Anjci All Over | Travel Blog

Anjci All Over | Profile Picture

Hi! My name is Anna and welcome to my blog, ANJCI ALL OVER!

I live in London and spend most of my free time travelling the world, taking photos and writing about my travels.

To date, I have visited 85 countries and several remote territories. I know, I know – it is quite a modest achievement.

It is important to remember though that I have never taken a proper gap year, never quit my job to travel for extended periods and had only done limited travel before I turned 23. Nearly all my travels have been during holidays while I remained employed, full-time, in London’s financial sector.

I have been enamoured with numerous countries and territories over the years, and always have a new favourite. Currently, my favourite places to visit include Chile, Greenland, Myanmar (Burma), Faroe Islands, Greece, Georgia and Oman. I have also visited India on many occasions and explored Norway in depth.

Embracing Chile at Mirador de las Torres, Patagonia

Anjci All Over | About

Where it all began

My story began back in 2006 when I… didn’t sell any of my possessions, didn’t quit my job and didn’t depart on a one-way ticket to discover the world. Instead, I carefully packed the modest possessions I had, took a one-way flight from Riga to London (ok, the one-way bit was actually true), found a tiny flat in Zone 3 and started my first ever full-time job. Working in the banking sector in London was a long-term dream of mine and being hired, right after finishing my studies, was my biggest achievement in life at the time. I arrived in London, all rosy-eyed and endlessly excited about the smallest things. My love affair with London was about to start.

As excited as I was making life happen in the big city, my (admittedly fancy) investment banking job got on my nerves soon enough. I was at work pretty much all the time, returning home only to change clothes and take short naps. I didn’t have time for basic things in life, let alone my actual hobbies.

My biggest disappointment was of course the lack of travel. The reason I came to London was to explore the frontiers unknown, not labour incessantly on dull presentations in front of a computer into the night.

My biggest disappointment was of course the lack of travel. The reason I came to London was to explore the frontiers unknown, not labour incessantly on dull presentations in front of a computer into the night.

I have described some of my shenanigans as an investment banker in this blog (read the Monkey Business series here), but trust me: they were even worse in real life.

First introduction to travel

I did have a certain holiday allowance though and took my first holiday after about a year in the job. At a ripe age of 23, I knew close to nothing about travel and had no idea where people went on holiday. Logically, I flew to Singapore (I heard it was safe and predictable) and somehow, at a surprise even to myself, ended up embarking on a 2-week rail journey all the way to Bangkok, with stops in Kuala Lumpur, Penang, Krabi and Koh Samui on the way.

The trip was a disaster in many ways: it was my first long-haul leisure trip and I misplanned and mismanaged almost everything. I got blisters from wearing flipflops for the first time in my life and collapsed in the middle of a busy street in Kuala Lumpur, unable to walk for the next few days. I got sunburnt to my skin because I didn’t know I was supposed to use sunscreen(I was a Latvian on my first sunny holiday, people). I got taken off a train at the Thai border for not having arranged a visa and had my credit card blocked just when I was about to pay for my visa-on-arrival at another border crossing later in the day. I rushed my trip insanely and spent only one night each in the amazing, well-deserving locations of Penang and Koh Samui.

In a nutshell, my first ever holiday was a disaster that left me aching, exhausted and (very literally) scarred for life. I will be writing about it in detail at some point, hopefully helping some equally naïve travel beginners as a result.

But the said trip did teach me one thing: I absolutely loved the freedom of travel. Even with burnt shoulders and aching feet, being free to explore new territories made me feel (perhaps in a pathetic way) like a deep sea discoverer back in the days when travel wasn’t easily accessible to many. I may have been in touristy, well-explored, locations, but it was all incredibly new to me.

How it all changed one day

After returning to London, I sustained my long nights in the office with dreams of future holidays. Within a year, I had added Turkey, Morocco and Jordan to my list of visited destinations. I was absolutely gobsmacked by the bustling Istanbul, mesmerised by the sunsets over the Moroccan medinas and amazed by the surreal ancient city of Petra.

Unfortunately, by then I had earned a reputation, among my colleagues, of someone who prioritised free time over work (the horror!). In investment banking, this was unheard of and completely unacceptable, especially for a junior analyst that I was. Combining work and travel also became impossible in the six months before summer 2008 – the amount of work was too large for me even to take a weekend off work.

This all led to one inevitable outcome. While plotting my exit, I was lucky enough to be made redundant in mid-2008 (read about that very day here). It came as a huge relief: I was simply too squeezed out by all the work and could not have continued for much longer. I had started making plans to leave anyway, and the redundancy package came as a nice surprise.

Instead of looking for a new job immediately, I got rid of most of my stuff, loaded the rest into a friend’s van and flew to Greece for the summer. Almost as soon as I arrived, I ended up getting together with a friend of a friend – a very nice Greek gentleman – and ended up staying for eight months. I have loved Greece so much ever since that I have learned to speak Greek fluently. The country remains my cultural haven, sunny refuge and, arguably, a favourite place for a relaxing holiday. I had a fantastic eight months exploring the many hidden corners of Greece in 2008 and (finally) getting some rest after my inhumane existence back in London.

I got so inspired by Greece during my career break that I had my wedding photos taken there years later

Anjci All Over | About

Unfortunately, as much as I loved Greece’s food and beaches, I quite disliked Athens and could not see myself living there. Some aspects of Greek life annoyed me beyond words (read about them here – remembering this was written in jest!). And, to top it all, I had realised that the Greek gentleman in question was not going to become the love of my life. I had to take a move.

And back to London I went…

I started looking for a job and came face to face with the looming financial crisis of 2009. But I was lucky, and, after several destructive interviews (read about my worst one here), I was offered a dream job at a large international bank in London. It was a massive change from before: my hours were normal, I no longer had to work on weekends, and – most importantly – nobody interfered with my holidays (read here about my first impressions in this job).

Fast forward eight (eight!) years, and I am still working for the very same bank. I have always maxed out my holiday allowance and have visited countless places since I returned to London (I try to explain my travel planning in detail here). I got married in the Falkland Islands to a wonderful Englishman (read about our experience here). I camped under the milky way in the Namibian desert. I took a helicopter ride over Greenland’s glaciers. I rode a dog sled in Svalbard. I hiked the vast beauties of Patagonia. I visited North Korea, Bhutan and Iran. I have truly had a wonderful life since I started my current job. And, despite this easy life seemingly not on the horizon for much longer, I am not finished yet!

I got married in the Falkland Islands… in that very windbreaker!

I hope I will encourage many of you to take that first step towards a first serious travel experience, hopefully to become a regular traveller in due course.

Scarring that North Korean kid for life, no doubt


I hope I will encourage many of you to take that first step towards a first serious travel experience, hopefully to become a regular traveller in due course.

I find nothing in life as fulfilling as travel and hope to inspire many to lose the fear of the unknown and explore the world.

I also hope to prove that it is not necessary to quit one’s job to travel actively and regularly. Granted, I am incredibly privileged to have a job with a decent salary, a generous holiday allowance and only limited pressure to leave it unused. Sometimes, however, it is mere excuses that hold us back from travelling, even for a weekend away – and it is important to overcome those to make our lives just that much more fulfilling. Even venturing away for a weekend in a well-known location can be enough to recharge batteries and learn something entirely new.

So stay along for the ride! Feel free to refer to my Frequently Asked Questions for more information about me. And do get in touch with any travel questions – I will do my best to respond!

FAQ

Q.Do you travel everywhere alone?

Answer.

My husband joins me for approximately 30-40% of my trips. As much as I love him, my favourite way to travel is actually alone (the reasons are described in detail here). I may have taken day trips with friends here and there in the past, but I have never travelled long-term with a friend (other than my husband, who is indeed my best friend). When required by the national legislation (like in North Korea or Bhutan) or when it just makes the trip much easier (like, say, overlanding in Namibia), I may occasionally book an organised tour – but I am definitely not a big fan.

Q.What are your favourite places to visit?

Answer.

This is a question many travellers hate, but I find it fair. At different points in time, different countries and territories do become my favourites, and I love recommending them to others. Right now, Chile is hands down my favourite place to visit – thanks, perhaps, to a perfect combination of its stunning nature, extremely polite people and a great diversity of terrains in a single country. Despite being pricier than its neighbours, Chile is also relatively inexpensive to visit in the grand scheme of things.

I would also put Greenland, Faroe Islands, Oman, Georgia, Greece and Myanmar on my current favourites’ list, while Norway and India used to be among my favourites for a very long time in the past and haven’t been forgotten. I also absolutely adore Japan and always look for ways to come back.

Q.Where would you like to visit in the future?

Answer.

I have been methodically working through my list of coveted travel destinations for almost a decade. Thankfully, the world is a vast place and I am yet to see some of the places that truly fascinate me. The places I currently most want to visit are Madagascar (where I plan to go in April 2017), Turkmenistan (where I hope to visit in the autumn 2017), the Galapagos in Ecuador (could happen around Easter 2018), West Africa including Senegal, Guinea-Bissau and Sierra Leone (possibly at some point during 2018), Mongolia (no defined plans yet), Sudan (I really hope I can squeeze it in somewhere) and Botswana (I almost went there during the South Africa – Namibia trip but never quite made it).

And then there are the unexplored bits of countries I have already visited. I would love to see the Kamchatka peninsula in Russia with my own eyes. I would love to take a road trip across the entirety of Canada. I am dying to visit Tibet and compare the experience to my short jaunt in Bhutan in 2015. I would absolutely love to see the very north of Japan in Sapporo. And the Azores islands continue to fascinate me endlessly.

And then there are always the Greek islands. I visited many of them during my 8-month career break in Greece in 2008, and continue to return to this day. I generally try to visit at least two new Greek islands every year and have managed to take my tally to over 40. Yes – Greece has a lot of islands! Currently I am most interested in tiny islands that are difficult to reach and would most like to visit Antikythira (I hope to do it this year) and Anafi (which is close to Santorini yet often ignored by masses).

Q.How many holidays do you take during a typical year?

Answer.

It depends what you call a holiday! An average year would probably see me take 5-6 trips of at least one week and more than a 3-hour flight out of London. In addition to that, I also spend countless weekends out of London. In each of 2015 and 2016, I spent 20 weekends away (not including weekends that were part of longer trips).

That sounds like a lot, and many people comment on how difficult it is to catch me in London. This is however somewhat exaggerated as I do tend to spend about two thirds of my time in London. I work full-time here, remember?

Q.Do you plan your holidays a long time in advance?

Answer.

I do, and I am a bit of an extreme case! I know my holiday allowance and the UK public holidays by heart and start planning work absences literally years in advance (read more about my holiday addiction here). I even have a spreadsheet with calendars for years ahead and block out room for holidays as early as I can. This is of course not set in stone: I have often shuffled things around in the past, depending on the political situation in a given country or region, weather seasonality or simply evolving personal preferences.

Thanks to the relative predictability of my job, I tend to book my flights very early – sometimes as early as a year in advance. I often book several flights throughout the year at once to take advantage of airline sales. This is especially common for my home city, Riga, as I know for sure that I will be visiting my parents multiple times a year.

Q.Will you ever stop travelling?

Answer.

I keep hearing all those opinions that I will one day get tired of travelling and take up another “hobby”. For me though, travel is very much a lifestyle, a passion, if you will – not just a convenient way to kill time. Let’s put it this way: if circumstances forced me to scale down my travels or stop altogether, then I would go with them, reluctantly, for as long as necessary. I would sure be trying to get back on the road (or at least in the planning mode) in the meantime though. For now, I could not imagine my life without travel.

Q.Will you ever start travelling full-time?

Answer.

Travel bloggers, or so-called “digital nomads” (the misnomer that makes me think of Mongols in the desert), have proliferated in the past few years. Many of them do not seem to have an “edge” to differentiate themselves from the rest of the crowd, and only few make it to a semblance of a professional level. In order to travel full-time permanently, I would most likely have to join travel bloggers’ ranks to keep myself funded during my travels.

First, I am not sure if I would like to join an industry so saturated, so intensely competitive and so driven by fads. Second, I am quite keen on the idea of having a “base” – a home to return to in-between my travels. And, finally, I fear that my attitude towards travel would be very different if I was travelling constantly. The way things are now, I always have a trip to look forward to, but I know that I will always be able to return to normality: my husband, my gym membership, my little rented flat in southeast London filled with soft toys, plants and travel mementos. I appreciate the balance in my life that constant travelling would most likely shift irreversibly.

Georgia

  (Georgia)

Serbia

  (Serbia)

Kosovo

  (Kosovo)

Iceland

  (Iceland)

Vietnam

  (Vietnam)

Greece

  (Greece)

Bolivia

  (Bolivia)

Svalbard

  Svalbard (Norway)

Norway

  (Norway)

Providencia, Colombia

  Providencia (Colombia)

Faroe Islands

  (Faroe Islands)

North Korea

  North Korea

Oman

  Oman

Madagascar

  Madagascar

Bhutan

  (Bhutan)

London, UK

  London (United Kingdom)

Falkland Islands

  Stanley (Falkland Islands)