2017 through my eyes
Last year, when I wrote my end of year review (which you can read here), the world seemed to be going through a lot of changes, and I had a busy year too.
2017 was a lot more settled as I spent most of my year living and working in New York and the rest of the year in London. My first impressions of New York laid the foundation for an amazing time in the city that never sleeps from visiting all the famous pizzerias, to discovering all the best museums NYC has to offer. You can't visit New York without seeing all the famous skyscrapers which I made sure to do. I managed to really experience American culture by attending at least one game of every major American sport and even got to see their 4th of July celebrations. A trip out to Long Island gave me a different taste of Americana, something a lot more laid back.
While I was out in the United States, I visited Washington DC on a couple of occasions, managing to see a fair amount of America's capital city. I took a trip out to the midwest and spent some time in Chicago visiting some of the famous landmarks and tasting the famous Chicago style deep dish pizza. I also caught up with friends I had met in Cambodia as they showed me around Florida with a trip to Miami during Spring Break. Perhaps my favourite city that I visited in the US was San Francisco, I spent almost a week seeing different areas, including a trip across the famous Golden Gate Bridge.
My second half of the year was significantly quieter as I transitioned back to life in England. That being said I made a very short trip to Luxembourg, visiting Luxembourg City, the beautiful town of Vianden, and a train ride across the border into Germany to visit the oldest continuously habited city in the country, Trier.
As with the post last year, just click the blue links to read about any of the locations in depth.
The Revolut revolution
Firstly, I have not been paid to write this article, but this is a product that I came across that I felt I had to share as it has made my stay in the United States so much easier. Revolut is a financial disruptor, one of a number of recent financial innovations succeeding in London. My job involves me staying up to date with global financial innovations, but it was a colleague of mine who introduced me to Revolut.
The company was founded in London in 2014 by a couple of Russian immigrants to the UK and its growth has been pretty incredible. The premise of Revolut is simple - its a global money app that allows people to transfer between a select group of currencies without charging any commission, a fantastic tool for anyone that exchanges currencies on a regular basis.
2016 through my eyes
Globally its been a strange year. The Syrian Civil War entered into its fourth and bloodiest year, yet in the West we were obsessed with the deaths of celebrities. As spring turned to summer, the UK voted to leave the EU in the biggest political decision of my lifetime. In any other year, that would be the biggest newstory, but 2016 outdid itself in the autumn when the US elected Donald Trump as its leader. President Donald Trump, I still can't say it with a straight face.
I began the year by taking a trip to Madrid with my friend to visit an old flatmate. We stayed in his house (more like an mansion) just outside of the city and he showed us around the city and the trip was topped off with a game at the Bernabeu, a stadium that had been on my 'must see' list for a long time. I then took two trips to Valencia, both stag parties with different groups of friends and completely different experiences. I stayed in the beautiful old town of Valencia during my first stay (in an apartment with the most incredible view), and stayed in a more modern part of the city near the beach a few weeks later. Sandwiched in the middle of my trips was another stag party with yet another group of friends, this time to Prague.
I took an extended trip to South America, travelling along the Pacific Coast all the way across to the Atlantic. I began in Peru where I visited a number of cities and did a 3 day climb to Machu Picchu. After a run in with the police, I went to the salt flats in Bolivia via La Paz, followed by an almost 18 hour bus journey to San Pedro de Atacama in Chile. After visiting a friend in Santiago I finished my trip with almost a week in Rio.
After this I attended a summer school in Spain at the Barcelona Graduate School of Economics and ended the year with a Christmas trip to Paris to catch up with some friends. The year saw me visit 2 of the 7 Wonders of the World. Not bad considering I hadnt been abroad till my early twenties when I could finally afford to pay for holidays. Here are a collection of my favourite pictures I took this year (click on any of the blue links to read my in depth posts on each location)..
How to stay in shape abroad
Firstly; I'm no Mr Universe. I'm not even close, however I'm a strong believer that physical fitness is incredibly important for a number of reasons. Appearance isn't everything, however you can still make some valid judgements about a person depending on their appearance. It takes discipline to stay in shape and if you can't take care of your health, how are you going to take care of your family or anything else?
Physical fitness is also one of the core requirements within Sikhi, infact the second Guru, Angad, ordered that every Gurdwara (Sikh Temple) should have a gym attached to it and although this custom has fallen in some parts of the world, in the UK its still very strong with groups like Lions MMA, Shin Kin and various Gatka Akharas basing classes in Gurdwara gyms. I did Shin Kin when I was younger and then trained for a short while with Lions MMA when I was a little older and have a lot of respect for these groups. A Sikh is supposed to be 'Tyar bar tiyar' (always prepared) and the life of a Sikh is supposed to be geared toward protecting the innocent. It's pretty hard to protect someone else if you can't even protect your waistline.
I tend to go to the gym between 3-4 times a week, train in Thai Boxing and play football. To test my fitness I took part in a Tough Mudder (which I'd recommend for all) and occasionally do medium distance runs for charity. That being said, as a guy of Panjabi heritage, my diet isn't great, although its something I'm actively trying to improve.
I usually get a little cranky when I don't go gym for a few days, so going on longer travels presents a problem. However, during my first extended trip I found that just because you're travelling, doesn't mean you have to skip gym.
Do you need money to travel?
Young, broke but full of energy
That pretty much describes me after leaving university. I had taken, lets say, a scenic route through university, so I came out of the other side with a nice little degree but absolutely no money and a lot of debt. Even worse, my mom had given some jewellery as collateral to a local pawn shop that my dad had left her in order to pay for my Masters degree. Coming from a (first world) poor single parent household, my first course of action was to take any job and make sure we brought back the jewellery as I know it had a lot of sentimental value to my mom.
My friends, at this point were into their European holidays phase, but with no money there were a couple of trips I missed out on. Thankfully I managed to get a good job (after a few not so good ones) and once I had paid my mom I began saving for my first big adventure.
I found out, very quickly, I could make travelling as cheap, or as expensive as I wanted.
Live and learn
There are a few things I wish I knew before I went travelling. Somethings are quite obvious, others I learnt the hard way.
The good thing about going on an adventure is what you learn along the way: things about you, things about your location and things about life more generally. However, there are times when I'm out somewhere in a random country and I think to myself, I wish I knew this before I set off.
So here are a list of 7 things that I wish I knew before travelling. If you have any hints/tips or things you found out the hard way, feel free to leave a message in the comments section or Tweet me @travellingsingh.
I recently gave a quick interview to a popular lifestyle website on the concept of The Travelling Singh blog, discussing amongst other things difficulties encountered by Sikh passengers and the backlash Sikhs have faced globally as a result of mistaken identity,
I was keen to highlight the various sacrifices Sikhs have made in both World Wars and the economic contributions of Sikhs today.
I also spoke about my adventures, some of the places I have visited and my future bucket list.
You can read the full interview here.
Don't forget to follow The Travelling Singh on Twitter @travellingsingh and you can also follow Suzannah Sylvian (who conducted the interview) on Twitter @suzannahsylvian
Why BREXIT matters to travellers
During the 2015 election period, the Conservative Party pledged in their manifesto to hold a referendum before 2020 on the issue of the UK leaving the European Union (EU). Following consultations, the Government decided to set a date of Thursday 23 June 2016 for the vote.
After initial engagement in politics during teenage years, the 21-35 year old demographic has a huge drop in political engagement, however, this is one of the most important decisions of our generation, and one that will touch on almost every aspect of our lives whether directly or indirectly.
I tend to keep my blog as politically neutral as possible, if I wanted a blog on politics, I'd make one (and probably have a readership in single digits). However, the referendum has important ramifications for those of us who are interested in travelling and seeing the world. 76% of all foreign holidays are to EU Member States. Unlike most publications I've read on this topic, I'll keep this relatively high level, brief and focused on the affect of the vote on travelling.
Do you need a visa?
The Red Passport
If you are a British citizen, you hold a passport ranked 1st in the world by the World Tourism Organisation in terms of freedom of travel.
A British Passport entitles the holder to have visa free, or visa on arrival travel for approximately 175 countries across the world, and in this entry I will list the different types of visa requirements for some of the most popular destinations in the world broken down by region.
#PrayforBelgium: Unity makes strength
Waking up to another mindless act of terror is becoming far too regular an occurrence. From Paris, to Ankara, Istanbul and now Brussels, a group financed by large amounts of foreign oil money and twisted by warped ideologies is causing destruction on a global scale not seen in years.
My thoughts and prayers are with the loved ones of all those in Brussels who either lost their lives or suffered life changing injuries for no other reason than being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
After any such incident the first thoughts should always be with those suffering, whether its Belgian families who have lost sons and daughters, French citizens who have seen their beautiful capital attacked on a number of occasions or Middle Eastern families who face such acts on a regular basis.
British Sikh, born in the Midlands, based in London, travelling the world seeing new cultures.