Jen and Col's Excellent Adventure

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Hope Theres No Spiders - The Interview

Life just won't be the same without regular updates from Jen and Col. In this exclusive interview, they tell us what its like to travel the world and write the most popular blog this side of an egg sandwich.

Jen and Col, since writing the Hopetheresnospiders blog you've become legends in your own lunch time. What have you to say to all the fans you're abandoning now you're back in Blighty?
Col: Obviously we're sorry to be back. We'd rather continue our globe-trotting adventures and continue providing both witty and insightful comments to our legions of fans. Unfortunately this isn't to be, so people will just have to find other ways to waste time at work without our help.
Jen: The support our fans have shown during the past 12 months has been outstanding, we couldn't have done it without them. Perhaps if they all clubbed together... we'd be more than happy to go off again?

Have you learnt anything during the last year?
Jen: Oh yes we’ve learnt lots haven’t we Col.
Col: We certainly have Jen.
Jen: During a particularly desperate moment I learnt that I can hang my entire body weight off two fingers. Useful if you suddenly find yourself precariously balanced in an underground cave.

Col: Well I'm currently perfecting a new method of solving my Rubix cube, and yes, I can play When I'm Cleaning Windows on the Uke (Jen has to do the singing). If you're looking for anything deeper than that you're probably going to be disappointed. Although, I can count to ten in Thai and Japanese. Possibly in Mandarin too - at least I'll be able to by the time this interview goes out...

Q Many people go travelling in order to find themselves. Did you find yourself?
Col: I wasn't aware I'd ever lost myself. Jen does go missing occasionally, but she's very small and can easily fall down the side of things. I did find a few things - like the Chinese, I found them intensely annoying when they wouldn't stop staring...
Jen: I wasn’t actually looking for myself. I’d never been to any of these places before so I’d have been confused to find I was already there.

Q Of all the many places you have visited, which Country did you like the best?
Col: That's a very good question; one I have been asked before, and expect to be asked many, many, more times. I think I'll go with Thailand, or maybe Japan. Malaysia was very nice too. And Australia. I did enjoy our time there...
Jen: You're right, blimey, there are so many good memories. Canada was beautiful for sure and it would be a great place to live. But I'd have to agree with Col and plump for Thailand.
Col: Who wouldn't love a Country that thinks you're a whore?
Jen: Would you like a slap?
Jen: What Col meant to say was the combination of great scenery, tasty food, smiley people, good weather and laid back ambience all come together to make Thailand worth returning to. Which we did.

Col: Oh yes, that’s exactly what I meant to say!

Q You were travelling backpack style. What was the best thing that you took with you?
Col: Well a backpack was obviously quite useful. Clothes, we considered those essential. And a credit card; couldn't have left home without that. Other than those I guess a good sense of adventure and a poor sense of smell were invaluable.
Jen: Unfortunately we’re not all blessed with a poor sense of smell. Two months in a camper van with Col's feet?
Jen: The best thing I took was a travel clothes line, one of those bungee cord things. I loved it and used it most days.

Q Was there anything you took with you but didn't use?
Col: Ball of string. Who'd've thought.
Jen: I forgot we even had that.

Q You must have come into contact with lots of new cultures. Did you meet any interesting people?
Col: Interesting?? Well there was the guy in Lake Louise who swore to himself in his sleep. That was...interesting.
Jen: Oh yes, and there was that feller in Tokyo who shouted out ‘Polystyrene’ in his sleep.
Col: That’s right. We met lots of people, both travellers and locals. Some of them are probably reading this so I won't go into favourites here (except Dave and Claire in Calgary, we might be needing to use your spare room again soon - Hi Dave! Hi Claire!).

Q Any challenging moments?
Jen: I think I’ve already mentioned the Feet and Campervan combo…
Col: ...
Jen: It was quite a challenge to last 12 months with only a pair of trainers, walking boots and some flip flops in the footwear department. But luckily I managed to purchase myself some of those sexy walking sandals in New Zealand. They are a crime against fashion but it took my grand total footwear option to four! (… but then I had to ditch the trainers due to xs weight in the backpack area…)
Col: Challenging...well, I somehow managed to wear the same trainers for 6 months and didn't need a new outfit every week. I got by.

Q And Highlights?
Jen: No, it's bleaching from the sun.
Col: And I've had mine cut a number of times. You might have noticed it's got a bit shorter.

Q Ahem, yes, your hair is a popular topic on the discussion boards. However what I meant was what ‘were the highlights from the trip'?
Col: Oh right. Machu Picchu, Grand Canyon, Great Barrier Reef, Great Wall of China. Yeah, there have been a few. Wendy's is a favourite now too.
Jen: Plus elephant riding in Thailand, the Terracotta Army, penguin spotting at dusk, sleeping in swagbags under the stars in Oz… the whole year was a highlight.
Jen: Is Wendy’s rated higher than Starbucks? Remember the free wireless internet.

Col: Good point… add Starbucks to that list will you?
Jen: It’s a bit sad to put two franchise chains on the list though
Col: Good point… remove Wendy’s
Jen: Although Wendy’s do a nice jacket potato
Col: Good point… burn the list

Q Would you do it again?
Jen: In a heartbeat. But next time I would build-in quick trips home every 6 months. It’s a long time to go without mushy peas.
Col: If I did it again I'd make sure I was richer so I could eat better, sleep better and buy more stuff!

Q Is there any aspect you would NOT do again?
Col: Let Jen trap my hand in a car door.
Jen: I said I was sorry. I am still very sorry.
Col: Actually, you're usually busy laughing hysterically every time you remember it.
Jen: It's a nervous reaction. Besides you hurt the other hand yourself falling down the stairs.
Col: And I was sober on both occasions. This finger is still not right.
Jen: Anyway, I wouldn’t get my hair cut in Shanghai. It’s hard to relax while people are trying to rip you off.
Col: that too.

Q What was your favourite meal?
Col: Hmmm. We did have some very nice food. Things that spring to mind are the first Masamman Curry I had in Thailand, the Green Curry on Ko Pha Ngan, Peking Duck in Beijing, Sushi breakfast in Tokyo. Unfortunately, the one that stands out most was the buffet at Le Meridien Angkor - mainly due to the 3 courses of pudding I had. And this was closely followed by the buffet at the Hong Kong Hyatt that Natasha treated us to - again, lots of pudding, just not quite as much chocolate related fare as the Angkor.
Jen: One of the best things about travelling was trying out new foods. The Steam boat in Malaysia and the Hot pot dinner on a stick thing in Chengdu were both very interesting; particularly when that fish head rose up out of the pot and surprised us. And the group house dinners in Canada were lots of fun.
Col: By the way, when is a chicken not a chicken...

Q How did you manage to fit all your clothes into one bag?
Jen: Folding helped. And putting some things in plastic bags, Hardly taking anything with us also had a lot to do with it.
Col: I found that wearing the same clothes every day reduced space nicely.
Jen: Did you know, it’s possible to exist for a year with only 5 pairs of pants (that’s knickers not trousers for you American types). And if you wash your undies out every day you get to use the washing line too which is always nice.
Col: Did you also know it's possible to wear the same pair of pants for 5 days, thus avoiding the need to do much washing at all :-)
Jen: words fail me…

Q What did you miss most from home?
Jen: Friends and family, our cats, mushy peas, decent cheese, my shoes, my clothes, my garden.
Col: Cricket, Golf, my Playstation2/iPod/Computer/Sky/Car. And decent salad cream, English sausages, 555 take away. Oh yeah, and friends and family.

Q What would you say to anyone contemplating a RTW trip, what advice can you share with our Readers?
Jen: You need a Visa to get into India, it might be worth organising it before you get to the airport.
Col: Careful with the ice-cubes. They do funny things to your bottom.

Q Wise words, what else has a year of backpacking taught you?
Col: To not go backpacking for a year! Or if you do, be sure to schedule regular visits to beaches to recharge batteries.
Jen: Aye, there does come a stage when you simply can’t be Buddha-d anymore. Try to limit yourselves to fewer than 5 historic sights in any one minute.

Q Jen you seem a little obsessed with toilets, what was all that about?
Jen: Here’s an interesting fact. The National Phobics Society estimates that at least four million Britons are affected by toilet phobias. Four million! The Society has even launched a self-help book and DVD. Can you imagine what’s on that DVD?
Col: Bottoms; a popular topic of conversation amongst travellers.
Jen: And I reckon that the best way to tell if a place is any good is to look at their toilets. That works for everything from café’s to countries. I was giving up a three toilet house to go and shower in flip flops. Once you’ve got over the sights and the weather – what everyone wants to know is “but what are the toilets like”.
Col: But you are a little obsessed Jen. I think it’s a family thing. We once went on holiday with Jen's sister who brought a small bottle of bleach with her.
Jen: What’s wrong with that, it was handy for the bathroom.
Col: See what I mean?

Q Col, the ukulele hasn’t appeared in any of the more recent Blogs. Has it made it home safely?
Col: Indeed it has. Lack of pictures has been an oversight on my part, sorry about that. It’s now a well travelled uke and sporting a sticker from every place we visited. And here it is…

Q Can you share with our readers some observations on the backpacking lifestyle?
Jen: Backpacking as a lifestyle is both sociable and transient
Col: There are two methods to backpacking - 1) religiously sticking to a budget or 2) enjoying your time away. Number 2 every time.
Jen: Yes there are 2 styles to backpacking – 1) dirty scummy hippy traveller type or 2) clean. I’d recommend the second option ;-)

Q Talking of which. You’ve been back in the ‘real world’ for a couple of weeks now, do you still smell?
Col: Yes, a little. I'm still living out of my backpack so I don't have much choice.
Jen: It’s odd being back home. For starters I’m not at home I’m mostly at my mums house, secondly I’m still living out of a bag and thirdly my cats are doing their level best to pretend I’m still not there.

Q Are you looking forward to being back and rejoining the rat race?
Col: Ah yes, about that...
Jen: We’re putting off that inevitability by opting to be ski bunnies for another season. After Christmas we’re flying out to Canada. Another three months on the slopes and to hell with getting a real job. Marvellous plan don’t you think?

Q Sounds like you’ve still got the travel bug. After spending so long with each other it’s amazing you’re still talking!
Col: Ah yes, about that too...
Jen: For 2007 we thought we’d have a go at getting hitched.
Col: To each other.
Jen: Col proposed while we were in Thailand and I’m now sporting a fantastic rock on my finger. It’s so sparkly!
Col: We just need to work out a ‘where’ and a ‘when’ but I’m sure that a party will be involved...
Jen: …and a frock and pretty shoes…
Col: …and cake…
Jen: So all in all the adventures just keep coming!
Col: and you never know, we might find another cause for blogging one day. You have been warned.

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