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.

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!

What’s still to come…

It’s now the end of September and I’ve been away from home for 3 months. In this time I’ve travelled to a few places but my original plans of always being on the move and seeing different sights were soon scuppered when I realised I didn’t want to see such things without my boyfriend.

When I first reached Brisbane I began an in-depth look into where to go down the East Coast and how to do it. An agency contacted me and suggested they plan it for me and after taking one look at their itinerary, I knew that I couldn’t have experiences like sailing around the Whitsundays or driving around Fraser Island without him in tow.

This led to a dilemma. I’d been in the country one week and already my journey had ground to a halt. My boyfriend is unable to travel out here until the end of November so I have 5 months in total before he arrives and we can start our epic journey together.

In coming to this realisation I had to re-think all my plans and ideas of how this trip was going to play out and work out how to keep going for all that time without it being seen as a waste.

As you may know from previous posts, I’m filling the majority of my time in Sydney; working and seeing all that I can on the weekends. When I’m not working (and mostly when I was house sitting), I’m planning our future adventures that we can go on together.

During the month of August I had little to do but keep some beautiful animals alive whilst house sitting in Townsville. This gave me the opportunity to organise our ’round the world’ flights and set dates for each location. After (what we thought was) careful planning, we felt that we’d budgeted enough and could do the following:

  • 3 weeks down the East Coast
  • 10 days in Fiji
  • 3 weeks in New Zealand
  • 3 weeks in Sri Lanka
  • A weekend in Dubai on our way back to the UK

So we booked our flights and set about organising the bits in between. My lovely agent from Peter Pan who’d already sent me an itinerary prior when it was just me looking, had now updated the trip details and given me an itinerary for the both of us – that was EC sorted.

Fiji was also fairly easy to organise. I did my research and learnt about each group of islands. I wanted peace and quiet away from the backpacking crowds, and somewhere close to good dive spots for my boyfriend. I found this website to be a brilliant source of information. Not only did it teach me about all the island groups, it also contains a brilliant search engine for accommodation. After settling on Kadavu island it was then a very small list of resorts to email and find out about Christmas specials. We chose Mai Dive which has nothing but 5 star reviews since 2011 and looks gorgeous.

My sister’s a travel counsellor, so she sent me across a 3 week itinerary of self drive New Zealand which was perfect. Next all we needed to sort was the camper which we found using a comparison site, then we downloaded a few apps which show you where you can park for free or fairly cheaply.

Having not used the app whilst in NZ yet, I can’t comment on how useful they are, but in preparation we’ve downloaded the Camping NZ and Happy Campers apps which both do pretty much the same thing. Camping NZ appears to be more useful as it allows you to download full maps, and I doubt we’ll have much signal while we’re there!

Sri Lanka is the bit we’re still working on but also the cheapest part of our trip. It’s expected that you can spend less than £50 a day in Sri Lanka, staying in the best hotels. Yes you can do it for less, but that could include accommodation with a toilet that’s never been cleaned (hygiene isn’t at the top of their priority list in SL) and possible hellish trips using their buses with no timetables. I’m not much of a camper so I couldn’t see myself surviving three weeks in camp-like hotel rooms.

Upon going through all these destinations it was soon evident that I’d need to cut back. Any plans of epic trips to Darwin and down the West Coast were closed off, and I am now living a true Aussie life, working a 9-5 and paying rent.

That’s not a bad thing though! I’ve always wanted to work in a foreign country, so I’m happy to be here and very happy to have work. It just means that from now until the middle of November, my travels will be limited to the streets of Sydney and beaches of the Northern Shores. It could be worse!

#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.