Tales of a Passport

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I am a person who can be described as ‘quite attached to’ her passport. I recently got a new passport as my old one expired and I wasn’t excited about this at all. This was not only because it cost me close to 450 Aussie dollars, but because my old one is just fine thank you very much. Sure, it’s starting to get a bit ratty and damaged, but so am I with 10 years and more than a few long haul flights added to my life. I was mortified when they cut my passport in front of me – so flippantly damaging a document I have protected better than I have protected myself or any other possession for the last decade.

My last passport was my first passport as well and you tend to think fondly of anything that was your ‘first’. Perhaps now it should be called my ‘inaugural passport’. I remember trotting off to Aussie Post during my lunch break as a 22 year old, making sure my hair and make up looked ok (I still ended up with lumpy hair!!), so I could get my application in and get myself off on my very first overseas adventure. Ironically and now hysterically I took myself very seriously and thought I was a bit too ‘old and mature’ for a Contiki trip, but nevertheless I was excited beyond belief about finally leaving the shores of our big old Island and jetting off to see how the others live.

It is amazing to think back now about how much has changed because of this one little 35 odd page book that came completely empty save for my lumpy hair and intentionally sour faced photo. It is now filled with stamps, visa’s and dates which are all memories and stories from adventures in different corners of the world. It more than keeps a record of the entry and exits, but represents the places I have visited, the things I have seen and learnt about the world as well as myself, the amazing people I have met, the weird and wonderful foods I have eaten and all of the places I have left a tiny piece of my heart.

I compare the inaugural photo with it’s successor (somehow STILL with lumpy hair!!) and instead of thinking about how excited I was about the anticipation of my upcoming adventure, the guy at the photo shop had to take about 5 shots because I literally could not stop smiling, laughing and looking around. This could very likely be because I am that kind of smiley easily distracted person regardless of the activity, but I think the fact that I love my life and that as the saying says ‘I will never be the same having seen the moon shine on the other side of the world’ is one of the reasons I cannot wipe the smile off my face and that the girl in my inaugural passport photo, could never have imagined the fun that was ahead and the adventures she had to look forward to. She would never in her wildest dreams have imagined a life so great, a life so full.

So, based on that, I now look at my new passport a little more fondly and think ‘oh the places we will go’.

First stop, Paris, because as Audrey says ‘Paris is ALWAYS a good idea’.14408994_10154973830031490_1019860392_n

 

Poké if you want to.

I was just chatting away to my big sister just now and telling her I was having a grand old time sunning myself in the park and she asks me if I am catching Pokémon. I don’t really know much about this Pokémon Go craze, except that it makes me feel like a bit of a dinosaur cause all the kids are off doing it and I don’t really understand.

My sister carries on to tell me that people who catch Pokémon are called Pokérs. I don’t know if I quite believe her, because big sisters are always trying to stitch up their younger siblings, but lets roll with that identifier all the same.

When I say I don’t understand Pokémon Go, I have had a few brief educational seminars over a pint with some of my friends who are known to be Pokérs. I understand the basic principal, that you cruise around in the real world, looking like you are lining up a photo on your phone catching virtual pets (are they pets?!). What you do once you have one, I couldn’t tell you, but I keep hearing that ‘you’ve gotta catch ‘em all’.

Now despite the fact that I had a Tamagotchi as a 10 year old and got a bit into Harry Potter as a teenager (may or may not have lined up to get one of the first releases of one of the books) and fully endorse a pomegranate and kale superfood low GI salad concoction, I do have a tendency to resist a fad out of stubbornness. I cannot say I relate to this obsession and understand how it has taken over so quickly. I saw a sign the other day that said ‘Pokémon in this store are for customers only’ and was interested that this seemed like such a normal every day thing to see, despite this having no relevance only weeks ago.

I have been very fascinated by the divide between ‘Pokérs’ and ‘Non-Pokérs’ with a ‘Non- Pokér’ recently saying to a group of people ‘am I the only one who isn’t into this bloody Pokémon thing’?? I have also noticed that ‘Non-Pokérs’ tend to give the ‘Pokérs’ a bit of a hard time and are quite judgmental of their game – a few meme’s spring to mind instantly.

In saying all of this, I fully endorse anything that makes you happy. Although I personally would rather sit in the park and try to catch sun-rays and pats from other people dog’s than catch Pokémon, I say go for it, spend your Sunday morning doing whatever it is that delights your soul. We are all passionate about and spend our time doing something that a those around us don’t understand – be it travel, food, drinking, filming, napping, any kind of sport (eg walking 100km non-stop like somebody I know this weekend – NUTS!!) or even blogging, we are all different and that is an absolutely excellent thing. Conversation would be fairly monotonous if we all did the same thing and just agreed with each other all the time. There is nothing more lovely to see in somebody than a smile (picture it, so genuine, often slightly dorky) on their face, the way there is a little more enthusiasm in their voice or little spark in their eye when they talk about something that’s fun for them, that they love or that they are really really into. We should do more of that stuff than the things and not care at all what other people think.

I’m off now to have a cold drip coffee and top up my supply of Coconut oil and matcha powder, hope you get your Pikachu !!

Happy Sunday people!

xx

 

Picture Perfect Jordan

I have what’s known as cover photo choice dilemma. It’s a delightful problem to have and it’s a problem most commonly suffered by lucky people who travel a lot and indulge in a little (too much?) photography. I’m happily overcome with this issue and as mentioned before, happily infected with the travel bug.

One of my recent big trips, also happens to be one of the most photogenic destinations I’ve been to was Jordan. If you’ve been paying attention (and I would never judge you if you confess that you have not), you’ll recall I’ve mentioned this before and moreso I mentioned how excited I was!!

Although I am very often described as an ‘excitable type’, I am always nervous to get too excited about upcoming trips as I think this has the propensity to heighten the expectations and lead to disappointment. With disappointment not being something I am a fan of, I can tell you with absolute certainty that Jordan lived up to and exceeded my expectations – and I suspect that even if I had researched it to death, I’d still be saying that!

This low expectation thing for me (ironically as a Travel Agent) extends to pre-planning and research of a destination in detail, again so I can continually be in awe of what I am doing/seeing and learning about a place. This is one of the reasons I book group tours. Small group adventure tours to be more precise. I’ll confess, I barely even read the itinerary of the tour I booked, I saw that it went to Petra, Wadi Rum, the Dead Sea and a few other surprises (Jerash, Amman and Madaba) and said yep that sounds perfect. I picked a tour with ‘On the Go Tours’ as I had been recommended them by a friend who had travelled them and thought that Jordan was a place I might like the 4 star comforts, without having to be on a 40 seat coach with 70 year olds taking photos with their Ipads or hungover 18 year olds. I got all of this as well as a little company for this solo social traveller!

As always, I don’t have the attention span to sit and tell you all about the in-s and out-s of our itinerary and to be fair, no matter how knowledgeable our local guide was, I couldn’t tell you what year Moses was buried at Mount Nebo, but I can give you a few of my highlights and insights and of course a few snaps I took along the way!

  • Stuff in Jordan is really really really old. We were bandy-ing around words like ‘BC’ , ‘old testament’, ‘Stone age’, ‘Iron Age’ ect – you literally cannot comprehend it sometimes and furthermore, that it is so accessible, you can walk right up and touch ancient artefact and mosaics
  • Jordan is really really quiet at the moment. With the current ‘situation’ in the Middle East, tourists are hesitant to visit Jordan. There has been a decrease in visitors (and bear in mind Tourism is the industry they rely most on) of 80%. Although I understand somewhat why people are skipping it for places perceived to be safer, I can promise you I never once felt unsafe. We drove right up to the Syrian border and past some of the refugee camps where some of the 2 million refugees they have taken in live and not once did I feel threatened or uneasy. In light of this, it did mean that for a majority of the time, we had place what felt like to ourselves – there were even times in Petra (granted not directly in front of the infamous treasury building), that there was not a soul around other than us, so if you ask me, now is the BEST time to go!
  • Jordanian people are some of the friendliest, most curious and gentlest people I have ever met. As a people lover with a genuine curiosity for different cultures, I feel like you might suggest I say this every time I visit a new country, but I can vouch for myself (and I often do), that in Jordan, they couldn’t be more deserving of this title. Jordanian culture deems nothing is too private, so be warned, they will ask you just about anything! Unlike in many touristic countries, those working on market stalls, will accept no thank you from and then just have a little chat (or tell you how far you have  left to go up the 500 steps up to the (amazing) monastery in Petra while you are huffing and puffing and considering stopping to buy a scarf just as an excuse for a rest after all). I never once felt harassed at tourist sites to buy – quite unbelievable for a country with one of the ‘Seven New wonders of the World’.
  • As a woman, I never felt uncomfortable at all in Jordan. Both in the smaller towns and the big cities. I always dress conservatively when in a Muslim country, not just because it helps to minimize any unwanted attention as a western woman, but because it is respectful. I do have to say however, that this did not seem to be a major factor on this trip. Women are very liberated in Jordan and can do/wear/go anywhere they wish.
  • It’s not a cheap destination (especially if you like a drink), but it couldn’t be more worth it! My big tip again is to book a tour where there are a few things included and your guide can help with the tipping and buying of entry tickets as it’s hard work and potentially more expensive otherwise. Our guide took us to places where the food was a little cheaper (amazing local food to try as well!) and told us when to stock up a on alcohol before heading to the pricier destinations.
  • The Dead Sea is amazing, weird and something you absolutely have to experience.

You can check out the full itinerary we did here. Its unusual to come back from a trip and feel like I had enough time and saw everything I wanted to see, but I found this to be true when I came back from Jordan. I loved it eleventy billion out of ten and my genuine recommendation is to get yourself to Jordan soon and to run, don’t walk !

 

 

Un-expec-vacationing

It’s Easter Long weekend! I am here in London and I will outwardly pretend that it is because I don’t agree with paying the higher prices to go away at Easter or that it’s because my grand vacationing plans fell through, but secretly (and this is just between you me and the lamppost right?), it’s because I was kind of disorganized and didn’t plan anything. I mean in my defense, Easter kind of snuck up on us no?

Now don’t sit there are feel sorry that I am not gallivanting around Europe or surfing in wales (Jodie!), because I have been having myself an unexpectedly great long weekend. Completely self-indulgent and with the making of plans stopping precisely at the immediate future. (disclaimer: Not too dissimilar from how I like to live my life anyway, but again, lets keep that between us!).

What I have noticed is that if you relax, let life lead itself and turn down the speed of life a bit, you notice some pretty funny things that happen around you. You also eat at weird times.. but that’s another blog all together.

So far this weekend there are a few things I have literally gone ‘I absolutely was not expecting to:

  • see the sun to come out on Good Friday in London; but I am so pleased it did. It’s been some time since I have been able to sit for as long as I feel soak up some rays, try and attract as many puppies to steal a pat from them and I literally feel both happier (yes it’s possible!) and healthier for it! It’s unusual for the sun to stay out longer than you can here!
  • hear my friend to say “hold this while I turn my coat into a carry bag”
  • absolutely love doing yoga at the top of a 525 Foot building nicknamed the ‘Walkie Talkie’ (http://skygarden.london/news/sky-high-yoga) (refer images one and two)
  • find a fabulous new hairdresser who at close to 60 years old was telling me she recently did the walk of shame home after a night out at one of London’s biggest clubs and for her to be surprisingly less trashy than I’ve just made her sound
  • accidentally over-mustard-ed myself to the point of tears with a (delicious) Salt Beef Sandwich at borough market that had cheese melted onto it with the teensiest little blow torch you ever did see
  • see a perfectly (polka dot) gift wrapped present sitting neatly in the fridge, recipient un-known (refer image three)

Based on the amusement I have had so far this weekend, I am pretty pleased that I have two more days to do with as I please. I’ll start the rest of it by making myself about the eleventy-billionth cup of tea.

Happy Easter peeps! Hope the bunny is kind to you tonight and you eat your body weight in hot cross buns if that’s your thing!

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Not as ‘lucky’ as it looks

So, you know when you are talking about your travels; holidays past or upcoming travel plans, maybe you are sharing a couple of your perfect photos of your latest trip and your well meaning friend offers you the classic and socially polite response of ‘I am sooooo jealous, you are so lucky’! I have blogged before about my dysfunctional relationship with this conversation and attitude but for a quick refresher for those who’ve recently joined see the next paragraph.

I do tend to keep my honest response to myself when this is said to me, but I don’t believe luck has much to do with it. Sure there are a few things that come into play with luck in general life, but the ability to travel has more to do with desire to, sacrifice and planning than luck!

This topic re-occurred to me recently when I was trotting myself through London to work. I do like to do the 45 minute walk from time to time, however I have encouraged myself to do it a few more times over the last couple of months as funds are slightly tighter than usual as I have recently booked my next big trip (get excited now: I’m going to JORDAN! More about that shortly…) now back to what I was saying – that £2.40 each way tube journey sure adds up, so I will happily sacrifice a little extra time, a little bit of sleep and a few millimeters a week off my shoe heel to put that into the travel fund.

This brings me to my case-in-point: what do you sacrifice to live the life that you want and therefore choose to live? For me at the moment (as I have said before), it is physical possessions – not buying that lovely new top or dealing with the fact that those shoes that don’t quite match the outfit because I would rather have an adventure than those new earrings.

Sacrifices go further than just walking to work to reduce the oyster card fund or ‘layering’ your summer gym gear for your winter outdoor boot camp, but also less tangible things. Living 17,000Km away from some of your loved ones and the familiarity of your home town (and it’s heavenly salt water and sunshine) is something that you deal with to experience different experiences and explore more of our beautiful planet and build memories in the other hemisphere.

As you know, I could carry on all day (about most topics), but this quiet Saturday night in and as such the first blog post I have written in some months is partially dedicated to my upcoming trip to Jordan. I’m doing a trip with On The Go Tours and I absolutely cannot wait! You might know already I have a bit of a fascination with the Middle East, (the length of my post about my trip to Morocco is a pretty big clue). The Middle East ignites the curious traveller in me. The lives they live are so rich in a culture not remotely like ours that it makes you naturally compare and appreciate the differences.

I won’t carry on more than that for now, but I just watched this little video about Jordan and it’s increased my excitement ten fold!

Jordan – November 2015

‘Are you with Me?’

Do you have songs that you associate with? Songs that make you happy? Songs that remind you of the good times and maybe the not so good times? I was just listening to a song that somebody I love once told me that it reminds them of me, a very special insight! Since then, I have listened to the lyrics and am proud of that!

Here is the YouTube

You Tube – Are You With Me

and the lyrics

I wanna dance by water 'neath the Mexican sky
Drink some Margaritas by a string of blue lights
Listen to the Mariachi play at midnight
Are you with me, are you with me?

Are you with me?

Are you with me?

Drink some Margaritas by a string of blue lights
Listen to the Mariachi play at midnight
Are you with me, are you with me?

I wanna dance by water 'neath the Mexican sky
Drink some Margaritas by a string of blue lights
Listen to the Mariachi play at midnight
Are you with me, are you with me?

Are you with me?

I wanna dance by water 'neath the Mexican sky
Drink some Margaritas by a string of blue lights
Listen to the Mariachi play at midnight
Are you with me, are you with me?

I wanna dance by water 'neath the Mexican sky
Drink some Margaritas by a string of blue lights
Listen to the Mariachi play at midnight
Are you with me, are you with me?


Make yourself smile!

Warning – this post is a bit ‘deep’ and could be classified as ‘philosophical’ not remotely funny – read on at your own risk and peril! 

I’m reading a book called ‘Not that kind of Girl’ at the moment which would officially be classified as a memoir. The author talks about living a life where you have memories that you will think back on later in life and laugh at and about not regretting anything or wishing it to be otherwise – even the less ideal things that happen, because these things all bring you to be the person you are now. I have always aligned myself with this attitude very much, so this is nothing new, however the book naturally made me think about my own life, as we do from time to time – and question myself:

  • Am I living a life that I will enjoy thinking back on in my own ‘later years?’
  • Will I cringe when I recall the craziest or less sensible things I have done and or will I smile, smirk and laugh?
  • Will I say to myself ‘ I wish I didn’t do that’! or ‘I wish I DID do that’!
  • Am I experiencing things that will inspire me and possibly others around me now and later’?

I sometimes look around me and think ‘ how did I get here’. Especially on days where my timehop app shows me that only a year or seven ago, I was living a life so different it is quite bizarre to consider. I then look around again, smile and think ‘however I got here, I am so glad I am here’ and no, I wouldn’t change a thing.

I’ve learnt recently that sometimes in life you just need to let go of the way of life and attitude of “I have to” or “I should”or worse still ‘I cant’ or “I shouldn’t”. I also am trying to not do things because I think somebody else disagrees with it. Sure it may make things a little more difficult when I don’t have the most grown up property portfolio or am not asset rich at 40. I may not have focused on my career as much as I “could have” or “should have” over the past few years, but again, I still would not change a thing.

I can tell you that even though some days ARE hard (like the days when it’s so cold that the air hurts my face and I wonder why I live somewhere that the air hurts my face), sometimes it is incredibly lonely for a little extrovert like myself (like when all of your London people leave town coincidently on the same weekend), sometimes you can only afford cheese on toast for dinner (partly because you had to pay for your trip to Brugge for the Christmas markets and a flight to Dublin in the same pay month) and on your birthday when the world feels especially big and your most treasured of family and friends feel especially far away, again, I would not trade it for anything.

I’ve never felt so alive and free in my life till now. I am experiencing things and learning at a rate of knots. Every day brings something unknown and new. Things that make me sometimes rub my eyes and think ‘am I really here’ ‘what the hell is happening’. But one thing I know for certain, I will most definitely smile and smirk to myself and with my very special new London friends and family in years to come. I know this with certainty because I already do. Living life the way that I am living it now brings a big real smile to my face. I have always found life to be amazing, but as each day goes by I know for sure I am following the right path – nobody, especially myself knows where the path is heading, but that is part of the fun! Life experiences and memories like this are more precious than diamonds and to me, more valuable than physical possessions. They say that adventure is the best way to learn – I am definitely happy to be a student of that school of thought!

So, try not to over think things. Relax a little, don’t let yourself be always so serious and start saying YES when you would usually say no! Inspire yourself and live a life that makes you smile!

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