Just a day in Bali Paradise…

Just a day in Bali Paradise…

I checked out of the swanky Sanur hotel and I heard a voice shout my name. It was Made (pronounced Mah-day). He was sitting in the lobby and stubbed out his cigarette and smiled at me. Something about his smile was so comforting. He was the kind of character that within minutes of his company I felt like I had known him my whole life, very familiar with kind eyes. He dressed casually in a t-shirt and jeans but still had an air of being presentable. He appeared to be in his 40s but I later learned he is only in his early 30s – perhaps life had trodden him down a little. I had met him prior to today as he is the Nephew of an old Balinese friend and he offered reliable transport. Today was different; today Made’s eyes were full of concern. It turned out his Father had a stroke and he needed to get him to the hospital urgently. I asked him why he didn’t cancel picking me up as I would have been happy to get a taxi. He looked stunned and quickly responded, “Nooo!” I also asked him why his father could not get an ambulance. Made told me that ambulances are not sent for ‘trivial’ things like strokes! Being an ambulance clinician myself in England, this really stunned me. A stroke is serious and is treated as a time critical incident in England, yet here in this Balinese paradise, over-swarmed by western tourists to the point that you could be in Sydney, an ambulance was saved for something more serious!! This highlighted even more how the healthcare service in England is abused by so many!! But also, how in the developing world, the idea of turning down paid work to take your urgently sick parent to hospital is impossible. My heart broke a little for Made.

I arrived back to the cosy hotel in Kuta that I have stayed in many times before over the past 7 years. The local shop owners recognise me. One in particular, a young lady called Putu always recognised me, even when I return pasty and white some years later. “Lou!” She shouts as I walk past her shop. Putu was always smiling, come rain or shine. She invited me into the back of her shop where a small child was screaming on a small dirty mattress. I joined Putu on the mattress and she explained to me that Olivia (her daughter; one of four!) was upset because their family friend had left to return to Australia. Putu went on to tell me how blessed and happy she was. I looked around the small cramped room that she lived in with a small mattress to share with four small children and I felt a pang of guilt. Putu was grateful and happy to have her shop and a roof over their heads. I couldn’t help but retrace the thoughts I have had over the past 2 years and all the difficulties I have faced which one would consider ‘first world problems’ and yet here was Putu who had next to nothing but she was so happy and always smiling. It really put things into perspective for me.

Soon after, I left Putu’s shop feeling a little dazed and strolled through the humid heat around the buzzing lanes of Kuta. I found a tailor shop filled with hard working local men working on sewing machines. I am a keen sewist and asked if I could watch them for a while. Within no time they had me working on a machine, for fun of course. However, the thick humid heat swelled in the room with a small dusty fan which may as well have not been there. Whilst I struggled to concentrate and work in that heat with sweat pouring from my entire body, the employees mostly had their shirts off and a cigarette hanging loosely from their lips, casually working away, cutting fabric, ironing, overlocking. I admired them so much. Naturally being a western white woman, lots of tourists walked past and giggled at the sight of me working in this shop filled with Indonesian men, but I didn’t mind. I actually got a glimpse of an insight into what life is like working in poverty-stricken Asia and I noticed that they don’t take ‘days off’, they will work 80 hours a week without a complaint if it pays the bills. This again gave me perspective on my life. Yes, my job is challenging, but I DO have days off and down time to put my feet up. I doubt very many do in Indonesia and similar countries. I stayed in the shop for several hours and found a new sympathy for the local businesses “harassing” tourists for business. Seeing things from the other side softened my heart.

I had been reading a book about he Bali bombings (The Paradise Guesthouse, Ellen Sussman – highly recommended) and felt an overpowering need to visit the memorial site. The book had made the incident feel so real to me, all those who lost their lives. I was pulled to the location of the bombings and stood for a while, staring at the plaque listing the full names of all those who lost their lives on that tragic day. For some reason, I couldn’t walk away until I had read the full names of all 202 people who passed away and tried to imagine a little something about their lives, be it local Indonesians or Portuguese solo travellers.

The rain started beating down, harsher than a power shower and I slinked off into the shelter of a local pub for a beer. What a day it had been! A real eye opener. It’s days like these that keep my desire to travel burning forever.

I later found out that Made’s father was treated for his stroke and is on the road to recovery, much to my happiness and relief!

Cuddle Your Globe

Jan 2017

How often should we travel?

Whilst some people’s idea of happiness is to get a mortgage and pay off their debts, enslaved to a full time job, this is the idea of hell to others. 

In an ideal world we should be travelling constantly. We were not designed to buy a house and never leave it. The world is impossibly large for a reason, to explore it.

So if, like me, you cannot afford to travel constantly, so have the home and a full time job and waste hours dreaming about travel… How often should we get away?

When I used to work in travel, a month would never pass that I wasn’t on a plane, and I loved it! Nowadays I am lucky if I get away more than once a year. And I don’t even have kids or a mortgage. 

So I decided to travel with work, set up a new life across the country and start a fresh. It’s great because there is a whole new part of the world to explore and it’s fresh and exciting all the time. Although, nothing quite beats getting a flight and travelling a new continent..

  

The ‘Alien’ Feeling in a Foreign Land

The ‘Alien’ Feeling in a Foreign Land

I have recently moved to a new area, alone, hundreds of miles from my loved ones. This has inspired this post….

“Please don’t be offended if I am staring. People watching goes to a whole new level in a place with a different culture, attitude and accent. Likewise with looking at buildings and landscapes. It is all shiny and new to me, even if you have seen it a thousand times before.

Please don’t follow me around the store because I look nervous, to the shop assistant. I have come in the store to buy something to cheer me up. I am nervous; I don’t know anybody here. I am not shoplifting.

Please don’t stare at me, to the man with his girlfriend / wife. I am not interested in somebody who is ‘taken’ and do not want to make enemies with your partner.

Please be welcoming. One nice word or act of kindness can change a very lonely feeling to a much happier one. Thank you to those who have done so.

Please ask me questions. If you are curious as to why I am alone, or why you have not seen my face around before, please ask me. I am happy to open up and share my story and would love to hear yours.

Please accept that this is hard. It is possibly the most difficult thing I have ever done. I am not crazy for moving somewhere new, but brave and hopeful for a better life. For after all, like birds, we are not meant to stay in the same spot forever.”

There are People Still Unaccounted for in this World.

There are People Still Unaccounted for in this World.

In developed countries, busy commuting to college or work, it’s easy to think this is normality for the entire world. We all moan about our governments and healthcare systems etc etc, but we hardly ever stop to appreciate the fact that we have them.

When travelling to the outback, farthest depths of developing countries, it’s only then when it hits you, hard, that there are people, families, children, who are ‘unknown’. They are not a statistic, they do not have a passport, they do not have a bank account. They live in the same clothes day in, day out, perhaps in a tent in the desert with nothing around for miles but their family.

I was fortunate enough to sit with such a family and drink tea with them in the Wadi Rum Desert in Jordan some years back. There was not a trace of electricity or television. They had simple cushions and blankets under a basic tent to provide shelter from the punishing heat. Two young boys played up in the rocks while their parents sat with us and talked. They were generous and offered what they could and more importantly, they seemed happy. Imagine a life where education and employment doesn’t exist. Only skills for survival..

The youngest of the two boys was coughing, a lot. I work in healthcare so I could tell he had a pretty bad lower airway infection. This family, with their simple means of survival, had no easy access to antibiotics. Even a shower.

In the developed world we lose our minds because our network provider ‘crashes’ for an hour, disabling access to making phone calls. But this family, they had never seen an iPad before.

Really makes you think.

The Top 6 Best and Worst Bits about Travel.

The Top 6 Best and Worst Bits about Travel.

Travel isn’t always beaches, sunsets and floating around in awe. There are amazing perks, for sure! Don’t be fooled, there are very crappy bits too…

Top 6 Best Bits About Travel

1. Experience. By this I mean soaking in new sights, doing something new and challenging outside of your comfort zone; this is the best.

2. Meeting new people. We make friends constantly when we travel, and they are usually like minded people on our wavelength and they are the best!

3. Culture and dining. Seeing how other people get by day-to-day is truly enriching. Eating the food and flavours they create is a wonderful part of travel. Each nation has a signature dish and its great to try new things.

4. Climate. Often where we travel to will have a drastically different climate to home. Be it snow or sunshine, it’s great to experience a landscape with a different season. Skiing down a mountain, or laying on a beach topping up that tan… Bliss!

5. Activities. Travel always pushes us to our limits and a large percentage of people who travel are more likely to take part in something whilst away than they would at home. In turn, this makes us happier and builds self esteem.

6. Escape. By far one of the best bits about travel is escaping our own versions of reality. We imagine what it would be like to live in this land that is by any stretch, miles better than our own boring lives.

  
Top 6 Worst Bits About Travel

1. Exhaustion. Like it or not, travelling can be tiresome. Even once the hours, if not days of trekking through airports and surviving long haul flights is done, we want to cram our days with so much excitement that sometimes we forget to get enough rest at night and end up feeling like we need a holiday once the trip is over.

2. Creature comforts. Yes it’s great to ‘get away from it all’, but after a while we start to miss the simple things like our own bed, a kitchen to prepare the finer things in life (such as a cup of tea and some toast!) and the sofa. Even people or pets are comforts we miss when away!

3. Mosquitos. Or any ‘foreign creepy crawly’ that we have never seen before and therefore are not certain if it will kill us just by looking directly at us.

4. TD. This is an abbreviation for travellers diarrhoea. Anyone who travels to other continents often will be familiar with this one. It’s often caused by undercooked street food or even tiny particles of faeces in your food. Yum.

5. Jet lag. Especially on an around the world ticket, you are forever trying to get your body climatised and adjusted to your new home. Chances are, by the time you sync up with your zone, it’s time to leave.

6. Language barriers. Let’s face it, our arms get tired from gesturing everything we are trying to say. When we eventually return home we notice we speak in simple language. We may approach a stranger in the street and ask, “You… Have…. Time??”

World Trade One Observatory Deck and Ground Zero Memorial

World Trade One Observatory Deck and Ground Zero Memorial

Day 1 in New York City. Activity one was of course to check out the progress on the world trade site as its been five years since my last visit to this fabulous city.

The ground zero memorial site blew me away, totally. Two deep fountains sit in the position the two towers once sat proudly. Fountains flow down into a portal in the middle which is very poetic. You can’t see the bottom and I couldn’t help feeling it symbolises the fallen men and women who’s individual names are engraved around the sides.

    
    
 
Next I entered the world trade observatory building. Tickets are priced $32 for daytime entry, over $40 during the night. A lift takes you up 103 floors in just 38 seconds then you are taken on a mini tour before curtains are lifted, producing a magnificent panoramic view of Manhattan and the surrounding boroughs. It was a clear day and the horizon seemed unlimited. There is no external deck (like other buildings) so you feel a lot safer, which is more appealing to the faint hearted. It costs a lot more than the likes of the Empire State Building and the Rockerfeller Centre, but worth every penny.

   
    
    
    
    
 
On exiting the deck, the lift back down to earth plays a virtual screening shown above, which is a lovely touch.

There is no such thing as travelling ‘alone’..

There is no such thing as travelling ‘alone’..

There is definitely a stigma attached to the word – alone.

There shouldn’t be, and here’s why..

We are all alone.

We are all brought into and out of the world equally. People we meet along the way are companions. There to fill us with company and love, sometimes with upset and pain. But the fact remains the same, we are still, always…. Alone. How you fill your time is up to you.

So why is there a stigma attached with travelling alone? I suppose people might consider it a safety risk… But guess what? You can easily be attacked as a two-some as you could travelling alone. If anything, you could be an easier target for attack in a group because you let your guard down.

People may even think… ‘Don’t you have any friends?? You must be a loner to travel by yourself..’ Well, I’m here to tell you, officially – screw them, and their opinions.

Travel can be equally or more amazing when travelling by yourself. But this is not a unique situation of ‘alone-ness.’ It just means you are travelling without company. And it can be incredible.

The stranger in a pub and his advice…

The stranger in a pub and his advice…

I love it when you meet a complete stranger and they say something to you…. A simple sentence that just falls from their lips like an old apple from a limp tree branch. But THAT sentence will stay with you forever. The stranger has no idea that their blaze alcohol fuelled babble with give you a piece of advice that will change your life forever.

I was sat in a bar one summers afternoon with a friend and we began chatting to a man who had flown back into the UK from Japan where he has been living for several years, teaching English. Due to our mutual love of exploring the other continents, the conversation drew in towards my favourite subject… ‘Travel’

At this point, I had never travelled alone before and was toying with the idea of booking a long haul solo trip to Asia and Australia for a few months. But! I was in a long term relationship. One that I thought was very happy at the time. I didn’t want to leave him for several months and I discussed this with the stranger.

What he said to me changed my life.

“In five years time, which will you regret more? Not going travelling or risking the relationship?”

Sure enough, five years have passed since that comment. I went travelling. The relationship didn’t last, and I can honestly look back with no regrets because I found my passion in life and I found myself. 

 

The Time I almost Died, White Water Rafting

‘Do one thing every day that scares you!!!’ They said.

I’ve spent my entire life being pretty tame. I once even cried the whole way down an abseiling wall. I’d always liked my feet safely on dry land… Until I travelled. Travel pushes you to your limits. So, whilst in Bali I decided to push the boat out and try white water rafting.

Our guide, a slim, young Indonesian man gave us a quick briefing and explained that when he shouts ‘boom’ we need to duck to avoid fallen trees etc. I recall him saying that if we fall in the water it was ‘bye-bye’, and then he laughed. This didn’t exactly fill me with confidence.

He helped me into the boat with my friend and two Australian teenage boys. They were half my age and lived on the opposite side of the world. In every-day life, we would have absolutely nothing in common. Yet in this hour, smashing through the speeding waters in the jungle, they would become my family.

The start of the rafting was gentle, our boat softly pondering through the waters. Giant, powerful cliffs surrounded us and there would be the occasional family sitting on the banks, farming or making clothes. I could hear rattle snakes and cheerful bird songs. Then things started to speed up…

We each had an oar to help row, but naturally were using it to splash as much water as possible at the passing tourists. The world passed by quickly, my eyes were struggling to keep focus on danger, whilst trying to spot potential water-fight warfare. The rocky, green cliffs were whizzing past me in a hot blur. I believe this is where the ‘fight or flight’ syndrome kicked in… Adrenaline started pulsating around my body. My clothes were soaking wet, my finger nail bent right back and I bumped my helmet-covered head on a rock-wall. All the while, I felt no pain.

A collection of boats had gathered, stuck at the top of a small waterfall in the direction we were headed. Our pathway was blocked except for a large rock protruding from the centre of the waters. We ricocheted from several boats and at high speed slid up the rock and became wedged. Before I even knew what was happening, I felt myself in mid-air, violently flung from my boat. I was face up, watching the sky distance itself from me, aware that beneath my body was a sheer drop into harsh, rocky waters. I wasn’t afraid or worried, I guess it all happened too quickly for anything resembling emotion to settle in me.

In that second, the guide (who was half my size) grabbed onto the shoulder of my life-vest and a large chunk of my hair and pulled me effortlessly back into the boat. He actually saved my life. I couldn’t stop laughing and hugging him.

On my next visit to Bali, what was the first thing I did? Booked myself onto a white water rafting session.

Ten Destinations for the Solo Female Traveller

Ten Destinations for the Solo Female Traveller

I have travelled solo on several occasions. It is different to travelling with companions because you connect more with your surroundings and the culture and really find yourself.

In developed or the western world, being female isn’t an issue. However, in some countries travelling alone as a woman can be a problem. I’ve lost count of the times locals asked me where my husband was when I was travelling alone. This doesn’t overly concern me but there are some destinations I would think twice about venturing to with just my backpack. 

I have compiled a list of the top ten destinations recommended for solo female travellers, based on culture, shock factor, variety, personal experience and recommendations. These are also fantastic destinations for chaps too!

1. Seattle

  

the spire, seattle

 In fact all of the west coast of America including San Francisco, LA and Vegas. Seattle is popular with solo travellers because of the many tourist attractions which include the infamous space needle, Pike Place market, Ballard lochs, the great wheel and the many, many beautiful parks. It’s a fabulous city nestled next to incredibly beautiful forests, parks and ferry boats to take in the views.
2. New York City 

chrystler building and manhattan skyline

New York, New York. What can I say? With Times Square, radio city hall, Madison square garden, shopping, theatres, sightseeing and architecture, Central Park and the Statue of Liberty, the city is your best friend when you are travelling there. You don’t need actual friends too.

3. Great Britan.

 

raglan castle, wales
 
With places like London, the New Forest, Cornwall, Wales, the Peak and Lake districts, Scotland and Ireland, you don’t need travel companions, just a lot of time to see it all. Castles and countryside, cities and lakes.. We are a lovely welcoming bunch over here anyway, come and say hi! 

4. Barcelona

view of Barcelona beach from spire restaurant

Barcelona is one of my favourite European cities and I would travel months here by myself in a heartbeat. It’s got everything anybody could want in a city; charm, culture, impossibly beautiful buildings, a stunning beach, great nightlife, history and museums and a huge selection of music and food options. 

5. Sri Lanka

 

sri lanka rice paddies
 
A friend of mine lived in Sri Lanka for many months, volunteering in a turtle sanctuary. She loved it, felt very safe and made heaps of friends. Sri Lanka is beautiful, has loads of gorgeous beaches and bustling towns and the people are very welcoming.

6. Thailand

 

thailand islands
 
Anyone who has been will know that Thailand is one of the friendliest and most welcoming countries in the world, not to mention luminous. It attracts backpackers from all over the world so you are sure to make friends to travel with. It’s vast landscape means much time can be spent city surfing or island hopping.

7. South America

 

rio carnival
 
This is very broad, I admit. But the countries recommended would be Peru (for Machu Picchu), Argentina and cross the border into Chile, Buenos Aires and Rio for the yearly famous carnival.

8. Bali

 

snorkelling in Bali
 
I had the most incredible experience of my life travelling Bali solo. It’s a magical place with beautiful people and indescribable landscapes. There is so much to see and do from white water rafting to cooking classes, riding a bike through Ubud, visiting markets or surfing.

9. Australia

sydney harbour bridge at sunset

Many Brits head over to Oz on a working visa and never return home. I can’t imagine why, with all of that sunshine, beer and beaches on offer.

10. New Zealand

tunnel beach, New Zealand

National parks, waterfalls, movie sets. It’s one of the most ‘liveable’ places in the world and attracts backpackers worldwide.