12. Merry Christmas and happy travels!

For quite a while now I have been wondering what I can write on the 12th day to round the series off. My original plan was to set my goals for next year but I want 2020 to be a year of freedom and spontaneity so writing goals to stick to seemed to go against that. I have therefore decided to keep it short and sweet and write something that I really wish I had read this time last year…

If you have been thinking about going traveling then take this as a sign and go!

It doesn’t have to be for a year. It doesn’t have to be for a month. It can be a weekend if that is what feels right to you. Just pack a bag, pick a place that inspires you and go!

If you don’t feel like you’re in the right space for it now, be it financially, mentally or any other personal reasons holding you back, then make a commitment to yourself to get to a point when you are ready to go. Open a savings account and put a pound in a week, spend a night in an air BnB down the road to test out being away from home, find a map and circle all the places you want to go. Every little thing is a step closer to that trip away.

Here is a round up of all the other posts from this series, in case you have missed any, that may help you get ready to book that plane ticket:

1. Where are you going traveling?

2. How much will it cost?

3. Have you thought about packing?

4. What made you want to go traveling?

5. Did I tell you about the time when…

6. Have you traveled anywhere this year?

7. Won’t you miss home too much?

8. You have to read ____ when you’re away

9. How did you get into Camp America?

10. What’s on your bucket list?

11. Are you going to be okay on your own?

I really hope you have enjoyed this series and I cannot wait to start documenting my travels next year!

Merry Christmas and happy travels!

Go and grab another cuppa on me, Em x

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11. Are you going to be okay on your own?

I think it is safe to say that my mum is equal parts proud and petrified that I am going away and root cause of all her panic is the fact that I am doing it solo.  Well solo to an extent. I will be going a group tour when I am in Asia so won’t be on my own per say but I guess until they transition from strangers to friends then I am all alone. I have had lots of mixed feedback from people when I say I am taking this adventure on solo but to my surprise most people have been supportive and here are some of my favourite responses I have had…

“If you can survive London you can survive anywhere!”

Of all the responses I have had to my solo travel announcement this is the one that as stuck with me the most because it was said by one of my colleagues as we crossed a pitch-black park in central London at 2 am in the morning. On my journey home from work I go through at least 4 (what I have coined) Girl-Alone-Danger-Zones yet I do that daily without even thinking about it. Over my 23 years of exploring this fabulous city, that I am lucky enough to call home, I have learnt how to keep my wits about me and would even give Spiderman a run for his money with my danger-sensors! Now I totally understand that new countries and cultures bring about new dangers that I cannot prepare for but I can apply all the common sense that I have learnt from London and do what I know I can to stay safe. I mean if I can get out of Winter Wonderland on Christmas Eve alone and alive then I truly think I am unstoppable!

“If you’re in a hostel you are never alone!”

Before May this year I had no comprehension of what a hostel would actually be like, so before committing to stay in some thousands of miles away from home I decided to spend a weekend in one closer to home. I booked 4 nights in a 5-bedroom dorm of the Old Town Hostel in Dubrovnik and set out to see what all the fuss was about. Within 20 minutes of arriving I had spoken to 10 different people from 5 different countries and quickly came to the conclusion that if you are in a hostel then you are never alone. That mini break was the best thing I have ever done as it reassured me that it is something I am comfortable doing more of and now I cant wait to make new friends in more hostels as well as catch up with a few I made in Dubrovnik in their hometowns.

“Never put off traveling for anyone else, only do it for you!”

There are a few reasons why I haven’t gone traveling till now but one of the main ones was that I was constantly waiting for someone to come with me. I was convinced that I was going to see the world with a boyfriend, that I was yet to even meet, so kept putting off in hope my prince charming with a plane ticket would come along. As I am writing this now I do have a prince charming, who has been nothing but supportive of my solo trip and I already cant wait to give him a big hug when I am back in April. I learnt this year that you don’t need anyone to go traveling with you, yes it is nice having a companion but don’t miss your chance to go because you were too busy waiting for someone to join you.

“You will soon learn that the world is a very small and connected place!”

I actually learnt this when my family and I were spending a night in the Ice Hotel in a remote part of Sweden and my dad ran into an old friend at the bar. Solo traveling end up being such a sociable thing that soon you will have friends and connections from all over the world and as a result you will never be far away from ‘someone you know’. The bridge between you and familiarity becomes much smaller when you know someone in each continent and the best way to achieve that is to get out in the world and make some new friends. Also with the technology and transport we have no one is ever more than a phone call away! If it is a more familiar face that you are missing then all you have to do is unlock your phone and you will be with them. Magic really!

“Go and enjoy yourself!”

No matter what your reasoning for traveling may be, chances are it is going to be something personal to you and that is where the beauty of solo travel comes in. The only person you have to think about is you! You can do what you want, eat what you want, see what you want, even leave when you want. I think the fears of solo travel can often over power the positives and although it is important to acknowledge your vulnerability and prepare yourself to be safe, it is also important to remember that doing what you want to do is actually pretty damn amazing! We don’t always get many opportunities in life to be totally selfish so whether it is for a week or a year, book yourself a solo break and go and see a part of the world that matters to you.

Merry Christmas and happy travels!

Go and grab another cuppa on me, Em x

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10. What’s on your bucket list?

Lets be honest it would not be a classic travel gap year if I didn’t have a bucket list would it? Everything from South East Asia is what I am looking forward to the most from my group tour and then everywhere from Australia and New Zealand are the places I am going to build my route around. I will be working at a camp, for Camp America, in upstate New York so these are the places that I want to visit on my time off.

Thailand – Chang Mai Elephant Sanctuary

To begin with this was actually something I was conscious of, as I don’t want to contribute to any kind of animal exploitation, but with further research I am so happy to see that this is an ethical sanctuary that puts the elephants first. We will help to feed, bathe and walk them (with strictly no riding) as they roam freely in their natural environment and for this reason, I cannot wait! Elephants have always fascinated me so the opportunity to get up-close with one is going to be incredible. I apologise in advance for the spam of elephant photos that is about to come your way!

Laos – Kuang Si Waterfalls in Laung Prabang

I would be lying if I said I knew anything about Laos and, if I am being honest, I probably wouldn’t be visiting it if my tour didn’t go there but having looked into it more then I can really see why they added it to the route. Something that is described to have a “fairy-tale feel” is the breath-taking Kaung Si Waterfall and anything that can be associated with a fairy-tale will of course spark my interest! There are also 33 temples in Laung Prabang that I cannot wait to explore and truly indulge myself into their rich spiritual culture.

Vietnam – Cu Chi tunnels in Ho Chi Min and the Hao Lo prison in Hanoi

With an A-Level in history under my belt, in which I did a module on the Vietnam War, I cannot wait to see the facts written in the text books come to life. The Cu Chi tunnels in Ho Chi Min, that were used to smuggle people and supplies during the Vietnam War, will be fascinating as well as the Hao Lo prison in Hanoi, where we will have a chance to learn about the history of communism in Vietnam.

Cambodia – S21 Prison in Phnom Penh and Angkor Wat

Another country with a rich and heart-breaking history is Cambodia. I think visiting the S21 prison in Phnom Penh and seeing the atrocious consequences of the Killing Fields will be an eye-opening and humbling experience. Unlike any of my other birthdays, which have mostly been spent hiding from the rain, for my 23rdbirthday I will be watching the sunrise over Angkor Wat! If that isn’t worthy of a spot on the bucket list then I don’t know what is!

Australia – Great Ocean Road and the Great Barrier Reef

This one, I will not lie, is mostly influenced by the photos I have seen on Instagram but I cannot wait to drive the Great Ocean Road! However thrilling sitting in traffic on the M25 is, I don’t think it will quite compare to the ocean views and open roads that Australia has to offer. I feel very lucky to be alive in a time when there are still living corals in the Great Barrier Reef so that is definitely something I want to see whilst we still have the chance.

New Zealand – Tongariro Crossing hike

I think if there is any place to go on a hike then it has to be New Zealand and I have heard that the Tongariro Crossing is the most popular of them all. The only problem being I can count the amount of times  I have been to the gym this year on one hand. As a result, if this 12 mile hike turns out to be too much for me then I am sure I can find an equally picturesque but less strenuous alternative!

America – Salem, Boston

I have been lucky enough to visit New York twice in my life already so although I am excited to go back it is not at the top of my bucket list. Somewhere that is however is Boston and more specifically Salem.  It wasn’t only the history we learnt in school that fascinated me; I have also always had a keen interest in conspiracy theories and the darker history of the world. I remember reading book after book on the Salem Witch Trials when I was younger so it is fair to say this has been on the list for a while.

Merry Christmas and happy travels!

Go and grab another cuppa on me, Em x

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9. How did you get into Camp America?

I think I have filled in the application for camp America 5 times now but this was the first year I actually sent it off. For all of my summers in between school, uni and now I put my career first and went for design internships. Now that I have a year and a half of work under my belt and I’m taking a few months out to go traveling, it was finally the right time to give Camp America a proper try. The application process was simple and their website helped you through every step of the way but I thought I would just give a brief summary of what I had to do and how I ended up getting placed at a camp.

Online application

Of all the years that I have filled in the Camp America, this year was definitely the easiest. They split the form up into 7 clear categories…

  • Skills – Fill in 3 or more skills that you have that you would like to teach or be involved in at camp. I went for arts and drama based things but you can do anything from sports to cooking skills.
  • Availability – This is the date you can leave to go to camp and the day you have to be back for. The longer your availability is the higher chance you have of getting a place.
  • About Me – It is exactly what it says on the tin and covers other key experiences you need to go to camp like childcare experience, what languages you speak and if you have a driving license.
  • Camp Options – This is where you can pick the kind of camp you want to go to. Whether you are after the proper parent-trap wilderness experience or if a religious camp is up your street this is where you can decide what you want to get out of camp.
  • Education & Work History
  • Contact details

If you progress through this round then other sections open up such as Medical questions and passport details.

Pictures & Videos

If there is anything I can recommend it would be to make a video! I know it can be quite embarrassing to sit in front of a camera but this is the best way to get attention of camps. It doesn’t have to be long and it can be as creative as you like but just get across your bubbly personality and what key skills you can bring forward. If you don’t feel comfortable with that then add lots of action photos doing what you have said you can do, such as pictures of you playing sport or examples of art work you have done.

References

You need 2 references from anyone that can vouch for you but isn’t a relative. This can be a manager at work, a teacher from uni/school or a leader in a club you work at, for example. I asked my uni tutor and one of my managers at work to do it which all worked perfectly well!

Fees

You have to pay an application fee to begin with of around £180. As you progress more fees come though such as assessment and confirmation fees which all together add up to £214.

You get paid at camps but the amount varies from camp to camp and your food and accommodation will often be covered. This means the only other additional fees would be flights and any excursions you want to go on when you’re at the camp.

Interview

If your application is successful then you will have to go for a short interview with a member of the Camp America team local to you. I met my interviewer in a cafe in London and it lasted for around an hour. One thing I really want to stress is this is nothing to worry about, they are on your side and want to help you get to camp! We essentially built upon my application and she wanted to get a better grasp of my personality. I had a chance to ask her lots of questions about her own experience at camp and it ultimately felt like more of a chat with a friend than a serious interview.

Medical Form

After you interview you will need to print off and get your doctor to fill in a short medical form. GPs can be very busy so make sure you give yourself plenty of time for this!

The wait begins…

After all this it is time to wait for any requests from camps to come through. If you want the best chance of getting seen then make sure you

  • have skills down that you have plenty of strong experience in
  • get photos/videos up
  • change your preferences to all types of camps (but remember you have to go so make sure it is something you will still enjoy/feel comfortable at)

If it all works out you may get an email from a camp asking for a Skype interview!

Skype Interview

With the time difference between England and America, my interview was one evening after work. Be sure to do lots of research into the camp before you go so you can ask plenty of questions about them and see if it is the right fit for you. My interview lasted about an hour and they asked me about my skills, my personality, what I want out of a camp and why I wanted to go to their camp specifically. I think it is important to stay be relaxed and, as cliche as it sounds, just be yourself. I was offered the job of Photography Specialist from the camp at the end of my interview and of course I accepted. From here I was sent a conformation email where I had to formally accept the offer.

Next Steps

After you have been placed at a camp the last stages are getting your flights and Visa sorted. I haven’t actually got around to these steps yet so I can’t be of much assistance but I did receive a really helpful information pack from Camp America explaining all the stages of applying for a Visa. Once I have done it all I will be sure to update this post!

I know this seems like a lot of stages but I promise none of them take long to do and it is all worth it for that feeling you get when an offer from a camp comes through! If you have any other questions please feel free to ask them below.

Merry Christmas and happy travels!

Go and grab another cuppa on me, Em x

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8. You have to read ____ when you’re away

The beauty of traveling is that not only do you get to live lots of incredible activities you also get a chance for lots of downtime to finally tuck into that book you’ve been meaning to read for ages! I try to read every day on my commute to work but I am looking forward to being able to get into a book without having to constantly check I haven’t missed my stop. I’ve been collecting a long list on my phone over the past few months of books I want to read but I thought I would give you guys some recommendations of books I have loved!

The Nightingale – Kristin Hannah

I can tell a book is good when it makes me miss my stop on multiple mornings because I just can’t stop reading. The Nightingale is about 2 sisters who live in France during the Second World War and the different ways they adapt to survive. It is a story of love, fear and how far people will go for their family. Although it is not a true story it really highlights the terror of the war and the hard decisions people were forced to make daily simply to survive. Expect tears of both sorrow and happiness and a book you will struggle to put down.

Fall of Giants – Ken Follett

Sticking with the war theme, Ken Folletts trio of books follow multiple stories through both world wars as well as the Cold War. Fall of Giants is situated in the era of World War One and follows 5 families whose lives intertwine through the trials and terrors of war. It has everything from action to romance and, although it is fictional, includes true facts and figures that mean you end up getting a history lesson without even trying. They are big big big books so great for if you have a long flight ahead of you!

The Holiday – T.M.Logan

If you like a bit of mystery, drama and suspense then The Holiday is the one for you. Imagine going on holiday to Italy with 4 of your best friends and all your families to then discover that one of them might be having an affair with your husband! It is a wonderfully written story that keeps you guessing till the last minute yet is still a light read. A perfect one to dip into when lounging around the pool. To this day I have never met anyone who has read this book and expected the twist at the end so give it a try and see if you guess it right!

The Rumour – Lesley Kara

Another one for you mystery fans out there, the rumour follows a young mum in a new town who hears a rumour that a famous child murderer (as in someone who killed someone as a child not someone who kills children) lives among them. It’s not the most thrilling book ever but it will leave you desperate to find out the truth and also has a really nice story running through it about how far a mother will go to protect their child.

The Forgotten Village – Lorna Cook

If you’re looking for an easy read that is still interesting then this is the one for you. It follows 2 story’s over 2 time periods that cross over in very clever ways. The first is a story of a middle aged women who is looking for something exciting in her life and ends up falling for a hunky historian and the second is the story of a lady of a manor who is desperate for a way to escape her life. It is beautifully written and you’ll end up rooting for both women as if they were your friends in real life.

The Trials and Triumphs of Grace Atherton – Anstey Harris

A classic romance story about a women who has fallen in love with a married man and struggles with the reality of having the man you love living with another women. It has lots of underlining stories about friendship, music and how events in our childhood can effect us as adults. It can be quite predictable but it will leave a warm feeling in your heart when you get to the last page.

Only Child – Rhiannon Navin

This is one of those books that can be hard to read but in the best way. It is written from the perspective of a 6 year old boy who was involved in a school shooting in America and the effects it has on him and his family. It is perfectly written with the innocence of a child who can’t quite grasp the horrors that have happened and why everyone around him has changed. It can be quite triggering at times and at one point I had to put it down as I was too angry and one of the characters to keep reading but I guess any book that makes you feel raw emotion must be something special!

The Stranger Beside Me – Ann Rule

For all you true crime lovers out there this is the one for you! Ann Rule is a crime writer who also, unknowingly, happed to be friends in real like with one of the most infamous serial killers everywhere – Ted Bundy. It is written from her perspective and about how she came to find out and accept the fact that a man she was very close with was actually one of the biggest monsters this world has seen. She goes over in detail the crimes he committed, so still one to read if you don’t know much about him, and is such an honest account that makes you realise we really don’t know much about most people we call friends!

Everything I Know About Love – Dolly Alderton

If you want a self help book without actually reading a self help book then this is for you. I bet there isn’t a single young girl, or boy, on this planet that cannot relate to one of Dollys stories about her love life. It follows her through her teens all the way to her thirties and she talks in detail about the lessons she has learnt about love along the way. It doesn’t just focus on romantic love it also touches a lot on the love we have for our friends, family and even ourselves which I think is so refreshing to read. It also includes a really helpful recipe for hangover mac and cheese!

This is Going to Hurt – Adam Kay

I don’t think there are many people left who haven’t read this book and there’s good reason for that – it is simply amazing. It is the honest recounts of an NHS doctor who worked in the gynaecological department of a hospital and will make you laugh, cry and squirm at the things he has seen and done! It also has such an important message about the neglect of the NHS and just how overworked yet incredible the doctors and nurses we have in this country are. It shows you the sacrifices they have to make for our own well being and will leave you feeling very lucky that there are people like Adam Kay in the world.

If you have any good book recommendations or have read any of these before then please let me know in the comments!

Merry Christmas and happy travels!

Go and grab another cuppa on me, Em x

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7. Won’t you miss home too much?

This is one of those questions that’s quite hard to answers because if I’m honest I won’t know until I get there! I lived in Norwich for 3 years, whilst at university, so I am used to being away but there is a big difference between being a 19 hour flight and a 2 hour train journey to get home. If the idea of missing home too much is what’s keeping you from getting away then here are some things to do/think about to put your mind at ease.

“You’re never more than 24 hours away from home” – Beth Sandland

Beth’s magical Instagram account and blog (link here) is one of my main inspirations behind going traveling and when she put a quote up saying that “you’re never more than 24 hours away from home” it put my mind at rest as well. If worse comes to worse and you really can’t face being away anymore then all you have to think about is that in the space of a day you could be back in your own bed. Now I know things aren’t always simple and it can be expensive to fly home within a day but it is reassuring to know that home is closer than you think.

Everyone who is traveling is away from home

When you’re away you will meet people from all over the world but an important thing to remember is that all of them are away from home. If you’re feeling homesick then chances are someone else you’re with is to (or at least has been) so go and find someone to talk to. If you’re not one for talking about your feelings then at least go and find someone to keep you distracted. Grab a bite for eat, go for a walk, sit on the beach and watch the sunset – do something to immerse yourself in wherever you are and remind yourself why you came in the first place!

You can always call home

Modern technology has its ups and downs but one thing it is great for is keeping in touch with loved ones no matter where you are on the planet. We’re lucky enough now to be able to call home to hear your mums voice, see what your friends are up to on Instagram or FaceTime your dog if you’re missing his face. My dad always says then we he went traveling in his 20s, my granny would write a letter and send it to the next town he was meant to be traveling to with hopes he’d actually make it there to read it. Now even my granny has FaceTime! We are more connected than ever so you are never more than a message away from home.

You can make it a home away from home

Sometimes it’s not our specific home that we miss but just the general feeling of stability and having a routine to stick to each day. When you’re traveling it can be unsettling to always be in a new place experiencing something different and that can make us miss the normality of home more. So if you find a place that you like and you feel comfortable in then just stay for a bit! Go to the same cafe for breakfast every day, read your book on the balcony at the same time each day, get an early night and catch up on sleep. I feel like there’s a constant pressure to never stop when traveling but if you’re feeling a bit aimless then just take some time to realign and make yourself a home away from home.

There is no time limit on traveling

You don’t have to away from home for a year for it to count as traveling. I will say it again. You don’t have to away from home for a year for it to count as traveling. I think there is a big misconception that for it count as traveling you have to be away from home for months on end when in reality you can be away as long as you feel comfortable. If you are unsure about wether you will miss home too much then juts don’t plan too far ahead in the future. Stick to a week by week basis where possible which will therefore allow you to come home whenever you feel ready and you won’t feel trapped by plans you made for months in the future.

I think the overall point I want to get across is that the beauty of traveling is its freedom. Do whatever you feel comfortable with and come home whenever you feel ready. There is nothing wrong with missing home, it is totally natural, so just play it by ear and do what you need to make yourself comfortable and happy. I am going to bring some photos of home away with me and a teddy that my mum gave me to remind me of her. When I feel like I miss them a bit I will jump on facetime and if the point comes when I just want to see them in person then I will come home. Simples!

Merry Christmas and happy travels!

Go and grab another cuppa on me, Em x

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6. Have you traveled anywhere this year?

Before long 2018 was coming to a close and it was time to set New Years resolutions for 2019. Along with the classic “I will join a gym” and “I will not place ASOS orders at 2am in the morning when I can’t sleep” I decided my main goal for the year ahead was to visit 5 countries. Unlike the other 2, I am proud to say I achieved it!

1. Canada

I kicked the year off with a trip to Canada in February to see my brother. Ben had decided to cross the pond and do a ski season out in the stunning town of whistler and it gave my dad and I the perfect excuse for a holiday! My plan originally was to go snowboarding but that was put on hold when I managed to fracture both of my wrists 2 weeks before we were due to go out (well done me!). As a result I had to find other ways to keep occupied whilst my family were off bombing down the mountains and to my surprise there was actually plenty to do! I went for walks through the snow covered Forrest, went for a massage at their Swedish spa and even managed to make it up the mountain in one of the cable cars to take in the view. I have 2 blog posts written in more detail about what to do in whistler when you can’t ski that I will link here (adventurous) and here (relaxing). It was lovely to see my brother and his girlfriend after 5 months of them being away and also a great escape to a beautiful winter wonderland. Hopefully next time I go though I won’t have 2 hands in casts!

2. Croatia

My trips abroad came to a bit of halt over spring so when May came around I was desperate for some time away! The problem was, I couldn’t actually find anyone to come with me. My friends were all saving up their precious holiday days for a long trip away over summer and my boyfriend had just started a new job so didn’t feel he could take time off yet. So I went on my own, as I now recommend everyone should do once in their life. To begin with I booked into a cute air BnB but then figured I might get a bit lonely not talking to anyone for 4 days so I swapped to a hostel right in the old town of Dubrovnik. The city itself was beautiful and I was also lucky enough to be there when the final season of Game of Thrones was released (kings landing is filmed in Dubrovnik) so was able to watch an episode in the very place it was produced. I have a blog post of what to do in Dubrovnik here and also one about my game of thrones tour here. Everyone in the hostel was incredibly friendly and I ended up on a day trip to Montenegro with a girl I met one night over dinner (so technically that brings my country count to 6.) that you can read about here. Looking back now, I kind of see this trip to Croatia as my test run for my big trip away next year, I wanted to see if I enjoyed being away on my own and staying in hostels before committing to it for months, thousands of miles away from home. Clearly I loved it!

3. Marrakech

Just like I struggled to get away over Easter, I found it virtually impossible to get any time off over summer so my next holiday didn’t come around until September. This was my bonus holiday of the year as I won my ticket on the plane in a raffle put on by my job. We got flights and accommodation paid for, as well as tickets to a 3 day festival in the desert called Oasis. I didn’t have a clue what to expect from this holiday as we didn’t know where we were staying until we pulled up at the front door but we ended up being well and truly spoilt! Marrakech itself was like no where I had ever been. I had heard nothing but horror stories before we went out and, yes, it is incredibly crowded and busy and i wouldn’t think about doing it on my own as a young girl but it had the most incredible energy that radiated in everything from the people to the architecture. We spent most mornings wandering around the markets, the afternoons were dedicated to lounging by the pool and then we danced the evenings away at the festival. (We possibly danced a bit too hard on the last night, getting back to the villa at 6am and then leaving at 6:30am to catch our flight home. That was not a fun experience!) The highlight of Marrakech for me though was definitely the food, it is a must spot for the foodies of the world out there!

4. Italy

As the nights started getting darker and the cold was coming in, my boyfriend and I felt like it was time to get away for a bit. We looked for cheap flights on sky scanner and ended up getting a great deal for flights and a hotel in Lake Como. I have always had a soft spot for Italy and Como did nothing but make my love for the country grow. We stayed in a gorgeous hotel on the edge of the lake, with the most insta-grammable pool I have ever dipped my toes into, and managed to get the balance of adventure and relaxation just right. We would spend a day out exploring the breathtaking town of Como and beyond either by boat, walking or funicular and then the next day we would head to the spa in the hotel or hide from the downpours in a local pizzeria. The highlight of the trip for me was probably the views from the top of Volta’s lighthouse in Brunate. As it was a quiet season at the lake we had the whole place to ourselves and followed up our climb with a fresh slice of chocolate and pear cake and a cup of tea. I can definitely see why lake como was the inspiration behind the phrase “la dolce vita”!

5. Tenerife

Around 8 years ago now my grandad moved out to a small coastal town on the island of Tenerife and every year since I have gone out for at least a long weekend. This year my mum and I decided to embrace the chance to get some winter sun and we flew out over the first weekend of December. To me the small town of san blas now feels like a home away from home. We know where to stay, where to eat, where to walk so whenever we go we generally do nothing but relax and indulge in paella and tapas. We spent most days and evenings out with my grandad, as well only see him once a year, and the rest of the time we lounged by the pool or read our books on the balcony. I can definitely get used to 26 degree weather in December!

6. England (bonus)

I set my resolution as 5 different countries but I have also been lucky enough this year to go on 3 short stay-cations across England. For the August bank holiday my family and I packed up the car and drove down to Bournemouth for a gloriously sunny weekend at the beach. We played plenty of board games, explored the Jurassic coast and I got absolutely annihilated at a game of mini golf on the coast. For my step-mums 55th birthday I joined her and 20 of her friends in a church air BnB in Somerset. A lot of wine was drunk and cake eaten but we also went out to explore the beautiful Wells cathedral and did some shopping in the clarks outlet city. My biggest trip away in England though was the week I spent in Cornwall with my boyfriend. We made the 6 hour drive down to port Isaac and stayed in the most adorable farm house a 5 minute walk from the coast. The weather was not on our side but it meant we had the place to ourselves and went on plenty of walks where the only company we kept were cows and sheep. It can be easy to forget how many wonderful places England has to offer and I am looking forward to exploring more of the place I am lucky enough to call home.

2019 ended up being a big year for travel for me so it feels quite surreal to say that 2020 is going to be even bigger! It’s not often you can say you’re going to go to 4 countries in January alone! Think I’m going to have to come up with a new resolution for next year.

Merry Christmas and happy travels!

Go and grab another cuppa on me, Em x

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5. Did I tell you about the time when…

Something I have come to love about telling people I am going traveling is the moment when they  get reminded of an adventure they had on their own trips away. Travelling is almost like a right of passage in my family and it is something that we all share and love together. Therefore I thought I would get my nearest and dearest to tell some of their favourite travelling stories…

My Dads trip to Venezuela

For my 50th birthday we made a very special trip to remote Venezuela  to see the Angel Falls – named after a US pilot whose plane crash landed in the mist close by.  It took four flights to get there in decreasingly sized planes – there’s no access by road.  The falls drop a staggering 1km from top to bottom from a table top outcrop often shrouded in cloud.  The best way to see them is in a small plane or otherwise a traditional long boat up the river to the base. The air is so clean the waters magnificent – it felt almost spiritual to be among it all. If you’ve never seen pictures of it you might have caught the Pixar movie “Up” which kinda does its best to recreate the beauty and wonder.  A trip to treasure forever.

My brother Ben’s trip to Guatemala

One of my most memorable travelling experiences took place in small jungle village in Guatemala. After a rickety ride in the back of a pickup truck you arrive at Semuc Champey, a wondrous scene of natural pools and caves. The first adventure is a trip through the caves. Using only a hand held candle for light in caves with waist deep water, the darkness hits you quick! However so much fun is had when you weave, dive, jump and swim your way through the cave series, guided by some crazy locals. Once you emerge you come across a giant swing which propels you into the fast flowing river. After a couple of bridge jumps and sheltering from a freak storm you arrive at the pools, and from there it’s just exploring the beauty. It was an incredible day that I will remember forever, and would recommend a visit to anyone!

Vietnam- Kayaking in Ha Long Bay

My favourite travelling memory is from the north-to-south tour of Vietnam I went on this summer. It was day two of the trip and having settled into our cabin aboard a traditional junk boat in Ha Long Bay, my boyfriend and I went to spend time on one of the hundreds of islands. After a relaxing swim and a hike to the top of a viewpoint, we boarded a tender and were taken to a kayak centre, away from what appeared to be the hub of tourist activity. This was an optional activity on our tour, and my goodness I’m so glad we chose to do it. When we arrived, we were given a two-person kayak. As we were pushed into quite literally a sea of tranquility, in that moment I forgot that the rest of the world even existed and I truly got lost in the moment. We shouted and heard our voices echo, you could hear a pin drop. We weaved in and out of caves and paddled around rocks, finding mini hidden beaches. The water was so still and as the sun began to set and I felt so lucky to experience this in such a beautiful setting!

Merry Christmas and happy travels!

Go and grab another cuppa on me, Em x

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4. What made you want to go traveling?

Scrolling instagram every morning on the commute into London and seeing people eating pastries in French cafes, lying under palm trees on a Bali beach and riding a moped around Thailand, it can be hard not to have fomo! Before I had anything booked, I made a long list of places I had seen on Instagram and travel blogs that I wanted to go to and then built my dream trip around that. Here are a few of my favourite travel bloggers that will definitely make you want to buy a one way ticket around the world…

Twins that Travel

Claire and Laura are the reason I turned Out of Tea Bags into a travel blog to begin with and it is because of them that I want to document all my upcoming adventures. Their story-telling style of blogging makes you feel like you have been to places that you have never even heard of and their Instagram stories, that cover everything from Colin the Caterpillar cakes to hedgehogs, will make you feel like you’ve been friends for life. They have recently started their own female-only tours to places that can be intimidating to go as a solo female traveler. Added that to the travel bucket list for sure!

Beth Sandland

I clearly remember sitting on my nans sofa and watching Beths Instagram story summarising her tour of South East Asia with the Dragon Tour and thinking “that is what I want to do!” The very next day I went online and booked myself a space on the tour! I love the fact that she shows you the realities of travelling, as well as all the highs, and really gets across the point that traveling is a personal experience and it is okay to put yourself first even if it goes against the group. She takes the pressure of perfection out of traveling yet still maintains a beautiful Instagram feed that will have you searching sky scanner quicker than you can say Sandland!

Brogan Tate

Although Brogan didn’t go to Camp America she did go on a Trek America tour that had me desperate to go state side! I have always been cautious of group travel, in case I don’t get along with the others in the group, but Brogans vlogs reminded me that the most important part of a trip is the experience not the people and her strength and honesty in her trip inspired me to go on my own american adventure! After watching her Disney vlogs I am also going to do my best to sneak a short trip to Florida in!

Ellie Quinn

Ellie is the queen of solo female travel and she is definitely my inspiration behind doing this whole thing alone. Asia can be quite a daunting continent for girls going alone but Ellie takes that fear away and proves that, as long as you keep your wits about you, every country has beauty to be explored. Her blog is filled with great travel tips, from what to pack to what to do if you get an ill tummy abroad, as well as detailed itineraries on what to do when you reach your destination. She is also running tours of India which I hope to go on one day!

Sister Sister Travels

I have already printed off their guides to Australia to take with me! They have day-by-day diaries of what they got up to that you can either copy completely or take inspiration from to build your own travel plans around. Camilla and Natalie have the most aesthetically pleasing Instagram feed I have ever seen and is the perfect thing to scroll down if you know you want a holiday but don’t know where. Be careful though, you might have a quick browse and end up on a month tour in a van visiting every lake in Europe!

Go and grab another cuppa on me, Em x

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