John McCabe


John McCabe

I quit the rat race in 2005, after working as an IT project manager for over a decade. I then travelled around the world for 4 years, a period of my life which is covered by this blog. After finishing my trip, I wrote a book about my dissatisfaction with my career, my reasons for quitting my job, life as a first-time thirtysomething backpacker, and finally the lessons learned from being exposed to experiences and people that I would never have encountered if I'd stayed in my office. The book is called "Out Of Office Male" and is available at all the usual eBook outlets.

I took a lot more photos than just those shown on this blog. You can view the rest at my Flickr account.

The train pulls into Saltburn station with an extended wheezing puff of its brakes, and my arrival on the platform marks the end of what has, on and off, been just over four years of travel. I can't deny that I'm ready for a rest. I've read many travel blogs over the last few years, mainly ones relating to long-term travel. The majority of the writers were on a career break, taking 6 months to a year out to do some form of RTW trip. There were also others for whom travel was the main thing in the writer's life, with occasional bursts of working to finance it. I spent much time looking for the different reasons that compel people to travel. And people take many different things away from a long journey. For some it's ... read more

Europe » France » Île-de-France » Paris December 16th 2009

My plane journey from Joburg to Paris coincidentally involves a change in Cairo, meaning that I cover the same ground in reverse by air in 8 hours as it has taken me just over 10 months to cover on predominantly terrestrial transport. Small wonder that plane travel can bring on a false sense of the world shrinking - my own trip has shown me such a multitude of countries and diverse people within those countries that a homogenous planet seems many generations distant, whatever flight times might suggest. I arrive in Paris still wearing flip-flops - it's taken nearly 4 decades for me to learn that long plane trips in hiking boots are to be avoided, but I've gotten there in the end. My sister C meets me at Charles de Gaulle, an airport that represents ... read more
Ferris wheel detail
Cafe des Deux Moulins

Africa » South Africa » Gauteng » Johannesburg December 9th 2009

I have to return to Joburg as I have some stuff stored in a hostel there, plus it's where my Europe-bound flight will depart from. With the 2010 World Cup draw now complete, the hostel owner says he is already fully booked for June and July of next year. I wonder who will come off worse in any run-ins between beered-up English football fans and Joburg's criminals. This has been a strange ten months wandering through Africa. It's shown me how little I knew about the continent at the beginning of 2009, with much of what I did know being sweeping generalisations ignoring the differences to be found between 50-odd countries, thousands of "people groups", and an estimated 2,000 languages. Based on media coverage, it's easy to think of Africa as a large amorphous blob on ... read more

Africa » South Africa » Western Cape » Cape Town December 5th 2009

Cape Town is an ending for me several times over - the end of the Cairo-Cape route, the end of my African jaunt, and the end of this period of travel that has occupied the last four years of my life. Sadly it also finds me beyond the end of my travel energy and the days I spend there are lazy in the extreme. I'm reminded of Australian cities - the pedestrianised zones, the sunny weather, the cheery but not ingratiating people, the rounding down of prices to the nearest five cents. Table Mountain provides a startling backdrop, and there's some pleasing architecture, but it's somewhere to be lived in rather than merely visited. I've been told to expect a hostelling experience also à la Oz but my first hostel fails dismally to satisfy. I'd mailed ... read more
Lizard and Cape Town stadium

Africa » South Africa » Northern Cape » Upington November 18th 2009

I have little in the way of Upington accommodation info, and of course Tourist Information's not open when the Intercape disgorges me at 6:45AM, so I head to the one place I have an address for. The guy who lets me in looks surprised to see me, partly due to the hour and partly due to the room tariff being several times higher than my appearance would suggest I can afford. It's more than I want to pay but I'm tired and frankly just want a shower and a nap. Fortunately the room's the best-equipped one I've had in Africa, the kettle and fridge promising a pot noodles and white wine session in the near future. Upington lies on the Orange River which, 100km west of here, forms the border betweeen southern Namibia and South Africa. ... read more
... and my clothes from a mansuitrusters
Christmas lights
Boat on the Orange river

Africa » Namibia » Kalahari November 17th 2009

It's a strange feeling being the only person on a tour. Both you and the guide have only one person to talk to, meaning the guide/group relationship is broken down and it's more like two friends together. Not being a particularly chatty person, I can't say this arrangement necessarily appeals but fortunately my guide/driver/cook T is fond of monologues requiring no input from me. He's a white Namibian whose English comes with intriguing rolled r's. His several decades in tourism mean he has plenty of information to pass on, as well as enough connections to mean he knows 50% of the people we pass. Driving out of Upington, T points out the airport, saying it's one of the umpteen alternative landing sites for the Space Shuttle dotted around the world (though NASA's website doesn't mention it). ... read more
Young owl
The burning braai
Sand squirrel

Africa » Namibia » Luderitz November 11th 2009

Luderitz is described as a German colonial relic, and I am expecting it to be like Frutillar in Chile, but it has quite a different character - possibly because the Germans were invited to go to Frutillar, whereas they imposed themselves here. There's plenty of German architecture in evidence, coupled with bright colours recalling La Boca or Valparaiso, but my nostrils twitch in vain for the scent of sauerkraut on the breeze. The small port reminds me more of Whitby, a dearth of fish and chips shops notwithstanding. There's not much going on in Luderitz, so I catch up on the Namibian news. Corruption is rife, political opposition discouraged. Links with China are being forged, but Chinese infrastructure projects in Namibia seem to involve mainly Chinese employees, meaning no skills transfer to locals. There's plenty of ... read more
St vs Str
Berg Street

Africa » Namibia » Keetmanshoop November 9th 2009

Heading south in Namibia turns out to be another bewilderingly difficult southern African journey. I want to hit Keetmanshoop in order to then head west to Luderitz, an uber-German town on the Atlantic coast, but the bus leaves Windhoek in the evening hence will arrive in Keetmanshoop just after midnight, and the train arrives there at a more reasonable 5AM but takes twice as long. I opt for the bus. The company is Intercape Mainliner, whose name always puts me in mind of drugs. The bus is a double-decker and pulls a trailer, similar to Intercape vehicles I've seen as afar afield from here as Maputo. The comfort level is decent, aided by the fact that it's only half-full. However it turns out that Intercape has a sinister side that I've never seen mentioned before. The ... read more
Wimpy about 5km out of town
Butterfly sculpture

Africa » Namibia » Windhoek November 8th 2009

Windhoek reminds me a little of Alice Springs, a small, generally flat town surrounded by a ring of hills. Its wide streets are orderly and a few examples of European architecture point to its Germanic colonial history. It's also very dead on the Sunday I arrive. I'm pleased to see a street named after Frankie Fredericks as he's the only Namibian I'd heard of before starting this trip. The first hostel I try has a door that requires a key combination to get either in or out. They're full, and as I tramp to my next potential hostel I notice the same fortress-like houses, electric fences, and razor wire that I'd seen in Joburg. I'll be told later by several people not to walk around with anything, even a bag, because of the mugging risk. I ... read more
Composer streets

Africa » Namibia » Sossusvlei November 7th 2009

The Namib desert is the world's oldest and contains some of the planet's tallest sand dunes but I have high hopes that these dry facts won't be the most interesting things about it. I haven't seen a decent desert since Dunhuang 1.5 years ago and, having bypassed the Sahara, I have some serious sand yearnings. By paying for a mid-range tour, I strike exactly the balance I was hoping for, with just two other guests (a pair of friendly Swedes - E, rocking a Bjorn Ulvaeus beard circa "The Singles", and V, who shows no compunction in criticising my English) and some of the best accommodation I've stayed in in Africa. It's hardly in keeping with any definition of independent travel but frankly I don't care - if the last month of four years of nearly ... read more
Into the blue
Camelthorn tree
Light and shade

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