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Our Experience Days Winner Blog

Back in July we launched our Travel Money Survey to find out a little more about customer holiday trends, habits and what they look for in a travel insurance policy. We received a great number of responses, which was brilliant, but could only choose one respondent to win the £50 Experience Days voucher. We are pleased to announce that the winner is Miss Rachel Evans - congratulations - and here is her winning blog post.

Please tell us 3 interesting facts about yourself.

  1. I never went on a family holiday as a child. Living on a farm, by the coast, my parents couldn't leave for extended periods and felt it was unnecessary anyway.
  2. Part of my travel funding comes from markets and fairs at home. I make and sell clothes, toys and accessories from fabrics and textiles. The rest comes from a willingness to work as many part time jobs as I can juggle.
  3. I can actually juggle and do various other circus skills, which I learnt at a university society. I make juggling balls for local children when I travel and try to teach them to juggle.

Do you think you need a lot of money to have a good holiday?

Absolutely not! I hardly ever travel with much money as you end up staying in much more interesting places, meeting more interesting people, and what really makes a holiday amazing is the people you spend it with. You don't need expensive trips to have a good time, you don't even need a plane ticket, just good company.

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What countries have you travelled to?

So far I've been to Canada, New Zealand, Australia, Costa Rica, Indonesia, Cambodia, South Korea, Italy, France, Switzerland and The Netherlands. I will be heading back to South East Asia shortly on a trip that will include more of Indonesia and Cambodia, the Philippines, Malaysia, Thailand, and, hopefully Vietnam, Laos and East Timor.

Do you have a thirst for adventure? Tell us about any sports or adventure activities you have done whilst abroad.

New Zealand really is the capital of adventure: Zorbing, Glacier Trekking, White Water Rafting, Black Water Rafting (an amazing sport), Abseiling, Caving, and Bungee Jumping. I love bungee jumping. It's amazing. We went 3 times in one day! I've also been Scuba Diving and Snorkelling in Australia, Jungle trekking in Sumatra as well as Kayaking and Canoeing and Mountain Climbing. I give anything a go if I get a chance.

 

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What else is on your bucket list?

My bucket list is never ending. A top few would be:

 

What are we likely to find in your holiday suitcase?

Everything else tends to vary. As long as it's useful and fits into my 35lt rucksack it has the potential to come with me. Below is an example of what I would pack for going away on a 3 month trip.

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You have £1,000, one week and must leave tomorrow, where would you go and what would you do?

Trans-Siberian Railway tour!

Do you worry about anything when on holiday?

Visa expiration is always a bother (I hate having to renew my visa!) Another thing I worry about is heading to a country with no 'onward travel' booked. I like to play by ear a lot of the time, stay in a place until I want to move on, so having onward travel booked (or not) is often something I worry about when I arrive at an airport. A few times I've had to book another flight before they let me board. Always worry I won't be let into the country on arrival then.10

 

What country that you have visited would come first on your top 10 list and which would come last? And why?

Top: Indonesia. I love it there. The people are so friendly, the atmosphere is relaxed and the food is good. On top of that, there's such a diverse range of scenery and activities. You've got huge cities, with amazing cultural diversity. Temples, beaches, volcanoes, coral reefs with amazing snorkelling, as well as vast jungles with amazing animals and trekking. No matter where you go everyone is so helpful. They really want you to see the best of their country. Each island is really different as well. There is so much to experience there; you could never be done with Indonesia.

Bottom: So far would be Costa Rica. I visited the Caribbean coast and this was amazing and it was an incredible experience. However I didn't get to spend much time at all away from the project I was doing there, so didn't really get to interact with locals or experience much of the country. The time I did spend in San Jose it didn't feel friendly like so many of the places I've visited. I would like to go back and give Costa Rica another chance.

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What's been your travel highlight so far?

Working with elephants in Cambodia was an amazing experience, as was holding hands with a wild Orangutan in Sumatra. But I think the highlight was finding Leatherback turtles on the beaches in Costa Rica in the middle of the night. It was magical. The size of them, the way they moved, and just coming across them in the moonlight. Just waves, moonlight, jungle, black sand and a huge Leatherback turtle. Magical. Unfortunately there's no photography around sea turtles so I can't show you that. Sleeping out in the Australian Outback is a very close second though. Being able to see thousands of stars above you and hearing dingoes howl in the distance - perfect.

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Tell us your biggest achievement!

Taking part in my first ever climbing competition. I didn't score at all noteworthy, it was more of a 'you don't have to be good to take part' moment. It was the start of the 'just give it a go' attitude that started taking me around the world and has led to achievement number 2 - Getting my TEFL certificate - which again I think is more for show than for practicality but it was enough to give me the push to get my first teaching job in South East Asia.

Who plays you in the film about your life?

Some obscure actress that no one has ever heard of, with crazy hair. Or Maisie Williams.

If you were stuck on a desert island, what would you take with you?

I love the idea of being stuck on a desert island and I would bring a few practical things of course such as a knife, matches, as well as some books I don't mind re-reading: Ben Fogle's Accidental Adventurer, The Lord of the Rings... oh and plenty of writing material. My hammock definitely would also be packed, and my little Tig the Tiger toy who comes everywhere on my adventures of course.

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Have you ever won anything from entering competitions? If so, what?

I won tickets to a Red Bull Diving Competition... I wasn't in the country at the time. I gave the tickets to my mam and sister.

If someone was visiting your home town for the first time, what would be on the itinerary?

I consider the whole of Cardigan Bay my home town so there's a whole coastline of small coves and beaches to explore by coastal path or sea kayak. The area is the birthplace of coasteering as well so that's a definite top of the list, such an amazing activity too! Cardigan town holds dozens of mini music festivals and food festivals through the summer, which are amazing, the Pizza Tipi being a top spot. A trip to Skomer Island to see Puffins, which is definitely as good as seeing penguins! And there are dozens of castle ruins in the area to explore. It's generally a chilled out area so beach bonfires and bbq's and camping is the thing to do.

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If you were confined to one country for the rest of your life, where would you choose... and what would your profession of choice be?

Indonesia, without a doubt. I would love to be a tourist guide there. Being a jungle guide would be even better, but that's reserved for locals. However I am happy to just teach English and Conservation there. It's an amazing thing to be doing.

If you could travel back in time, what place and year would you travel to and why?

The temptation would be to go back to 1768 to join Captain Cook on his voyages. The reality probably wouldn't be as good as the dream but to experience ocean travel like that would be amazing, and to see New Zealand, Australia and Indonesia - places I've been to, all that time ago would be incredible!

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