Counting down the days

Friday, 23 October 2015

Today, it has become officially legit to utter these four little words: ten days to go. What a beautifully round and almost final number, plus tomorrow it gets to fall into single digits - and I can't quite believe it. How is it that time has flown so fast since I infamously hit the Payment button on the Emirates website with my eyes squeezed shut, back in late March? The weather has gone from bitter to boiling to bitter again, the clocks have gone forward and will go back, and I've moved cities entirely. So much change that make a sizable seven months feel like just yesterday, and here I am on the cusp of what can only be described as The Trip Of A Lifetime.

I can't discount the other big trips I have taken in the last couple of years, especially if you believe in things like fate and destiny. I don't think I do but it can't be ignored that basically, Canada took me to America which in turn brought me a boy and a move to Manchester and without him I would not be going on this trip. Perhaps the circumstances at the time weren't the greatest but now they are fantastic once more he has done nothing but encourage me to go on this trip and live my solo travel mini-dream. Yes, he will worry and I will miss him to death, but it's only a month. And reunions are incredible, aren't they?

Everything is pretty much done. All flights are booked, most hostel beds have my claim on them with just a few more to finish up, my kind of 'plan' has come together enough for me to e-mail an itinerary of sorts to my parents for them to feel a bit easier about the whole thing. It seems that no matter how old you are (28), how far away you live from home (220 miles) and how long you've lived away from home (9 years), your parents will always worry. Maybe a few years ago this would have been met with teenager-style eye-rolling and a whine that would put Kevin The Teenager to shame (kudos if you get this reference, by the way) but now I've matured a bit I totally get it. I've spent this morning creating the perfect spreadsheet for them to attempt to keep track of me and it's made me realise: wow, I've curated this all by myself. The trip, I mean, not just the spreadsheet. Other adulting achievements include purchasing adequate travel insurance and pledging sobriety for the thirty days.

I already know that this is all going to do more for me than just ticking off the boxes of seeing X, Y and Z country. I've spent so long at my current job living by the rules that define them with a desperately scavenged week off here and there, that I barely get time to refresh and think for myself before I'm back at 6:30am making mochas once more. I'm holding out for the complete full-body-full-mind reset and I can't wait for Thailand where I get to stop jumping ship (literally) every other day and just chill the fuck out. I also need to change my career - I know this, everybody knows this, my bosses know this - and I'm hoping that with the refresh and reset, will come a whole heap of inspiration and gung-ho attitude too. I'm also really looking forward to getting back to creativity. Reading and listening to new music on the passive side of things, and photographing and blogging on the aggressive front. Time to get back to the real me.

I get caught up in trying to plan what I can possible blog about, or what I can bring to the floor that hasn't already been done before. I've had to give myself a bit of a pep talk and remember to just go with the flow. Things happen, plans change, I might be having too good a day to want to bother writing about it, or I might have so miserable a day that all I want to do is moan for moaning's sake. The last thing I want to do is force what's not there and extinguish the blogging spark once again. If I fancy publishing a post full of pictures with not a single words, that will have to be fine. After all it all tells a story, somehow.

Excitement as a descriptive doesn't quite cut it and I'm at the point where because I can't believe it's mere millimetres away, I've put a wall up in front of it, determined to make it through the next week of work until Friday at 9pm when I can tear off my uniform with glee and do the happiest dance. I want to be fairly organised before this point so that I can dedicate my entire last weekend before the trip to my boyfriend Phil, with hiking planned and just general chilling out together time. I want to be packed mid-week, but I'm awaiting a new backpack and as I'm writing this I'm side-eyeing a Royal Mail 'you've missed your delivery...' card and I'm mustering up the energy to climb out of the blanket I'm wrapped up in (it's colder indoors than outside, alright?) to go and do something about it. Err, maybe later.

But first, coffee.

Oh, the places she will go

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Organisation is a key element in my world; it's something I pride myself on. I love filing, adore putting pins into maps and have a lust for lists. It's fair to say that highlighters are, well you know, a highlight of my life.

Pretty much every spare moment I've encountered over the past few months has involved me hunched over my laptop, notepad in one hand and pen in the other (with an americano within arm's reach of course) while I desperately scribble bits and bobs. What train do I need to take from A to B, what bag can I travel hand luggage only with, what plug adaptors do I need, where will all the best parties be? And it's not just my beloved notebook that takes the flack; I witter on about my upcoming trip to anybody who will dare open their ears. I have good reason - it's just about the most exciting thing I have done for myself (and by myself) to date. So, where am I going?

Hong Kong
I kick things off in fast-paced Hong Kong. To say that I'm giddy with excitement of my impending first footsteps in Asia is an understatement - and I am so overjoyed that Hong Kong gets to have me first. It's a country that I have been determined to go to for the best part of 10 years and as soon as I am there soaking up the atmosphere, breathing in the smog and the lights and the hurry (and all the dim sum), I will be a goner.

I'll then head over to Macau by ferry, but only for a tiny while. My time in Macau is literally a 18-hour transit stop-gap that I intend to fill with glorious waffley street food and staring in wide-eyed wonder at the tallest bungee jump in the world.

I then clamber onto a blearly middle-of-the-night flight to Taipei and I couldn't be anymore excited! Taiwan was never a mere thought in my mind until I happened upon Lauren's blog Never Ending Footsteps and pawed at it from start to finish. Her recollections of her first weeks in Asia all involve Taiwan and the love that she conveyed for this nation had me re-routing all my Skyscanner searches in a heartbeat. I only have four days to devote to Taiwan but I plan on filling them to the max, soaking up the business of Taipei and hopefully viewing the pretty temples of Kaohsiung.

Then a jetset stop in Singapore - I think I'll only be here for a couple of nights, in which I'd love to sample an authentic Singapore Sling at the Raffles Hotel.

I'm then headed northbound on the bus to Malaysia's capital, Kuala Lumpur. I had no idea how I would get from A to B in such a short space of time, and since I'm only away for a month in total I wanted to hit up as many places as humanly possible. But then I read Chris of Backpacker Banter's awesome post on how to overland from Singapore to Bangkok which involved a fairly straightforward, comfortable AND cheap bus from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur, therefore I was influenced. It's the home city of one of my friends and she has been exploding with information and hidden KL secrets for me, plus I can't wait to see the Petronas Towers up close.

The (most likely) final stop of my trip will be Thailand. I am bursting with eagerness to get to this country, mostly because this is where I'll be spending most of my trip - about two weeks in total, which yes I realise is not enough, not even in the slighest - which means I get to slow down a tad and properly enjoy myself. I need to figure things out more extensively, all I'm sure of is that I'm flying into Phuket and have to make it to Bangkok within 14 days. I'd love to visit an island such as Koh Phi Phi, or head up north to chill-out central Chiang Mai, or even both if possible. Only time will tell.

So there we have it: my kind of rough, kind of ready itinerary for Asia in November. Will you be travelling to any of these places? Or have you before, and have any advice to offer or recommendations for places to go and things to do?

The first rule

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

My personal struggle with blogging has been a long and drawn out process. You see, I've been blogging for about 6 years - even longer if we count all the years spent lamenting over LiveJournal, I mean it's all for an audience right? But for all intents and purposes we'll say 6 years since I quit making private posts about 'me me me' (and all of my Primark purchases at the time) and channeled it into a wannabe online magazine type blog. You know the types that were all the rage back in 2009/2010: pretty girls with all their new clothes on, posing in forests and on urban streets, writing whimsical words about their everyday life - and I decided I wanted to be one of them.

The problem was, I just wasn't very good or at least I deemed myself that way. I took most of my photos inside because I was too self-conscious to set up a tripod outside to try to get the perfect shot, and therefore relied on my words and networking. This was the bit that I revelled in as I love communicating (I've worked in customer-facing roles since 2003, go figure) and at a time when personal bloggers were benefiting from somewhat of a boom, it was easy to climb the ranks. But I lost my heart in it after about a year and began to feel like a bit of a self-obsessed prat taking selfies every single day, and began to focus more on bettering my photography. So I guess I took the natural progression of sliding into lifestyle blogging.

The problem was, once I'd transformed from a tighter niche into a much larger spectrum, it was easier to become unknown and therefore unstuck. I adored using my photography as a point of interest, tailoring intricate blog posts around them. And it didn't stop there; I published recipes that I'd put my heart and soul into, talked about trips that I had been on, and still had the occasional dabble in displaying some kind of personal style. But in a competitive world it can be easy to be left by the wayside and while I watched other bloggers overtake me, some of them coming out of nowhere, I did nothing about it. I let my posting become more and more sparse, and when I went through a break-up and subsequent massive upheaval in my life I couldn't turn it into blog-fodder. I'm way too private for something like that. So I had a bit of a break and turned up somewhere new a few months later, my typing fingers rough 'n' ready for action.

The problem was, by that point I had just lost sense of everything that I desired from blogging. What was once supposed to be an enjoyable hobby on keeping a documentation of my life - a personal journal, shall we say - had turned into something that I felt like I had to do. I felt like I couldn't let go of blogging, for my tiny little scratch on the world wide web would suddenly become redundant. But I couldn't muster up the mental energy to actually sit down in front of a computer and just let the words flow. It became a chore rather than a pleasure and no matter how much 'editorial planning' I did, it just wouldn't come to fruition. Added to the fact that I'm a shift worker with the worst shift patterns in the world, any free time to just ~myself~ I have is like gold dust and is usually spent with a cup of coffee and a couple of hours of Netflix, I'm almost sad to say.

Another thing that got to me was how much blogging actually became part of everyday life. Now, I don't begrudge spending lots of time indoors at your laptop working up a typing frenzy before hitting that elusive Publish button, I understand that is needed in order to, you know, have a blog. What I hated was the time I had begun to spend hidden behind something else, either tending to my social media on my phone (which I despise by the way, I'm no Tweet queen anymore) or trying to get the perfect shot for a photograph. I'd end up spending so much time behind my camera that I was no longer enjoying the moment as it actually happened, and surely that's what life is all about? I would hate to, you know, maybe show such photographs to my future kids and have all my talk about them be something I'd extracted from Wikipedia and not my own experience, because I'd spent too much time trying to craft the perfect post.

But, the problem is... I do want to document these things. I want to keep a record. I want to show my family who live far away from me what I've been up to and when I travel, show all my friends where I've been. And I'd love to provide a helpful resource for other travellers or hike-happy people. I just don't want to lose a sense of what I set out to achieve along the way. So, I'm just going to have to BE MYSELF.

I mean, isn't that what blogging is supposed to be about anyway? The trouble is I read so many blogs these days - most of them travel-orientated - and I can just tell that, for lack of better phrasing, it's all a load of bollocks. All of these amazing destinations, but do they actually get to enjoy themselves? How much time was spent behind that laptop, cooped up indoors, when really they ought to be out there enjoying it like the rest and best of them. And I'm the first to admit that yes, absolutely I would love to work for myself and travel at the same time, but not when the heart and soul has been stripped out of it. I was inspired, but uninspired all at the same time. Then I read this post by Ashlea of A Globe Well Travelled, which is possibly my most favourite blog - and I agreed with E V E R Y T H I N G. That, I found inspiring; inspiring enough to decide to jump back onto the bandwagon and try to make a go of it once more.

Because within all the corporate mess and affliction of affiliate links that make me think "Are you even for real?", there are some blogs out there that I radically enjoy. I've loved Adventurous Kate ever since I stumbled upon her, and not just because we share the greatest name that ever was. And Sabina, from Girl vs Globe who is more dedicated to creating a community of world wide women than anybody I've come across so far. And, of course, my homies Bee and Nick of Twenty Something Burnouts whose memoirs are so raw that you can't help but laugh and cry along with them. And let's not forget the non-travel bloggers and the ones that write for love not money, like my #sortasoulmate Gracie who has a way of dictating the dictionary like never I've known, or my longtime buddy Mel who posts pretty much every single day with a heart-bursting with pride for what she does. These people along with others serve to remind me that yes, you can do this blog-thing and not let it drag you down.

So here I am with perhaps an ironic first post, baring my soul to the world, asking you to come along for the ride and stick with me. It may be rocky in places, it may come ALLATONCE or have crippling gaps in the journey, but it'll be as enjoyable and real as it possibly can be. You can invite all your friends or depart at any time, I won't mind. Because I'm doing this for me. For you, too, but I promise not to forget myself this time

At the end of the day, my mum and dad will be always be reading it, and that's what I care about the most.

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