100 Days: Sydney

It got to the point where we had to exclude Sydney from our ‘Top-5-places-we’ve-been-so-far’ countdowns, because it just won all of them.

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I arrived on the back of 5 hours sleep in 2 days, after 2 overnight flights in 4 days (who planned that?!), and it was raining. Raining. In Australia! Distinctly not what I ordered.

About an hour later? I was on a bus, grinning out the window at the raindrops, telling Rob “I WANT TO LIVE HERE.”

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Seriously. Put me on a plane. I’m applying for jobs at the moment and fighting the urge to just chuck CVs at every PR company there. Or just turn up. Australians are pretty straightforward people, maybe they’d appreciate me just dropping in?

I’ve already looked at visas.

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We’d found our favourite destination at only the second stop. I’ve spent a lot of time since then trying to work out why. I said in my last post that I focus on the feel of a place, and Sydney just… buzzed. It was exciting. And not in a London-esque, this-is-where-it-all-happens way, in a fresh and different but so much better way. I made a conscious decision not to romanticise it – to look at it objectively, but the only negative was that rain. It was clean, it was fun, there was so much character and personality. I loved how this big, central city was lined with independent stores and quirky cafes, not chain after chain after Starbucks after chain. And if I am objective, maybe I was just excited about some of the chain stores because I’d never seen them before. I have been known to get unnecessarily overexcited by foreign supermarkets. (“Look Rob! Look how big their tomatoes are!!”)

I’ve never been somewhere that I clicked with so instantly. It just felt right. Yep. This is it. True love!

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Maybe it’s because when I think of The Other Side Of The World, that picture is what I think of. Even though we were technically further from home in NZ and Fiji, to me sitting outside the Opera House just sums up how far I had travelled.

Australia is A Bit Like Britain, except…. it’s so much better! Sorry, Britain, I know you can’t help the weather (and as documented, it rains in Oz too). And it would be slightly weak reasoning for me to base my opinion of Sydney on nothing but “OMGSOSUNNY!”. But that sunshine has a magical effect. People are happier. People are outside more, which makes them even happier. People spend time in that sunshine with their friends and their families, doing things and being happy together. It does make a difference.

We met some friends for “dinner” and instead of a restaurant they took us for a surprise picnic in the Botanical Gardens. It’s where the locals go to watch the New Years fireworks, don’t you know. Picture how much more jolly and relaxed you are after a day in the park in the sunshine. Now imagine that, but all the time.

It’s Britain, without the bad stuff (faffy overpoliteness, terror of offending others, constant gloom, the Daily Mail), and with extra good stuff (culture, sense of humour, Tim Tams). I know everywhere has its problems, but I kind of liked Australia’s better than ours…!

Enough politics and comparisons. In short, Sydney rocks. We went to the Zoo (of course we went to the zoo…) and took far too many photos of Animals We Don’t Have At Home. Note: Tasmanian Devils are seriously cute. And teeny!

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See?

We went crab racing (hilarious), took a ferry out on the Bay, ran around the Opera House giftshop (tours sounded fascinating but pricey) and soaked up some history in the Rocks Museum. Oh, and did I mention I climbed the Bridge?

Don’t ask which bridge.

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That, dear friends, is me, 4th from the right. This was real bucket list territory. In fact, it was number 1 on mine. I’ve wanted to climb Sydney Harbour Bridge since the age of about 11. I was watching ‘Holiday’, with Craig Doyle (old school) and Jill Dando, and someone did it on there. I remember watching it, sat on the floor in our living room and just thinking …. “Wow.” And 14 years later, I was up there :-). It was just as breathtaking as I hoped it would be. Worth every minute of the 14 year wait. And – the last 2 on the left, an adorable Swedish couple, got engaged while we were at the top. So cute!

Then I climbed down again and ate an enormous bag of crisps on the bus home. Sweet chilli.

Isn’t it weird, the things from certain places that stick in our minds?

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My Oneworld365 blog about Sydney is here (scroll right down to the bottom). Apologies for getting the name of the Zoo wrong… I wrote it in Christchurch and clearly had NZ on the brain!

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100 Days: Hong Kong

Waiting on the runway at Heathrow, we realised our trip was exactly 100 days long.

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First stop – Hong Kong!

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Extremely jetlagged and extremely overexcited, we had arrived! Hong Kong was a fantastic place to start the trip – different enough to feel we had definitely Gone Somewhere Else, but familiar enough that we could find a Starbucks fix when our hostel told us we couldn’t check in for another 4 hours… The famous city smog also helped give it a really mysterious, other-worldly atmosphere.

This was the first big Asian city of the trip, and the one we would go on to compare the rest to. Rob can tell you about the sights and the history, but I always focus on the feel of a place. Hong Kong feels high-powered and futuristic, full of sharp suits and even sharper skyscrapers. There are walkways in the sky and everything is neon. And there are people everywhere – Kowloon, where we stayed, is the most densely populated place on the planet. It wasn’t so noticeable over the weekdays, but once it hit Saturday, you could really tell. That’s something I like about travelling; you are constantly reminded that you are just one of millions, and millions, and millions of people on this Earth, all of them going about their lives with no awareness of yours, and you have no awareness of theirs. It’s definitely not all about you!

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I will remember Hong Kong at night time. That’s when it really feels alive, rather than just a big city – when the neon lights up and the streets are still packed at midnight. We crowded the waterfront for the light show (a must-see, though not actually that impressive), spent hours weaving through the night markets and slurped noodles at teeny plastic tables. We also snuck into the world’s highest bar at the top of the Ritz Carlton, having been assured by our hostel that if you act like you know where you’re going, they’ll just assume you’re a guest. We felt incredibly scruffy – but it worked! And hey, posh people can be scruffy too, right?

I will also remember Hong Kong for getting hopelessly lost. Not while getting around – that was easy – but in shopping malls! You think you’re taking a short cut then 2 hours later, you’re still in there. They’re all indoors, they’re all absolutely spotless (as is everything in this city – I kept thinking how much they would hate the Tube), and they all have the same shops! It’s like some kind of never-ending hall of mirrors, with added Louis Vuitton handbags. Very confusing.

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Hong Kong mixes it up too, though – something we were about to learn was typical in Asia, smooshing the very very old right alongside the very very new. We took the incredible cable car ride (Note: people from Everywhere Else – it’s not a gondola, it’s a cable car!) up and over the mountains to the Big Buddah. While we were slightly disappointed (if not that surprised) to find a Subway at the top, the beautiful Buddhist monastery behind was one of my favourite places of the whole trip. Early on to make such a statement, I know! But the sense of peace I felt there was something I hadn’t ever really experienced before. I didn’t know a place full of so many people could feel so calm. That tranquility and certainty is something I hope to find again in the future.

But first, we had a plane to catch, and I had a bridge to climb. Next stop, Sydney!

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If you want to read the post I wrote for Oneworld365 about Hong Kong, you can find it here!

Touchdown!

Well well well. 100 days, 9 countries (10 if you count Wales – Rob is…) and one hell of a lot of photos later – we are HOOOOME!

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*disclaimer – Rob does have a tan, it’s just he’s standing next to me, so you can’t see it…

That photo was taken at Bangkok International Airport at 2pm on Wednesday, and a mere 25 hours later (!) I was strolling through my front door. The Big Flight itself was fine – we got Haagen Dazs with our tea (!!) and even managed to sleep for a bit. The worst part was the 5 hour wait at Hong Kong while waiting for our connection! But it was kind of nice to end the trip back where we started it. There is a special spot on the floor of Hong Kong airport (1st floor, by the Starbucks) that part of me will always call home. <3.

I’m still getting used to the fact that I can get drinking water from the tap, and not the 7-Eleven down the road, and occasionally have an urge to douse my hands in sanitiser gel, but I. Am. Home.

Two overriding thoughts on being back: 1) Britain is so QUIET… I spent 10 minutes trying to find my earplugs before I went to bed on Thursday, then realised “that weird noise” outside was… silence. And 2) Cheerios are the best thing ever. I would say “I’d forgotten how good Cheerios were”, but let’s face it, I hadn’t.

I’ve spent the last couple of days waking up at 4am, unpacking, and trying to remember that I no longer have to get maximum wear out of an item of clothing before it goes in the wash bin (ewww).

I have SO many photos and posts to come sharing a snapshot of my memories of each place, so stay tuned! Meanwhile you can of course read the blogs I wrote while I was out there for Oneworld365 – you may have already seen them if you follow me on Twitter.

Ahh. It’s good to be back. Did you miss me!?

A love letter to Cardiff

This evening, after nearly 6 years here, I started packing to leave Cardiff. And while my overriding thought was, “Why do I have so many clothes?!”, I have to admit, it’s emotional. This city has been many things to me, not least, for years now, my home.

Cardiff, I hated you when I got here. Naïve, terrified 18-year-old me did everything I could to spend as little time here as possible. I spent my first morning here on the phone to my mum, sobbing, hiding in my bathroom so my new flatmates wouldn’t hear me. I didn’t know anything or anyone here. The unfamiliarity, the rain, the scary new housemates, all these people so… different to everything and everyone I knew. I already had friends. I already had a home. Why cheat with this imposter?

My heart was back in Bournemouth, and so that’s where I was too, as often as I could be. After lectures finished on a Thursday I’d be on a train. I dread to think how many miles my mum clocked up on the road to the station and back – rainy Thursday nights we now reminisce about when we make the same journey. “Do you remember when I was in first year, and I hated Cardiff?…”

But gradually, I came to realise – home doesn’t stop just because you left. Home had started to move on. And at the same, sneaking pace, you began to lure me in too. Now my heart really was confused. Gradually, as the train pulled out of the station, my heart would give a little tug backwards. I’d start to wonder what I was missing. A vintage fashion fair, one weekend. Wow, I thought. We don’t have those at home. I’ve never been to one of those before.

And gradually, I began to test it. Test the water, and test myself. Try not going home this weekend – just see. If it’s horrible (and part of me, rabbit-in-headlights, still expected it to be), you can go home next time, vindicated. You can shake your head in disbelief as you tell your mum, you just don’t understand how horrible it is. You can gesture around at the kitchen you grew up in; it’s not like here.

I tested it, and Cardiff, you passed. I stayed. It took months, but then you didn’t only grow on me, I began to revel in you. All this newness! So many opportunities – places, and people, and sights and sounds, tastes and jokes and moments – home began to look smaller. And stiller. As it should be. Now my heart was no longer trying to keep up with both Here and There, I could see them both for what they were. And what they are still.

And what are you, Cardiff? You are glorious. You are the place I met some of my truest, greatest friends. You are where I danced, throat sore from singing and cheeks sore from smiling. You are where I learnt so much – not just about what I was here to, but about myself. You are where I learnt how much I loved my subject; so much that my heart signed me up for a fourth year. You are where I achieved, from the smallest victories (my first attempts at home cooking) to the big ones, graduations, 10Ks and beyond.

You are where I started to make myself. To build the person I’m going to be and the life I’m going to have.

You are where I fell in love. With the person that is truly the other half of me, who has taught me more about myself and what I want out of life, and supported me to build that person and those dreams, than anyone I’ve met before. Without you, Cardiff, that wouldn’t have happened.

And now, with that person, I’m leaving. I’m not sure how long for. And even when we do come back, we’ll be on borrowed time. My heart knows I don’t want to be here forever. Because how would I know what else is out there, otherwise?  I want to try it, to test it and see. If I don’t like it, I can always come back.

Because thanks to you, Cardiff, I know now that moving on is a good thing. It’s a brave and right and wonderful thing. It’s nothing to be scared of. It’s what you do.

If we never moved forward, what would we have to look back on? Thanks to you, Cardiff, I have six whole years.

 

London calling

Kensington Gardens, you are so pretty at 9am ❤

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I spent the day in London last Thursday, though my mission (to collect our Vietnamese visas) was over by 9.30am! Is it me, or are Embassies… strange?! It was like going to someone’s house. Albeit a very, very nice house – this is Kensington after all.

They also have a way of making you feel strangely criminal. I’m the same when I go through airport security. I know I don’t have anything I shouldn’t have about my person (or in my luggage), but I still worry someone’s about to swoop down on me! I was waiting in quiet terror in the queue, telling myself my passport is all as it should be, that we had paid everything we should have, that I had an email in my hand telling me our applications had been accepted…  I swear I didn’t breathe until the guy put our passports in my hand. Then spent the entire day on edge, walking around London with both our passports in my handbag….! Not like we’re off anywhere any time soon… (at the time of writing we’re nearly down to single figures… oh my GAAAD).

I’d originally planned to wander round all the free museums, maybe pop to Harrods for a nose, get the least-crazily-priced coffee I could in their cafe and ring my mum to tell her what I’d just paid for a cappuccino… I’m such a tourist. *sigh*… I love London. I know Kensington is like the nicest part of London possible, but still. I like Camden too! And it was a beautiful day – crisp, sunny and clear.

I ended up spending the day with my little bro instead. He’s in his final year at Trinity College of Music, and I’d always felt like a bit of a lousy big sister for never having visited him there. In my defence, I have a full time job and little disposable income… But excuses excuses. I’m going away for 3 months, and a day in the sunshine running around beautiful old buildings with my favourite youngest brother is something I’m so glad I could have.

After a takeaway brekkies of Starbucks bircher muesli ( – sidebar – OMG. Bircher muesli. Things like this are why I want to live in London. Can you imagine casually rustling up some bircher muesli for breakfast in Barry Island? No.) next to the Elfin Oak in aforementioned pretty gardens, I jumped back on the train to meet Robert in Greenwich. Another gloriously pretty part of London! Found the little townhouse of my dreams in an estate agent’s window en route… £1.4 mil. Casual. 

Trinity is in the Old Royal Naval College, which you would probably recognise from, well, a whole load of films. Thor, The King’s Speech, Les Mis, the latest Pirates of the Carribean – which they filmed when Rob was in first year – all there! And if you saw it…. Oh my goodness. It’s breathtaking. I wandered through the globe-flanked gates just open-mouthed, exclaiming, “This is where you go to uni!?”…

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Certainly beats Cardiff’s battered old Humanities building!

I got to indulge my inner tourist on the way too – I’d never seen the Cutty Sark before!

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GAH. I freaking love London. I want that on my doorstep.

Robert showed me the Painted Hall (just incredible) and the Chapel, which is where they filmed that famous scene in Four Weddings with Rowan Atkinson as the blundering bishop. Then we tripped up and down all these winding staircases, opening doors in walls, trying to find an empty practice room to show me the view over the river – sadly not to be, but everywhere you walk you get little bursts and snatches of music. Flute, piano, violin… Lovely. It’s like you’re in some musician’s dream.

By then I was absolutely starving, so Robert showed me a little more of Greenwich on our quest for some lunch. A particular fave of his was a hot chocolate shop called Black Vanilla… Now Robert is the most sugary-chocolatey-sickly-sweet-toothed person I know, but even to a slightly more savoury beast like myself, it sounded amazing. I’m totally becoming a regular once I buy my £1.4mill Greenwich townhouse. Yessir.

We plumped for smoked chicken noodle soup and katsu curry from Greenwich market. I handed over £5.50 for mine, wondering amusedly how much the same is going to cost me in Penang…!

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I met some of his friends too – thanking one of them, Becky, for the frankly dangerously good peanut-butter-chocolate-squares she’d made the day before, which Robert had fed me on the train! He’d heard from Mum that I was stressed, and I have to agree with his cure. Peanutty salty chocolatey YES-ness. So I knew I’d like this Becky character. It was funny how many people knew I was his sister without me being introduced… We’ve always been the most similar of us 4!

I’m going to gloss over the part where it took me 7 hours to get home… There was an accident on the M4 – but at least I’d bought dinner before I got on the Megabus! Finally got off at 11pm, sleep deprived thanks to some drama students who would NOT. STOP. SINGING. At what age will it start being OK for me to start telling off teenagers!? I think I need to wait until I no longer look the same age as them.

So yes, ignore that part. Sunshine, peanut butter, and a London day with my little brother. Not a bad thing at all.

Panic at the desk-o

You know how in my last post I was all like, yeah we started freaking out about travelling, and then we wrote a big list, and now I feel loads better?

Ahaha. Hahahaha.

now panic

What is wrong with me!? I really, really want to start getting excited about this trip. Only having wanted to do it since, you know, forever. But every time I go near it in my mind I just get a big, heavy, ice cold wave of PANIIIIIIIIC!

Yesterday I had a real wobble. Ended up having a little cry on the phone to Mum and shooing Rob out of the room when he came in to get his glasses. Doesn’t everyone feel better after just having a little cry? If anything I was surprised I’d been able to keep a lid on it for that long.

I have to keep telling myself that rationally, by the end of this week, all the Big Stuff will be sorted. Done. Dusted. Bosh. Nay, not even that long, by the end of Thursday. Thursday lunchtime even, when the Vietnamese Embassy person has put our visas in my hand, and I then have an afternoon to kill in that there London town, only mildly panicking that between Starbucks and the Megabus someone will nick our passports.

Now, Wednesday evening / Thursday actually is going to be stressful. Having to travel 4 hours on a coach up to London, on a work night, to be up and out and the other side of London by 9.30am, to then wait around all day to spend 4 hours on a coach home is, I think anyone would agree, Not Fun. I tried to update my ipod on Saturday in order to help up the fun quotient, and promptly broke my laptop. … I know.

But I have to look at the rest of the stuff with my rational head on. This isn’t a head I wear often, I’ll admit it. I like to collect panic. I worry about one thing, then just start to list a whole load of other things to worry over too.

If I look at it the right way – an afternoon to kill in London? Amazing! I can go to all the free museums, sit in a coffee shop and people watch, find a bookshop to sit in and just read for 3 hours… I keep saying how much I’ve wanted to just STOP the past few weeks. Well, here’s my chance!

SO! Let’s rationalise. Worry number 2 – got my malaria tablets yesterday. The side effects are freaking me out. (Anyone else been on Doxycycline? Bring me your knowledge!). Rational head on – Surely better than getting malaria??

Worry number 3 – Asia is scary. What if we don’t know we’re being scammed? What if we get in a taxi and they just drive us somewhere and rob us? What if we get in a car crash because the driving is so bananas?

Rational head on – SALLY. THAT IS THE POINT OF GOING. This is not a comfort zone holiday. This is a chance to see the freakin’ world. If it wasn’t a bit scary, and unknown, and new and different and exotic…. wouldn’t it be a bit boring?

I had a lovely dinner with one of my best friends last week and she is very good at giving me a bit of “Just calm down and get a grip”. She went travelling on her own. For 4 months. Cut her foot open in Laos and spent 3 weeks in hospital in Thailand. And she was FINE!

We are not idiots. We will have each other. And we will have an amazing, amazing time.

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Ahhhhhhhhhhh….. Freak out!

And not in the le Freak, c’est Chic way. I’ll tell you what freaking out is not, Chic, and that is, well, chic.

I even have the proof – check out these mugshots:

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As my dear friend Dave put it on Twitter – “Presumably you were both later freed on bail?”

Basicallly, I’m starting to freak out a little bit.

We had to get these done yesterday for our Vietnamese visas, which have been the main focus of my waking hours / energy resources for approximately the last 72 hours. Basically, until about 3pm on Sunday, we weren’t fully aware we needed to get them before we go. By which I mean, we weren’t aware. Cue a slightly panicky phone call to Rob, who was travelling back to Cardiff, and the priceless line, “Well, I’m on a train, so there’s not really anything I can do about it now…”

For some reason we both were of the opinion that we got them on the border. Very, very wrong! Alarm bells, albeit vague, muffled ones, began to ring when friends of ours who are going on holiday to Vietnam told me they had to (very nervously) post their passports to the Embassy to get theirs. It still didn’t fully twig – the conversation went more along the lines of how scary it is to put your passport in a post box and how expensive stamps are these days. I know. Ridiculous. I told you they were vague bells – more “oh is that a bell ringing? – OH look something shiny!”

So Sunday afternoon was when the penny finally dropped, and it was not a fun moment for me. I think – think!! please please please – we are on top of it now though. Forms were emailed first thing this morning, and I get to reacquaint myself with the Megabus on Thursday to go and pick them up…

*sigh*. I think part of it was how disappointed we both were in ourselves for not having been On This. We are not the kind of people to leave things to the last minute, or overlook something so important! I started having my jabs for this trip in August, for goodness’ sake. We’ve just both been so busy we’ve hardly had time to sit down and chat. The 2 hours of driving each day doesn’t help either – if I want to do something like go to the gym after work it’s nearly 8pm by the time I finally, frazzled and wanting anything except a computer screen to look at, stop.

I knew we had to get our visas, but “Get our visas” was just another bullet point on my big swirling mental checklist. Alongside things like, “Do my nails for CIPR awards on Friday” and “Make Mum’s Christmas present”. It made me feel silly at the time but it’s understandable – Yes, travelling is the priority, of course it is, but we also have work lives and social lives and family lives to lead for the next 3 weeks too. It’s my birthday in 10 days’ time and for the first time probably ever, I keep forgetting!

I think we’d been bobbing along for just a few days too long saying things like “Ooh it’s getting so close now!” and “Ooh we’re going to have so much to do as it gets closer!”… Consider this rectified. Monday night we wrote EVERYTHING that we need to do down. And then starting doing them!

The lists look better already, I must say. And so therefore do my anxiety levels.

I’ve been told it’s normal to have a little freak out in the lead up to a trip like this. It’s normal, right? And considering Asia’s the bit we’ve planned least… It’s understandable?!

The facts of the matter are these: I have 3 weeks to read up on stuff and get excited; I don’t WANT everything to be totally planned (remember this, Sally); and most importantly – everything is going to be fine.

The Notebook

Disclaimer: This post isn’t about The Notebook you think it is!

I watched ‘Rick Stein’s Far Eastern Odyssey‘ last night. I was just channel-hopping, but caught the voiceover telling me he was, this week, visiting Penang. Which is on my list for our upcoming adventure! (Getting scarily close now – but that’s another story).

Why? Well firstly because it is ridiculously fun to say. Pe-nannngggggg…. Sorry. But also because it is known as “the street food capital of Malaysia”. This post from one of my fave food blogs got my taste buds going! Now it’s pretty well-documented that one of my biggest reasons for going travelling is all the FOOD. I love food and I love trying new things. It’s all part of the adventure, isn’t it? New experiences, tastes and flavours. We’re even going to try and do a cooking course while we’re out there. I could already quite happily live off Wagamamas alone, so I am expecting South East Asia to be, well, food heaven. And with Malaysia already being such a mish mash of Malay, Thai, Indian, Chinese and, yep, European food – Penang must be pretty flippin’ good.

I didn’t watch the whole episode as I was up at 5.30 yesterday, and my bed was calling. I only actually saw him do one recipe, for Beef Rendang, which was already on my Must Try list. So in terms of food to get excited about, I didn’t really learn much!

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In truth, it isn’t really the food that I wanted to write about here. It isn’t really even Penang – even though I’m still pretty up for going. That wasn’t what struck me while watching the episode. It was the bit when he walked into his big, old-colonial style hotel and there was a shot of some of the guests milling about the foyer. They were all 50-60 plus, white, and judging by the swankiness of where they were staying, pretty well off, dressed in capri pants and khakis. Then there was a shot of Rick in the hotel dining room, lifting silver cloches to reveal the different breakfasts on offer (which he helpfully described as “fish curry” and “chicken curry” – cheers for the insight, Rick…). And it just made me… a bit sad. I think I may have genuinely sighed. What is the point?

I know everyone is different, and everyone wants different things out of their trips abroad. But for me, if you’re going to go somewhere – go and BE there. I’m not saying stay in the grottiest hostel you can find, just for the “authenticity”. I’m just saying – travel to really travel. Experience where you are. You can’t really get to know a place, and understand its culture and what makes it tick, and revel in the differences to everything you know – if you’re in some swanky, air conditioned 5 star. Where the only interaction you’ll get with local people is thanking the guy who carries your back to the lift. That is so not the point. That is so not for me.

Okay, everyone needs to be comfortable. And there’s a difference between backpacking and 2 weeks vacation. But firstly, I wouldn’t go to somewhere as exotic and different as Penang on a 2 week holiday and not get stuck in. I’d think – crap! I’m only here for 2 weeks? How can I experience as much of this place as I can? When you’ve got so many exciting things to be out doing and seeing (and eating), you’re not really going to be mooching about the room much, are you.

Think about it – what do you really need? You need the basics – a shower, a roof, a bed – and a clean one if you can find it. But to me that really is it.  Somewhere to sleep, somewhere to get clean, and for me, a notebook to try and preserve it all. I have kept a travel diary on both our previous trips, and they are among my most treasured items. The very last thing I’ll do before we fly is go to Paperchase, or Waterstones, on my own, quietly, and with solemn excitement, choose The Notebook that I’m taking to the other side of the world with me.

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People have started to ask me – now that the countdown is ticking – if packing is freaking me out. On the surface, yes – because packing is always stressful. But I’m not worrying about how I’ll fit in all the stuff I want to take. I’m concerned about making sure I have the things I need. I don’t need a hundred different outfits, or hair straighteners or even more than one pair of shoes (hello, faithful flip flops). If anything I’m looking forward to stripping back. I’ve never been that materialistic – many a time a voice in my head has told me that that £30 Topshop top that everyone is wearing? Having it won’t change my life. “Stripping back” and remembering what’s important is one of the lessons I know I’ll come with. And I for one think it’s one more people would really benefit from learning.

Travel blogging!

I have something exciting to tell you. While I am on my travels, I’m going to be doing some freelance blogging for a fabby little website, Gap Year 365!

gapyear365Gap Year 365 is a real treasure trove of tips and tours for gap years, volunteering breaks and shorter trips, like the one I’m planning – and no, you don’t have to be a fresh-faced 18-year-old to get involved! There’s such an enormous range of advice and ideas to tailor make your dream trip, anywhere in the world. Since I discovered them on Twitter I’ve been trawling the site for inspiration!

They popped up in my Twitter feed advertising for freelance Travel Writers and I absolutely jumped at the chance.  (I was actually at my friend’s birthday party in Taunton at the time… Always working, me!) Something I have always wanted to be is a travel writer. And now, well… I kind of am!

While I told them I’m not actually jetting off til November, I was pretty keen to get scribbling – and check that they like how I write, of course! Luckily, they did… and my first post on how to choose a hostel went live earlier this month 🙂 You can read it here.

 

Travelling update: And breathe.

So, as you may have been able to tell, I was a liiiittle bit excited to break the news about travelling. Soz. Long time coming, that’s all I’m gonna say.

It’s been so hard to keep it a secret, but we’ve actually known we were going for a few weeks now… I just didn’t want to say anything before I’d told work! It would be horrible if it just got round to my boss somehow that I was going. I know it’s a job, and people leave jobs, but the agency is such a teeny little family I wanted to make sure I “leave” in the right way. So, 2 months notice, like my contract says. Plus like a week extra, because I wanted to give him as much of a heads up as poss. I don’t want to just disappear and stitch him up (and my colleague, who will have to pick up my workload when I’m gone!).

So… a calmer explanation. Yep, we’ve booked it. Flights, jabs, and now a few of the hostels. It’s coming together! When we first got over the jump-around-the-room-flights-booked part (which was a traumatic enough stage to get to, lemme tell ya, Rob’s parents were noooot on board to start with, and that’s all I’ll say!), it kind of dawned on us just how much we had to organise…! Case in point – we wanted to drive a campervan around NZ for the month that we’re there. Turns out, campervans? They’re crazy expensive. Like, more than our whole budget for NZ expensive. So I’m glad we’ve given ourselves loads of time to get everything in place – but not so much time that it feels too far away to be real! Now that I’ve given in my notice, real is very, very, much how it feels.

And we’re leaving the flat too! Walking home from work yesterday I thought to myself, this is only going to be my life for another few weeks. Like I said in my previous post, I’m finding it harder to ignore the things that annoy me about the flat now that I know we aren’t here for much longer. I just want to move out and get away from the stupid rickety bed (that breaks if you roll over too quickly), the huge white leather sofa (so not my taste, and sticky in the heat), the fridge that makes weird blowing/whirring noises every half an hour (lived here a year and still don’t know why). The fact that there’s carpet in the bathroom (weird pet hate) and that the windows open like thiiiis much… making it an oven in here all year round. Not for much longer though.

And while it’s scary that I won’t be coming back to a job, that’s exciting. This is it now. The next part. This time next year, so much will be different. New flat (already daydreaming about it on Pinterest), stocked to the brim with travel souvenirs and photos. With a second bedroom. Maybe even a garden. New job! Maybe here, maybe in Bristol – maybe I’ll be a commuter. Rob will be a trainee barrister, this time next year. And I’ll have got travelling out of my system.

I know that sounds weird, but that’s important here too. I just feel like… I should have done it by now. Not in a bad way, but I’m looking forward to it being over, so I can move on! Save up for something else for a change!

We’re finally moving forward. And it’s really not as scary as I thought 🙂