Another Year, Another Mother-Daughter Adventure

‘Health is your wealth’ they say.
‘Look after yourself, love’ they tell me.
‘Take it easy, Liv’ they softly whisper as they leave the room. By ‘they’ I mean family / friends / colleagues / volunteers that I work alongside / my favourite lady at the till at Tescos / or Graham – the man who I have deep life chats with every Wednesday morning at 8am in the leisure centre sauna.

‘This is serious’ she said.
‘This is critical’ she told me.
‘You are not going travelling. Going to India right now is nothing but total self destruction. What would your family say if you don’t make it home? I don’t call patients up at 9.30pm at night unless it’s really serious.’
That was my Gastroenterologist Consultant in December informing me that I was too weak and too poorly to travel. Heartbroken is an understatement. I had quit my job (which I love) for this trip, so the stakes were pretty high.

Days have been slower than slow, but, now March, hip-hip-hooray, huge improvements have been made. I still have a long way to go but each day I have been getting stronger and my bloods and biochemistry are now ‘stable.’ So my solo trip to India has been postponed, but the annual Mother-daughter adventure is fast approaching. Lo and behold – Borneo.

By being very strict with the savings pot and loosely having a ‘no online shopping / only get the necessities’ way of life, our next big trip is upon us. I will soon be able to live out one of my many life-long dreams – to see an Orangutan in the wild. Oh what a fascinating, breath-taking adventure it will be. As with most of our trips – there will be joy, beauty, a large dilemma, a possible panic attack and many unwelcome mosquito bites.

I anticipate cheeky brown-eyed monkeys, crocodiles lurking, dolphins in turquoise waters…
We’ll be slurping traditional laska (a spicy coconut soup) from the bustling food markets…
Marveling at shades of green in the rainforest that we have never cast our eyes on before…
Learning from the locals…
Having warm, relaxed bones from the hot sun and sticky freckly skin.
Hearing sounds of – what’s that? It’s Mum getting cross with me that I lied about March’s average temperature and humidity levels so she would agree to come with me.
I’ll be having a hand sanitizer pelted towards me several times a day from said cross-over-heated lady.
Forget having a massage at the hotel spa… I’ll be rubbing Mum’s back at the airport to try and calm her down about her coronavirus anxieties…
…Potentially getting quarantined. Swapping my chopsticks for a face mask…
… even if we escape the coronavirus hysteria, let’s be honest, at least one of us will get the shits.
I can’t wait.

Should we go to Sri Lanka tomorrow?

GP appointment. Physio appointment. Psychotherapy. Gastroenterology. Dietician. Rheumatology. Safe to say my health hasn’t been too sprightly these past few months and life has seemed to be one big appointment, just prodded in a different place.

Now for the next appointment: Heathrow Airport. Now I wouldn’t say I’m the strongest version of my self right now… so is it really a good idea to venture to the other side of the world to camp in a tent under the Sri Lankan stars, in the hope to cast my eyes on a dream of mine: a wild elephant… Mystical. Wise. Roaming free.

“Are you sure you’re up to this?” My Mum asks.

(Am I up to it?… Thing is, I’ve worked blooming hard to save up the $$$ to taste that fresh coconut fish curry & sip fine fragrant tea & feel a rich sun on my back & search for wild leopards. So yes. I’m up for it).

Yesterday I went for a stroll across quiet fields whilst listening to a podcast featuring one of my favourite authors, Matt Haig. He speaks openly about his own mental health struggles and was speaking about the power of not trying so hard. He had been trying so hard to ‘get better’ and to ‘put labels’ on his flaws, that this was actually winding him up even more, thus, making life even more of a struggle.

Perhaps my adventure will actually be an act of healing in itself?

If you’re a return reader of me ol’ blog (hi! Thanks!) you’ll know that 2 years ago I branched away from my beloved solo travel and went to India with my one and only Mum! The MamaDaughter adventures continued the following year too (India again, because we were hooked). This year I suggested Sri Lanka to use a couple of weeks annual leave. (Didn’t take much convincing, she must be addicted too now). She immediately agreed.

So now, time to pack the things that excite me the most:
Mosquito spray.
Imodium.

My stomach flutters and flicks with excitement when I think of a long haul flight. I just love it. It’s actually a length of time that forces me to slow down in life. For example, I often struggle to stay focused for an entire film as my mind will be flirting with a thousand other possibilities of what I could or should be doing in life right now that would be more productive (not a healthy trait and something I am trying to work on!) But on a plane, I’ll happily binge watch 3 films back to back. IT’S GREAT.

Also the plane food is great. I love the surprise. Even if it’s the surprise of tragic disappointment.

Speaking of tragic. I really don’t mind if I’m sat next to a complete loon. Or a heavy breather. Or someone that looks like they’ve eaten their family-size suitcase and so their stomach & side-back flop over half my seat too. You see, the weird and the distressing makes for a funny story and good writing material. I like it.

Let’s see if I get any decent writing material soon, ey? Will try to keep the blog updated. Bon voyage!

What the heck is Hygge?

Gently putting my lips to a steamy Yorkshire brew. The lighting is cosy. I’m wearing fluffy socks. My heart-rate has slowed down. This is hygge.

I came across this term about a year ago in various health mags / Instagram accounts. Someone I overheard said it meant ‘cosy.’ I wasn’t that interested if I’m honest. I just thought it was people being proud of their interior design and photo editing skills. I also read the word hygge in my head as, ‘hi-gee.’

Turns out, the word ‘hygge’ (pronounced hue-guh) is a Danish concept (and a glorious one at that!) In June, I was lucky enough to live and breathe the hygge lifestyle during a long weekend away in Copenhagen…

June 10th, 2017

I met Maja over a year ago, when we were both travelling independently in Australia. We met in Hervey Bay, explored Fraser Island together and then after continuously messaging and keeping each other up to date, we met up again in Cairns! (Read more about our first meet here)

We had shared so much together and got to know each other so very well in such a short space of time. Our humour, morals and life ambitions clicked instantly and it felt like we had known each other for years. It felt strange to part ways, but we both did the polite thing of saying, “you should come and visit me some time.”

In reality, that rarely happens, does it?

Maja lives in Copenhagen. Whilst our ‘every few months little catch up’ over Facebook messenger was taking place, I found out that return flights to Copenhagen from London Heathrow were only £50. Done.

Visiting Copenhagen

Alongside lots of girly squeals, hugs and catch ups, Maja helped me embrace the true Danish lifestyle!

Whilst we sat in her beautiful, minimalist apartment, she said:

“I don’t think there’s an English word for hygge. The closest translation is ‘cosy’ but I don’t think that is a very good translation. Hygge (pronounced huh-guh) is something that brings inner peace and happiness. It really can be anything as long as it is something that you crave / desire. Hygge could be snuggling up in front of the fire. Hygge could be eating a cake. Hygge could be meditating. Hygge could be laughing with friends. If you walk into a room and get good vibes you could say it’s ‘hygge’ … The Danes are using this word a lot lately and doing whatever they can to achieve it.”

How did we achieve hygge?

Experiencing Tivoli Gardens is a must when visiting Copenhagen. However, Maja’s top tip was to go in the evening, when the sun is beginning to set. The air was cool but not cold and the sky showcased swirls of pink, orange and indigo. Twinkling, dainty-lights surrounded our footsteps and laced the trees whilst our eardrums were filled with notes from the violin and the piano. We watched the world go by as we drank fruit tea from intricate tea-pots and pretty cups.

Of course, the next morning I had to experience a modern Scandinavian breakfast. Maja carefully prepared boiled eggs, luminous pink grapefruit and skyr yogurt. The Danes love to eat natural foods, rich in protein to fuel them for the day ahead.

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Fully fuelled, before we knew it, it was lunch. We had spent the morning cycling around Copenhagen (here: BIKES ARE LIFE). We explored nautical Nyhavn and I took some touristy postcard style pics to please my Mum and Dad.

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Lunch was a real treat. We made our way up to the top floor of The Tower to indulge in the famous Open Sandwiches whilst having a sweeping cityscape view.

Nutty rye bread, juicy king prawns, and a view across the water to Sweden. What more could a girl want!?

If no hate and no rules are what you’re after, then head over to Christiania (a tiny town within Copenhagen). Found on the island borough of Christianshavn, the Free Town of Christiania is a unique and somewhat controversial part of Copenhagen. It was established in 1971 when, in the midst of a housing shortage, squatters took over an abandoned military base and formed an alternative society. Best known for its Green Light District (filled with marijuana dealers and smokers – but it’s all OK, cos no rules!) The Free Town is also home to restaurants and bars, a market, artist workshops, and concert venues. There is plenty of street art to admire here, and residents live in converted army barracks or unique hand-built homes. It’s a fascinating place to catch a glimpse of a non-traditional way of life. I’ve never seen anything like it, it was like a dream. Maybe we breathed in too much air whilst walking around, as we both felt a little wobbly and giggly on our bike ride bike home.

Returning the favour

Summary: Copenhagen is a very happy city filled with happy people!

Hopefully I’ve helped to unpick the ‘hygge’ concept a bit for you (with thanks to Maja!) Again it was difficult to say goodbye to her, but I can’t want to return the favour and have her stay with me in the UK.

But what can I do to match up to her excellent Danish culture weekend feat. Hygge!?

Fish and chip Friday?

Keep your head down and don’t talk to anyone in London Saturday?

Get muddy, wet and cold in Yorkshire but ‘av a proper brew Sunday?

 

Anyway, hope to see you soon, Maja!

All the best,

Liv x

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The Snowdonia Adventure with Me Old Man

It’s been over a month since I returned from India. In order to soothe my travel addiction, something new had to be put in the diary. Of course, money doesn’t grow on trees and annual leave isn’t an eternal force, BUT, there are ways around this my friend; there is always a way.

Long Easter weekend: ideal.

Go somewhere new in the UK: easy on the ol’bank account

Go camping: even easier on the ol’bank account (plus, more fun).

I suggested going with ‘me old man.’ He has been guilt-tripping me for weeks about not getting an India-adventure invite. Of course, I’m not going with him out of sympathy. I want to go to Snowdonia with my Dad, because, if you’ve ever met my Dad, you’ll know that he’s a bit of a legend.

A blooming irritating legend, but a legend nevertheless.

Turning 68 this year (although he thought he was in his 70’s because, you know, memory issues)… he may not be able to run a sub 2.40 marathon anymore, or survive for weeks on end in a tent with temperatures dropping to -40, but in my Pappy’s little mind (and mine too) – once a Paratrooper, always a Paratrooper. But actually, if we’re being accurate, after eight years, he transferred to the Army Physical Training Corps.

I sent him a text earlier in the week, telling him about the really bad weather (rain and storms) that was approaching the Easter weekend in Snowdonia. To which he replied:

“Skin is waterproof. We’ll be fine.”

Looks like we’re going then.

He was a bit grumpy on the drive there, but certainly perked up when we started to hike up Mount. Tryfan. That guy can shift! I’m pretty confident in my fitness levels but even I was huffing and puffing a bit trying to keep up with his military pacing. To say we went off-piste is an understatement. Paths are dull and boring apparently and so our search for Heather Terrace had me scrambling through what felt like miles and miles of shrubs and ugly rocks. I think I annoyed him by being constantly indecisive as to whether I was taking my jacket off or leaving it on. It was extremely cold and I was wearing thermals, long sleeve, jumper, thin jacket, thick jacket, hat and gloves, two trousers, two socks.

Dad never has much sympathy and so there’s no point complaining, as you’ll probably get one of three responses:

“Oh shut your face.”

“Stop being a wimp.”

“Pain is just a weakness leaving the body.”

As you can imagine, my childhood was really quite something.

As you can also imagine, the thought of bringing a guy home to meet my Dad – well, you just wouldn’t, would you?

Anyway, we reached the summit in good spirits. We sheltered behind a rock for a bit and had some snacks and coffee from the flask to re-fuel for the way down. A couple of other guys were on the summit too. One of them took out a bottle of water and a sausage roll from his back-pack, then, before our eyes, a seagull swooped down and snatched the packaged savoury pastry from him. Gone.

“F***’in seagull has taken me sausage roll! Still had the wrapper on! What an f***’in’ joke! Did you see that!?”

We all burst out laughing.

The summit of Tryfan is famous for the twin monoliths of Adam and Eve, a pair of rocks some three metres high and separated by 1.2 metres. Dad, wanting to prove that age is just a number, jumped from one to the other with great ease.

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We took our time on our way down and enjoyed the views. They were cloudy views, but views nevertheless. There’s something about hiking – even though it can be exhausting at the time, there’s something so therapeutic about it and I never really want it to end. It’s blissful not to have to think about day-to-day life, no diary, no problems, no anxiety, just climb, and keep climbing, and see beautiful things.

It’s not all glamorous though. You become dirty and stinky and this time, the cold, damp conditions had made my chilblains flare up. Ouch!!!

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Dad told me about a guy he once knew who described hiking like so:

“It’s like banging your head against a brick wall… It’s lovely when you stop.”

***

After filling our stomachs with tinned food, we continued to wear all our clothing (including jackets and hats), got into our sleeping bags and tried to go to sleep.

Didn’t sleep. Swear I was lying on a rock. And Dad’s snoring, don’t even get me started…

But when you get back to the comforts of the everyday – the heating, the clean fluffy socks, the bubble bath, when you get back to all of that, no matter how gross the situations were when you were ‘roughing it’ whilst travelling… I sure do miss it.

When back at home and flicking through some of the photos that were taken, this one of me (below) makes Dad laugh.

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“You look like a page out of that book, ‘Where’s Frank?’

“You mean, Where’s Wally?”

“Yeah, that’s the one.”

Trying to do a Half Marathon in Delhi

4th March

Today was long and hard work. We left the hotel in Shimla at 9am and did not arrive in New Delhi until 11.45pm.

Our local guide was a woman – that was a surprise. Smaller than me, big beautiful brown eyes and smudged red lipstick. She told me that she would not eat anything all day because her stomach hurt. She even refused the boiled sweet that I offered her. I think she said her name was Charylee. Whatever it was, it sounded pretty.

Charylee escorted us onto the Toy Train. It was old, small and quaint, moving very slowly and showing off the panoramic views of the Himalayan mountains. The old railway had many twists and turns and took us through over 100 tunnels on our journey Shimla > Solan, which took three hours. Something about travel seems to make my bladder weak… never have I been so desperate to use a stinky, filthy hole-in-the ground. And never have I been so desperate for hand sanitiser.

We’ve had some incredible culinary experiences on our trip so far. But today, it was a disaster. I wanted something bland and so ordered boiled eggs on toast. It was vile, disgusting, and resulted in a terrible sense of humour failure on my part. If you’ve read previous posts, you’ll know that I’m a spice lover. So why pick something so tasteless? I’m hoping to do a half marathon tomorrow… that’s why.

Two hours of bumpy roads and mad over-taking left our tummies feeling very turned – probably not helped by my bad eggs and Mum’s deep-fried cheese. (Why on earth did she choose that!?)

The train food was ‘interesting’ let’s say. In an attempt to protect my little stomach for tomorrow, I stuck to pre-packaged food. Mum ate a couple of fried things and a few mouthfuls of suspect curry. STOP!!! I told her. She reluctantly stopped. The only unpackaged food that I did eat was a huge naan, wrapped in foil (in an attempt to carb up for tomorrow). Due to the hectic journey, I’m worried that I haven’t fuelled up enough for tomorrow’s race. My carb loading today has consisted of cereal and porridge for brekki, two dodgy eggs, three slices of toast and jam, two slices of banana bread, cereal bar, muffin, four bread sticks, a huge naan and three bananas. Will that be OK? We’ll soon find out…

When arriving in Delhi (late) as you can imagine, the traffic was hellish. After near death Mario Kart experience number sixty-eight, we finally arrived at the extravagant Maidens Hotel. The men were dressed in white and gold and had the kindest of smiles. After checking in, booking a taxi for the race tomorrow at 4.15am, guzzling a complimentary hot cocoa, my head hit the pillow at midnight (too exhausted to even change my clothes). I set my alarm for 3.30am. What am I doing?

5th March

It’s dark. We’re lost. The taxi driver is lost. Nobody knows where the Yamuna Half Marathon start line is and I’m buzzing off my tits, at 4.30am, thanks to very little sleep, an energy drink, a power bar and pack of jelly beans with added electrolytes.

In broken English, the taxi driver suggested we call the race organisers. He offered me his phone. I didn’t think that there would be any point calling – it’s 4.30am for goodness sake! Who on earth would be in the office? Once again, India surprises me – a man answered.

“Cancelled.”

No explanation, just: “cancelled.”

Annoyed, deflated, but still wide-eyed from sugar and additives, I sulked back to the room.

I tried to go back to sleep, but couldn’t. I had stomach cramps instead. “Oh no!” said Mum, trying to be sympathetic. She was about to put her arm around me, but then ended up barging me out of the way instead, so that she could be violently sick in the loo.

My stomach pain passed as quickly as it came on. Mum on the other hand, wasn’t so lucky. Delhi Belly has struck. I repeat. Delhi Belly has struck. This is not a drill.

This meant I was to explore Delhi by myself. Poor Mum, she would have loved to experience it too. I was shown around by a local guide – Bubbu, who looked after me ever so well.

My hopes weren’t all that great for Delhi. ‘Smelly Delhi’ they call it. But wow, it was so much better than I imagined! Even with no sleep and feeling a little lonely without Mum, there were moments where my jaw would ache from smiling ear to ear, feeling so lucky to be seeing this colourful chaos, the madness of it all.

Bubbu and I rode on the back of a Rickshaw (a cart lead by a bike) through tiny backstreets and through the bustling spice market. We rode along a main road too and almost got clipped by other vehicles, including a bus. At first it was a little scary, but then after each near miss, I laughed out loud, feeling truly alive. It was electric. I could feel my heart beating in my head (although that could be due to no sleep). Who cares.

It was a surreal experience to wander around India Gate and see the President’s House. But it’s more of a palace than a house. In fact, it’s more of a city. The President has over 7,000 workers and the house has its own post office, school, hospital, tennis courts, football pitch… and in the garden, it is said to have every type of rose on earth.

I finished off my day by treating myself to an Indian head massage. The coconut oil that they used made my hair greasy for days, but the wonderful experience was worth it. Although, questionable at times. I closed my eyes in sheer relaxation, but then my eyes widened as there was definite boob cupping as he massaged my chest.  I’m pretty sure that’s not allowed, but I was too exhausted and relaxed to care. I thought what the heck, it actually felt quite nice.

Hurrah! Mum was feeling brighter and was going to attempt to join me for dinner. I couldn’t get over how beautiful she looked, even though she had been so sick all day. We ate outside on the garden terrace. The candle lighting and the warm evening air made the whole place feel like paradise.

I can’t believe our Indian adventure is almost at an end.

Before visiting, I thought it was a bit of a cop out when people said, “words cannot describe” in their response to, “so what is India like?”

Now I know what they mean. I don’t think we have the language to describe such decadence and such dirt, such beauty and such pain. My experience of India has been a constant, fighting juxtaposition between heart-fluttering madness and inner peace. It is a country that makes you feel alive. It is a country that makes you feel everything and nothing.

 

 

The severe dedication to avoid Delhi Belly

1st March

I’m squatting. For once, not squatting over one of India’s famous hole-in-the-ground-toilets, but I’m squatting next to an open fire, helping a lady who is dressed all in blue. I’m helping her make chapatis.

I’m outside the Judge’s Court Hotel, situated in the Heritage Village of Pragpur. My rolling-pin technique isn’t quite as speedy or efficient as the lady in blue, but her white smile is warm and her kind eyes tell me that she is grateful for my help and my company. She doesn’t say much but her aura is peaceful and content, so much so that it is contagious – whilst throwing raw dough onto the orange flame and sitting (squatting) by her side, I feel a calm happiness in my head and through my entire body.

Our dinner that evening was incredible and I definitely over did it. I waddled up to the bedroom feeling like I was about to give birth to triplets. Triplets cushioned by garlic naan and swimming in a platter of vegetarian curry.

2nd March

7 hours drive to Shimla. It’s only 200km away, but it’s all narrow, twisty roads, heading up the mountains. Jesus Christ the driving was hairy. It truly is the real life Mario Kart experience – who doesn’t love over taking on bends? But each time we overtook, we beeped the horn three times so we’ll be safe, right? My knuckles were white for most of those 7 hours (made worse by one too many coffees this morning – stay strong little bladder. Stay strong!) I feel really bad that I don’t know our driver’s name. We’ve been with him these last 5 days, but it would be too awkward to ask now.

Good lord, Shimla is cold. Much colder than I expected. Wearing practically the entire contents of my backpack in an attempt to keep warm, fashion has completely gone out of the window. I currently resemble an unfashionable 14 year old that would be found in a French GCSE text book.

Shimla is beautiful though. It’s much cleaner than any of the other places that we have previously visited. Smoking is prohibited and there is a ‘no spitting’ rule. The roads are steep, the forest trees are tall and the glowing sunset resembles an acryclic painting, painted by a talented optimist.

3rd March

Today I saw a girl get attacked by a monkey. She wasn’t hurt, so it’s OK that I laughed, right?

A temple visit and then some more monkey shenanigans, I later purchased the best thing since sliced bread – a Yak wool scarf from a kooky little Tibetan charity shop. #FreeTibet !!!

After mopping up my plate of black dahl with fresh chapati, both my tongue and my stomach reached a level of satisfaction so much higher than is possible with the foods back at home. I’m being daring with trying new flavours and spices (I love hot food), however, I’m being extremely cautious of all uncooked foods – especially fruit and veg. And even though I’m the gelato queen, after reading up on food safety in India, I’m staying away from ice-cream too. And it goes without saying – bottled water, always bottled water (and make sure it’s sealed! Sometimes they have been sneakily refilled and sold on).

Upon recommendation from a local, I went to Baljeet bakery to try one of their famous ‘Barfis.’ I opted for ‘coconut barfi.’ It was sweet and delicious but unfortunately the after-taste took a dramatic turn, resembling what I can only describe as ‘sour milk.’ I quickly rummaged for a soft mint to try and mask the taste of stale vomit in my mouth. Note for next time: BARFI = BARF. (Although I would like to brag that for someone who usually has a sensitive stomach, I manned it out, wasn’t actually sick, and therefore feel like an invincible warrior).

7 days in. Touch wood, Delhi belly has not yet arrived. However, my intestines are having a new experience. For example, they love love loved a fragrant pea, yogurt and cashew nut curry that I ate on March 1st, they loved it so much, they did not hesitate to remind me of that fragrance all throughout March 2nd. And the 3rd.

BUT I’M NOT ILL YET SO YAY ME.

Time for rest. Tomorrow is a full travel day to New Delhi. And then the next morning, I might do a half marathon. Because, well why not?

“I want to travel, but…”

Absorbed by a new job and the bubble of London, the travel blog has been somewhat neglected. A few people have asked me to write new posts and quite frankly I have ignored these requests. Why would I write about the ordinary? This morning I had toast instead of porridge. Wow.

However, I have also received some messages from people asking for ‘travel advice.’ I’m no travel agent but I’m always thrilled to speak about travelling and my experiences – some of the things that I got right… and about some of the things that I got oh so very wrong. What should I pack? Do you think this will be a good route? How do you make friends? How do you budget money?

As I have mentioned in a previous post, I have now written a travel book. It is half journal and half advice for first time solo travellers. Amongst some words of encouragement, it’s full of light-hearted anecdotes, all written in a tell-it-how-it-is fashion. (It ain’t all pretty). The advice chapters are as followed…

Should I leave my job?

What countries should I visit?

How long should I go away for?

Should I travel alone?

Top safety tips for solo travel

Travelling alone as a woman

What to pack?

What not to pack

Planning versus spontaneity

How to make friends

How do deal with your own company

Mind over matter

Learn to say yes

What to do when you miss home

What to do when you think ‘This isn’t for me…’

How to budget

What I wish I’d have known

How to avoid the travel blues?

What do the others say?

 

A part of me wants to just post all of it now, but I’ve got to be strict with myself and continue to edit and continue to sweet talk publishers. Hopefully one day it will be on the shelves and part of the E-book family. One can dream.

I think it is allowed that I share the title with you though. ‘GO.’

Because that really is the advice in a nutshell. GO. If you are considering some kind of adventure, however big or small, just go. It’s always easier to think of a million reasons not to do something.

And for the messages that I have received from people either considering going, or about to jet off, I will happily share with you the advice that I collected from some of the friends that I met whilst backpacking this year…

Jackson, 22 (Somerset, UK)

Don’t travel to find yourself, travel to find everyone else.

 

Jade W, 25 (London, UK)

Backpacking is one of the most exciting experiences you will get in life, and whether you realise it or not you’ll be growing and changing as a person with every encounter you make. So whether it’s trying exotic food, talking to people you don’t know, or solo travelling for the first time, throw yourself into every situation and really push yourself, even if it’s completely outside your comfort zone, because you will get so much more out of the experiences you didn’t know you could do.

 

Hannah, 25 (Leamington Spa, UK)

Always take a pack of playing cards.

 

Harry, 23 (Leicestershire, UK)

Live in the moment and absorb all that you can.

 

Sophie, 22 (Leicestershire, UK)

Do things that scare you.

 

Annie, 22 (Worcester, UK)

If there’s something you really want to do while you’re travelling don’t let anything stop you from doing it- whether that be fear, money etc, etc. For most of us travelling to these places is a once in a lifetime opportunity and you don’t want to come back with any regrets.

 

Georgia, 22 (Melbourne, Australia)

Wherever you go, don’t leave without a bottle of water and a lip balm. There is nothing worse than feeling dehydrated and having dry lips!

 

Brit, 22 (Melbourne, Australia)

Always travel with a power board. That way you only need one travel adapter but can charge multiple things from home at once.

 

Matt, 27 (Birmingham, UK)

Speak to everyone you can, you never know who you might meet and who could become a friend that you will keep in touch with forever!

 

Emily, 21 (Surrey, UK)

Never buy the backpacks that only open from the top.

 

Jess, 24 (Peterborough, UK)

Embrace whatever seemingly strange situation you will often find yourself in as they create the best memories to share with people later on.

 

Margaret, 22 (Nova Scotia, Canada)

Keep your plans flexible because some of the best memories come from the things that you never expected you would do!

 

Martin, 25 (Carlisle, UK)

Make damn sure you never come away thinking, “I should’ve done that.”

 

Aimee, 30 (Manchester, UK)

Things never quite go the way you expect – be open to following wherever the path wants to take you.

 

Sarah, 28 (London, UK)

No matter which country you go to, always take an umbrella! It doesn’t only get rainy in England.

 

Maja, 22 (Copenhagen, Denmark)

Go to the rainforest in Australia. Stay there for more than just one night, so you really get to experience being away from the world and all it’s stress and social media.

 

Fred, 24 (Surrey, UK)

Don’t do too much coke. It’s all fun and games until the heart palpitations kick in.

 

Robin, 23 (Sheffield, UK)

Never sleep in too late. Get up and do things. You can sleep when you’re old.

 

Daisy, 29 (London, UK)

Invest in a decent bag – it’s basically your life-line for the trip. Make sure it’s not too full when you leave home as you’ll want to buy things on your travels.

 

Jade R, 24 (Stratford-upon-Avon, UK)

Never trust a fart in Asia.

Connie, 22 (Durham, UK)

Just wing it.

 

Dirk, 30 (Germany)

If you are in love, never talk to an amazing girl who will confuse you as much as hell.

 

Marvin, 20 (Switzerland)

Don’t plan too much. Let it happen.

 

Eilidh, 21 (Scotland)

Don’t follow the same trip everyone does just because it’s seen as the ‘normal’ backpacker route. If you want to go somewhere, GO. If there is somewhere you don’t fancy, ‘DON’T GO.’ It’s your trip, so follow your heart. Also, don’t get drunk and ride horses.

 

Luke, 28 (Hertfordshire)

Keep putting yourself in new positions to make new memories.

 

Christopher, 24 (Wirral, UK)

Remember, you can always come back!

 

Anne, 19 (Winnipeg, Canada)

Imodium is NOT a solution or cure; is it merely a final, desperate act for survival.

 

Jade E (Neath, Wales)

You’re never truly alone.

 

 

When 4 months becomes 7

For some reason, over the last few years, saying ‘yes’ became increasingly difficult. ‘Buy the expensive dress’ – no. ‘Have a one-night-stand’ – no. ‘Go on a walk instead of a run’ – no. For many things, it’s always easier to come up with a thousand reasons not to do things.

Before I set off from home, back in January, one of my goals when travelling was to say ‘yes’ to more things. Being a stubborn little sod, it was difficult at first, but as you can imagine, the power of saying yes became addictive. Each time, endorphins exploded, new adventures were had and new stories were to be told. By saying ‘yes’ you begin to see more, feel more – live more. You realise how narrow-minded and silly you were before.

“If someone offers you an amazing opportunity to do something and you’re not sure you can do it, say yes. Then learn how to do it later.”Richard Branson

Saying yes can open doors. Not only does it allow for a fantastic experience, there and then, but it can allow for a snowball effect of positive outcomes. You will probably have hundreds of examples when saying yes to a certain thing, meant that you had a string of good things happen after that. Maybe it was that by saying yes to go ice-skating with your cousin, meant that you met Derek who became your friend and helped you get a job, and at that job, you ended up meeting the love of your life at the company’s Christmas party? My most recent example, started with a certain ‘yes’ last year, but I am still reaping the benefits. Last year I had planned to spend some time in LA. Unfortunately, I felt that I didn’t fit in there very much. A friend, Joe (who, at the time I barely knew) kindly offered that I stay with him, up in the mountains in Mammoth Lakes (near Yosemite). As amazing as that offer was… I couldn’t leave L.A. I had planned to spend 2 weeks there. That was my plan. I couldn’t stray away from the plan. But the reality was, my plan wasn’t right for me. After lots of mmms, errrs and maybes, I eventually said yes to going to the mountains. Guess what? I fell in love with Mammoth and Joe is now one of my best friends. So, fast-forward a year and I am staying with him in Mammoth Lakes for 3 months – writing and altitude training. I am, quite literally, living my dream.

But like all dreams, there comes a point when you have to wake up. And guess what? I am almost at that point. I have been away from home this year for almost 7 months, and in less than a week, I will be flying away from the mountains, towards Leeds Bradford Airport. I’m feeling a mix of emotions and struggling to articulate my current thought process regarding the situation. I think because I feel so at home out here, the concept of leaving for home feels a little unsettling. And it’s a blooming long journey: I will leave Monday evening and not reach Leeds until midday on Wednesday. I repeat, Wednesday.

However, I am comforted by something that Joe said to me: “You’ve got to go in order to come back.”

In addition, never will I forget what my Canadian soul-mate (Anne) who I met in Thailand said to me: “Don’t be sad that it’s over, be happy that it happened.”

 Happy is an understatement. Amongst writing, altitude training, endless hiking in the mountains and stage management, I have also been privileged to try the ‘grapple’ (a grape flavoured apple). Thank you California, you’ve been “totally awesome, dude.”

 

 

He has herpes!?

Visiting the states, or even watching American TV shows back at home, you come to realise that we often have different ways of saying things – whether that be the accent, or because we use completely different words. Of course, we all know the obvious ones – trousers are pants (hilarious), petrol is gas, queue is a line and route is pronounced ‘rowt.’

However since my time here (2 months so far, only 1 month to go!) there have been a few little awkward mishaps, ones that nobody prepared me for, regarding the British / American differences…

Take a dinner party the other week… Now I know that a ‘Pot Luck’ party is where you each bring a dish without conferring, so it will be ‘pot luck’ what you end up eating for dinner. My British ears, however, instead of hearing ‘Pot Luck Party’ heard, ‘Padlock Party.’ My mind was going mad, confused by the concept, worried about being locked up.

Things got worse the other day… I’ve been helping out at Kids’ Summer Adventure Camp for the last month, and the other day, little Landon and I share a special moment. Landon is five years old.

Landon sits next to Kelsie and he shouts, “I’m going to give her herpes!!!”

My eyes widen.

“Excuse me, Landon! What did you say!?” I yell back, horrified.

“I’m going to give her herpes!” he repeats.

Oh. Her piece. 

 He was referring to the biscuit. Or should I say, ‘cookie.’

How amusing. I have enjoyed spending lots of my time with the little ones, more than I thought I would. Before, (in all honesty) I didn’t hate little kids, but I didn’t really like them much either. How things have changed. Now, I’m fascinated.

The conversations you have with them can be comedy gold. Take Sylvie (5): little Sylvie who resembles a miniature Lindsay Lohan (Parent Trap Movie) intelligently picks up that I speak with a different accent. “So where are you from?” she asks.

“I’m from England.”

To which she goes, “Oh! My Aunty Sue is from England. We’ve been to visit her before. Her name is Aunty Sue but, but, but, her friends just call her Sue. Do you know her?”

“Well where in England is she from?”

“She’s from England.”

“Ok…”

“Did you know that we went to England and Bristol and then back to England again.”

“Sylvie, Bristol is in England.”

“We went to both.”

“Just like California is in America, Bristol is in England.”

“No, you weren’t there. We went to both.”

“Ok.”

 

Or I love how they speak about the past sometimes. Here, Landon features again.

“A long time ago, when I was really little. I was really small. I tripped over a soccer ball and I hurted my knee. I was only 4 years old.”

“Really little, huh? How old are old are you now, Landon?”

“Oh, now I’m 5. In three months I’ll be 5 and a half.”

 

Why I don’t have a gym membership

Sometimes I wish that I was a man. Aside from the obvious reasons (faster, stronger, EARNS MORE MONEY) today I am mainly envious of the fact that they can go for a wee standing up.

Today I did 16-mile hike. It’s a tough one – lots of climbs beyond 11,000ft and the high-altitude-sun viciously saps all of the energy that you have. Now usually I don’t put up too much of a fuss about having a piddle / pee / wee wee in the great outdoors – when you gotta go, you gotta go. But my God, today the experience was hellish. Firstly, it was like some kind of fountain or excitable garden hose. I literally have no idea how I had drunk so much liquid? I must have been squatting for a good three minutes. SQUATTING. On already aching quads, this was not a fun time. I’ll put my hand up to this one, on this occasion, Liv the avid hiker, had a sense of humour failure.

SQUATTING.

And that, my friend, is why one does not have a gym membership.

What with all the hikes – today alone must equate to at least 600 lunges, goodness knows how many calf raises and I can only liken the aerobic workout to about 9 back-to-back Zumba classes.

Not only is hiking free, you can get some stunning photographs (beats getting a ‘flexing’ selfie in the gym) you’ll get a nice glow to your skin (once you scrub off the dirt), and you will probably see some cool wildlife (I saw a bear today). You can also make a day of it – stop off at pretty places for lunch, snacks etc.

If you’re in a hot place, remember to be prepared with plenty of drinking water, sunscreen and bug spray! If you’re over-heating, it’s a good idea to dip your hat / bandana in some cold water, then putting it back on your head will help to cool your body temperature down. Or take a moment to dip your wrists in some cold water – this will also quickly bring your core temperature down.

My favourite hiking snacks to take are: Granola bars (lots of them), bagel with peanut butter and jam, an apple, some sliced watermelon (even better than the apple because of the extra water content), dried fruit and nuts, and last but not least – electrolyte jelly beans for when you’re flagging (or something similar). If you can jog the last downhill section, that’s always a good idea as it helps to prevent the lactic acid build up, so you won’t be so sore the next day. Even better – if you have the chance, jump in an ice-cold lake!

Happy hiking kids.