Alan and Jo Gourlay are Remote Area Nurses working in very remote Indigenous communities in Central Australia. They work in extreme conditions and so try to take off for some "down time" regularly, whether just to kick back or explore some interesting area. You can read about their adventures at their website, Trave Graphics.
They were kind enough to answer some of our travel questions below.
TA: How many years have you been traveling and what got you hooked?
Alan: I first took a round the world ticket journey in 1991 which really sunk the hook in deep. On returning to Australia, I continued to relive the experience by having some articles and pictures published in a major newspaper. Jo's first foray into travel was a "hippy trip" to India and Sri Lanka back in the '80's and hasn't looked back since. Jo just relishes experiencing different cultures and immersing herself into the local community.
TA: Do you specialize in a particular type of travel?
Alan & Jo: We just love spending time in a local community and discovering how other people live on a day-to-day basis. We would rather spend some weeks based in one location and take journeys of a few days out from that base.
TA: What is the best vacation you've ever taken?
Alan & Jo: Mmmm, I suppose it usually will be the next one as we enjoy researching and planning our trips so much. If we had to choose a previous trip though it would probably be our few weeks in Morocco last year. We just loved the colour and assault on the senses of the old Souks as well as getting away into the countryside. We stumbled upon a local horse festival called a Fantasia which was a combination of horse riding and rifle firing with almost non-existent safety precautions but was great!
TA: What's one place you've always wanted to visit?
Alan & Jo: Anywhere above the Arctic Circle.
TA: What's one thing you ALWAYS pack when you travel?
Alan: A camera.
Jo: A comfy pillow.
TA: If you could only give a traveler one piece of advice, what would it be?
Alan & Jo: Leave all your expectations behind and just go with what comes your way.
TA: What would be your #1 recommendation for a place to travel in 2019?
Alan & Jo: Croatia seems to be the next big thing but I wouldn't wait too long as it already is on a lot of travel lists for people. For the next little while it is still good value for money with good infrastructure and accommodation standards.
TA: What are the top 3 websites you use for research/inspiration when planning a trip?
Alan & Jo: We always use Skyscanner to research flight schedules but will compare with the actual airline's website to check prices. Airbnb is our go-to site for accommodation these days, can't really remember when we last stayed in a hotel. Surprisingly I will often refer to Wikipedia to get some general background on a destination.
TA: Do you have any good airport or flight hacks for people traveling by plane?
Alan & Jo: If you are to be there for a while, bring some food from outside as we all know airport food is very expensive. If there is free WiFi, update all your apps while you are waiting. Visit the "sleeping in airports" website for good background information on specific airports.
TA: What is the best piece of travel advice you've ever been given?
Alan & Jo: Leave your usual preconceived ideas of what is "normal" behind because "you" are what is abnormal once you leave your own country.
TA: Is there something you think most travelers worry too much about?
Alan & Jo: Getting upset by being ripped off for a few dollars by a market seller when you would have happily payed twice as much back home for the same item. Is it really that important?
TA: What's a travel scam travelers should be wary of?
Alan & Jo: Anywhere there are tourists there will be someone with a scam. Years ago, we fell for the famous Bangkok Grand Palace "not open today" but come for tuk-tuk/long-tail boat ride instead scam. We luckily escaped quite early with our self-esteem only slightly dented, but it's still being used quite successfully today I hear.
TA: Which country has surprisingly good food?
Alan & Jo: Not so surprisingly Malaysia with it's multi-cultural mix of Malay, Indian and Chinese has just amazing food possibilities, but our favourite would be the Malay dish of Nasi Lemak from anywhere you see a long line of people beside the road early in the morning. For a few dollars, you'll get a wonderfully tasty meal of rice with peanuts, cucumber, dried anchovies, boiled egg and a "fiery" sambal and it's the national breakfast dish.
TA: What was the most romantic place you ever visited with a partner?
Alan: As trite as it may seem, we think Paris lives up to all the hype about being the most romantic city in the world. From the street cafes, padlocks on the Pont des Arts bridge, patisseries, Moulin Rouge, sitting on the banks of the Seine. And even my school-boy French sounds romantic after some vin rouge... n'est-ce pas?
TA: What is the most beautiful and affordable city you've ever visited?
Alan & Jo: Barcelona comes to mind as a beautiful city and can be very affordable if you do your homework. We stayed a hotel right opposite Plaza Catalunya on the corner of Las Rambles for around $120 AUD per night. Not that cheap but for its position it was great value. Our room had a good sized balcony overlooking the Plaza where we could enjoy our cheese/bread/wine purchased from a local grocers while people watching from above.
Our best value dining out experience was found in the Barri Gotic area where we tracked down a Pintxos bar. Very similar to a tapas bar but with a Catalonian flavour where we would make a selection of small tasty snack sized dishes from the bar and the bill was totalled up and the end. It seems to be tradition to be served a complimentary home-brewed liquor at the end which both times we went ended up with the whole bottle being left for us to finish!
TA: What's one way people can get the most out of their cruise experience?
Alan & Jo: We've never been on a cruise.....wait, we did take the overnight ferry from Greece to Italy deck class...does that count?
TA: Have you ever met someone while traveling who changed your life?
Alan & Jo: We met an elderly gentlemen on a trek in Nepal some years ago. He was by himself with a porter/guide and was using a walking stick to help himself along. He would stop and chat to anyone willing to spend the time and told us he would walk as far as he could depending on how many people he met along the way. He had no specific goal in mind for the day and just took things as they came. He was the epitome of the adage about the journey being more important than the destination.
TA: What are the best places to travel solo and why?
Alan & Jo: Haven't done much solo travel but when it has been necessary have used public transport as much as possible as a medium to engage with as many fellow travellers and local people as possible.
TA: What's something that other tourists do when traveling that drives you crazy and why?
Alan: It surprises/amuses me that by putting an airline ticket in someone's hand then gives them so much trouble matching up one letter and one number to a corresponding seat location.
Learn more about Alan & Jo:
Visit their website Trave Graphics.
Thanks for taking the time to talk with us!