Savannah Grace

#TRLT Tuesday Traveller – Ian Oliver

Today I’m excited to introduce you to one of our most active, long-time #TRLT members, Ian Oliver! Ian describes himself as a “Quirky alone middle-aged geek” who is interested in travelling solo and the darker sides of history & humanity. He is an older-than-the-average backpacker who travels with only hand-luggage, has a self-deprecating sense of humour, a flexible plan, and is self-evidently British.

Not beer, but gin; never scared to leap out of his comfort zone.

Not beer, but gin; never scared to leap out of his comfort zone.

If you have further questions for Ian, please post a comment below!

Q: Why do you like taking The Road Less Travelled?
A: Ahhh, I don’t think of them as being The Road Less Travelled. I like travelling to interesting places; ones with a strong cultural and/or historical bent. I take the whole world as being my notepad, then look a little deeper for specific places I’d like to see, regardless of where they are. I’m very interested in what is oft known as ‘dark history’, where humans have done bad things, either to each other or to the environment, and there seems a naturally strong correlation between such places, and places tourists generally don’t go. My friends are suspicious and have suggested that I pick out obscure places precisely because people don’t go there, but it is co-incidental I assure you 🙂

Q: What are your top 5 destinations?
A: I don’t tend to make lists. However, there are some places – be they towns, countries, or concepts – that I’ve either felt at home in, or which piqued my interests more than I expected. They’re places I’m definitely going to recommend.
a) Benin. This is a country that’s on The Road Less Travelled but really shouldn’t be. It’s absolutely full of culture and history, from the Sahelien tribes in the North to the old Dahomey kingdom in the South. It’s one of the original strongholds of the Voodoo religion which is still practised with absolute reverence, and it’s also notorious for several slavery ports. Add in some peaceful lakes and beaches by the coast and you have a backpacker’s dream.
b) Lesotho. A small country entirely surrounded by South Africa, so there may be a feeling to ignore it as ‘unimportant’. Don’t – it has the most awesome scenery, with mountains, canyons, isolated villages, and many waterfalls and strong rivers. Culturally remote with a strong independent feel, and outside of the capital and the mountain lodges there’s very few other travellers. It’s quite unlike any other place I’ve been to in Africa.
c) Kyrgyzstan. Very similar to Lesotho, but with even friendlier people and higher mountains. It’s also becoming more ‘popular’ as it markets itself as an ‘ecotravel’ destination; it’s very much setting itself up and marketing itself directly at the sort of people who do appreciate The Road Less Travelled.
d) Laos. SE Asia is where I’d recommend first-time backpackers to explore, as it’s easy, cheap, interesting, friendly, and full of other backpackers. The city of Luang Prabang, originally somewhere I’d not planned to visit at all, managed to snare me for four very chilled days, and much of Laos has that ‘vibe’. It’s how I imagine Thailand was 15 years ago. The far North is very tribal and cultural, though that area is being largely funded by China so will change fundamentally in the next few years.
e) The city of Sheffield, UK. “The Road Less Travelled” doesn’t just mean obscure countries about which we know little, it also means places much closer to home that we know little about. Sheffield has a long social culture, a fine musical history, an industrial heritage it’s still proud of, excellent pubs/beer, and its borders cover part of the Peak District, some of the loveliest scenery in Britain, excellent for hiking and exploring.

Q: What destinations are you most keen to visit?

A: Pretty much everywhere as I can always find something to intrigue me in most parts of the world. However in the near future there’s a couple of places high on my ‘interest’ list. Parts of Europe; Montenegro, Macedonia, Albania, and Kosovo I’ve been told are very interesting and beautiful places to visit. Next is Pakistan. Definitely on The Road Less Travelled at the moment due to political fears, but of course being British it’s a part of the world I have an affinity for. I love the food, naturally, and the Indus Valley area is home to some of the oldest human civilisations on record. Pakistan also has fantastic trekking in the Himalayan foothills in the North, and in general travelling around it would be a great way to completely blow apart the myths and fears of the country.

Q: Share the story of one of your favourite travel photos.

Aral Sea

Aral Sea

A: What? One photograph?! Cripes, there’s so many to choose from, but I think the one that encompasses my ‘style’ is the one I’ve been using as my banner on my website & social media. It’s taken from the top of a cliff, and overlooks the old bed of the Aral Sea, long since disappeared. The scenery is remote, desolate, rocky, and dusty, the journey to that point was a boneshaking three hours along trails made by previous 4x4s across (no roads here) across the sea-bed and up the cliff – and the knowledge that the ecological disaster that the Aral Sea area has now become meant a further hour along the cliff edge before we’d reach the point the sea was now. The juxtaposition of bare, powerless, human legs against the results of human action on the natural world is quite a strong one, I feel.

Q: How did you find out about #TRLT Twitter Chat and what is it about the community and joining that you love most?
A: I can’t honestly remember how I found it. I guess I was on Twitter one evening and noticed that a couple of people in my feed were using the hashtag.  I probably also peeked around Travelogx and noticed it there too.  What do I love most? I think it’s that the people chatting there are mostly on the same wavelength as I am with regard to travel – we visit the same kind of places,  and the style of travelling we do tends to be similar.  I never go into a chat thinking “ah, no-one will understand my method and reason for visiting places”, nor do I feel out-of-place because I don’t spend two weeks full board in the Med.  We’re also all quite open and willing to share things with the rest of the group – obviously there’s always going to be a feeling of one-upmanship when someone pulls out a picture of Afghanistan or Somaliland (Oh Shane @ TravelCamel, we’re not worthy!), but ultimately I don’t think it’s a group filled with any kind of jealousy or people going ‘wow, you’re amazing’ with a glint in their eye – we’re all pretty equal.  People tell me ‘cool, you’ve been to Uzbekistan’ and I go ‘cool, you’ve been to Belize’.

Mountain vista near Malealea, Lesotho.

Mountain vista near Malealea, Lesotho. The whole country was like this – stunning.

At Kyrgyzstan Independence Day celebrations; this is Bushkasi

At Kyrgyzstan Independence Day celebrations; this is Bushkasi – a popular nomadic sport, a bit like polo. But using a goat’s head as a ball …

 Buddha Park, Vientiane, Laos. For those times when you're feeling very spiritual and feel that one inspirational statue just isn't going to be enough ...

Buddha Park, Vientiane, Laos.

 Sheffield General Cemetary -

The large overgrown woodland that is Sheffield General Cemetary – feels very gothic & Victorian.

 This is part of the Peak District, technically within the boundaries of the city of Sheffield.

Not enough people explore their own countries, and interesting places might only be on your doorstep. This is part of the Peak District, technically within the boundaries of the city of Sheffield.

 town of Hebden Bridge, Yorkshire, UK.

An old wannabe-hippe looks out over the old wannabe-hippie town of Hebden Bridge, Yorkshire, UK.

This is 'Northumbria', a landscaped series of mounds designed to look like a naked woman. Really.

Archetypcal barefoot backpacker ambling across the green hills of the UK. This is ‘Northumbria’, a landscaped series of mounds designed to look like a naked woman. Really.

 this was Newark,

Many of my UK travels see me at beer festivals, sampling local ales; this was Newark, not far from me.

At a Voodoo market, Benin. This is an example of a ‘fetish’ used in voodoo ceremonies. Needless to say it’s not hard to imagine what ritual this is symbolically used for.

At a Voodoo market, Benin. This is an example of a ‘fetish’ used in voodoo ceremonies. Needless to say it’s not hard to imagine what ritual this is symbolically used for.

 Kumasi, Ghana.

Often on trips I take ‘Baby Ian’; here he is riding a stone beast in Kumasi, Ghana.

DSC07008I have no idea what you're acting so confused at - it's gravel, you *know* it's going to ache before you even first stepped on it!

I have no idea what you’re acting so confused at – it’s gravel, you *know* it’s going to ache before you even first stepped on it!

baby ian and beer at barefoot festival

Baby Ian and beer at barefoot festival

barefoot on a railway line

Barefoot on a railway line The railway line is, quite obviously, dead.

Be sure to follow Ian on Social Media:


If you LOVE travelling as much as we do and want to share your stories and pics with like-minded people join us today for our chat on STREET LIFE at 1pmNYC/6pmUK time on Twitter! Don’t forget to use the #TRLT hashtag. See you then!

For more info on how to participate in #TRLT on Twitter and what our upcoming topic and Qs are, click HERE

Stay tuned for next week’s interview with #TRLT Tuesday Traveller – Caroline Lupini

Savannah Grace

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