Wednesday, 28 August 2013

5 boring (but essential) items to pack for your travels

When I start packing, these are the things I'm generally thinking:

"Ooh pretty dresses! Yay pretty holiday dresses!"

"Is 5 pairs of shoes too many for one week away?"

"Ooh soapbag! I LOVE packing my soapbag with all my toiletries!"

I don't tend to be thinking about exchange rates, airport transfers and other dull but necessary things.

All the essentials. Barney? Check. Whiskey? Check. Cat? Check.

I've done a few trips abroad in my time so far and I've forgotten so many practical things in my haste to pack sparkly flips flops (yes, really). These things can work out to be quite expensive abroad, so I'm hoping to save you (and me) some cash here.

Here are my five boring but essential items to pack for your travels:

1. Batteries
You can pick batteries up for very little money back here in the UK, so you might be forgiven for thinking it'd be the same abroad. But noooooo. Batteries can cost four times as much

2. Torch
I DON'T NEED A TORCH I'LL BE FINE. Cut to a few days into your trip, lights are out and you need a torch. Have you remembered your batteries? See above.

3. Spare charger
I can't even count how many phone chargers I've left plugged into walls around the walls. It is a massive pain in the arse when you realise you've forgotten it. If you're moving around a few different places and you have an iPhone, don't just bring a wall charger, bring a USB cord as a backup charger.

4. Matches/Lighter
You might not need to light many romantic candles on your trip, but you'd be surprised how many times you need a naked flame and a match or lighter is out of the question. Not this time! Ta daaaaa! Plus, they're odd conversation starters if someone needs a light :)

5. Hair grips
Ok perhaps not for guys here, but you won't realise how much you need hair grips until you don't have them. Pinning your hair back on a hot day, creating funky hairstyles on the road, plus they're quite handy for other uses (you know, getting stuff out of stuff) and they can be quite hard to track down in some countries I've found!

What are your boring but essential items to pack for your travels?

Saturday, 24 August 2013

Photo album from the Serengeti

 Today feels like a good day to go back over some photos from my camping trip to the Serengeti in 2011...

Nothing says 'Welcome to the Serengeti' like skulls!

I need a new camera, I'm not happy with the lighting in a lot of these photos - any camera suggestions?

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Is it worth going to Uni?

I was thinking the other day. I like thinking.

I thought about where I am in my current job and the Marketing skills I now have and where I've got them from.

Let me tell you, I didn't get the skills I have now from my University degree. Therefore I was wondering why should people really bother going to Uni these days?

Firstly, my degree (a 2.1 since you're asking) was in Childhood Studies. Yep. I'll just let that sink in for a second.

I chose to take that course because I really wanted a career working with children, then when I graduated I got offered the chance to teach in Uganda for a month which completely changed my attitude to working with children in the UK. I just couldn't bring myself to enter the system back here where people didn't necessarily appreciate what they had.

Did I tell you I've been to Uganda??!
So I ended up taking what I thought would be a fairly temporary position in the volunteer travel company I went to Uganda with. I started in a really low paid role, very admin heavy and gradually worked my way up over the next four years to manage the customer support team.

*Takes a bow, thank you very much*

When a Marketing job opportunity came up in the company, I thought about giving it a go. I was nervous as I had no real Marketing experience, but I knew the company and had taken on their social media in another department and helped out with re-writing the website, so I had some experience but knew none of the lingo or abbreviations that come in Marketing.

Anyway, I had an interview and no one else must have showed because they gave little ol' me the job! I'm just trying to be modest, I was easily the best applicant! HA!

They knew about my lack of experience, but they also knew about my passion for work, my energy and positivity - you don't learn those things at Uni.

Over the next few years in that position I learnt what I needed to know in Marketing and felt more confident every day. When the time was right I decided to leave and (you already know this) take a career break to Kenya.

So that's my story so far. I wouldn't say my degree itself taught me anything that I use in my current job... HOWEVER, here's my list of things leaving home for University has taught me:

* I'm more independent. Leaving home means growing up. I find it quite hard to believe you can be grown up while living with your parents under their roof. Sorry. I pay the bills. It's my name on the rental contract.

* I learnt to make friends. Uni isn't what I thought it would be. It was very clique-y and I didn't love it. But I learnt to choose good friends (one of which is now my husband) and for that I'm thankful.

* I learnt to get on with stuff. A lot of uni time is spent self-teaching. I'm not sure if I could justify the costs of Uni nowadays, especially now I know how much of it I taught myself. I want a refund!

So, if I had to do it all over again, I might make the choice to just start at the bottom of the ladder and work my way up, learning skills as I go. But then I enjoyed the University of life and all the fun that comes with it, I just can't get over how much it costs to go to Uni these days... kids, I feel for you but there IS life outside of Uni. Just choose your path and take every opportunity along the way.

Auntie Katie over and out.

Monday, 19 August 2013

5 Things I Hate About Commuting

So now that I'm back from my career break in Kenya, I'm travelling to Bradford every weekday on the train and I can officially call myself A Commuter.

I despise it.

The only good thing about my commute is that it's only 8 minutes on the train to Bradford.

Maybe it's because I got so used to travelling by matatu every day and I just loved going on the matatus. They felt so alive, so bumpy, so loud, so raw, SO CHEAP. I loved the loud music pumping from the speakers. I loved the UV lights that shone after dark inside turning them into mobile discos. I LOVED that when you got to your destination you had to bang on the roof when you wanted them to stop. I loved that conductors called me 'Whitey' and mothers passed you their children to put on your laps.
matatus in Kenya! Matatus carry three times the normal capacity of public vehicles!

My life now is such a huge contrast to what it was six months ago. Don't get me wrong, I'm mostly happy and it's all going in the right direction, but that doesn't make the journey to and from work any less depressing and GREY.

Here's the top five things I hate about commuting:

1. The people who get up five minutes before we arrive at the station and wait by the door. Where do you think you're going? The driver hasn't even announced that we're about to arriving and you're pushing me out of my seat (even though I'm getting off at that station too) just so you can get up and stand NEXT to the seat in the queue to get off the train. Don't even get me started on the people who press the OPEN button before the train has fully stopped...

2. The zombie-like expression people wear on their faces. Seriously? Are you happy with your life? I can only describe your face as GREY. It makes me sad to look at your face. It makes me worried. I want to talk to you.

3. The people with no concept of volume. Oh hey, you know those things in your ears? Those headphones? Did you know that they actually aren't soundproof OUTSIDE of the ear area? If I wanted to listen to your music with you I'd sit on your lap and sing along to the music with you. But I don't. SO TURN IT DOWN.

4. The silence. Maybe I was spoiled in Kenya with the music on public transport. But I can't help but feel if the train had speakers with upbeat music playing (and I don't mean the music in your earphones) for everyone, we might have more of a smile on our faces when we left the train? Sometimes the silence on the train makes me want to do something crazy like, oh I don't know, start a conversation with someone or just sing a song. If I could cartwheel then I'd do that!

5. The pushing to be the first to the ticket barrier. Hey, you want to get there so badly, be my guest. I am in NO hurry. But when you barge my shoulder and don't apologise, don't expect me to be nice about it. Especially if you're a d*ck in a suit. On your phone. Carrying a briefcase. That's no way to get ahead in life. Despite what you may think of yourself.

The one thing that gets me through is remembering it's not the same all over the world. We're so developed that we've forgotten the basics. For me it doesn't get any better than being thrown about in a minivan, dust blowing in my face, music pumping, swerving through traffic.

The day I become comfortable, or resigned, to this commute is the day I stop doing it. There's so much more to life than that.

Friday, 9 August 2013

How to save cash for travel - part 2

Oh hi!

You might not have realised, but travel is VERY important to me. It's become a part of me and something to enhance the tiring world of full time employment.

In part one of this mini-series, I talked about saving money for travel by not buying crap. Very effective, I haven't bought any crap this week,

So, here's the next tip.

2. Stop paying for things you're not using

Do you go to the gym? I switched gyms to one closer to my work so I'm effectively guilt tripped into going after work. "Oh hey, I can see you skulking past, aren't you gonna come in and flail around on the treadmill today?" it exclaims, as I try to creep past the Building of Doom.

Thanks to a deal through my work, I'm now saving £20 per month.

£20 x 12 = ........................................ £240 = A return flight somewhere at least.

How much do you spend on your food shop? Have you thought about switching the trolley for a basket in the supermarket? You can only buy what you can carry, so you'll easily spend less and you'll think about what you need instead of piling it all in without a thought.

Or you could shop online? That way you can check the cupboards before hitting the online checkout - Hey! I already HAVE baked beans! I don't need any more! Wooooooooo!

Baked bean surplus stock = £2 (I like beans) = £96 I think = More money to spend on travel

A perfect example of things I don't need in a Kenyan supermarket
Here's a few other things you might be paying too much for:

* Utility bills
* Mobile phone contract
* Direct debits
* Tax rebates - are you on the right tax code at work?

It's pretty dull but you'd be surprised how much cash you can save just by being aware of what goes in and out of your bank account! It'll all be worth it when you're sitting on that beach with a cold beer in your hand watching the sun go down...

Monday, 5 August 2013

How to save cash for travel - Part 1

1. Stop buying CRAP

Like this:

Champagne Cork Wire Cage Side Table

Oh yes, at first glance I'm like "want! want! want!" and could talk myself into buying it... then I think about what that cash could go towards if I was abroad... is it better to pay £100 for a table? or £100 on a week or more of accommodation, or a few excursions or a few slap up meals?

Exactly. Switch off the computer and stop buying crap you don't need.

Look around your house, I'll bet you already have everything you need for a comfortable home. Keep buying groceries of course, you still have to EAT after all.

Look at your wardrobe. When was the last time you wore that thing you keep meaning to throw out? When was the last time you bought something new?

Exactly. Why don't you bloody well WEAR that old thing and not buy that new dress you saw the other day and just have to have?

You'll easily save a couple of hundred quid over a month or so (if you're anything like me anyway) which will go towards a flight to a sunny destination - that's better than a new dress isn't it?

P.S. I'm more than happy if anyone wants to buy me that table as a gift, by the way.

Sunday, 4 August 2013

5 City Breaks I Want To Do

I'm coming around to the idea of a weekend city break. I want to cram in as much travel in my life but sadly the whole full-time-job thing doesn't allow as many opportunities for travel as I'd like (or my bank balance allows)...

Having popped to Barcelona for a weekend a few months ago, I loved how you could be sat in an airport freezing your socks off, then be sitting at a bar sipping sangria a few hours later! I felt so smug at work on Monday when my colleagues asked what I did at the weekend... they hate me.

Here's a few destinations I've got my eye on for a weekend break:

1. Paris

Paris I would love to go see this place one day.Please check out my website thanks.
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Slightly cliched perhaps, but I can't believe I've never been to Paris and it's so close! I've been to Disneyland Paris twice but I guess that doesn't count because you can't see the Eiffel Tower from Davy Crockett's Ranch...

I'd love to wander around the streets of Paris, stopping for a chocolat chaud or a macaroon or just to hear a man playing an accordion... I'm all out of stereotypes.

Naturally I would spend the entire weekend riding a bicycle wearing a stripey jumper with a beret atop my head.

2. Prague

There is a lovely rooftop terrace cocktail bar opposite. Love Prague
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How have I not been to Prague yet?? Surely I'm the only person left who hasn't been.

I know it's got a bit of a reputation now for lads and stags, but it's still a beautiful place and I'd love to visit on a cold winter and be all bundled up and popping in to warm bars (you're getting an idea of how I behave on weekend breaks...)

Plus, while the beer is super cheap I've GOT to get myself over there!

3. Iceland

Blue Lagoon, Iceland
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I know Iceland isn't a city by the way. I'm so fascinated by Iceland. I'm desperate to go and visit for a weekend. I'd take a dip in one of the lagoons, I'd go and visit the geysers, party all night, trek on a glacier...

Best of all... I WANT TO SEE THE NORTHERN LIGHTS! I remember reading about them in a book when I was little and being so in awe of them. I was also in awe of the book as it was personalised about me and had my name in it and everything, I was Santa's helper!

So yeah, Iceland is on the list.

4. Cities and towns in Ireland

Giant's Causeway in Northern Ireland
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One thing I've wanted to do for a while is travel to Ireland, hire a car and road trip around a few places along the coast and inland.

Maybe I've watched too many chick flicks that involve road trips around Ireland, but I want to dance Irish jigs in bars and have the craic and listen to live music!

You won't catch me drinking Guinness though, I just cannot stomach it, it HATES me.

5. Dusseldorf

Old Town, Dusseldorf, Germany.  Our tips for things to do in Dusseldorf: I'll admit that I'd never really considered Dusseldorf as a weekend destination before... but browsing online showed that weekend flights were going cheap, so we're giving it a try in October! Watch this space! I'm off to my favourite website and find a nice apartment!