#LiveHappy

I wanted to write a more personal blog entry to go through the emotions this journey’s taken me on so far. I decided to come to Australia because I was sick of London. I was sick of the extortionate rent, the terrible transport, the long hours and stress I was putting myself under just to make ends meet.

What I longed for was more time, more energy, more of a life.

I’ve been in this country for 3 months and I’m happy. It took a while to work out my feelings because it starts with getting used to the time difference, missing my boyfriend, family, friends, and then just getting used to all the small differences; like where to find my favourite face wipes!

It occurred to me only a few weeks ago that I was smiling a lot more. I had become a person that I remember being once before. I have the time to think about others and do things for others. I’m cooking a lot more varied meals, and walking with a spring in my step to and from work. At my workplace I’m regularly found with a smile on my face, and I make more jokes instead of the cynical subjects I’d gotten stuck on in London. It’s all become a beautiful, light-hearted way to live.

This isn’t me saying I’m staying for good. I’m not so enamoured in Oz that I never want to leave; in fact my ticket home is already booked! Instead, it’s me saying that I’ve found a new way to live and I don’t want to go back to how I was. When I was 19 I worked a 9-5 office job and even though I was sick of it after a couple of years, it was the easiest life I’ve ever lived and I know that I was a much better person back then. So to find that part of myself and combine it with the experiences I’ve gleaned over the last 11 years I should be able to be the happiest and best person I could ever be and that’s what I feel like I’ve found.

A Pomme’s Perspective of: BRISBANE

When I first reached Australia, I landed in a very wet Brisbane. I understood that it was winter, but I’d been told that Australia was blue skies and sunshine most of the year ‘round. I very quickly learnt that this was not the case. As I unpacked my bikinis and shorts, I questioned whether I’d chosen the right time of year to visit this amazing country.

After that ominous day, there were no more clouds in the sky, and I could finally see the huge blue I’d been told about. I felt like it stretched on forever. In the suburbs of Capalaba, my cousin drove me to an estate that had been made especially for the homeowners and nature to exist as one. They were made to integrate with the forest around them, and didn’t have fences around their land. This meant that every evening wallabies and kangaroos would come out of the bushes and feed from the road side. We were able to drive around the area slowly and get up close to the true Aussie animals from the comfort of the car.

As for Brisbane city centre, I got a train into Roma St Parkland and took a walk around. I told myself to slow walk, something I never did in London. I changed my pace, for a more leisurely walk and stopped to take pictures when I felt the need. As I got into the rainforest area, a wild turkey jumped out at me from the bushes! Seeing a turkey just roaming wild was a new thing for me – I thought it must’ve gotten away from somewhere!

The parkland is great for a chilled afternoon with friends or family, or just for a good walk. It has many different paths you can choose from, and there are maps at the train station and info centre in the park. It was great walking from a lake with fountains, watching people playing Frisbee, to a beautifully tended garden in honour of Colin Campbell who was a gardening presenter on Aussie TV. It’s clearly somewhere you can go any time of the year for a relaxed day out.

Later I walked through the city centre and found Archives Fine Books. It was written in my Lonely Planet guide of the East Coast that this was the place to go if you’re a book lover. It has a big board outside boasting about how it contains over 1 million books, and when you walk in you’re surrounded. Floor to ceiling, wall to wall, bookshelves are filled with books from antiques to current chart-toppers. They’re organised into all sorts of different categories. I spent over an hour flicking through such categories as autobiographies, crime fiction, and local books. In the end I settled on a Western from the ‘70s.

This place has some incredible antique books dating from as early as the 16th century lining the top shelves, and people come in all the time to drop off any books they no longer want. Everything in the store is catalogued, so the staff will be able to find what you’re looking for if they have it in the store.

As the sun came down I walked across the river and along the side of the south bank to look back at a city skyline. As soon as the photos were taken, it had already gone dark! Aussie sunsets last about a second! I quickly walked through South Bank parklands and found my way to the train station for the long journey back to Capalaba.

Oz DinosOn another trip into Brisbane I was a typical tourist. I went to see the GOMA (Gallery Of Modern Art), and Queensland Museum. Both came across as quite small to me, but I am used to the Natural History Museum of London which I’ve frequented many a time. The good news is they’re both free, so I took my time walking around and saw many stuffed Australian animals, and dinosaur bones.

Oz Dinos 2Outside these museums are the South Bank Parklands which have a beautiful false beach and kid’s pool play area. Even on a Winter’s day people are lying out sun-baking, as the Aussies call it.

Before leaving Queensland, I also got to walk around Wellington Point and did a swamp walk around the mangroves. I was impressed by the massive trees with their thick exposed roots which are home to so much wildlife like skinks and crabs.

Stuffed Platypus

But for now, my time in Brisbane is over. I’ll be back with my boyfriend in December where we’ll be visiting Lone Pine Sanctuary, a place that’s been running for over 88 years!

A Dubai Weekend During Ramadan / A Weekend Guide to Dubai City & Surrounds

A Dubai Weekend during Ramadan

What I hadn’t known when I booked my flights, was that it would be Ramadan when I was in Dubai on my way over to Brisbane.

My friends have lived over there for a few years, and kindly let me spend the weekend with them before I moved onto Oz.

Dubai during Ramadan is something that must be respected. Muslim’s don’t let any water or food pass their lips whilst the sun is up, so from sunrise at 5am until sunset around 7pm you shouldn’t be in public eating or drinking anything as it’s disrespectful. Many bars and cafes either close or run shorter opening hours, and if they play music, it’s at a much quieter level as that’s also not to be played publicly during the day.

So for my weekend in Dubai it all began on Thursday night when I arrived. Thursday is their Friday as their working week begins on Sunday, so we went to a restaurant called Claw and had dinner with cocktails. Claw is a great bar and restaurant for Americana. We ate chicken wings and chilli cheese fries whilst throwing back a few shots – creating a difficult wake-up call Friday morning for our pre-booked mani pedi’s!

So yes, Friday began with mani pedis at the nail spa in Dubai Mall. They offer a back and shoulder massage whilst your nails are getting done, and we could not turn it down. It was bliss. We then got a cab back to the apartment where we made frittata for their friend’s brunch which we’d all been invited to.

Ramadan can be a good time to entertain guests at each other’s homes rather than spend money elsewhere. It’s a good time to come together and bring a dish to share with one another. After a few hours at our brunch, we soon had to leave to head over to a dinner at other friend’s house. As tired as I was, I carried on through the day, until eventually we were all done with the day’s events and went home to sleep.

Now as I’ve been to Dubai a few times, it wasn’t seen as a waste to spend my final day watching films and ordering in food with my far away friends, but here’s my go-to guide to a real weekend in Dubai.

Tourists guide to Dubai

The Souks:

Souk Ferry

A little out of the city and an extremely cheap boat ride across a river takes you to the souks of Dubai. There are different areas like the gold markets, spices, and the more touristy areas with clothes and shoes. I bought some beautiful traditional shoes there which are more for looking at than wearing! Also, don’t be afraid to haggle.

Burj Khalifa:

We went to the Atmosphere bar to experience the top of the Burj Khalifa in style. Just entering this building through the Armani Hotel at the bottom is experience enough, walking past all the supercars that are parked outside. The lift takes seconds to take you up to the 122nd floor; a weird experience! Girls get in free to Atmosphere, and the boys have to spend a little each to pay for their entry.

The views here are amazing, and it’s always best to get here just before sunset so you can drink up that champagne with a stunning view that stretches on for miles.

The Beaches:

Jumeirah beach is how I first experienced Dubai, due to my friend’s location at the time. Jumeirah has a long empty stretch with resorts on either end offering loungers. Considering that all beaches are man-made in Dubai, there’s not a lot that can go wrong. I did once get stung by a jellyfish though, but luckily it wasn’t anything serious and something time takes care of.

Jumeriah

Dubai Mall:

One of the largest malls in the world, Dubai Mall not only contains nearly every brand imaginable, but it also houses an aquarium. You really could spend a day in there, and if you have the money; why not?! There’s an option of paying an entry fee into the aquarium, but you can also see a good portion of it from their outside tank.

Water Parks:

I’d also suggest a day in Wild Wadi water park. There are enough flumes and slides to keep you entertained as well as a lazy river when you just want to chill on a dinghy. There’s also a park on the edge of Abu Dhabi that’s fairly new and equally as awesome.

Day trip to Oman:

Oman

Another great day out is a trip to nearby Oman. Only a few hours’ drive away, you have a scenic drive of camels walking by the side (and sometimes on) of the road as you head out through the desert, into some mountain ranges. There are beaches with hardly anyone on them with wild goats wondering around, and there’s so much oil in the area that your feet may come out with black blobs on them that you’ll find are very hard to wash off! But it’s glorious though and definitely worth a trip.


If you go to Dubai, I hope you have a great time but please do ensure you respect the country’s beliefs and customs.

Three Days to go!

N.B. This post has been delayed by two weeks!

22nd June 2015

Today was the only time this week where I had the whole day to myself to lay all my worldly possessions across a bed and whittle them down until I could fit them into one backpack.

The backpack I chose was this one – http://www.amazon.co.uk/Berghaus-Jalan-65-Womens-Rucksack/dp/B003AM8DGS/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top I believe it’s now been discontinued, which is a shame because it’s really handy for short women as a backpack with wheels. I searched for a while, checking all reviews, and trying other backpacks on in the shops, but I was sold on this one from the start.

One of it’s bonuses is that it has a detachable day bag on the front. The day bag itself could have been made with more compartments and zips but it’s good enough. I easily packed my on board bag with the following items:

Hand luggage

  • Travel pillow – 2 in 1
  • ASUS netbook
  • iPhone
  • USB Stick & 1TB HDD – good supply of films, music and important documents
  • Pebble on the go charger
  • Passport
  • Wallet
  • Pocket Diary
  • Book
  • Sunglasses
  • Flight socks
  • 1 litre water bag – this brilliant bag comes with a carabiner attached so it can attach to my bag as well as be rolled up when not in use. It also stands up on it’s own when full! What a water holder! https://vapur.us/
  • 1 change of clothes – you never know if your checked in luggage will make it with you!
  • iPod nano
  • Toiletries – lip balm, moisturiser, anti bac, minimal makeup.
  • Tissues – For the tears at the airport!
  • Eyemask
  • Extra set of shoes

Then came the outfit decisions. These started off slightly excessive, then got cut by one jumper, dress, a few tops, shoes, and a pair of jeans. In the end I managed to pack:

  • 3x jackets – waterproof, warm, light
  • 1x light blue jeans (I plan on buying a black pair over there)
  • 1x dark blue cutoffs
  • 3x shorts
  • 4x dresses – 2x smart, 2x casual
  • 3x long sleeved tops – 1x jumper, 1x cardi, 1x light top
  • 4x smart tops
  • 7x casual tops
  • Shoes – 1x trainers, 3x Toms, 2x sandals, 1x flip flops (thongs!)

I think a lot of people will say that I’ve packed too many clothes, but as I’m heading to Oz at the beginning of their Winter, I’ll need more layers, and I also need the mix of smart and casual for the different things I’ll be doing whilst out there.

After getting the clothes right, I could finally ensure that all the other items I’d collated over the months would all fit in ok. Here’s where you’ll REALLY tell me I’ve packed too much!

Luggage

All in all it still comes in at under 20kg which means I’m ok flying on any internal flights whilst I’m over there too.

Other Preparations

Banking – I’ve already set myself up with a Commonwealth Bank account and have organised to pick up my card at one of their Brisbane branches as that’s my first destination. All they ask is that you print off their Welcome letter, and take that along with your passport as proof of identity.

Even though I’m yet to set foot in Oz, I’ve already arranged for some of my savings to go across into my new account. I researched into Transferwise, HiFX, and Currencies Direct for transferring my money without the extra bank charges, and after going back and forth on who to use, I ended up going with Transferwise for my first transaction.

Transferwise were estimating that they’d give me more than the others once converted, but this will always be an estimate as it fluctuates with the current rate. All I had to do was give them my Aussie bank account number and code, tell them how much I wanted transferring, then arranged through my bank to send the funds to their UK bank account. Once they received my money, which was fairly quickly, they could then continue the process of moving their money around and getting me my converted dollars. By the time I reach Brisbane, I should have a healthy amount of money sitting in my account to keep me going hopefully for a few months.

Work – I don’t intend to work straight away as I’ll be helping out at a relative’s for a few weeks, but I have already put feelers out for volunteer work, and found that the local animal sanctuary would like video editors to make some short films on their wildlife. I contacted them the other day and they’ve already replied saying that they’ll see what I could film when in the coming weeks, so that’s exciting!

House Sitting – Over the last few months I’ve been going back and forth as to what to do for accommodation and how long to spend where. As I had no real plans until around Sept-Oct, I finally made the decision to apply to be a house sitter. I looked into all the sites online and www.trustedhousesitters.com seems to have the most activity on it and, if I get enough house sits, it’ll be the cheapest accommodation out there! You have to sign up for either 3 months or a year, and it’s used all over the world. I’ve gone for the yearly signup and am now trying to get my profile top notch so that people will be willing to use me to look after their home and pets. It would be awesome if I could be staying at someone’s place, walking their dog each day, and getting to know different areas along the coast line whilst I do it!

Other than that, I’m saying my goodbyes, hugging my boyfriend as much as possible, and slightly dreading that Thursday morning flight.

#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.

The Ever Evolving Pack List

The Pack List

Getting your pack list prepared well in advance of setting off is probably one of the best things you can do right from the off. I made my decision to leave the country back in January, and since February I’ve been updating a pack list and purchasing items from the list as I go.

So far I’ve come up with the below. I’m yet to decide on clothing, so that will come into it closer to the date.

  • Clothes and Shoes
  • First Aid & Prescriptions – Make sure you stock up on any prescriptions you may need before leaving as the county you’re going to might not have the same kind of cost/service as your own. Australia’s healthcare is notoriously expensive so I’m hoarding whatever I can before I go.
  • eReader & books – I’ve got hundreds of ebooks already stored on my eReader, and currently plan to take one or two paperbacks with me for the beach
  • Phone
  • Chargers – Mostly usb cables to fit into my plug charger
  • Netbook
  • Passport, vaccination book, I.D.
  • Insurance and Visa Documents
  • Travel Pillow – I looked into the best one to choose and decided that a 2 in 1 would be good, with a loop to attach it to my bag. In the end I went with this one – http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B007REVRGI
  • Ziploc bags – Great for keeping belongings dry and away from creepy spiders!
  • Microfibre Towel – Light and dries quickly. I chose this two pack so my boyfriend had one – http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00OXS67M0
  • Number padlock – I chose this one for a colour to stand out from the crowd, and ALWAYS chose a number one ‘cause it’s no good have a key padlock then losing the key for it… http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B003KIUKMC
  • Ipod – My phone doesn’t have enough space for music (it’s kinda old!), so I decided to buy a 2nd hand ipod nano. That way I have music on the go, but can also change it every so often with my external hard drive of music and my netbook. I went for a 7th generation nano from ebay. I found that if it’s an auction finishing midweek you’re more likely to get a slight price reduction to the auctions finishing on the weekend. I managed to get mine for £65.
  • Make up & Remover
  • Nail Clippers
  • Hairbrush
  • Adapters – 2 should be suffice
  • Toothbrush & Paste
  • Shaver
  • Travel Guides – I’ve read through the guides already so might just write up notes from these/take pictures, and leave them behind.
  • Notebook & Pen – Always good to have a pen handy, but I might leave the notebook.
  • Moisturiser
  • Camera & SD Card
  • Travel Money – Just to start me off. I should have a bank card soon after getting there.
  • Sewing Kit – Something many people have said would be useful to have but I might just leave.

What’s missing? I’ll be revising the list again at the end of May.

Why I Decided to Leave England

As I sat in my box room at work, stressing over the creativity of my latest project, I had the same thought that had been recurring for years – Why have I settled for the daily grind? Everyone has their reasons for living the way they do, and I’d suddenly realised that I didn’t need to be existing in the manner that I had been for the last 3 years.

Like many, I’d chosen a career which was best spent in the big city; London. I’d gone through many different roles to get the job title I’d always wanted, and now I was in it I had no aspirations of where to go next. So I realised. I don’t need to tie myself down like this. I don’t need to pay extortionate rental to get on an unhealthy, packed underground to be stuck indoors in an air conditioned office until the hours of 7 or 8pm to take that same underground train back to a sofa where I was too tired to work on any of my other passions or hobbies.  My creativity was gone. I was spending all my energy and caffeine drinks on constantly coming up with new ways of thinking or creating the next, best promo, and yet I still wasn’t satisfied at the end of it.

By the end of 2014, my boyfriend and I had been renting a flat for the past two years and were fairly sick of our well earned money going into someone else’s pockets. We discussed our savings and decided that 2015 would be the year to get onto the property ladder. I started looking into mortgage options, and we soon discovered that no matter what savings we could pull together, we still wouldn’t be offered enough money to afford a place in the area we’d need to be based in.

By the end of January this year I was utterly through with the way things were and the way I was allowing things to carry on. My travel plans had always been discussed with my partner and I, and it was decided that I could work abroad as he was usually away himself with work. This June I turn 30, and so begins the countdown until I’m ineligible at gaining a working visa in many countries. The clock was ticking, and I made my decision over a few weeks of research. Yes I had a few friends across Canada, but I have more in Australia and New Zealand. Not only that, but Canada is notoriously difficult to get accepted into and hold only a few application processes a year. Australia was able to process and accept my visa within weeks.

By entering Australia just after my 30th birthday, I am able to apply and enter New Zealand (if I so wish) before my 32nd birthday. This gives me 1-2 years in Oz followed by 1-2 years in NZ, depending on how it all goes. With my basic plan set, the decision was made.

As much as I love England, there’s also a lot not to love about it in its current situation. I’ve always wanted a life of adventure, and hopefully this will be the beginning of many.