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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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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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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3. Have you thought about packing?

When it comes to packing I am playing a total guessing game. I have never been on a long trip like this before and I think that it is all going to be trial and error. For that reason I am trying to keep everything limited and cheap so that if I do end up with too much I wont be heart broken leaving anything behind. I have read lots of packing blog posts off Pinterest from people who have already been traveling and this is what I have concluded to be the best list of what to bring.

Packing Basics

Choosing to go away at the start of January has many perks. For example, new year, new me, it is a great way to escape the harsh winter of England and I can use Christmas as a chance to get a few of the things I need for my trip. I haven’t actually got around to packing yet, but I did add some key items to my list to Santa this year:

  1. Backpack
  2. Packing Cubes
  3. First Aid Kit
  4. Towel
  5. Travel Adapter
  6. Luggage Locks
  7. Travel Sewing Kit
  8. Drinking Straws
  9. Filter Bottle
  10. Hot/Cold food container
  11. Scruba Wash Bag
  12. Portable Charger
  13. Eye mask
  14. Travel pillow
  15. Deck of cards
  16. Notebook/diary
  17. Torch

I am not by any means be expecting all of this to be gifted to me so after christmas I will purchase anything, that I am missing, myself.

Clothes/Shoes

There are obviously lots of other basics I will need such as clothes and shoes but I am just going to reuse everything I have in the back of my cupboard instead on investing in new things. If you want a basic plan however I am planning on bringing:

  1. 4 x t-shirts/vest tops
  2. 2 x shorts
  3. 1x maxi skirt
  4. 2 x summer dresses
  5. 7 x underwear
  6. 2 x swim wear
  7. 1 x light jumper
  8. 1 x light raincoat
  9. Flip flops
  10. Trainers

Toiletries

The next thing to think about is toiletries. I am trying to keep this minimal and as eco friendly as I can so I don’t cause more damage to the beautiful places I am going to see. I hardly ever way make up at home so i am limiting myself to absolute basics just incase of the odd night out.

  1. Shampoo bar
  2. Body soap
  3. Deodorant
  4. Bug repellent
  5. Sun cream
  6. Face wash
  7. Mascara
  8. Pencil eye liner
  9. Eyebrow Powder
  10. Concealer stick
  11. Super glue (you never know when this will come in handy!) 

Electronics

I don’t want to be lugged down by heavy electronics so I am going to limit myself to the absolute basics that I know I will use daily:

  1. Phone
  2. Camera
  3. Kindle
  4. Earphones
  5. Charging cables

As I said this is a total guessing game for me now so I will be sure to do an updated list of what I actually used when I get back.

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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