Discovering Malta, with no smartphone or guidebook


We stumble down the sulphur-yellow grime observe, no signal of Claire’s secret seashore. Previously quarter-hour now we have been honoured with simply the odd lonesome goat for firm and the swallows, dancing above our heads. I take a slurp of my water. It’s previous noon however already the April solar feels sturdy on our pores and skin. We attain a lifeless finish. Power of nature implores me to have a look at my telephone for solutions. In keeping with Google Maps, the observe or seashore doesn’t exist. We’re in no-mans lands. I lookup once more, into the gap, my eyes swimming in essentially the most good shade of deep blue Mediterranean Sea. Sabrina jogs my memory that Claire, our new Gozitan acquaintance had talked about a flip off to the proper. We retrace our steps up the dusty yellow observe.


Foraging for wild fennel in Gozo


I discover the clumps of untamed feral fennel casually rising amidst the poppy flowers. We discover our flip off, an overgrown path lined with a thicket of wildflowers of all the colors of the rainbow. I pause to take images of them so that somebody can establish them to me later. Moreover the completely satisfied dance of swallows there’s additionally the candy meditative hum of bees, frolicking within the meadow of wildflowers. I shut my eyes. Typically, journey presents you with these moments of just about close to perfection.I quickly hear a wild yelp of happiness from Sabrina. I open my eyes and see she has ventured forth, through a craggy slope by the impenetrable haze of wildflowers.


Path to the key seashore


She has discovered the trail to the legendary secret seashore. It has the right view of the dreamy turquoise blue waters of Comino within the distance. We will need to have sat there in good silence for nearly half an hour earlier than a pair got here. There was a glance of shock after which an enormous smile. 

‘So you understand about this seashore too.’

We nodded our heads reassuringly and raised our fingers, half apologetically to reassure them…the key stays with us. We retrace our steps up the observe. The goat had disappeared. Once we attain the highest of the observe and look down once more, there was no seen landmark within the horizon of our secret seashore, simply the swallows dancing within the sky.


Locals sharing their tips for Malta in our scrapbook

Locals sharing their ideas for Malta in our scrapbook


Perhaps there aren’t any secrets and techniques in journey anymore.

It was higher earlier than. We had to make use of our creativeness and never depend on Instagram to visualise a spot. Perhaps its an previous age factor, however there’s this horrible tendency of individuals in my age group to romanticise the previous. Travelling was extra enjoyable, genuine. There have been much less crowds in the most well-liked journey hotspots. You didn’t have to stand up at 5 am to see the Trevi fountain. You would fly Ryanair round Europe for as little as €2 return. Plus, there was no problem with carrying liquids or restrictions of carry-on baggage. Hostels have been tremendous low-cost. I keep in mind travelling with my trusted Lonely Planet guidebook and the three hostels listed appeared to have room for everybody.

Then got here the age of the web. Social media. Abruptly, there was an enormous quantity of data on the ideas of our fingers. We have been in principle, higher geared up to journey extra and higher. The opening hours of eating places may very well be discovered with out the necessity of a telephone name. We might discover the checklist of the ten finest issues to do in Berlin in a flash because of the growth in blogs. There was no have to pop into the vacationer data workplace or converse to journey advisors anymore. No want for human interplay. Every thing you wanted to learn about a metropolis or place was one Google search away. Now now we have AI instruments to assist plan our journey itineraries. Nothing is left to likelihood. Now we have our bottomless bucket checklist of locations to see earlier than we die. Instagram over nourishes our want and dream to journey. With so many locations to see and so little time, journey turns into one other job, one other checklist of issues to complete. We arrive dwelling, depressing and unfulfilled. 


Assembly the pleasant locals of Mgarr

‘If I used to be to inform a vacationer what to do in Gozo, I might inform them to go swimming on certainly one of our superb seashores the place locals spend lot of time in spring and summer time. I might inform them to do a cooking class. Immerse your self within the on a regular basis lifetime of the island. Go to any cafe or bar.’

Claire, Mojo.


I’m again in Malta after nearly 8 years. I keep in mind trying on the previous images and really feel prefer it was a special period and a special me. One of many highlights of my journey was visiting the small, conventional fishing village of Marsaxlokk within the south jap nook of Malta. I keep in mind on a sleepy late September afternoon having the entire waterfront to myself, a bottle of the native Cisk lager in hand. I additionally keep in mind wandering the slender streets of the Mdina, the silent metropolis, timeless and this sense of just about strolling again in time. 10 years later and I’m excited to be again in Malta however just a little nervous. It’s like once you reconnect with previous buddies and marvel, will it’s as good as earlier than?

The recognition of the island within the years previous has soared because of the recognition of reveals like Recreation of Thrones. We revisit Mdina and it appears so much much less silent. The crowds have multiplied. Fortunately, I had been warned by some locals to keep away from Mdina and go to the neighbouring village of Rabat. Rabat feels as timeless and enchanting as Mdina however after we visited, there was hardly any crowds to be seen, simply the odd native. We have been grateful to Mark from the Kings Crown pub for the tip.

Confession time. It was not totally by likelihood we met Mark. Philip informed us about Stephen. Stephen spoke of Mark. We met Philip because of a card recreation we invented. Let me clarify.


For this journey to Malta we had determined to do one thing completely different. As an alternative of planning the journey to loss of life through researching limitless weblog posts, Pinterest boards and Instagram galleries, chewing by a guidebook, we determined to have a special type of journey. The entire journey could be a recreation of likelihood, constructed with the assistance of chatting with random locals. No guidebook may very well be used. No smartphone too, except we have been utterly misplaced. Approaching locals randomly to ask for journey ideas will be awkward generally so I needed to provide you with a tool, so I believed why not create a deck of playing cards with inquiries to the commonest belongings you would need to know on vacation. The playing cards would assist scale back the awkwardness of breaking the ice. The thought could be that locals would draw a card after which give us a tip primarily based on the query on the cardboard. We’d then observe on that tip and likewise ask the native to advocate one other native we must always meet and assist us on our quest. 


Sundown on the saltpans in Xwejni

The journey

So how did it go? Our experiment began in Gozo after we met the great pleasant Philip Spiteri from the favored Ta Philip restaurant. He just about launched us to the entire island. After drawing the cardboard asking him to call his favorite lunch spot, he beneficial we meet the beautiful Claire who runs Mojo restaurant in Victoria, Gozo. Claire, was chargeable for introducing us to the key seashore I discussed earlier. When he drew the cardboard requested to call his favorite pub, he beneficial we go to the Gleneagles pub in Mgarr Harbour, run by the affable Tony who turned out to be a goldmine for ideas and likewise a person with many tales to inform of the island. Whereas there’s sadly no such factor as a time machine, with some folks you meet in your travels, you will have a reference to the previous, with all of the magic and disappointment that has handed earlier than, that sense of just about being there once they describe all of the feelings, the tales of the folks they met of their bar for the final 40 years. Tony was that type of particular person. A connection to Gozo’s previous.

Our great driver and information, Alex


We ended three memorable days with a bag full of latest recollections and buddies. We ended up in lots of new locations and a really completely different perspective of Malta. I would wish a whole day simply to let you know about all of the magic however let me end with the top of our journey. Image essentially the most unimaginable sundown. We have been at Dingli cliffs. We had obtained the tip from numerous locals. It looks as if everybody had received the identical tip too. The automotive park was jammed and the viewing level was already a tussle between guests, scrambling to get that good image of the sundown that may immortalise the second in historical past. Led by our driver, Alex we walked additional away from the crowds, alongside the cliffs till we have been strangled by the empty silence of the large large open sea. A retired police officer who hunted down native smugglers, Alex knew each road, each mud observe just like the again of his hand. He wasn’t a person of many phrases however there have been occasions when displaying us the island, I might see a flicker of emotion in his eye. I noticed his eyes widen after we reached the spot. We have been 1,000,000 miles from all the pieces and simply the open large sea, bathed on this golden gentle as that fiery purple ball of fireside slowly melted into the horizon. Someplace within the distance was Africa. It was then I fished out my pack of Twistees.

It was a tip from native chef Stephen La Rosa. 

‘Don’t depart the island with out consuming this!’

We sadly had no Cisk however these twistees tasted rattling good. We ate it to our hearts content material in good silence, until the darkness swallowed the solar and our shadows. I then gave Alex the most important hug and I feel we each had a tear in our eyes.


Hanging out with the great Tony, proprietor of Gleneagles Bar


What makes moments like this and journey so good?

Regardless of how a lot we good know-how and AI, some issues in life can’t be manufactured. In the long run, it comes right down to timing. Plus, additionally being in the proper place. Serendipity. On this sense, Malta was good. 

The fantastic thing about our journey was that it was nothing to do with luck however all about being courageous and taking an opportunity. So, my message is straightforward. When you do go to Malta, depart the guidebook and telephone behind within the room. Go to a bar. Order the native drink. Have a random dialog with a neighborhood. Give them the permission to share their dwelling with you. You don’t want the cardboard recreation. I promise you, you can be stunned at what you would possibly uncover. 

In the long run, it’s actually easy. Journey is all in regards to the folks. It turns into a lot extra significant and thrilling after we join with locals, discover out their story and perhaps study one thing new that modifications your perspective.

Seems, there are nonetheless secrets and techniques in journey. You simply have to ask the proper folks.


Disclaimer: The journey to Malta was doable because of the type assist of Go to Malta UK and companions. Nonetheless, all of the opinions expressed right here, good and unhealthy are totally my very own. Plus, an enormous thanks to all of the locals we met in Malta and Gozo who made our journey unforgettable. Extra Malta and Gozo tales and ideas arising quickly on the weblog. Within the meantime, please go to the Visit Malta website for extra concepts to plan your journey.