13 March 2014

Throwback Thursday #TTBT #1

For those of you that have Instagram or Twitter accounts, you're probably familiar with the hash tag #TBT or the tag line "ThrowbackThursday". I thoroughly enjoy reflecting, reminiscing and remembering, as well as any opportunity to show pictures of my travels. So I think every second Thursday or so, I'll have a #TTBT post (Travel Throwback Thursday) where I'll write about a specific place and use it as an excellent excuse to rifle through all my photos and chose a couple good ones. Here's to the first #TTBT!


Welcome to Arches National Park, Utah.  


I camped just outside Arches NP, in the city of Moab, Utah. After an early morning of mountain biking (for which Moab is famous worldwide), we spent the good part of a HOT day water rafting down the Colorado river and then the early evening watching the sun set behind the Arches. The views were worth the sticky heat, the small crowd of people and the hike's incline up and over the rocks to Delicate Arch. I'd advise getting there a bit earlier than 20 minutes before sun down to avoid missing out on a good spot - I'm a sucker for a good sunset but often wish there weren't random people in my photos. Spend the remaining daylight playing games or soaking up the incredible views across the rocks...there are over 2,000 different arches to be seen! If only we could have spent more time exploring the park. However, we did still manage to make time for a BBQ and some insanely amazing and clear star gazing.




Utah State Official - Check out the offical Utah National Park website for information, photos and videos on the Arches and a good general overview of the park (including entry fees, maps, weather and safety tips).

Arches NP on National Geographic - National Geographics online take on Arches NP, including interesting and detailed information, amazing photographs and links to good quality guidebooks and maps.

Moab Visitors - Pretty basic website but full of links leading to good information on weather, maps, hikes, guide books, events, trips and much more handy information. 

World's Largest Rope Swing Video - Devinsupertramp makes fun and intense videos doing all the crazy things I wish I could do. Check out the rope swing they created on one of the Arches in Moab - crazy cool.


 Take me back!

11 March 2014

Project Yosemite

I believe you should not regret anything in life. I'd rather just have a (hopefully small) pile of bad decisions and mistakes that have formed life lessons. They might have taken me along a different pathway or caused me to diviate from the original plan but at least they are lessons learnt. One specific lesson I can pick up off the pile involves not preparing for a hike properly, leading to me not completing the trail I had been so eager to do. I don't regret my decision to turn around, I just wish I'd prepared more.


 Half Dome is a hike to be reckoned with. A 16 mile round trip starting out on the grassy floor of Yosemite National Park, California, winding up and over bridges, steep ledges, countless steps and stunning views, it eventually reaches the ultimate challenge - the Cables. An almost vertical half mile up the steep face of Half Dome, hauling yourself up with just the cables and chains to keep you safe, it's strenuous, dangerous, exhilarating and something I'd been dying to do since organising a trek around the US West Coast. However, due to many obstacles including waking up late, not having enough water, members in the group physically not able to handle the heat and a general concern for our overall safety, we decided to not complete the full hike, with three of us reaching the point just before the cables. It's hard not to regret the decision but I know that safety comes first. When you aren't carrying enough water and your body is crying out for a break, it's best to be level headed and sensible and start to head back. You may be feeling ok but what goes up must come down and you do not want to get stuck on the way back down after pushing too hard on the way up.


I'm forever dreaming about Yosemite and completing it's almighty Half Dome. I recently stumbled across this website Project Yosemite whilst killing time on my commute home. I then spent the next 25 minutes watching and re-watching the visually stunning time lapse videos on the opening page of the site, created by two talented men who's burning passion for Yosemite and its hauntingly beautiful scenery show through their footage and photography.


I was memorised by the vivid colours of the sunrises, the powerful shots of the seasons changing and the intensity given to such a seemly calm and peaceful valley. Visit http://www.projectyose.com/ and see what exactly I'm talking about. I literally feel that my words cannot do it justice and therefore wish to write no more. Head over and prepare to spend at least the next half an hour staring in awe and wonder - you may also feel the urge to add Yosemite to your bucket list if it isn't already near the top of it. Enjoy :)


08 March 2014

"What Would You Pack For A Weekend Away?" #blog4trek

I've already mentioned what kind of luggage to consider when going travelling, whether it be a suitcase or a backpack. The next thing to think about is what to actually put into your luggage of choice. The excellent road trip style travel company TrekAmerica have asked "What Would You Pack For A Weekend Away?". Assuming you've already packed your essentials like a camera, toiletries and general clothing, here is my list of things I'd suggest packing and feel can be applied to any weekend away, whether you're being whisked off to New York City or enjoying a weekend exploring the English countryside.

  • Sensible Shoes - regardless of where you're going, you're going to need to walk at some point. It may just be from the taxi to the hotel or it might be from the farm gate to the end of a 10 mile route but anything could happen and it's good to pack shoes that are comfortable. You might develop a killer blister or you could snap the strap on your favourite pair of heels. You may get soaked in a sudden shower of rain or you might simply realise your shoes of choice are rubbing. Even if it's just a pair of Converse to sling on, for a weekend away you can take one pair of not so sensible shoes knowing you'll always have a backup. Pack a spare pair of socks whilst you're at it.
  • A Good Book - To make the travel time feel like minutes instead of hours. It can be a guide book or the latest Nicholas Sparks love story but a good book is the best way to take your mind off traffic/delays/the general stress that comes with a trip away. If you're driving, you may want to spend your time gazing out the window (especially on a Trek across the USA!) but if it's a couple hours on the train or in the air, bury your nose into a book and lose yourself.
  •  Light Jacket/Cardigan - Going along the sensible route again...take a light jacket or cardigan, even if its mid summer. The weather can take you by surprise (Mother Nature can be one temperamental lady!) and there's nothing worse than shivering in a sudden breeze and having to head inside sooner rather than later. Don't ruin your evening by wishing you were warmer.  
  • A Travel Journal - When I went on my travels, my brother gave me the best going away present ever. He bought a really nice hardback travel diary and stuck a photo of the two of us on the front page. I used to write down funny events,  new friends' details, draw out maps, remember quotes and stuck in tickets, mementos and postcards. Take a travel journal along on your weekend and even if you don't actually write in it, you can still use it to stick your memories and postcards in, keeping them in a safe place. It was also a good place to keep addresses of friends, old and new. You never know who you'll want to get in touch with or think of whilst you're away. You may also want to blog about your weekend but only have time once you're back, so write down your ideas and thoughts in there too.
  • The word "YES" - Make sure you pack your PMA (positive mental attitude) and the best three letters in the world - YES. You may have your whole weekend planned out but always be prepared to explore in case you stumble across an unknown area of town you weren't planning on visiting or bump into someone on their way to what could be an amazing festival or event you hadn't heard of. Especially if you're  in a hostel or busy hotel, the potential is there to turn a simple weekend into a weekend of anything and everything possible. A weekend may only be a couple days but it can turn into the trip of a life time - make it happen.




28 January 2014

Fifty Countries

 The worst part of life after travelling? Having to get a real job and go through interview processes that quite frankly make you feel more nervous than turning up in a random city at 3am after a delayed flight wondering if you can manage to make it to your accommodation without incident.

I'm lucky enough to have been working full time for a while now but still grimace when I recall some of the interviews I had to attend. I noticed that a particular type of question came up quite a lot, especially in a group setting, and that I wasn't always sure on the best way to answer. Variations of this type of question included "What is your life ambition?", "Discuss your aim for the next five years" or "Tell us what you wish to have achieved by the time you're 50”. Now, clearly they are looking for some kind of ambitious career orientated answer that makes you shine, but how do you answer these questions when you have more than one answer and the honest truth is not really career related? It's not that I have no career ambition, because trust me, I know what I want, how to get there and am happily working my way forward. I just have more interests in life than work - I mean, my career is important and I enjoy working hard but that's because I understand that to do what you want in life, you need to work for it, literally. "Work hard, play hard" is definitely a mantra to live by, and my type of playing happens to consist of checking into airports, exploring new cities and managing language barriers.

So here is my honest answer - I want to visit fifty countries before I'm fifty. I also want to visit all 7 continents, all 50 US states and as many capital cities as I can. I blame (and thank) my Dad, an ex-geography and history teacher and keen traveller himself.  So far, at the age of 23, I've made it to 21 countries, 5 out of 7 continents, only 7 US states and seriously not enough capital cities.

Countries I've Been To

South Africa
Zimbabwe
United Kingdom
France
Monaco
Belgium
Germany
The Netherlands 
Italy
The Vatican City (yes, this really does count!)
Poland
Austria 
Andorra
Spain
Greece
Cyprus
Turkey
China (Hong Kong)
Australia
New Zealand
USA

As you can see, I have some serious catching up to do if I want to make it to fifty countries before fifty. South America is 100% on the bucket list, as are all 50 US states, but I don't know if I'll ever make it to the seventh continent that is Antarctica as its very cold, very isolated and quite honestly, a place I'm not sure I could handle! My capital cities need some serious work too, but sometimes it’s best to skip what are usually the busiest cities.

Guess we'll just have to wait and see, and in the mean time, think of some more work appropriate ambitions to mention in interviews!


22 December 2013

Ten things you'll experience in a hostel...

Don't be afraid of Hostels. You'll hear many stories about hostels, from how dirty or clean they can be to how someone met their new best friend in the kitchen at 3am whilst making toast. Hostels are often a cheap and convenient place to stop over for the night, or to use as a base for a weeks long stay somewhere. They're great for socialising, great for the budget and great for being among like-minded people (hopefully).

Sometimes, things go wrong, but sometimes things go so right, it's hard to believe how lucky you are. I once checked into a hostel late at night in Hawaii, weary from a turbulent flight from New Zealand, and not only found myself being upgraded to a more spacious room for free due to over booking, but also that one of the girls in my room was flying out the next morning early, and was happily giving away all her food. I managed to score a pair of sandals and her lilo.

Here's ten things, good, bad and weird, that you're likely to experience in a hostel...

1. You'll check in, hopefully be greeted by a friendly member of staff and then sit on your bunk for at least half an hour, unpack and either chat awkwardly to your new room mates or if there's no-one around, wonder what exactly to do with yourself first.

2. You'll meet so many different people, you probably won't remember anyones name but that's fine, it's likely they won't remember yours either. You'll definitely meet someone from somewhere you've never heard of, meet someone that knows someone that knows someone that knows your cousin, and meet someone who's been everywhere you want to go, making you sick with travel envy.

3. You'll bump into a group of random people either in the common room or knocking on your room door, begging everyone to come out and party. You'll turn them down but end up going anyway, becoming fast friends with these strangers and probably have a really great night. And then never see them ever again.

4. You'll realise that you can be both a party animal and a social recluse. Sometimes, it's ok to not want to speak to strangers, introduce yourself for the hundredth time and tell the story again of how you quit your job/got that bruise/also got ripped off at that shop down the road. Other times, you'll be raring to get out and sample the night life, rolling in at 6am the next morning even though you promised yourself you'd be up for the free 7am walking tour of the city.  

5. If you stay in a co-ed room, you'll probably hear/witness someone having sex at some point. Unfortunately, some people just don't care and are (usually drunk) exhibitionists.

6. You'll see people eat things that will either disgust or delight you. Those with a budget and an imagination can make a dish out of almost anything. Anyone for tuna on crackers with tomato sauce? How about bananas on toast dipped in yogurt? I've also seen some very interesting ingredients make their way into what I can only imagine was a soup.

7. No matter how hard you try, someone will steal your food. You can label it, hide it, tie it in a bag with so many knots it would be impossible to undo in under five minutes, but someone will still "borrow" something. Someones food always looks and tastes so much better than your own, and if you're using the communal kitchen, expect something to disappear especially if its delicious. It's ok though, a lot of hostels have a sharing cupboard, full of spare food like pasta and spices, so you can always create a weird dish to tide you over till your next supermarket adventure. 

8. Hostels are in all kinds of locations, and some are really cool converted buildings, whose original purposes are nothing like their current ones. Want to stay in an old train coach in Sydney? How about a spooky church in Edinburgh? An old 1920's bar in downtown San Diego? I've stayed in all three of these, and there are amazing ones all around the world.There's also usually a very enthusiastic staff member/local who'll tell you all about the building too.

9. You'll experience just how different people can be. You might get woken up at 5am every morning by the same person who feels the need to re-pack their backpack and rustle all their plastics bags at that ungodly hour. You might meet someone so like minded, you end up travelling together for a couple days/weeks/months and become friends for life, or simply say goodbye and never see them ever again. Someone might feel the need to wash their feet in the sink or use the toilet with the door open, or simply just fart loudly and without embarrassment in your hostel room with no windows. Someone might decide to cook their favourite meal for everyone in the room free of charge, teaching you the way their mother taught them and giving you a loving, comforting meal you've been needing.

10. The best and worst thing in a hostel every single traveller will experience..a panicked moment of "what the hell am I doing here?!". Everyone will have doubts, worries and home sickness, but you'll also feel relief, freedom and a sense of independence. A hostel can create all these feelings and at the end of the day, no matter what you experience, it's up to you to make the best of it.

20 December 2013

The first big decision...

Once my plans were confirmed, partially paid for and officially in my mothers diary, my first hurdle was a decision that may not seem serious in the grand scheme of things but caused quite a debate between myself and my friends that were travel orientated too. The dilemma...massive back pack or suitcase?!

As a general rule, suitcases are for trips with one destination and backpacks are for multistop trips. Pretty straightforward and sensible. However - I hate backpacks with a passion, I don't always believe in rules and I did take my suitcase to the USA last year (it survived). So, do I be a sensible traveller and buy a massive backpack so I can actually take a sensible amount of clothing and be an official "backpacker" or do I be silly but enjoy my comfort and tidiness of my suitcase? Do I go for the heavy-on-my-shoulders-rolled-clothes-everything-good-is-at-the-bottom approach or for the wheeled-and-organised-but-rural-area-travelling-unsuitable-massive-pull-along-closet that is a suitcase?  

Backpack Pros
  • Keeps your hands free.
  • Easier to carry up stairs and steps when there is no elevator.
  • Usually comes with a detachable day bag.
  • Cobblestones? Mud? No pathway? No problem!
  • You can hang/attach anything from hiking shoes to yoga mats (seen it).
  • Probably more durable than a suitcase.
  • You'll be labelled a "real backpacker".

Backpack Cons
  • You have to actually carry it, all the time, as there are no wheels to rely on. 
  • Usually smaller than a suitcase - harder to organise/find things.
  • You can only carry a limited amount of things.
  • You'll worry about the straps getting damaged during flights. 
  • Involves heavy lifting and sore shoulders.
  • You'll probably need assistance to put it on.
  • You'll get a sweaty back.
  • Steep hill - definitely a problem!
  • Manoeuvring on public transport can be difficult, especially when crowed.
  •  You will hit people with it when trying to turn around. 
  • You feel like an unbalanced twat most of the time.
  • You'll be labelled a "real backpacker".

Judging by the amount of backpacks cons versus the amount of pros...you'd be very wise in guessing that I decided against a backpack and chose the comfort and space of a suitcase. Unfortunately, for some reason, I was convinced every single place on my list would only consist of muddy, cobbled pathways that frequently involved impossible amounts of stairs and obstacles that would require my hands free at all times.

I suffered with that 75lt backpack all over the London Underground, around the harbours of Hong Kong, up and down too many hills and in a lot of elevators in Australia. I needed a ledge to balance it on in order to shimmy the straps onto my back without falling over, my shoulders ached for days and I simply felt like an unbalanced, ungraceful haunch back (Not very lady like should be added to the cons list). I also spent a considerable amount of time unpacking and re-packing every time I moved on to a new destination, trying to keep my dirty clothes from disappearing into my clean clothes, ensuring my pyjamas were near the top for when I arrived somewhere in the dark, and trying to find that elusive sock that always seems to be non-existent when you need a pair.

I eventually gave in after a particularly stressful, lonely flight from Sydney to Auckland. I ditched my backpack in the hostel, bought a bright purple suitcase on impulse whilst in Target and spent my first evening in New Zealand happily emptying my backpacks contents into the neatly arranged compartments of my suitcase.

Lesson learnt - backpacks are only good if you're a strong, organised, light packer with a good sense of balance who doesn't mind sweat, losing a couple socks and isn't phased by steering yourself through the general public whilst carrying your own body weight on your back.

The human turtle - not my kind of thing!


12 December 2013

Explanation..

Hi. I originally wanted to start this blog as a way of updating all my family and friends whilst I went around the world travelling...but I guess I got so distracted in it all that I never got round to setting it up. Amongst the many things I blame apart from myself, the list of excuses includes bad internet connections, a lot of very nice beaches and quick frankly, the joy of working to fund my travels! It is one of my few regrets but I did however manage to keep up to date with a written journal.  Plus, who knew Skype was actually the easiest way of connecting with family and didn't require any planning or spell checking.

Long story short - In 2011, I spent an action packed, adventurous 4 weeks in the USA with an amazing travel company called TrekAmerica, made some amazing memories, caught the travelling bug and decided that I wasn't ready for the real world after graduating in 2012 (what student is?).

When I was back from my original 4 weeks the USA, I spent a lot of time (read as all day every day) talking about my adventures, telling "you had to be there" stories and forcing anyone with a spare 5 minutes to look through my continuous stream of photos and videos. I spent the majority of my spare time in my last year of University day dreaming about my bucket list and after graduating, a lot of planning and some serious saving, October 2012 took my life from dreary 5am starts at work to a massive HELLO Hong Kong, Australia, New Zealand, Hawaii and finally, California.

I took the jump from a student with two part time jobs and a slight habit for cosy movie days to a back pack carrying, flip flop wearing, hostel staying and excited young 20 something out to "find myself" and explore the world.

Here's where you can read what happened, how it happened and all my thoughts, ideas and experiences.

Enjoy.



PS: Aside from being the clinched student who wanted travel to avoid the real world and never grow up, I don't think I ever tried to "find myself". I was more interested in finding new hikes, new beaches and new friends.