fail

Hiking Hallasan South Korea
We set out to hike South Korea‘s highest peak, Hallasan, under the impression that the trek was 9 km return. Turns out it was 19 km return. Here is Tom resting his poor feet on the way back down. We are not built for hiking.

13. Snow Fail

Cho La Pass Gokyo Lakes Nepal
This was without a doubt the worst day of our Everest Base Camp-Gokyo Lakes trek. The day we were set to cross the Cho La pass (5,420 metres) we encountered heavy snow. KG ended up with the first signs of frost bite on her fingers as we were woefully under-prepared with poo-quality gloves. Here she is looking really happy in the snow.

14. Bedding Fail

Everest Base Camp Trek Nepal
When we heard that we would be staying in ‘lodges’ during our Everest Base Camp-Gokyo Lakes trek, we couldn’t believe our luck! Turns out our expectations may have been a tad high. Basic fibro-cladded rooms with no heating whatsoever. At least there were plenty of blankets!

 15. River Crossing Fail

Song Kul Kyrgyzstan
Now this may look like a small trickling stream to the untrained eye… and it was. But KG had an enormous amount of trouble crossing it. It was a tad boggy and she was unconvinced she’d make the leap with the extra weight on her back, so opted to throw the backpack to Tom on the other side. Needless to say, the backpack landed in the mud and stank of cow poo for the rest of the two day trek to Song Kul in Kyrgyzstan.

Have you had any ‘travel fails’? Tell us about them below!

How Long Term Travel Can Help Your Career

How Long Term Travel Can Help Your Career

Long term travel can often be seen as a ‘career killer’, but taking a career break could perhaps be the best thing you could ever do for your career! Here’s why.

1. You have time to think

It’s so easy to get caught up in day-to-day life at home. We are often so busy that we don’t have time to sit back and look at the big picture. Between work, family, sport, volunteering, friends – do you ever have a spare couple of hours to just… think? Probably not! Back in Australia, I was so busy just getting stuff done that I didn’t have time to think about the big picture. Taking a career break to travel was the perfect chance to reflect on what I really wanted in life and work.

Long term travel involves a lot of long bus, train and plane rides. You will have little else to do than listen to music and stare out the window… thinking. Sometimes you have so much spare time to just think that it can become a bit overwhelming. We’ve met a few people who have had their ‘quarter life crises’ while travelling, because you finally have a chance to stop and reflect.

While you might not have a groundbreaking epiphany while you are travelling, you will have plenty of time to think about what you really want from your career. At the end of your trip, hopefully you have worked out a career that truly excites and inspires you. You can work towards a goal, rather than just living day-to-day to pay the bills.

Gobi desert tour Mongolia
Plenty of time to think when driving across the Gobi Desert!

2. Travel broadens your horizons

Broadening your horizons and experiences is a great move for your career. Employers want employees who are able to ‘think outside the square’. Narrow-mindedness is rarely seen as a positive! As a traveller, you are constantly being challenged by new ideas, cultures and people. It is the perfect way to broaden your horizons and open your mind to new possibilities.

You will also meet travellers from all kinds of backgrounds and careers. You can learn about life in other countries, and working in different fields.Perhaps you will even find a place you fall in love with, and decide that you want to live and work overseas rather than at home.  I found that talking to other travellers made me reflect on my own career. Was I proud to tell people what I do, or was I embarrassed? Did I sound passionate about my work? Would I like to try something different? Did I speak fondly of home, or negatively?

Learning Spanish in Guatemala
Tom with our wonderful host family in Guatemala who helped us learn Spanish.

3. You gain life experience

In Australia, you often hear of young people being rejected from the army or emergency services because they need more ‘life experience’. But how do you ‘experience’ life? It’s hard to define, but I think it is having experiences that push you out of your comfort zone, and force you to stand on your own two feet. Long term travel definitely fits this bill.

You will have tough days where you think about going home, but you don’t. You will be forced to think quickly in difficult situations. No doubt you will experience a number of confrontations, whether with a taxi driver or fellow travellers. You will have to stand up for yourself and be responsible for your own actions (and money!). Employers don’t want an employee that have to babysit. They want someone with initiative and resilience who takes responsibility for their work. Long term travel definitely instils these values.

Cairo bazaar Egypt
Working on my haggling skills in the Cairo bazaar

4. You learn practical workplace skills

While on the road, you can learn plenty of practical workplace skills. You can learn a new language, or volunteer doing something you are interested in. If you are interested in trades, you can volunteer to help with building or plumbing overseas. If you are interested in teaching or childcare, you could volunteer to teach English or work as an au pair. When explaining your career break in your resume, don’t forget to add other ‘soft skills’ you may have learned. For example, skills in problem solving, communication, organisation, independent thinking and conflict resolution.

Teaching English in Guatemala
Volunteering at a school in San Pedro, Gautemala

5. Long term travel gets the ‘travel bug’ out of your system (at least for a while)

The travel bug bite is a hard one to scratch. But a good stint of travel can get the travel bug out of your system (for now at least). While I make no guarantees that one career break will be enough, it might keep the travel bug at bay for a little while!

Do you think travel would be good for your career? Tell us your thoughts below!

Backpacking Myths Busted!

Backpacking Myths Busted!

Taking a career break to go backpacking around the world can be pretty daunting. But there are a few myths out there that make it seem much harder than it really is. Here are our top ones – and why you don’t have to be worried.

1. Backpacking will ruin my career

A career break doesn’t have to be a career killer. If you are taking a sabbatical from your job, talk to your boss about what will happen when you return to work and your expectations for the future.

If you are quitting your current job, don’t burn your bridges! You may be lucky enough to be rehired when you return. If you have to apply for a new job when you get home, don’t hide your career break. Instead, highlight in your resume all of the great skills your travels taught you – conflict resolution, communication skills, problem solving, organisational skills, and so on.

A benefit to the Gen Y work era is that people are changing jobs and careers more often than they used to. Perhaps your next job change could involve an extended holiday in the middle?

2. Backpacking is expensive

Backpacking is a lot cheaper than you may expect. Once you don’t have to pay rent, utility bills, gym memberships, car registration and all the other stuff that comes with living at home, you will be surprised by how little it costs to live on the road.

Of course you have to budget and save money in the lead up to your trip. But for most of us it’s actually pretty achievable. It means going without a few luxuries like eating out, all night benders, concerts and new fancy gadgets. When you take the plunge to travel it’s crucial to sit down and plan your budget! Know how much money you need, how you will save it and how long it will take.

Travel budgets will differ from person to person depending on the standard of travel you are looking for and where in the world you are travelling – for example, $140 a day will get you nowhere in Sweden but in Bolivia you can live like a king. If you are working, volunteering or house sitting you can travel for even less! If you manage your travel budget properly,  you are very unlikely to run out of funds!

3. I will miss home

Travelling long term means you inevitably miss out on things happening at home like weddings, birthdays and funerals. While it’s easier than ever to stay in touch with family and friends online, sometimes it just won’t make up for not being there in person.

Everyone is different, and some people will feel the pull to stay at home more than others. Postponing your trip until after a big event is always an option, but sometimes this can just be an excuse for putting off your trip. Commit to calling home a few times a week, and keep busy by meeting new friends on the road. You will never really be alone! If the worst happens while you are away, you can always fly home. Often your travel insurance will cover additional expenses and pay for you to resume your trip if a close relative becomes ill or passes away.

4. I have too many responsibilities to go backpacking

Admittedly, we have chosen not to have children or pets yet, or to buy a family home with a big mortgage. These choices have made it easier for us to travel, but just because you have these responsibilities doesn’t mean you can’t hit the road.

Kids – Ok this is a little out of our area of expertise. However, there are some great blogs like World Travel Family that give tips on travelling long term with kids. It is possible!

Pets – Long term boarding kennels are an option, but probably not the preferred one. See if a friend or family member is able to help out or look into to pet-sitting websites like Trusted Housesitters.

Mortgages – We have a small unit in Adelaide that we rent out, and thankfully the rent covers the mortgage. If renting out your home won’t cover the mortgage, another option is to save extra cash to cover the difference. If this is impossible, then perhaps look at selling all or part of your property. This is a pretty big step but it has been done before! Obviously get financial advice on this before making any rash decisions though.

5. Backpacking is a bit gross

Many people think budget travel means 14 bed dorms, bed bugs, shit food and party hostels full of testosterone-filled, singlet-wearing drongos. Understandably, this appeals to very few of us. While there are certainly establishments out there that fit this bill, you don’t have to stay there.

Boutique hostels and guesthouses are easy to find now. In places like India, Nepal and Southeast Asia you can usually get a private room in a lovely guesthouse for the same price as a dorm. Booking websites such as and also make it easy to find highly rated, cheap beds. You don’t have to live in squalor!

Yay for transparency! This page contains some affiliate links. This means that if you book your accommodation through a link on this page, we get paid a small commission. Don’t worry – you don’t pay anything extra! And we promise that we only recommend places that we have truly enjoyed staying at.

Quick Guide to Preparing For Long Term Travel

Quick Guide to Preparing For Long Term Travel

For most of us, jetting off on a long term trip isn’t as easy as packing a backpack and locking the front door on the way out. Here is a quick guide to preparing for long term travel, which will hopefully make life on the road and your return home a bit easier.

1. Commit yourself

Long term travel isn’t for everyone, and it can be easy to get spooked and want to back out of a trip. This is because travelling for a long time isn’t always easy. In fact, you are going to have quite a few crap days on the road. You will pine for some home comforts (for me, this is usually peanut butter and Milo). Everyone misses their family and friends. You will most likely get sick, become lost or get ripped off during your travels – perhaps more than once. But the bad days are always outweighed by the good, and it will be a life-changing experience that you will never forget. Make sure you are committed to a leave date, and don’t let anyone talk you out of it!

2. Start saving

Saving is probably the hardest part of deciding to travel. You will have to sacrifice a few luxuries – big nights on the town, eating out, concerts, new clothes and new gadgets. But how much you need to save depends on where you plan to travel and what you plan to do. It may not take as long to save for your trip as you might think.

We have chosen not to work during our travels, and we move around relatively quickly, so we have had to save more than others. If you are working, house-sitting or volunteering while travelling, or if you have your own tent and cooking gear, you will be able to travel on a much smaller budget.

But you should always have some extra money in the bank for emergencies, and to cover your expenses when you get home. That first pay cheque never comes as quickly as you think it will! Managing your travel budget so you can afford a few hiccups on the road and living expenses when you return home will seriously reduce your stress levels.

3. Talk to your employer & clients

If your heart is set on long term travel, give your employer as much notice as possible about your plans. Whether you are asking for a sabbatical or resigning, do not burn your bridges. Break the news to work colleagues and clients promptly once you have a confirmed departure date. You don’t want them feeling left out of the loop.

4. Set a departure date

The first step to any long term travel is to set a departure date and stick to it. We have found the easiest way to do this is to tell others about your plans (so they can hold you to account!) and book your flights. No chickening out at the last minute!

5. Start downsizing

We somehow acquired tonnes of useless crap when we were living in Melbourne, even though we were in a small apartment. The more stuff you have when you leave, the more you will have to pay to move it and store it. Start culling your stuff early. Websites like Gumtree or Craigslist are a godsend. Less is more!

6. Start pre-trip chores early

There is plenty of boring admin to do before you leave. Here are a few of the main items for your ‘to do’ list:

  • buying flights
  • buying travel insurance
  • getting travel vaccinations
  • setting up your travel bank accounts
  • applying for visas
  • arranging new passports (if necessary)
  • cancelling utilities and subscriptions
  • making pet sitting arrangements
  • breaking your lease and finding new tenants
  • buying travel gear
  • packing up your belongings
  • organising removalists and storage
  • selling furniture and clothes

It feels like it will never end! Write a list and get started early.

7. Schedule ‘goodbye’ time

Once you finish work, put aside at least one week to spend time with family and friends before you leave. You will be surprised how quickly this week passes, and it’s a great chance to say ‘proper’ goodbyes. It also gives you a chance to do any last admin/prep before you leave.

How To Ask Your Boss For A Career Break

How To Ask Your Boss For A Career Break

I was lucky enough to get 12 months unpaid leave from my job for our Silk Road trip in 2016. But I’m not the only one! More and more workplaces are allowing their employees a sabbatical or a career break to travel long term. Here are a few tips on how to convince your boss it’s a top idea.

1. Be good at your job

Your boss won’t give you 12 months off if you’re not worth keeping – it’s that simple. Put in the hard yards and get yourself noticed for the right reasons. Make yourself indispensable. Your employer has invested time and money into your development, so show them they shouldn’t let it go to waste. For a company to allow you to take a career break it needs to work for them as well.

2. Be honest

You don’t have to tell your boss every travel idea that pops into your head, but you also shouldn’t make empty promises. Don’t offer to take the lead on a major project if you are planning to ask for a career break during the same period – it’s not a good look.

3. Read your workplace policies

Every workplace usually has an unpaid leave policy. While they may not be intended to cover sabbaticals, it will at least give you an idea of the criteria your boss will look at when making their decision. It’s also handy to know your rights regarding leave.

There is likely to be a formal approval procedure you need to follow to get your leave sorted. Once you have broken the news to your boss get onto any paperwork quickly while it is still at the front of their mind and follow the correct procedure.

4. Pick your timing

Give you boss as much notice of your intended departure date as possible. This will give them a better chance of making alternate arrangements. Consider whether finishing up at a certain time of the year might be helpful for your employer (for example, the end of financial year). Be willing to compromise. This could increase your chances of getting the answer you’re looking for.

Also, don’t ask your boss for a sabbatical or career break when they have just had a day from hell or they are super busy. Wait until they have a relatively quiet moment, and perhaps even make an appointment in their diary.

5. Explain why

Think about why you want this break from work to travel, and explain this to your boss. It will help them to understand your motives, and hopefully show that you’re not leaving simply due to a lack of commitment to your job. Have you always wanted to travel? Are you planning to volunteer or learn another language? Do you think this trip will help develop life skills that you can apply to work? Or is life simply too short? Be clear about why you are going and what you want.

6. Be thankful!

If your boss approves your leave, make sure you say thanks. It can be easy to forget that your travel adventure is probably a gigantic pain in the ass for your workplace, and they have done you a huge favour. Shout them a coffee or a beer at least.

And if they say no? Well, then you can obviously consider resigning. If you quit, don’t burn your bridges. You might be rehired or need a reference when you return!

Need more tips on preparing for your career break? Click here!