Day M249: Why I’m Not A Republican

Sat 02.06.12: Today marked the start of the 4-day Diamond Jubilee celebrating Queen Elizabeth II’s 60th year as Head of State of The United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and numerous Commonwealth realms. It’s given the British people a couple of days off work, a free concert and injected some much-needed joy into a otherwise perpetually depressed nation. There are some that argue that the royal family is an anachronism, that it’s irrelevant, that it’s out-of-touch. So would I! But then, let’s face it, those adjectives could be used to describe every political institution in the world, not least the United Nations. I’m not swayed by arguments wrung out by Daily Mail-types who believe that to criticise the monarchy is akin to collaborating with The Nazis. Nor am I swayed by arguments wrung out by tub-thumbing Trots screaming off with her head – these are arguments…

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Day M209: The View From The Bridge

Mon 23.04.12: One of the more interesting things about travelling to every country in the world is it allows you to make comparisons. Sweeping sweeping generalisations aside for one moment, there are certain trends and nuances that are hard to pick up on unless you’ve been to the country in question. Of course what I think of a place is tremendously subjective, but through personal discourse with locals and a healthy obsession with world events, I feel I’m at least a little bit more informed than most – well, I know where the country in question is, what borders it, what colonial powers once stole it and whether it’s a free and fair democracy or not. In any case, it’s handy having some first-hand experience to be able to fit the jigsaw of life on Planet Earth into a some kind of geopolitical context. Today the…

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THE ODYSSEY WORLD VISA GUIDE

One of the things that holds back many people from travelling is the prospect of wasting time and effort attempting to get into countries that would quite prefer it if you didn't bother.  However, it is a false presumption.  In more than 150 countries worldwide you can turn up without shelling out $$$ for an invitation first. So here’s a comprehensive list of the visa requirements for British Passport Holders for every country in the world, although it may come in useful for other nationalities as well. I’ve split the world into four main categories: No Visa Required, Visa On Arrival, Prior Visa Required and Letter of Invitation (LOI) Required. No Visa Required: You beauties!! Note the (very) high prevalence of prosperous, confident and democratic countries in this list. Visa on Arrival: Not quite as good as no visa at all, but much, much less hassle than: Prior…

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Day 88: We’re Gonna Need A Bigger Coat

29.03.09: I had set my alarm for 6.30am to give me loads of time to wake up and get to the bus station for the bus for Montreal that left at 8.30am. Dionysus, the god of wine, woke me up at 8.05am. Oh dear. Up and out of the flat before you could say "crikey!" in a silly voice, I pounded down the stairs and out onto the Mean Streets of NYC. Whistled the first cab I saw and jumped inside. The bus station, please and step on it! I've always wanted to say that. I was on 109th Street. The bus station is on 45th Street. That's a lot of streets between me and the bus. Luckily, it was Sunday morning, not a weekday - we hurtled down Central Park West like in a movie, switching lanes and honking at those crazy maniacs who dared…

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Day 87: First We Take Manhattan

28.03.09: When I changed buses yesterday in Atlanta, I made a fatal error - I didn't push to the front of the queue. And so I and about fifteen other misfortunates were shunted onto another bus, a bus that didn't leave until an hour after our scheduled time. This was the start of our nightmare journey. We were supposed to change buses ONCE in Washington DC. No chance - we changed buses an unbelievable seven times throughout last night and today. I was woken at 1am, 3am, 4am, 6am and 8am to stand like a lemon in a Greyhound bus terminal (terminal being an appropriate term) while the horrible Greyhound staff sneered at us and didn't even have the decency to tell us what was happening and why. Any lesser mortal would have been utterly shattered thanks to Greyhound's badly-managed hoople-ha they call a bus service.…

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Day 86: Greyhounded

27.03.09: Spent the day travelling up through Georgia pressing northwards towards Virginia. As we travelled, my mind turned to three things; Architecture, Americans, and Greyhound buses. I HATE GREYHOUND BUSES. The entire company seems to be made up of the most inept, unhelpful, disrespectful, useless bunch of po-faced morons on the planet. The seven plagues of Egypt wouldn't be enough to wish on these cretins, these people-hating, slothful, discourteous rotters with about as much idea about customer service as a cockroach has about food hygiene. I just wanted to get that off my chest. Now it's no great secret that British people like to make out like Americans are stupid. I always bristle when I hear some pompous Brit going on about how stupid the Yanks are, especially in the face of the pond-life that populate the Jeremy Kyle Show, the omnipresent chav culture that seems…

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Day 85: Did You See Any Cubans?

26.03.09: As a wonderful final flourish, and as if to prove how much better the Mexican bus service is to the American one, my bus got to the border 45 minutes EARLY. Perfect. So I thanked the bus driver and took the short taxi ride over to the border. I was worried about getting stamped out of Mexico, as I didn't get stamped out last time, so I was praying they didn't spot the fact I had three entry stamps and only one exit, but I needed have worried. I had already paid the departure tax in Cancun - they were just happy to chuck a stamp in my passport and wish me well. I'm going to miss Mexico. So you pay 3 pesos (about 10p) to go through the metal turnstiles and walk over the bridge (might be the one out of No Country For…

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Day 81: The Forbidden Isle

22.03.09: After helming the nightwatch, I got a few hours kip before Johnny called me up on deck - he'd been chatting on the CB with a passing yacht that had just left Maria del Gorda. A yacht called The Mariposa... The very Mariposa that rescued me from Antigua!! Kerri and Andrew! Woo!!! They were on their way to Cancun in Mexico. I told Kerri that I'd try to meet up with them after we hop into Cuba. Johnny and I swung into the sleepy little bay of Maria del Gorda just before noon. It was a gloriously sunny morning, but now the storm clouds were approaching. There was no port to speak of, just some mooring buoys off the shore. Just two other boats beside ours. Johnny put up the US flag and the yellow Quarantine flag and we spoke to the port attendant on…

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Day 80: Hooked!

21.03.09: What WOULD Philias Fogg have said? If all had been going to plan I'd be in AFRICA by now, having already stepped foot in every country in The Americas and Europe. And yet, I'm spending an entire day on a boat trying to get reach one little country. I'm caked in sea-salt, my hair is dry and matted and my beard is threatening to take over my face again. Not only that, but as I was at the helm, Captain Johnny was trying to fix the main sail into a better position when a hook twanged off and SMACKED me in the head - blood gushed, I thought I was done for - fifty miles from shore and here's my head dripping more blood than a vampire drinks in a week. Bit scary. It wasn't too bad in the end - no stitches required -…

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Day 79: Blockade Runnin’

20.03.09: The entire day at sea, we continued on our painfully slow march towards Cuba. I kept watch for US coastguard boats appearing out of nowhere and asking us what we were up to, but nobody came. Let's RUN this blockade, baby!! The wind was so weak we were truckin' along at a rather underwhelming three miles per hour, so Captain Johnny got out a ‘spinnaker' sail, which is like the ones you see on proper racing yachts. It worked a bit like a kite and it looked really cool blowing out at the front of the boat. It managed to get us up to a more respectable eight miles per hour, but by now it was obvious I wouldn't be getting to Cuba until Sunday at the earliest. Captain Johnny is the same age as me. He's on his way to Fiji, so this is…

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