Forget the Golden Globes or the Oscars; I bring you … the inaugural Gap Year Edit Alternative Travel Awards!
Always wanted to know which is the most obliging animal to take a photo of? How not to speak to a bank clerk in Bosnia? Or where to fly if you want an entertaining flight?
Researched meticulously from the exclusive sample of the eight countries I visited on my 2015 travels, the GYEATAs are sure to be the next big thing in travel 😉
Whoop, whoop! [opens champagne]
Without further ado, let’s reveal the first category.
The Alternative Travel Award for “most obliging animal in a photo”
I don’t tend to photograph a lot of wildlife. Mostly ‘cos I’m too slow off the mark or don’t have the right camera lens with me at the time. However, these snaps were made all the more entertaining by the animals that make a welcome and unexpected appearance.
The nominees are:
Happy dog, Scarborough, Yorkshire, England (December 2015)
Ducks in a row, Selva Negra, Nicaragua (February 2015)
Curious iguana, Miami, Florida, USA (January 2015)
And the Award goes to …
Dog? Iguana? Dog? Iguana?
The dog, of course! He’s fluffy and cute, and posed for ten minutes straight, despite not being my dog!
The “most entertaining flight” Award
I took 11 flights in 2015, with Easyjet being my most-flown airline for trips to Lisbon, a one-way to Split, and back from Dubrovnik. My experiences with them were pretty straightforward – you know what you get and it’s good value. These flights, however, were slightly more unconventional:
Flight over the volcanoes with Air La Costeña. Managua to San Carlos, Nicaragua (February 2015).
Entertaining for: Its beauty. And the small plane.
Belfast, Northern Ireland to Liverpool, England with FlyBe (December 2015).
Entertaining for: The diversion. We were meant to be flying to Leeds.
London, England to Miami, Florida, USA – return flight with Virgin Atlantic using my air miles, and with only the taxes to pay. (January/March 2015).
Entertaining for: being free, free, free!
The diverted flight wasn’t too painful and the free flight was of course wonderful (especially as I had four seats just for me on the outbound journey), but the winner of The Gap Year Edit Alternative Travel Award has to be …
The 12-seater Cessna flight over the volcanoes on/in Lake Nicaragua, from the capital Managua, to the outpost and gateway to the Rio San Juan, San Carlos. Now, if only I hadn’t packed my camera away …
You’ll just have to use your imagination to figure it was pretty cool to fly over these:
The “worst attempt to speak a foreign language” Alternative Travel Award
My Spanish improved no end after Spanish language school, and I do TRY and speak a few words of the local lingo when I’m in another country. Success is a whole other story.
With that in mind, the award nominations are:
At the bank in Sarajevo, Bosnia-Hercegovina. I was clutching inordinately large denominations of local currency, and gushing forth in appallingly pronounced Bosnian: “Change. Small. Please.”
Reply from bank clerk: “You can speak English”.
On a kayak in the middle of Lake Nicaragua, mid-conversation with my guide:
Me: “I will be windy this afternoon”
Cue confused look and a very polite “si”.
Ah. IT will be windy, Julie … IT.
Note to self: Do not try to be a clever-***e with the future tense.
The wrong language
Lisbon, Portugal – I told my friends I’d meet them at the mirador (viewpoint), and couldn’t understand why they looked bemused. Turns out I’ve incorporated random Spanish words into my English vocab – oops! Spanish word to English friends in Portugal. Serious fail!
The Alternative Travel Award goes to … Bosnian. It reminded me to not take language skills for granted.
Just because the bank clerk and the Sarajevans I talked to – as your average tourist – had very admirable English skills, it would’ve been presumptuous to assume everyone did.
Plus, I like to think my horrific attempt at Bosnian at the very least gave them a laugh for the rest of the afternoon.
Bank vocabulary aside, I could at least make a decent effort to order coffee in Bosnian 🙂
The “most surreal attraction” Award
Turns out there are a fair few of these kicking around, surreal for different reasons.
El Castillo, Nicaragua (March 2015).
Surreal because: it’s a full-on bona-fide castle … in the middle of a jungle.
The Forbidden Corner, Yorkshire, England (October 2015).
Surreal because: It’s an interactive 3D adventure with tunnels, gardens and clues to solve. Words can’t describe it.
Coral Castle, Florida, USA (January 2015).
Surreal because: a man made his home single-handedly, by carving chunks of coral rock.
And the winner of the Alternative Travel Award is …
The Forbidden Corner. If it’s impossible to describe (despite me having visited three times over the years), it must be surreal. Love it, love it, love it!
The “worst sound to be woken up by” Alternative Travel Award
Just to clarify, I LIKE monkeys, buses and helicopters. They’re just not my fave things to hear at 5am, that’s all.
The nominees are:
Howler monkeys. Boca de Sábalos, Nicaragua (March 2015). Has T-Rex come to get me in my log cabin?!
The very loud horn of the chicken bus – anywhere in Nicaragua (January to March 2015)
A Chinook helicopter delivering supplies to help save York, England, from further flooding (December 2015)
The Alternative Travel Award winner would’ve been the bus, but the chinook pipped it at the post.
Not only are chinooks VERY loud, but the circumstances around it being there were pretty rubbish as well. York is now clearing up, and the city is very much open for business. Thanks to our RAF and local community for making it so!
The “best gallery/exhibition” Alternative Travel Award
Forget the big national galleries, this was about some unexpectedly incredible exhibitions in locations you might not expect.
Centro de Arte Fundación Ortíz-Gurdián, León, Nicaragua (February 2015). There was a Picasso exhibition on when I was there. But even without it, this is a seriously impressive modern art gallery, by any country’s standards.
TPOTY, London, England (August 2015). Travel photographs. Sigh. One of the photos even made me want to go to Yemen – at least when the country finds peace again. This is an annual exhibition, so watch out for it next year.
David Hockney exhibition, Salts Mill, Yorkshire, England (May 2015). Paintings done on an iPad, throughout the seasons. Hockney’s a genius at making art accessible. The exhibition is still on!
The winner of the Alternative Travel Award is …
Can I pick all three? Yup, they’re my Awards, so I can do what I like 🙂 They were all fantastic and I’d go again in a heartbeat.
The “weather fail” Alternative Travel Award
There was rain, and then there was more rain. Fortunately not on all my travels, but the weather made a couple of unwelcome appearances in 2015.
Mostar, Bosnia-Hercegovina (October 2015) – the rain was so heavy on my first afternoon there that I couldn’t face leaving my accommodation to walk the five minutes to the famous bridge!
Dubrovnik, Croatia (October 2015) – when it rains heavily, Dubrovnik’s bus station – which looks pretty new – has a roof that is NOT waterproof. Serious architecture fail. Rubbish roof + delayed bus = soggy Julie.
York, England (December 2015). It flooded. Did I mention that already?
The winner (or loser!) is … Dubrovnik’s bus station. C’mon. Who builds a bus station with a roof that doesn’t keep water out?
The Alternative Travel Award for “most interesting conversational experience”
I’ll sum this up in one word: “Nicaragua”.
The Nicaraguans are wonderful conversationalists.
There was Jorge, the retired biologist in Matagalpa, who conversed about Margaret Thatcher, Nicaraguan politics and chickens over the course of an hour wandering together (me on foot, him on horseback), before he picked me some fresh mandarins. As you do.
Not forgetting Carlos the former revolutionary in León – it’s not every day you get to meet an actual revolutionary and get the off-piste part of the museum tour. Or to hold a bazooka.
Or Jorge the coffee picker, who suddenly announced in perfect English (mid conversation in Spanish): “I study English through a correspondence course with the University of Birmingham in the UK”. Er … you do what, now? Seriously humbling.
If you want a good natter, where pretty much no topic is off limits, Nicaragua’s the place to go!