Why Are We Ignoring The Greatest Challenge of Our Time?

the greatest challenge of our time

Man-made climate change and the significant effects it has on every single aspect of our civilisation have been called ‘one of the greatest challenges of our time’, in a joint statement from the G20 countries no less. I would go so far as to call it the greatest challenge of our time. No other issue affects every single living organism on Earth to the same extent, from the smallest bee to that most powerful and destructive of predators – humans. And yet, as we enter what will most surely become yet another successively record-hot year, the silence from world leaders is deafening.

Two of the most influential governments on the planet seem dead set on not just ignoring the issue, but actively trying to deceive and misinform their electorates. In the UK, the government of Theresa May wasted no time after the tumultuous EU referendum last summer in promptly abolishing the Department of Energy & Climate Change. At the time, it was seen as a worrying sign that the new government did not take the issues posed by climate change seriously. Last week, it appears those worries were well-founded as the government was accused of trying to bury its own alarming report on climate change, a document clearly outlining the issue as one of the biggest security threats facing the nation. And yet, not a single statement, speech or even tweet was issued by the Environment Secretary, or her department.

Meanwhile over in the US, the newly instated president Trump has not only appointed climate change deniers to head up the Environmental Protection Agency (oh, the irony!), but also removed any mentions of climate change from the White House website and in a chillingly Orwellian move, issued a gag order, preventing department employees to talk to the press, or the public.

greatest challenge of our time

Now you might ask yourself, what could possibly be gained by ignoring the most pressing issue facing our entire shared future? In what world is it in the best interest of the public to be kept in the dark on environmental research and climate development, the health of the only planet we inhabit? Is there a financial gain? Are there other, truly sustainable alternatives to renewable energies? And finally, is this compatible with open democracies, as both the UK and the US claim to be? The answer, as I see it, is fundamentally and categorically no to all of the above.

At Global Nomadic, questions and issues concerning our environment, our wildernesses and the wildlife that inhabit them have always been at the forefront of our work. Although we work with organisations operating in a very wide field of sciences, we recognise that without a strong focus on creating a sustainable planet, efforts in mitigating wars, human suffering and economic and civil inequality will always be just that. Efforts – not solutions. It seems as if this is one extraordinarily vital point that is being missed by many leaders of the world today; that environmental issues are not isolated issues, concerned only with polar bear survival or warming oceans. They are inextricably linked with global human well-being and prosperity. Where we fail our environment, we also fail our people. Without true environmental democracy, there can never be democratic equality and justice.

renewable energy

Concerning the great debate of environmental health versus the economy, there are also many falsehoods (or alternative facts as they are now called) in circulation, providing the basis for much destructive policymaking. These all seem to stem from the belief that it can never be profitable to be environmentally considerate, however, this is not the case. Many studies have clearly shown environmental sustainability applied to business practices actually makes more financial sense. Not only has it been found to reduce costs, but attempting to adapt to a resource-scarce future also spurs invention, enhances brand reputations and creates better working environments for employees who feel they are working for a bigger cause. Corporate social responsibility is simply best business practice, for companies looking to make a profit and to society as a whole. It also reinforces the importance of environmental awareness and education, which is not just about saving cute animals and recycling plastic. It’s recognising the many millions of human lives that are directly economically dependent on natural resources, provided by healthy ecosystems. It is recognising that already, more than 12 million deaths each year are directly contributable to environmental degradation. It is realising that striving for improved living conditions for the majority of humans must go hand in hand with striving for a way to sustainably generate resources for those same people. Environmental justice cannot by definition be limited to the 1%.

In an interview transcript published by ABC News, Donald Trump talks about ‘bringing in the feds’ to deal with the ‘thousands of deaths happening in Chicago’. Leaving the question of his party’s stance on gun policy quite aside, we would like to ask if the president is aware of the number of people who die annually as a result of air pollution? We are. It’s 7 million. Seven million people who die as a result of merely breathing. We are also aware that more than a quarter of all deaths in children under the age of five are attributable to environmental degradation. To whom does this make any sense, economical or humanitarian?

In a world where our leaders appear to be failing us, and our future generations, we are fed up with the silence. We are fed up with being politically impartial. We are fed up with ignorance, with injustice and inequality. We are fed up with counting species fallen into extinction. We are fed up with contaminated waters and eradicated forests. We are fed up with the silence.

So let’s start talking. Over the coming year, we will be publishing articles centred on these great challenges and asking you to talk about them too. We want to hear your opinion; we want to see you talking to your family, your neighbours, strangers on the street, on social media channels, at the gym, at school, at work. The time for silence is over. It’s time to talk about why we’re not talking. Are you ready for the challenge?

environmental justice

Our resolution for 2017 is to be more vocal, more outreaching, more educational and more active in fighting environmental ignorance and wilful wrongdoing, wherever we might find it. We know we are not alone in this. Across the world, hundreds upon hundreds of companies, organisations and individuals have voiced their opinion, through open letters to governments, marches and protests, standing up for the values that unite us all. Because environmental responsibility and climate action is not democratically blue or conservative red or any combination of red, white and blue. It is just green. The same green you will find in the Global Nomadic logo, the same green you will find in pristine forests, in the sway of seagrass under the ocean surface, in the parks acting as lungs for our cities. The future of our planet can only be green, it is the only way we can all maintain our presence upon it.

Why not add your voice to the discussion and tell us what you think! Head on over to our dedicated Facebook Group now and get involved, we are waiting to hear from you!
Read More

10 Stocking Fillers for Eco-Conscious Travellers

eco-conscious travellers

Christmas is just around the corner and for some of us that usually involves some last-minute desperate shopping for stocking fillers. Whether you are trying to find gifts for your avid traveller-friend or perhaps for yourself, we’ve gathered some top gift ideas for the eco-conscious traveller.

Travel in itself isn’t the most environmentally friendly pursuit. Getting on a plane ups your carbon footprint by an uncomfortable sum. And yet travel, in all its many forms is a powerful force for change, including environmental issues. Perhaps your daughter, classmate or cousin are heading to Nicaragua or Indonesia to learn more about permaculture and finding new ways that we can all mutually continue living on this planet without exhausting all of our resources.

So what you can you do mitigate the negative effects of travel? Well, besides paying to carbon offset your flights, you might want to start with your backpack and what goes in it, as it will have a very direct impact on how you (or your cousin) behave and impact your environment on the road. So without further ado, these are our top 10 stocking fillers for the eco-conscious traveller!

Luggage to love

Not technically stocking-filler sized, but if you travel and aren’t the truly ascetic type, you will likely have to start with a bag of some kind to put your clothes and gear in. Depending on who you are, where you are going and on what kind of trip, there is an endless option of luggage. But not all are created equal. Some are created using only or mostly recycled material and this is where you should aim. Also look for brands using non-toxic materials and avoiding plastic. Timbuk2 makes nifty bags using recycled PET from plastic bottles and even recycles your bag when you’re done with it.

Water purifiers

Using old plastic bottles to make bags is a great idea to get rid of some of the 50 billion plastic water bottles that Americans alone go through each year. Another is to not contribute to the use of plastic bottles at all. Enter the Steripen and the LifeStraw. Both are devices which purify water into a potable drink, though with slightly different modes. The LifeStraw acts as a filter, and functions like…well, a straw! The Steripen uses ultraviolet light to purify water in a container such as a reusable water bottle. Unlike the LifeStraw, the Steripen also filters out viruses in addition to water-borne bacteria and protozoa, making it ideal to take on travels to far-flung places where it generally isn’t safe to drink tap water. Not only will you save quite a bit of money not buying plastic bottles every day, you will set an example for other travellers and of course, keep some of those plastic bottles from polluting every corner of our planet.

Reusable straws

Another scourge of the road and indeed everyday life is the ever-present plastic straw, which apparently has to accompany any kind of drink, anywhere. Do you bit and get a reusable straw to carry with you. It weighs next to nothing, takes up very little space and saves the use of one-time-only straws which most of the time end up in the sea, where they are a serious hazard to both birds, marine mammals and fish. Not to mention they never actually go away; when they eventually disintegrate into tiny microparticles, this minuscule plastic debris finds its ways into the bellies of fish and eventually into yours. Reusable straws is a growing industry and you can now find them in an array of materials, from bamboo to metal to glass. You can even find them with a bit of bling if that’s how you roll.

Ditch the packaging – solid shampoo!

Continuing on with reasons to switch from plastic we arrive at your toiletry bag. At the very least, get some reusable travel bottles and refill whenever necessary instead of buying new travel size single use containers of shampoo and body wash. Next step is to fill your bag with products not using any packing material at all. Sounds a bit impossible when we are talking about lotions and potions but the clever people at Lush have made it all possible. Pack some solid shampoo and deodorant and wave goodbye to plastic landfill! If you want to take it even further, consider going all DYI – great for your hair and great for the environment!

(Really) Reef-friendly sunscreen

Another item to be found in toiletry bag is sunscreen – at least if you or the person you’re buying for are heading anywhere sunny, which, let’s face it, is mostly anywhere. So what’s bad about sunscreen? Well, for starters most sunscreen contains a lot of chemicals such as oxybenzone, parabens and other nasty things, which you might question if you really want to slather your skin with on a daily basis. But the real reason here actually has to do with where all those chemicals go when they leave your skin, having done their bit to protect you from harmful rays. Whether you rinse them off in the shower or gradually as you swim around in some azure sea, all of these chemicals have a profoundly negative effect on marine life and especially on corals. To add to the problem, many brands advertise as ‘coral-safe’ but still contain the above ingredients. Read the labels! Stream2Sea make a good range of biodegradable and reef-friendly products, so you can be a happy fish.

Go full on Diva

This one is for ladies only, but it’s a good one. Any girl worth her travelling salt has surely spent some time agonising how to fit 6 months supply of tampons into her bag and still have room for that second bikini. Apart from taking up valuable luggage space, it goes without saying that tampons, applicators and their packing create mountains of waste every year. Enter the Diva Cup or the Moon Cup. Essentially what it says on the tin, menstrual cups are made of soft silicone and are reusable for years with the right care. Granted, they do take some practice to get used to, but you’ll thank us the next time you are in the back of beyond somewhere in South East Asia and there isn’t a tampon within 500 miles. Not to mention all that money you’ll save too. A win for your wallet, and a win for the environment!

Nature-friendly soap

Staying with hygiene and the idea of travelling rough, you will most likely be faced with the task of hand washing most if not all of your clothes for any duration of time, especially if you are heading out on some of the more rural internship placements. While a sink and a plug will do great for the most part, pay some thought to the detergent you use. Most household brands contain lots of chemicals better left out of nature, especially in countries with questionable sewage systems. Throw in some eco-friendly soap or detergent and you’re good to go. And for those really out of the way trips where you might not even have access to a sink, there’s always the Scrubba to act as your personal little washing machine, all powered by you!

Ditch the fleece – buy bamboo!

There are of course also eco-conscious choices to be made when it comes to those clothes you will eventually end up scrubbing free of roadside dirt. While the fleece has been a steady travel stalwart for decades, the travelling eco-warrior should steer clear. This is because even though some fleece material is technically made from recycled plastics, those same plastics get released from your garment, every time you wash it and end up polluting streams, rivers and seas. Luckily, fleece isn’t the only lightweight and soft material out there. Clothes made out of bamboo tick both these boxes, with the added bonus of being entirely organic and made from a material that grows incredibly fast, making it very sustainable. For great lines of lovely, soft eco-conscious bamboo outfits, check out BAM and Braintree. Using bamboo instead of heavily pesticide-dependent cotton is however a growing trend, so keep an eye out for new brands!

Solar-panel selfie power

Of course, clothes and hygiene aren’t the only areas where you can go on an eco-crusade. Unless you (or the person you are gifting) are some kind of digital recluse, chances are you will be bringing at least one digital item and that will need power. Quite aside from the difficulty of finding cheap digs with more than one power outlet, if you are heading out on a more rustic trip you may want a more reliable way of charging up that phone so you can upload that selfie. Consider bringing a solar panel, which these days come in all sorts of shapes and price classes. We like GoalZero, but there are many choices, just take your pick and get charged up whenever the sun’s up!

Bags for life

Many of these gift ideas revolve around avoiding the use of plastic. Perhaps no plastic item is more prevalent than the plastic bag. It is estimated that the global population use around 500 billion plastic bags every year. Most of those are single use, but unfortunately, that doesn’t stop them from being around for a long, long time. A very large part of them ends up in the ocean, where they cause painful deaths to all manner of marine life. Fortunately for you and your Christmas shopping, a reusable bag can be bought for a very small penny and last for a very long time. You can pick them up in almost any shape, colour and material so let your imagination run wild! If you want to pick up extra eco-warrior points, get a back made from recycled plastic bottles, like the ChicoBag.

 

So there you have it. Being an eco-conscious traveller is a piece of cake with all these great gadgets to help reduce your climate impact. And in the long run, your wallet will thank you, but not nearly as much as future generations and the environment through which we all travel.

Know of any more green travel gadgets we missed? Let us know in the comments!

Global Nomadic offers 50+ Professional InternshipsVolunteer Projects and TEFL Programmes in 30+ countries worldwide. With a bag full of eco-conscious gear, are you ready to meet the world?

 

 

 

 

Read More

Top Ten Hottest Countries for Internships in 2017

internships in 2017

With only two months left of 2016, it’s high time to decide the details for internships in 2017. The two most important questions to answer when you decide to intern abroad are always what? and where? Regardless of where you go, your experience will be intricately shaped by the culture where you will be living and working. Therefore, it will definitely pay off to do a bit of research on your host country before you head out! To help you figure it out, we’ve compiled a list of the top ten hottest internship locations to be in the next year.

Thailand:

Consistently rated as a top destination for package tourists and backpackers alike, Thailand also offers exciting new business-related internships in Bangkok – the world’s most visited city. While the whole of the country will still be in mourning after the death of their king, life – and business – will still be going on. And of course, Thailand wouldn’t be Thailand without its famous islands and beaches!  Head on over to Koh Samui, Koh Phangan or Koh Lanta for internships with an island vibe.

internship thailand

 

Argentina:

Exciting opportunities to live and work in the Latin American powerhouse Buenos Aires makes Argentina a popular choice for many young professionals eager to intern and perfect their Spanish. Dubbed the Paris of  South America, this fascinating city serves up not just scrumptious food but beautiful architecture, an active nightlife and eclectic art scene. Oh, and they have some pretty impressive ice cream too!

dsc_0013

 

Belize:

The only English-speaking Central American country, Belize offers astounding biodiversity for interns pursuing a wildlife conservation career. Truly a blend of cultures shaped over centuries, there are countless experiences to be had in Belize, from visiting Mayan ruins and jungles to trekking, fishing, diving and more. With its laid-back vibe and year-round perfect climate, it’s hard to get disappointed in Belize!

internships in Belize

 

Costa Rica:

It’s one of the most popular destinations in Central America thanks to its famously friendly people and unparalleled biodiversity. It’s also the country most famous for its ‘Pura Vida’ approach to life. Essentially, it’s means you’d be hard pressed to find any other place on earth where people so transparently enjoy life, no matter what your situation. For this reason alone, it’s worth a visit.

Kiley Stevens - TEFL Training & Paid Teaching in Costa Rica

 

Mongolia:

For interns seeking an intriguing destination truly off the beaten path, Mongolia offers a fascinating insight into a deeply traditional culture as it transitions into a modern society. Decidedly not the easiest country to travel to or in, visitors trying to come up with a description for Mongolia mostly land on just one word – epic. Students of Medicine and Journalism looking for an alternative internship – this is it.

Internships in Mongolia

 

Tanzania:

The top choice for human rights interns, Tanzania offers an incredibly rich culture, stunning landscapes, and challenging development issues. Your most pressing problem will likely be finding time for all the amazing experiences this vibrant country has to offer, from climbing Kilimanjaro, to spotting wildlife and taking in the spicy aromas and oceans vistas on Zanzibar.

Internships in Tanzania

 

Nicaragua:

Making inroads into renewable energy development, Nicaragua is rapidly gaining popularity as both a tourist and volunteer-abroad destination. Having long been overlooked in favour of more easily accessible neighbours, Nicaragua is quickly becoming the next Latin American hotspot, with more and more visitors flocking to visit the countless volcanos, explore impossibly picturesque colonial towns and marvel at the vast expanses of untouched nature. Get in before the crowds do – book your project today!

Renewable energy internship in Nicaragua

 

 Cambodia:

Against a complex cultural backdrop, interns arriving in Cambodia are amazed by the warm welcome and possibilities to make a much-needed impact in local communities. Of course, no visit to Cambodia is complete without visiting the famous temples of Angkor, but any responsible visitor should also make time to learn about the dark chapter of the Khmer Rouge and their terrible mark on history. Armed with this knowledge, you’ll marvel all the more at the ever-ready smiles of the Cambodian people, the lush beaches and the palpable lust for life.

Internships in Cambodia

 

China:

As one of the oldest civilizations on the planet, China continues to attract international volunteers looking learn more about this enigmatic culture. While teaching English is the most popular among those choosing to volunteer in China, there are many other ways in which you can help out while learning new skills, such as Tai Chi training and Panda Conservation.

volunteer with pandas

 

Brazil:

With a rich culture of social community work and internships, Brazil is a fantastic destination for interns interested in community development, wildlife conservation, and medicine. After successfully hosted the 2014 FIFA World Cup, 2016 Olympics and Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, the country is set to continue to be a red-hot travel destination for both tourists, interns, and volunteers looking to experience the home of futbal and samba. Prepare to be dazzled!

Brazil volunteer

 

Global Nomadic offers 50+ Professional InternshipsVolunteer Projects and TEFL Programmes in 30 countries worldwide. We told you what the top ten destinations are for internships in 2017, why not check out the rest for yourself?

 

Read More

The Future Starts Today

The future starts today

For decades, scientists and environmentalists have warned about the state of the world, trying to predict the point of no return. Right now, we are living in a time that many perceive as worse than any other point in living memory, even though more people than ever are actually living longer and in greater prosperity. In the volunteer and NGO industry, it’s a common phrase ‘to work for the future’. But what if the future has already started? What if we have already reached breaking point? Whilst wise (and less wise) men and women argue the semantics, we at Global Nomadic have realized; the future starts today. Today, we re-launch our website and renew our purpose – to empower change by connecting people. The kind of lasting change that comes from true experience and shared moments.

The world we live in today is different from the perception of the world in which many of us grew up. And understandably so. At the close of the last millennium, the future was looking bright. Walls between nations were falling, the Cold War had ended and the spread of the Internet made the whole world infinitely more interconnected, accessible, and in certain ways more unified. Today, we are once more facing walls designed to divide and wars are raging displacing tens of millions of people. The fate of our environment and thus our entire planet is teetering on a knife’s edge and social media is used to promote violence and hatred, fuelled by anonymity. Above all, it seems we have grown fearful. Fearful of our neighbours, of the unknown, even of each other. And so we are experiencing a kind of de-globalisation, a closing off of nations – the breaking up of the world into ever-smaller pieces, thinking we are stronger in isolation.

padlocked fence

This culture of suspicion is present also in the volunteerism & NGO industries. Countless articles have been spouted over the last decade warning of the dangers and pitfalls of irresponsible ‘voluntourism’, orphanages set up only as a way of making money out of rich, white Westerners with a saviour complex while hiding behind the veneer of humanitarianism. And rightly so, this is a growing problem and one we cannot afford to ignore.  But it should not serve to make us close our doors, stop travelling and stop exploring the world, other cultures, and other values.

Across the western world today there is a climate of narrow-mindedness spreading like a malignant tumour, yet not so silent. Populist politics are on the rise in almost all European countries, the European Union is creaking at the seams and in the US, Trump, his Mexican wall, and outrageous fear-mongering are knocking on the door of the White House, seeking to ‘make America great again’ by spurning the very foundation it is built upon – that ultimate melting-pot of a million different cultures interweaving into one.

This isn’t the world I grew up in and not the one most young people of today aspire to live in. In the aftermath of the tumultuous Brexit vote earlier this summer, it quickly became apparent that an overwhelming majority of young people had voted to stay in the European Union. They expressed a deep dismay at having their future international prospects so abruptly and irrevocably taken away. This wish to stay connected with the world is precisely what we at Global Nomadic wish to encourage. We see international internships and volunteer abroad opportunities not just as a cool thing to put on your CV, but as a pivotal point in a developing young mind. It’s a chance to meet the world in order to better understand it. It’s a chance to experience being a part of the famous bigger picture, to realise that the actions of a few can change the lives of many. It really is a chance to change the world, not by building a few mud walls, but by tearing down walls built out of prejudice and ignorance. It’s a chance that cannot be defined by monetary measures, but by something far more important – the value of solidarity.

world

In part, this desire for interconnectedness also stems precisely from the darker aspects of the current global climate. Whereas a few decades ago, it was only possible to consume a few bad pieces of news per day, we are now bombarded with every single atrocity around the world, in the moment it happens. Facing all this negativity, the demand to do something about it, to become a counterweight, seems to be growing in a greater number of people. The rise of the volunteerism industry is a positive proof of this, despite its shortcomings. Because regardless of the result, the impulse behind most volunteer trips is still the same; a desire to do something good, to help those less fortunate, to be something larger than yourself. There is a famous quote attributed to Muhammad Ali which says that ‘service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth’. But in fact, several studies  have also shown that volunteering is beneficial to the individual as well. Young people who volunteer are more likely to succeed, both professionally and developmentally – and more likely to vote. In short, the entire fabric of society becomes stronger the more people volunteer in service of a greater cause.

To this end, we are today re-launching our website, globalnomadic.com. We have worked hard to create a truly transparent meeting place for those wishing to contribute and those needing support. By providing a direct bridge between people and projects, we hope to build a better world and encourage a change in the global mindset. No middle-men, no hidden financial interests – just people, working together.  

In the end, we are all responsible for how the story of the world is going to play out – and we haven’t reached the last page yet. By connecting globally, we can grow locally, for the benefit of all.

Struggling to find the right internship placement? Check out the 50+ Professional InternshipsVolunteer Projects and TEFL Programmes that Global Nomadic offers in 30 countries worldwide. Travel your career – apply today!

Read More

Trans-Siberian Express

Trans-siberia

There are two ways to view a journey. Some see it merely as a means to an end, as a way to get where they want to go. Others view it as being as big a part of their trip as their time at the destination is.

If you fall into the former category, may I recommend an aeroplane. Anyone who likes the sound of the latter has probably considered the Trans-Siberian Railway at some point. I know I did. And then I planned it, and then I went across Russia on it. And now I’m going to share some of what I know with you.

While a trip across Siberia might sound like it needs military level planning, organising it can be made simpler by doing a little research and using agencies where needed. For people who prefer to have everything taken care of for them, or for those limited for time, agencies can offer a range of packages, from all-inclusive deals to simply buying your train train tickets before you leave your home country. For those people and the more independent minded traveller alike, some or all of the following information will be essential.

Something that everybody will need to arrange in advance are the necessary visas. And before you know which ones they are, you will need to know which countries you are planning to take in.

Anybody travelling across the length of Russia will of course need a Russian tourist visa. Going the whole way, from Moscow to Vladivostok, is only one route though. Other options are to travel through Mongolia and into China, for which you will need those relevant visas. There are agencies that can organise all of your visas at (as far as you are concerned) the same time. That is to say, you send your passport, documents and the information for every visa you need, and they will return your passport to you once they have procured them all. The agency I used for this was called Real Russia. It was painless, although there is something to note about the Russian visa in particular: every visa I have ever obtained for any country, bar Russia, has had a minimum length of stay. This has most often been a month, or thirty days, even if you state that you need less.

Russia was different. Russia asked me for my entry and exit dates, which I gave. They then gave me a visa for those dates. Two weeks. By the time I had finalised my plans, which included travelling prior to arriving in Russia, I was four days ‘late’ in arriving. Unfortunately, this didn’t result in my exit date being shifted four days. Now, I only had ten. Do not make the same mistake! Apply for more than you need. You don’t have to worry too much about accuracy when saying which cities you will visit, but make sure you apply for enough days to cover any changes that might happen to your itinerary.

One more thing to consider regarding this is, when crossing a border by train, knowing what time the train arrives at that border. That is when passports get checked, not when you arrive at the destination. If you’re arriving in the morning, you might be crossing the border before midnight the previous day. Ensure your visa is valid for when the train wants to enter the country.

Classes and Tickets

Like most trains, the ones of the Trans-Siberian routes offer different classes of tickets for different prices. In a nutshell, 1st Class tickets will see you in a two-bed private compartment, 2nd Class in a four-bed compartment, and 3rd Class in an open-plan carriage with four bunks per ‘space’. A little like a cabin, just with no door. Thinking about both price and ‘going local’, I went 3rd Class. Would I recommend it? Yes! But more on that later.

As mentioned earlier, it is possible to use an agency to buy your tickets for you before you leave home. Having a little more flexibility, although less than I’d hoped for because of the visa problem explained earlier, I bought mine at the train station in Moscow a few days before my departure. This wasn’t particularly difficult, although it wasn’t without its annoyances. Ask someone in your accommodation to write down the details of what you want, in Russian. Departure and arrival cities, the date, the class, and anything else relevant, and show this to the ticket vendor.

Expect crowds, not queues at the ticket windows. Also expect the seller to shake their head and point you to the next window once you’ve finally got to the front. This may happen more than once, and you may go from window 1 to 2 to 3 and finally be served at 4. Or 5, as the lady at 4 pulls the curtain down in your face and goes for lunch. There may be some frustration, and it may take longer than you thought, but there is no real reason you shouldn’t eventually be leaving the station with your ticket(s) bought.

Other Ticket Considerations

The Trans-Siberian is not a hop-on hop-off service. If you want to stop and see cities along the way, you will have to buy the relevant tickets that allow you to do this. A to B, B to C, C to D. There are a number of decent sized cities along the way, but I went straight from Moscow to Irkutsk, a common stop-off as it is the place from where to visit the immense Lake Baikal.

Not all trains are the same, and they don’t all travel at the same speed. Although the idea of travelling on the Trans-Siberian is all about the leisurely trundle across Russia, be aware that you could do it a little bit quicker by choosing the right train. You can tell by the numbers. Generally speaking, trains denoted by a single digit are faster and better quality, while three digit trains are slower and older. And cheaper.

If you are not travelling with enough people to fill a compartment, I would recommend buying a ticket for a top bunk. The bottom bunks are the only place to sit in the daytime, and if that’s your bed, you will have strangers on it. Having the top bunk means you have the option of sitting on the (other person’s) bottom bunk or lying down on your own top bunk.

The peak months for foreign tourists are May to September. The weather is warmer and the days are longer. This obviously makes booking a ticket that bit harder, but having a few more Westerners aboard can help you enjoy the journey more. During the winter, the trains are well heated and comfortable, although you will certainly need your coat, hat and gloves if you get off at a station to stretch your legs.

On Board

When a train takes days and days to reach its destination, food is an important consideration. There is a dining car, although I never used it. You can take on as much food and drink as you want. Popular items are vodka and beer, while more practical ideas include instant noodles, bread, cheese and snacks. There is an urn in each carriage with boiling water on tap for your noodles, tea, coffee and anything else.

Aside from what you carry on, vendors will occasionally walk up and down the carriage with a selection of wares, ranging from beer to instant noodles, bread to cheese and snacks like nuts or dried fish. Every time the train stops at a station for long enough for you to get off and walk around, there will be vendors on the platform too, selling the usual (but useful) food and drink.

Try to locate a timetable of when the train stops. A man near me had one, but I don’t know where he got it from and it was the only one I saw. They are highly useful, as not only do they tell you when you will next stop, but also for how long. Some stops are only a few minutes and are literally not worth getting out of bed for. Knowing when the next decent stop (twenty or thirty minutes) is can help you plan your day. That sounds ridiculous for a train journey, but it is true!

Being in 3rd Class, there were precious few other foreign travellers. Communicating as best I could with the local people, I found them in general to be a friendly bunch, but only after you have broken the ice. I found this true of most Russians I met away from the train too. Initial exchanges often seemed cold, but after a while I was being showered with beer and salami. I got lucky by being near a young Moscow couple who spoke very good English and were excellent, and very kind, company. I’m still in touch with them today.

The train itself is comfortable, with soft beds and enough space to walk up and down. As smokers have to go to to a space in between the carriages to have a cigarette, the air was clean and never unpleasant, and also kept at a reasonable temperature.

The whole atmosphere itself was one of people wanting to make themselves as comfortable as possible, with everyone knowing that we were all in it together. One young lady spent three days in her pyjamas, changing into an elegant dress and applying her make-up only when she reached her destination. Nobody batted an eyelid, except maybe me. People read, chatted, played cards and other games, ate, slept, watched the world go by, and generally did whatever they could to make the time pass. And pass it did. My journey took over three days, but it never dragged.

There are no electrical sockets in the cabins but there could be one halfway along the carriage, that the staff use for the vacuum cleaner. There are also shaver sockets in the bathrooms, located at both ends of the carriage. A few times, I stood behind people thinking they were waiting for the bathroom, only for them to motion that it was empty and they were merely charging their phone. With sockets rare and highly prized, consider going old-school and taking some non-electrical entertainment. I don’t know, like a book or something.

siberia

Things To Be Careful Of

Although I was lucky enough to make some local friends, there was a group of three or four young males who made me feel less comfortable. Indeed, when my friend disembarked before Irkutsk, he advised me to be careful of these people if they ever appeared drunk, as he didn’t trust them either. Nothing ever happened, but it pays to be aware. The Trans-Siberian is not a tourist train. It’s a real train, serving the public, and any country has its share of bad eggs.

Be careful with your gadgets. If travelling alone, you obviously can’t take everything to the toilet with you. But don’t leave your DSLR on your bed either. Put things out of sight if you have to leave them and go elsewhere for any reason. As ever, common sense goes a long way.

Be very careful with crossing the tracks when your train stops, and also take your passport with you every single time you get off. I nearly learnt these tips the very hard way, when our train stopped and a few of us crossed a couple of tracks to reach a platform to use the toilet. Although I had checked how long the stop was scheduled to be, I hadn’t imagined another train would pull in, blocking us from getting back to ours. A few people took what I saw as too big a risk and kind of crouch-walked under one of its carriages. I decided to go around, although these trains are long. With no idea if I had enough time or not, I ran down the side of the train, around the back and reached mine, luckily before it had started to pull away.

The worst case scenario here would have been me being stuck somewhere in Siberia with all my possessions, passport included, on their way to Irkutsk. Not a good situation. Be aware.

Time Capsule

One oddity that I found with taking the Trans-Siberian concerned Russia’s nine (at present) time zones. For uniformity, every train schedule in the country is set to Moscow time. The further East we went, the earlier the sun was rising and setting, but the time we were on inside the train never changed. The time inside the train rumbling through the countryside was different to the time directly outside. I realise a similar situation happens when you fly, but at this slower speed and over a longer duration and distance, the feeling of travelling in your own little time bubble was far more pronounced. Finally stepping off in Irkutsk and altering my watch was an odd moment too. Instant jet-lag. From a train journey.

Unfortunately, this also gives another potential headache to train travellers in Russia. If your destination is in another time zone, the arrival time written on your schedule will of course be different to the local time when you arrive. Services like hotel pick-ups should realise this, but if you’re making your own arrangements, you’d better make sure you know what time you really arrive. And don’t be fooled by the station clock, as this will also show Moscow time, no matter where the station is.

After The Trans-Siberian

I consider the Moscow to Irkutsk leg of my journey to be my Trans-Siberian experience. After this, I bought tickets on to Ulan Ude, Ulan Bator and eventually Beijing independently and after breaking it up with time spent in each place. None of these were ever more than an overnight train. Again, with flexibility on your dates, doing this independently is not difficult. In fact, these tickets were easier to buy than the one from Moscow to Irkutsk had been, due to there being less demand for them.

The Trans-Siberian certainly changed how I think about travel. It made me realise how valuable the journey is, and is not just a means to an end. I slowly continued by train to Hong Kong, seeing China as I went. I had started in London and gone through Europe before arriving in Moscow. I could have flown from London to Hong Kong, instead of taking three months overland. Those three months though were travelling, not a twelve-hour necessity that needs to be gotten out of the way before you start travelling. And when it was over, and I took a flight to Bangkok, I felt kind of guilty to not be going overland.

I also realised how small the world really is, which was the complete opposite to what I had expected. Flying halfway around the world in half a day should do that, shouldn’t it? I disagree. When flying, you can’t get a real feeling for how far you have actually gone. Taking the train may take far longer, but there is no comparable feeling to looking at a world map and knowing you did it on the ground. Beforehand, it looked too far. It should have been gruelling. It should have been a slog. But it wasn’t. It was enjoyable and easily achievable and you did it. And that is what makes the world look a hell of a lot smaller.

Read More

Winning Essay – RVC Veterinary Competition

Congratulations to Olivia Lane on winning the 2014 Royal Veterinary College essay competition, sponsored by Global Nomadic. Olivia won a free 1 month placement at the Manatee and Primate Rehabilitation project in Belize.

Below you can find her winning essay;

Welfare Without Borders: Cultural Differences Should Continue to Play an Important Role In The Perception of Animal Welfare Internationally

Animals play a huge part in every culture around the world. With many societies rapidly modernising and globalisation dominating day-to-day life, it is becoming more and more important to preserve unique cultures and traditions wherever possible. Variety within the human race enriches society and there is so much to be learned from different attitudes, approaches and practices around the globe. However, many of the traditions involving animals have welfare implications making it hard to define what is acceptable and what is not.

Animal welfare will always be a controversial topic. Welfare is a spectrum; there is no clear cut definition between good and bad. A person’s perception of welfare is based oimg_082710n their own experiences. If someone is used to seeing animals treated in a certain way, then that way will constitute normality, and therefore will be acceptable to them. In the developing world, working animals are often relied upon for the day-to-day survival of their owners. In some cases, the animal may be in very poor condition and possibly lame, however this suffering may be due to poverty rather than deliberate cultural practices. This presents a complex problem because if the animal continues to work it will be suffering, but if it ceases to work then both owner and animal will go hungry. These circumstances require owner education in a hope to maintain the animal’s health to the highest degree possible, even though welfare may still compromised as it continues to work.

The value with which animals are perceived varies significantly within different cultures. Several countries have highly-regarded traditional sports with serious animal welfare implications. The banning of fox-hunting in the UK was exceedingly controversial despite the unquestionable welfare implications for the fox. Similarly, there is no denying the suffering involved in practises like bullfighting, bear-baiting, dog fighting and dolphin slaughtering, yet people are willing to overlook it in the name of tradition.

Some religions stipulate specific ways in which animals should be treated, or slaughtered. Religious texts were written long before we had the facilities and knowledge we now possess, meaning that modern day methods have significantly improved animal welfare in comparison. There is a strong argument for certain traditions to be modified due to the ethical implications of consciously choosing a technique with poor welfare when a kinder method is readily available.

It’s incredible what can be achieved by modern medicine, however some cultures still champion traditional medicinal practices, many of which involve animal products. Harvesting ingredients for traditional medicine has nearly driven several species to extinction. In Asia, rhinos are hunted for their horns for use in Traditional Chinese Medicine. Rhino poaching leads to horrendous suffering and death, and subsequently some species of rhino are now critically endangered. Similarly, tigers are hunted for body parts because some cultures believe them to have mythical powers. Another practice causing immense animal suffering in the name of Traditional Medicine is the use of bile-bears. Both the conditions in which the animals are kept and the methods used for extracting the bile cause the animal great distress and pain. These are just a few examples of cultural traditions causing animal suffering when there are better and more ethical approaches available.

Livestock and domestic pets play a huge role in culture. In the farming industry, some more modern societies have a tendency to neglect animal welfare in favour of saving money. Intensive farming is common practice in most first-world countries, and there is no denying that the desired efficiency often comes to the detriment of animal welfare. The animals are vulnerable to many problems, including stress, chronic lameness and other injuries as a result of the overcrowding. Equally, the shift towards a consumerist culture is having an effect on our domestic pets. Obesity is a major problem among the human population and many owners inflict the same issue on their pets by over-feeding them. Obese pets generally have a decreased quality of life and are at risk of painful diseases such as arthritis and diabetes. As our culture become more and more about consumerism, are we ignoring the declining welfare of our animals?

A country’s wild animals undoubtedly contribute to its culture. The clash of the growing, modernising human population with nature and habitat destruction is an on-going debate and possibly one of the most prominent contemporary global issues. The welfare and preservation of wild animals in immensely important, but sadly involves significant human compromise which not everyone is inclined to make.

A person’s culture is part of their identity and is something that should be cherished; however animals should not suffer purely for the preservation of human tradition. We are an educated, knowledgeable race and do not need to inflict unnecessary cruelty on other species. Cultural diversity can be celebrated through art, food, language and countless other media without impacting on animal welfare. Changing, and even abolishing, cultural practises takes time, education and patience as they are often deep- rooted in societies. As professionals working abroad with other cultures, vets must try to suspend reliance on their own cultural background and use their training and experience to determine where the line between acceptable and unacceptable is. Cultural differences should indeed continue to play an important role in the perception of animal welfare internationally, but should never be used as an excuse to justify animal suffering.

Olivia Lane 2014

Read More

5 Reasons Why You Should Check “Yes” To Relocation

A question many job seekers overlook is a small box, normally under the availability date, the travel related boxes. Many of us just glance over these options, saying “no” we would rather not travel more than a said amount of miles, and automatically say “no” to relocating for the position. Unfortunately, that limits your opportunities right off the bat for many companies. For those of us seeking an internship, this is a crucial step that many miss out on! Here is a list of five top reasons why you should check “yes” to relocate, and be willing to travel at the drop-of-a-hat.

1. Paid Expenses

If you are willing to relocate for a company, normally they are willing to at least meet you halfway, cost wise. If you have to uproot from your home of a mere few years, this will be easier than many more established, thus you should seek these internship opportunities before you are too settled in. However, for those who have a family, many companies will offer compensation for living expenses for the first few months, if not for the entire duration of the project for which you are traveling for.

2. Experience a New Culture

Internships hardly ever happen in your backyard, therefore, to be willing to relocate to an area that is completely new, which will turn to be an asset for both you and the company. Many people wish they would have traveled more while they had the time, sadly, many things stopped said individuals from completing their dreams. An internship can immerse you into a new language, new traditions, and so many more unique aspects of a culture. By accepting this international internship, you will be doing what millions wished they had, and better yet, you are being paid for it!

3. Increasing Stability in Position, Or Better

To put it frankly, if a company is investing thousands for you to go overseas and work on an international project, it may be safe to say you have a bit of job security. However, the knowledge you learn while on this internship can help cement that relationship with the company, making you an invaluable asset. Becoming invaluable is something to strive for, as long as it’s in the good way, taking on a new relocation venture shows dedication to a company. Dedication is something Board members are made out of, seeing the link yet?

4. Contribute to the Bigger Picture

Many companies collaborate on a global effort, meaning you will be traveling to places such as Japan, Australia, California, Brazil, India, and so many more areas that are thriving from the industry you are entering into. While it may seem very scary to move to these places, you are playing an essential role in growing the company, you may even be the ambassador for your country, to represent their ideas, how awesome is that?

5. Enrich Your Life

You’ve visited every local attraction, you could apply to be a tour guide at a local park, you could even paint from memory most of the painting in your local museum, boring! Spice up your nights by accepting an international internship, you won’t be working every day, giving you plenty of time to explore local hotspots, or not so known “mom-and-pop” shops to send treats back home. A job does not have to be a job, if you let it become a passion you will experience every day as something great. Drop the dread, and get excited, you are in a new place, no one knows your past, do something great!

The idea of leaving everything you know may be very scary to some, and yet to others, it would be welcomed. No matter what your situation is, taking on an internship will benefit you in many ways. Take the plunge and live your life, learn something new, and keep on striving for more.

Read More

Volunteering Vs Internships

volunteering vs. internships

Ever wondered what exactly an internship really is? And when exactly is the best time to go on an adventure and what is the difference between the two really? And most importantly, how do you choose? Well, the answer – put simply – is that there is no simple answer. Every one of us is unique, with different dreams, goals, interests, experiences and dreams. What we can do however is explain what the different options mean for you personally – whoever you might be.

Internships – invest in your future

Internships take you a step beyond simply volunteering. As the name implies, they are essentially internships, with the added bonus of travel to far-flung and exotic locations thrown in. But an internship can be so much more than simply travelling and volunteering. These are serious work placements specifically designed to get you that oh-so-elusive foot in the door to the industry of your choice at the same time as giving you plenty of work experience in the field – something which is increasingly important when it comes to seeking paid employment in the cutthroat job market of today.

Job markets quite aside, internships are also uniquely suited for students and post-graduates of a great variety of subjects. Many of our internship projects offer you the chance to bring your own research questions to the project, enabling you to make your internship a part of your education.

They are also hard work. Apart from the potential research carried out at many projects, many internships also involve tough physical labour in a tropical climate. You might be engaged in long nightly patrols on a beach in Costa Rica looking for hatching turtles, digging a well in Cambodia or installing solar panels in a small village in Nicaragua. As serious work placements, internships require you to have a genuine passion for the work that you do and the field you are working in. In most cases, the work carried out by volunteers is also vitally important in keeping the project running, be it marine conservation in the oceans of the world or grassroots recycling in urban Ghana.

In return, an internship is a truly rewarding experience, for everyone involved. Although there are projects accepting volunteers for as short a time as one week, most internships require and also benefit from a longer time commitment. Spending a prolonged time immersed in the project and the surrounding local culture will also give you a deeper understanding of the work you do while allowing you to form real bonds with locals and fellow volunteers alike.

Volunteering – Experience the world from a different perspective

We appreciate that not everyone is dead serious about their career or maybe haven’t found their path in life just yet. To that end – we offer you Volunteer adventures. Doing pretty much what it says on the tin, it’s adventure travel with room for volunteering in your chosen destination so you can pay back some goodwill to the countries you travel through instead of just being a normal tourist. (Who wants to be normal anyway?) Volunteer adventures can be as short as a week and as long as…forever. These are extraordinary flexible projects, allowing you to work in many different areas and build a travel adventure perfectly suited to your own tastes and interests. Maybe you are interested in learning Muy Thai boxing followed by a little jungle trekking followed by a stint of teaching followed by some Buddhist meditation? Then a Thailand adventure is for you. Perhaps you would like to find out if working in a medical profession is for you? You could head to India or Cambodia and work in a health care centre before spending some time on the beach. Animals more you thing? Spend some time washing elephants in the largest elephant camp in the world before bending your limbs on a yoga adventure in Sri Lanka. Or why not do it all? The choice – and the adventure – is yours.

Read More