"Short stories and travel reports from my life adventures around the globe".

Leighton Travels, a Potted History.

Dream Wish Go Nananamoe Coffee Asakusa Tokyo

Leighton Travels, a Potted History. Nananamoe Coffee, Tokyo.

In many ways it feels like I’ve been on the road my whole life. Adapting to new environments, grappling with unfamiliar cultures, enjoying amazing foods. Gazing upon stunning sights and struggling with yet another baffling language! Always meeting new people along the way, some of them now lifelong friends. Others, sadly, no longer here.

Leighton Travels history

Partying with the sorely missed Craig Church in Rui’an, China. May 2017.

I was born in Hammersmith, London, but grew up in Old Amersham, a pretty market town in Buckinghamshire. I enjoyed an idyllic upbringing in many ways. We lived next door to my primary school, directly opposite a large park with tennis courts, a football field, a youth club, woods and a stream. Summers were always long, sunny and carefree. My friends and I running around playing bike spreaders and building camps in the woods.  

Barn Meadow Recreation Ground.

Barn Meadow, Old Amersham.

My first big trip abroad was on a family holiday to Orlando, Florida. Disney World… Universal Studios… Water Mania and Clearwater Beach. Lazy, lingering breakfasts at Denny’s and Perkins. I loved the sense of adventure that came from being far from home and all the associated sights, sounds and smells. 

We ended up doing the Florida thing three times, also taking in Tampa Bay and South Carolina’s Hilton Head Island. A gentle starting point for my future explorations of The U.S.

Leighton Travels, a Potted History.

Clearwater Beach Florida USA

Clearwater Beach, Florida. July, 1989.

I left home aged twelve for four years of boarding school in Anglesey, Wales. You know that unpronounceable town that has the longest train station sign in the world? Yup, it was there.

I was surrounded by kids from all over the planet, some of whom had lived in exotic locations like Singapore and South Africa. Somehow, I instinctively knew that with a bit of patience my own time would come.

Llanfairpwllgwyngyll Angelesey Wales

Llanfair­pwllgwyngyll­gogery­chwyrn­drobwll­llan­tysilio­gogo­goch. — Leighton Travels, a Potted History.

In my late teens the family relocated to Scotland for my dad’s new job. This eventually took me all over the country, with spells in Edinburgh, Haddington, Aberlady, Port Seton, Fort William and The Scottish Borders.

There were plenty of other places I got to see too, most memorably during a road trip through The Scottish Highlands that culminated in a hike across Orkney. Just me, a friend and a couple of backpacks.

On the Road in Scotland.

The Ring of Brodgar Orkney Scotland.

At The Ring of Brodgar, Orkney. October, 2000.

I was 23 when I left The UK for good. Again it was my father’s work that provided the opportunity and I took it with both hands. Luckily Qatar turned out to be an incredible experience. Based in the capital city Doha, I trained to be an English teacher and subsequently landed my first job. Doha also served as the gateway for a weekend trip to Dubai.

Singing Sand Dunes Doha.

The Singing Sand Dunes, Doha. 2001.

When my contract in Qatar finished, I spent a summer working my way around Denmark. Having checked in with a friend who lived outside Kalundborg, my subsequent wanderings took me to Esbjerg, Copenhagen, Roskilde, Odense and Funen Island. Somewhere along the way, I felt something click inside me and I realised that… for better or worse… I quite enjoyed this travelling lark.

Hans Christian Andersen's House Odense Denmark.

Hans Christian Andersen’s House, Odense. July, 2002. — Leighton Travels, a Potted History.

As a qualified TEFL instructor with a year’s experience under my belt, I found myself in the enviable position of being able to handpick my next destination. I wanted something wacky like Qatar, a place I knew little about. A location that most people wouldn’t think of. In the end Slovakia fit the bill perfectly.

Paparazzi Statue Bratislava.

One step ahead of the paparazzi in Bratislava.

Bratislava itself turned out to be a cold, grey place. But its visual grimness was compensated by bags of charm. Ultimately, it was the people I met and the travelling we did that year that made it such a memorable period. I saw Slovakia virtually inside out, while there were also forays around AustriaThe Czech Republic and Poland.

Leighton Travels, a Potted History.

Slovakia map

Slovakia: A country well travelled! (2002-2003).

At the end of my Slovak contract, I embarked on a brief jaunt around Hungary with friends. Together we took in Budapest, Esztergom, Gyor, Veszprém, Lake Balaton and EgerIt seems like yesterday, and yet somehow twenty years have passed since that wonderful trip.

Veszprem Hungary

Veszprem, Hungary. July 2003. — Leighton Travels, a Potted History.

Having had my fill of Europe for a while, I decided to go travelling around India. This was a truly life-altering couple of months that took in Delhi, Agra and a lengthy tour of Rajasthan before dotting down the southwest coast to Kerala via Mumbai and Goa.

Lalou a short story from India

The Thar Desert, India. March 2004.

I had so many formative experiences on that trip, from awful hotels, sublime food and a bad-tempered ear cleaner, to a camel desert safari, a James Bond themed city and an intimate elephant sanctuary.

Visit India Kodanad Elephant Sanctuary in Kerala

Kodanad Elephant Sanctuary, Kerala, India. April 2004.

In the summer of 2004 I fell head over heels for a charismatic Belgian girl. I was so smitten I turned down the chance to teach in Italy to go and live in Belgium. Stationed in the gorgeous university town of Leuven, our car crash relationship lasted just a few months and I found myself alone and stranded. ‘‘Come home!’’ cried my despairing mum. But I loved Leuven, so I ended up sticking around for three years.

Leuven Life.

The amazing Old Market Square in Leuven

Leuven’s beautiful Old Market Square. — Leighton Travels, a Potted History.

With its quaint squares, sleepy parks and old-worlde bars, Leuven life was charming and chilled. And it got even better when my new girlfriend S left The Netherlands to join me. Together we made tracks across Belgium, enjoying sojourns to Ghent, Bruges, Antwerp, Namur, Liege, Mechelen, Diest, Aarschot and The Ardennes. Moreover, there were amazing weekend visits to the French cities of Paris and Lille.

View of The Eiffel Tower from Arc De Triomphe Paris.

Paris, September 2006.

In May 2007 we headed off on what became one of the great holidays of my life. It began with a fantastic week in New York, where I proposed to S on top of The Empire State Building following a romantic dinner at Frankie & Johnnies.

New York City Nostalgia Pennsylvania Station

Embracing the unashamed tourist look in NYC.

From there we went on to Washington, D.C., Nashville and Memphis. How could I ever forget limousine-cruising through Manhattan and snipers on The White House roof? Or the spirit of Johnny Cash at Nashville’s Studio B and the Elvis crazies at Graceland? 

Washington DC Nostalgia Me For President!

Washington DC, May 2007. — Leighton Travels, a Potted History.

Back in Belgium, professional pressures forced S and I into leaving Leuven for the big smoke of Brussels, a city we never truly cared for. Over the next year we were mostly preoccupied with plans for our wedding. Nevertheless, we did find time for short breaks in Luxembourg City and Venice. Meanwhile, my eventful stag weekend played out just across the German border in the city of Cologne.

Leighton Travels, a Potted History.

Visit Italy a weekend in Venice.

The Grand Canal, Venice. January 2008.

S and I got married in September 2008 in the Belgian town of Rixensart, a picturesque rural municipality built around a wide lake. For our honeymoon it was off to Morocco, hitting Casablanca, Marrakech and the coastal town of Essaouria, as well as some hiking in The Atlas Mountains.

Visit Essaouira Fortress Morocco.

Essaouira Fortress, October 2008.

S and I eventually became disillusioned with life in Belgium. Especially when the economic crisis hit her job hard. As a result, we boldly decided to pack up and leave. To enjoy one last big adventure before settling down.

Leighton Travels history

And so unfolded a memorable year in China! Ten months teaching in Beijing, bookended by extensive stretches out on the open road. The living and working part was extremely challenging, with profound cultural differences and a language barrier like nothing I’d experienced before. Add to that the dreadful air quality and unmanageable crowds and Beijing was admittedly a tough gig.

Smoggy day Beijing.

Beijingers rocking the face mask vibe long before COVID.

In contrast, the experience of travelling around China was magnificent! Indeed I had simply wondrous adventures featuring vibrant cities, ancient villages, sacred mist-shrouded mountains, golden beaches, lush green rice fields and a certain Great Wall.

Off-the-beaten-track in China.

The City and the Village Part II a short story by Leighton Travels

The remote village of Zhujiayu, China. July 2009. — Leighton Travels, a Potted History.

When we arrived in The Netherlands in the summer of 2010 both S and I were jobless. Furthermore, we had nowhere to live and dwindling savings. To begin with, we stayed with her parents in the southern town of Goirle, just outside the city of Tilburg. Luckily, within a few months we’d both landed jobs in Amsterdam, which we quickly made our home.

Queen's Day Amsterdam The Netherlands.

Queen’s Day Amsterdam, April 2011.

It was in the Dutch capital that I scooped a dream job writing and voice presenting movie news. As an added bonus, I got sent off around the world to interview Hollywood stars.

Jake Gyllenhaal interview End of Watch New York City

Interviewing Jake Gyllenhaal at The Crosby Street Hotel. New York City, October 2012.

I thought I’d be in The Netherlands for the rest of my life. But after eight years together S and I decided to separate. In the aftermath of the split I realised that staying in Amsterdam wasn’t an option. What the hell was I gonna do? Somewhat fortuitously, the answer came in the form of an attractive job offer.

Leighton Travels, a Potted History.

Teaching English in Beijing February 2014.

Back in Beijing, February 2014. — Leighton Travels, a Potted History.

When I returned to Beijing at the end of 2013 I was under no illusions as to what lay in store. I certainly didn’t go back for the pollution, the teeming multitudes or the infernal spitting. Rather, I was doing it for a new professional challenge. And to put together some sizeable savings. At the same time I was excited about rediscovering the exquisite cuisine and seeing more of China. 

Hot pot in Beijing Leighton Travels a Potted History

Hot pot, a Beijing rite of passage.

While the job definitely had its frustrations, things turned out well enough and I was able to both travel and save. My most memorable trip during this period was a summer journeying around China’s Northeast. I also managed a two week cross-country visit to South Korea.

Rainy day Yongmunsa Temple.

Yongmunsa Temple, South Korea. February, 2015.

In April 2015, after sixteen months in Beijing, I felt it was time to move on again. Treating myself to an extended break, I embarked on a two month trip around Thailand, with a couple of weeks in Singapore and Malaysia sandwiched between my Thai visas. 

Visit Malaysia Pulau Sibu the island of Sibu

A backpacker’s life on Sibu Island, Malaysia.

It was a brilliant time for me, one that marked my longest period yet out on the open road. During this time, I also developed my first blog, Leighton Literature, featuring embryonic versions of the short stories and travel reports you see today on Leighton Travels

The Sunset of Sunsets.

Visit Thailand Ko Lanta Island.

Ko Lanta Island, Thailand. May 2015.

However, what came next was probably the most topsy-turvy period of my life. After a month teaching summer school English in Castro Urdialez, a small coastal town in Northern Spain, I set off on a two-week trip that included stops in San Sebastián, Pamplona, Zaragoza and Barcelona.

Harbour in Castro Urdiales.

Castro Urdiales, Spain. August 2015. — Leighton Travels, a Potted History.

Then it was off to London to hang out with my old friend Henry and figure out my next move. For the first time in years I fell back in love with my home city. I explored, blogged and researched my next global adventure. I also fulfilled a lifelong dream of writing and recording an EP of original songs in Henry’s Tooting Bec apartment. 

Picnicking on Tooting Bec Common.

Tooting Bec Common, London. May 2019.

After much deliberation I finally jetted off to Cambodia, stationing myself in the colourful city of Siem Reap. Sadly, the teaching post was a nightmare. While I loved my students, it took just a couple of months for me to realise that I had no desire to stay long term.

Teaching English in Siem Reap Cambodia.

Teaching English in Siem Reap. November 2015.

Thus I was on the move again, picking off Cambodia’s wonders one by one with stays in BattambangPhnom PenhSihanoukville, Koh Rong, Kampot and Kep. It was also here that I met Wonderboy, a fellow Englishman and travel enthusiast who now stands among my closest friends. 

Leighton Travels, a Potted History.

The boat to Nature Beach Koh Rong Island Cambodia

Koh Rong, Cambodia. December 2015.

When I reunited with my family for Christmas, 2015, it hit me hard that I was in desperate need of some stability. Hence, after a three-month stint in the north of Scotland with my sister, I headed off to southern Spain for yet another teaching job.

Leighton Travels history

In many ways Malaga was the perfect place to live! In addition to the great weather and daily access to the beach, the cost of living made me smile and there was a whole new world of untapped travel opportunities to sink my teeth into. I told myself that maybe this was it. That after so many years of bouncing around I’d found somewhere to truly call my own.

Malaga City from Gibralfaro Castle Spain

The gorgeous city of Malaga from atop Gibralfaro Castle, Spain. April, 2016.

I could have made it work if I’d really wanted to. But after a year I began suspecting that this restless soul of mine can never be tamed. I felt dissatisfied at earning 800 Euros a month and longed for more adventurous lifestyle. Having explored a huge chunk of southern Spain, I was in desperate need of financial replenishment.

A life in the Spanish Sun.

El Caminito del Rey.

Hiking the spectacular Caminito del Rey in Spain. — Leighton Travels, a Potted History.

And so the seductive whispers of China began calling me once again. That love-hate relationship that just wouldn’t go away. In recognition of my hopelessly nomadic lifestyle, I finally took the plunge and simplified my existence as much as I could. I sold my records, books and DVDs. Bid farewell to my lifelong collection of Lonely Planet guides and Q magazines.

Lifelong collection of Q Magazines

The end of the road for my Q Magazine Collection. April, 2017.

I threw out bag after bag of crap I’d been hoarding for far too long and got rid of virtually all my furniture. I scaled down on clothes and succumbed to the modern ways of storing as much stuff as I could digitally. At the end of it all I was left with a dozen boxes. All of which got shipped back to Scotland with my family for safekeeping.

Leighton Travels travel reports short stories.

When I arrived in the Chinese city of Rui’an in April 2017 I was travelling as lightly as I ever had. My entire life consisting of a small suitcase, a backpack and my computer bag. This time I refused to put any pressure on myself about how long I’d stay for. I just decided to relax and see how things panned out. In fact, I ended up staying in Rui’an for two years.

Leighton Travels, a Potted History.

Teaching English in Ruian China.

Teaching English in Rui’an, China. August, 2017.

This time I was really organised. Just about every pocket of free time I had went towards uncovering more corners of undiscovered China. I went all around the provinces of Zhejiang and Fujian, spent a week in Macau and enjoyed unhurried visits to the great cities of Hangzhou, Nanjing, Shenzhen and Suzhou.

Monte Fort Macau.

Monte Fort Macau. February, 2017. — Leighton Travels, a Potted History.

In between my teaching contracts in Ruian, I disappeared off to lovely Vietnam for a month with nothing but a backpack. What a time… what experiences… what a country. 

Sampan cruise Mekong Delta Vietnam.

Cruising The Mekong in Vietnam. May 2018.

I also spent an absolutely magnificent couple of weeks in and around Tokyo. Where I came face to face with dancing robots, duelling sumo wrestlers, interplanetary maids, vibrant Ghibli characters, stunning rare owls and food-serving vampires. 

Loco in Tokyo.

Live Sumo Performance and duel Asakusa Tokyo

Live Sumo in Tokyo. February, 2019.

When I finally left China altogether, I embarked on my second visit to South Korea. First, I spent a week in the city of Daegu catching up with my old travelmate Wonderboy. Then it was onto Jeonju where my brother was living. 

Things to see and do Daegu South Korea. Travel blogger Korea.

Daegu, South Korea. April 2019. — Leighton Travels, a Potted History.

At long last it was time to return to the UK, where I spent a blissful eight months reconnecting with friends and family. Amazingly, this was my first ever period of travel across England and Scotland. Along the way, there were unforgettable visits to Cambridge, Colchester, Liverpool, Lancashire The Lake District, Oban and Loch Ness.

Leighton Travels history

Hiking Warton Crag Nature reserve in Lancashire.

After such a long period outside Britain, it felt wonderful to reconnect. From the food, football and TV, to the mostly shitty weather and being able to understand people’s silly conversations on the street.

The Beatles Statue Pier Head Liverpool.

The Beatles Statues at Pier Head, Liverpool. May 2019.

Sometimes the best travel experiences are the ones you didn’t even see coming. Take Serbia, for example. I never thought I’d go and see Belgrade, it simply wasn’t on my radar. But then I met someone… a really special someone. Together we decided that I should go and visit. You know, see if this special thing between us had long term potential.

Leighton Travels, a Potted History.

Leighton Travels history

Dinner on The Danube in the Belgrade neighbourhood of Zemun.

As fate would have it, my trip to Belgrade in August 2019 turned out to be a life-changing one. Exploring this fascinating city from top to bottom, Sladja and I got to know each other before coming to the exciting decision to embark on a serious relationship.

Kalemegdan Fortress Belgrade.

Kalemegdan Fortress, Belgrade. August 2019.

We began 2020 in Siem Reap, Cambodia. One of the few countries we could both live in without visa complications. We certainly had big plans. In the summer, Sladja was going to finish up her teaching job in China and join me living and travelling around Asia while working online.

We were going to spend some time in Laos… then Nepal… then… ah, nuts. COVID-19 ruined everything, setting in motion a truly crazy year. A period that I documented in my article 2020: The Highs & Lows of a Nomadic Travel Blogger

The amazing twisted tree temple at Koh Ker Cambodia

Koh Ker, Cambodia. June 2020. — Leighton Travels, a Potted History.

After seven months in Cambodia, things finally quietened down enough that we could return to Europe. Following two fantastic weeks in Istanbul (one of the only fully open countries in the world in the summer of 2020), we returned to Serbia to hunker down for a period. We rented an apartment in the capital, secured our COVID-19 vaccines and got married in a registry office just across the road from our apartment in the neighbourhood of Vračar.


Leighton marries Sladja July 2021.

Our happy day.

That summer we set off on a joint birthday trip across Serbia. After so long holed up in our apartment, it felt wonderful to have our travel hats back on again. Tackling lesser known destinations, we had an amazing time investigating the criminally underrated Danube River towns of Veliko Gradište, Golubac and Donki Milanovic.

Boatel Copacabana Veliko Gradiste Serbia

Sunset over the Danube in Veliko Gradište. — Leighton Travels, a Potted History.

By October 2021 the whole COVID mess was, at long last, getting under control. As a result, countries began opening back up just as our feet started getting uncontrollably itchy.

Knowing that Belgrade was not where we wanted to be, we left Serbia for a fabulous three month Balkan odyssey. Two of those months played out in marvellous Montenegro where we explored much of the country, including Tivat, Perast, Kotor Budva, Cetinje and Bar.

Sveti Dorde Island of St George Perast Montenegro

Cruising the Bay of Kotor in Perast. September 2021.

The last month of the trip saw us cross for border into Bosnia. We stayed in Sarajevo, a city that truly charmed us on every level. From the cosy wintry feel that enveloped us throughout our stay to the genuinely warm and kind people, delicious cuisine and fascinating albeit melancholic history.

Leighton Travels, a Potted History.

Sunset over the Yellow Fortress in Sarajevo.

Sunset over The Yellow Fortress in Sarajevo.

Looking back, I think this was the trip that made us realise we were going to spend the next few years travelling. And that’s what we did, keeping an eye open along the way for a place that… just maybe…. we could call home. This period began with a 6-month stay in The UK. Long overdue, Sladja got to meet my friends and family while soaking up (quite literally with the rain) all aspects of British culture.

Family reunion 2022 Home Comforts and the Midnight Plane to Georgia

With my sister and mum in the Scottish village of Spean Bridge. June 2022.

Based in the West Midlands in a village called Tean near the city of Stoke-on-Trent, we got to see a decent amount of England and Scotland. For Sladja it was a dream come true, particularly the two weeks spent hitting the streets of London. For me, it was like seeing my home city through a new set of eyes. An experience I know I’ll never forget and one that will inspire to us to return as much as we can in the future.

Making friends in Hyde Park.

Making friends in Hyde Park. — Leighton Travels, a Potted History.

Elsewhere, to mention just a few highlights, we went to visit the former home of the iconic children’s author and illustrator Beatrix Potter in The Lake District. Moreover, we can’t help but get nostalgic about our days cat-sitting in Edinburgh. And of our blissful time hiking isolated rural trails in The Scottish Highlands.

Loch Ossian.

Hiking in Corrour Scotland.

Taking a breather from hiking in Corrour, Scotland.

Our nomadic lifestyle subsequently took us to Georgia (the country) where we lived for five months. First in the Black Sea city of Batumi. Next, in the spa town of Tskaltubo, a former holiday resort of a certain Joseph Stalin. Last but not least, we enjoyed Christmas and New Year in the capital Tbilisi.

Black Sea views from Batumi Botanical Garden

The ridiculously gorgeous Batumi Botanical Garden in Georgia. — Leighton Travels, a Potted History.

After that, keen to escape the harsh winter of The Caucasuses, we fulfilled a lifelong ambition of going to live on a Greek island. Naxos definitely turned out to be more challenging than we’d anticipated. But it was worth every minute, especially on those days when we could go hiking in the splendorous countryside with virtually nobody around. In fact, Sladja loved it all so much she has begun learning Greek.

Visit Greece Naxos Island.

One of our many Friday walks on the country trails of Naxos.

As I put finger to keypad it is the summer of 2023 and we are in the town of Sevan in Armenia. Here, we have begun setting in motion the wheels of temporary residence visas. The rough plan is to stabilise for a while and make a home of sorts. Later, I’m sure, we will set back off on more global adventures. Who knows where, who knows when.

Leighton Travels, a Potted History.

An afternoon walk around Lake Sevan.

An afternoon walk around Lake Sevan in Armenia. June 2023.

Our lives are not easy, despite what many may think. We work hard and there’s always an unexpected problem to solve while living and travelling in a new country. But I wouldn’t swap it for the Monday to Friday 9-5. life Not for all the tea in China.

In moments of difficulty I often recall a quote from one of my favourite movies, Little Miss Sunshine. Steve Carell and Paul Dano are standing at the end of the pier having escaped that awful beauty pageant.

Steve Carell and Paul Dano Little Miss Sunshine

Little Miss Sunshine.

Dano’s character Dwayne, a socially awkward teen, recognises that life doesn’t have to be about following the herd. That if you want something enough you can break free and pursue your own vision. “If I wanna fly I’ll find a way to fly” he says, gazing out to sea. “You do what you love and fuck the rest”.

Leighton – June 2023.

Leighton Travels travel reports short stories.

This article serves as a compact overview of my global wanderings. For all the details on the places I’ve visited, check out my huge library of Travel Reports.

For a more personalised account of my life adventures, my memoirs if you will, dive into My Short Stories.

Leighton Travels logo travel reports and short stories.


  • teamleisure

    What a story ?

    October 30, 2014 - 7:41 pm Reply
  • Bertine

    Reading this blog intensively while commuting has so far kept me from doing my morning-make-up-routine-on-the-train about 7 times now.
    Realizing this makes me rather sad, thinking I should quit my job and just start to travel too 🙂
    (For the sake of other people, I won’t quit doing make-up tho, no matter what ;))

    February 5, 2015 - 8:38 am Reply
    • leightonliterature

      Makeup, travel, reading, whatever makes you happy, keep doing it! And thanks for your continued support of LL. Every time someone makes the effort to comment, I’m always humbled.

      February 5, 2015 - 9:06 am Reply
  • Travel | Leighton Literature

    […] Travel […]

    February 5, 2015 - 9:25 am Reply
  • bumblebee72015

    That’s a cool way of living…Like what they say, “You can either travel or read, but either your body or soul must be on the way”.

    February 5, 2015 - 11:28 am Reply
  • Anonymous

    Amazing story Leighton and so filled with adventures…Thank you so much for letting us open a window into your life ,with such fabulous views!!

    April 16, 2016 - 12:07 pm Reply
  • Anonymous

    A great read. Very relatable and nostalgic. You seem to have landed at last.

    March 2, 2020 - 7:17 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Hey ‘someone’. Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment 🙂

      March 2, 2020 - 7:24 pm Reply

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