Simon Heyes

Up to 2012, I had an international role as a digital marketer. I took over 100 flights a year. After 9 hard working years, I chucked in the towel and decided to travel on my own time. I recently completed a six month trip to South America, Australia, New Zealand and China, and plan to explore Indonesia, Bali, Central America and Antarctica at some point in the next few years.

I travelled on some group tours, by mainly by myself. As such, I’ve got a fair few stories to share, including hiking the Inca Trail, cycling the world’s most dangerous road, exploring Colombia, surfing next to a turtle in New Zealand and busking with locals in China. Here’s hoping a build up a few more stories 🙂

Describe your most surprising travel experience.

When I first went to South America, I landed into Bogota, Colombia. It was a complete culture shock. I took a taxi to my hostel, and we were travelling down narrow streets filled with people. We struggled to get through, and sometimes people would lean over and stare into the taxi. I'm still sure my heartbeat was audible.

I made it to the hostel safe and sound, dropped my bags, grabbed a map, and headed to a nearby square. As I approached one of the main streets, there were students rioting, and running from my left to right. They were firing paintball guns and waving flags. I stopped in my tracks. Less than a minute after the dull roar had died down, riot police firing tear gas ran from my left to right. I decided to head to a different square!

I spent the following three weeks travelling all around Colombia. Medellin, Guatape, Santa Marta, Cartagena and Playa Blanca. What I found was a country that love their salsa. They are some of most friendly people in the world. Many of them have barely a penny to their name, but they would dance and smile like nothing else mattered.

Colombia blew away any stereotypes or preconceptions I had about the country, which is probably why it's my favourite country. So far.

What inspires you to travel?

To visit new places. The more you travel, the more you learn. About people, cultures, history, and finding out what is important. Some places you see in pictures and postcards and you think "I'd love to go there one day". My aim is to fulfil my travels until I'm not saying that anymore.

Are you more of a city or country person? Why?

I'd say I'm 50 / 50. I grew up in a town that became a city, and yet learnt to drive on a tractor. I love the buzz and rush of cities, from London to New York and Lima. There's something exciting about them.

On the flip side, spending time in the country is something I love. I'm a keen hiker, I love skiing and surfing, and some of my favourite travel experiences have been away from the big cities. Hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, the Caribbean Coast in Colombia, and 90% of New Zealand, to name a few.

If you were stranded in any locale, where would you want to be stranded?

Probably in a city - they are often very difficult to navigate, but it forces you to find out information from locals about where you are, where you should go, how to get there, and the best place to stop for a local beer on the way :)

What is your favourite city in the world and why?

Tough question! I'd probably have to go for New York. I've never had a bad time there, and always discovered somewhere new. It follows the seasons too, so it's likely to be hot and smoggy in the summer, and icy cold and snowing in the winter. I spent New Year there in 2011 and I realised then that I like it more and more each time I go back.

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