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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1. Where are you going traveling?

A few weeks ago I announced on my Instagram that from January next year I am trading my Oyster card for my passport and going traveling for 9 months. It is something I have been planning for months and dreaming of for years so I can’t explain how excited I am to say it’s only a few weeks away now. I’ve received a lot of different reactions from people when I tell them I’m jetting off and a whole range of questions from “can I come with?” to “are you crazy?” which has sparked me to put this little travel blog to good use and answer some of those questions.

I know at this time of year the only thing on people’s minds is if a “ring for wine” bell is inappropriate for office secret Santa or where you can hide your box of salted caramel matchsticks so your nan doesn’t eat them all but I thought I would put my own spin on a christmas classic and do the 12 days of travel!

Everyday I will answer one a common question I get as a response to “I am going traveling” and hopefully it might help you if it’s something you’re interested in doing or just give you something to read as your partner tries on their 17th New Year’s Eve outfit possibility!

Today I thought we would begin with my story and the most common questioned asked: Where are you going travelling?

At the age of 22 I have been lucky enough to visit 3/7 of the continents this world has to offer so I thought for my first big journey out there alone I would try to tick off another 2 – Asia and Australia. I am going to be venturing on a group tour of South East Asia, stopping along the way in Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia. I chose to go on a group tour instead of venturing it alone for the simple reason of I found it all quite intimidating. Not only are they new countries to me, they are totally new cultures, weathers, cuisines and it all felt a but too much to face solo. Being in a group will allow me to experience everything but with a safety net of having my journeys and accommodation already sorted. I know that I won’t have much time in each town but I am seeing this trip as my taster session to then return in future years and delve deeper into places that I don’t want to leave behind.

Now technically this is where the first section of my trip ends as I have nothing else booked in after my group trip ends. That however is all part of the grand plan. I have never been away from home on my own for longer than a couple of weeks so I might finish my month off and feel like it is time to go back or I might have come down with a strong case of the travel bug and never want to go home. I just don’t know! That is why I have left it open to see who I meet, how I feel and just giving myself the total freedom to do whatever feels right for me. If I do have the desire to continue then I have my heart set on catching a flight over to explore the beautiful lands of Australia and New Zealand. Even though I have never been to either of these countries I feel much more confident doing them on my own as they speak English and have a culture that, I might naively be assuming, echoes that of what we have here in England. These familiarities make the task of exploring somewhere new thousands of miles away from home on my own a lot less daunting and a lot more exciting! My vague plan is to grab a greyhound bus ticket, stay in hostels and hopefully make some new friends along the way to continue my adventure with.

When the time comes that I have either run out of energy, desire or money (most likely the latter) then I will catch a flight back home. As the last part of my trip is so vague I have no real idea of when this will be but I have predicted around April/May giving me just enough time to get my visa sorted for my second trip. Camp America!

I think it has been roughly 4 years now that I have said I am going to apply for a summer at Camp America but this is finally the year that I have made it happen. I will be uploading another post a bit later on about the whole application process, but I am thrilled that it all paid off and I will spending next summer in the state of New York singing camp fire songs, teaching photography and living my best parent-trap-esk camp counsellor life! If that wasn’t enough, the visa allows another month of travel in America so I will be sure to put that to good use and potentially do a trip down the East Coast. As with my earlier trip I am leaving it all up in the air now and waiting to see who I meet and what other plans just fall into place.

If all goes to plan, then in October next year I will be back in my own bed reminiscing over the endless memories I have made all over the world and no doubt planning my next trip away. But for now, that is day 1 of my 12 days of travel done!

Merry Christmas and happy travels!

Go and grab another cuppa on me, Em x

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Travel Diary – Kotor, Montenegro

According to GetByBus it takes 1hour and 50 minutes to get from Dubrovnik to Kotor in Montenegro. According to experience I now know it takes more like 3 hours and 50 minutes. The bus pulled out of Dubrovnik bus station at 10am and within 5 minutes I was deep into conversation with Kerala. We had met the day before in the hostel common room. Both solo female travellers, both on our last full day of our holiday and both looking for an escape away from the rain so we decided to pair up and go to Kotor for the day. I knew nothing of the city before getting on the bus and was really looking forward to exploring somewhere totally new and unexpected.

TOP TIP: You have to have your tickets printed to get on the bus and each ticket has 2 sheets of paper. Make sure to print them on separate pieces of paper and not double sided as the bus driver takes one and you keep one. If you don’t have a printer in your accommodation, there is a small travel shop about an 8 minute walk from the bus station that prints tickers for around 50p a page.

About an hour and a half into the journey we pulled into passport control and one by one had to step off the coach and present our passports to the officers. It didn’t take too long but hanging around in the rain for 30 passports to get checked will not go down as the highlight of the trip! After bustling back into the comfort of the coach I thought we were on our way. I was wrong. No longer than 20minutes down the road we stopped at a second passport control and had to do the whole process again. Now call me a naïve traveller, but it wasn’t until I had my passport stamped at the border that I realised Montenegro is not in the EU.

SIDE NOTE: This wasn’t an issue as EU citizens are allowed to travel through Montenegro for 90 days without a visa but if you don’t hold an EU passport then be sure to research what rules apply to you. The only problem I seemed to face with it was my phone usage charge for the day went up to £6 as I was no longer in the Vodafone Free to Roam zone.

After some manic (checking I am not about to be deported) searching, my fears were put to rest and we were finally back on the bus. The whole passport control process took about 45 minutes so be sure to factor that into any journey time! By this point I was quite ready to get off the bus but we still had around an hour and a half to go. Although it was a long journey it was a beautiful one. After breaking away from the border we emerged on a long road winding its way around the Bay of Kotor. We passed small seaside towns nestled between the mountains and the water’s edge and looked out over the Church of Our Lady of the Rocks that stands alone in the middle of the sea. If you have longer to spend in Kotor, you can get a boat out to see the church, something I would be loved to have done!

Just at the point when I felt like I had morphed into the bus seat, we made it to Kotor bus station. Now I have always been told not to judge a book by a cover but when we pulled into the bus station, I instantly thought we had made a mistake in visiting. The station looked out over an abandoned office block and graffiti ridden buildings that led down to a ferry harbour. We wondered down the road past building debris and old tattered cafes before emerging at the entrance to the city walls.  An easily missed passage, emerald green shutters framed the windows lining the single alleyway that we found ourselves ambling down. This was the Kotor I was imagining. Quaint, local shops appeared around every corner and, similar to Dubrovnik, everywhere you looked there was a different path just waiting to be explored. It was like a beautiful stone maze.

We soon popped out at one of the main squares and hid from the sudden downpour of rain in the Kotor Cathedral. Kotor had a handful of stunning churches, with gorgeous architectures and even more breath-taking interiors so we built up a good appetite dipping in and out of all the sites. By this point it was around 12PM and we settled down in the square for a bite to eat. The food resembled that of Croatia and was mostly made up of sea food, pizza and pasta, I had absolutely no complaints, and a pizza was around €8-10.

TOP TIP: Montenegro takes Euros and most places only take cash so if you are going on a day trip from Croatia then be sure to take out some Euros beforehand.

However stunning the old town was, it wasn’t significantly big and by this point we had seen most of it. With 5 hours to go till our bus departed we decided to get our 10,000 steps (plus a few more) in for the day and climb up the mountain to the Castle of San Giovanni. We had to ask a local for directions to the entrance as there weren’t any signs, but we found our way to the stairs at the base of the old town and began our ascent. Within a few hundred meters we were stopped by a man at a toll gate who charged us €8 each, I had heard that there is an entrance somewhere were you don’t have to pay but we were short on time and desperate not to get lost so we handed over the cash and continued the mammoth climb. 1350 steps hugged the mountain side and weaved in and out of old fortresses. Though my thighs have never burnt so much in my life the view got more and more spectacular with each step. I felt like Shrek on his way to find the princess as we dipped in and out of grey stone walls (and I was equally as out of breath and unfit as an ogre). The rocky terrain was quite hard to navigate at times and if you’re not a fan of heights then I would be careful not to look over the sides of the walls but if you’re going to Kotor then this is the way to spend your day.

TOP TIP: there were a few stops to buy drinks along the way but I am not sure what they were charging or how long the bottles had been sat in the sun for, so be sure to bring some water up with you to avoid dehydration.

At the top sits the ruins of the Castle of San Giovanni and was an incredible spot for some breath-taking photos. Though there are just a few walls of the actual castle left, it remained a great platform to sit, talk, take in the view and revel in pride that we had actually made it to the top! Unfortunately, time slipped away from us however and with only one bus to catch we had to start our descent back to the old town quicker than we would’ve hoped. The way down did pose a few more issues as it could be hard to grip on the rocky terrain but around 3 hours after we had set off we were back at the base of the steps. Now what better way to reward ourselves than with some ice cream and a Nutella crepe once safety back in the old town. We had a final mooch around the shops and grabbed some water and snacks for the bus journey home before heading back to where it all began.

TOP TIP: Be sure to go to the toilet and bring some snacks before getting on the bus as there are no chances to do either along the way. (Well there was a toilet on the bus but peeing on the move didn’t seem too appealing to me!)

Sitting at the bus station we met a Canadian Guy called Mitch who was on his way to Dubrovnik too. After assuming he was traveling alone we were taken by surprise when he said he was actually away with 7 friends who had already successfully made it to Croatia. He told us that he had got the bus that morning at 10AM but after arriving at passport control, realised his passport was still safely locked back in his locker at the hostel. He trekked 3 hours in the rain back to a gas station where he managed to catch a bus to Kotor, retrieve his passport and was now retracing his steps to finally get to Dubrovnik and his friends. Moral of the story? Always check you have your passport!

TOP TIP: For journeys leaving Kotor, even if you already have you bus tickets printed, you have to sign in at the bus station and pay a fee of around €2 each so be sure to factor this in when planning your day!

Turns out our driver on the way out either had a fear of boats or just liked taking his time as on the way back we simply got a ferry across the bay and cut about an hour off the driving time! After hopping on and off the coach at the various passport controls and reuniting Mitch with his friends it was time to get back to the hotel. The bus station is just outside of the old town in Dubrovnik and you have to either get a taxi or a local bus from outside the station to the entrance of Pile Gate (I explained this in a lot more detail in my Dubrovnik travel guide). I would be lying if I said taking a day trip to an unknown country with a girl I had known less that 8 hours wasn’t daunting but it turned out incredible. The Old town in Kotor is like something out of a fairy-tale book and the views over the bay from the top of the castle were about as breath-taking as the number of steps we climbed to get there. I left with a new friend, some incredible memories and a desire to not sit on a bus again for a very long time!

Have you ever been to Kotor or is it a place that you would like to go to?

Go and grab another cuppa on me, Em x

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My Hostel survival guide

HOW TO PICK A HOSTEL

Every morning, as my 6:20 alarm blasted in my ear, I had the same thought. I need a holiday. It was hard to lock down anyone else to go with me so I made the decision to simply go alone. I hopped straight onto Air BnB, found a whole apartment with a stunning view over Dubrovnik old town and booked in 3 nights in May. I couldn’t have been more excited and pictured myself, glass of wine in hand, watching the sun set over the sea. What more could I possibly want?

As the day went on however the doubts started to creep in. Is it safe to stay on my own? Is it a long walk away from the centre of town? Will this mean that I literally don’t communicate at all with another human being for 4 whole days? Is this really the smartest decision?

I have stayed in loads of Air BnBs before, so it felt familiar to me and I didn’t want to splash out on a hotel but whenever the word ‘hostel’ popped up I just pictured sharing dirty bunk beds with drunken strangers and going home with athletes’ foot from the showers (slightly dramatic I know!). It is sad to say but I knew it wouldn’t be that safe for me to stay alone in a whole apartment in a place I wasn’t familiar with, so I cancelled my Air BnB, got over my fear of foot bunions, and started browsing Hostel World instead.

Just like I would when picking any accommodation for a trip, I evaluated the following factors and then ordered them from 1 (absolute necessity) to 8 (not fussed about compromising on). This way I could filter down the endless list of hostels easier:

  1. Location
  2. Cleanliness
  3. Safety
  4. Price
  5. Common area (space to socialise)
  6. Amenities (kitchen/ washing machine/ bathrooms)
  7. Amount of people in room
  8. Single gender/Mixed

The things I was most concerned about were location, cleanliness and safety so I browsed the map to find hostels inside the city walls and then compared the ratings of cleanliness and safety for each hostel. I wasn’t actually fussed about staying in a mixed room, but it was nice to know that some places do provide the option of single sex rooms if that would make you feel more comfortable. I spent a good day and half reading reviews, looking at pictures and comparing prices until I decided on the best hostel for me. I know that everyone says the excitement of traveling is  being able to ‘live in the moment’ but if it is your first time in a hostel and you’re a bit nervous then there is no harm in taking time to find one that you’re going to feel comfortable in.

TOP TIP: if you are traveling alone then look for rooms with an odd number of beds (3,5,7) as that often means they will have one single bed amongst the double beds, this way you may not have to bunk with a total stranger.

 

HOW TO GET COMFORTABLE AND SOCIALISE

I remember walking into my 5 bed room for the first time and being genuinely surprised with how clean, airy and pretty it was! It was empty when I got there but there were 4 open suitcases on the floor. I have to admit that was the most nerve-wracking time of the whole holiday for me, I felt like I couldn’t really relax until I knew who was going to be sleeping within 5 feet of me. Naturally my mind jumped to images of serial killers and smelly, drunk lunatics but I was quickly brought back to reality when 3 English boys on a break from University and an American girl discovering Europe bounded in to say hello. It is easy to forget that 95% of people in hostels are welcoming, friendly travellers in exactly the same shoes as you and not Ted Bundy enthusiasts with a rope under their pillow!

Naturally social situations have never been a problem for me but being in a foreign country with a room full of strangers did throw me a bit! If you feel anxious about just how to socialise with your new roomies (or anyone you come across in the hostel for that matter) then here are a few ice breaking conversation starters that really helped me to settle in…

  1. Where are you from?
  2. How long have you been here for?
  3. What have been your highlights of the city/location you’re in?
  4. Are you traveling anywhere else after this?
  5. I am starving, any recommendations on where to eat?
  6. Do you know where the bathroom/kitchen is?
  7. I am glad to be away from the rain in England, what’s the weather been like here?
  8. I’m really excited to see/visit the ____, have you been there yet?

It can be incredibly daunting starting conversations and if you really struggle with social situations then look for hostels with smaller or even private rooms and try and avoid any with ‘party’ in the name. I think I must’ve walked up and down the stairs from my room to the common area at least 4 times before I got the courage to actually go in and talk to people. There was quite a big crowd gathered in the lounge, so I initially headed to the kitchen and asked a girl cooking if the teabags were free to use. I made a quick joke about how typical it was that the first thing I do in a new country is make a cup of tea and that you can take the girl out of England but not the English out the girl. Luckily, she laughed and we then started a conversation about how much she wanted to visit London. She introduced me to the group and before I knew it 4 hours of discussing everything from travel to cows had passed and I felt right at home.

 

WHAT TO PACK

I know there are hundreds of lists online of essentials to pack when staying in a hostel but I thought I would give my top selection of game changers that I was very glad I had in my case…

  1. Padlock, everyone in my room was totally chilled but you can never be too sure so just bring a padlock so you can lock your valuables away in the lockers. I came to learn that padlocks with codes are better as a few people in my hostel had lost or muddled up their padlock keys and had to pay a fine to break the lockers open and retrieve their stuff.
  2. Money Belt, if lockers aren’t provided then get a comfy money belt that you can always keep your passport and money in, even when sleeping. Quick disclaimer: if you’re reading this before staying in a hostel and are now thinking “oh crap I don’t feel comfortable staying somewhere where I physically have to strap my valuables to my body” then please don’t fret! For my whole holiday I didn’t lock anything away and kept my passport and money in a bag under my bed with absolutely no fear of it getting taken as everyone in my room was so lovely. I am just putting this on my list because you never know, and it is better to be prepared and not use it rather than risk it and wish you had it.
  3. Flip Flops, great for avoiding the dreaded athletes’ foot and also for walking around the hostel in the evening in when you want to be a bit more relaxed.
  4. Small Towel, most hostels don’t provide towels and also don’t have loads of room to hang things up to dry so just bring a small one that you can drape over your bed when it is wet and won’t take up much room.
  5. Extension lead, plugs can be hard to come by and you are normally limited to 1 per person so bring an extension lead. Then all you need is 1 wall plug and 1 adapter but you will have up to 4 sockets to charge your own things from.
  6. Comfy clothes, I found during the day everyone was out and about exploring but in the evenings we would all meet downstairs in the common room whilst some people cooked dinner and others just sat and socialised. It was such a game changer having some comfy shorts and a jumper to throw on!
  7. Sleeping mask, curtains aren’t always an option!
  8. Ear plugs, people snore!
  9. A book, although there was normally someone around to talk to, when the 4 o’clock “I need a break” time arrived for me I really enjoyed going back to the hostel and just relaxing in my bed with a book.
  10. Chocolate, food is a great way to make friends and snacks are just essential no matter what let’s be honest!

 

If you’re debating whether to stay in a hostel or not then my suggestion would be do some good research into finding one that is going to suit you, bring some snacks to share with your new roommates, pack your bag and just do it! They’re cheap and frequent enough in the big cities that if you’re not happy then simply move on to the next one or if worse comes to worse then you can just book an Air BnB for the night. I am so glad that I chose to stay in a hostel and I think I got really lucky that all of my roommates were lovely. I even ended up going on a day trip with one of the girls from the common room and I now consider her to be a good friend! I may have gone away on my own, but I was never alone and before long a room full of strangers felt like family.

If you have any more questions or any tips for me then please leave them below!

For anyone wondering I stayed in the Old Town Hostel in Dubrovnik and absolutely loved it! If you;re heading on a trip there then I couldn’t recommend it more as a place to stay and if you would like to know more about what to do in Dubrovnik then be sure to read my travel guide here!

Go and grab another cuppa on me, Em x

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Guide to Costa Rica : Monte Verde & Tamarindo

Part one of my trip around Costa Rica can be found here and part two can be found here!

Whilst driving down the roads of England you may be lucky enough to see a badger or fox crossing the street. In Costa Rica however we often stopped on the road to look at sloths or iguanas loitering by the roadside. On the journey to Monte Verde we were also welcomed by the most beautiful views of the rolling hills, something so different to the other landscapes we’d experienced thus far.

The windy roads did lead to a couple of upset stomachs along the way but a few pit stops later we made it to Hotel Belmar. It almost looked out of place in Costa Rica, the wooden panels and scalloped edges of the window pains suited it more to a ski resort in the Alps. An incoming tropical storm however soon reminded us of where we were as we darted into the hotel for shelter. My family shared great amazement in the storm that illuminated the whole horizon but as a person who is petrified of lightning I stuck my head under a pillow and gave that show a miss. My interest was sparked again however when the mention of a hot tub arose. Cosies’ on we sprinted through the rain to the bottom of the garden where nestled amongst the trees was a glasshouse. We could see the steam filling the windows and the vibrations of the bubbles tickled out toes as we crossed the patio. Were it not for the infestation of, what I could only imagine were, mosquitos that also lay claim to the hot tub I could’ve easily stayed there all day.

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All suitably heated and reenergised it was time to leave the compound of the hotel and head back into the rainforest. We were taken on a Cloud Forest tour through the canopy, spotting the likes of snakes, tarantulas and bats harbouring high in the safety of the tree trunks. The species that stole the show however were the birds. Likened only to the noise of bees around a hive, we were swarmed by hummingbirds drawn to the sweet aroma of the sugar water. In the blink of an eye they would flutter from one drinks post to the next, their wings stopping only for a millisecond to rest before taking off like planes in the night. Flashes of sapphire and emerald lit up the canopy and if you stood still enough you could feel the brush of their tiny wings against your ears. The highlight came for us however when we were lucky enough to spot a Quetzal, the national bird of Costa Rica, taking refuge on a nearby power cable. Almost like a robin mixed with a parrot, I had never seen so many bold colours on a bird and the way its blue wings shone against the sun as it took off was unforgettable.

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Having had so much success in the daytime we decided to return in the evening for a night tour. With nothing but a torch we followed a guide deep into the rainforest. It is crazy how much your other senses heighten when your sight is restricted, every rustle and rumble made me jump out my skin but in the end it all seemed to be for nothing. The only animal we came across was a mouse. Scary stuff! At that point we decided to bank the amazing sightings we had already had over our holiday and draw a line under our animal tours. To end our tour in Monte Verde on a high, or in hindsight a low, we partook in a yoga lesson in the wooden halls of the hotel. As someone who has taken a couple of classes before I found it rather enjoyable but, as I watched my own father crawl out the hall when the instructor turned her back, I gathered it wasn’t for everyone.

By this point we had wandered museums in the capital city, searched for sloths by boat in the rainforest, zip lined over volcanoes and ventured deep into the unknown in the dead of night. It was definitely time for some TLC and relaxation! We hoped on board a plane and before long were kicking up sand between our toes as we dived into the warm ocean water surrounding Costa Rica. Our accommodation for the last few nights of our trip was the Hotel Capitan Suizo, located directly on the beach and within walking distinct of the vibrant town of Tamarindo.  Monkeys and racoons traversed the tress above us whist we swayed in hammocks to the sound of the crashing waves, pure bliss.

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Failing to sit still for longer than an hour or so however we were soon back on our feet, following the curves of the ocean around to the town of Tamarindo. Brightly coloured buildings and quirky market shops lined the roads. We took refuge under the shade of the palm trees as the difference in temperature outside the cover and dampness of the rainforest was overwhelming. My favourite purchase from the market place was a small wooden surfboard, no bigger than a dinner plate, with the words “Pura Vida” engraved by hand into its edge. It now sits proudly above my cupboard and reminds me each day of the pure and happy lifestyle embraced by the people of Costa Rica.

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The only downside of the beautiful paradise we found ourselves in was the mosquitos. I have unpleasant memories of smothering the 50+ bites that plagued my legs in cream each night, just to get some relief from the constant itching. On our final night I could barely walk and didn’t want to face another night eating out on the beach where the bugs seemed to have me on the menu. It turned out to be one of my favourite dining experiences of the holiday however when my dad turned the storage trunk at the end of my bed into a table and we spent some lovely quality time together over a room service meal. The food was just as delicious, I got to spend some one-on-one time with my dad and my legs weren’t masquerade by a raging fleet of mosquitos, it was perfect! When the rest of my family returned from dinner, the holiday was rounded off by more competitive card games and laughter shared long into the night then I drifted off to the sound of the ocean. I couldn’t ask for a better end to the most amazing holiday if I tried.

On our journey home the next day we first had to fly to Miami and then catch the long flight back to London. Warn out from the adventures I’d been so lucky to experience I slept for a majority of the flight, woken only once by a friendly flight attendant who offered me warm milk and cookies before drifting back into a deep slumber. A smorgasbord of landscapes, climates and adventures waiting to happen, Costa Rica is a country destined to be explored. Whether its spotting wildlife, relaxation or an adrenaline rush that you seek to accomplish from a holiday this breathtaking island has endless opportunities to offer. Its true beauty however lies in the simple joy that radiates from all who live there, their infectious smiles can light up even the darkest of tropical storms as they embrace the “Pura Vida”. I implore anyone and everyone to visit Costa Rica and embrace the pure life that radiates through the entire island. Just make sure to pack the bug spray!

Go and grab another cuppa on me, Em x

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Verona outfit diary

I was lucky enough to spend a few days exploring the beautiful Italian city of Verona and I am a sucker for city break fashion. Here is my diary of what I wore day to day on my holiday (also keep your eyes peeled for a vlog and blog post about my trip)

DAY 1 – City Break

Our first day was spent wandering the streets of Verona. I knew I wanted something cool and comfortable but I was so inspired by the colour palette of the gorgeous buildings I couldn’t not wear this dress from New Look. It’s such a flattering length on my legs and didn’t stick to me in the boiling sun. Easy breezy as I like to call it. I opted for comfy shoes to get me across the cobbled streets and the rose gold stripes on these trainers matched my dress so perfectly.

  1. Dress – New Look
  2. Shoes – Adidas
  3. Glasses – Debenhams IMG_2838-1

DAY 2 – Poolside

Would it really be a holiday if you didn’t spend one day lounging around the pool. Our second day was spent doing just this. I absolutely adore this swimming costume from New Look. It has padding for my chest and synchs in slightly at the waist to give me such a flattering figure. Extra important to remember to put suncream on under the chain at the front though as no one wants a burn in the shape of a ladder running down their boobies now do they!

  1. Costume – New Look
  2. Glasses – Debenhams IMG_2840-2

DAY 3 – Lakeside

Seeing as we were only an hour out from Lake Garda we decided we would be stupid to miss out on seeing its beauty. I knew we would be out walking all day so I wanted to protect my shoulders from the sun and didn’t want to wear anything tight or uncomfortable. This dress was absolutely perfect. It’s thick enough to save my skin from burning but was so loose and floaty that, if I’m honest, I didn’t feel like I was wearing anything at all.

  1. Dress – Pretty Little Thing
  2. Watch –  M&S
  3. Glasses – Debenhams IMG_3111-2

DAY 4 – Sweet and Simple

Sometimes you just want to keep your outfit sweet and simple. I love the combination of the white and denim and think the blue trim on the top really ties the outfit together. We didn’t really have a set plan for this day so I thought this outfit would be perfect as it was comfortable enough to move around in but also made me feel put-together and girly. Lets be honest, you can never go wrong with a classic white tee and a bit of denim can you!

  1. Top – Zara
  2. Skirt – Topshop
  3. Glasses – Debenhams IMG_3148-2

DAY 5 – Traveler

If you haven’t gathered by now I am all about comfort when it comes to clothes and especially when my day involves a lot of traveling. This jumpsuit is the perfect transition piece as it is chic enough to wear around the city but the wide legs also means you can nice and comfy on your flight home. I would’ve been lost this holiday without this little rucksack as well. The colours goes with everything and its the perfect size to fit in all your essentials without feeling like you’re carrying around the kitchen sink everywhere you go.

  1. Jumpsuit – Stradivarius
  2. Rucksack – Accessorize IMG_3187-2

NIGHT TIME – Bar Goer

Every evening we found ourselves in out hotel bar playing cards and drinking cocktails. This was my favourite outfit of them all, firstly because it matched the colour scheme of the building so well! It is definitely a piece that can be dressed up easily with some jewellery and a pair of pretty sandals. The colour is so complimentary with my hair colour and I find wrap dresses to be so flattering. A 10/10 all round!

  1. Dress – New Look
  2. Glasses – Debenhams IMG_3025-2

If you want to see what I got up to in more detail here is my vlog of my trip too!

Go and grab another cuppa on me, Em x

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