Another beautifully lost dreamer with an incurable case of wanderlust.

Totally Travel Talk with Neil

Today I am talking to Neil Barnes from Backpacks and Bunkbeds. Packs and Bunks has been up and running since 2010 and Neil manages to juggle working a 9-5 job in London with travelling the world! For you non-believers, it definitely can be done! He’s up to 41 different countries and likes to focus his writing around independent travel; backpacking, hostels, road trips and weekend breaks. Let’s find out Neil’s views on travel…


What made you discover your passion for Travel?

This is going to sound really bad, but effectively it was boredom which led me to travel.  I’d lived, studied and worked in the same area of west London for nearly 24 years before I finally decided I needed out.  On a whim I booked a 5 week volunteering placement in South Africa (much to my Mother’s horror) and haven’t really looked back from there.  I ended up extending that original 5 weeks to 8, and then 10 months after that I was booked up for a full on gap year.  

That initial trip was all about meeting new people and seeing what else was out there apart from Weatherspoons on a Friday night and Football on a Saturday.  In short, there’s a lot more out there!  I met some amazing people, saw some utterly beautiful parts of South Africa, and experienced things I could only dream of back in London.  

Where is your most favourite place in the world and why? (that you have been to so far)

Jheez, tough question! It’s always hard to look past Sri Lanka, which was the first country I touched down in on my gap year (around 10 months after that first South Africa experience).  Once again I volunteered in Sri Lanka, but this time I felt my closer to the local community, and made some good friends within the school and community club I was volunteering in.  The kids at the school were a blast, and despite not actually being able to talk to one another, we got on like a house on fire.  They even taught me to count in Sinhala.  We went of field trips, played football on a bog of a pitch (whilst at all times dodging the school cow) and even (some of us) walked home together.  It was such a great experience, topped off by weekend trips to the mountains and beaches with some follow volunteers who I made lasting friendships with.  

There are a lot of GREAT places I’ve visited, but when someone asks this type of question, I always think for a minute and then come back around to Sri Lanka. 


 Tell us about your blog, Packs and Bunks. Why did you start it and why should we read it?!

So the blog started as a result of my returning from my gap year, becoming single again, and wanting keeping myself busy whilst I looked for a job.  I’d kept an online diary during my gap year, but once I started to learn web design at night school when back in the UK, travel was the obvious subject for me to base all my web work around.  From there it just kind of spiralled really.  I joined twitter, found the travel blogger community and met a whole load of cool people and have been blogging ever since, support by my new blogger friends, some of which I’ve been lucky enough to meet in person. 

Why should you read it? … well, I’ll hold my hands up and admit that I am far from the world’s greatest story teller, but what I am good at is details, things like budgets, times, locations etc.  I like to think that my blog makes certain parts of the globe more accessible to those looking for new adventures, and that includes those who sit behind a desk from 9-5, Monday to Friday.  Yep, whilst blogging and travelling, I also (just about) hold down a full time job.  With my blog I want to prove that you can still see the world without needing to jack in your job and sell everything you own.

What advice would you give someone who also works 9-5 and wants to travel but feel like they can’t?  

Looking for a job with travel involved would be the obvious one, but I gather from friends who travel for business a lot, that they rarely see outside of a hotel room or office, so maybe that’s not the answer. 

A decent annual leave allowance is always a start; if you have the option to buy extra annual leave (like I do) that’s a bonus too.  

I guess that utilising weekends and taking shorter breaks would allow you to combine travel and a 9-5.  You can also try and be clever with bank holidays and special, royalty related holidays.  A few years back, due to the royal wedding and a bank holiday, I think I managed two straight weeks off work whilst only using 4 days of annual leave.  I can’t quite remember the specifics, but I know I kinda played the system a bit with that one. 


Where is your favourite hostel in the world and why was it so awesome?

Hmm, there’s a few faves, but no one outstanding favourite.  The ones that spring to mind are … 

– Wakeup in Sydney – for the parties, free BBQs and days outs.
– Czech Inn in Prague – Affordable luxury, a very nice bar and the best showers ever!
– Generator in Copenhagen – Chill out area full of hammocks and crazy cool decor

What 5 things could you not travel without?

1)  Passport 
2)  Credit Card
3)  Iphone – I hate to say it, but it does store all my ticket info and have maps.
4)  Backpack
5)  The Mrs … kind of have to say that don’t I?


Are you a daredevil? What are the craziest things you have done during your adventures?

I’ve done a couple of sky dives (one with my mum haha), a cage dive, and a big old zip wire across a Italian valley in my time.  I can’t lie, I love a good adrenaline rush.  

Craziest one might have to be the Bloukrans Bungee in South Africa though. At 216m, it is/was the highest commercial bungee from a bridge in the world.   My friend actually went first, so there was no way I couldn’t jump.  I was full petrified though, legs like jelly, and so my ‘jump’ was just more of a flop.  But I still did it!


What is the next achievement that you want to tick off on your bucketlist?

I don’t really have a bucketlist as such, just lots new places I want to visit in the future.  Montenegro is really calling me at the moment, but that might have to wait until 2016.

Have you had any scary experiences while travelling?

I’ve been so lucky on my travels, and can’t really think of any times where I thought ‘oh crap, this is bad’.  

Once in Fiji I was evacuated from a hostel due to a tsunami warning.  But it was so early in the morning, I don’t think I fully grasped how serious a’ situation it could have been.  In the end there was nothing to worry about and we weren’t effected in any way, but looking back now, I should have been a LOT more scared than I was.  A bit naive with that one I think!

Do you have any more travel plans currently in the pipeline? 

Paris at the end of the month for my anniversary with the girlfriend, 5 years and counting. We also have a trip lined up for August, but that one’s a bit of a secret, so no details, sorry.



Quick Fire Faves

City – Sydney
Beach – Unawatuna (Sri Lanka)
Airline – British Airways
Accent – Scottish/Irish
Food – Pizza/bacon cheeseburgers … I like food!
Cocktail – Mojito
Film – The Warriors / Rain Man / Human Traffic
Material Possession – Iphone
Travel Quote – Not all those who wander are lost’ … I’m a big LOTR fan. 

Thank you for taking part in Totally Travel Talk on Totally Sam’s World, safe and happy travels!

Don’t forget to follow Neil’s adventures on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram!

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