The ramblings of a shorter than average cockney girl who now lives in the beautiful city of Bristol

Monday, 19 May 2014

Preparing for my Central American adventure

It's only two weeks away now until I spend six weeks on the other side of the Atlantic, journeying through South Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama.
This being my first big trip has meant that the planning stage has felt pretty manic and unorganized, and I'm still not entirely sure I'm thinking of everything I should be doing! Here's what I've come up with so far:

1) esta visa - even though I'm only going through the United States, I still need a transit visa. Despite some initial confusion about where to get it, the process of getting it was very simple. Sets you back $14.

2) the dreaded jabs- these are booked for this week, which I feel pretty despondent towards! Spending the best part of £200 on these but of course it's better to be safe than sorry. They last for between 10 and 30 years so I'll be set for any future travelling too.

3) get a rucksack - I've got one I used for Slovenia and Croatia last year that should serve the purpose. Nonetheless, I'm going to make sure that it fits all my stuff in and is comfortable enough to be wearing A LOT before I go.

4) double check flight times, departure terminals etc. 

5) plan the route- obviously this depends upon how organised and structured you want your journey to be. I've read a lot that sometimes it is best to not plan the route as you might find somewhere that you love and want to stay longer in, and other places might not be as you have expected so you might want to hurry through. I think we are going to make a basic plan and book some places, because some of the regions that we are travelling to are not the safest in the world so we want to be well read up and.assured that in the less safe regions we have a secure hostel booked.

6) work out how you're going to access money- I'm still scratching my head a bit over this one. As we will be travelling through countries with different currencies, we will need to be getting money out of the ATM. Dollars are widely accepted in the region, but I am under the impression that you will end up getting charged more if paying with dollars. I think using my debit card will be ok, however, charges will undoubtably be incurred. Pre paid cash cards are always a good idea, but I can't seem to find any that cater for the rarer currencies! Any help on this one would be much appreciated!!

7) print off documents - at least for our first couple of destinations, I will be printing off maps, hostel reservations, bus timetables- the lot. Of course, once we find our feet it will be much easier to go with the flow. But as it is my first big trip, and is very far from home, the first few days will be all mapped out.

So apart from buying lots of suncream, a portable mosquito net and cheap clothes that will most probably be ruined, there you have it!

Next stop- Cancun!

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Why do we travel


  1. To see the world from a different angle - clearly, going to another country changes your perspective. Seeing how other people live first hand enables you to understand and appreciate their culture. You might just learn something about yourself while doing it.
  2. To make friends “I wish I’d a knowed more people. I would of loved ‘em all. If I’d a knowed more, I would a loved more” (Toni Morrison). When we travel, we meet people from completely different backgrounds. When meeting fellow travellers, you may have nothing in common apart from a desire to travel. And what a lovely thing - for then you can learn all about a way of life completely different to your own. The same goes for locals of the countries you may go to. A whole world (figuratively and literally) is opened up to you when you travel with the intention to make friends.
  3. To sample different cuisines - you haven't tasted real Chinese food unless you go to China (or have a Chinese stepmother like me) similarly, the Indian food we have in England is not really Indian food at all. Most Indians are vegetarian. Travel and your tastebuds will be forever grateful. 
  4. To escape the 9-5 - when you travel you don't have to work at all, or you can work constantly. Obviously you need to have enough money to afford food and shelter, but travel opens your eyes to a simpler way of life where you don't need all these material possessions that people work so hard to buy. Travel makes you healthy and happy. Travel makes you not need the 9-5.
  5. To prove to yourself that you can live your passions - daydreaming of going Scuba Diving in the great barrier reef? Or are you lusting after strolling down the streets of Kathmandu? Go on, do it, I dare you. This life is so short. If travel is all you think about, you can go. Prioritize it, save up for it, and embark on the journey of a lifetime. 

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Why drinking 52% vodka at a Croatian Festival is a bad bad idea

We all know the feeling- on holiday, a bit strapped for cash, don't really understand the labels on food and drink in the shop, so we just get anything and hope its ok. In this case, it was a plastic bottle of spirit with a picture of a man holding an umbrella on the front and text stating that it contained "52% ALCOHOL"

We decided that an English bottle of vodka was 40% anyway, so what difference would an extra 12% be? Turns out a lot.
For starters, it was exactly how I'd imagined bleach to taste. Even a few drops of it in a glassful of coke burned my mouth. It felt as though my intestines were on fire. But I continued to drink it to avoid having to pay for drinks in the festival arena and thinking - I must get used to it after a while?

I suppose that was true, because I managed to drink enough to get drunk. But not a normal drunk. How I wish it was a normal drunk. One minute, I was dancing at the beach party without a care in the world, the next I woke up in a tent that ponged of vomit.

So, not only had I threw up all over my tent, but there was another slight technical difficulty- I couldn't move my arm. At all. I would try to raise it, and it just wouldn't go. If I lifted it with my other arm, it would zip straight back down to my side as soon as I let it go. Not ideal on the first day of a festival, eh?

I went to the first aid tent and they confirmed it wasn't broken or fractured and gave me a sling. And somehow I did the whole festival arm in sling. It meant I couldn't fist pump or get on anybody's shoulders but I think doing four nights out with it in that condition was a massive achievement.

Back in the uk, I was told I'd pulled my shoulder out of its socket, that my sling was only really hindering me and to do daily exercises to improve it, and it did manage to recover speedily. And I still managed to do the half marathon I planned on doing a couple of weeks later.

Life lesson- while it is always good to try new things when abroad and in daily life, when said 'new thing' is a bottle filled with a liquid that is more alcohol than not it probably is a good idea to give it a miss. Then you can avoid really attractive photos such as this:

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

How to get free tea in Ljubljana

At hostelspa24 in Ljubljana, they give you a coupon for a free tea, coffee or beer. However for our stay they were permanently out of beer so it was just tea or coffee. Thing is, they never ask for the coupon. And they never give you a bill. Therefore a stay at hostelspa24 means one thing: unlimited hot drinks.

There are of course other attributes to this hostel. It was very clean, we first got given a 2 bed room when we had booked into a 4, and even when we moved into the 10 bed dorm the next night (which we had planned), it still felt rather spacious. You could even buy fabulous t shirts such as this: 

(n.b. I decided against the purchasing of said t-shirt)

Of course, there's life outside the hostel. Ljubljana is not known for anything in particular, but like many European cities, it is picturesque and charming. We only spent a day in the capital itself, in which we passed our time mooching by the river, watching street performers and browsing the market. The most strenuous activity was climbing to a castle on a hill, from where you could see the whole city:

would be a swell view if those two tourists weren't in the way
The city does have quite a sleepy vibe and there isn't that much to do other than potter about. This was perfect for the day we spent here, however, I couldn't imagine spending too long in the city. In the evening we trapsed around for ages trying to find a bar that stayed open past 10, and the one we finally found only seemed to sell moonshine jagermiester. Still, we thought when in Ljubljana, and enjoyed our moonshine while sitting on a massive climbing frame that belonged to the pub.

The most exciting thing about the city was the indian restaurant we found. We purchased a pakora and a thali each for under 6 euros, and it was massive. I finished every last morsel, because I don't seem to have full sensors in my stomach, but Louise had enough for two meals. It was honestly the most gorgeous curry I have ever had the pleasure to consume, and if I am ever passing through Ljubljana again, I will make a firm effort to visit that curry house in particular and for another veg thali. 

So, there you go. Ljubljana = free tea and amazing curry. Who would have thought it?

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

When I Say Ayia, You Say....

Napa. Europe's capital of hedonism. Not the most cultured destination, but I lived there for 2 months last summer, so I deem it worthy of a mention!

Ayia Napa is a resort on the South Coast of Cyprus. Well, geographically at least; Ayia Napa is not Cyprus. Everybody speaks English, the majority of people are English or Western European, the local cuisine is Mr Jacket's cheesy chips, normally eaten at 5am. It is acceptable to run down Nissi Avenue absolutely trashed at 3pm and it is not abnormal to have a headfucker (tequilla, vodka, gin, rum, malibu, red bull and grenadine) within an hour of waking up. It is tacky and sometimes completely disgusting.

But I loved it.

Its not travelling, I know. Its not embracing another culture and experiencing a different way of life (although I can safely say that the life I experienced out there was nothing like i've ever encountered in England). But it is gaining some independance, encountering new situations and making new friends. For a 19 year old at the end of fresher year, it was perfect for me at the time.

I worked at Bedrock Bar, the biggest and probably busiest bar in Ayia Napa that hosts a silent disco from 1am every night. My job was to walk around selling shots to whoever looked like they needed them. Most of the time it was a fun job, I got free drinks and got to dance around to my hearts content. However all jobs have their downsides, and I encountered several sleazy men, many people pushing/ punching me and extreme sweatiness from running around in 30+ degree heat all night. I worked typically from 9pm-4am every night, which is probably controversially the most exhausting and demanding job i've ever had.

Still it was lots of fun, I met some amazing people, I got free drinks and always got a bit of partying in. Napa nightclubs stay open until about 7 so there was always time to go out afterwards! I had a few nights off, and had the days free to do what I wanted and had a bit of a holiday at the beginning and another at the end of my 2 month stay.

Particular highlights of my trip include:

The Fantasy Boat Party, where we danced and drunk on a 5 hour boat trip and even jumped into the crystal clear sea.

Days at Nissi, again worshipping the bright blue water, sunbathing and enjoying a visit from the 'sexy juice' man who roams around Nissi Beach with a cooler which inside has 'sexy juice' (which is just a cold juice drink but is very refreshing) and shouts 'sexy juice for sexy ladies'

Holding a giant snake

Spending my last night at a chilled and amazing late night party venue, River Reggae

Crazy Pool Parties

However, what started out to be a really good day in which we rented quads and took them out for a spin to Cape Greco, turned into a disaster. 2 months in Ayia Napa had convinced me I was invincible, and I had just gone on the slingshot the night before, so I decided to take the plunge (literally) and try my hand at cliff jumping. Turns out I didn't only try my hand but my back too.

Just before the fall
We were debating whether to do the jump, when suddenly inside me I got an urge to do it. I ran and jumped. The drop was so quick, I didn't really know what to do with myself, and I ended up entering the water.... back first. I almost felt my back ripping as I entered the water and for a minute I floated, unable to move. Luckily, after the initial shock I regained feeling in the rest of my body and managed to drag myself over to the side. I had to climb back up to the top of the cliff which was undoubtedly one of things i've ever done, and once I was there I just sat in agony. A taxi got called for me and my day was cut short with a trip to the doctor. I remember sitting in the waiting room in the worst pain of my life, doubling up and trembling, still in my bikini as it hurt too much to move, and some boy looked at me and asked 'how drunk are YOU?'. Its kinda funny now, I must have looked such a state. But I wasn't really in a laughing mood! Anyway, the kind doctor felt my back, gave me some form of injection (I wasn't sure what it was and I don't really want to know) and a load of strong painkillers and muscle relaxants. And then I went home and slept for 18 hours.

A year later, I still struggle with my back problems, and it goes to show that actions do have consequences. Not the brightest point of my life, but a lesson learned nonetheless.

Unfortunately my last few days in Ayia Napa were somewhat tarnished by my bruised and injured back, but it didn't blight my Cyprus experience on the whole. I still look at those two months as a fun, educational (would you believe) and unforgettable part of my life. 

While Ayia Napa is hardly top of a keen traveller's list, for my 19 year old self, it was perfect as a first step outside my comfort zone. It made me realize that the world is only so big, and that anything you want to do really is possible if you just do it.

Monday, 29 July 2013

I Don't Like Staying Still

I like to think i'm a doer. I do things, whether its working in Ayia Napa or volunteering for a mental health awareness campaign or going to the gym regularly. I don't like days where I don't have anything to do. Unfortunately, due to working for 90% of my waking hours from Friday night until last night, today was one of those days.

Not that its been a bad day. Sure, I haven't spoken to any people in person except for the woman in Sainsburys who was struggling carrying cereal boxes when I was buying a massive bar of galaxy (which I shamefully devoured in one sitting). I've spent the day flopping about reading travel blogs and daydreaming of one day writing about travelling myself.

As much as I dislike it, sometimes we do all need these days. And as today was thundery and wet I guess I chose a good one. Its back to work tomorrow, a free day which I will use productively on Wednesday and then possibly volunteering in the evening, and then work work work for the end of the week and the weekend. Not the most exciting lifestyle, but it will all be worth it. With each shift I do, a little more money goes into my adventure fund; and my dreams of travelling the world come a little bit closer each day. As long as you stay productive, each day adds up to something amazing.