Archive | July 2015

Social media…

I’ve had a couple of requests recently asking whether there’s any kind of social media aspects to wisepacking

The clear and final answer on this one is no!

I’ve personally been on social media sites twice over the last five years and have left them after three months or so on both occasions.

I’m aware that there’s been comments left on wisepacking by those using social media, but on several occasions, I’ve not been able to read them anyway as they’ve been in the person’s native language rather than English.

Why don’t I use social media?

Largely because of the various posts received during my time on those sites that were of little or no interest to me.

Other reasons? The time being spent on social media that could be better spent on other things elsewhere coupled with the fact that I don’t lug that much tech stuff around when I’m heading off anywhere.

Most of the places I go to in the UK don’t have mobile phone coverage, never mind wi-fi and as I don’t have a smartphone, tablet or laptop, it’s a bit of a non-starter anyway. I got rid of the smartphone back in April, I still can’t see the need for a tablet and whilst I could be tempted to go back to having a laptop, I don’t actually see that happening soon somehow.

As a fiftysomething, I take things in on my travels and make notes in a paper notebook. These can then be used to formulate pieces on wisepacking or form the basis for pieces for print media (which is where I started and still believe in).

It may be an age thing, but it works for me!

Smartphones? Or dumb-ass phones?

It’s twenty years since I got my first mobile phone.

It was a reaction to the fact that the publications I was writing for at the time needed to speak to me and to the fact that the student flat I was living in at the time didn’t have a phone, even though I was one of those helping to look after a residence hall and had a couple of on-call shifts every week.

So I got a half-brick size mobile phone and became the first student in either the Media or Business School to have such a gizmo (I was probably the only Media & Business Studies student in the UK who had a couple of national magazine columns at the time as well, but that’s another story…).

There were several smaller phones that followed in the wake of the half-brick between 1995 and 2010 of course, but then I made the decision to not have a phone and guess what? I didn’t miss it at all.

That changed with getting a new day job of course and then I noticed that most of my work colleagues (and Caroline’s sons and her daughter) were all using smartphones. So I ditched my pay as you go talk and text phone and upgraded to a smartphone…

Which I got rid of back in April 2015 and went back to a talk and text phone.

Well almost. There is internet and email capability on the new phone, but it’s not an Android phone and I don’t actually use the internet and email capability on it.

I’m not looking at it and swiping or stabbing it on a regular basis. I’m making calls on it or sending texts when I need to or using it as a watch and that’s about it.

Do I miss the smartphone? No, I’d rather have the dumb-ass phone as it works and only needs charging once a week or so.

Do I take the mickey out of smartphone users?

Sometimes, usually when there’s a group of people huddled around a table in a hostel, bar, cafe or restaurant and they’re all on their phones rather than communicating with others by talking to each other.

And then there’s those who text or do social media updates as they’re walking around a shop or wandering around a village, town or city. They’re so intent on what’s onscreen that they’re oblivious to the fact that there are other around them and that they’re either holding others up on the pavement or that they’re about to walk into a lamp post, sign post or another person.

The one that really took the biscuit was the lady in London who was so intent on her phone that she couldn’t even control the wheelie case that she was pulling along with her at the time.

Not only was she oblivious to everything else, she didn’t even hear words including ones that rhymed with clucking bell which were coming from a certain bloke behind her who was trying to get back to his hotel before the heavens opened once more!

There’s been a few conversations on forums recently about people taking smartphones with them on their travels to use for social media purposes, getting information from websites or to take  photos with the phone (with or without the use of a selfie/selfish stick). One guy even wanted to use a selfie stick to take photos out of train windows whilst train was moving – as if!

There’s also been a few comments about whether such phones are covered by travel insurance if they’re stolen or damaged. My annual travel policy has a limit to such cover, another reason why I got rid of the smartphone, don’t travel with a phone wherever possible and why I use a reasonably priced digital compact camera on my travels rather than a DSLR.

Think it won’t happen? We got into conversation with a lady at Lisbon airport a couple of weeks ago whilst waiting for our plane back to Liverpool. She’s been on Tram 28 around Lisbon and had had her smartphone stolen, even though she’s heard about all of the alleged problems with pickpockets on that tram and elsewhere in Lisbon. Didn’t ask what type of phone it was, but after seeing the prices of certain Apple and Android phones a few months ago, I suspect that it won’t have been a cheap one.

Which brings me back to a point I’ve made on forums a few times now.

I don’t take a phone with me unless it’s unavoidable (i.e. I’ve driven to the UK airport and don’t want to leave the phone in the car for a week or more whilst the car is parked up). If I need to know something about a town or city then I’ll either ask or use a paper guidebook (an item that is still relatively cheap and doesn’t need to be charged up in order to use).

And I’ll talk to people in a hotel, hostel or cafe rather than being someone who hides in a corner staring at a screen for hours on end…


To those who took the time to leave some comments on here!

Glitch on my part is why they’re not visible on here, but thanks anyway.

One person commented on the words v pictures nature of the site.

That’s probably down to the fact that I have a print rather than an email/internet based background.

It’s about 30 years since I first started doing music reviews for The Northern Echo up in Darlington and 26 or so since I started writing for magazines such as Climber on a regular basis. I’ve also done editing on magazines here in the UK and spent a little bit of time doing editing on an award winning student newspaper too.

In terms of internet writing, I’ve posted on various websites for around 10 years and started planning wisepacking just over a year ago.

In terms of using the internet, I’ve been doing so since 1994 and have always preferred wordy sites to those that use picture after picture after picture to break up the copy.

A number of sites that I used to visit on a regular basis have switched to picture based breaking up of the copy and that’s when I’ve either stopped visiting the sites or reduced the number of visits to said sites.

As it stands at the moment, I’ll still be going for the wordy approach. There are a few items in the pipeline that will have more pics in them (travel accounts, practical pieces and others), but these will be the exception rather than the rule…

I guess it’s the joys of being a fiftysomething writer!

Things that make you go ‘mmm’…

Farpoint 40 Lagoon Blue

Osprey Farpoint 40 travel pack

Yes, it’s on here again.

Caroline and I both have one and they’ve proved their worth again on our recent week in Lisbon. Both did their stuff once more and there were a few people checking them out as we headed to our digs in Lisbon and at both Liverpool and Lisbon airports as we waited for our flights out and back. And yes, they do fit in easyJet’s hand luggage cage – we checked!

It’s good to see though that the Farpoint 40 has also picked up the Best In Test kudos in the August edition of Wanderlust Travel Magazine here in the UK:–on-sale-from-2-july

A couple of recent purchases were inside my Farpoint 40 in the shape of the Slim Sonic Toothbrush and the Fisher Space Pen. The Slim Sonic Toothbrush is quite a neat package that runs off one AAA battery that comes complete with a good cover for the business end of the brush which protects both the replaceable head and the all important on/off switch.

My example came from Amazon here in the UK, as did a four pack of replacement heads to keep things sweet for future use:

The Fisher Space Pen is something that I’ve looked at several times over the many years that it’s been around. Yes, I’ve heard the comments before (in an episode of The West Wing no less) about the Americans allegedly spending money developing the pen for use in space whilst the Russian cosmonauts  used pencils…

The Space Pen is compact when it’s not being used, but once the pen top is removed and put into place at the non-business end of the pen, the whole thing is well balanced and a joy to use.

Mine was stashed either in a trouser pocket or in my reading specs case whilst we were in Lisbon (it now stays in the reading specs case all of the time when not in use), allowing me to have a decent pen with me for use whenever I need it. Am I impressed with it? Yes, as is Caroline, but she quickly handed it back to me when she found out how much it was!

This was another item found on Amazon here in the UK:

The purchase of the Slim Sonic Toothbrush and the Fisher Space Pen were both prompted by the mentions made in a very useful Kindle BookThe Modern Nomad’s Backpack: A Guide To Packing Light For Round The World Travel by Anne Richardson.

There’s a host of other useful ideas in the book that can be followed, especially if you carry tech items with you on your travels…

Our accommodation in LisbonLisbon Dreams Guest House – was booked via I’ll be writing about Lisbon Dreams in a future posting about our week in Lisboa here on wisepacking, but I have to say that one the usage so far, I’m quite impressed by the service offered by, so much so that I’ve also used the site to find a place to stay in London and for another trip Caroline and I have planned for later in the year.

What we have found is that a couple of places I’ve booked have been via the establishment’s own web site and the when I’ve clicked on the booking button on those websites have led me to‘s facilities.

In other cases, the places we’ve booked have been sighted before in examinations of either the appropriate Rough Guide or Lonely Planet to the country in question. In one case, a guide book quoted a hostel’s double room as being 44 euros a night, the hostel’s own website was quoting 44 euros a night for each person in that double room and came up with a cost of 50 euros a night for a double room in that same hostel…

And finally we come to easyJet. It’s the first time we’ve used that airline and the choice was made on the price of the flights compared to the prices on other airlines we looked at. Neither of us have flown from Liverpool Airport either so it was a case of two firsts on the same day!

The easyJet booking process was easily done with seats chosen for both the outward and return flights. Baggage wasn’t an issue thanks to those Osprey packs and the online check-in was a doddle to sort out once we’d got Caroline’s son to install a new computer printer for us!

We’d stayed at one of the hotels at Liverpool Airport on the night before the flight out and it was easy to walk across the road from the hotel, find the automated ticket check post, get through the paid-for Fast Track Security and then relax airside with a coffee whilst we waited for the flight’s gate to come up on the screen.

The flight was quite reasonable and the approach to Lisbon interesting as Caroline was spotting places on the ground. Service on the plane was good with no overselling taking place and attentiveness happening when needed, even when the father of the youngster sitting in the seat behind Caroline announced to the cabin crew that his son had had a wee on the seat as the plane approached Lisbon Airport…

And the return flight – not too bad either, but we did have a longer wait in Lisbon Airport for the flight home as we got to the airport much quicker than expected thanks to the Lisbon Metro system and the swift bus ride between Lisbon’s Terminal 1 and Terminal 2.

Would we fly easyJet again? Oh yes, the flights are already booked, but we will be wary of apparent damp patches on the seats when we board the plane!

Location, location, location

Just back from Lisbon where we missed seeing a classic movie that has a connection with that city – it was shown on the 1st July at the art-house cinema a couple streets away from where were staying. We arrived on the 5th!

Not a great loss though as it’s being shown locally in a few week’s time – it’s the first one on this list of ten movies with connections to particular towns or cities that Caroline and I have watched a few times over the years (sometimes in the UK, sometimes elsewhere).

Casablanca  – the title says it all, but there’s a Lisbon connection too…

High Fidelity – set in Islington in the book, but the film version relocated to Chicago…

Brief Encounter – yes, Carnforth rules the roost here…

TT Closer To The Edge – everything you wanted to know about the Isle Of Man TT races, but were afraid to ask. Star in the making Guy Martin’s profile has risen somewhat since this was made…

Shakespeare In Love – that beach at the end is actually Holkham Beach in Norfolk…

Amelie – yes, Paris rules the roost on this one…

Hot Fuzz – visit Wells in Somerset and some sites in the centre may just seem familiar from the Battle Of Sandford towards the end of the film…

Stormy Monday – Sean Bean, Melanie Griffiths, Tommy Lee Jones and Sting film set in Newcastle-upon-Tyne…

The Illusionist – great animation from the team behind Belleville Rendezvous. This Jaques Tati story is part set in Edinburgh and there’s some familiar places in there…

London The Modern Babylon – Julien Temple’s portrait of the city…

There are more of course, but they’re for another day!

Yes, I’m back into action after a few weeks of travelling and dealing with coughs and splutters caused by the post-stroke medications that are supposed to be doing me some good!

More on Friday before some features start coming your way next week.

See, I told you that I’ll be back!