10 conversation topics that may come in handy when travelling

Okay, so picture the scene: you’re sat on a packed bus or train, heading off to your next destination; you’re tired, you can’t wait to get to where you’re headed, but you’re also bored, and that person sat next to you seems to want to talk. So, what do you talk about?

All too often we head to the same topics when meeting likeminded travellers, namely where are you from, what do you do, and how long are you travelling for?

Sound familiar?

After about five minutes the conversation dries up and you head into awkward territory. With that in mind, here are ten conversation topics you can use the next time you’re sat next to a potential chat buddy.

1) The weather.
Yes, we all do it at some point, it’s the conversation starter of years gone by, but it works! Breaking the ice by talking about how stinking hot it is, how freezing cold it is, or simply how weird the rain was last night, is the perfect in-road into a free-flowing conversation.

2) Where your travels will take you.
It’s easy to ask how long someone has been travelling for, or where they’ve been, but asking where they are likely to be heading to may find you a travel buddy, or at least fill an awkward silence.

3) Have you met any interesting people on the road?
Everyone has a story to tell about the strange person they met on a train to such and such a place, and it’s usually quite an amusing one to share.

4) Do you have any ideas on where I could head to next?
Similar to the question about where their travel is going to go to, asking someone if they have any ideas on places you could see and experience in the future may throw up a few places you never thought of.

5) How do you plan your travels?
Picking the brain of someone in the same sort of situation as you could yield a few ideas you never thought of on how to get about, how to plan it all, where to buy cheap tickets from etc.

6) How your family and friends feel about your travels.
I find this a useful one, because it’s always interesting to get a perspective on how other people’s nearest and dearest view their travels and adventures. Not everyone reacts the same way, so it could be an interesting topic to discuss.

7) Tips on how to store photographs/memories.
You don’t want to lose your precious travel snaps, and whilst you may be relying on one particular method, someone else may suggest something that will suit you better.

8) Where is your dream destination?
Everyone loves to talk about far off plans and possible exotic locations, so asking about that number one, dream destination is a topic nobody will turn down.

9) Food, glorious food!
Eating on the road is hard, so any tips of different meals and ways to eat healthily, or maybe even new cuisines to try, is very gratefully received!

10) What you miss about home?
Travel is all very well and good, but we all miss certain things about not being in our home sweet home. Discussing this topic with someone who may feel the same way about things is good therapy, if nothing else!

It’s important to at least chat a little to people you meet on the way, otherwise what is the point? You might not feel like it, and I’m not suggesting you pour out your life story, but a little company in what can be a lonely experience if you let it be, could be just the thing you need.

Photo Credit: Zeepack under Creative Commons license.

The Top Five Destinations to Perform Volunteer Work

Volunteer work can be a fun and rewarding experience. As there are so many communities which require outside aid, you will certainly have a number of different options. What do many consider to be the top five locations that are suited for active volunteering?



Haiti



Although it has been a few years since a massive earthquake rattled this region, Haitians are only now beginning to get back on their feet. Basic necessities such as medical care and potable water are still lacking here. You will be able to make a very real difference if you choose Haiti as your destination.



Vietnam



The friendly individuals within this country still live quite a rural existence. However, many desire a higher education that may be lacking in their region. Many volunteers will travel here to aid in formal educational programmes. Besides having the ability to shape the minds of young ones, you can enjoy some of the most stunning scenery on the entire planet.



India



India is one of the most populous countries on the face of the earth. The communities here are facing numerous challenges. Sanitation, access to primary health care and an adequate education are but a few of the different volunteering options that you will have. You can choose to work in major cities such as Mumbai or for a more rural experience, it is always possible to seek work within an outlying village. The locals will certainly be impressed with your efforts. 



Romania



You may be surprised to learn that a country within Europe is in desperate need of help. While Romania has been slowly improving since the fall of communism, the truth of the matter is that much of the infrastructure here dates from the Soviet era. Thus, it is decades behind more modernised countries. Should you be interested in becoming involved within the construction sector, Romania is a great place to begin. Also, there are a growing number of individuals who are desperate to learn English and better their position in life. Teaching is another great idea.



Ecuador



While the economy here may be robust, this pristine country has been suffering from the effects of deforestation. Many volunteer projects in Ecuador will revolve around teaching the locals better land use policies as well as simply planting trees to help the ecosystems flourish. However, never forget to purchase an adequate travel insurance policy when visiting any foreign country. You will be financially protected in the event of an emergency and you can be provided with the peace of mind to truly focus on your work. 



Volunteering is one of the best ways to experience the world while simultaneously helping those who may not be as privileged as yourself. These five countries are excellent places to begin such an adventure. By performing more research and understanding where your unique skill sets will be valued, you can make the most educated choices possible to begin down this rewarding road. 

Image by Steffan Scherz under Creative Commons license.

Cocktails in Berlin

Berlin is an amazing city. It has an incredible history, fascinating culture, and an awesome nightlife scene. Germans are famous for their love of beer, and it would be easy to to dismiss Germany’s drinking culture as just all being about beer and pretzels, but if you up for a night out in Berlin then you will soon discover that Berlin has some amazing bars and they know how to mix some delicious drinks.

Aperol Spritz
One of the most popular drink for Germans, especially at the beginning of the night or before dinner is the Aperol Spritz. Aperol is an Italian liqueur – similar to Campari with a bitter orange flavour. An Aperol Spritz is the liqueur served over ice and then topped up with Prosecco. Something similar which is also popular is known as the Hugo and it is elderflower syrup topped with Prosecco (with a mint garnish). Every bar in Berlin will happily serve you an Aperol Spritz, but I always associate the drink with the Schöneberg area which is a fun, relaxed neighbourhood. Try the Green Door bar – it has a deliberately kitsch interior and is a favourite with the locals.

U-Boot

For something a bit more hard-core, you could kick your night off in Berlin with a U-Boot. It might be a bit of a stretch to call this a cocktail – it’s a glass of beer served with a shot of vodka. It’s called a U-Boot because the shot glass full of vodka sinks to the bottom of the beer like a submarine (U-Boot is an abbreviation for the German word for submarine). Sometimes the vodka will be replaced with Korn which is kind of like a German version of vodka – also clear but with a bit more flavour. A similar drink to the U-Boot is the Jaeger-Bomb. Jaegermeister is a traditional German digestif, but you can drop a shot of Jaegermeister into a glass of Red Bull and down it all in one skoll – a definite pick-me-up if you feel your energy-levels flagging. Everywhere in Berlin will be able to serve you a U-Boot or a Jaeger-Bomb, but one of my favourite bars is Würgeengel in Kreuzberg, a relaxed kind of cocktail bar where anything goes.

Fragrances

Always at the cutting edge, one of the best bars in Berlin is Fragrances at the Ritz-Carlton hotel. What makes it different? They’re pairing fragrances with bespoke cocktails. There is a display of scents that are matched to the aromatic profile of the cocktails on the menu – you sniff around until you find your preferred drink. If you are drawn to earthy and floral notes then your corresponding cocktail is ”Un Matin d’Orage.” Sounds like something Heston Blumenthal would dream up? Probably, but if the drinks are good then the gimmicks are just for a bit of entertainment along the way.

You never know quite where a night out in Berlin is going to take you, but you can guarantee that there are going to be some great drinks and a few surprises along the way. What more can you ask for? Prost!

Photo Credit: Alberto Garcia under Creative Commons license.