The life and lies of Callum Stone

Posts tagged “Travel writing

The Beginnings of an Icelandic Saga

The last week of August had been a bit of a heavy one for me. My sister was due to get married in September, however the date of the wedding just so happened to clash with the day I was due to start lectures on a Masters in Coastal and Marine Management. Normally that wouldn’t be a problem, go to the wedding, turn up a day late, sorted. That wasn’t exactly possible for me though. The Masters I had been accepted on to was in a small Icelandic backwater called Ísafjörður. Due to the logistics of getting out there, my sister very kindly moved her wedding. No biggy… or it sort of was, for which I am genuinely ever so grateful to have been able to be a part of one of the most important days of her life. Anyway, back to that last week of August. That was when she moved her wedding to, all so she could make sure her little brother could be there for the big day.

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Hammond organs and not women.

As some of you may know, my girlfriend, Madi, lives in Brussels. As some of you may also know, I’m not Belgiums biggest fan. To me, it’s just like lentils. It’s there and people clearly like it, but I just can’t work out why. Whilst I might not like Brussels and Belgium, I cannot however say that the capital is uninteresting. I think the main reason I dislike Belgium is its lack of geographical diversity. I like mountains and rivers. Flat green spaces and concrete have never really done it for me. Socially though, it’s actually a very nice place. You can still smoke in bars (whilst I hate it around food, I quite like it with drink and music), cannabis is socially accepted, a massive range of beers, great jazz and there are no problems with drinking on the streets.

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Polar Opposites

Last time I was in Morocco I was in Tangier. Someone pulled a knife on me, around every corner someone was trying to scam you or rob you, and that is literally no exaggeration. It’d be a stretch to say I’d go back to Tangier to save my own mother. OK, well maybe I would for that, but nothing short of that. All I remember of being there is having to watch your back wherever you went, not really being able to trust many people. I think in four days, I met possibly three or four people I was able to warm to and actually liked.

When I was invited back to Morocco, I was naturally apprehensive. I know you should never judge a book by its cover, however, it’s almost human nature to do that. If you don’t have any good experiences somewhere, why should you come back with a positive outlook on the place? Now that I’m out here, I have to say I’ve had enough humble pie to even put Desperate Dans cow pies to shame. I’m ashamed and embarrassed to have held such negative views on Morocco and Moroccans.

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A rather dry mouth

I wasn’t at my most comfortable, having Moroccan security officials pulling all of my possessions out of my bag in front of the whole of arrivals. Everyone starts to stare, more and more security turn up. Eventually there were five of them there! 5?! All for a camera?!

“Follow me please sir”

This really will be a hassle! I’ve never been taken away for an interview before. Let alone one with someone that can’t speak English. I’d done nothing wrong and I knew it, but there’s still something inside you that’s making you nervous, that little “what if”. What if what?! “I’ve not done anything!” I kept telling myself, but as I sat in this small dark office with someone pulling my bags apart, I felt my heart start to beat faster, my legs start to tingle and my mouth going as dry as the Sahara.

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And so it begins!

Despite some very careful packing, I was still way over my weight limit for flying. Things were getting desperate. Toothbrush, gone. Toothpaste, gone. About 3 pairs of pants and socks, gone. Eventually I got my main luggage down to 25kg and my hand luggage down to 7. Even that wasn’t good enough! I mean yeah it weighed the same as a small child…but maybe the baggage handlers should have just eaten their weetabix!

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The anti-guide

This isn’t a guide on how to plan, neither is it always applicable. All it is, is something that works for me and I enjoy.

I was sat having a clear out of my computer the other day when I found a folder absolutely full of different trips planned out from a trip to Greenland via the Orkneys, the Shetlands, the Faroes and Iceland, to a trip down the the Pan-America Highway starting at Prudhoe Bay all the way to Capehorn including a way through the Darian Gap between Central and South America. These weren’t just ideas of trips, but somehow I’d immaculately planned out each trip including local contacts without even realising I’d done so much.

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Chocolate, Cows and a million ways to screw you for your money.

I’m back in the UK once again! Only for about two weeks this time. My latest trip was a week kayaking in the Swiss Alps courtesy of Arthog Outdoor Education Center. Firstly, bloody hell what a lot of cows! I suppose they’ve got nothing else to do in the summer over there but farm cows though, so it’s fair enough i guess.

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East to not quite as far east.

For once, there was something brilliant about the particular airline I was flying with. As I boarded the plane I was offered any seat I wanted. “Brilliant” I thought as my built in guidance systems kicked in, straight to the window wing seats! For some reason I’ve always loved to watch the wings of a plane bounce up and down as it flies. It’s almost as if I’m daring them to fall off. Not only was I given a choice of any seat I wanted, but the flight was also very quiet. An advantage of flying at silly o’clock in the morning I suppose.

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