A glass of cheap local whisky loose in my hand, I am deep in conversation with a group of travellers, bundled up close to a flickering campfire. A mix of nationalities, some of the group I have known for weeks and some only a couple of hours yet our mutual adoration of travel and adventure has bonded us instantly and we are all smiles, the conversation flowing effortlessly. I am 22 years old and two months into an epic 8-month long backpacking trip around Southeast Asia. Life is very good indeed and my new nomadic and unperturbed lifestyle is a welcome change after a difficult past year living in London.
Joined with two of my best girlfriends Abbie and Dawn, last month in September I embarked on an epic two week trip of the USA covering New York, various parts of California and the hedonist’s ultimate dream spot, Las Vegas. Now in the depth of chilly autumn, it’s fair to say the holiday blues are still niggling away at me!
One of my favourite spots we visited was the unbelievable Yosemite National Park in Northern California, so here I am to spam away with my many photos and some details on our experience at the park.
With a limited number of days off work in a year, I love to make the most of the bank holidays with prolonged weekends away. For the early May bank holiday last month, I decided to do exactly that, heading to Lausanne in Switzerland!
My close friend Morgane, who I lived with in Australia, is actually studying in Lausanne, a city in the French-speaking part of Switzerland. This brought up the perfect opportunity to visit a country I had never been to and to reunite with her and another friend I had met in Australia, Charlotte. It was nice because Switzerland has never particularly been a country that I’ve been desperate to visit (there are many other countries in Europe that are further top of my hit list) so heading over I felt relaxed, with no pressure or high expectations.
However, I would soon become utterly impressed with the stunning scenery of the place!
As most of you reading this will know, I’d been away from the UK and my friends and family for a whopping 20 months, spending 8 months voyaging South-East Asia and a year working and living in Sydney, Australia. Well, I’ve been home for about 4 months now and what a jam-packed 4 months it’s been! From catching up with loved ones to visiting some of my favourite cities in Europe and then easing back into working here in London again, it’s sure been a very busy and eventful time in my life.
Although I do miss Australia a lot and often catch myself reminiscing fondly over the endless hot beach days, there’s definitely one thing I’m excited about being back in the UK and that is: CHRISTMAS!
Christmas in Australia felt very strange, very alien to me. It’s not really a huge deal over there and I missed the festivities, the Christmas trees, the crazy lights and the cheer. I’ll tell you a secret; I even missed the cold. Now that’s saying something!
So, feeling extra, extra festive this year (I’m not sure my friends and family can really believe it) I’ve been making the most of the festivities offered across London. And there’s definitely a lot to do! So, here are some of the best Christmas-related events and things to do across England’s lovely capital this year. You’re welcome.
As my time in Sydney and Australia slowly draws to a close, I’ve already started reflecting on my life here. All in all, it’s been an absolutely incredible and memorable year, full of wonderful highs as well as some heart-breaking lows (which usually involved me having to say goodbye to some of the amazing people I’ve met out here). I came to Sydney straight from travelling South-East Asia for 8 months, knackered from non-stop moving about and not entirely convinced that setting up in a city on the opposite side of the world from London, my home, was really a great idea. My friends I was travelling with were going back to England, and due to some health issues I had towards the end of my trip I wasn’t really in the mood to start afresh and make new friends.
Yet the opportunity was there, and I didn’t want to have any regrets so I swallowed my doubts and powered on. Turns out it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made, I’ve met some really incredible people and my year here has been one of the best ever. And as I write this, I feel slightly sick to the stomach that soon I’ll be leaving this beautiful country.
Sydney has been my home in Australia for 10 months and I’ve absolutely fallen in love with it. The city is full of lively suburbs, incredible beaches and memorable spots that I will always hold close to my heart. Here are some that really stood out for me.
Indonesia was one of my favourite countries travelling SE Asia, and that was mainly because there was so much to do and with so much variety. From delicious beaches to jaw-droppingly beautiful scenery, to action-packed activities, Indonesia seemed to have it all. And fortunately for us, we had a good chunk of time to spend exploring the culture-rich country. Java, home to the Country’s capital Jakarta, was a real treat to explore and we spent almost 2 weeks discovering every nook and crevice (well, not really, but it sure felt like it!).
I was extremely excited to head over to the Philippines 6 months into our travels. It seemed to be off the typical Southeast Asia ‘banana pancake’ trail and I’d heard through the grapevine that it had a completely unique vibe. But I had been warned that Boracay, known as the party spot of the Philippines was extremely busy and touristy. So, I mentally prepared myself for the ‘Brits abroad’ type of tourist, or perhaps a similar crowd that frequent Thailand’s full moon parties on a regular basis.
However, I was pleasantly surprised. Sure, Boracay was definitely a tourist hotspot. But, it seemed to be a tourist hotspot for those living in the Philippines and other countries in Asia, which was definitely new to me! So after settling into our hostel (MNL beach hostel – which was pretty good), I was keen to grab a beer and get to know some of the locals.
As soon as I arrived in the incredible city-state of Singapore, gazing up at the teeming skyscrapers and marveling at the fast-paced hustle of my surroundings, I was eager to explore. However after months spent indulging on the likes of £3 foot massages in Thailand and huge cheap-as-chips exotic spreads of food in Laos, when we arrived in Singapore things seemed… not so cost-efficient.
On a pretty strict travel budget, me and my travel buddies made sure to try our very best not to spend too much in Singapore. Here’s how we did it:
Our time spent in Malaysia consisted of visiting some really cool places, including the likes of the lush jungles of Taman Negara and the bustling atmospheric city of Kuala Lumpur. However, my favourite spot in Malaysia were the idyllic Perhentian Islands, hands down. Why was this, you may ask?
To put it quite simply, the small grouping of islands situated off the coast of Northeast Malaysia are absolute postcard perfect paradise.
Whilst planning my Southeast Asia trip, I have to admit that the idea of visiting Myanmar hadn’t even crossed my mind. I didn’t really know much about the country and in all honesty, my initial perceptions of it was that it was quite dangerous for tourists to visit. Of course, I was completely wrong.
However as I became more familiar with travelling Southeast Asia and I met more and more travellers who could only sing Myanmar’s praises, I became increasingly keen to visit this country that sounded so fascinating, so intriguingly different to anywhere else I’d heard of. I had been told that now is prime time to visit, as it is one of the few countries in Southeast Asia that isn’t teeming with tourists, fast food outlets and commerciality. And being the curious little explorer that I am, I sure didn’t want to miss out!
I toyed with the idea for a while. It wasn’t originally part of my plan, so my time there would be limited, or I would have to sacrifice plans in other parts of Southeast Asia. As well as that, my friends weren’t willing to pay for the extra visa costs and flights to get there, and one downfall of the country being so uninterrupted by tourists meant that it would be harder to meet other backpackers.
But when did that stop me? With good timing, I made a plan to go with someone I had met back in Laos and we decided to go for 2 weeks. I usually spend about 3-4 weeks in each country in Southeast Asia, so I knew it would be a challenge to see everything I wanted in just 2 weeks. Here’s how we crammed it all in.