23. 06. 2015

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Being a travel blogger y’all know how much I love discovering new places, interesting people and let’s not forget amazing unable-to-pronounce food! But something that I don’t love so much is the actual travelling. You know the getting from point A to point B thing? Yeah, that part isn’t so high on my happiness list.

The stress of making your flight on time, having to undress to get through airport security, sitting in a cramped seat for hours with no way of escape. The pre-trip nerves at who will be your travel companion, your fingers crossed you don’t get lumped with a noisy over-eater, slobbing on your shoulder snorer or screaming tired toddler. Hours of delays, cancelled trains, buses or flights and that out of body experience as you race from one terminal to another to make your connection doesn’t exactly scream ‘fun’ does it?!

But there are ways to jazz up that journey and even *gasp* enjoy the experience. Here are my top 5 tips:

  1. Get into the zone – Headphones, music, books, and travel pillows all add comfort to the least comfortable journeys. Turn your little space into a haven by having everything you need to hand. Pop in your headphones, download those podcasts, snuggle up into a comfy hoodie and tune out to the rest of the passengers.
  2. Use your phone – Set alarms to make sure you have plenty of time to both get to the airport and also through the airport. Don’t get swallowed up in the duty free and lose track of time.
  3. Have a spontaneous detox – Stay hydrated with water or fruit juice, only eat light small meals, avoid hitting the booze and don’t forget to stretch your legs. Especially important if you’re on a RTW trip as you need to stay in tip top condition for all those flights meaning you’ll exit the aircraft ready to explore wherever you’ve landed!
  4. Exploit me-time – Face it, you aren’t going anywhere. But instead of getting ansty get out your travel journal, sort out the photos on your phone, read that book you’ve not had time to get lost in and indulge in some precious you time.
  5. Deal with it – You want to see these incredible places, get off the beaten track or tick another country off your wishlist? Well sorry but you’re going to have to just get on with the fact that travelling is part of the experience. Trust me (and follow the above advice) it can be more fun than you could imagine!

What would you add to this list? Do you hate the travelling part too?

I’d love to hear from you! Remember you can tweet me @notwedordead, send me a comment in the box below or an email to katynotwedordead@gmail.com

17. 06. 2015

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Are you ready for the bare faced chic of backpacking?

Before I went travelling the thought of leaving the house without even a dab of concealer or lashings of mascara freaked me out. Not that I was a really girly girl (bar the odd party nights out when I went from plain Jane to Barbie doll) but I’ve just never been that confident in my own skin.

Boys don’t make passes at girls who wear glasses, add to that spots, red blotches and crooked teeth and you’ve got yourself one self-conscious worrier.

I even took a full bag of make-up with me the first time I travelled alone. Cringe. What backpacker has tubes of foundation stashed next to their travel wallet and passport? I was so naïve of just how much travel would change the way I viewed myself, not just on the inside but the outside too.

I probably only wore make-up on the first day I arrived in Bangkok to add a little colour to my lily white cheeks and again when I celebrated Christmas, a special occasion and all that. Apart from that I went bared faced, my make-up bag doing nothing more than weighing me down, a constant reminder of how much I’d previously relied on this expensive comfort blanket.

You see heat, humidity and sweat does not a perfect base make. There was no way foundation would have clung onto my skin even if I had layered and contoured it on. Dripping panda eyes is hardly the height of chicness, not to mention how out of place you look all dolled up when other backpackers embrace the laid back look.

I soon got used to rolling out of bed, running a cold shower to wake me up, spraying a blast of deodorant and if I was feeling really on form then maybe running a brush through my sun damaged hair. I had so much more time on my hands when getting ready for the day took less time than it did when I used to struggle over perfecting the cat eye flick. Curse you Alexa Chung.

With this new daily routine I started to grow in confidence. Slowly allowing myself not to worry if the group of strangers I’d met in a hostel could see that irritating cluster of spots around my chin or that my eyebrows hadn’t been threatened with a pair of tweezers for a few days, and instead enjoyed just being me. A very casual, relaxed but happy me.

Soon I developed a tan, my freckles took the place of acne scars and a dab of SPF lip salve to stop my lips from burning was all I needed. I finally felt good about myself. I made friends not through my looks but through my personality. I relied on my charms, sparkling sense of humour and modesty :) to meet people and let my hair down.

Since returning to some level of normality living and working in northern France, where the weather rivals the UK for sunny days, I admit that my make-up bag has been back out. The tan has faded, the spots are annoyingly reclaiming their place (argh adult acne be gone!!) and it has taken a few trips to the hairdressers to improve my straw-like split ends, meaning the free spirited hippy look has had a mini makeover.

Please don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying that make-up is a negative thing. It is a luxury us women have to highlight our features, accentuate our best bits and to hide pesky dark circles but when make-up is used as a mask – hiding yourself or changing how you want to be perceived – then that isn’t healthy.

I don’t wear make-up every day but when I do I chose a much more natural look. I haven’t worn fake tan or applied fake eyelashes for at least 2 years (they were a Saturday night staple before) and my heavy foundation has been swapped for a lighter CC cream. I guess it could also be a combination of getting older, surviving the big 3-0, realising this is the skin I am always going to be in so I may as well love my flaws. But if I hadn’t had that wakeup call when I backpacked I doubt I would have come to this realisation so quickly.

You are you.

You are beautiful. Seriously.

15. 06. 2015

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I am currently drowning in French paperwork. I seriously don’t know how people can move to France with just a basic GCSE French and work their way through the mountain of paperwork in order to live and work here.

It is immense.

I am so lucky as I have my boyfriend and family who are able to guide me through this process translating formal letters, explaining the bizarre doctor’s waiting room customs and keeping me sane when everything takes so long. Even with all their support it still feels like a losing hair-tearing out battle. Looking to come and live over here? Well get testing out that patience skill as you will need it.

I could post a whole series of how-to’s when moving to France as the medical, employment and housing system are all TOTALLY different to what I am used to back in England. But to spare you from my rants about how confusing and drawn out a lot of the processes are here (let’s just say I’ll never take the NHS for granted again) I’m just going to focus today on how I found renting an apartment.

Simple? No. Stressful? Yes. Worth it? Totally.

To rent an apartment the first thing you need to get in order is your dossier – basically a folder of paperwork with photocopies and original sheets of important documents (ID, bank details, job contract, bills, medical info etc) that have to be checked over by a solicitor. You also need two guarantors who must also provide all their personal details. When all these pieces of paper are compiled together your dossier begins to look like a short version of War and Peace.

You see a place you like. You ask for a viewing. You have the viewing. You have to make an appointment to register your interest, not just a quick phone call but a face-to-face chat with the estate agent.

You then have to prepare your dossier making sure everything is as it should be according to what they need to see proof of. You arrange another appointment to show and explain your dossier (like an estate agent version of the Apprentice persuading them why your credentials mean they should chose you as the tenant.) If someone else is interested in the same apartment you have to wait for them to present their details too, so you both have a fair chance of persuading those suits to pick you!

During this lengthy wait you stress and panic that you didn’t use the right coloured ink, forgot a form they asked for, photocopied the wrong thing or didn’t use the blood of a virgin unicorn to sign your name.

Then you wait.

If you’ve been chosen (a joint decision by the landlord, estate agent and solicitor) then you get the call telling you it is yours! Woo hoo. Finally it is celebration time!

You have to arrange another meeting to sign the documents and pay the deposit (as well as the first month of rent). You have another meeting to get the keys in your clammy little hand and do the inventory checking you won’t get screwed over when your lease comes to an end.

You move in, promising yourself that you will live here forever and ever so as not to go through this process again!

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12. 06. 2015

 

I couldn’t find a suitable photo for this post but figured a jar of nutella telling you it loved you is always nice to know! So I mentioned here how important it was to have a cheerleader in your life, someone who will give you those all-important pep talks to perk you up. But for this week’s #howtobehappier post I want to turn the attention back to you.

Yes you!

You know when you have days that are just a little flat, maybe your motivation is at a low, you’re tired, got an enormous to-do list but none of interests you so you spend the day watching cheesy films, munching on snacks and promising you will tackle it tomorrow. Only it always feels like you’re saying it will happen tomorrow!

Well the key here is to talk to yourself in the 3rd person. Okay so you may seem a little loony but stick with me here. By talking to yourself in this way it’s easier to realise what needs to get done, and that no opening a second pack of hobnobs probably isn’t the wisest idea ever.

When I first went backpacking all on my own my mum wrote me a list of do’s and don’ts. The one that stuck with me was to treat yourself as you would your best friend. You would never let him/her do things that would make them unhappy. You can be more objective if you imagine yourself as another person, one that you love and care for. It’s much easier to see where problems lie and how to tackle them when you look at your habits from a different perspective.

Have you ever had a friend ask you for some advice and you can’t understand why, as the answer is so obvious? Well it may be obvious to you what they should do but sometimes we can’t see the wood from the trees, you need a fresh pair of eyes to help you figure your way. YOU can be those fresh eyes if you imagine yourself in the third person.

For example: Katy should really get dressed, get out of the house for some fresh air and get off the internet, rather than slob on the sofa knowing she has stuff to do. She doesn’t really need to google videos of pigs sneezing or read another BuzzFeed article. Getting out will help her feel better and maybe provide some inspiration for that next scene she should be writing but has in fact been staring at a blank laptop screen wondering how the hell sentences even work.

You see?!

You will look weird giving yourself a telling off/kick up the bum but if it was my best friend telling me this then I would totally be running (okay walking quickly) out of the front door with my notepad in hand.

As always let me know if this works for you! You can Tweet me / Facebook me / Email Me (katynotwedordead@gmail.com). Have a brilliant weekend talking to yourself!

11. 06. 2015

Where-are-you-from

Backpackers are predictable things. I can pretty much guarantee that when you meet new travellers you will be asked three questions:

What’s your name?

Where are you from?

Where are you going next?

The first is pretty simple, let’s face it if you can’t answer this you either need to see a doctor or step away from that bottle of paint remover tasting local alcohol ASAP.

The third is also pretty easy to answer, as most backpackers will at least have an idea of their itinerary (you know, the one you’ve spent months planning and memorising your planned route).

But the second is a bit of a hum dinger. Obviously your accent gives the game away a little but really truly where do you call home?! It’s these deep existential questions that only ever jump into your head, usually when you’re trying to sleep but think about it where ARE you from?!

I was born in Warwickshire, spent my teenage years in Liverpool then left to go to University in Manchester and lived there for ten years before travelling. Since then I have ‘settled’ in France for the past two years and is now where I have a home but I wouldn’t call it home.

When I meet people I usually say I’m from Manchester. That place has such a special place in my heart, it is the city where I grew from a geeky impressionable 18 year old to a still geeky less impressionable woman. I’ve never met ANYONE who hasn’t heard of Manchester United but not many (even English people) have heard of the small town where I was born. However, Manchester isn’t my home now and I wasn’t born there but it helps move the conversation on rather than pulling out a world map pointing at this tiny speck in the Midlands as they nod vaguely wishing they’d never asked.

France isn’t my home either, I think it would take many years and a massive improvement in my language skills before I felt like I truly fit in here. Not that I don’t love it here but it is easy to feel like an outsider when you don’t understand everything.

If your home is where your family are then I am spread all over the UK (a logistical nightmare trying to see everyone during the short time I come back for a holiday). Home is maybe not a place at all, maybe you don’t need a postcode to answer this question.

Home is where you feel happiest, where you feel like you, where you have purpose and a sense of belonging, no matter how small. For many travellers their large heavy backpack literally becomes their home, their bag stuffed with things that hold a sense of familiarity in a foreign place. But you can’t send letters to a backpack.

Sadly, I don’t have the answer. What do you think?! Where would YOU call home?

As always you can comment below, tweet me, facebook message me or drop me an email – katynotwedordead@gmail.com

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