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.

 

 

Going to the mountains is going home

“The world is big and I want to have a good look at it before it gets dark.” – John Muir.

Be curious. Be bold.

I am a big believer that if you want to travel the world, you can. We are born to do so much more than just a 9-5, pay bills and then die. (Even though that’s really the only certain thing in life: death). We should live for the week, not just the weekend. I’m not saying we shouldn’t work. We need to work. Work is good. Work helps us be determined, focused, set goals (it also = money). And boy, oh boy, I am very aware that money plays a big part in how much of the world we can see. A huge part, in fact. But don’t use that as an excuse. If you want something enough, you’ll be willing to do whatever it takes.

Please trust me when I say that saving money for travel can be easier than you think – if you’re smart and strict about it. The main thing, whilst saving, is being able to distinguish between want and need. Living a simpler life is key. Ah, I’m desperate to preach about my money-saving tips BUT, sorry folks, that is quite a big chapter in the travel book that I am writing (for first time, solo travellers) and I don’t want to give too much away…

So for now, back to John Muir – I also disagree with him. He describes the world as ‘big’, but to me, since travelling, it now seems so much smaller. In my daydreams the world was ginormous, never ending… but now things just seem… accessible. For instance, a couple of years ago, never in a million years would I consider moving to another country. Italy – language barrier. China – bigger language barrier. New Zealand – too far away. Canada – too cold. California – too hot. (I lie in the last one. I blooming love the heat). For me, it was England. Just England. Had to be England. For I am English and England is what I know. Even Scotland… well, it’s not England, is it?

Fast-forward a year and I would happily look for and apply for jobs in New Zealand, Australia… especially Mammoth Lakes, California. If you have read my previous posts, this is where I am spending the summer (3 months) and my goodness, I feel at home here.

The scenery is phenomenal and the people are so kind, genuine and welcoming. Not to mention, the running community is what my little running geek dreams are made of. In addition, the people find my British accent ‘intriguing’ which makes me feel like Colin from ‘Love Actually.’ Don’t take that the wrong way – I’m certainly not out here to ‘date,’ but to embrace every moment of the lifestyle that feels perfect to me.

Today I ventured out with Joe and Ryan and we did a 12 mile hike in Yosemite. Casually we had our lunch on the top of North Dome, graciously looking onto Half Dome. Yesterday was a track session on the Asics track – being amongst and certainly being inspired by the incredible athletes (Olympians). THEY SPEEDY. And the other night: bathing in the natural hot springs with new friends, as we watched the sunset behind the mountain range, now a silhouette.

Even if you can’t travel right now in your life, why not explore what your hometown has to offer. Be adventurous, be open to trying new things and do your very best to make everyday an absolute corker.

(Now for those who don’t know me too well, I’m a poetry geek. That sunset was too good I couldn’t resist scribbling something down…)

A sunset in Mammoth Lakes

 

Ribbons of indigo wisps

are the remains of the worn out rain;

 

Again the tangerine peels

behind heart-monitor silhouettes,

 

Minarets mimic His crown

not quite jeweled, or gold, but black –

 

Almost

 

Coasting in yesterday’s sins

below disjointed fingers of rock;

 

Locking up the love songs &

salty eyes; in the name of John Muir,

 

You’re realising

Something –

 

Some things are

Bigger than                you and i.

Maybe Canada next year?

I have a tendency to be as awkward as a cow on roller skates. I’m too quiet. I laugh at things that aren’t funny. I have a resting bitch face. I always look lost. I say, ‘pardon?’ too many times and if I were given a pound for every time I waved at somebody when they were waving at the person behind me – well, I’d be a millionaire.

The other day in fact, I joined a new running club. A woman just behind me said, “wow, sweetie! You did so well!” I quickly turned round, smiling like a Cheshire cat, and said, “Aww thank you! My quads was hurting a bit, but I really enjoyed it.”

Guess what? She was not talking to me. She was talking to her dog.

Sometimes you can run away from feeling so awkward by thinking, ‘ah well. I’ll never see them again.’ But that option doesn’t look so likely for me right now, as I am living here, in Mammoth Lakes, for 3 months. It’s quite a small town and you bump into the same people quite a lot.

NOTE: Mammoth Lakes is in California, not Canada. I’ve had quite a few messages lately asking me how Canada is. Or telling me that it looks like I’m having an incredible time in Canada.. AM I!?!?!

I am so grateful to be living in Mammoth (California) for the summer. It’s my favourite place in the world. I quite often have to pinch myself. Last week for my birthday, I climbed my favourite mountain to 11,000 ft and enjoyed some squashed birthday cake at the top.

This week I kept up with my altitude training, helped out with the Summer Mini Adventure Camp and did some babysitting. I spent 5 hours yesterday with a 6 year old boy who repeatedly told me that I had small boobies.

I’m tired from the altitude and feeling a little deflated at my slower running times up here. But I’m determined to keep working hard and hopefully see the benefits when I’m back in the UK. At sea level. With all that beautiful oxygen.

So, folks. I’ve been here one month now. Two more to go! Maybe Canada will be next on my list?

God bless America

 

I am pleased to announce that I am writing a book. Currently 44,000 words in and going strong.

I usually turn my nose up at ‘writers’ who are sat in cafes, typing away. ‘How pretentious’ I would think. Why do you have to be in public to do that? Go home and drink copious amounts of unlimited tea and coffee. Nobody needs to see you.

Sorry guys. I take that back. I now regularly head out to cafes to whack another few pages out. If I were to be in the house all day it would drive me crazy! And you know what, the odd over-priced iced coffee is nice. Ah, I indulge in my mountain village paradise. I love looking up from my screen every now and again and watching the world go by.

A man on the adjacent table started to speak to me. He assumed that I was a local and asked me if I knew where a particular European restaurant was. “Erm. Do you know what it’s called?” I asked.

He did not.

“I think it does French food” he said.

That did not narrow it down. He then continues to chat to me, asking what I’m doing. I tell him I’m writing a book (still feels weird to say that). We chat for quite a while and then, HEAD DOWN, I’m in the zone.

“So have you been on many hikes?”

I politely respond telling him that I love hiking, running and being outdoors.

Head down.

“Which hike is your favourite?”

(Breathe in). “I like Arrow Head. Also Mammoth Mountain – that’s a classic.”

(starts to type again).

“What about Yosemite?”

I give him a really, really long answer, hoping that it will exhaust him.

(starts to viciously type again).

Does he give in? Nope. He basically demands a chapter breakdown of my book. I AIN’T NEVER GONNA FINISH THE BOOK IF Y’ALL KEEP ON DISTURBING ME.

Aside from writing, it’s been quite a week. My friend’s car was going spare, so I’m a very lucky girl and that big boy is mine for my time here. It’s Dodge Durango 4WD. It’s huge and red and I look like a right wolly being so high up and close to the wheel. I’ve had a few heart palpitations learning to drive on the ‘right’ (wrong!) side of the road, but it’s great to have the freedom.

Back on foot… I was on a hike the other day and finally saw a wild bear! I have been waiting long and hard for this moment and it’s great to know that they are real and not a myth. I sent my Mum a photo and she said: ‘Oh my! Were you scared!?”

Genuinely, not even a drop of fear was in my body. I was just happy to see him and thought he was cute. Not the smartest attitude to have…

I’ll tell you what is smart though: hot lemon and honey. It seems to have done the trick. My cold is tackling the final hurdle – I no longer feel run down. However my sense of smell is still left to the imagination and I have a cough that resembles a saggy-faced-30-a-day-smoker.

In addition, the hiking and running have turned my big toe a beautiful blackish blue. It looks gross but I also have a strange sense of pride about it.

Pride increases when, last Thursday, I went for a run with Deena Kastor. Deena is America’s best woman marathoner. She is a successful Olympian and holds the American women’s record for the marathon in an inspirational time of 2:19:36.

If you’re bored / interested in what I am getting up to in the ‘running world’ and what I am discovering about ‘altitude training,’ you can read more about that on my running blog: https://livforrunning.wordpress.com

Speaking of running, 4th July celebrations started with a race (ever so pleased to be second lady!) The rest of the day was fun-filled with parades, candy, pumpkin pie and fireworks. And then some more pumpkin pie. God bless America.

Lots of Americans are intrigued about my opinion on Brexit. It’s a sore spot, I tell them. A very, very sore spot.

Oops I did it again

In 2012 I caught an aggressive bug as I inter-railed around Italy and France. I should have known it would happen. I slept in dirty hostels in Rome and ate cheap bread and cheese for days. I wore crinkled, back-pack-squashed clothes and got a lobster stomach from the French sun. I’m not sure whether I caught the bug from the questionable hostels, the dirt cheap food, maybe even the crammed, budget airline flight home? But catching the travel bug hit me hard. “Time to start saving.” I thought.

Fast-forward 4 years and I have just come back from a trip of a life-time exploring New Zealand, Australia, Indonesia, Thailand and Hong Kong. Determined not to get the ‘travel blues’ when I arrived home, I pumped myself up and put my energy into looking forward to getting a job in London again, and catching up with my beautiful family and friends.

But during my job-hunt and catch ups galore, an incredible opportunity arose… I won’t go into too much detail right now, but long story short, I got the chance to go to California for 3 months.

Mammoth Lakes.

I visited there last summer. It is, hands down, my favourite place in the world. The appeal is a combination of breath-taking scenery, challenging running routes and the community’s support of athletic endeavors. It’s also a place where snow-capped mountains, peaceful forests and bald eagles are often the runner’s only companion. I remember getting the plane home and thinking, ‘I’ll be back. I don’t know when, but I know that I’ll be back.’ I certainly didn’t expect it could be so soon!

I pride myself on being sensible with money. Somehow, I managed to come under budget for my last trip. So the money for my flights to Mammoth was sweetly staring me in the face.

‘But you’ve just had an epic trip’ I told myself. ‘You don’t deserve this.’

So the London job-hunt and catch ups continued. Now, I’m not usually one to crack under peer-pressure, but EVERYONE who I spoke to about the Mammoth opportunity said, ‘GO!!!!!’

So I did.

“The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

My thoughts on Thailand

16/05

There was a storm last night. I have never heard thunder so loud before (it sounded like a bomb going off above my head), waking me up from my deep sleep. The explosive sound caused me to sit bolt upright, eyes wide. I got up and looked out of the window to see that a little back-street had been transformed into a fast flowing river. I hope Anne and Charles can fly home ok!

I am going to spend the next 3 days in Bangkok to rest and re-charge. The last few months have been full on and exhausting. My body is weak and raising up the little red flag. “Please, slow down and look after yourself, Liv.”

So, as the next few days will be pretty slow in terms of ‘adventure’, I’d like to dedicate this post to my thoughts. Before this trip, I was naive in thinking that Indonesia and Thailand would be similar. WRONG. The smells are different, the sounds are different. Bali smells of strong, musky incense. Thailand smells of street food. In Bali you get hassled and pestered more: “yes please, transport. Yes please, transport. Taxi for you.” I’m surprised that here in Thailand, you rarely get pestered. You’ll be offered the odd Tuk Tuk, but it’s not nearly as hectic as Bali. Bangkok is still very busy and crowded though. Another difference is that Thailand has more crazy, animated influences. Bali feels more historic. BOTH have hideous amounts of traffic.

The area I’m in in Bangkok (Silom) feels (touch wood) very safe. It’s not that touristy and is mainly locals on their way to work: beautifully dressed, picking up their iced matcha green tea on their commute. The metro is not how I expected it to be. It is pristine clean, with very high security. I feel safer here than I do in London. But if anything, that is a bit how this area feels (central London). As always it’s, ‘same same, but different.’

I have found the differences in how our cultures perceive beauty very interesting. In England, having a tan is an attractive quality. We, as a country, spend goodness knows how much every year, contributing to the fake tan industry, in our efforts to deepen our natural tone. Or as soon as there is the tiniest bit of sun, the vest top is on in the hope to catch some colour. If you think about it, it doesn’t really make sense: a tan is just damaged skin. Thai people, on the other hand, worship the pale beauty. They cover up head to toe to avoid the harsh rays. Also, pretty much every beauty product / moisturiser has a ‘whitening agent’ in an attempt to whiten their skin. And you know in England, some girls have a ‘slag line’ where there is an accidental orange line on their jaw where they have not blended their dark foundation and bronzer correctly? I have noticed the same same thing in Thailand, but instead it is a line from white powder.

Clothes are smaller here (perfect for little me). If anything, I walk around Thailand feeling like a powerful giant (a feeling I have never felt before). The women here are teeny tiny (most smaller than me in both height and width). I have also noticed that most underwear shops sell extremely padded bras with no room for boobs. (Lady-boys!?!?)

***

I met up with Monica for dinner. She flies home tomorrow. This got me thinking more about going home (only 10 days now). On the one hand, I’m so excited. To feel that tight cuddle from Mum and Dad. To have a fridge full of food. To have my own bed. To go to my running sessions again. To be able to drink out of the tap without severe risk of death. To have a snack that isn’t bright green and loaded with syrup and sugar. To have a decent toilet. Yes, part of me is very ready for home. But the other part of me isn’t. I want to continue to explore and to meet incredible people. I want to continue to try new foods, smell new smells, feel emotions I’ve never felt before. At the start of my trip (4 months ago) I felt an overwhelming pressure to do everything and see everything. “This is your time, Liv” I said to myself. “Don’t waste it.” I have now come to realise that this isn’t my time (not my only time, I mean). I’m only 21 and this will not be my one and only big travel trip. The amount of people I have met in their late 20s, 30s, 40s… You can travel the world at any time in your life. You can have the best day of your life at any age.

18/05

“I hate Bangkok.” I said that the other day.

Now I take it back. I love Bangkok.

Sometimes you need to give a city time. I now love the craziness. Not just the hustle and bustle but I love the fact that crowds of people are on the street, eating crispy pork with glass noodles floating in a spicy lemongrass and ginger soup for breakfast at 6.30am. Too funny. Don’t get me wrong, I couldn’t live here permanently (too tiring!) But the quirks of the weird street food and the kind people have softened my heart. For example, I had a lovely experience in Lumphini Park this morning. I braved the humidity and went for a jog. I was going very steady as I haven’t trained properly in quite a while and I don’t want to get injured. An oldish man about 60 (he looked younger but the Thai people always do!) he ran passed me at quite a speed and it made me very jealous. Suddenly, a wave of energy hit me and I thought, ‘sod it.’ I let my legs stride out and I kept by his side. It felt great to run again. Not just jog, but run. At the end of our stretch out (about 2.5k) we both slowed down. The sweat was pouring out of my skin like a garden sprinkler. The little man bowed his head to me and closed his hands into the prayer position.

“Thank you,” I said. “That was a good run.”

“No spee Glish. No spee Glish.” (He doesn’t speak English).

I closed my hands into prayer position and bowed my head too. “Kob khun ka” (thank you) I said.

He gave me a massive smile. “Kob khun ka” he replied.

Humidity, Homesickness and more Homesickness

25th March

Brisbane is hot and humid. I’m craving a run but I’m also too tired and headachy. Did I mention that I’ve just done an 18 hour bus journey from Sydney? I feel both foolish and accomplished.

My hostel is like an oven.

Pack in the complaining, Liv. You’re supposed to be having the time of your life. Let’s try to see the positives… Ah, my room has air con!

Air con doesn’t work.

Let’s buy some nice food to cheer you up!

It’s Good Friday. Practically everything is shut.

I decide to explore Southbank. It feels similar to London which is nice. The botanical gardens are nice too. Apologies for using the rubbish word ‘nice’ two times in a row, but I’m not very happy right now. I’m feeling lonely. Travelling is amazing because you meet so many people and you become close very quickly… But everyone is on the move, so before you know it, you say goodbye. You then have to be all upbeat and friendly to try and make new friends, but knowing it will only be temporary. It’s emotionally exhausting. Right now, I want to go home. Correction, I want to BE home. I don’t want to just pack it all in.

Whilst alone in the anti-social hostel, the TV grabs my attention. It’s the Antiques Roadshow theme tune! Hi Fiona Bruce!!!! I smile, as it reminds me of home.

Before I know it, some rude German girl storms over and changes the channel. Rudely interrupting Fiona explaining the history of a duck-egg-blue vase. “What is this crap.” She says.

Back to sulking into my pasta…

***

Next day, I meet a lovely girl – Sarah, who is on the bus with me to Noosa. She praises me for lasting this long without feeling my first wave of homesickness. She convinces me of how normal it is, which makes me feel a bit better.

***

27th March

Happy Easter! Noosa has the potential to be gorgeous. But it is jam-packed with it being the Easter weekend. It is also very grey and rainy. What a shame.

I had breakfast with an Italian guy. He is surprised that I am English. “You are too small to be English.” (I’m not sure what that means). He also said, “you look too sophisticated to be English.” I’ll take that, good sir!

Things turned weird when we were washing up. “Can I try something?” He said. The way he looked at me, I genuinely thought he was going to kiss me. Oh good God, no. How cringe. Please no.

Instead he said: “your legs are so muscly. Can I touch them?”

In shock, trying to find an appropriate response, there he was, poking my thigh and laughing, saying “wow! Cool!”

***

The horrid weather is frustrating me and encouraging the homesickness again. The family day, Easter Sunday was a difficult day.

***

28th March

Feeling more positive. The sun has finally come out. What’s more, I’m a very lucky girl and going to Fraser Island tomorrow. Let’s do this!