What is Life: A Wintry Reflection

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What is life? This is something I say to myself multiple times a day. Life is many things, it’s amazing, random, ridiculous and surprising. But the times I find myself saying ‘what is life’ are more often than not the times when I’m not happy with the situation I’m in. When I’m stressed at work, when I’m confused about the direction life is leading me, when I just don’t know what the hell is going on. We have a tendency to complain about anything and everything, especially when it’s cold and dark and there’s no sun shooting out happiness for us to cling on to. Winter drags us into a dark hole where everything seems like an effort, because all we really want to do is hibernate until the world gets a little bit brighter.

I’m a big life thinker at the best of times which means that winter instils in me even more of a contemplative mind. I overthink and overthink, I have emotional Sundays for no reason other than its Sunday. I make plans for the future then scrap them and make new plans then decide I want to run away chasing the sun then decide I want to stay at home forever. I come full circle every time I try and make some kind of decision about what I want to do with this thing called my LIFE. Life is hard, right?

But why does it only seem hard when the weather is getting us down? Maybe it’s just me but if it was sunny right now I would be seeing life through rose-tinted glasses, frolicking in that happy go lucky summer way and not worrying so much about life. What is it about winter that makes us question our purpose and direction? Life is more boring for one, there’s no festivals, no beer gardens after work, no holidays. Which obviously leads us to the search for something to add a bit of excitement. It’s also that new year thing, we feel the need to turn over a new leaf or do something crazy and radical because we have to make this year a year to remember. But mostly I think it’s the frustration that comes from the routine of working life. Nothing makes a day seem longer than when you wake up and it’s dark, you leave work and it’s dark. Unless you brave the cold and take a brisk lunchtime walk you might not see natural light all day. And that is just not okay. Something needs to be done about that.

Basically summer you need to hurry up. I don’t like wishing away time but if the sun doesn’t come back to me soon I’ll probably end up either refusing to leave my bed or taking a spontaneous flight to a land with more life. See ya London office, you just ain’t doing it for me right now. Obviously I’m not going to run away (yet) because I’m not completely mental (or rich), so what can we do to make this post-jolly season bearable? How do we stay optimistic in the depths of winter?

I know I put myself down earlier for making too many life plans, but actually organizing a trip can help because it gives you something concrete to look forward to. Exercise is apparently an obvious one but I can’t really recommend that because I am yet to get my fatarse off the sofa. HOW can you run when your nose freezes off, HOW? I went to the sauna does that count? What I will say is that yoga massively helps me. I know it sounds cliche and hipster-wannabe but whatevs, it’s the truth – half an hour of yoga at lunch and I’m ready to tackle the world, my stress is gone, I breathe more deeply and my body relaxes. Much needed for anyone who works at a desk cos that is NAAAT natural. Warm soups and hot pots and goodness at lunch is a definite yes, none of this salad nonsense. How are leaves and avocados going to keep you warm in your tummy? And just not dwelling on things I guess. Weather happens, life goes on and we can’t let horrible winter infiltrate our minds and emotions. THERE IS LIGHT ON THE OTHER SIDE. I think it’s time for an inspirational quote, from Dumbledore no less:

“Happiness can be found even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.”

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He so wise.

January: Dry Detox or Fun Time?

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Okay, so January is without a doubt the most depressing month ever. You’ve just had a jam packed month of fun, indulgence, drinking, food, family, friends, traditions and all things festive and exciting. Then all of a sudden – nothing. The festivities come to an end and you head back to work and it seems like there is nothing good to look forward to in life ever. It’s cold and miserable, it takes pretty much the whole month to adjust to 9-5 work every day instead of lay ins and all day sofa film binges, and it’s basically just dull.

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Now, I understand why people would choose this month of hell to detox and be healthy and abstain from alcohol, I do. The amount we consume over the holidays and in the lead up to Christmas is ridiculous and obviously our bodies need a break from all that. But the other part of me is saying, why oh why are we choosing to make January worse than it already is? It’s bad enough that we’re having withdrawal symptoms from the activities Christmas and New Year bring, without sucking the fun out of the rest of the month too. Are we trying to force ourselves into a huddle of hibernation and sadness and boredom?

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I personally do need to give my body a bit of time out from all the funs simply because my pre-Christmas period was SO mental. I don’t think there was one day where I wasn’t drunk. I went on spontaneous work nights out that went on til dawn so stayed at my friends house and continued being ridiculous for the whole of the next day at work. I ate unhealthy amounts of cheese, drank unhealthy amounts of wine and even reverted to a student mindset leading to spoons pitchers and the roxy. I probably spent 57% of my time at work laughing at videos of singing and lightsabers or destinys child photoshops or cringe voice messages. All in all it was an absolutely fantastic and hilarious couple of weeks but my goodness did my body hate me for it.

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By the time Christmas arrived I was ready to sleep for eternity but then came the festive period and all the indulgence that brings with it. And of course it was fabulous. You simply cannot beat good old family time and Harry Potter games and walks and dinner parties. I managed some relaxation in between Christmas and New Year’s Eve, but then came the craziness of fancy dress, old school drinking games and 7am beer pong. And with that, the hangover to beat all hangovers.

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So I get it. My body is begging me for sleep and green tea and kale and exercise and all the rest of it. January is an obvious time to tell yourself that you will be healthy and exercise, because what else are New Years resolutions for? But I think we actually do ourselves more harm than good by aiming for a COMPLETE life change. I am never going to go to the gym more than once a week, and I am never going to stop wanting to eat cakes. That’s just life. I can’t expect January to be any different just because it comes after a month of saying “yolo it’s Christmas”.

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I do want to exercise more than I was (I’m sure I can improve on nothing), eat some healthy foods, and have a little break from our old friend alcohol. But I’m not going to make any bold claims like I’m giving up drinking FOREVER or I’m only eating smoothies or I’m running to work every day. No, nada, not going to happen. And I have plans for January that involve going out. Yes, yes I do. That might not be fitting with the ethos of dry January but I CANNOT bear the idea of a month of nothingness. Leaving the world of cosy homely goodness and reentering the commuting working world is bad enough in the midst of winter, without the thought of being sensible all month. Not being sensible is OKAY as long as it’s not a constant wildness. It’s called finding the balance, and it’s called life. Go with it. Don’t be so hard on yourself.

My 2016 Travel Bucket List

I can’t believe we’re coming up to the end of 2015. WHERE has this year gone?! I feel like the last few months in particular have flown by, like there’s next week and the week after and then it’s CHRISTMAS. And I’m 25 on Sunday eeeeee when did I get so old. What better time to make a travel bucket list than the quarter of a century mark, right? I ticked a few countries off my list this year with the old interrail, which was great, but I still have my sights set on SO many different countries. I say this is my 2016 list, no way will I be able to find the time and money to go to all these places in one year (I wish), so it’s kind of like a 2016 onwards list. Tick of as many as I can and go from there…

Bali

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This is the most exciting one because I’ve BOOKED my flights for Bali next April/May. Seriously can’t control my excitement, stop me. Bali has been on the top of my list for a while because the word I hear associated with it most is ‘paradise’. And who wouldn’t want to go to paradise? We’re actually going to see a friend for his birthday so there is sure to be lots of drinking and partying, all the funs funs funs. Aside from that, I’m hoping I find some time to stay in a hut on a secluded beach and do yoga and eat the fruits of the earth. Because that’s the hippy dream.

Berlin

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Believe it or not, I’ve never been to Germany (except for a stopover in cologne this summer where we made the most of pretzels and girthy sausages). Being one sixteenth German (hardihar) I really should have visited the country, but it’s never appealed that much. Until this summer where EVERYONE we met was ranting on about how great Berlin is. I’ve been told numerous times that it’s one of the most fun and interesting cities, so I guess we’ll just have to go and find out.

Amsterdam

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This is another one that’s already booked and in the diary, for January which is ridiculously soon! I went in June with work but only stayed in The Hague and didn’t have time to explore any of amsterdams delights. This time I’m doing it right and staying on for the weekend. Let’s hope I can persuade some friends to join me… Anyone? I’ve heard many different stories about Amsterdam but I haven’t made too many plans about what I want to do there. From my last visit I got the impression that the Dutch know how to party, and love life. Also don’t ever draw their curtains?! What is that about?

New York

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Oh New York. New York, New York. I fully expect that it won’t live up to any of the ideas in my head that have been put there by Friends, Sex and the City and countless other films and series, but that doesn’t stop me from being desperate to go. I just need to experience the New York way at some point in my life (hopefully sooner rather than later). I want to eat all the pizza and pretzels, be in a flashmob at Times Square (that happens, right?) and go out on the town New York styley. The question is, summer or winter? Do I want the heat and parks and outdoor funs or do I want New Year’s Eve and Christmas trees and ice skating like buddy the elf?

Nepal

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We’ve recently started work in Nepal so there’s been a lot of excitement around the country and I’ve been talking about it nonstop. Which, obviously, has given me lots of motivation for wanting to go and see it myself. The culture sounds fascinating, the food looks great, and the people seem to be so friendly and hospitable. Take me there now please!

Greece

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One of the beauties of Europe, and somewhere I can’t believe I’ve never been. I think the culture is fascinating so would love to take a trip to Athens, but I’m also massively drawn to places like Santorini and Mykonos. Sea, beach, cocktails and stunning landscapes. Yes please next year please and thank you.

Dublin

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I’ve been attempting to organise an Ireland trip for soso long, I even tried to organize a birthday trip last year which fell through (my fault, silly silly). I would love to visit Southern Ireland and stay in a cottage and go to local pubs like in PS I Love You (I need to stop basing my travel aspirations on films), but first I feel like I need to see Dublin. I’ve heard it’s expensive, but surely nothing compared to London?! I want all the Guinness at the Guinness factory, and to meet lovely Irish people, and to listen to live music and love life.

Morocco

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I feel like morocco just describes my life choices of foods, style, and everything. In fact I’ve chosen a Moroccan restaurant for my birthday meal because YAY falafels and tagines and baklava. I can imagine that Marrakech may be a bit manic in the market sense but something I definitely want to experience. Plus I can buy lotsa materials and decor to make my room even MORE overly bohemian and fun.

Mexico

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Again, food is one of my main motivations behind wanting to go to Mexico. I think it’s probably my fave cuisine, falafels aside. Also watching Spectre last week and the ‘Day of the Dead’ celebrations was massively cool, if a little scary. I want to go and drink tequila and dance and wear sombreros because I am oh-so-typical and I love it.

My weekend of Italian goodness

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A couple of weeks ago I took a rare weekend out of London and flew to Italy. Sounds very indulgent and la-di-da, trust, this is not a regular occurrence for me. I’m not like Jamie from made in Chelsea, deciding to take all my friends to Ibiza for a week cos we have ALL the money. I just have a lovely friend with a lovely house and a father who likes to book spontaneous family holidays. So that’s how this weekend of relaxation and family fun came about, and I am molto glad it did because wow I needed the break and detox time it brought.

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I say detox, I don’t mean it in the traditional healthy sense. We OBVIOUSLY ate many many carbs and Italian goodness and 7 course meals, because, Italy. It was more of a detox from life and cities and getting drunk and technology. And it was great. The house is situated up in the mountains of pescara where not many tourists dare to venture, and has glorious glorious 360 degree views. Being November we weren’t expecting much in the way of sunbathing, and true to form our first day brought mainly fog. So we decided to ascend into an extremely mountainous village where it was more foggy and chilly, good choices. However YES fabulous choices because we discovered ‘Nicks Bar’, a chalet type establishment with old school Guinness posters on the wall and the best hot chocolate of my life. PLUS he added some mysterious orange rum liquor, which is just what you need after a cold walk filled with random animals accosting you. Jks they were cute. This was so much the best hot chocolate that we bought 5 packets to take home and make our own deliciously Christmassy beverages.

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The next two days pleasantly surprised us through the appearance of some mid-20s sun which we thoroughly enjoyed on our roof terrace whilst sleeping and reading Bridget jones in equal measures. Usually on holiday I would be busy planning how to make the most of our time, visit all the sights, and squeeze in every vaguely-holiday-related activity we can. This time we literally just relaxed. And it was so ideal. Two hour nap at 5pm? Of course, we’re on holiday. We spent an entire morning doing a ‘photoshoot’ causing many Italian farmers to worry for our sanity. It may have involved us draping ourselves across our rented car, pretending an old crate was a jail that we had to break out of, creating a panorama clone that had hilarious consequences, and much skipping leaping ladida-ness. But hey, gotta make the most of those views, right?

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The food. Wow. Italian food is just the best isn’t it? I mean I’m not sure I could live there permanently because I would DEFINITELY get fatty boom boom but for a weekend, give me all the carbs and cheese you got. We had delicious pizzas and pastas, a meal consisting of every kind of fish and shell-type edible thing you can imagine, and a 7 course vegetarian extravaganza. Serious we had to cancel the last two courses which I’m very ashamed of but OMG SO MUCH FOOD. And beautifully presented as well.

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Food aside, my favourite thing about this holiday was spending time with my wonderful extended family. It’s been a while since we’ve had a proper holiday away together and this was just as hilarious as they always are. We ended up teaching the mothers about the terms ‘hotline bling’ and ‘booty call’ which caused them to come up with a scheme of sending us snapchats saying ‘Drake hotline blanged me’. Yep, that’s what all the kids are saying these days. We also had a standard embarrassing adult moment whereby there was a painting of a man holding a long thin vegetable and Valerie took it upon herself to ask the Italian waiters if this was meant to represent anything… Suffice it to say we all ran out of the restaurant sharpish.

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The whole weekend was just lush, I didn’t worry about the fact that I basically had no wifi, I didn’t have to think about horrible London trains and work stress and being proactive and productive all the time. I literally just chilled. In the most beautiful surroundings, which obviously made it one thousand times better. We are too guilty of trying to squeeze as much as we can into time off work, when actually the best thing for us is to relax. Life is often too much in its routine form, we don’t want to add more to the time we have out of that routine. So don’t feel guilty taking some time off to do nothing, to chill, or to go away and make the most of a friends house in a sunny country for no reason. It’s worth it.

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I’m Vegan, By the Way, Did You Know?

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OH HAI. For the month of October, or Voctober as we’re now calling it, my work friends and I have taken on the struggle that is veganism. The idea for this came about quite randomly, we wanted to do something for October (because what else really happens, except Halloween?), but we didn’t want to Stoptober because alcohol is nice. So we thought we would combine a little bit of health aspiration with sustainability goals and take on a new dietary challenge.

Vegans are renowned for making their veganism well known to everyone they come across in their day to day life, and we embraced this vegan culture muchly. How do you know someone’s vegan? Don’t worry, they will tell you. Within a day of being vegan pretty much the whole office was aware. Hi, I’m joy, I’m vegan. Oh what’s that you’re eating? No can’t have that, I’m vegan. What did you do at the weekend? Well I’m vegan, so… We probably managed to get the word vegan into every sentence. We became so obsessed that we started asking if wine has animals in it (does it? DOES IT??) and if the shredder is in fact vegan. There were positives to this ‘raising awareness’ scheme. As well as becoming very agitated with us, our colleagues also took to bringing us vegan food and making us vegan cake (most likely to shut us up). Whatever the reason, it was much appreciated, because we actually genuinely had no clue where to start.

Like the fact that to start with we only really considered cutting out the meat and dairy. Then we remembered the eggs, dammit, but we came to terms with that. No eggs for us. Which also means mayonnaise. Like srsly what. Then we remembered gelatine, and realised M&S mints have beef jelly in them. Why, M&S, why? THEN we remembered honey. I had not even considered this because who ever thinks about cruelty to bees? BEES LIKE MAKING HONEY. And I like granola and honey in my tea. But hey, vegan is vegan, and rules are rules. Whilst on our vegan journey we composed a couple of vegan catchphrases:

1. Vegans don’t take risks.

When you are vegan you MUST read all ingredients labels. I was rather lax on this and ended up eating a digestive mistakenly, oops. We decided that ‘may contain traces of’ was allowed, just about.

2. Vegans don’t complain.

Vegan is not a diet, it’s a lifestyle choice. We must embrace our choices and the sacrifices that come with them. Even when the whole office is eating the scrummiest cake in the world filled with chocolate and cream and those DAMN EGGS. It’s okay, I love having fruit for my afternoon treat.

To be honest, the mealtime foods I adjusted to quite easily. I always use almond milk in my porridge/cereal anyway, and soya yoghurt is an okay-ish substitute for yoghurt. Cous cous salad is my ideal lunch, and homemade dinners aren’t too tricky if you just make them sans-everything-that’s-nice. The thing I found most tricky was snacking. I am a SERIOUS snacker. Like totally addicted to snacks. Uh-woah-woah. Mostly I’m not even hungry I’m just bored and need something to chomp on to pass the time. In veganism my choices were basically crisps, or naked bars. Which can get slightly boring after a while. I was so desperate for snacking material at home (a crisp free zone) that I ate a tomato whole. Just bit it like an apple. Not okay.

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However, all hope was not lost! Somewhere along our vegan journey, we made the best discovery. Guess what is vegan? OREOS. Oh yeah baby. I mean, I don’t want to think about what they are actually made of if it’s not dairy, but score one for vegans. PLUS peanut butter is allowed so Oreo dipped in peanut butter = a parent trap dream made in heaven. After that discovery we basically inhaled our entire body weight in Oreos whenever the snacking monster inhabited us, which was great. Also not vegan, weirdly, jelly. It sounds like gelatine so surely it is? But no, jelly is a-okay for vegans. I don’t actually like jelly so no yay for me but there you go.

You think you might lose weight going vegan? You are wrong. Well unless you’re one of those types that actually has self control. Lack of meat and dairy doesn’t cut down calorie intake, it just forces you to eat more carbs. BAD. I also ended up replacing my usual foods with beans and beans and lentils and beans. And dates. All the farty foods. Do vegans fart a lot? So it’s actually not great for your digestive system either, thanks pulses you mean food group you. The one thing that made me MEGA HAPS was all the falafels I was allowed to eat. Falafel treat Friday was very much a thing, with all of the houmous. I mean I love falafels at the best of times, so this was just an excuse to eat more.

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The most awkward time to be vegan is when eating with lots of decidedly meaty carnivores. I had a dinner party during this time which was okay because I was in charge, but I ended up having to eat the saddest looking tofu lasagne in the world whilst everyone had oozy cheesy goodness on their plate. My friend was like ‘where is the rest of your lasagne?’ ITS NOT THERE BECAUSE VEGANS DONT HAVE FUN. Cheese is definitely the second thing I missed most, after snacks. There is NO substitute. But worse than that is going to someone else’s house for food. Because who ever wants to be that person that’s like ‘I can’t eat anything you want to cook, soz.’ Rather not, thanks.

Left to my own devices though, I actually made some surprisingly nice vegan recipe discoveries at home. With limited eating out options I ended up cooking a lot, which also saved me money (double bonus). After pinteresting A LOT of vegan foods I came across a few meals that were fast faves, including Banana Fried Bread, Tofu Scramble, Peanut Butter Cookies, Sweet Potato with Beans & Kale, and Energy Bites (snacking saviours).

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All this being said, I am sad to confess that I did not make it through the whole month. Alas, not two weeks had gone by when I found myself tempted to break free from my vegan chains. I’m going to justify this by the fact it was my sisters 21st and celebration is not at it’s most when you’re not eating a lamb shank. That’s right, shank of lamb is how I broke vegan. And also sushi the next day. After that failure debacle I decided I would at least be a weekday vegan, because at work was the easiest with the support of my fellow veganites. That lasted another couple of weeks, and then the final hurdle came and every one of us crumbled. You could say we had only one more week so why not complete it? You could also say we had rediscovered our meaty lover roots and there was no going back. I’m not really sure we can say we completed it, but we can say we gave it a good old try. My friend who actually stuck to vegan right until the last week then discovered a month old yoghurt in her fridge that had been neglected during vegan times. So she decided to eat it, because yolo, what is life without gone off yoghurt. It was apparently surprisingly yum and not of the tangy variety. What a way to re-enter the world of dairy.

All in all, I can now say that I fully understand the struggle vegans face on a day to day basis, and I am not jealous. It is DAMN. HARD. Especially when you are used to all the milky meaty goodness that a non vegan diet allows. Personally, I have very little self control when it comes to food, so such a restrictive diet was probably never going to be a good idea for me. If I had felt healthy benefits from it straight away then maybe I would have had had more incentive to give it a proper go, but I actually just felt more bloaty and ill (all the beans beans beans). I guess a sudden extreme change in diet is never going to make your body very happy, gradual would be a better idea. But where’s the fun and challenge in that? However, I am definitely going to take away some new habits and recipes from this, and I’m also going to be very aware of what’s vegan and what is not, so there’s that. Whether I make vegan choices is another question. We don’t have to go vegan to change the world, but we can make little changes. We can do meat free Mondays, or meat free lunches, or just choose the vegetarian option every now and then. But overall in life, I am decidedly of the opinion that we CAN eat meat and dairy because where would I be without all the Ben&Jerry and pizza nights. I need that in my life please. Ever since my sad tofu lasagne experience I’ve had proper lasagne cravings so tonight I’m treating myself to a real cheesy affair, thanks me. Here’s to NON vegan November, may we have all the cakes and turkey sandwiches our hearts desire.

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I Didn’t Choose The Thug Life, The Thug Life Chose Me

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So it’s happened again. Little old clumsy me has had an EPIC fail at life which has cumulated in me looking like I’ve been in a massive fight. Fear not, I am not your ultimate badman who goes around fighting people (although it’s funny to pretend I am), no. I just got silly drunk and allowed my friend to pick me up when he was MOST CERTAINLY in no fit state to do so, meaning we had a tipple topple dropping face onto floor situation.

Unfortunately none of our sensible friends were around at this point, if they had been then they might have warned us that one fall was enough, piggy backs were not the activity for us, STOP. But alas this did not happen and so again we tried the lifting, fail, drop on face. This time it was noticed that I had a face like Harry Potter when Hermione does the stinging jinx. That’s when you know it’s time to go home and get off the streets of Camden. I tried crying to my sister with the whole ‘LOOK AT MY FACEEEE’ but she was all ‘it’s dark. Go to bed.’ So sympathetic.

This kind of life fail has actually happened to me before, that time entirely my own fault. I took a run down some stairs and promptly fell smack bam onto a broken glass. Read the full story here… That was slightly worse because I scarred my boob and hopefully (PLEASE OH PLEASE) this face situation won’t scar. But nevertheless, do I not learn? Surely having been through the face-of-a-thug situation before I would do everything in my power to avoid looking like a mentalist?

I suppose this time it wasn’t really in my power, but I do have an overall clumsy nature which probably infiltrates onto others. I never wear heels and yet I probably fall over at least once whenever I go out. On this occasion I had actually already fallen over twice before the face was dropped, thanks to Bavarian beerhouse table dancing. #noregrets. So now it’s just a waiting game for my face to heal, and in the meantime making sure I explain my life to everyone I see so they don’t think I’ve been abused or taken on boxing as a career.

Sensibleness would tell me that I should have stayed home all weekend, away from the judging public eye, but alas I gave in to the FOMO peer pressure and had a wonderful time. Once you forget about your face looking like Halloween came a week early then life is no problemo and you are only a clumsy ragamuffin on the outside, not the inside. (I will always be a clumsy ragamuffin). I did have a few strange comments but mostly people just didn’t want to look at my face for risk of scaring their eyes. And that is fine by me. Dance the night away like no one cares what you look like = life mantra, and never more fitting.

I’ve chosen this experience to be the one that inspired me to start vlogging, which seems outrageous because WHO would want to debut their face on YouTube with a black eye and no makeup. But hey hey stick it to the status quo (yeah I’m talking to you Ashley Tisdale), here is me in all my life glory. I say silly a lot of times, soz about that. And that noise at the beginning is definitely the dog snoring and not me farting. Kthxbai ❤️ –> YouTube

Autumn Reflections & Resolutions

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October isn’t generally a standard time for making resolutions, cos, yknow, it’s not a new year. It can be a weird time of year because the beautifulness of summer is over, and yet we’re not quite allowed to get excited about Christmas (although I DEFINITELY am). There are lots of great things about autumn. Wrapping up in big furry coats, having an excuse to drive everywhere (lazy), speciality coffees ALL the time, nights in by the fire drinking red wine and watching X Factor… or something more sophisticated. The list goes on. But as great as it is, October is still an in between time that doesn’t have much of a purpose.

For me though, autumn always feels like the start of something new. I don’t know whether it’s all this crisp, fresh air and the hint of seasonal excitement, or just because I’ve never got out of the ‘back to school’ routine. To be honest, this is the first time I haven’t had a complete life change at this time of year. School, travels, uni, moving to Bristol, moving back to London, and now… staying in London. There’s no massive change occurring in my life and it’s a bit disconcerting. Like, I have no reason to buy new stationery and work clothes, what? I’m like a real person with a job that doesn’t centre around the school year. However, doesn’t mean I can’t use the start of the academic year as a reason to make some goals and motivational YOU CAN DO THIS life thoughts.

1. Be more active.

Autumn can be an excuse for us to get into a hibernating rut and hide under our duvets every night after work, but that’s never going to give us the gogetter attitude we need to do life. Exercise, even if it seems like the most horrible thing in the world, will always make you feel better and more alive in the long run. You can be active in a million different ways – a couple of weeks ago I went to a trampoline warehouse and did flips and played dodgeball and flung myself into foam pits, and it was absobloodylutely fantastic. It made me realise how desperately unfit I am, but I felt like a child in all the right ways and I want more of that now please.

2. Look after your body.

Listen to it. Know when it needs a fun night out, know when it needs healthy food and exercise, know when it needs indulgence and fun, and know when it just needs a day of rest.

3. Allow yourself indulgent days.

Enjoy the luxuries of life, and don’t feel bad about it. Give yourself a day off work with the aim of doing nothing, treat yourself and just spend time making yourself happy.

4. Gain skills and experience outside work.

It’s easy to think that once we’ve joined the big bad working world, that’s it, were set. We don’t need to search for work experience because that’s what work is. However you should never underestimate the importance of gaining new skills outside work, especially if you’re not sure what it is you want to do. Volunteer at a youth club, organise events, take online courses (there’s lots of free ones that are actually mega good, try Future Learn), start a new hobby, do anything! It will also give your life more variety and stop that whole ‘searching for newness’ thing.

5. Don’t let anyone influence the way you live your life.

The only person you have to make happy is you. You decide how you spend your time, and who you spend your time with. Make time for the people who uplift you rather than drag you down. You know who will always be there for you, who will prioritise you and have your best interests at heart, and who will never say no when you need to hang out/go out/chat shit. Surround yourself with those people always. Never take them for granted because they are your life.

6. Laugh more.

When’s the last time you laughed so hard you cried? Those moments in life are SO much more important than you realise, and they generally come when you’re with the aforementioned most important people in your life. The best times aren’t always filling your life with events and activities. They are being completely silly and laughing at yourself because ‘oh US, we are so hilarious’ until you have no idea what you’re even laughing at anymore.

7. Discover new places.

My friends and I have decided to try one new place per month, with the hope that we’ll find some that we love and can make into our regular haunts. There are soooo many great places in London that I hear about on the grapevine and instantly forget, so go to the same places time after time. That stops now. Our first one occurred recently and was quite a spontaneous choice but ended up being 100% GREAT. It’s called The Piano Works and it’s basically two pianos, some groovy (yes groovy is absolutely the word of choice here) singers and a backup jazz band who play any song you want. Just write it on their ultra cool napkins and give them a tip if you’re extra generous and REALLY need to hear this song. They also have de-licious cocktails in the manner of gin elderflower and prosecco combinations. Yum. Any more suggestions for new places to try please? Next on my list is The South London Soul Train in Peckham and Cahoots.

8. Appreciate your family.

Make time for them, treat them well, and don’t take them for granted. At the end of the day they’re the ones that will always be there to feed you good healthy foods and bail you out when you’ve spent all your money AGAIN (thanks guys). So make them feel appreciated, they deserve it.

9. Create more homemade foods.

Every now and then after an indulgent weekend I get this feeling like WOW I HAVE EATEN ALL THE FOODS IN THE WORLD WHAT IF I DIE FROM MAHOOSIVE BELLY. I love food ridiculous amounts, but eating out all the time can leave you feeling bloaty, gluttonous and empty in pockets. The feeling after a big hearty home cooked meal is so much more satisfying. Even if you’re the same amount of fullness, the fact that it’s been freshly made by YOU just has a better feel for your tummy and mind. I’ve attempted to go vegan for October (post on THAT palava to follow) so I’ve had to make lots of food at home, and being forced to do that has been nice. I now want to make the time to buy new foods and try new recipes at home at least semi regularly.

10. Read more inspirational quotes.

I love a good inspirational quote, mainly because I fully embrace the cringeness of them and basically allow them to influence my life choices. When I lived in Bristol doing the most boring job known to man, myself and a friend had a deal that we would send each other at least one quote a day. Of course this meant that I would spend 50-60% of my day scrolling through Pinterest quotes to find the perfect ones. Since having a job where I’m actually busy I’ve had less time to quote my life up, but the great Hannah Gale recently reminded me of the importance of a bit of inspiration. I’m now making it my mission to find one quote a day that’s relevant to my life, because we need a reminder that the petty worries we have aren’t what life’s all about, and there are greater things out there waiting for you. Let’s start off with a fave of mine:

“Take time to do what it is that makes your soul happy.”

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Escaping London for a Weekend: Bristol

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I often ramble on about hating London, the commute, the stress, the busy busy unfriendly people and the lack of chill time. I think one of the reasons I feel like that is because I’ve been stuck in the London bubble for a long time with no escape. I had allowed the negative aspects of London to annoy me on a daily basis because I hadn’t taken a break away from the busy city life.

This weekend I took the opportunity to go back to the city that holds my heart, Bristol. I always have this feeling when I’m driving into Bristol, like, a breath of relief. Like I’ve been holding my breath in some way the whole time I’ve been going about my London life, and then I arrive in Bristol and it’s welcoming and it’s happiness and quirkiness and me.

I think there are two sides to my happiness at a weekend away from London; on the one hand I’m just happy to have a change and I think any other city would give me that. It’s refreshing to leave your bubble of life and routine, get away from the standard places you go to and experience something different.

On the other hand, it’s being in Bristol specifically that makes me happy. I hadn’t been back in over six months – the longest since starting university! Bad Bristol lover. So returning to the city for a weekend of fun, rediscovering great Bristol hangouts, and catching up with friends, was always going to be pretty exciting.

The main purpose of my visit was to go to the Oxjam Bristol Takeover, which I was involved in organising last year. Oxjam is an annual music festival organised by volunteers in aid of Oxfam, raising money to fight poverty whilst discovering many great unsigned bands. Oxjam Bristol takes place in Stokes Croft, home to some of the most fabulous venues in the city.

My all-time fave new discovery of the weekend was the Chilli & Ginger Cider served at The Crofters Rights. I don’t usually love drinking cider on a night out because it’s fizzy and bloating, but Bristol just does cider so damn well that it’s not an issue. Plus the ginger in this bad boy has a settling effect on the belly (much needed after too many crisps and dips) which makes it even more ingenious.

We also had the good old favourite Lazy Jacks, and a lot of gin. A lot a lot. The Crofters Rights also provided my favourite dancing moment of the night, whilst watching The Rin Tins, a fabulous folky jazzy jive band (a music combination that you can’t NOT dance to). We had a hilarious time getting fully involved and I ended up being flung around the room by a randomly amazing swing dancer man. All the great feels.

Apparently when I go back to Bristol I take on a student state of mind and so thought it absolutely acceptable to purchase a large cheesy chips with lashings of garlic mayo and BBQ. It must have seemed scrumptious because the man next to me took one look and said ‘I’ll have that, please.’

Sunday gave me the opportunity for some Autumn walking around Bristol time with one of my faves. We had some Italian ‘al dente’ pasta foods from Aquila (not the best meal of my life, bad choices, always stick to what you know) and a wonderful afternoon tea experience at The Tea Birds.

Sitting outside drinking tea and eating cake in Autumn is actually a fabulous thing to do. The tea warms you, and there is much people watching to be done which is a favourite activity of ours. People also kept looking at our cake with jealousy so I’m pretty sure we created business for the cafe. They should hire us as permanent example-cake-eater-advertisers. OMG what a great job.

Having a weekend of rediscovering Bristol and my love for the city really made me realise that London isn’t me, I can’t find my place here. I’m living my life in London but it feels like I’m experiencing a city that I’m not really part of. I don’t belong in central London, I’m just a visitor who happens to work here, and as much as I LOVE my home town on the outskirts I don’t fully belong there either. In Bristol I feel a part of the city, part of the buildings and the people and the events and it’s just me. I made Bristol my home, it was the first place I lived independently and I embraced it in every way possible.

Everyone is different. Obviously, many many people love London, and enjoy it in a different way to me, and that’s great. I can see the appeal and there are so many fantastic things to do and opportunities here. But unfortunately for me personally there are too many bugbears and pet hates that I have about London that influence the way I see my life here, and that won’t change.

I don’t plan on leaving London any time soon, my life and my friends are here, but I won’t stay forever, and I need little trips away to remind me of that. London can suck you into a stress-inducing unhealthy way of living, and that’s what I don’t need. Bristol has given me a little taster of lushness, and I want more of that please.

Is Too Much Career Choice a Bad Thing?

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I love the fact that at our age there are so many options open to us. It’s not seen as weird or flakey to change career direction, it’s seen as building your portfolio of experience. We have so many transferable skills that we can pretty much try our hand at anything, bar things like medicine or architecture that take a million years of study. And I truly believe that we need to try lots of different options, to see what fits. How do you know if a career is the right one for you until you try it? Your dream job could be completely different to how you imagined it, and yet you could end up loving something you might never have considered. But when does this career trial period of life come to an end? Is there so much choice that we never feel fully satisfied in a job because we know there are always other options for us to explore?

I’m the kind of person who lives way too much in the future, constantly thinking about exciting trips and events and future life plans. I know I need to live more in the moment and enjoy the now, but I think it’s just embedded in my personality. And it’s for this reason that no matter what I’m doing or how much I enjoy it, part of my mind is always considering other opportunities. I imagine myself in so many other situations just to distract myself from the minutiae of everyday routine. I’ll actually walk past builders and think to myself, what if that was my life. I’ll look at everyone on the tube and try and guess what they do, and then imagine myself in their shoes. Obviously I don’t want to be a builder and I definitely couldn’t be even if I tried, but the idea of a totally new different life excites me, whatever it is.

What I’m really trying to escape is routine and repetition. As soon as I’m settled in a job and a way of life, my brain has become used to that routine and is no longer whirring with the newness of it. So it needs something else to focus on. And the thing is, whatever else I did, I would go through exactly the same process. Any change in job or life is exciting for the first few months, but eventually you always settle into a routine.

So what can we do as eternal ‘flitters’, the butterflies of the career world? How do we satisfy our need for change and excitement and novelty in our job choices? I do believe that eventually we will find a life routine that makes our souls happy. It’s probably not about routine being a bad thing, it’s about the routine that you are in. Or maybe it’s about finding a job that doesn’t limit you to a specific routine, that changes daily.

Routine isn’t all about the job or career you’ve chosen, either. Your life choices that take place outside of your career play a massive part too. I think we all need to realise that finding a job and a life you really enjoy takes time, and we shouldn’t just rush from job to job without allowing ourselves to actually settle into anything. Satisfaction comes from getting really good at something, learning new things everyday, and becoming comfortable and familiar with your role and your organisation. Too quickly our mind travels to the idea of a complete life change, as soon as we get slightly bored of what we have now. Change is exhausting as well as exciting, and constantly looking for new and different things to do with our lives can’t be healthy for our minds. Allowing ourselves to enjoy the here and now will have a massive impact on our happiness and energy.

Of course, there is a definite possibility that the job you do is completely unsuited to you, and in that case you’re allowed to consider other options. But I also believe that when the time is right, opportunities will come to you. You might love the place you work but hate your role, in which case instead of flying to the other side of the world you could explore options and experiences within that organisation. You might have a hobby or skill which you never realised could actually be turned into a career. You might need to go back to studying in order to get your dream job, and that’s okay. Or you might need to take some time out of the career world to travel or volunteer in order to realise what your life calling is, and that’s okay too.

This might be a bit of a tangent and is probably a whole separate discussion, but I think the strain of living and working in London has a big influence on our wellbeing. We probably blame our jobs for our frustration with life and daily routine, but the truth is, London life is draining. We see all the opportunities for fun that London offers but we never have time to make the most of them because we’re not on holiday, we’re living a life. We feel a constant need to keep up with the hustle and bustle of London busybodies, so we’ll attempt to rent a fun flat and do fun things because YOLO but then AHH how am I ever going to buy a house and be a grown up. And then even when we find a place, no one in their twenties can afford to live as central as they would like, so we add 1-2 hours to our working day just travelling on hot sweaty tubes. Naaada fun.

This was not meant to be a rant about London, because I love it and it’s great and all. But I think we too often search for a new career because something about life isn’t satisfying us, and we don’t consider other factors. We could move from job to job within London, or any city, without finding something that sticks. Maybe we should be looking outside the box of life that we sit in and the circles we move in. Maybe we shouldn’t be afraid to take a leap and step out of our comfort zone.

Only you know what makes you happy, whether that’s the career you’re in, or the career you want, or something else entirely. All I know is constantly searching for something when you’re not sure of what probably isn’t going to lead you anywhere. We need to learn to enjoy where we are in our lives at the moment, but not be scared to embrace opportunities. Because before you know it everything will be changing and we’ll be oldies settling down, and that is scary as HELL.

Europe Travelling Vibes: Croatia

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Croatia. Oh you beauty you. The last stop on our interrail trip, we had a week to explore the islands and the amazingly blue seas. And boy were we ready for some chill time, most certainly. We emerged from our 15 hour train shells of our former selves, only to have the heavens open on us. Seriously Croatia what are you doing. But it was fine, because we ran to our ferry only to watch it leave the port with one minute to spare. Continuation of the bad luck and all that… So we took our sorry selves to a rainy gazebo where our bags and selves got soaked as we awaited the next ferry. Once we finally arrived on the island of Brac we discovered we were too early to get into our apartment so we had to sit on the terrace for 2 hours watching a lady clean it. All the funs. Grace had meanwhile contracted the fat-foot-cankle-erupted-blister disease and couldn’t move so Laura and I went on the hunt for medicines and foods.

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A couple of hours later and we were on route to the beach, taking a walk past some pretty spectacular views to get there. Let me tell you, you will never have a better sunbathe than after a night of no sleep on a train and that palava of a journey. We had this feeling like WE DESERVE THIS, WE HAVE WORKED FOR THIS. I have never so much craved a salty sea to wash away all my sins and dirt and wounds. As you can imagine, we fell so fast asleep in the sun that ain’t no one in the world had a hope of waking us. Every so often one of us would awake with a jolt and a fear of sunburn, realise the others were still zonko, and succumb to sleep once again. However there did come a time where the sea decided to ruin our fun and start lapping at our feet. What about this tide thing, eh? Can’t the sea just stay the same distance always? (Geographer over here). We took the opportunity to explore the rest of the harbour, and found The. Best. Ice cream. Of life. Raspberry yoghurt, snickers, chocolate fudge, you name it they had it in glorious ice cream quality. So much lushness in a dairy product stuck on a wafer cone. We scoffed our ice creams with our fantas sat in a beautiful bar area called Yolo. Yes that’s right, we had discovered a yolo bar. It was too perfect. That evening we were in much need of a good nights sleep in our air conditioned apartment (double bed to myself, just saying. Snoring works in your favour sometimes), so after a lovely seafood dinner in a romantic beachside restaurant we bought chocolate and juice and retired for the night.

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We got into a bit of a morning routine whilst Bol was our home, Laura would wake early and sunbathe outside for a bit before walking down to the bakery to pick us up some pain au chocolat. What a babe, what would we do without her mothering tendencies. Grace would emerge at the smell of pastries, and I would crawl out of bed at the latest possible socially acceptable time. The only exception to the beauty of this routine was our extremely hungover morning where Laura ended up vomming on the road into town. If you think that stopped her mission for croissants, you are wrong. She is a trouper.

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After our first beach day, we realised we could actually get a choo choo tourist train to the larger famous Zlatni Rat beach (all the hilarious slutty jokes), which was where it was all at. The beach is shaped kind of like a horn, which means you can watch people and their wet hair walking up and down the beach from both sides. People watch what?! We don’t do that… We had a few glorious days of sunbathing on that wonder of a horn beach. It felt amazing to have the time to chill and read a book and listen to music for the first time this holiday. And work on that all important tan of course. If I went back I would definitely trial out some of the water activity obstacle courses they had, cos it looked basically like being on total wipeout. Sadly I was too much of a poor lady at the time. And also, yknow, laziness.

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The nightlife of Bol was an interesting one. We had no expectations as this was our chilled part of the holiday, but of course we had to explore the options. Aforementioned pauper status led us to purchase cartons of wine for pre-drinking on our terrace. Who are we? It got us suitably merry for the dangerous cobbled cliff walk down to town, good choices. Our best discovery was what we called the Tiki Tiki bar, because it was basically a terrace covered with Palm trees and Tiki themed things (no idea of it’s actual name). They served a multitude of fabulous cocktails, and played some banging tunes from their outdoor DJ deck. It seemed that everyone who was anyone in Bol chose to spend their evening in the Tiki bar, we met many many travellers (all the floppy hair Australians and cheeky Irish), and also a rather creepy stalker man who was the epitome of dad dancing and who decided to take grace on a whirl. The only sad thing about Tiki was the closing time – 1am! Whoever is finished with their night at 1am I just don’t know. Luckily, our previous discovery yolo bar had a late night party going on. Tequilas galore and inadvisable drink mixing, Laura and I had an extremely fun drunken time (grace was lost again obvs). We were offered some vodka from the ‘daddy bought me a boat so I flew all my rah friends to Croatia’ crew, so that was just great.

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This crew inspired us to create some alter egos for ourselves, and dance moves to go with them. Grace became the spoiled Daddy’s girl, on her tenth gap yah spending all her moneys on yachts. Her dance move looked a bit like a slut thrust with a ‘show me the money’ hand gesture. Laura became event planner extraordinaire, she single-handedly organised Glastonbury didn’t you know. Of course she employed the Laura two-step one-step dance with a festival air punch. And Joy was the hippie travel yoga retreat ladida who set up Oxfam. Y’know, that person. My move was inspired by the tree dance, combined with some interpretive inspiration. Every time we were out dancing from then on it was a case of, “Alteregos. Go.” And then commenced the spectacle that was us. People love it.

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One of these moments occurred at the beach party on Zlatni Rat. This wasn’t your average beach party, oh no. After getting the pina coladas in at 4pm (standard holiday behaviour), the music stopped and out came a man with an electro violin accompanied by dancers wearing fishnet thongs. I mean, fabulous and all, but it was slightly strange that the beach bar was still full of families who then decided to take photos of their children with the dancers whilst they had some shisha. Each to their own. Electro violin man turned out to be one of the greatest things we had observed so far this holiday. It was just wow. He leaped across the palm trees and bar seats with his crazy smiley face and performed beautiful intense Swedish House Mafia inspired vibrato tunes. Electro violin, a great night out, who knew. DJs then came out with every hit European song you’ve heard of or haven’t heard of and the crowd became rather ‘Ibiza bumbag lads on drugs’ styley. We escaped to watch the b-e-a-utiful sunset and run into the sea and scream at massive bugs and laze around on bean bags.

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Our time in Bol had to come to an end at some point, and sad as we were to leave, we were very excited to venture across the sea to the famous Hvar. We had a 2 hour boat journey which consisted of sunbathing on the roof and a spontaneous jump into the sea, the most refreshing way to start the day. With only one full day in Hvar we wanted to make the most of it, so on hostel mans advice we took a taxiboat over to the small island of Jeromin and spent the day on a beautifully secluded rocky beach. You had to walk through a foresty area which had a hippie bar with bucket flush toilets and hammocks that we just cannot. Falling through holes like beached whales. We lay on our rocks eating our ham and cheese sandwiches (the girls wouldn’t allow me to bring gherkins to the beach. Like, what.) and took a swim over to the pontoon which was the pinnacle of sunbathing glory. Our people watching tendencies led us to discover that we were alongside a nudist beach, with people very much in the nude showing off for all to see. Lovely sights. And then the people watching took a new level…

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Joy: “That looks like Curtis.” Laura: “Oh yes, from that angle it does.” Grace: “He is actually in Croatia you know. OMG ITS CURTIS.” Joy: “I’m going to shout his name so we can see if it’s him.” Grace: “NONONONONONONONO. I am not stalker.” Laura: “Lets go swim over to him for lols.” Grace: “NONONONONONONO. I am not stalker. Well okay.” So much laughings, what is life, we are life, the world is a small small place. Hi Curtis, bum slaps, “That MUST be Grace Shellard.” Wowsa.

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Our night out in Croatia had been planned meticulously from the very beginning of our holiday, but fate and the weather decided to get in our way so sadly we did not experience the Carpe Diem club island. We did however go to ‘frat bar’ Hula Hula and danced on tables and chairs whilst drinking cocktails. Stereotype it may be, but it was genuinely full of Americans who genuinely swam over to the bar from their yachts. And who then genuinely bought prosecco and sprayed it all over everyone, many times. All the frat vibes. We did a little bar crawl to Nautica and Aloha, got some free shots and did some dancing. Then the heavens opened so the one sheltered bar became a very sweaty and claustrophobe affair. Sacked that off, dancing in the rain is much more preferable. I decided I was a hippie and demanded everyone must take off their shoes and feel grounded to the earth through their feet. Who am I? We got very wet. Attempts at other bars were made, but postcodes were lost down throats and the rain just would not let us have more funs so afterparties and gins were the only options. Being us and having no shame, we got Curtis’ friend with a fabulous narrative voice to read out his claim to fame through my blog, How Not to Date in 10 Steps. It was an overall embarrassing and cringeworthy experience for all involved, but obviously hilarious.

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We definitely did not have enough time to experience Hvar fully, so leaving on the morning ferry was a sad moment. However we had one more day of Croatian loving on the coastal town of Split. With optimum tans being of the highest priority, we spent the entire day on a little local beach, reminiscing and sleeping and swimming in the gloriously blue shiny salty sea. We had been recommended a quaint little restaurant called ‘Buffet Fife’, where the waiter decided to set us up on a blind date with two nerdy Oxford boys, thanks. The menu consisted of many many fishes, as well as “Beans” and “Boiled Meat”. Croatian delicacies? The fish came looking very much whole and alive, but was scrummily delicious, so well done Buffet Fife. I would recommend you to all Croatian travellers. With a 5am wakeup for our flight home we weren’t after a mental night, but we had to see what Split could offer in the way of drinkies. After 3 hour showers (“I have to moisturise”) and beers on the balcony, we walked through the pretty Palace walls to a cheap and cheerful alleyway bar called Charlies. The vibes weren’t quite right so we ate some pizza on the harbour and then chased after the bright lights and fabulous music we could see in the distance. Turned out to be an amazing outdoor Ibiza style DJ bar, good finds. We kept trying to leave because sleep was calling but then another great song would play and we ran back because MORE DANCING PLEASE. Don’t ever let it end. We are so not ready to go home.

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But the time had come, after two wonderfully adventurous and yolo weeks of Europe vibes, to catch our flight back to the UK. The adventures weren’t quite over yet, we had a stop over in Cologne and although we didn’t get to leave the airport we ate German sausages and pretzels in the airport so I’d like to say we can add that to our list of country experiences. Interrailing, you are the one. You ruined my liver and voice, and of course bad luck came calling at many moments because this is us, but you gave us hands down one of the best experiences of life. As great as it is to venture halfway across the world, Europe has so much to offer any traveller and every country has its own little thang that makes it exciting or crazy or just plain great. We squeezed so many experiences and adventures into two weeks, and I could do it all again tomorrow. Next stop….?

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