The Traveller and the Tourist


The traveller and the tourist are essentially of course the same thing: nomads on holiday! But, if you have ever travelled the road less travelled you will know why travelers wince when they are called tourists. I am often asked to define the difference. This is what i have come up with:

When we are tourists our purpose for travel is to be ourselves surrounded by another world in order to replenish ourselves. When we are tourists we return home rejuvenated to continue our lives. On return our perspective on our life is hopefully re-energised. Our journey is over, back to the grind.

When we are travellers our purpose for travel is to be ourselves in the other’s world in order to exhaust ourselves. When we are travellers we return home older and cannot continue our lives in the same vein because our perspective on our lives has changed. On return our journey has just begun. 

Travelling requires a leap of faith, that is why we travel. It has been thus since the first nomad left the trees for the plains of Africa!


Trust Locally Travel Safely From Here To Timbuktu

Trust Locally Travel Safely from here to Timbuktu

This is our new mission statement. 

What do we mean?

In a nutshell we mean that by trusting to your own intuition AND trusting the local perspective of your guide you can travel safely anywhere in the world.  

An extreme example: we would never advise anyone to go into an active conflict zone for obvious reasons. But say you have to. Say it is your job. You are a war correspondent. You are sent to Afghanistan with a mission to get behind enemy lines.

How would you go about this? Would you just arrive in Kabul, get a bus to Taliban land and walk in saying “Hi I’m looking for a Taliban to interview?”. Of course not. Would you consult your government and go in with the military? Wouldn’t work. Would you get your editor to hook up with the taliban so you can drive in yourself expected? No.

You’d find a guide. Someone from the region, someone with connections, someone who could argue your case and protect your interest. And you’d only move forwards into dangerous territory knowing you had back up, trusting in your local plan and your guide’s advice. If you didn’t trust your guide you’d drop the mission.

We are not asking you to go to Afghanistan, or Syria or Libya. We are asking you to go to Mali, Jordan. Iran, Senegal, Morocco, Egypt, Ethipiopia, Kenya. What is keeping you away? 

Fear. Fear of politics. Fear of terrorism. Fear of the unknown. But you have all of that in your back yard. 

Kenya’s tourism has been decimated. Why? Because tourists fear being kidnapped from the beach by a pirate. This is what the brave that do travel to kenya do instead:

When the shit hits the fan

On the road occasionally the shit hits the fan, that’s life. On our journeys to Timbuktu over the past decade occasionally a vehicle broke down, occasionally a passport was lost, occassionally someone got ill and our journey had to change direction. 

When a world financial crisis happened, we had to adapt to a changing world; when a war took place in Libya that had repercussions in our back yard in Mali we had to adapt our business. Once, when we were in the wrong place at the wrong time, we had to adapt our journey. 

Then one day real crisis hit – Mali had a coup d’etat and went into political and civil crisis, our world was divided against itself, our people became refugees. We had to adapt to a new reality. But whatever happend, whatever we had to adapt around, we always returned to Timbuktu, and from Timbuktu we all always returned home. 

As nomads, travellers, guides or refugees we were always “safe” because we always had two essential guides to rely upon – our own intuition to judge the moment and a local guide’s understanding and perspective to judge any situation. And at all pojnts on any journey real safety is in your driver’s hands not the outside world’s.

So we say keep your eyes on the road ahead, trust your local perspective and you can travel safely.

Travel is our species’ raison d’etre – we are the success we are today because we travelled across the globe and discovered our planet. To travel we need to trust in our ability to get to know a new environment. To understand a new environment we need local knowledge. If we have local knowledge we trust in our inate ability to safely travel forwards. We’ve been doing it since our time began!

What do we trust?

We trust our own ability to deal with the unknown and our ability to communicate with others we might meet on our journey to help us on our way. We walk to the shop, we take the bus to the big city, we take a train to the continent, we fly to the other side of the world because we like to move, we have moved before, we trust in our environment and we trust in the local people at all points on the journey to guide us on our way.


When Free Movement Is Banned The Free Should Keep Moving

Trump’s Muslim travel ban is non-sensical but Western travellers have been banning themselves from Muslim countries for years. It is time for travellers to realise their power.


The US must be at a very high security risk for its President to be banning people from entering the country on the basis of nationality or creed. There must be high grade intelligence, ‘noise’ on the airwaves, someone somewhere must know something. 


Of course assumptions of a correlation between policy and reality are naive in our brave new alternative fact world of Trump and Brexit. Trump’s travel ban on some Muslim countries (forgetting the 9/11 Saudis) is similar to the Brexit demand to curb free movement. Both are really about political expediency rather than the issue they seek to address: security in the case of Trump, jobs in the case of Brexit. The travel ban will not prevent a terrorist attack, curbing free movement will not create one job. Indeed in both cases the opposite of what is intended is likely to happen, the travel ban will fuel resentment from the Muslim world and curbing free movement will reduce jobs.


In the case of Trump’s travel ban, what is the difference between banning Muslims coming in to western lands and the west warning their citizens from visiting Muslim lands? In both instances the act of travelling is deemed the risk, the creed or nationality of people deemed the problem, prevent the traveller going to certain places and you will kill the risk of terrorism, it is assumed. One problem: terrorism does not respect borders.


Some of us have been watching the west build these walls of nonsense around travel for a long time. For years now western governments have been advising, alerting, and warning their citizens from travelling to Muslim lands. Imaginary walls have been erected across Africa, Arabia and Persia. 


But there is one crucial difference. Here it is not just the politicians who are to blame. It is mainly you, the western traveller. You have been Trumping yourselves because unlike Muslims travelling to the US, you were not banned.


You banned yourselves. You stayed away, you went elsewhere, you took some other plane, perhaps to Paris or Brussels or South Africa instead, somewhere you felt safer.   South Africa has one of the highest murder rates in Africa and yet no one thinks twice about travelling there BECAUSE it is not a Muslim country. 


Since 2008, travel alerts were placed on Mali because of the threat of Al Qaeda terrorism. Malians were bemused. At this point, to most people in Mali, terrorism was something that happened in the west.  The first “terror” incident against tourists within Mali’s borders was in November 2011 when 3 tourists were kidnapped. This was far more to do with the the fact that a month earlier Colonel Gaddafi had been murdered and half his army had fled across the Sahara to Mali than to general internal insecurity. 


What was the reality of the risk to you the traveller in the 4 years between alerts and event? 


Well, in the Sahara region, an area the size of the USA, about twenty five Europeans were kidnapped, of whom a handful were tourists and one was killed. Most hostages were NGOs or ‘expat’ workers as their movements are much more easily tracked than tourists’. 


In the same period that the Sahara had 6 tourists kidnapped, America lost about 50,000 people to gun crime on its own streets. 

You might feel I am not comparing like for like. So let’s look at this differently. 


America has a population of 300 million. Mali about 15 million. Mali is 5% the size of America in terms of population. In an average year America loses about 12,000 people to gun crime on its streets. At 5% of 12,000, if Mali was as risky as America, it would lose on average 600 people to guns.


In January 2012, following events in Libya, Mali fell into a crisis that went from a rebellion to a coup d’etat, to a rebel take over of half the country followed by an Al Qaeda invasion to usurp the rebels, and finally a French military intervention to liberate the north. In all this under 400 lives were lost, the vast majority were military combatants of one type or another. Even in Mali’s year of total crisis when it had no government and Al Qaeda occupied half the country an American,  or any tourist for that matter, was safer wandering around Bamako than New York.


Like Trump’s ban and Brexit, these alerts had the opposite effect from that intended which was presumably to secure the traveller. In turning yourselves away from Mali you travellers created the vacuum that sucked in the terrorists. They were not here when you were here. But once you left our guides, hotels, travel operators, artisans, cooks, waiters, drivers, beggars and shopkeepers had nothing to do, less income, nothing to look forward to. They got poorer, desperate and angry and the resentment divided the country along the very line where tourist could and could not go. Perhaps, as angry people do, Malians listened more attentively to the crazy man at the lectern spouting nonsense for “votes” and pointing to you as the source of their problems, just like Trump and the Leave campaign did. The migrant traveller is always to blame! When four tourists who could see beyond the scaremongering arrived in Timbuktu in November 2011 they were more visible, more noticed and the natural instinct inherent in all communities to protect the stranger and their own economic interests was diminished, because the tourist income had gone, the few that were there were small fry.


The whole Saharan and West African regions, and Mali in particular, are on their knees still today, not because there is insecurity but because there are no tourists. Manny Ansar, the director of the Festival In The Desert, once said to me “When there are no tourists it is like you are blind. You cannot see yourself and forget what you look like.” As we have seen in Mali, the effects of blindness and communities wandering in the dark are devastating.


Travel alerts do not protect tourism, they kill it. If you kill tourism you create the conditions of insecurity that you are warning against – exactly what terrorism wants. In the internet age, the notion that you can protect people physically from an idea or an event that is by nature borderless and unpredictable is frankly ludicrous.


As Manny Ansar pointed to, the traveller is a mirror to us all of our common humanity, a great force for communication and understanding in our divided world.


For those of us not affected by the ban we’ll carry on going to America. We know that despite Trump’s fear mongering America is a pretty safe travelling bet. We know that despite the ban, Americans will continue picking up guns and walking into their schools, or blowing people away in the streets and that the gunman we are extremely unlikely to meet is much more likely to be white and Christian than black or Muslim, but we also know that despite all of this, the chances are we’ll have a ball, even if the airport is a hassle and awash with Robo Cop security.


The traveller is the best ambassador for peace that the world has. Rise above the fear, resist the politics and travel to save the world. Despite all the noise we are living in the safest of times for travel.


The Responsible Traveler

The Responsible Traveler


The responsible traveler is a nomad,

Ambassador to the world

Carrying a stranger’s respect and intuition

Guided only by what he sees.


The responsible traveler is safe 

Trusting the knowledge and care 

Of his common human community

Serving the roadside all along the way.


Travelers are responsible

For peace in the world, 

They are marching prophets, humanity’s messengers

Carrying nomad hearts and eyes on feet.

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Travel to Iran: Everything For A Quality Bucket List Adventure

Iranian Hospitality, Windows On Persia


Over the next two years From Here 2 Timbuktu is spreading east. To celebrate our new direction we have teamed up with an Iranian operation and together we are opening up adventurous routes through this fascinating country. Iran has always been a favourite of the travel connoisseur for its incredible hospitality. At the crossroads between Arabia and central and southern Asia, its architecture, archaelogy, culture, history and language give Iran a totally unique flavour incomparable with anywhere else. Now of course it is opening up politically and focussing heavily on bringing tourism, so get in early and avoid the crowds.

This is a 4 star quality journey that takes in the best of Iran’s but it is worth every penny.

Contact us to discuss a holiday with a difference this year!

Senegal: Cruise through wildlife, culture and desert in affordable luxury!


Senegal: A Cruise from the Atlantic to The Sahara

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Relax, lie back, be served and welcomed, observe and participate as you travel in style from Saint Louis – the Manhatten of West Africa – on Senegal’s Atlantic coast to the fringes of the Sahara. Senegal on the south bank, Mauritania on the north bank, through one of the world’s most important sites for migrating birds, past old French forts and trading towns. You will be expertly guided through the history of this important colonial route into Africa and expereince the modern day welcome of the cultures and villages en route.

With three standards of cabin and prices from €1500 this cruise offers affordable luxury for the lazy adventurer! 

Please contact us for more details 


Mauritania: Travel Back To Saharan Space And Time Forgotten

Mauritania: Travel Back To Saharan Space And Time Forgotten

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A Roman province, land of the Moors, descendants of Almoravids, Berbers, Beni Hassan Arabs and black west Africans united through an ancient Arabic dialect called Hassaniya, Mauritania is special but today you’ll be lucky to find anyone who even knows where it is. If you seek roads less traveled Mauritania is a dream destination.

Atlantic waves crash against Saharan dunes, ancient desert trading centres like Walata and Chinguetti, once as famous as Timbuktu, the longest train in the world and, with 4 million people in a country twice the size of France and two million of them in the capital city, lots of space space space!

Price Indicator: 2 weeks, 2+ passengers €1500 per person.

Please contact us to discuss Mauritania

Morocco: The Saharan Orient On Europe’s Doorstep

Morocco: EasyJet away to ancient Citadels, the Atlas Mountains and the Sahara!

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Morocco offers a top adventure holiday with easy access. A cheap short flight from Europe’s capitals and you are amidst the sweet aromas and exotic tastes of the Orient in the ancient citadels of Fez, Meknes and Marrakesh; dining with Berber fishermen on the fruits of the Mediteranean or Atlantic; crossing the Atlas mountains to camp under Saharan stars with nomads and camels.

Your guides are of nomad stock. Old Mohammed used to caravan the 55 days to Timbuktu, but today his sons Bashir and Moktar will pick you up from the airport in their comfortable 4×4 and take you on a journey through this delicous, varied and surprisingly undiscovered country.

Price Indicator: 1 Week, Inc accommodation for 2+ passengers €900 per person (Not inc flights)


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