How I came to appreciate the UK again

During my travels I saw many sights and met many people from all different kinds of backgrounds. As I reached my final destination, back in the UK, I had learnt one very simple but important thing:

No matter where you go, the story’s always the same.

In each country across the world there will always be someone moaning about:

  • Immigrants
  • House/Rental prices and ‘foreigners’ buying them
  • Big companies buying up all the produce/land and hiking up the cost of food

It’s sad, but it’s true. As human beings, we can’t all get along and agree on the exact same thing; that’s what makes us human!

In learning that the rest of the world appears to have the same issues as home, I started looking at what the UK has, to appreciate it once again.

Free Healthcare – The NHS gets a bad rep, mostly by Conservatives, but if we didn’t have the NHS I don’t know how we’d survive. Over the years I’ve needed them for surgery, check-ups, injections etc. and although you get the occasional hiccup with waiting times, I’ve always felt looked after.

Food – We have such a large variety of food here in the UK. Not only do we have amazing restaurants bringing us cuisines from all over the world, but we also have great variety in our supermarkets.
I found Australia’s shops missing a lot of items which I thought were staple products, and their curries were nothing but heartburn to me. In Dubai however, they appear to have everything, and they have it beautifully presented. I’m always amazed at how neatly the fruit is stacked whenever I shop at Waitrose in Dubai Mall.
When you reach places like a remote island in Fiji you’re once again reminded of the ‘Western World’ we live in in the UK, and the amazing choice we get. For 10 days straight we were fed whatever the local fishermen had caught, and at some points the chefs struggled as it was the stormy season and no boats could come near us. Our fruit plates became banana plates, and the main courses diminished in size. Being based in the UK we have all of Europe growing fruit and veg, and we even have the specialised shops offering (highly priced) imported foods from America or China.

The BBC – Whilst living in Oz I couldn’t watch BBC TV over the net because I wasn’t in the UK. When I went on the BBC news website whilst in Oz, it was filled with adverts. When you’re in the UK looking at these things there are no adverts allowed as it is funded by us, the people of the UK. Other channels and countries have to have adverts all over their stuff to make money. I’m happy to pay for the Beeb as it’s given me Attenborough, Sherlock, as well as many classic TV comedies such as Blackadder and Only Fools and Horses. Now who can compete with that?!

The Countryside – I grew up in the countryside but have spent the last 10 years based in cities, rarely stepping out into a woodland or field. Over this time I completely forgot the fact that the UK is still at least 80% countryside.
When we drove around New Zealand I was amazed at how much was untouched. In the entire country there are only a few places heavily built on, the rest was just little towns or villages surrounded by mountains or lakes. It was stunning but also similar to the views of Britain. So as our plane flew in circles coming into land at Gatwick, I looked out at the land below and took in the fields and trees I’d forgotten about for so long. Now I’m back, I plan on seeing the country I grew up in.


We may all have the same problems of mass corporations buying everything out and hiking the prices, people buying out all the properties to invest and make more money, and an ever-increasing population from both immigrants and procreation, but the point is we ALL have that, and we’re ALL just people. If we can learn to respect one another and accept what’s going on around us (to an extent), then we will find a happiness within ourselves. I’m still working on this one but at least I’ve come to appreciate the land I grew up in and all it has to offer.

A Pommes Perspective of Australia

During my travels in Australia I came across many wonderful and weird things. Here’s my view overall of Oz.

Roads – Brilliantly signposted! When I arrived in Australia I was so relieved to see maximum signage on the roads. They direct and warn you about everything.

aussie-road-sign

TV Promos – ‘You’re not going to believe what happens.’ ‘What they did next will amaze you.’  One thing I’ve noticed about Australian TV promos is; they’re all the same. Even if the programme doesn’t contain any drama, they’ll make a promo to make it look like it’s one filled with it. Coming from a background of working in the TV industry, I know the deal, but in the UK they certainly seem to mix it up a little bit more than over here. The UK certainly doesn’t try to make a home decorating show look like a dramatic reality TV series. I’ve not watched a lot of American TV in my time, but the Oz promos certainly seem to be heavily influenced by the American way.

Walking side – Where in some countries you have a bike path and a pedestrian path, here you have a pedestrian path side for whichever way you’re walking. It’s quite cute, but a waste of road paint, because no one really abides by them.

Food – I seriously struggled to eat a good meal in Australia. To many Australians, you’re not to know any different, but curry isn’t supposed to taste like that. Kiev’s aren’t supposed to have bones in them, and pasta should not taste so thick and stodgy that you won’t pass it for weeks. It took me a while to know which items to pick and choose out of the small amount of options, but I gradually learnt what not to eat.

Franchises – I soon learnt that the well-known chain restaurants I’m used to are not going to taste the same in Australia. They’re franchises, owned by some local who’s got the famous menus up behind him, but different products behind the scenes. One day I really fancied a Nandos so I asked for my usual of a chicken burger and chips with halloumi and the guy looked at me with utter confusion. Halloumi is not on the Nandos menu here. I mean c’mon. It makes the chicken burger if you stick the slab of halloumi on top of it, and then there are the Nandos fries I love so much. I was given your typical cheap-ass, worst tasting fries you could ever imagine; horrific. Australia, you have no idea what amazing food you’re missing out on.

Double glazing – Okay, I vaguely get it. We have double glazing in the UK because it’s cold 99.9% of the year, but you guys (depending on which part of the country you’re in) get cold spells too! Not only do you actually have winters where it’s low in the single figures, but double glazing also helps cut out sounds. So far, in the many places I’ve stayed, I’ve wished for double glazing. I don’t want to hear the really noisy birds outside, or the boy racers burning rubber on the street. When I get inside, I want peace and quiet. I want to feel like I’m in my own space, not still sharing it with the whole world. On top of that, door-makers really need to learn to measure. I’ve still not seen a door that goes all the way to the floor – even front doors. You have massive fences up to protect you from all this dangerous wildlife, but you’ll leave an inch gap at the front of your house so that all the little critters can crawl on in.

2a7dfc0100000578-3159224-hatton_calmly_walks_the_spider_to_the_front_door_where_he_says_h-m-30_1436789738716

Heating – This ties in with the double glazing. Some parts of the country do get cold and yet none of them have any form of heating installed. All of the people I’ve met so far have complained about the lack of heating in their apartment and have had to buy standalone radiators that hardly give out any warmth, but use up a lot of electricity.

Loud birds – Going back to the double glazing again, it would be really nice if you had some so that the bird that insists on calling out to his friends in front of my window every morning wouldn’t be so loud. There’s a whole range of them, and I’m sure I share this pain with most people.

cockatoos

Internet options – You guys are being taken for a ride. There are adverts all over the TV for super-fast broadband at a rip-off price and it’s still not unlimited! I just don’t get it. It’s already well-known that this country doesn’t have very good internet coverage, and I can understand why – you’re huge with massive expanses of nothingness to get across – but I don’t understand why these companies can’t just offer you unlimited rather than 200GB a month. If you’re asking for 200GB a month it should be classed as unlimited!

Where to buy what – You go through life learning what items work for you, and go buy them whenever you need a top up. When I arrived in Oz I soon found that my staple products might not exist in this country. In the UK, supermarkets contain a large variety of everything from knickers to noodles. I’ve found that in Oz you may need to go to a few stores to get everything on your shopping list. It began with toothpaste. I must have walked around 4 different supermarkets and discount pharmacy’s before assuming that my brand wasn’t made here and settled on something similar. Then I ran out of face wipes, deodorant, and shampoo. It’s not so simple that once you’ve found it in one store you’ll find it in another one of theirs – that’s what makes Oz shops so confusing! Different Coles stores will have different items. So where I might be able to find a shampoo I want in one of them, another Coles elsewhere doesn’t stock that particular brand.


Over the months I began pointing out more negative views of Australia, but overall they’re not a bad bunch. They have advert campaigns like this one:

s6myehu

And have a far more relaxed view on life than most European countries. Australians know how to work a sufficient amount, and play to the absolute maximum. They’ve learnt how to handle big bugs, and ferocious storms. All in all, my view of Australia is it’s hot, independent, and very, very beautiful.

DSC02563

#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.

Fun things to do when you’re poor and travelling

I’m now based in one area for the next two months. All my money is tied up in future ventures, and because of where I am nearly all of my earnings are going on rent.

In this predicament it’s easy to feel like I can’t go out and do anything touristy, so I’m now going to try coming up with a list of free things to see and do, to help me cope with the next two months but also help anyone else out there in the same situation.

Let’s start simple – walking. Walking is free and healthy and so a great way to pass the time if you find the right routes to take. I’ve already mentioned my walk around Shelly beach to North Head in Manly, and there’s another walk to Spit Head which I plan on going on fairly soon. Other than that, one short and rather cheap bus journey can get me into the heart of Sydney city where I can venture as far as my legs will carry me. I may even try the Bondi to Coogee walk.

Free entry to Sydney sights:

  • The Rocks
  • Botanical Gardens & other parks
  • Sydney Harbour Bridge
  • Luna Park (rides are $10 though!)
  • Australian National Maritime Museum
  • Museum of Contemporary Art & Art Gallery of NSW
  • Bondi beach
  • Markets & shopping centres (window shopping)

Every city will have the same situation of offering free entry into certain museums or sights. I used to love spending my lunch times in London walking around the British History Museum. Chilling out for an hour of culture during my hectic day made the afternoon of work so much more manageable.

After giving all of the above a go I’ve also found Free Events in and around Sydney. Centennial Park hold free events during the summer months and there’s always a book launch or guided tour I could jump in on.

The larger cities of the world usually have a Time Out guide which will keep you updated on what’s going on that week. A simple web search usually brings up everything free for that week – but look a little deeper – you could find some cheeky free launches or gigs that aren’t being shouted about. These will likely be the best experiences to try and get to.

Other than touristy things to do, there’s always the classic ways to fill my time for free – reading, watching TV, sleeping – I enjoy all these things very much!

If you have any other suggestions or ideas of things to do while I’m poor in Sydney, let me know!

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.