#JustDoIt

I’ve been told that I try to do everything now, that I need to slow down, and to hold off things until I’m older. But what I’ve always thought was…

‘What if I don’t get any older?

People try to save money all their life, intending to use it when they’re retired, then they find they’re not as nimble as they once were and can’t visit places they’ve been waiting to go to all their life.

Then there are the ‘off-putters’. The ones who say that now isn’t quite the right time for them. They may be waiting on a raise at work, or trying to raise a family. Either way they feel that whilst they’re doing one of those things, they can’t do much else. These people will never find the right time.

I was one of those people, and it was while I was walking around The Forum in Rome that I realised my mother was already at a point in her life where some traverses may be too difficult for her. As I scaled hills and hopped over relics in the sweltering heat, I could imagine my mother asking for a coffee break whilst trying to find a nice shady tree. She’s been retired for nine years, and in that time has taken every opportunity to travel. Most destinations aren’t too laborious, but she now has her sights set on Machu Picchu, a tricky place to:

a) Get to

b) Breathe at

I’m a firm believer that you can do anything if you set your mind to it. I’m also a firm believer of thinking outside of the box, and when people tell me you can’t just go off travelling the world after spending so many years forging a career path, I say yes you can! It’s difficult, and it certainly takes guts, but if it builds you more as a person, then it’s worthwhile.

Reminiscing: Manly, NSW

As I left my 9-5 job at the Sea Life Sanctuary on the beach, I made my twenty minute walk up hill, back to my rented apartment. The first thing that hit me as I stepped outside was usually the humidity, but sometimes it was a battering storm. Rain or shine, I’d smile as I walked past the beach with children playing, and cockatoo’s scavenging, and start the ascent.

I’d walk as fast as I could up the steepest part of my commute,
past the house called Wimbledon which everyday, without fail reminded me of going to watch the Tennis Championships, and there waiting above me as the road levelled out were a mix of tropical birds on the power lines. Having the chance to see what Aussies class as garden birds but what I class as tropical looking down at me every day always brought a smile to my face – no matter how noisy the cockatoos were.

On the last half of my journey I’d walk under the beautiful spring blossom and admire the purple and pink petals under my feet. There was even an unfortunate possum hanging dead on a power line, somehow fried stuck to it. I was amazed to see this sight the first day after his demise, then every day until he finally fell down after a big storm, I looked up at him as I walked past and wished him well.

As I reached my apartment, I’d hear my neighbour practising his drums from the loft of their house, where he’d have the window open trying to cool down from the Summer heat. Each time I heard him I contemplated asking for lessons, but instead I just enjoyed the melodies.

Even though my journey home was now over and I was inside, this blissful evening wasn’t ever over yet. Manly was the first time I’d had a shower to get cool instead of warm, and I relished in that fact. I much prefer to be showering to cool down in a hot room, than what we’re used to in the UK – having a boiling hot shower, trying to get warm, only to freeze as soon as we stop the water and reach for the towel.

If I didn’t feel the need for a shower, I’d pour myself a sparkling water and lime and sit out on the balcony overlooking the neighbourhood with Manly beach in the distance, and read, or watch any wildlife that might pass me by, like the possums that ate the flowers on one of our trees, or the fruit bats that migrated to the city to feed every sunset.

These memories are vivid in my mind, and I turn to them regularly for a sense of calm and reminder that I’ve had these happy experiences. It may not be good to dwell on the past, but when they help you look to the future they make you smile.

A Weekend Guide to Brighton

I’ve been to Brighton many times over the years and I never tire of it. This beautiful seaside town is great for a mini break away. Before I left the country in 2015 I spent a day in Brighton doing ‘All things British’ – Eating chips on the beach, playing at the arcade, and walking down the promenade. More recently, I went on a weekend away with a group of friends, two of which hadn’t been there before so we needed to show them the spirit of British seasides.

One of the latest additions to Brighton is the British Airways i360. More of a gimmick than anything, this gives you a 360 degree view of Brighton from 138 metres up. There’s even a bar on it offering a glass of prosecco while you take in the views. The whole experience lasts 15 minutes and you’re of course taken through a gift shop on your way out.

This tower is built on the site of the old pier which burnt down in 2003 after years of slowly collapsing. The remains of what was once a beautiful victorian promenade are now just good for dramatic photos.


As you walk further down the promenade you eventually come to what is now Brighton Pier. On this there are many food stalls, souvenir shops, restaurants, arcades, and at the end a fun fair with some rollercoasters. Always make sure to have some change on you before you go as all the ATM machines charge along the pier. Inside the arcades are the usual 2p games and the classic racing games. We found the Deal or No Deal game fairly easy to win tickets from!

Of course no sea side trip is complete without fish and chips. There’s a restaurant on the pier that you can go to, or takeaways along the sea front. Last year I went to Bankers which is a little ways inland but well worth searching for.

Brighton is also known for The Lanes. These are little alleyways with old shops of antique jewellery, sweets and clothing. They’re like a maze to go around, with windows full of trinkets and treats. Not far out of the alleys are restaurants and the main shopping centre so it’s easy to spend the day wandering around.

There are other things to do in Brighton such as the aquarium, but I’d only recommend it if you’ve fitted in everything else! On my most recent trip away we only managed the i360, pier, some good food, and a few bars, but it’s the people that make it so great. They were friendly and helpful and I saw a number of them stopping by any homeless and asking them if they needed anything – something I rarely see in London.

For our weekend away we rented out an entire house as there were so many of us. It was a beautiful place that I would definitely recommend to you if you’re quite a big group.


So as you can see, there’s plenty to see and do in Brighton and all I’ve mentioned at the day events! At nighttime the town comes to life with a vibrant collection of bars and clubs to suit all needs. It’s still my favourite seaside destination.

A Weekend Guide to Edinburgh

After moving back to the UK earlier this year, one of the things I’d said I’d like to do was see more of the country I’m from.

Edinburgh has always been high on my list of places to go so I asked my sister to join me and we decided to get a train direct from London into Edinburgh central. We stayed at the Ibis on the Royal Mile which is very centrally located, but I found Edinburgh easy enough to get around that any hotels/apartments out of town wouldn’t be that much of a hassle to commute from.

Below is a breakdown of what we got up to which includes:

  • Edinburgh Castle
  • Arthur’s Seat
  • Greyfriar’s Kirkyard
  • Ghost Walks
  • St Giles Cathedral
  • Writer’s Museum

As we went up on a weeknight after work, we didn’t get there until the evening, so all we could fit in was a meal before bed. We decided to go to David Bann which is a vegetarian restaurant. It was delicious. I started with thai fritters of marinated tofu and broccoli followed by aubergine, chick pea and cashew koftas. The prices are good too, ranging from £7.25-12.75 for a main meal.

Our first, full day in Edinburgh was supposed to be the best weather so we chose this day to do the trek up to Arthur’s Peak. At the bottom of the Royal Mile, the main historical road in Edinburgh, is Holyrood Palace. This is where the royal family used to stay if they’re ever in town and costs to look around. We looked at it through the gates then made our way behind it to Holyrood park which is the site of an ancient volcano. At the bottom of the hills was a beautiful lake overlooked by the remains of a chapel where monks looked after the diseased.

Walking up to the top of the hill, Arthur’s Seat, isn’t too hard and can be easily managed so long as the weather’s not too bad. We had light rain during our traverse up and it made the stone pathways slippery to use, especially coming down! From the top however, you can see all around you. There’s a monument pointing to all directions with information as to what’s on the horizon and on a good day you can see snow capped mountains in the far distance beyond the city.

 

After all that climbing we needed a warming drink of cocoa. We went back up the Royal Mile and defrosted ourselves in Mimi’s Bakehouse. They do lovely cakes and a classic cocoa with cream and marshmallows.

Further up the Mile is St Giles Cathedral. If you’d like to take any pictures in the cathedral you pay some money to receive a pass. Walking around the place you can see why you’d want to! They have gorgeous stained glass windows and old statues of famous figures. It was a beautiful place, and well worth stopping by.

If you’re interested in authors and books, you’ll want to check out the Writer’s Museum situated in a beautiful old building in a back street off of the Royal Mile. Here they had belongings and books of Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott, and Robert Louis Stevenson. This place runs on donations alone and I fear it’s running low on funds so if you do go there please donate! The house is broken down into separate areas for each author. I found the basement most interesting as it was all about Robert Louis Stevenson’s life which was so ‘recent’ that photos exist. This is the man who wrote Treasure Island before travelling abroad. He was very interesting to learn about and see pictures of the Samoan island he ‘retired’ to.

Edinburgh Castle will always be on your list when visiting Edinburgh. I seriously believe you could spend a whole day here, the place is huge.

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Edinburgh Castle

We rented an audio guide for a few pounds which was really helpful giving out info about each numbered plaque. My favourite part of the castle was right at the top; St Margaret’s Chapel. This tiny building was built around 1130 and has a couple tiny windows. This place is so cute and you can still get married in it. Beautiful.

 

Something I suggest all visitors do is stay out after dark and go on a ghost tour. There are a few out there but we went with a Free Ghost Tour after seeing such great reviews about it. We had Artemis, the brilliant girl who has a talent of telling stories. We walked down side streets and around central roads hearing gruesome tales of grave-robbing, cannibalism, and witch hunts.

Scotts Monument

 

My final suggestion is Greyfriars Kirkyard.  Here is where J.K.Rowling found a few of her Harry Potter names but it’s not only good to go for that, there are some very gothic graves and a good bit of history to the place. One area was even used as a prison at one point when the city couldn’t cope.There’s even the tale of Bobby the dog who stayed by his owner’s grave for years after his passing until Bobby himself died.

I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Edinburgh and would suggest everyone take the time to visit. There are times of the year more special than others such as the Fringe Festival and Tattoo, both in held in August. Be warned though that travelling during these times will lead to extreme prices and also get booked up very quickly!

Area wise I really enjoyed walking around the Old Town for it’s ‘Closes’ and cobbled streets, but also enjoyed the New Town for it’s pubs and restaurants. I really suggest you take a good look around all the areas you can during your trip, and remember…

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Our Weekend in Malmö

A few weeks ago I was given the opportunity to stay with my friend in Malmö, Sweden. The easiest way to fly into Malmö is by flying into Copenhagen in Denmark and then getting the short train journey across the sea right into Malmö central.

As it was the beginning of December we were lucky enough to see the city dressed up for Christmas, and don’t the Swedes love Christmas!

We soon learnt that they bring out Christmas themed versions of most foods and drinks after my friend introduced them to us over the days.

Saffron buns & Julmust

There’s your standard mulled wine, but they also make Christmas bread, Christmas ham, Saffron Bread for Lucia day, and Jülmust which is a sort of spiced coke. The list goes on. We even found a Christmas themed Princess Cake, the cake of Sweden.

Princess Cake

We wandered around the supermarkets taking in all the beautiful foods and Swedish Santas.

Swedish Santas typically look like garden gnomes

Our first full day was spent seeing the Turning Torso, a new building of offices and apartments. This area is clearly an up and coming part of Malmö with new homes being built along the seafront as well as the new World Trade Centre and a massive supermarket. We walked right up to the seafront and had a warm cocoa before moving on.

The town centre of Malmö is quite varied. There’s an older part which we learnt was from the 1400s onwards, with old factory buildings which are now used as shops. They have a few beautiful squares, one of which has become a Christmas market during these Winter months and has lots of things for children to do like a merry-go-round and a ‘playroom’ in the shape of an igloo.

What I love most about Malmö is that it’s a relatively small town but has plenty in it to keep people entertained. The lights at night are gorgeous, and the classic buildings frame the seaside place beautifully. It’s great for a mini break away or a stopover on your way onto Stockholm for example. Malmö is a considerably cheaper option than Stockholm!

Lastly, I’d like to turn your attention to this that’s happening at the moment:
‘Tiny, Magical Shops For Mice Are Popping Up In Sweden’

Beautiful ‘mouse shops’ being created by someone in a suburb nearby.

Day Trips: Chatsworth House

Spending time with my parents this year, mum thought it a good idea to have a day out together so we organised a day trip to Chatsworth House. Personally, I’d never heard of the place, but the thought of it made a big smile light up her face so I knew it must be special.

Unfortunately we’d booked our tickets on one of the worst weather days we’ve had this year. Chatsworth is in Derbyshire and it was already dark and raining when we got up. Driving through the countryside we soon found ourselves diverted from waterlogged roads but we were undeterred. We were excited about the house’s special event – Christmas at Chatsworth. This year they had transformed the house into the story of The Nutcracker. Each room had a theme and was telling the tale as you walked around.

Having never been here before though, we were also interested in what the rooms normally contained. As the groups walked on through we would stop and look at the paintings and swords.

Here are a few photos to give you an idea of how beautiful this place is:

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Now, Chatsworth House is also known for it’s Gardens. Unfortunately we were unable to walk around them on the day we went but we intend to go back because they’re huge and have many different areas to them.

If you’re in the area I thoroughly recommend visiting Chatsworth for a day trip, and I mean day trip – it’s huge! They have an adventure playground for children, a farmyard, lots of walks and trails to go around, as well as the spectacular house. They have a number of ticket options so you can pay for what you want to see and most of these prices hang around £20 for adults – not cheap, but worth the treat! I know we’ll be going again in the Spring.

What happens next?

Since arriving back in the UK after 8 months abroad I’ve struggled to fit back in. Probably because I wasn’t ready to, and I’m still not! Last year I began my journey in Australia, spent Christmas and New Years on an island in Fiji, campervanned around New Zealand, had a guided tour around Sri Lanka, and spent my last weekend away in Dubai, UAE.

Writing it all down like that, it comes out like quite a long list for 8 months away, but since getting back all I’ve done is miss the sunshine. I’m one of those people who thrives on sunlight and find myself in a depressive pit during the dark winter months. Therefore I’ve always felt that I’d find life a lot easier if I was based in a warmer climate.

My head’s currently all over the place and changing it’s mind every day, but I know that these thoughts aren’t fleeting, I have always wanted to do the following, it’s just choosing when to do them.

Work in America – Like Australia, I’ve always looked at the size of America and felt that to see it all I would need to work there. For some reason the USA doesn’t look too kindly on Brits going over to ‘New England’ to work, and make it slightly difficult to gain a working visa. I am however working on this, and have been on and off for many years. If I can get a visa to work in America, I can continue in my current career in LA, something I don’t feel comfortable doing in London anymore.

Work in Dubai – I’ve been to Dubai at least once a year for the last 6 years that my friends have lived there. Every time I go there I have a great time and love the humidity (I still haven’t been there in midsummer when you can’t even leave the house). Considering I’m a country bumpkin, I actually like the idea of living in a city of sand and coloured lights. Slipping on marble footpaths, and having the world’s largest mall as your local shopping centre sounds fun, at least for a little while. Dubai, however, will be a bit more difficult for me to work in. I probably wouldn’t want to work in my chosen career there, but I would happily have an office job, just to live the lifestyle for a little while.

Learn Italian in Italy – Many years ago, when I was a child, I made a deal with an Italian friend of my family’s that I would stay with her for 3 months and learn Italian, live the Italian lifestyle. Then, 10 years ago, she died suddenly with heart problems. This spurred me on to keep my promise and make it that I’d learn Italian whilst living in the country.
I’d planned on doing this on my way back from Oz but since arriving back home and contacting Italian schools, I feel that this is one thing I could do a lot later on in life. Sure, the idea of living in Italy sounds great. I’d get fat on pasta, pizza, pastries and the like, but then I’d be fat, and that’s one thing I don’t plan on doing until I’m a lot older!

Hopefully one of these will become a reality in the next few months and I can write all about it!

The many faces at Hostels and how to handle them

During my stay in hostels I came across many different ‘types’ of people. There’s your classic European single guy vying for attention, groups of girls or guys who all met travelling and are now making their journeys together, and lots and lots of single female travellers.

As we made our way around various locations of Oz, women started telling us their experiences whilst staying in hostels around the world. On a tour around the Daintree rainforest we were shocked to be sat with a group of girls from all walks of life and each of them have a negative story whilst travelling around Australia. One girl had had a way too friendly hostel owner offering her a private space expecting benefits in return, another had had men coming onto her in a mixed dorm, all of these experiences are the kinds of things you don’t expect to hear these days as most posts speak highly of the safety of women travelling alone these days (but we all know to still keep our wits about us). Luckily these women had their heads screwed on and knew how to handle themselves – that’s the reason they’re on their independent journey –  but it came as a shock to us that amongst a table of 5 women, 3 of them had already felt unsafe somewhere during their travels…

…Which could be a good reason as to why I found so many mixed groups during my trip. These people had met up randomly whilst hostelling elsewhere and formed such a bond that they were happy to carry on their experience together. I never got to speak to the groups but from observation they appeared a lot more confident and seemed to always be having the time of their lives. Yes, a few of them were probably having holiday romances, but if it keeps you feeling happy and safe, what’s the down side to this story?

As for ‘Crazy Dave’ who walks in a room wearing some clashing luminous clothes, shades indoors, and shouts about how much fun he’s having, he’s not as original as he might think he is. When we greyhounded our way down the East Coast we came across many ‘Dave’s, and tried to ignore them as much as possible. For me, they’re too full on and I wouldn’t be able to cope with having that amount of energy around me all the time, which is probably why they’re usually found on their own during the day. At night, however, they’ve finally become the centre of the party they wanted to be and all the drunkards love him. Good for you ‘Crazy Dave’, may you always find ways of expelling your energy through travelling.

Even though we may all be there for different reasons, we still all want the same thing out of it; to see the world. As long as we look out for each other, and ensure to enjoy our time together respectfully and happily, then there should be no problems. Guys respect those girls, and ladies, you continue being the kickass bitches you’ve always been. I salute you all for embracing that travelling bug and running with it.