My History of Travelling and Writing

Born way back in 1977, I've always had a bit of curiosity about the wider world but did not do any 'serious' travelling' until I hit adulthood. Money was tight and our family holidays were usually spent at a place called Barmouth in Mid Wales, (still one of my favourite destinations). Although we travelled around Britain a lot, overseas was more or less off the cards, save for two short coach trips with my parents to France and the Low Countries.

All that changed however, in 1995 when our Sixth Form went on a Geography A-Level Field Trip to Malta. That week on that beautiful Mediterraean island opened my eyes and since then I've always been looking over the next horizon.

Aged 4 and excited about going on a trip

My first independent trip came a year later when I went on a package holiday to Corfu with a mate from school. I fell in love with the island and also met some cool people who worked out there so I decided to put off uni and head out there to work. However, whilst my travel flame was burning bright, Corfu was closing down for the winter so it was back to Britain until the season kicked off again next Easter. However, a Jewish family friend saw my misery at being back in the land of my fathers and so suggested I go to Israel where he had friends. So off I went and after several months on Kibbutz Revivim in the Negev Desert, I was ready for anything. I returned to Corfu for the 1997 season and then went to uni, travelling to Israel and Eastern Europe in the holidays.

Israel 1997

Living on Corfu, 1997

After uni I got a job out in Japan teaching English so I went off to spend two years as a native of the small rural town of Osawano near to Toyama. I found that not only did I like the travelling but also the teaching and so I decided to keep up both.

Teaching in Japan 2000-2

During the holidays I popped off to various destinations around the Far East and then after finishing in 2002 I embarked on an epic Trans-Asian Expedition with a friend from my kibbutz days.

Far Eastern Trips from Japan

Trans-Asia Expedition 'The Long March' 2002

I then spent a year teaching in Bulgaria, still my favourite place in all the world, before then doing a Trans-European Trip with my brother.

Bulgaria 2003

Trans-Europe Express 2003

After that I headed back east again,  to Vietnam where I lived for two years, travelled further around South-East Asia and got married.

Vietnam 2003-5

Since 2005 I've been back in the UK and although I'm no longer married, family commitments are keeping me here, (I am busy indoctrinating my son you see...), for another ten years or so. After that, who knows? Before then though, I'm squeezing as many trips in as possible whilst grooming another future travel companion.

Indoctrinating the next generation...

I started writing back in 2000 whilst at uni. I began with fiction which I still write, particularly short stories. My first travel writing were some short extracts on life as an English teacher in Japan that I penned for friends back home and my first full travelogue was Two Weeks with Uncle Ho, Brother Number One and Ming the Merciless. Since then I have endeavoured to write up all my longer trips and many of my shorter ones as well. I let friends read them for years but then in 2011 my brother suggested I start posting them on the web for the wider world to enjoy and so, in October 2011, Uncle Travelling Matt was born!

Although my travel tastes are pretty eclectic - I want to see as much of the world as possible and to learn as much as I can - I do have several specific interests and certain places that I both like and travel to more than others. The first of these is the Balkans. My love affair with this region started on a day trip to Albania from Corfu and it has continued ever since. I have explored the region in great detail and I am fascinated by the mix of Ottoman, Orthodox, Catholic, Germanic, Slavic, Soviet Western European and other cultures all mixing together to form what I believe to be the most incredible region on earth. I speak Bulgarian fairly well which helps and have learnt some basic Albanian and Greek and am always ready to share with people my love for this region.

Visegrad in the heart of the Balkans

Another passion of mine is politics and in particular the legacy of Socialism across the globe. My degree was in politics and one of my main reasons for travelling to Central Asia was because I had studied all about it. Since then I have become something of a Red Tourist, visiting the birthplace of Stalin, the mauseleum of Uncle Ho, the site where the red flag was first raised, the Berlin Wall and many more sites of specific socialist interest.

Three Great Socialists: Me, Marx and Engels

Another passion of mine is religion. I am a practising Anglican and I try to go on a pilgrimage every year as I find this invaluable as a spiritual aid, but in addition to this I also explore as much as I can about all world faiths and the way people have connected with the divine over the years. This has also led to a continued interest in the Holy Land which I first visited as an ideologically-motivated kibbutz volunteer back in 1997 but have returned to many times.

Seeking the light at Glastonbury, England's Jerusalem

Other interests are often because of my travels. My time in Japan has left me with a passion for hot spas which I seek out wherever I can whilst an friendship made on Revivim has led to many visits to the Netherlands, another country that I hold dear. I also have a lifelong love for railways and always travel by train whenever I possible. 

Taking the waters in South-West France

Zeeland Brugge, Netherlands

Riding the rails in Romania

So, if any of those themes are yours too, please peruse these pages and drop me a line; I'm always happy to chat.

Keep travelling!

Uncle Travelling Matt

Here are a list of the countries/territories that I have visited so far (in chronological order with date of first visit) with links to relevant travelogues, (N.B. Not all travelogues correspond to the date of the first trip):-

1. UK (1977) Pilgrimages 2008-present inc. Lindisfarne, Walsingham and Glastonbury; Musings on London; V-log tour of Draycott-en-le-Moors; V-log Llangelynin; V-log Barmouth Cliff Walk; V-log Walking Pilgrimage to Bardsey Island; V-log Crowland; V-log Repton
2. France (1991)
3. Belgium (1992)
4. The Netherlands (1992) V-log Tour around Schouwen-Duiveland
5. Germany (1992) 2007 trip to Berlin; V-log East to West Berlin; V-log Berlin; 2013 trip to Berlin
6. Luxembourg (1992)
7. Malta (1995)
8. Greece (1996)
9. Albania (1996) 1996 trip to Saranda2009 trip around all the country
10. Ireland (1996) 1996 trip to Dublin; 2008 trip to Kilkenny and Cork; 2009 trip to Dublin and Glendalough; 2014 trip to Dublin, Clonmacnoise, Bru na Boinne, Westport, Achill Island, Croagh Patrick and Galway
11. Israel (1997) 1997 trip to Revivim, Tel Aviv, Beersheva, Jerusalem and Eilat; 2009 trip to Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Hebron, Beersheva and Revivim
12. Egypt (1997)
13. Cyprus (1997)
14. Palestinian Territories (1997)
15. Switzerland (1998)
16. Liechtenstein (1998)
17. Romania (1998) 2012 trip to Iasi, Suceava, Gura Humorlui, Targo Neamt, Viseu de Sus and Bucharest
18. Bulgaria (1998) 2002 trip across Asia ending in VarnaMusings from my year (2002-3) living in Varna; 2011 trip to Varna, Dobrudja and the far north-west
19. Italy (2000)
20. Spain (2000) 2007 trip to Malaga and Granada
21. Japan (2000) Musings from residence there (2000-2)2002 trip across Asia starting from Toyama
22. New Zealand (2000)
23. Vietnam (2001) 2001 trip to Ho Chi Minh City, Phnom Penh and Angkor Wat
24. Cambodia (2001) 2001 trip to Ho Chi Minh City, Phnom Penh and Angkor Wat
25. Hong Kong (2001) 2001 stopover
26. The Philippines (2001) 2001-2 trip to Manila, Cebu, Bohol, Ilocos Sud and Norte and Bagiou
27. South Korea (2002) 2002 stopover2002 trip across Asia stopping at Pusan, Seoul and the DMZ)
28. Indonesia (2002) 2002 trip across Java, Bali, Lombok and Sumbawa
29. China (2002) 2002 trip across Asia stopping at Qingdao, Beijing, Yinchuan, Lanzhou, Dunhuang and Urumqi; 2015 trip to Bejing, Tumen, Yanji, Chang Bai Shan and Shenyang
30. Kazakhstan (2002) 2002 trip across Asia stopping at Almaty and Shumkent
31. Uzbekistan (2002) 2002 trip across Asia stopping at Tashkent, Bukhara, Samarkand, Urgench and Khiva
32. Turkmenistan (2002) 2002 trip across Asia with a train journey through Turkmenistan
33. The Russian Federation (2002) 2002 trip across Asia stopping at Moscow
34. Ukraine (2002) 2002 trip across Asia stopping at Konotop; 2012 trip to Konotop, Kiev, Chernobyl, Pripyat, Odessa and Bolgrad
35. Turkey (2003) 2003 trip to Istanbul, Konya and Ankara, 2010 trip featuring Kars, Ani, Dogubeyazit, Van, Diyabakir, Urfa and Istanbul
36. Macedonia (2003) 2003 trip to Skopje and Ohrid
37. Hungary (2003) 2008 trip to Budapest
38. Slovakia (2003) 2008 trip to Bratislava, Trencin, Levoca, Stary Smokovec and Kosice
39. Austria (2003)
40. The Czech Republic (2003)
41. Singapore (2003)
42. Malaysia (2003)
43. Thailand (2004)
44. Laos (2004)
45. United Arab Emirates (2005) 2013 stopovers in Al-Ain, Dubai, and Abu Dhabi
46. Morocco (2007) 2007 trip to Tangiers, Fez, Mezourga, Demnate, Marrakesh and Casablanca
47. Qatar (2008)
48. Sweden (2009)
49. Kosova (2009) 2009 trip to Pristina, Peja, Prizren and Gracinica
50. Portugal (2010)
51. Latvia (2010) 2010 trip to Riga and Sigulda
52. Georgia (2010) 2010 trip to Tbilisi, Mtshketa, Kazbegi and Gori2014 trip to Tbilisi and Borjomi
53. Serbia (2011) 2011 trip to Nis
54. Bosnia-Herzegovina (2011) 2011 trip to Visegrad, Sarajevo, Zenica, Trvanik and Mostar
55. Croatia (2011) 2011 trip to Dubrovnik
56. Montenegro (2011) 2011 trip to Herzeg Novi, Cetinje and Budva
57. Poland (2012) 2012 trip to Krakow, Czestochowa and Auschwitz2013 trip to Poznan, Czestochowa and Lodz
58. Moldova (2012) 2012 trip to Chisinau
59. Trandniestria (2012) 2012 trip to Bender and Tiraspol
60. India (2013) 2013 trip to Delhi, Amritsar, Agra, Jaipur, Ajmer and Pushkar
61. Armenia (2014) 2014 trip to Yerevan, Echmiadzin, Khor Virap, Sisani and Sevan
62. Nagorno-Karabagh (2014) 2014 trip to Stepankert, Vandazar and Aghdam
63. North Korea (2015) 2015 trip to Hoeryong, Chongjin and Chilbo-san
64. Norway (2015) 2015 trip to Oslo

Map of my travels and countries covered by my travelogues on Uncle Travelling Matt (green means visited, red means there's a travelogue)

Next planned trip: Cuba

1 comment:

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