Half a World Away

I could never imagine I would be in the position I am in right now. I mean the literal position is extremely predictable, laptop, coffee shop, headphones in, intently checking my fantasy premier league team score. However, geographically I am on the other side of the world, 5 weeks into my newest adventure. It’s brilliant, terrifying, inspiring, romantic, ridiculous and exciting all at the same time. Its a risk, two fingers up to conformity, a hat tip to wanderlust and just beautifully unconventional.

I have always wanted to travel the world, I want to see everything, know everything, experience everything, its like the worst case of FOMO. Anyone who knows me will testify, no matter how big or small, I want to know whats going on and be included, like an excitable yet slightly irritating puppy.

I think my biggest fear in life is to not have lived it properly, I want to, for the good and the bad, have lived a life that is worth writing about. I want to have a real story. World changing brilliance and adventure isn’t too much to ask for… is it? Therefore when the opportunity to follow my heart to the other side of the world came knocking I jumped at the chance.

So, what happened to prompt this change of hemispheres? I met a boy. Classic, girl meets boys falls head over heels in love kinda tale. 6 weeks of dreamy Worcester dating later I decided to quit my job, booked a plane ticket and 2 days after my 24th Birthday travelled for 48 hours via 3 countries to meet him in Sydney Airport. Causal Tuesday right?

The boy. Without wanting to sound like the soppiest human alive, is the kind of person you dream about meeting. Someone who matches your competitive spirit, can make you feel special and that definitely isn’t horrible to look at. When the biggest downside they have is supporting Manchester United and can sometimes be too tidy you know your doing okay!

Thats where I have been. Exploring Australia and New Zealand and falling a little more in love everyday. Long may the days of chasing the sun continue!

Week 3: Happy Heart and Rough start

After a very early 4.30 am start I headed to the airport to catch my flight to Singapore for the night. My next major stop is Cambodia but the only flight available had an 18hour lay over in Singapore, this initially was an inconvenience but turned out to be a complete blessing.

My grandparents-friends-son, his wife and their children had moved to Singapore a few years back from London. This was amazing as I got to stay with them for a night and have a little home from home experience.

I had such a good evening, their children are adorable, the little boy Charlie melted my heart as soon as I met him! The girls were amazing too! It was a lovely night spent eating pizza and beans for tea (my idea of heaven) and chatting about life. Caroline and I had such an intelligent, inspiring and entertaining chat that lasted way into the night – It’s amazing how you can meet people for the first time and instantly feel comfortable. It just all made my heart happy! I’m so lucky I got to meet them and wish them so much luck with their big move to Sydney!

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After saying goodbye, it was time to go back to the airport. They sent me on my way with a packed lunch which was lovely, little bits of care like that when your a solo traveller make such a difference! Singapore airport is amazing, definitely the nicest I’ve been in so far. Next stop Phnom Penh.

I arrived into a the capital of Cambodia, Phnom Penh just after a storm so the heat wasn’t to unbearable. I met my new co-ordinator Hong and we took a tuk tuk ride to the guest house I would be staying in for the night.

Cambodia has such an interesting atmosphere. It feels young and industrial in some ways but then bustling and alive with culture. I had dinner at my hostel and it was incredible – I may even go as far to say the best noodles I’ve ever eaten! At one point I ended up helping the owners family pull a rope attached to a massage chair he had won at the bank, they were pulling it up three stories – it was all very surreal! I met some interns staying in the same place so it was nice to have some people to chat to after the social craziness of Sri Lanka.

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The next day it was time for a whistle stop tour of Phnom Penh, me and Hong went to the market, where I ate a tarantula! Then we went to an awesome view point and drove past the memorial statue for the previous King and the palace on the river. After this it was time to travel for about 45 minutes to my project at the orphanage.

My first impressions were that the place was beautiful, and the kids were really welcoming and friendly. I was shown around and then taken to my room above the office. There was one other girl here for the first night but then she was leaving – this is where some problems began.

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Before starting this project I was told that there would be at least 3 volunteers at the project with me for the duration of my 3 weeks in Cambodia. This is not the case. I would be here by myself. This was quite difficult as I had just come from a volunteer house of around 22 people to just being me in a room from Monday to Friday.

I decided to just take it in my stride and give it my best effort. I began planning some lessons and started teaching properly on the Tuesday. Teaching is so hard!! I have a mixed ability class of children from 4-14 so it proved quite a challenge.

I muddled through for the rest of the week but I did find the nights quite lonely. I am really enjoying travelling but when you get too much time by yourself the distance between you and your loved ones feels a lot more real.

I gave the children a test on Friday and it was awesome to see that they had actually taken in some of what I had taught. On the Friday afternoon I headed back into the city to have some well deserved social time!

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Me, Hebe, Elina and another volunteer who I have only ever called higher but I’m sure his actual name is different, went to an incredible rooftop bar for some cocktails and then into the night market for some more delicious noodles. Hebe and I were heading to Siam Reap for the weekend so we chilled at the guest house before getting our night bus at 11pm.

I can’t wait to write all about the weekend!

Again well done for finishing! if you got this far, I’m sending you an invisible high 5 of appreciation!

Week 2 (2): I wish I could stay

So after the first night, moving into the bigger volunteer house was awesome. It was great to get to know so many amazing, friendly, kind and hilarious people that completely made my time in Sri Lanka.

On Monday me and the girls from my room Imogen, Lucy, Molly and Anna decided that we all wanted to get a bit tipsy. It was born out of a kind of man hating, we deserve a drink chat, once one person suggested it we were all on the same page and off to the wine shop we went. To buy any sort of alcohol in Sri Lanka you go to these wine shops which are basically like a bar but you just order and take away your drink. Like how people used to shop in the olden days.

We had an amazing night. I’m really so glad I met those girls and everyone else because we just clicked and were exactly what each other needed at the time! Dancing on the rooftop and stumbling into bed all to feel like death the next morning was so worth it!

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The turtles continued to be so much fun and rewarding as I got to give a few more tours this week. It has also been good exercise for me to be lifting turtles into their feeding tanks everyday! The girls have been awesome too and I will miss my little turtle team so much.

There is a statue less than 100m from the hatchery to commemorate the lives lost in the area when the 2004 tsunami hit. The statue was donated by the Japanese and the flagstone laid down a year on from the disaster. This area is close to the site were 1700 people lost their lives on a train that was destroyed by the second wave after people had taken refuge on board after the first. It’s beautiful and peaceful. Even 12 years on the scars on the landscape and people are still visible. It’s a testament to the Sri Lankan people’s unwavering kindness and strength that they continue to work with nature and rebuild their lives the way they have.

On Wednesday we had a beach party for Esme’s birthday. After unsuccessfully trying to get pizzas ordered to the beach me and the other girls from my room went for a fancy-ish dinner at restaurant in town. It was so strange when we walked in because we were in beach party clothes which aren’t overly acceptable around the locals! We got taken to the gold room and after a few minutes of traditional music they put on Eminem. It was kind of like they googled white music and that was the first artist that came up. The food was nice but didn’t sit too well with us all for the rest of the night, if you catch my drift. I also had a moment with the waiter when he dropped his pen and we both reached for it haha!

We all had such a good night, it all ended rather dramatically though. Lucy tripped backwards and fell in to the remains of the fire. After getting her back to the house and seeing the damage Molly and Lucy (nurses in training) said she needed an ambulance. Lucy is recovering at home now and I wish her all the best – definitely on my list of people to see when I finally venture into Scotland!

Thursday was a recovery day for everyone. The rest of the turtle team went to see Lucy in the hospital so I manned the fort with the turtles. They also let Dianne from another program come and join for the day which made it a really good morning!

After checking everything was okay with Lucy me and some of the girls headed to the tsunami photo museum. After seeing the statue earlier in the week I really wanted to look further into the impact on the local area.

The museum is located in a former house that was destroyed by the waves. The woman who runs the musuem used to live in that house. Talking to her about what happened was extremely emotional, you could see the pain in her eyes. The way she spoke of the day was haunting and the photos and stories contained in the rooms were hard to view. It’s so important to see them though and to show your support to the people.

Thursday night was meant to be the night I got to release baby turtles back into the sea. However, the owner didn’t show up so one of the co-ordinaries let us hug some puppies. All though the word RABIES was flashing in my head I couldn’t resist the cuteness and i totally fell in love!

Friday was my last day in Sri Lanka I said goodbye to my turtle family and had a celebratory King coconut!

The team have been a pleasure to work with and I would recommend PMGY in Sri Lanka to anyone. After chilling with the girls for the rest of the day we all got ready for a birthday party for the CEO of PMGY. On the way me and team turtle got to release the little babies back into the sea! It was amazing, I felt really proud that we had given them that extra fighting chance of making it in the big old blue!

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The party was a wonderful end to a brilliant two weeks. We had delicious food, cocktails and then danced like idiots with the local Sri Lankan’s until the early hours. When we got home I had to say goodbye to everyone as I was leaving at 5 am on Saturday morning. I wasn’t expecting it but so many tears were shed! I have met the most incredible group of people that I know I will stay in contact with, genuinely feel so lucky to have gone at the time I did and couldn’t of wished for more.

I would like to say thank you to everyone I met in Sri Lanka for making it by far the best two weeks of my life, love you all!

Right this is ridiculously long, I will stop waffling!

Next stops Singapore and Cambodia…

Week 2 (1): Life at Worlds End

Last time I posted I’d given you all the highlights of the first week of my trip. Another week has flown by and I can’t believe I’m already writing the second instalment of my adventure.

So last Friday me and 23 of the other volunteers went on a weekend trip to explore more of this beautiful Island.

The first stop was white water rafting – this was incredible. The slight fear of death by crocodile was put by to paddle our way down some pretty angry rapids. Near the end the guy in charge of our boat told us to jump out and float the rest of the way. It was like something out of Jurassic park, this winding river surrounded by lusciously green mountains. I was half expecting a teradactile to fly over and take me away.

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Then we headed on to our next point of call which was Mackwoods tea factory. Deep into the hills, the smell of tea did remind me of home but then I saw cake and my minor moment of home heart ache was soon subdued – it was chocolate, enough said. The woman who showed us around was adorable and she had such a knowledge of the process and they were very proud of the company that was originally British, you know from back in the day when we wanted to own everything! I did end up buying some tea which is going to be a pain to carry around for the next two months but it is so tasty I couldn’t leave it behind.

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After this we headed to our hotel for the night. It was pretty basic but I was sharing a room with Imogen and it was kind of just like having teenage a sleepover we put the world to rights and then headed to sleep. The area we were staying was called little England because it was bloody freezing compared to everything else. I actually slept with a blanket on for the first time in a week!

Next morning we woke up at half 4 to get to the start of the worlds end hike for 6. If anyone is ever in Sri Lanka you have to do this! It’s only a 9km round trip and I saw the most beautiful landscapes I think I’ve ever seen. I also braved these ridiculously heavy breath inducing steps to get a sneak peak at a gorgeous water fall.

After that we headed back on the coach for what felt like forever. But we did stop at another waterfall and see some monkeys which was pretty crazy. The next hotel was gorgeous and we had little villas between four of us, and there was a pool!

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We then headed out to see the Hindu and Buddhist temple, this was one of the most humbling and culturally eye opening things I’ve ever done. There were hundreds of people dressed in white and offering flowers and food to the temple. There was an elephant as well, I think it’s meant to show the wealth of a temple if they have an elephant but my mind was pretty much blown from walking a metre away from the thing.

We got given bindi’s by local children and we all placed a lotus flower at the temple as a sign of respect. It was an amazing sight and completely takes over all your senses. The faith and community is so beautiful to see.

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The next day we did a safari in the national park. This was really cool to do but I didn’t overly agree with how the jeeps charged at the elephants, it all felt a bit tourist fuelled, I did also fall asleep. It was warm and fairly long and we had an early start, I definitely wasn’t the only one!

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We then got to go to another hotel for a gorgeous buffet of food and another chill round the pool before heading back to the house.

Me, Imogen, Anna, Molly, Lucy, Katherine and Aimee all moved to the bigger volunteer house on Sunday which after a slightly awkward first night was definitely the best decision. It was so much easier to chill with everyone and nice to get to know more people around meal times. Only downside was the new addition to the girls room, rats. They ran across a ledge near the ceiling, it wasn’t great to hear their feet at night whilst trying to sleep!

I’m splitting this week into two posts because so much happened and if anyone is still reading I would truly be very surprised!

14.02.16

Today as I walked into work I was greeted by what can only be described as the physical representation of St. Valentine’s projectile vomit. Cards, balloons, mugs, plates and every other imaginable object with a heart plastered on it. All to the theme tune of Katy Perry’s teenage dream. Now in retail its like every holiday is on acid but this kind of made me feel uncomfortable and mildly wishful at the same time – I know I hate myself.

Firstly let me just lay it out, I am a romantic at heart – flowers any day of the year would do me, but the v-day hype creates a very uneasy atmosphere in the minds of many women. The v word, like voldemort or vagina, which yes I have already mentioned once, is not something I’m overly comfortable with saying repeatedly. Honestly, yes, I would probably be pretty happy if a gorgeous male appeared on my doorstep a week on Sunday with some type of cuddly toy, but that is more just my weak disposition than anything else.

After seeing a woman literally entangle herself in v-day giant helium balloons I thought – “what are we really doing here, is it worth being publicly trapped in ribbons?” and this induced many more questions and ideas about the ‘normal’ 14th of Feb festivities. This prompted me to ask everybody I spoke to over the last few days what they really thought of this lovey-dovey-commercially-charged tradition.

My mini research found that most people say they really aren’t bothered, that love should be shown to those you care about everyday of the year. However, there were a number of people, that like myself, wouldn’t hate it if there was some romantic surprise element amiss their public defiance of the day. Basically men, we can live with out it, we don’t expect much, actually in my case my expectations are literally non-existent, but if you wanted to get us a card or some flowers your going to earn major brownie points.

I am not one to conforming to commercially charged capitalism fuelled traditions but in this case I woefully make an exception… oh and christmas (who doesn’t love santa?!?). Although my v-day will probably be spent alone, if you can make it a little bit more special, for that someone special, no one is going to be annoyed or slightly give you the cold shoulder and use the word “fine” because deep down they were hoping you would have some kind of romantic epiphany.

My advice – be happy, if you care about someone let them know and have an extra snuggle on the 14th, just to gloat your couple status to all those less loved up than yourself if nothing else. But seriously love is a wonderful and magical thing and if your lucky enough to have it why not celebrate? If your single I am also not opposed to self appreciation v-day… that could catch on. I will be self appreciating myself with a gossip girl binge, possibly wine and much to much hot chocolate with marshmallows if that man doesn’t show up!

Happy 14th day of the second month in 2016!

Drifting

I don’t know why I assumed that graduating University would be the catalyst for extreme productivity and life altering success.. when in reality I have spent the last 6 months working in a supermarket and putting off any major decision making. I mean I can’t even decide what series to watch on Netflix let alone what to have for dinner.. its a daily struggle.

Not that there is anything wrong with working in a supermarket it is a perfectly respectable job, but there is this weird “expecting more, deserve better” mindset which is carved into the student brain – I am not proud of it, if anything ashamed but its there nonetheless. Its all rather odd, it puts you in this strange drifting state. I am lucky that I have no major parental pressure, I can just about stand to still live at home and yes at the moment I am bumbling on quite happily with no major issues – apart from having to listen to my little brother play on his xbox everyday, the anger that induces is something I will never understand. But I want more, I need an adventure a bit of purpose and excitement. 

In the first six months off the 17 year long educational conveyer belt I have felt more lost and more free than any other time in my life. This is due in part to my complete lack of direction and the endless possibilities of things I can now spend my time doing. Its a little like the fear of the unknown tied with the sky is the limit- and other corny metaphors that I am much too tired to articulate. 

I don’t regret anything I have done so far in my post-graduate existence but its time to be more unapologetic and just get on and do the things I have said I was going to do since July. The thought of travelling the world is never far from my brain so this is where this blog comes in. I love to write, take pictures, see new places and meet new people soooo I think you can guess where this is going. This is my little place on the Internet to store my wayfaring rambles.