Archive for the ‘Personal’ Category

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If only I could take my own advice. I’ve been hop skipping and jumping all over the place since my last post but, like a kid avoiding his homework, I’ve found every excuse under the sun not to write about it.

I convinced myself that I’d get some good writing done once I was able to sit down with my laptop, at some sort of serious looking desk. Then I thought I’d write on one of my many-hours-long transport journeys. THEN I considered casually writing while on an extended toilet break. (Once I made it into Malaysia and saw that the lavs were primarily drop toilets, I decided against this last one. I reckon even Hemmingway would have struggled.)

Now I’m sat on a comfy sofa on a balcony in the Malaysian highlands with a cuppa in hand and laptop firmly on lap.

IT IS TIME 👆

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When I tell people where I’m off to next, or where I’ve been, I’m usually faced with the same responses. And I’m here to elaborate.

 

Common reactions include: “Please don’t die” and “Oh you’re just so LUCKY!“. While I do agree I am a fortunate girl as the world goes (money in my pocket, a roof over my head, food in my belly) it really gets my goat when people put my lifestyle down to “luck”. I’m not trying to come across as sour, I know its an automatic reaction, bear with me..

 

I’ve put quite a lot of effort into getting where I am today. I’ve had to navigate my way across the correct sequence of stepping stones which took time, risk and a LOT of thought. I’ve quit jobs, attended Skype interviews for new ones in new countries, worked my butt off and stored money like a squirrel preparing for winter; for this reason, I don’t want to give Lady Luck any credit. Anybody who has taken the leap to sell their worldly possessions (bar what you can carry on your back – which for a tiny girl like me, is not much) and up sticks to a foreign land is blessed with one scrap of luck: the balls to get up and go!

 

Another thing I irrationally dislike is when people ask “When are you coming home?” or “How long is your trip?” The answers to which are NEVER and FOREVER. This isn’t a trip to me, this is a way of life. (That sounds so wanky and awful doesn’t it?) To me, a trip is spending a few weeks or even months in a new place before going back to a home; a base, where all your things and people are there waiting for you upon your return. I don’t have this. Every time I leave one country and enter a new one I have to set up house all over again. I don’t even remember what it’s like to live back “home”, and I certainly don’t want to be reminded until I’ve explored as much of this earth as my little legs will allow. Home is where the heart is, but what if your heart is in a million places at once? With the people I’ve met along the way, the cities I made a living in, everywhere from the tops of the mountains in New Zealand to the bottom of the ocean in Thailand. This is where home feels like; my new normal.

 

Let’s flash back in time to last week, so I can show you what being “lucky” really feels like to me…

 

There’s someone dancing almost violently on the sofa next to me, while someone else is screaming out an interesting version of “La Bamba”. I’m in a karaoke booth. I look up and around at the crazy, amazing people I’ve collected during my time here in Tokyo and feel overwhelmed with pride and happiness. If only I could capture this moment and send it to the pre-travels Sophie of early 2011 and say “Look! It’s going to be all right!”.

 

This is the part of travelling that makes me feel richer than MC Hammer pre-bankruptcy; the people I connect with and the unique situations we find ourselves in across the globe. Usually these people have moved around a fair bit too, which makes for some interesting conversation. These are the times that make me stop and think, “Gosh, aren’t I lucky?

 

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Published!

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A magazine from my sunny home town wrote a lovely article about me and my travels! I bet my mother has already bought every copy in Gibraltar..

Luckily, you can view it online here.

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Chris & I were headed back to UK/Gibraltar to see the family, but decided to make a 3-week trip down south first. This is one of the best things i’ve ever done, and strongly recommend it to everyone! Beaches, lakes, mountains.. what’s not to love? I kept a rough diary as we travelled around, and it goes a little like this:

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Monday 26th August – Auckland -> Rotorua

Day 2 of campervan life is significantly better than day 1. I was a bit surprised at the lack of space in the camper once we’d loaded in our baggage. Last night was cosy and warmer than i’d expected. We watched a DVD and “freedom camped” (illegally?) by the most beautifuk lake. Today I decided camping is fun, apart from lack of access to showers and loos. I needed a wee so badly last night but was far too scared to walk to the outhouse (spiders jumping up your bum.. no thanks).

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When we woke up this morning the lake was misted over like the beginnings of a great horror movie.We had tea and porridge using our kitchenette (which is in the boot! How novel.)

a3 a2Our first stop today was to the Polynesian Spa. It’s basically a hot, natural, swimming pool. Very hot. A bit uncomfortably hot, if i’m honest. Also smelly, because of all the sulphur. After a shower at the spa I felt cleaner than ever, thank God – don’t think the ‘dirty hippy’ side of travelling is for me. It makes me cranky. $14.50 well spent!

Next we opted for a bit of an adrenaline rush at Skyline. You take a gondola (cable-car) up into the mountains  (Chris was shitting himself) and there’s a beautiful 180° view of Rotorua beneath you. So lovely. We stopped for lunch (fish & chips.. with one free fish because the cashier didn’t hear Chris properly, which was good) and then we went luging! Lugeing?

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It was basically downhill go-karting and was great fun and I got to go on my first

ski-lift back up the mountain. A trip full of firsts.

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We’ve just been to Pack ‘n’ Save (think Aldi on steroids) to stock up on bread/wraps and cold cuts to nibble on for dinner. Also beer. Lots of beer. Looking forward to pulling up at our next destination, sticking on a movie and cracking open a cold beer. We’re headed down south now, there’s beautiful scenery all around and we’re listening to the native Cat Empire.

Wednesday 28th August – Taihape -> Wellington

I’m on the Interislander ferry from Wellington to Picton, in the South Island. I feel sea sick. And bloated. I am loving camper life now but my stomach, alas, is not. Last night was crazy. We went to a backpacker bar looking for some fun & cheap beer but only found the beer.. until we met German Daniel and Nigerian Kezito – then the night descended into madness with strangers buying me (very early) Snickers birthday shots, singing (awfully) at karaoke and crawling back home feeling dishevelled.

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Today we managed to peel ourselves out of bed early enough for the zoo! It wasn’t the best zoo. It was a bit shit. (Luckily we didn’t pay.. seeing a pattern here?) However, we did get to see our new favourite animal – a Kiwi! They’re nocturnal so it was in this creepy dark red-light room that was the exact opposite of what my hangover wanted. Did you know Kiwis scream? Well they do. I came out a bit sweaty and shaking after that. Great fun.

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Chris bought me a very loooooong giraffe (kind of like a snake) which we have called Geoffrey, he now lives on the camper’s dashboard. Wellington has been great but SO windy. We topped it off with a pot noodle up a mountain.

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Saturday 31st August – Kaikoura -> Blenheim

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It’s been a great few days. We got off the ferry on Wednesday night and planned to find a campsite a little further down from Picton, the drop off point, but nothing was bloody signposted so we accidentally drove all the way down to Kaikoura! It did save us a trip the next day I suppose.. We arrived at the whale watching/seals capital at 1am, knackered and quite luckily pulled into the cheapest site in the area, complete with T.V. Room, kitchen, hot showers and wifi. Mmm luxury. The owner Wolly or Welly (Willy?) set us up and we relaxed for a couple of days.

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Friday – MY BIRTHDAY! Chris woke me up with a lovely card and made me breakfast (hurrah!) My birthday present was to be taken whale watching – amazing, obviously. We did get very sick on the boat though, about 5 people were chucking up into little plastic bags. We made it through with lunch still inside us, thankfully. We chased two whales for a good hour or two and (vomit aside) it was one of my favourite days.

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In the evening, Chris was going to treat me to lobster and wine (!) but apparently there’s no bloody lobster here (not even in the deceivingly-named “lobster shack” so I settled for a (delicious) meal of crayfish and beer instead.

Sunday 1st September – Blenheim -> Murchison

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Yesterday, on our way into Blenheim, we stopped off at ‘Ohahu Point’ to look at seals in their natural habitat, chilling down on the rocks by the roadside. I did try and pat one but apparently this is frowned upon and dangerous. Sleeping seals look like rocks.

After we finally arrived in Blenheim, the information centre recommended a local vineyard. $16 for an authentic bottle of Malborough region wine. I really don’t like white wine, but it had to be done. The best part was sitting on the terrace in the sun, feeling hot in the South Island in winter (!) eating the most amazing platter for just $24.

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The info centre woman also directed us to a DOC (Department of Conservation) campsite right next to a beach (cue us exercising our ‘freedom camping’ skills again). We bought a couple of bottles of wine (red this time) and sat on the beach as the sun went down. Ideal. Later we returned to the camper for some music and a whiskey nightcap.

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I’m currently sat in a holiday park which was a steal at $15 a night! I think the guy in charge, a beardy man, made up the price as it’s only just re-opened. He also gave us a tonne of DVDs to watch. Tomorrow we make a long trip to Franz Josef to see the glaciers.

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Monday 2nd September – Murchison -> Franz Josef

Am enjoying the nicest hot chocolate from the Tree Top cafe. We never actually made it onto the Tree Top walk itself.. time & money restrictions and general cant-be-arsed-ness. Zooming down to Fraz Josef now to see these bloody cold, big glaciers. Feeling fairly sleepy now after lunch at the Speights Ale House. I think i’ve mastered writing in a moving vehicle now. It only slightly looks like I wrote it with my feet. It is making me feel sick though so i’m going to stop.

Tuesday 3rd September – Franz Josef

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Wow, I love this place! we’re in the South Island, by the coast, in winter, and it’s nice and warm. We’ve had the most amazing morning. We took a helicopter ride over the Franz Josef glacier. Can’t believe i managed to coerce chris into doing it! Absolutely amazing and we can’t stop yapping about it. It was a bit hefty at $195 each for just half an hour but it was 100% worth it. We were pretty lucky actually as he helicopter had to drop off some hikers, so we got to stop on the glacier itself which they don’t usually do! We got flown to the very top of the mountains with nothing but snow, clouds, mountains and an incredible skyline in sight. I’ve only ever seen snow a few times in Oxford and it was piddly and sludgy so this was top notch.

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I think we’re both still buzzing from the experience, 2 hours on! We’re going to stay another night. We’re off to a spa now. I could get used to this. I might go over my budget this trip, but I honestly can’t think of a better way to go bankrupt!

Thursday 5th September – Franz Josef ->Wanaka

Yesterday we chilled out all day. Spent $30 on quite a luxury resort. We’re just on our way out of Franz Josef now – i’ve loved it! As i’m writing this I can see this amazing mix of rolling green hills, blue skies contrasting against snowy mountains that i’d only ever seen in pictures or film until now. Apparently Wanaka has a nice lake and a population of more than 4 people, which will make a nice change.

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8pm – after many wines we now sat in a campsite with more wine about to compose a song iv entitled “Pinholes to Heaven” – an ode to the increddible stars you see in this part of th world. Maybe will be a hit!

(Edit: Or maybe I was just drunk.)

Friday 6th September – Wanaka -> Queenstown

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Today we went to Puzzling World. It was actually pretty puzzling. Probably more fun when not hanging like a bat. There was a weird tilted room that messes with your sense of perception, with seemingly upwards-running water and a chairlift that appears to defy gravity (again, not great on a hangover – actually managed to fall over in this room). There were various other illusions and games; a creepy room full of faces that follow you wherever you go and a maze we got lost in for a good hour.

We had lunch by the lake. Very nice and relaxing. Now off to Queenstown to meet the Auckland gang!

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Saturday 7th September – Queenstown

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Surprisingly hot in Q-town! We spent last night in the most beautiful, secluded valley. There was a lake, sheep, mountains and not much else. Apart from a squillion sand flies. They’re basically the mosquitoes of the South. We opened the camper door and thousands of the bastards flew in, so Chris and I had to go on a killing spree before bed armed with an information booklet and a sock. We skimmed stones by the lake (or Chris did – I just threw rocks unsuccessfully in, endangering some ducks in the process). When our friends arrived we sat outside the camper and drank beer like park pikeys, before moving on to the bars.

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Sunday 8th September – Queenstown

OMG I went skiing for the first time! It got off to a questionable start as we all planned to meet at 9am but we all unsurprisingly had cracking hangovers. After Chris and I mustering all our strength to remove ourselves from the camper, it turned out that all four of them managed to oversleep and leave us in the soul-destroying lobby of base backpackers for an hour. (No I haven’t forgiven you. I threw up.)

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When we got to Coronet Peak we all had a go on the nursery slopes to begin with but it was a bit dull so I took a ski lift (probably the scariest part?) up to a big daddy slope. Apart from sliding off the ski lift and straight onto my bum for a metre or two, and apart from going backwards off-piste another time, I think I took it pretty well.

Tuesday 10th September – Queenstown -> Te Anau

Yesterdat was a bit of a nothing day. The weekend’s binge caught up with me and after a quick pie from the Ferg Bakery by the river I gave up, retired to the van and slept like the dead.

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I was quite keen to get out of drunken, hectic, expensive Q-town by the end. Our next destination was meant to be Milford Sound (fjords, glaciers, great views) but this part of the country decided to have a storm instead so the road was all buggered up with trees and debris. Chris and I won’t pay lots of money for a site now that we’re getting quite experienced at camping and peeing in the wilderness – so we went for another DOC campsite in the middle of n.o.w.h.e.r.e. The storm is still raging and the path here is littered with fallen trees. Pretty doubtful we’ll make it to Milford at this rate..

Wednesday 11th September – Te Anau

Road to Milford Sound is still closed, as expected. We’re stranded! There are pictures in the local information office and newspaper – looks pretty much like an entire glacier has slipped down the mountain and conveniently laid itself across the road we need. Balls. Getting quite fed up of the driving and rain so we pitched up at a holiday park and bought some soup to heat up. It’s actually alright here – cabin-style T.V. Lounge with a big fire to dry my socks and shoes (thank god, because I broke the communal hair dryer when I stuck it in my boot earlier). Time to curl up with a hot chocolate and our books. Going out for a lovely steak dinner later.

There’s a stuffed deer head on the wall here.

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Thursday 12th September  – Te Anau -> Omarama

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The weather is finally clearing but Milford is a write-off so we’re going to make our way up to Mount Cook (Lord of the Rings – Mount DOOM!!). We passed through Queenstown again and I finally managed to get my mitts on a ‘Fergburger’. It’s a bit of a burger cult, you can buy t-shirts and keyrings and there are queues out there day and night. It only ever shuts for 2 hours in the early morning. I had a “Little Lamby” burger with mint jelly. Nice, but i’m afraid I dont get the hype. We’re going to settle down at a free DOC campsite tonight and head to Mt. Cook in the morning. We nearly had a car accident today.. with a house. A house driving towards us on the road. I cant fully explain so just look at this picture and try to imagine what would be going through your head as you approached each other.

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and that was my last diary entry.

Not because I died or anything, obviously, ’cause here I am, see? I think by this point I was missing clean hair, civilisation and a flushing toilet too much to write enthusiastically. It really was the most unreal trip and i’d love to do it again. On the 18th September Chris and I made the long journey back to England, and spent some much-needed time seeing the family and sleeping.

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A most productive day.

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Da nananana… Sod paying for a stylus when you can make one at home for free!
N.B. Also works with an earbud instead of sponge. Don’t forget to dampen the tip first! SCIENCE!

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Using one of the presents Santa got me. Excellent.

Yesterday I met a lot more new people in Sydney, thanks to my workmate Fiona. She’s very good. Her apartment overlooks Bondi Beach and is the perfect drinking hole.

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Settling into Sydney life nicely. Kangaroo burgers, anyone?

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The Big Day.

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Merry Christmas everyone! I am feeling a little more Christmassy now, I have to admit. Santa arrived in the middle of the night and left a bag of little gifts at the end of my bed. It definitely wasn’t my auntie. I’ve done well; little silk pyjama cherry shorts, an iced coffee cup for work, some humorous paper clips/sticky notes bearing signs such as “fucking urgent”. My boss will enjoy these.

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I made a gingerbread house with Kate. Shit got messy. Not a bad effort though ey?

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After watching Gordon Ramsay’s Christmas special I felt inspired to contribute to the Christmas proceedings with a dried apricot, pistachio and walnut stuffing. Stay tuned to hear about me ruining Christmas with undercooked pork.

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