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What's this blog all about?

Hi, I'm Nicola - welcome to a blog begun in 2012 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.

Around 2018 I tried a new way of writing my family's and my own UK travel adventures. Britain is a brilliant place for a staycation, mini-break and day trips. It's also a fantastic place to explore so I've begun to write up reports of places that are easy to reach by public transport. And when they are not that easy to reach I'll offer some tips on how to get there.

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.

Monday, 14 July 2014

Call it a pilgrimage not a journey

This blog is about family travel around the world without leaving the UK. Impossible? No. This post gives a few tips on why we take a break on a long journey. Words from Nicola Baird (see www.nicolabaird.com for more info about my books and blogs).

A beautiful place for a walk, an opportunity to think or just a lull on a long journey?
In my lifetime I've met people who've been to Mecca (in Saudi Arabia) and even a man who walked across India. All these journeys were inspired by God. But whatever your belief system a good walk and a cup of tea can help deal with problems. I say this because I've walked across England twice by foot, once via the Coast to Coast route of Alfred Wainwright and once along the Hadrian's Wall border a bit further north.

Walking these long routes weren't hard - and has the fabulous knock-on satisfaction of having done something to be really proud about. As i walked it didn't feel like that. Most of the time I was either struggling with large damp OS maps or deciding if I could keep going for another 20 minutes before eating my sandwiches. Quite clearly I lack a spiritual gene. As do most car drivers....

It's rare that I take a long drive in a car but at the weekend read a piece in the Saturday Guardian (12 July 2014) which charted the many pleasures off the M6 - starting at Birmingham and heading up to Carlisle - which would be ideal for 4-wheel pilgrims. This is a long route, and one that I've done many times on the train. But if you like to drive (rather than read or stare out of a train window) then it turns out there are loads of wonderful stop offs along the route.

Here's the article link, motorway breaks near the M6.

One of my favourite places for recovering after a journey is mentioned in the article. It is the turf-covered Rheged Centre just near Penrith (off junction 40) which mixes a shopping centre with displays telling the story of the Lake District. - which includes volcanoes, legend, Romans and the Romantic poets (well Wordsworth). Have a look at the Lake District National Park site for more detailed info here. At Rheged there is also the opportunity to make a clay pot - and as I remember from a very wet summer camping trip there are lovely loos, wifi and a good place to sit and nurse a pot of tea.

My conclusion: nothing puts you closer to happy satisfaction than a hot drink after a long day on the road. Perhaps that's a modern take on the pilgrimage?

Over to you?
What helps you find the moment? Does travelling help?

Friday, 4 July 2014

Saying goodbye like a Solomon Islander

This blog is about family travel around the world without leaving the UK. Impossible? No. This post is an obituary for a former boss of mine when I lived overseas in the South Pacific for two years. Travel is always an education - but how people say goodbye to their friends and family, enemies even, can be a way to remind those of us still living to live better. The last time I saw him was in 2011 in his daughter's home. We ate cooked bananas and chatted. What I remember most from that time was his articulate intelligence and a face wreathed in smiles. He was also the first person I worked for who rarely wore shoes. Words from Nicola Baird (see www.nicolabaird.com for more info about my books and blogs).

A wonderful man has died - Abraham Baeanisia, from Malaita in Solomon Islands (the south pacific). He mixed his custom knowledge and intellect to live well and work for his community. When he was alive he completely inspired me with his super simple messages for rural development. Hearing the news that he's died reminds me to peel back the clutter and focus on what's important. Grieve well, live well.

I was lucky to work for Abraham at Solomon Islands Development Trust (and an equally inspiring colleague John Roughan, who also died recently) back in 1990-92.

Many times I listened to Abraham talking to a group about how we could only develop society if our basic needs were met - that's water, food, shelter. He'd lull you into a false sense of security (well maybe just to non islanders) talking about the view from the cliffs. Let's imagine it. It's a beautiful day and it all looks lovely out at sea - there's even a man paddling a canoe. Maybe he's fishing. Wouldn't you like to be in that canoe, not at your desk, out fishing? 

But do we know what's really happening to that lucky man out fishing on a work day. Is it a battle of life and death against the currents?

Taking it bigger: are we powerless to help or do we not want to help? Do we see what's going on?And if we do, do we understand? Do we act? Do we ignore? You did see, didn't you that he was in trouble?

It's good stuff: learn to think. Learn to ask questions. Be sure to act so it doesn't happen again, or again.


Abraham Baeanisia at his home by Matt Young
This picture above isn't mine to pass around - and I remember a younger man - but how wonderful it is. Abraham built his own leaf house on Abalolo, the island he built in the Langa Langa lagoon.
This obituary from another friend who worked in Solomon Islands, Chris Chevalier, tells his association with Solomon Islands Development Trust: 
Abraham Baeanisia[Chris Chevalier interviewed Abraham for his forthcoming biography on Solomon Mamaloni and have also learned some details about the history of SIDT while writing an obituary for the Journal of Pacific History (forthcoming).] 
Abraham Baeanisia died on 14 June 2014 aged 75, just eight months after the death of John Roughan, his great friend and colleague, Abraham suffered a severe stroke and was unable to attend John’s funeral in October 2014, which was very distressing for him. I saw him in Honiara several times in hospital and at home and he was immensely frustrated by his loss of speech and movement. For someone formerly so articulate and active, his death therefore must have come as a welcome release. 
Born in 1939 in the Langalanga lagoon on the west coast of Malaita, Abraham was one of the first post war generation to complete a modern education. He went to Catholic schools first in Malaita and then attended St Joseph's School at Tenaru on Guadalcanal in 1957, where he was part of the first group of Standard 7 students. In 1958-59, he completed form one and two and became a teacher. Just before Independence in 1978, he went to the University of Papua New Guinea and completed a Bachelor of Education degree in 1982. On his return, he worked for the Shell Oil Company until he crossed the road from the depot to join John at the SIDT office at Mission Place in Honiara. They became lifelong colleagues, close friends and, like two disciples, spread the word of good development. 
Abraham was highly respected throughout the Pacific, best known for his many years as Director of the Solomon Islands Development Trust (SIDT), the first indigenous development NGO in the country. SIDT was started by John Roughan in 1982 with funding and support from the Friends of the People of the South Pacific (FSP), the Australian High Commission, and later on, International Humanitarian Assistance Program (IHAP). Many of SIDT’s ideas and types of projects were strongly influenced by Catholic social justice teachings and John’s studies in the politics of development at the University of Hawai’i in the 1970s. SIDT became a cornerstone of the civil society movement in Solomon  Islands, and arguably the Pacific. 
Abraham and John were both highly articulate and skilled advocates. John’s piercing intelligence and innovative ideas were combined with Abraham’s quiet charm and cultural sensitivity. Both were also inspirational mentors and influenced many young people and volunteers, local and international, who have worked at SIDT over 30 years. SIDT had the philosophy of People First development and using natural and human resources responsibly to ensure that everyone benefited, especially rural villagers. In the early years, SIDT focused on training and mobile volunteers but was always an advocacy organisation. It provided an indigenous critique and alternatives to large-scale unsustainable exploitation of logging and marine resources. SIDT started a sustainable logging project to provide timber for houses and eco-exports, and also promoted eco-tourism with some success. 
SIDT was not afraid to be political and condemned the increasing overexploitation of natural resources from the 1980s by corrupt logging and fishing companies, landowners and governments. In the 1990s, SIDT public opinion surveys and critiques of corrupt businesses, politicians and the public service raised the ire of Prime Minister Solomon Mamaloni who wanted to deregister SIDT in 1994. Abraham’s response was to invite government officers to come and meet with him and five SIDT officers. The talks were tape recorded but nothing further happened to the threat of deregistration.Abraham and John were also instrumental in the formation in 1984 of the Development Services Exchange, an umbrella organisation for NGOs in Solomon Islands. Both men also helped to establish the Pacific Islands Association of NGOs (PIANGO), which was officially launched until 1991. Abraham was a superb ambassador and advocate for People-First development, travelling widely overseas in his role with DSE and PIANGO. Despite many uncertainties and changes in the funding landscape, both organisations have survived until today, testimony to the values and networking principles of their founders. 
Abraham's life was dedicated to education and People First development. He and John Roughan touched countless lives and have left behind enduring organisations that continue to fight for sustainable development and social justice. Abraham will be remembered as a co-founder of SIDT and this is his enduring legacy. Both men are greatly missed and we will be very unlikely to see their like again.
Vale Abraham.

Readers of this blog won't know this amazing man - indeed you might wonder why there's a post on a travel blog about a death. But if I hadn't lived in the Solomons, or met Abraham Baeanisia or John Roughan - I wouldn't have learnt to question or look hard and unpick what we do because everyone does it.

In the Solomons - a tropical country - when someone dies the family and friends gather around and properly grieve. The women keen (wail); they tell stories and then night passes and the next day the body is buried. It's painfully swift. 

In the UK the time lapse between death and burial is agonisingly slow as if time has stopped but in our speed-crazy world (the developed world really) it is so hard to find uninterrupted to say our own goodbyes. So often that means we don't. For all of you with absent friends and family here's a virtual hug. If you haven't already done this, give yourself permission to say thank you and goodbye and then do it remembering the good, and the bad, and how this person you've lost has shaped your own life.

If you are a Solomon Islander you know the ancestors live anyway, so really this is just a leave-taking from one sphere to another. Like going for walkabout. It doesn't stop the pain of the parting, but it helps keep that person's memory live rather than just sacrosanct. And that's what makes all the difference.

Over to you
Do share tips on how to say goodbye around the world.