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What's this blog all about?

Hi, I'm Nicola - welcome to a blog about family travel around the world, without leaving the UK.
I love travel adventures, but to save cash and keep my family's carbon footprint lower, I dreamt up a unique stay-at-home travel experience. So far I've visited 110 countries... without leaving the UK. Join me exploring the next 86! Or have a look at the "countries" you can discover within the UK by scrolling the labels (below right). Here's to happy travel from our doorsteps. See www.nicolabaird.com for info about the seven books I've written, a link to my other blog on thrifty, creative childcare (homemadekids.wordpress.com) or to contact me.

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Can anyone - even you - do good travelling?

Nell coping without a watch...
This blog is about family travel around the world without leaving the UK. Impossible? No. This post asks if travelling does anyone any good? Words from Nicola Baird (see www.nicolabaird.com for more info about my books and blogs).  

Nell, 11, is upset that at the start of the summer holidays her watch stopped. Seemed symbolic to me, but it's easy to replace the battery, especially as the shop owner of Raymonds in nearby Highbury Barn loves fiddling with watches. It's his original trade, the one he learnt in India. Seeing the lifeless watch he seized his magnifying glass, prized off the back and located another battery. "That's £5," he said. "all this money, all the watch money goes to charity. To an Indian charity that feeds blind people. The £1 is so strong that this brings about 80 rupees - that can give four people dinner, a lot of food."


As my own children and relatives get older I seem to see more appeals for help with overseas projects, like this one my cousin Nick sent from his pet project in Sierra Leone. What's agreed is that everyone needs money, the question is, how to give it? Does it involve going to a country, or can the money be sent in more imaginative ways? Offering up a skill - as a friend say helping to install an app or cut a hedge, or as I did 20 plus years ago as a volunteer working in Solomon Islands for VSO - is definitely generous.

Or is it? The early VSOs were unskilled school leavers, often on a gap year before university (although they have been skilled experts willing to pass on knowledge for years now). But I know a 14 year old who is doing wonderful fundraising (odd jobs, babysitting and saving her own birthday money) to travel to an African country and help with building projects. Even so I don't think she is old enough to be able to help. And even if she was I think it would be much better if local people were given that training in their own locale. Keep these UK kids out of it.

I know that what I got back from the experience of working for a NGO (Solomon Islands Development Trust) overseas was surely greater than what I put in. Just a quick calculation includes a new language, friendships that have really lasted, a new way of thinking that's more cooperative (sort of the pacific way, but not quite), a love of having children around, ideas for my novel Coconut Wireless. That's a big list, if I hadn't gone to the Solomons my life would have been considerably less rich in experiences.

My watch-loving newsagent takes this further: "People in India have nothing, and expect nothing," he says. "That's why they sleep. They sleep soundly, anywhere, even in the street. But here in the UK everyone's worried, so worried they can't sleep. They have everything but they need pills to sleep. You can be happy with nothing."

Over to you
I've noticed that people with strong Hindu beliefs often come to a similar conclusion - but for me it's another rich reward for just popping into my local shop for a battery. My question is do you listen more because you've travelled? Or is this an age thing? Of course travelling is a lot of fun, but do you think it does anyone - but the traveller - any good?

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Water source: canal and river exploration

This blog is about family travel around the world without leaving the UK. Impossible? No. This post sees our family dreaming up two winter projects to help us explore the world and get to know two river routes out of London. Words from Nicola Baird (see www.nicolabaird.com for more info about my books and blogs).  
New River appears at Clissold Park - here it is allowed to be an area for dogs to splash around.

This blog has done it: it's just gone over 25,000 views. This year it's also included our efforts to finish off the Hadrian's Wall walk, and the Capital Ring which encircles London. Great achievements... but I had a restless feeling that we needed another family project.  Strangely after a few months struggling to think what to do, two plans burst into mind which will keep us occupied and offer fascinating contrasts. 


Find this in Finsbury Park.
The plan is to walk the New River - which is famously neither new, nor a river - but a canal that brings water up to London from Hertfordshire. Its source is Ware, not so far from where I grew up, and  the route ends up  Sadler's Wells, Islington not so far from where I live now. Amazingly the New River was completed in 1613, nearly 400 years ago (anniversary in 2013) but it now brings water to the East and West Reservoirs on the edge of Green Lanes, Hackney - from there the water for London either goes into a massive great pipe called the London Ring, or looks set to be doing this. I only found out this thing existed when we looked at plans of our house when we were buying it and saw that there was a huge tunnel that wasn't a tube marked as crossing under our cellar some 30m, maybe 50m down. A journey down the New River has to take us via the world's biggest canals - Suez, Panama and the Grand Canal of China. There are loads more which I hope to discover things about during our time plodding along beside the New River.

We also intend to walk from the sea to the source of The River Thames - an exploration made possible by the fact that this is a very well-trod long distance path with an extremely tidy ending: a pub and station at Kemble just a couple of fields from the spring that is the surprisingly unspectacular source of this great river. This journey will give us the chance to replicate some of the amazing explorers' journeys to find the Nile, the Congo, the Amazon etc. Here's hoping.

is there a river or canal near you that you could explore? If so, do join in with your own river trip. Let me know how you go - or what are the best parts of river exploration.

Here is another post I've written about river exploration.
http://aroundbritainnoplane.blogspot.co.uk/2012/07/journey-to-end-of-nile.html