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Interview with Dorothy Conlon

Continuing with this week’s theme we have an exclusive interview with author Dorothy Conlon. Dorothy Conlon is nothing short of inspirational, “a born traveller” she has explored a host of countries and has consequently written her very own travel book titled “At home in the World”. Here we have some interesting insights on her views on travel. I am sure you will enjoy reading this as much as I enjoyed interviewing her.

Frontier: You have signed up for our Cook Islands Project – what appeals to you about this particular project?

Dorothy: Well first of all, because it is to a place that I haven’t been to before and I really like the home-stay aspect of it. I will be leaving from Tahiti shortly for a cruise around the surrounding area including the Marquesas Islands, so I wanted to volunteer in the same general region. It was really hard to find a project but this one just sounded wonderful.

Frontier: Your life has been filled with interesting travels across the globe. Do you have a favourite place that you have visited?

Dorothy: I am always asked that so I have learned to answer, wherever I am at the moment! My favourite places change. I went to Vietnam a few times because I was so smitten with it, but I think my all time favourite would be India as we lived there the longest, so I do keep going back. It’s sort of a tie among various different places, wherever I am is my favourite.

Frontier: Is there anywhere you haven’t been that you would like to visit?

Dorothy: Of course! You name it, Mongolia, New Guinea, Ethiopia, Crete, Madagascar… I would love to do the Trans-Siberian railway cross; I have never been to Russia.

Frontier: What is your view on gap years and people volunteering abroad?

Dorothy: I think it is the most wonderful development in recent years. You people in England are ahead of us, but even here I know some top-notch universities that do not issue a degree to students without them spending a semester abroad. My mantra is no tourist sees a country like a volunteer does. Volunteering at a young age will alter your world view for the rest of your life; it’s about experiencing the place rather than looking at it through a tour bus window.

Frontier: Are you planning a follow up to your first book ‘At Home in the World’?

Dorothy: Oh I am so glad you asked me that. Yes, Born with Wings is about 75 per cent finished, at least in draft from. It is more autobiographical than the one I did before, and I am not telling many people this but after that will come Seeing the World through a Volunteers Eyes. I have done many travel articles (that have not been printed) on volunteering in different countries because I have had all these experiences, so it will not take a lot of work to expand upon each of these in a book with stand-alone chapters focusing on one particular experience. Of course the Cook Islands will be one of them.

Frontier: This week’s theme on our blog is travel writing, what is your favourite travel book and why?

Dorothy: I am afraid I am going to have to weasel out of the wording of this question. I have favourite travel authors but not one particular book. I really adore the stories of Victorian women, like Gertrude Bell, Isabella Bird, Mary Kingsley, Freya Stark… I just can’t imagine that in that day and age they had to dress the way they did, and yet they went to all these wild and remote places and had these adventures that were unheard of from that period. I just think we complain about problems with air travel now, but oh boy they had it really bad back then. As for contemporary authors I like Paul Theroux; Michael Crichton who wrote Travels and an Australian woman called Robyn Davidson who wrote Tracks.

Frontier: What advice would you give aspiring travellers wanting to go out on a gap year?

Dorothy:  Expect the unexpected; and go with an open mind, an open heart and realise that you are not only seeing new things there, but at home when you get back with new eyes.

Frontier: We like to give all our future volunteers some advice on what to pack on a gap year trip.  What one thing do you always take on your travels that you wouldn’t leave home without?

Dorothy: [laughing] I am going to have to weasel out of this too I can’t put it down to one. Ok well my journal, my camera and a torch.

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Frontier Style: Overseas Geek Chic

As our avid readers will already be aware, this week’s theme is travel writing. So it is only appropriate that we dedicate our current edition of Frontier Style to the fashion-forward nerds among us, le Geek c’est Chic. Travelling across the globe can be incredibly tiring, so rest your eyes without fear that your modish glasses will be destroyed by the wilderness with a Fun Spex black & red faux leather glasses case. With soft lining to protect your specs and a magnetic clip on the side, this case is practical yet still oozes the phrase Geek wears Prada. It can be purchased for as little as £7.99, and if you don’t fancy the traditional red and black colour trend, there is a wide choice of colour tones to pick from, so get choosing!

Now, one is only a true nerd if along with their various travel essentials they are lugging around numerous hardbacks en route to a wild location. Do not despair fellow literary people, pack Orwell, Larkin, and Tolstoy in this comfortable and yet incredibly trendy Herschel rucksack. Inspired by classic mountaineering, this contemporary bag, aptly named Little America, can carry as many books as you can possibly fit in.

The story of the Herschel bag began in the early 1900’s, in Wick, Scotland where Peter Cormack’s wife, Annie, packed the belongings of their entire home in preparation for their exciting journey across the Atlantic to Canada. The government of the time encouraged families to immigrate through the homestead program. Since then the great grand children of these extraordinary characters gave birth to this classic rucksack, giving it an edgy, modern twist. Adventure and style are effortlessly entwined, making the Herschel bag a perfect travel accessory.

By Nancy Bukasa

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Travel Writing: Frontier Staff Picks

Continuing this week’s theme of travel literature, Frontier staff have been talking about their favourite travel books. For your chance to win a copy of each of these exciting titles, as well as some other travel writing goodies, keep your eye on our blog this week to find out the details of our latest competition.

Paul Thompson – Partner Projects Manager

The Rum Diary by Hunter S. Thompson

This book is set in one of my favourite eras, the 1950’s.  This easy to read fictional rollercoaster carries you through the debauched and hedonistic lifestyle of Paul Kemp, a journalist in Puerto Rico with a taste for rum and a general disdain for authority.  Hunter S. Thompson has a writing style that I like a lot and really captures the mood of what it is to be young and ambitious with the odd vice or two, and to have as much a passion for life as for work, which hopefully most of us can relate to.  A good one for the beach!

Drea Davila – Events and Marketing Intern

Journey to the River Sea by Eva Ibbotson

It’s the story of a brave girl called Maia who moves to Manaus in the South American jungle to join her only living relatives, after the devastating loss of her parents in a terrible train accident. She moves in with her uncle, his controlling and selfish wife and spoiled two daughters. Maia embraces this new life and becomes friends with the natives and a half-Brazilian Indian, half-European child called Finn Taverner. Thanks to Finn, Maia sees the beauty of the jungle and together they embark on an incredible adventure. I won’t tell you more because that would give the story away. I liked it firstly because it’s set in the South American jungle. Secondly, because it is the story of a young English girl who moves away to a completely different country, which I can relate to. And lastly, it is just a really fun and inspiring read.

Jo Pollett – Volunteer Co-ordinator

Life on Air by David Attenborough

I found this book fascinating. Obviously he’s a really interesting man having travelled so extensively and witnessed so much of the natural world, but I had no idea about some of the other stuff he’s done, like being made Controller of BBC2. If I could choose an extra grandad, it would have to be Sir David; he’d just have so many stories to tell. For example, his travels to Indonesia where he visited islands that were off limits to visitors and his description of the infamous encounter with the mountain gorillas of Rwanda back in 1978. Great stuff!

By Alex Prior

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Travel Writing – What Shoreditch thinks

This week’s feature focuses on travel writing. To kick things off we took to the streets around Frontier HQ and questioned people on their favourite, most inspirational travel reads. So what did they say:

Name: Robert Phoenix
Occupation: Artist
Choice: Wanderlust: A History of Walking
Author: Rebecca Solnit
What he said: “It interprets walking as a wider activity than just putting one foot in front of the other”

Name: Pia Chaudhuri
Occupation: Art Director
Choice: Midnight’s Children
Author: Salman Rushdie
What she said: “Set in the time of India gaining independence, he uses magical realism to portray people’s struggle in a really surreal way”

Name: Claudia Schroegel
Occupation: Graphic Designer
Choice: The Various Flavours of Coffee
Author: Anthony Capella
What she said: “It’s set in London and Africa. It describes the different flavours of coffee, like perfume. It’s amazing”

Name: Daniel Gilbert
Occupation: Social Media
Choice: Kafka on the Shore
Author: Haruki Murakami
What he said: “It’s just an amazingly descriptive book, evocative of traveling by train in Japan”

Name: Matteo Merla
Occupation: Contemporary Artist
Choice: Peer Gynt
Author: Henrik Ibsen
What he said: “It tells the story of Peer Gynt who leaves home in search of his fortune. His adventures take him to places like Morocco and Italy. It’s a very good story.”

Name: Hannah Wray
Occupation: Teacher
Choice: For Whom the Bell Tolls
Author: Ernest Hemingway
What she said: “It evokes a different and interesting period”

Name: Vidak
Occupation: Inventory Manager
Choice: A. A. Gill is Further Away
Author: A. A. Gill
What he said: “A collection of different travel accounts. It’s just good writing”

Name: Jake Brewer
Occupation: Graphic Designer
Choice: Long Way Round
Author: Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman
What he said: “It’s definitely inspiring. I like it because what they did was such a simple idea. I don’t think it’s anything to do with the fact that Ewan McGregor is involved; it could be anyone and still be just as good. It’s just so real and personal”

Name: Billy Holland
Occupation: Marketing
Choice: Less Than Zero and Imperial Bedrooms
Author: Brett Easton Ellis
What he said: “Not the most beautiful picture of LA, but intriguing nonetheless”

Name: Rhianna
Occupation: Research intern
Choice: Down and Out in Paris and London
Author: George Orwell
What she said: “It’s just a really good book”

Name: Tom Vaughn
Occupation: Film Distributor
Choice: A Sport and a Pastime
Author: James Salter
What he said: “It really made me want to go to the south of France”

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Champandongo – A Novel Little Latino Lasagne

Here’s this weeks recipe. Tasked with finding something relevant to this week’s blog theme of travel writing, I remembered a novel I studied at university containing recipes at the start of each chapter. Como agua para chocolate (Like water for chocolate) is a satisfying little read written by Mexican novelist Laura Esquivel in 1989. This recipe is one of the most interesting included. A few difficult ingredients to get your mits on, but please don’t let that put you off chicos.

1 lb./450g minced beef
1 lb./450g minced pork
7 oz./200g walnuts, chopped in small pieces (not ground)
7 oz./200g almonds, chopped in small pieces (not ground)
1 onion, chopped
1 candied citron or juice of an orange
2 tomatoes, chopped
1 cup chicken stock
1/4 cup molé sauce (some markets stock it)
1-2 tablespoons cumin
1 tablespoon sugar
1 lb. tortillas
1/4 cup cream
8 oz. Manchego cheese

Preheat oven to 200°C/400°F/gas 6.

Make your Mole first, as this has many ingredients and may take a while unless you find a pre-made version.

Sauté onion in large pan with several tablespoons oil. Once onion is translucent, add beef and pork. Sprinkle meat and onion mixture with cumin and sugar. Once beef and pork are golden brown, add tomatoes, nuts and the citron.

Meanwhile, as meat is browning, add molé into the chicken stock and stir constantly until molé has a thick, soupy consistency. Heat tortillas in 1-2 tablespoons of oil in a non-stick pan, and stack to one side.

Spread the cream on the bottom of a large, glass casserole dish. Top with a layer of tortillas, then a layer of the meat mixture, then a coating of molé, and finally the cheese. Repeat this process as many times as necessary until the dish is filled. Put the pan in the oven and bake until the cheese melts and the tortillas are softened.  About 15 min.  Slice into squares and serve immediately, perhaps with re-fried beans and a cheeky salad.

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A Few Handy Travel Tips

With no theme this week, we thought it the perfect opportunity to offer some helpful advice for anyone off on their travels.

Avoid illness while on the road:

Illness can ruin a trip; who wants to be worrying where the nearest toilet is whilst marvelling at Machu Picchu, or avoiding the sun when there’s a world-class beach on your hostel’s doorstep? From my experience, these things have a habit of hitting at the most inconvenient times. So what are the usual suspects, and how can you avoid them?


Coming back with a healthy-looking tan is always nice. But can a tan ever be truly healthy? The answer is no. If you’re going somewhere exotic, chances are your skin won’t be accustomed to such intense rays. So cover up: wear a hat and some light clothes when you’re out in the sun, and invest in some sunglasses that have UV protection. Suncream is vital too. It’s easy to get lazy, and everyone’s been caught out at some point. So what’s the best course of action for a spot of sizzled skin? Damaged skin takes about two weeks to recover, so suncream is a must for those areas. Plenty of water and oral-rehydration solutions will avoid dehydration. Bring down inflammation with cooling solutions and ibuprofen.

Tummy troubles:

Delhi belly; Traveller’s diarrhoea; Montezuma’s revenge. No matter what you call it, its effect is one of the backpacker’s worst enemies. Affecting around 1 in 3 travellers, it can be the cause of much discomfort, and even more embarrassment. How to avoid it then? Stay away from food that’s not been heated thoroughly. Salad’s are a no-no. Stick to bottled or canned drinks rather than risk the local tap water and politely turn down any offers of ice. If you do find yourself in trouble, then take a few measures between toilet trips: pop some Imodium, and drink plenty of water and rehydration solution.

Travel sickness:

A backpacking trip abroad is in my opinion not complete without at least one ten hour bus trip sharing insufficient leg room with an over-friendly handlebar-moustached man with a machete and vest. So what you gunna do when you start feeling a little queasy and you know it won’t be too long before machete man isn’t smiling anymore as you fail to contain last nights Pad Thai in a sock? The answer is to be prepared. If you’re susceptible to motion sickness, have some effective remedies ready in your bag. Either over-the-counter medication, and/or ginger and peppermint products are good. Travel sickness is caused by mixed messages being sent to the brain when the body experiences repetitive movements: your eyes and ears report different things and so your brain freaks out. If you know you have a long trip coming up, take some precautions to minimise the effects. Avoid heavy meals and too much alcohol. Knowing how to ask a bus driver to stop is also pretty handy.

Altitude sickness:

It’s surprising how many activities involve going somewhere really high when you’re travelling. Altitude sickness is a potential killer. It is caused by speedy ascents when the body has insufficient time to acclimatise to the changing environment. Be the tortoise: it is young, fit males who are more likely to suffer from the illness, since their macho attitude and superior physical ability fools them into thinking they can race up a mountain rather than a slow, steady climb. Things to look out for include nausea, a headache, dizziness and exhaustion. Experiencing these symptoms mildly is no reason to panic. Continue your ascent at a slow and steady pace. If it gets worse, then remain at your current altitude to allow for acclimatisation. Descending too quickly can also have a negative effect, so if you decide to call it a day, don’t do so in a hurry. A severe case can actually cause a build up of fluid on the lungs or brain, making it potentially the most serious ailment here.

By Alex Prior

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