We’ve all been holed up for almost four months and most of us feel as if we need [and deserve] a good holiday.
Whilst some, for the obvious reasons, are opting for a staycation, many of us are looking forward to perhaps getting that Summer holiday after all.
Indeed, the Government recently eased holiday restrictions, meaning we’re free to go on holiday to a list of pre-approved countries, including most of Europe as well as places such as the Caribbean, Vietnam, Japan, and New Zealand.
With the prospect of a Summer holiday a real possibility, Man Behind The Mirror caught up the [extremely] well-travelled Insta influencer Sean Lee Brown, for an uplifting insight into his best travel experiences...
MBTM: Sean, your Insta is full of colourful photos of you travelling, in normal times how often do you get to go abroad?
Sean: Hey guys. I'm lucky as I get to travel abroad a few times a year. Most of the time it’s short-haul for a week-or-so at a time, mainly to Southern Europe and the Med.
I try and do a big trip, a long haul, every couple of years. These are the holidays where the experiences stay with you for a lifetime. Being self-employed, working in events, is great as I can schedule a month or so of holiday quite a bit in advance.
MBTM: It sounds well planned out. What would you say is your most memorable trip?
Sean: The blockbuster trip has to be the month I spent with two friends travelling through Vietnam. It’s such a great country, with an incredible culture and history, and such welcoming people.
We landed in the south, in Ho Chi Min City, which was pretty much crippled by the Vietnam War in the 1960s but is now a thriving, bustling, modern city. We stayed there for a couple of days, enjoying what the sky bars had to offer, and then bought some mopeds from an on-street garage…
On our bikes we travelled the length of Vietnam, with our destination being Hanoi in the north, over 1,000km away. For most of the trip, we rode for 6/7 hours a day, mainly shadowing the coastline and stopping off at villages and cities along the way for a couple of days or so.
If I had to recommend the best places, from south to north along the journey, I would say try out Da Lat, an ancient city in the highlands. You travel through the jungle to get there. It’s staggeringly beautiful, and there’s a lot French architecture from the colonial times.
I would also recommend Nha Trang, a thriving beach city with a lot going on, as well as two smaller towns, Huế and Hội An, which are towards the middle of the country, both with bucket loads of history and some fantastic local cuisine.
MBTM: Sounds like an unbelievable experience. Have you had any other holidays that come close?
Sean: Yes, one certainly comes to mind! Last year, I took five weeks out and toured South America, trekking around Brazil, Chile, Peru and Columbia. Rio, Machu Picchu, the beaches of Columbia… What a trip!
We began in Rio and instantly got submerged in the culture, and wowed by the tourist sites [Sugarloaf Mountain, Christ the Redeemer, the Copacabana and Ipanema beaches] as well as a vivid tour of the favelas, where over 1.5 million people live, even today.
We then travelled down the coast to Sao Paulo, with a quick stop-off at Pedra Do Telégrafo, the cliff where people hang on for their lives!
Sao Paulo was immense. It’s a megacity, hugely built up, with so much noise and traffic. Even so, we loved it, especially the night life, with some amazing clubs scattered across the city.
After Brazil, we travelled to Santiago in Chile, and then onto Peru, where the two highlights were travelling to Machu Piccu, which is a UNESCO world heritage site and staying inside the Amazon jungle.
Machu Piccu, which is actually an old Incan citadel, was breathtaking. It’s located at the top of a hill, so it’s quite a hike to get there, especially given the high altitude, but well worth it.
Staying in the Amazon was another surreal experience. The diversity of the wildlife was staggering, yet the jungle itself was often eerily silent, especially near the river. I won’t forget, or miss, showering with giant moths flying overhead!
We wanted to end the trip with a relaxing week, so headed to Columbia, first to the city of Medellín which is infamous for being Pablo Escobar’s birthplace.
It’s also well worth a visit, there are some cracking steak restaurants and of course, stunning architecture. There's also a cable car system that takes you up to the mountains that surround the city. The views are immense.
Our last stop was San Andres, an island in the Caribbean, close to Panama. It’s a place where the well-heeled Colombians go to relax. We got some TLC on the beaches and then it was time to say goodbye and for my friend Kimberly and I to head home.
MBTM: They sound like great experiences. What about short-haul, where do you enjoy going?
Sean: For the shorter breaks, say a couple of weeks, I usually aim for somewhere hot on the Med, with beaches to relax, and where there is a lot of culture.
Culturally you can’t beat Italy, and I especially love the south of the country, around Puglia and cities such as Bari and Brindisi.
I also like, Croatia, a slightly off-the-beaten-track holiday, but it ticks all the boxes. The Adriatic Coast is special – Pula, Split and of course Dubrovnik all have beaches, and a lot of history.
MBTM: We’ve been holed up for almost 4 months, but now we’ve got the green light to travel abroad. What’s on the immediate to-do list?
Sean: In term of fitting my profile of good weather, beaches and a lot of culture, Greece is in the same league as Italy and is top of the list.
I’m looking now at travelling to Athens and then on to several of the Greek Islands. I just need to organise it. I’ll keep you posted.
MBTM: Finally, we have to ask given your airmiles, what’s your most romantic getaway?
Sean: Ironically, despite all the trips abroad somewhere hot, the most romantic holiday I’ve had was in Norway, where I took my boyfriend in 2010. We went to Oslo for Valentine’s Day. The temperature was -19 and the City was several feet deep in snow. Very romantic!
You can follow Sean and keep up with his adventures here
Written by Matthew Sweeney, Co-Founder