From Broome to Darwin, exploring the Northern Territory 

Picking up where I left off last week, and carrying on my Australian adventure; when my time in Perth was over I headed to Broome, which honestly, was great but so tiny. I only spent two nights there and that was enough. I did go to the world oldest open air cinema, something that I’d always wanted to do which was great. The building was still all original and it had the original style deckchairs and I watched ‘Beauty and the Beast’ under the stars. The town was cute, there and some shops and a few small independent art galleries in which the artists were still doing their work. I love exploring new artists and supporting them. And I saw the most incredible sunset. I was to see many sunsets and sunrises in my time travelling but honestly, this one was by far the best. The sky was perfectly clear and there were about five or six colours streaked across it, and then came my absolute favourite time of night, when you can still see part of the sunset on the horizon but the sky has also started to blacken and the stars have begun to come out. Honestly, beautiful. The friends I made there were the best. Took me under their wing the first hour I got there and essentially looked after me haha. Took me round places with them in their van, we had BBQs. Watched sunsets, had drinks and made friends for life. It was fantastic.After that I went to Darwin. Well, that was crazy. I of course, checked into the main party hostel and was so happy I did. Within 2 hours of landing, I was drunk of my ass with a group of crazy girls I’ve never met before and had the time of my life. They were mad and I had so much fun, spent a lot of money and got wasted. But the guys I met did this every night, and a lot of them were on working holiday visas. To me it looked like a working holiday visa was working shit jobs, for shit money, to spend it all on alcohol, to be hungover in bed that day, to go to back to work, to do it all again. I asked some of them how long they’d been in Australia and some answered about six months. I said, oh how much travelling have you done? They would reply none because they haven’t got any money, even though they work everyday. It all went on alcohol. $9 a shot. It made me see that I would probably never do a working holiday but I would just go back to do a tourist visa like I did before. I’m sure there are loads that love it and that a working holiday visa is something that would be perfect for them but just not for me. It seemed like it was not all the Australian traveller dream is cracked up to be!

Anyway, I had a great time in Darwin, there’s quite a bit to do! I went to the Litchfield National Park which was incredible, I love getting into nature and exploring new places so this was definitely one of my favourite things to do! I swam in waterfalls and explored new nature, I loved it. I went on a jumping crocodile tour and they leaped out of the water and wiggled like a salmon to get the meat which was awesome. I also swam with a crocodile which was absolutely terrifying but ya know, when in Rome! That was actually my attitude to pretty much everything that I saw the opportunity to do. If I was ever on the fence about doing something, I was like, when am I going to be here again and have this opportunity. Made me do things I’m not sure I’d have done otherwise!

Bit of a short one but next time will be the beginning of my East Coast adventure when my bestie came out to join me so watch this space!

 

 

Better late than never – the effect of India

Well I suppose this post comes better late than never! I left India just over two weeks ago and once again I had an incredible experience.  

My experience this time was similar to Thailand but not the same, similar in the craziness! The whole world of India seemed mad, the driving, the hustle and bustle, the shops, the streets, the animals on the streets, the noise! It was all so disorientating. But I suppose that’s one the parts of the culture, you’re just thrown into this world of chaos and everyone around you thinks it’s normal haha. 

The traffic and roads alone were absolutely mental, the driver of the taxi I got from the airport was laughing his head off as I was holding on for dear life in his car. The Tuk tuk rides were quite terrifying until you’d gotten used to them as well. No belts, no road safety it seemed, the drivers getting so close to people and cars I feared for everyone’s safety, at some points holding on for dear life! And then there’s the drivers themselves. Most of them were ok but especially if you were on your own, they took you to shops and tried to make you go inside which I hated an refused to do. Turns out it’s a government scheme thing and they get stamped every time they get someone to go into these shops and it means they can get money from the government from what I could gather. When I actually spoke to my driver about it properly it seemed they knew how annoying it was for people and they didn’t like doing it but they kind of have to. In the end, he took me to 2 shops and gave me a free ride. I get why they do it but it’s so goddamn annoying. 

Also, bit of advice: agree a price for your destination before leaving or they’ll get there and try and charge you a lot more.

Another thing that I found mad was how cheap everything was! I exchanged what was left of my Thai money when I got to the airport and they laughed at me coz the amount I got in rupees was so little, even though it was over 1,000! When shopping for stuff everything was mad cheap as well, I’m talking like 10p for a big bottle of water! If I went for a nice meal, plus drinks and sides, it would only cost the equivalent of a fiver but even that was expensive!  

The shops themselves were cute, ‘authentic’ you could say with lots of unique trinkets and handmade crafts and stuff which are my absolute favourite type of shop and I spent farrrrr too much money. Although a major drawback of a lot of these shops and walking found the town in general, you were followed around and pretty much harassed. However much I enjoyed my time in India, I’d had enough by the time I’d left. I’d spent so long on edge all the time, I wanted to feel comfortable leaving the hotel or walking round by myself again.  

I never really felt relaxed, you had to be on your guard all the time for people always wanted to talk to you, get you into their shop, sell you things, when all you wanted to do was be alone. It didn’t help that everyone had been warning me how much of a target and be and to be really careful and it didn’t help that I got stares everywhere I went. As well as this we were told not to talk to guys too much, even if they were just trying to give you directions or something as they might mistake polite conversation for something else so it was hard to even have a civil convo with someone. You just know how different the attitudes towards women are etc and you don’t know what their intentions are. I’m not trying to put off anyone who wants to go, I’m really not but be prepared, if you do go you’ll get a lot of attention. I would’ve enjoyed it a lot more if I could have relaxed even walking down the street
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Two of biggest biggest cultural influences I saw where the art and the Ayurvedic medicine. While I was there the Cochin Biennale was running and it was incredible. It was a huge art expedition that ran over the whole city featuring artists from all over the world with pieces from all mediums that really stretched what art was. It was great and it really made you think about what the piece was saying and controversial pieces made you question convention, as I suppose art is supposed to do. Check out my instagram page for pictures of my favourite pieces. https://www.instagram.com/brybabes1/?hl=en brybabes 1 Instagram 

As for Ayurveda medicine, I found it so interesting. The core belief of Ayurveda is that health and wellness depend on a delicate balance between the mind, body, and spirit. They use natural products in their treatments as it is believed that nature provides the all the remedies that we need and using these natural things on your body is better than manufactured chemicals and also is much better for the environment. It was just a really interesting window to explore and has made me begin to use all natural cosmetic and face care products and so far it’s going really well. 

Now onto the actual volunteering part. I volunteered with the same company that I did with in Thailand (GVI). The work that I had to do this time was a lot harder and a lot more rewarding. The main project I was on was teaching young underprivileged children English (as best I could!) It was a super emotional roller coaster of a time, I was crying pretty much every day. These kids who have so little, are so eager to learn and and embrace life, compared to some of the kids that we have at home who care so little about their education and don’t realise how much they have. You can literally see the difference that you’re making on the faces of these children, made me sooooo emotional.

It wasn’t just the school, we also helped at a homeless residence where most of the people who were brought there were either physically or mentally disabled. The joy we saw on their faces when we came was unforgettable. One week we got the music going and the microphone working and we had a loud disco and they were all singing and dancing and it was amazing. It made me think why couldn’t we have something like this at home, something this good. 

We also helped out at the girls orphanage once a week, helping with homework and playing games and all they wanted was love. That’s literally all they wanted and it was heartbreaking. We were told not to get too close, not to hug them and hold their hands because if they get attached to you and you leave then that’s gonna hurt them. 

This place really made me want to make as much of a big difference in this world that I can. This organisation and experience shows how much of a difference we can make if we all join together. Because of everyone who volunteered, we have helped and made the lives better for an entire community. It wasn’t just the projects that I was working on either, there were other projects in progress as well, like construction which, at the time I was there, was helping building a toilet block for one of the schools, a facility they did not have before the volunteers got there. And the health project which worked with a special school, as they call it, a school especially for those who are mentally or physically disabled. There was also the women’s empowerment project which was incredible and I was lucky enough to briefly park take in the rally on International women’s day. This project is so important to these women. They are not treated the same in the U.K., a lot of them don’t know their rights, they need help, and they are getting it. 

Lastly and maybe most importantly, I need to mention the people that I’ve met. I’ll never forget you guys, you made the experience what it was. I’m so lucky and so glad to have met you all, you are all such amazing people who’ve done such incredible things and I love you all for that. And now I have a reason to visit a lot of you abroad 😉 

This place and these people has made me want to do a lot more, anything I can in fact to help people, it’s so unbelievably important.  

Next it’ll be about my Aussie adventures, until then, peace out xx 

So much experience, so little time – what I learned in Thailand.

I would have to write a novel, no, a trilogy, to convey to you everything that my time in Thailand has given me, which seems quite incredible considering I’ve barely been here for 2 weeks, so I will not even attempt it. This short post will offer a small insight into my favourite experiences of my time here so you might be able to get the gist of what this has been like for me.
I have come to the end of my time in Thailand, and what a phenomenal time it has been In just a short time, I have done so much and immersed myself in so much culture. It’s amazing what you can do when you put yourself out there and embrace your life and take every opportunity presented to you.

I’m currently writing this on a 9 hour overnight layover (oh what joy) in Colombo, waiting for my flight to India, but that’s the price you pay for a more affordable flight I guess, all part of the experience.

So to begin at the beginning, I left home almost 2 weeks ago, absolutely shitting myself as you can imagine. I’ve never done anything like this before and I was going to literally the other side of the world by myself. Whaaaaaaaat. My poor mother could tell how scared I was when she left me and kept calling me at the airport to check how I was! I was right to be nervous and a bit scared cos I knew that even in this short time I’d be forced to face challenges, even little ones, like when things don’t go to plan, and had to use my initiative as a fully functioning adult (lol next joke please) to sort everything out.

As to what I’ve actually experienced, let’s start with the organisation that I volunteered with, GVI (Global Visions International). They have been an amazing leaping off point to surround myself in the culture of Thailand and to give me a bit of handholding at the beginning of my trip (extremely useful for a first time solo traveller going to a completely new country!

 

The specific project that I actually went to work on was with rescue elephants; working with the local village to rehabilitate elephants that had been rescued from camps and such like. Or in GVI’s own words, ‘Support community efforts to help reintegrate elephants into their natural habitat, from their previous lives in tourist camps’.

It was an absolutely breathtaking experience. Not many people have the privilege to experience getting that close to the elephants in their natural habitats. The only other real option to get as close to the elephants as we did is if you saw them in camps or zoos, not the best situation for them as I shall explain.

We not only got to visit, hike with, feed and health check the elephants, we were also educated on the history of the elephants, how they have been treated and seen in the past, how they are treated in camps currently and what learned behaviours that they ‘perform’ are harmful to them e.g. standing on hind legs. We learned how these tricks are learned through the negative reinforcement in the camps, bad diet they are given and the lack of healthcare for them etc etc. More importantly we learned how we could make a difference and promote ethical tourism, which I suppose is what I am doing now. So if you take one thing away from this post it is do not ride the elephants. Their lungs are actually attached to their rib cages so the minute any pressure is put on their backs it greatly inhibits their ability to breathe. A lot of people don’t know that (I know I didn’t) so I urge you if you ever hear your friends say they’re going to ride them please discourage them!! If you must visit elephants, please do your research and find out which ones actually treat the elephants well.

After ethical tourism, most importantly we learned about the elephants bond with their mahout, a villager who stays with their specific elephant and is bonded with them, stays out with them in the field and is essentially their carer, protector and friend. We try to persuade as many mahouts as possible to bring their elephants back to the forest and away from the camps.

The bond that the mahouts have with the elephants is amazing. On one hike, one of the elephants, Charlie, had hurt his leg and within about half an hour, several of the villagers had biked down to where we were to see what was wrong and if they could help. The love that these people have for the elephants is second to none.

Not only was I helping a wonderful cause and learning a lot about the cause in the process, the way the project was structured I have been completely thrown into a another culture with new customs, new language, new way of life and the whole experience has been phenomenal. For example, the first night we arrived in the village, we were thrown into the middle of a celebration of the Karen people.It was the villages end of harvest festival and they had all been drinking since 8am something called rice whiskey, a drink that they make buy and sell themselves (it was super strong and super gross btw) but you couldn’t refuse it, as that is rude in their culture. Consequently, I also learned by first pakinyaw word that day ‘chicka’ which means little haha, chicka chicka whiskey. And in the process discovered that they have their entirely own language that is in no way similar to Thai (super useful I know).

In the middle of these celebrations we took a break for dinner where the people of the village all brought food for a potluck dinner. At the end of which, they villagers blessed all the newcomers and current residents, by tying white string around our wrists (which is now brown coz of all the dust in the village) to keep away that bad spirits and invite the good ones in what is called a gigu.

In addition to all of this, I had a few lessons in Pankinyaw which was super interesting and also had a tour of the village itself which was amazing. I’ve never experienced a village which was so isolated, in the middle of the mountains, literally not appearing on google maps, only 200-300 people, very basic conditions, bamboo/wood housing structures, no hot water, bucket showers, squat toilets, not for the faint hearted!! Really see how the other half live, self contained, had its own school and nursery, a couple of little shops and they worked the fields and the elephants. The women in the village even hand made their own garments which were available to sell (I bought a fair few items!)

Also, the people of the village were not cautious towards us as I had feared. They were glad of the help and the GVI team had create such a good bond with them over the years that they had been there. Each volunteer stayed with their own home stay family who took them in, gave them a bed, and fed them. We even had a cooking class in their traditional style of cooking, which basically meant alllllllll the rice, lots of eggs and then some veggies.

As well as hiking with the elephants, I went on a night hike which was amazing as we were taken by a mahout through the spirit forest, so called as when the babies are born in the village, their umbilical cords are tied to the trunks of the trees in they forest so that their spirits are intertwined with the spirits in the forest (very avatar- esque it seems to me).

I was extremely lucky to be able to experience a corner of Thai culture that is not available to most who visit and wasn’t just thrown into the hustle and bustle of the usual tourism.

I got so many experiences like that it was incredible to have fitted them in in such a small space of time.

I was also lucky that in the week I was with GVI we were offered a trip into the town and then to visit Doi Inathon the highest point in Thailand. Not only is it a beautiful national park but it is also a gorgeous temple. The amount of incredible views and beautiful temples I saw was great, most people only get to see pictures but I managed to experience the whole thing first hand. For pictures and descriptions check out my Instagram.

Most importantly let’s not forget the people that I have met. I have met so many incredible people, from all over the world, people who I had no idea I would meet and ended up travelling on with some! I felt so close to people even after only a couple of days so I can’t imagine how the people who have been on the project for months or even years feel!

In my, albeit currently limited experience, I have found that you tend to get on well with pretty much everyone, as I feel there’s a very niche group of people that would be willing to spend weeks or even months in a dirt village in the middle of nowhere with no wifi and questionable sanitation, getting up at god knows what time each morning to go hiking to look after other creatures…

So, here’s a smidge of what life was like as a first time traveller, in Chiang Mai, however, I will do a full post on my tips, tricks and advice when I have completed my travels and am full of worldly knowledge (hahahahahaha). I was concerned as single girl travelling alone in strange country where I didn’t know my way around but if you’re sensible you’re fine. Everyone I’ve met has been super helpful; check tripadvisor and trust word of mouth of your friends that have been before. As a Westerner they will probably try and charge you more, especially at markets buy usually the prices are still so low it’s not much of an issue. If you find a fixed price stall that takes away the pressure of haggling which I really hate. In the city, you’ll find western food, super cheap food at markets, alternatively go to a restaurant, get a massive really good meal and a drink for under a fiver, had meals that you would easily pay 3 times as much for at home.

However, I’m not going to pretend it was all sunshine and rainbows, although there was pretty much nothing but sun weather wise. I have found some bits hard. Feeling like I don’t have a safe place or a place to call home that I can run back so when it all gets a bit overwhelming. I still have so much to learn, learning not to get panicked at the first hiccup, not to be afraid and feel bad when I’m on my own, not afraid to talk to other people, you kind of have to be ‘that person’ when you’re oh your own. Have to love yourself and your own company, need to learn to let go of the little things that make you angry inside, leave it alllll behind and take a deep breath. I have to keep reminding myself that I’ve barely been doing this for two weeks and it’s bound to get some getting used to.

Thailand, you have been incredible and I am sorry to leave but am equally as excited to go to India. I hope my time there will be similar but oh so different at the same time. Peace out.

Confessions of a bookaholic.

Fair warning, this is just a major novel/book/literature/story appreciation post and also partly marvelling at how much they influence pretty much everything.

I love reading, I always have done. It is a huge part of my life and one of the main reasons that I chose to do an English literature degree.

I only really started thinking about this properly recently, how literature, stories, books are such a huge part of our lives. They make up everything. The form the way we think, the way we speak, the way we feel. Even when we are children, everything that we learn are from stories we are told by our parents. Fairytales supposedly shape our moral compass and lessons when we grow up. Our culture, nature and history are all taught through stories, stories round the campfire, stories before bed, even stories we tell each other about what happened the other night.

Some people make the argument that they’d rather just watch a film but seriously, one of the best things about novels compared to films is that there is so much more to novels than meets the eye. There are so many interpretations to be drawn from them so many different ways, it’s one of my favourite things to do. There are so many meanings that can be drawn and finding them all or finding the one that means the most to you in the best part of novel reading.

It’s not only how they influence the world in such a drastic way, people greatly underestimate the power of literature. A good book or story can change how you look at the world, about how you feel about things. Good story telling can change your mood. Make you happy or sad. You can tell someone how you feel through a story.

It’s even more than that though; the therapeutic power of books is astounding. You can get lost in a good book, it can distract you from your life, you can be in another world, lead another life, become another person. If you’re feeling depressed or just a little down, they can distract you from your problems, change your mood and make you feel so much better.

The power of the written word and even verbal story telling is second to none.

‘Spread the love not the hate.’ What I learned from Zigi Shipper, a Holocaust survivor.

When I was at uni, I did a module called Holocaust literature. One of the weeks the lecturer had a Holocaust survivor Zigi Shipper come in and talk to us about his experience in Auschwitz and during the Nazi occuptation. You can read the outline of his experience on the Holocaust Educational Trust website. Link below:

http://www.het.org.uk/survivors-zigi-shipper

He spoke to us for over an hour. His experience was heartbreaking and shocking to hear but it conveyed so many important messages. The biggest of which is ‘do not hate’. Hate will do nothing but spread negativity and lead to destruction. Hate is what caused the Holocaust. He spoke about how people asked him if he hated Germans because of what happened to him. He said of course not. The Germans that he meets have absolutely nothing to do with what happened to him in the past. It would be completely counterproductive and ridiculous to hate them now. He asked us what would be gained from hating these people. Absolutely nothing. He has seen firsthand how all that this hate would create was more negativity, more hate, and if that escalated, even more death.

This brave, old man, who has seen so much more hate, death and destruction than many of us could ever imagine, stood in front of a room of the younger generation, as he had done probably for the eighth time that week and begged us; he pleaded, spread forgiveness, spread the love, not the hate. Do not hate, he kept repeating. Do not hate.

 

Below is a link to a transcript of one of the talks that he gave. Not the specific one that I attended but the main story is the same. I do have a recording of the talk I attended, which shall hopefully be uploaded soon, when I work out how to do it.

https://www.atl.org.uk/Images/Zigi%20Shipper’s%20story.pdf

 

if you were going to die tomorrow, what would you do today?

This post is going to be one that, I’m sorry, is slightly philosophical… but also one of the most important things that I think I will ever write and I’m just gonna dive straight in; ask yourself, if you were going to die tomorrow, what would you do today? And by that, I don’t mean, not turn up to work.

What I do mean is, first of all, don’t go to bed mad with people you could make up with, they could be gone tomorrow… If there is anyone that you wouldn’t want to die without making up with, sort it out now. We don’t know what life is going to throw at us, we could all die tomorrow. You could literally walk out your front door, cross the road and get hit by a bus. I know that sounds dark and pessimistic but it’s true.

That friend who you argued with the other week and still haven’t made up with, that guy you used to be friends with, tried dating and now it’s weird, just sort it out. Talk to them, even just one conversation could make you feel so much better.

Which brings me to my second point, do not have bad blood. It is toxic and will seriously get you down and be a huge negative impact on your life. If you reconcile with those who you have bad blood with, discuss your problems and do not leave things without sorting them out, it will make you feel so much better. You may not even realise that it’s weighing you down but our lives are so busy and what we do is so time consuming, we rarely have time to think long and hard about what may be negatively impacting our lives and moods.

Even while saying this, I understand that there are some things that can’t be reconciled. If feel totally ok even though there are problems between you and someone and you would be totally ok without reconciling with them before you die, then fine. But I stand by what I said, bad blood is toxic and dealing with this will lift a weight you didn’t even know existed.

On a similar but slightly different point, if there is someone that you are in love with or even have feelings for, for the love of God literally just tell them! This links to another post I’m going to write about relationships so watch this space.

Then, if you love someone, tell them. I see so often that people say, ‘oh I have been in love with [insert name here followed by hopeless sigh] for [insert insanely long time]’. If you love someone, and you haven’t told them the most likely reason is that you’re scared of rejection. If they turn you down or say that they don’t reciprocate your feelings, then yeah, it’s going to be really rough for a while. But then at least you know! Not knowing and living in a constant stasis of limbo is going to be even more destroying than the pain of rejection. Then you can move on with your life, time heals all wounds, and you will be annoyed at yourself for waiting so long to address the problem! You will feel so much better, a weight will have been lifted that you didn’t even know that was there. For your own sake, just do it!

Be happy, love life, spread the love and release the hate.