Paul – Live Free Die Travelling Your Guide to Financial Independence and a Life of Travel Sat, 05 Aug 2017 07:43:33 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Exploring India by bus Sun, 01 Dec 2013 14:24:20 +0000 Many of the more adventurous backpackers and students visit India because it’s cheap and easy to get around. It’s also home to some breathtakingly beautiful temples, luscious jungles, pristine beaches and other fascinating sights that will take your breath away. Sounds exciting right? It is! India is the ideal destination for anyone on a budget and the rupees value is very low, meaning you can get a lot more for a lot less.

Transport in India usually conjures up images of rickshaws, streets packed with motorbikes, or trains and busses so full that people are sitting on the roof, but travelling by bus is actually one of the best and cheapest ways to get around. I had some major trepidation about taking the bus after having ridden on some of the worst roads in the world but I had heard from various other travellers that it was a great way to see everything on offer at a really desirable price.

Travelling light in India is essential and it makes it much easier to get around when you are not lugging a lot of stuff. I took the bare minimum with me and instead of packing books and guides I opted for my mobile which let me do everything from browse the net to play games at Lucky Nugget. This made it a lot easier to hop on and off the bus and when we overnighted from Mumbai to Hampi I didn’t have to worry about a whole lot of luggage.

Busses are generally cheaper than trains and are far more cost effective than renting a car or trying to hire a scooter for any long distance. It’s also easy to book bus journeys online so you can choose the cheapest tickets before you set off. Bus travel gives you a great sense of freedom and you also get to see hundreds of kilometres of unspoiled scenery and have the opportunity to visit areas that are somewhat off the beaten track.

I found my fellow bus travellers to be really friendly and although I had always been a little nervous about taking the bus I was very comfortable. It was a great experience that I can definitely recommend for the money-conscious, budget savvy traveller!

Remember to do some research before you set off on your Indian adventure and get the best bus ticket prices before you leave!

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New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival 2014 Mon, 22 Jul 2013 10:06:10 +0000 Friday 25 April to Sunday 4th May at the Fair Grounds Race Course which is located in the heart of the historic city. This 10-day music mash-up promises to see more people than ever before and strives to beat it’s audience of over 425,000 people it seen in 2013, hopefully this year round it will be without the thunderstorms and mad weather the festival experienced last year.

Officially the festival is held between the hours of 11am and 7pm, after which the numerous bars and nightclubs in New Orleans handles the crowds and continues the party atmosphere between closed doors. According to the festival’s website, you’ll be able to experience an eclectic mix of music genres, some of which include: blues, R&B, gospel music, Cajun music, zydeco, Afro-Caribbean, folk music, Latin, rock, rap music, country music, bluegrass.

Whilst the festival is most known for it’s music, you will also find many cooks and craftspeople that come to showcase and sell a little of their work. In many areas of the festival you will be able to get stuck in and get lessons in various skills and crafts, some paid for, many for free.

During previous years the festival has hosted some great performers, some of which include Dave Matthews Band, Fleetwood Mac, The Black Keys, Norah Jones, and Rod Stewart.

food-stall-at-new-orleans-jazz-festivalIf you’re not that into your music but would still like to check it out there are many other things you can do to keep entertained. For the foodies out there you’ll not be disappointed with what’s on offer at the festival. Eating at any number of the 70+ different food stalls will keep anyone happy no matter what your tastes are, the official food policy is “no carnival food” so you’ll be sure to find what you’re looking for. There are eight different food areas: Food Area I, Food Area II, Congo Square, Heritage Square, Around the Grounds, the Folk Area, the Grandstand, and a Kids’ Food section which are spotted all around the festival grounds. You could always check out the Top Picks for Food at the New Orleans Jazz Festival if you wanted to get some idea on what is on offer.

Each year on average New Orleans Jazz Festival earns the local economy some $300 million.

Whilst the lineup has not yet been announced you can be confident it will host some good acts. Tickets are expected to be in the $50-$60 price range if you pay in advance or $65-$70 if you pay at the door.

For more information please visit the official Wikipedia page at or visit the festivals offical website at

Unveiled and Lifted Documentary Sat, 13 Jul 2013 14:43:09 +0000 unveiled-and-lifted-documentary-coverIs it time for you to stop giving your power and freedom away to government and other people who claim to know what is ‘best’ for you? Whilst most of us have to live under government control, there are certain aspects which we can take back for ourselves.

Many of us are taught from children that government knows best and that they are elected or brought into power to better serve the community – I personally do not believe this to be true. I believe most governments, especially those in the Western world, surpress societies and collectively work together in order to build fear amongst people to create a more manageable population.

The most commonly talked about issues in parliament that cause people to become anxious (overpopulation, poverty, financial collapse, food prices etc) can be better dealt with if the collective are willing to educate themselves fully on the subjects and work together, outside of government, to push for better resolutions. Governments can be slow to act and have become surrounded in red tape, often meaning that pressing issues are lost in ‘paperwork’ and never fully resolved.

Many of the issues raised in this documentary will be opposed by many, and some arguments may not be accepted as ‘valid’ by others, but an interesting watch that makes you think…

Comments welcome below as always.

Robyns Langtang Trek Photos – Nepal Thu, 16 May 2013 11:03:07 +0000 ]]> Robyns Kayaking Photos – River Fun, Nepal Thu, 16 May 2013 09:00:55 +0000 ]]> Giza Pyramids Gallery Sun, 31 Mar 2013 15:00:29 +0000 ]]> 1 Get Free (or Nearly Free) Airport Transfers Worldwide Thu, 28 Mar 2013 20:27:51 +0000 Travelling is fun most of the time but there are points in every travellers journey which are an utter grind. My personal peeve is forgetting to arrange transport from the airport to wherever I’m staying, if I’ve booked somewhere that is. This is normally only a problem for me if the airport is out of the city or out of reach of somewhere cheap to stay.

Now normally one could freestyle it to a hostel or hotel through hitchhiking, blagging a lift or using some form of public transport on the cheap, this would normally be fine but there comes that occasion when you’ve booked a cheap flight, it arrives late into the evening or early morning, you’re hungover to buggery from the leavy party the night before and simply asking for a coke from the flight attendance to get rid of your cotten mouth can become an arduous chore!

Sometimes this can be the best situation and save you some pennies
Sometimes this can be the best situation and save you some pennies

So in situations similar to this, what do you do? Well assuming you’re in such a dire state that camping outside or sleeping at the airport is not an option (packing a sleeping bag and ‘tramping it’ is always my first thought, you need to get to the city where most of the cheaper diggs will be found.

So you’re flight has just come in and you’ve managed to hold in that little bit of sick from the turbulence and bumpy landing, you’ve picked up your bag and checked that no drugs have been stashed in their somewhere and you’ve made your nervous walk through the customs & exercise line trying to give just the right amount of eye contact without looking too “starey” and thus succumbing to a cavity search…

The most likely thing that will happen next is you’ll walk through the arrivals gate and be swamped by taxi ‘touts’ looking to charge your extortionate rates to take you to ‘wherever you want to go’. This can be an absolute nightmare, and if you don’t blend in and have a backpack then your easy prey… So lets take a minute and talk about the best way to handle these pleasent people:

Taxi Touts at Airports, how to handle them

A familiar site at airports...
A familiar site at airports…

Firstly, they are not your enemy, but they can be persistent so the first thing to do is politely decline their offer and make an excuse to temporarily leave, assuring them that you’ll be back in 5 minutes and if their still there you’ll chat to them then. Going to the bathroom, for a cigarette, a coffee (my personal favourite!), will give you some breathing space to get your plan together for maximum enjoyment with minimum price paid.

Give this guy headphones and you’re all set to ignore taxi touts!

If you really want to give them the cold shoulder, put your hat and sunglasses on, snap on your headphones, crack on Metallica full level and shoot for the arrivals exit door! They know what’s happening almost immediately and seem to give you some weird respect for doing it. Maybe that’s just me?

From experience I would say that the average airport taxi tout will charge between 25-50% more than a standard fare which you can get from metered cabs that can often be found just a few meters away at the airport taxi rank. A word of caution though that even ‘metered’ taxis can be (and often are) tampered with by their operators and can actually end up costing you more than a tout! – Always make sure you get a price before setting off, to get an idea I’d get a few ‘quotes’ from the touts, knock off a 1/3 and go see the taxi ranks (or vise-versa if using the Headphones, Cap and Sunny’s approach as outlined above), 90% of them will undertake jobs off the meter. As an extra bargaining tool you can often play one tout against the other to get the best price (John said 100, Pete said he could do it for 90, can you beat that… etc). They all have a break-even point and if they can’t match it then they will leave you alone. If you are feeling confident and don’t mind negotiating with stranges, letting taxi-touts battle over your business is often the best way to go as they’ll cut to their best price almost instantly as they know that they are all using the same tricks…

This could be your 'Taxi'
This could be your ‘Taxi’

From previous experience, taxi touts will look the part, all suited up, polished shoes and well dressed, only to then usher you off (often so you’re not snapped up by someone else who can do it for less) into the parking lot where he’ll introduce you to his 25 year old banged up old cadillack which you’ll also probably have to help him pushing to get it to start.

Now these taxi touts aren’t all stupid, they’ll have you wait for 5 minutes (which ends up turning into 20 minutes) whilst they ‘have a quick cigarette’ which is actually 3 cigarettes chain smoked back to back at a relaxing pace. During this time, small talk will go back and forth to try and lighten the mood whilst his colleagues inside try and round up another few unsuspecting tourists to jump in with you (thus doubling or sometimes tripling his fare).

They can operate at a speedy pace when getting you to their vehicle and often be quite insistant, if at any point you feel uncomfortable, stop and talk to them, explaining your concerns, often it’s at this point you can further negotiate the price before committing to starting your trip, something along the lines of this normally works:

“Hey Joe (call them anything ;-)), I thought you were a Taxi driver and I’d be getting into a safer looking and more road worthy car than this. I think I’d be happier going to another taxi as for the same price it would be a much nicer ride for me… sorry to waste your time, I’m not happy getting into this car”… then start to make a move away (an important ‘step’). They would hate to see someone walk away after they’ve got them this close so at this point it’s time for you to push for an extra 10-20% off the price… “If you can do it for 90 instead of 100 I’ll go with you, else I’m leaving for another taxi”….

“ok my friend, ok…” will normally be the response. Expect them to ask for a tip when you have set off for ‘good driving’, it’s up to you what you do.

A last quick tip before you jump in is to make sure they know exactly where your hostel/hotel is and will take you to the door. Often they will have no idea but know the street name and drop you off either at the street or near the street and give you some ‘simple directions to follow’ – never accept them! If you’re in a foreign city, at night, by yourself with all the posessions around looking like you’re looking for somewhere to go then you’re prime target for muggers, con-artists or other ‘nice’ people that will show you to your hostel and insist on a ‘tip’ at the end of it! Plus also, it could be raining or cold, or even worst the taxi driver doesn’t even know where your hostel is and has just dropped you off down some road because it’s en-route back to the airport… All of this has happened to me in the past and it’s fecking horrid at times! – Make sure it doesn’t happen to you.

taxi_fare_being_exchangedFinal tip: Always pay your full fare at the end of the journey, when you are dropped off at your place of stay. If you pay before leaving then things can get messy and taxi drivers can purposely start ‘arguments’ or highlight discrepancies in the itinerary in order to get some more money from you, or alternatively drop you off half-way to your hostel/hotel and claim that’s what you agreed on, now he’s just saved 1/2 his petrol with a full fare in his back pocket and heading back off to the airport…

Remember, if it doesn’t seem logical don’t do it. You’re in the driving seat, and no matter what they say, if they want your business they’ll have to do it YOUR way!

Making Your Own Shared Taxi Arrangements with People on the same Flight

Now, If you were a smart ol’ boy without a killing hangover and got to the airport early, you could have possibly met the people travelling on the same flight and arranged to share a taxi (and the price) when you landed, even if you’re not going to the same hotels, drivers will more than likely drop at different places for a ‘little extra’ or alternatively you can all get into the center together and if conversation went well they might offer you a place to kip on the sofa or pull out bed for the night (big brucie bonus!) alternatively you’ll now be in the center of town and can make use of cheap public transport options which are often ‘free’ if you don’t buy a ticket to use them and low risk as attendants usually clock off early hours of the evening so aren’t around to patrol.

Booking a hostel with free airport pickup or going with a hostel which is touting at the airport already – The ultimate winner!

More and more hostels are picking people up direct from the airport these days as competition is tough and it’s a way to get some revenue in. I would say around 50% of them are offering this service (obviously depending hugely on Country and Airport) and out of that pool around half will offer it for free if you stay X amount of nights (normally around 3-4) so that they can recoup some of the cost involved with the journey. Hostels that will pick you up for a fee will normally be at a discounted cost (around 50-75% off that of the metered taxi ranks outside the airport).

If you decide to go this route you’ll need to spend a few minutes checking out which hostels do this and which meet your requirements, and then making a booking a few days prior to catching your flight to give the hostel owners time to make arrangements as often they will only check their emails/bookings once a day or once every few days depending on what their situation is like. I have successfully and un-successfully managed to make arrangements for a free lift to a hostel after I had landed but it has meant that I’m waiting around for an hour or two and it puts a lot of undue pressure on the hostel owners in my opinion.

You’ll also find that there could be a number of hostel reps at the airport willing to take the lazy travellers to their hostel. This can be good and bad. You’ll obviously get a free lift to the hostel door, but if you don’t know anything about the hostel already it means it might not be what you’re after, though if it’s late at night and all you really want is a bed then why not? It’s always worth asking about the types of room they have, their prices and current occupancy rate, if they have a low occupancy rate then you could negotiate a deal to stay in a double room with ensuite instead of a shared dorm which will allow you to kick back in absolute pleasure (I’m currently writing this in a hostel in Egypt in a double room with an ensuite after having done exactly this!).

Remember that you don’t have to take only one form of transport to get to your destination. If you’re on a buget and don’t mind the additional time it will take you, it could work out much cheaper to get a taxi from the Airport to the nearest train station and then get a metro to that cheap hostel you found online! Remember it’s becoming more and more common to have internet terminals at airports now which often you can use for free, this can prove to be invaluable if you’ve left your Airport transfer arrangements to the last minute… A few free minutes spent on the internet can end up saving you a whole weeks worth of accomodation costs!

Thanks for reading, I hope it’s helped some of you out here. If you’ve got any tips, suggestions or mad stories relating to this post, please direct them in the below comments box!

Happy travels everyone!
Paul x

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The Ultimate Charging Station for Travellers Thu, 28 Mar 2013 13:03:38 +0000 Have you ever been in a situation where you’ve found yourself in a shared dorm of a hostel in some random country with only one or two electrical sockets to serve everyone? It can be a nightmare especially with everyone now having multiple electronic devices they need to charge:

  • ipods
  • laptops
  • camera batteries
  • mobile phones
  • portable hair straighteners (yup! I’ve seen it!)

Well before I left for Greece, I thought back to all the things that have annoyed me on previous trips and this one came out tops so I decided to take some evasive action and come up with a simpler solution… My goal was simple, to be able to charge all of my electrical devices (5 in total), from one socket, without having to carry around multiple chargers, power adapters or multi-way plugs. And to put a cherry on the top, I decided I’d like to have some kind of surge protection so that all my electronics don’t go pop in the night and render themselves useless.

Sound easy? Not really… every ‘solution’ I thought of or came across turned out to be too bulky or otherwise infringe on my objectives listed above. I did some trial and error and eventually came to a solution after around a month of deliberation…

So, first off I decided I’d need to make my devices as universally chargeable as possible (sharing the same lead or connection), this alone was hard work which required some research.

I currently have with me the following electronic devices that need charging on a regular basis, all of which I consider ‘essential’ items for the professional travel writer:

I figured that most acceptable way would be to charge them all through USB, and as my laptop had 3 USB ports I could charge most of them through that. Unfortunately, after some experimentation I found that the more devices you attached to the laptop the slower everything charged and it was taking nearly 12 hours to fully charge everything and my laptop had to be on for 2 of the 3 USB’s to receive power (1 USB has power direct from the main charger, allowing charging in this fashion when the laptop is turned off).

This wasn’t perfect for a number of obvious reasons, but my main concern was that my laptop had to be left on for such a long period of time, reducing the life of the battery and the laptop itself. Also the ‘trickel’ type charge the devices were receiving could not be as good as full supply charge that you’d get from charging direct from the mains outlet. I also had the problem of charging my digital camera batteries that couldn’t be charged via USB, and the surge issue.

So, first thing I needed to do was take the charging away from my laptop and before the laptop converter to get maximum ‘juice’ to my devices.

So I was in need of some form of inline power adapter, which had the following specs:

  • Inline charging
  • Output to my laptop charger
  • A couple of USB ports
  • An international socket to accept my US camera battery charger
  • Surge protection
  • An EU style plug which is most widely used in Europe and in some places of Asia, also it’s small and compact opposed to UK style plugs.
  • Lightweight, not too bulky and well built
Lindy Laptop Surge Protector with Figure 8 USB Charger
The beast of all in-line travel chargers!

I searched for days to find something that ticked everybox, but most came short on one or two of the above features… Then, god shined a light on me and provided me the solution to my worries: It’s called the Lindy Laptop Surge Protector with Figure 8 USB Charger and literally feels like it’s been made specifically for me!

It’s an absolutely amazing piece of kit. It has two USB chargers, the third charging point I can take from my laptop even when the powers off (though unlikely I ever need to charge all at once), a universal plug on the top that I’ve used to help other people charge their gear with and it’s small enough to be strapped to my laptop charger/inverter. They have been working happily together now for quite some-time and fingers cross will continue for a few years.

I’m currently writing this will everything charging from one socket whilst still being able to do some work on my laptop at the same time…

Also, due to the fact the inline adapter & charger combo are in the middle of my power lead I can easily take to a coffee shop, sit down for an hour or so with the gadgets and charger ‘block’ in my laptop bag and get everything charged up without raising suspicion or advertising the fact I’ve got lots of expensive electronic equipment! Perfect!



So, if like me you struggle with too many leads, get pissed off at having to carry a socket-splitter or otherwise want to streamline your charging facilities, I’d highly recommend buying the Lindy Laptop Surge Protector with Figure 8 USB Charger, it’s available from for £17.94 – a small price to pay for the hassle and weight savings you would experience with conventional chargers AND it can be shipped worldwide! Brucie Bonus!

A couple of other products you might want to try are the Monster Outlets To Go MP OTG300 LTOP 300 for Laptops 3 Outlets, 2 USB – Bubble Package and the highly acclaimed Belkin Travel Surge Protector with Hidden Swivel Plug, both I’ve tried and tested before in the past and work VERY well.

Good luck and happy charging!


Essential Security Software & Browser Plugins for the Travel Writer Mon, 25 Mar 2013 20:28:06 +0000 For people who work as travel writers or simply those who find themselves using free WI-FI spots in cafés, airports and hostels/hotels whilst on the road it is essential that you secure your connection and computer the very best you can to avoid being a victim of cyber-crime and intrusions from hackers. You’ll soon see how vulnerable you could be to hackers and con-artists by the end of this article (plus the steps you need to take in order to protect yourself online).

Now, a few days ago I landed in Egypt and needed to pull out my laptop, jump onto the free WI-FI connection in Egypt Airport and book a hostel (which would offer a free lift from the airport, a classic money saving tip, though better to book in advance not last minute like me!). I realised seconds before logging into my email and hostelbookers that I wasn’t 100% secure from prying eyes whilst using the WI-FI at the airport… in fact, I had no idea that the unsecured WI-FI network I was connecting onto conveniently named ‘Free Airport WIFI’ along with around 10 others of various names was genuine and not in fact set up by some randomer using an internet dongle and their own computer as a router in order to monitor their connections and internet activity! – This can be done easily and I have done it multiple times to allow other people to use the WI-FI signal from the internet dongle on my computer, it’s legal if used correctly, highly illegal is not…

wi-fi-friend-or-foe-2If I were to connect to this network and book a hostel online using my credit card there would be a potential for hackers within the airport (where many are now operating to target unsuspecting travellers like you and I) to see all my credit card details, where I was going, how long I was staying for any any other information they wanted to know.

Note that even if the website you were booking on had an SSL certificate (which most of them have now which accept payments online) that layer of security is server-side and is NO benefit to you when you are are using unsecured WI-FI in a public place as the potential hacker can intercept communications between your computer and the WI-FI router (or be the WI-FI router themselves!).

Generally speaking, real public WI-FI will be unsecured so that anyone can use it and will not require a password to use it. This often means that hackers or even slightly computer savvy people can intercept your communications with the use of readily available tools on the internet (I could have done so at the Airport to test the security of the network but didn’t fancy potentially getting caught and going to an Egyptian Prison!)

WPA (encrypted) WI-FI can often be found in cafe’s and hotels but this still doesn’t mean you are protected from prying eyes, this simply means that you need a password to access the WI-FI connection to use the internet NOT that your communications are encrypted or secure – If a hacker was logged into the same network as you (ie they bought a coffee and asked for the password to the network), then you would be as vulnerable as you were on an unsecured network.

I consider myself an advanced computer user and although I have quite a bit of protection on my computer (a firewall, anti-virus, and a number of security plugins which I use when browsing the internet) I was still open to attack as the actual transmission of my data over the WI-FI connection was not encrypted and potentially available for others to see.

As my entire life is on my laptop and I need it for work, I decided to take a few minutes out to fully secure myself before logging onto a public, unsecured WI-FI connection so I could safely make a payment for a hostel online with my credit card.

I have used Comodo Firewall as my firewall software for many years on all computers I have owned. It is the worlds number 1 free Firewall software and in my eyes provides better security with a more manageable interface that nearly all paid for software you can buy. Needless to say Comodo are very good and leaders in internet security and if you haven’t already got a firewall or you’re current one is taking up too many resources on your computer I’d recommend downloading this one.

Whilst the firewall protects any direct inbound access to my computer which I do not approve and the AV protects against viruses from any received files/connections I do approve, my computers transmission of data bound for the internet was still being left open for attack (as will most users of Public WI-FI) which could be picked up by hackers.

So I set out to find something that encrypts the information on my computer, then sends the encrypted data over the WI-FI connection to a secured server on the internet which will then pass on my communications securely to the websites I will want to access, in my case it was the site for HostelBookers. This means that any potential hacker listening in on my communications would not be able to decode the 128-bit encrypted data (industry standard used by banks and governments) and thus have no ability to see what I was doing, nor view any of my personal data ie. my credit card details and place of stay.

Luckily for me (and you!) there is a service provided by Comodo that is designed specifically for this purpose, it’s called TrustConnect Wi-Fi Security there are probably others out there but as I’ve been using Comodo for 15+ years without a glitch and they are one of the leaders in internet security, I didn’t look much further. I will do a more in-depth review of available options in the next week or so.

You have to pay for the TrustConnect service but the prices I think are very reasonable and guarantee peace of mind, so I’d highly recommend it to everyone. All subscription plans have the option to be set to bill recurring and you are tied into no contract 🙂

Monthly Plan, Unlimited Bandwidth/Traffic : $8.99/month – Most Popular, I use this.
1 Year Plan, Unlimited Bandwidth/Traffic: $99.95
1 Year Plan, 10GB Bandwidth/Traffic: $12.95
1 Year Plan, 50GB Bandwidth/Traffic: $29.95
1 Year Plan, 100GB Bandwidth/Traffic: $49.95
Daily Plan, Unlimited Bandwidth/Traffic: $3.99

Prices were taken on 25th March 2013, you can check their latest prices by visiting as they may have decreased at the time of reading.

Once you have downloaded and installed the small program (under 1MB), you simply connect to the service using an icon in the taskbar (bottom right of screen). This means that if you are on a limited bandwidth allowance you can de-activate the service with one click when you are uploading none-private photographs, streaming videos online or otherwise comfortable you are on a secured network and don’t require this additional layer of security. Note that TrustConnect encrypts informations two-ways (upload and download) so if you leave it on, download some videos and you are on a limited bandwidth allowance you could find this allowance being eaten up! Personally I’d advise going for the monthly recurring and unlimited bandwidth plan.

scr_stat_dailyscr_tooltip If you wanted to monitor how much bandwidth you are currently consuming on the internet, you could you this free nifty tool called Networx which will provide you with a graphical (and numeric) representation of how much bandwidth you are using. I use this often when I have to use my USB Internet Dongle to monitor how much of my traffic allowance I am using. You can set daily limit notifications so you know roughly how much data you are transferring. It’s completely free, updated regularly (last update 17 Dec 2012 on time of writing) and is only 3.0MB. Screenshots of it in use can be found at I encourage anyone who uses it and finds it useful to donate a little to the developer (a buck or two if you’re broke) as this will ensure the continued development of this brilliant program!

So getting back to the matter in hand. With TrustConnect installed and working (I ran a few tests) I was happy that I’m fully secured and can happily connect to any publicly available WI-FI spot anywhere in the world without the risk of having any of my details stolen which had previously happened when I was in an internet café in Malta come to think of it!

One of the other benefits of using TrustConnect is that it creates a VPN (Virtual Private Network) which effectively hides you completely from anyone looking for your computer (IE, hackers trying to obtain information about your computer and it’s connection).

The supported operating systems and system requirements for TrustConnect are given below and have been taken direct from their website.

  • WinXP
  • WindowsVista
  • Windows 7 – 32 bit and 64 bit
  • Mac OS X
  • Linux (containing kernel 2.4 or later)
  • FreeBSD, OpenBSD
  • 22 MB RAM
  • 7 MB Disk Space

I would without question seriously consider using TrustConnect to secure your Wi-Fi networks, I’m currently writing this from a hostel wi-fi connection and if it wasn’t for TC I would have no idea if there was someone next door watching everything I am doing!

For others who are interested I also use a number of other security programs and browser plugins which further enhance security. Here’s the list of my currently installed security software I use now which have helped me become more at ease of using the internet on the road:


Anti-virus software is essential on every computer and often installed by default on many new operating systems. The problem is that most AV (Anti-Virus) software comes will too many bells and whistles that people simply don’t need but which AV companies use in order to market their products to the less knowledgeable people out there; this is also a good way for them to distinguish themselves from their competition and a way for them to provide a USP that ultimately results in more sales.

These added features often slow your computer down and take a long time to configure and often complicate the system.

If, like me, you want a free, lightweight, reliable and secure Anti-Virus product I would go for AVG Anti-Virus Free, I have been using this for more years that I can count and I have never had a problem. The software is self-updating, it’s free and it doesn’t slow your computer down. It’s currently in use by over 110 million people worldwide (464 million downloads on and the company has been around for 22 years.

If you wanted to try a number of different AV software before settling on one, I can also recommend Avast Anti-virus which I have also used successfully the last few years.

Chrome Security Plugins/Extensions

To further enhance my security online, I have a number of extensions used on my browser Google Chrome (used because it loads faster on my computer than Firefox or IE), also it has quite a good development community whom actively build some pretty amazing plugins or extensions for the browser. Some extensions can save you a heap of time but also allow you to browse the internet with more security and privacy which I think especially important when travelling abroad or using public WI-FI.

Some Google Chrome Plugins which I use to improve Web-Browsing Privacy and Security can be found below:

Last Pass

Used by almost 900,000 of Chrome users (average rating of 4.76/5 – Very good!), Last Pass is one of my most used plugins. In essence, it saves all login details you have including your password and then when you load up chrome you simply log into the service using 1 master password (which you should make memorable but very secure), then any time you visit a site you have already saved for remembering, it will auto fill your details or give you the ability to choose which account you wish to log into should you have more than one account with the same website. It also gives you the opportunity to Auto-Login to sites if you have only one account with that site and would like to log in straight away. I use this function for my main Google account and over the years has saved me much time.

One of the added benefits of this plugin is that you can set many different parameters to fully customise how secure you would like the service to be. You can organise saved sites into Groups and Favourites as well as setting which countries you will allow to log into this service – A great feature if you travel around a lot.

By using an extension or service similar to this one ensures you can select strong, individual passwords for all of your online accounts and not have to worry about taking ages to fill them in each time and remembering complex passwords. Many people still use one passwords for all of their accounts online, this is VERY BAD PRACTISE!! If someone was to get hold of one of your account passwords they have the key to all of your accounts!

Initially, I was a little apprehensive about keeping all of my passwords on a 3rd party site but after reading reviews from other users and reading about the LastPass technology I was confident my passwords were safe. I have been using this service for around 2 years now with no problems and have been very happy, I wouldn’t recommend it otherwise. Coupled with TrustConnect you can be sure that your passwords are 100% secure.

You can download the LastPass Chrome Extension from the Chrome Webstore here:

Alternatively visit to learn more about their service and see how to install it for other browsers (it supports most of the main ones), also a video for a little more information.

Click & Clean

Click & Clean provides an easy way to ensure that all private data is removed when you shut down your browser. This is another widely used plugin within the Chrome community and has been downloaded 337,000+ times and achieved a 4.7/5 star rating from 1400 reviews (very good!).

I use it for an extra bit of privacy, but also to ensure that hard disk space isn’t being taken up by temporary internet files and other garbage I don’t want as this can accumulate to quite a bit over time.

Even though using this extension means you have to re-login each time you want to access an online account, when coupled with LastPass it takes only seconds and you benefit from additional security should your laptop ever get stolen.

This plugin in lightweight and useful for web-developers who sometimes need a quick way to flush cookies or temp files on their site to check for changes. For non-developers it’s a install once, configure and forget plugin and highly recommended.

It’s been developed by the team at (to give them a bit of link love!) and is actively developed. If you have a problem or feature suggestion, you can leave a comment in the Chrome community and/or email them – they listen to their customers…

You can download Click & Clean from the Chrome Web Store here:


Disconnect is a slightly less well-known plugin (it hasn’t been around that long) that does an excellent job of protecting your privacy from social network scripts and widgets that you’ll find running on more and more websites these days (including ours!).

It effectively stops your browsing history and cookies being carried across different websites by search engines and third parties, thus increasing your web-privacy.

It will block certain cookies on your computer from being accessible by search engines which will make your search engine results slightly less ‘personalised’ but I find this to be perfect as I often search for very specific information within the same topic and don’t want one result to influence another.

This extension will disable Facebook boxes, +1 boxes/widges along with others from displaying on pages so if you are actively using these features this may not be a plugin for you.

You can however add sites to a ‘Whitelist’ with this extension and also temporarily disable it should you wish to play facebook games for example… all from a click of a button!

A recent feature of the Disconnect extension is the ability to improve your WI-FI security whilst using social media sites, an interesting video of it in action can be found out by visiting the developers website at

It’s been downloaded over 243,000 times to date and has been given a rating of 4.59 from the Chrome Extension community who have submitted 1130 ratings against it. Needless to say, it is a very good extension and in my eyes should be downloaded by anyone who has a concern for internet privacy.

The Chrome Extension can be downloaded from the Chrome Webstore here:

Keep My Opt-Outs

A Chrome extension developed by Google, Keep My Opt-Outs allows users to permanently opt out of personalised ads which they are shown when searching the internet.

For those who don’t know… Google (and other search engines), use your search history and previously visited sites to customise the ads you are shown when browsing the internet. Ie, should you have visited a site about car repairs, you’ll likely see many adverts for Automotive sites and insurance companies, even if you have moved onto a site about bread baking…

This extension will disable the customised ads, so if you visit a car repair site (where you’ll likely see ads for automotive sites and insurance companies), when you visit your bread-baking site, you’ll see only adverts related to bread-baking…

It’s a download and install extension which you active and forget. I have used this for years and it works just as it should (434,000+ people also use this extension and the community from the Chrome Web Store have given the extension a 4.44/5 rating – very good!).

I’d rather see related adverts to the page I’m viewing than related to my previous searches. Many people use AdBlocking software which I don’t agree with as it takes revenue away from Websmasters (including myself) who rely on this income to earn a living. If I found an article interesting on a site I was visiting I would often click through a sponsored link to help give a little ‘donation’ to the web-master… a small token of appreciation if you will; If more people did this as opposed to installing AdBlocking software the internet would be a different place.

You can download Keep My Opt-Outs from the Google Webstore here:

HTTPS Everywhere

The final plugin I’d semi-recommend is HTTPS Everywhere, this plugin will try to connect to secure pages of websites you visit if available. IE, should you visit you’ll be redirected to which will ensure that everything you do on Facebook will be handled by a secure and encrypted connection safe from hackers.

The reason I say ‘semi-recommend’ is because the extension isn’t perfect and is still lacking some vital features ie, whitelisting certain websites so they are not redirected to https versions of the site, as sometimes this can cause a re-direct loop and the only way to disable this is to deactivate the extension completely which can be a pain sometimes.

After scanning the reviews and comments left by other users this problem and these lack of essential features seems to affect some people more than others so maybe give it a try and if it doesn’t work you can easily uninstall it with no ill effects.

Currently 173,000 people have installed it on Chrome and it has a rating of 4.59/5.0 so can only assume that most people will have no problem using it. I personally don’t use it, but may decide to in the near future.


Oh wait, one more for you… This little gem of an extension (only 4,800 downloads) removes the tracking/referral link from Google search results so the links you click on are not tracked by Google after the initial search. I’m not sure of the real privacy purpose of this plugin but on slow internet connections in hostels I’ve found that sometimes the page hangs on the Google redirect, and after installing this little gem, that additional step is removed and I no longer suffer from that annoyance.

The plugin in called Undirect and is available from the Google Web Store here:

As a final closing note, if you wanted to remove history/last file opens etc from your recently used programs you could install a program called CCleaner from Piriform, it does a great job of clearing up your system and is highly configurable whilst remaining easy for beginners. Oh and it’s completely free!!

I hope this information will help some of you travel with a greater peace of mind that your information is safe and secure no matter where you decide to use internet!

Holiday Ideas to put the Art in Architecture Thu, 14 Mar 2013 15:08:01 +0000 Traditionally Europe is seen as the centre of the art world and tourists travel many miles to visit the famous galleries and museums of major European cities; yet the streets of Europe are an artwork in themselves and architects the artists that have left their mark.


Helsinki was declared the World Design Capital in 2012, an honorific title that paid tribute to the importance of design in the Finnish capital. Austrian influenced art nouveau buildings with decorative flourishes and gargoyles built at the turn of the last century give a fairy-tale feel to the compact metropolis of 1.2 million people, but it is the work of Finland’s most famous designer that dominates the city.

Artistic and educational tours of Helsinki focus on the work of Alvar Aalto, a Finnish architect and designer who designed over 500 individual buildings, the vast majority of them in Finland and most notably Helsinki, although his hometown of Jyvaskla is famous for having more buildings designed by him than any other city. A pioneer of modern architecture, he treated each building like a work of art and his influence in the world of architecture was so great, the Alvar Aalto Medal is the most prestigious prize an architect can be awarded.

His most famous contribution to the streets of Helsinki is Finlandia Hall, a modernist concert hall by Toolonlahti Bay. The Hall is clad in white Carrara marble which has, since it was unveiled in 1971, damaged in Helsinki’s extreme temperatures but the damage has only served to make the building more striking.

Tourists can also travel out to visit the late architect’s house in Munkkinniemi in the northern suburbs of the Helsinki which, since Aalto’s death in 1976, become a museum. Helsinki also boasts the controversial Kiasma Museum of Contemporary, a fittingly contemporary design with a curving concrete atrium and glass ceiling by America architect and Alvar Alto Medal winner Steven Holl in the 1990s; it is one of the few buildings in Helsinki not designed by a Fin.

Aalto’s contribution to architecture in Europe is not just to be found in Finland, his buildings can be discovered and explored in France, Italy and most commonly, Germany and Berlin. A fascinating architectural city in its own right, Berlin is one of the four major so-called Aalto towns in the country.

In the 1950s Aalto joined with some of the biggest names in modern architecture, Ludwig mies van der Rohe, Le Corbusier and Walter Gropius and designed eight storeys high apartment blocks in Hansaviertel, Berlin, as part of the International Building Exhibition or Interbau, designed to encourage the rehabilitation and growth of Berlin in the 1950s.

Walks around Berlin are educational tours of statement architecture. Fittingly in a country where architecture was used as a political statement in the form of the Berlin Wall, there is some of the most exciting and impressive architecture in Europe contained in the city. Since the fall of the wall, new architectural stars like Frank Gehry, Rem Koolhaas, Norman Foster, Richard Rogers and Alvar Aalto’ Medal winner James Stirling have made the mark.



Angela has undertaken several educational tours of the architecture of Europe exploring the influence of art on modern buildings. She writes about design for websites, blogs and magazines.

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