12. 02. 2016

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I once worked with a lady who told me the secret to her success was to act like a swan. On top of the water, the part of her that everyone could see, she aimed to be serene and have her shizz together even if she was paddling away furiously to keep afloat behind the scenes.

The thing is I don’t think I can be a swan. Or even a common mallard for that matter. I find it hard to keep my emotions in check at the best of times (God damn you John Lewis adverts and Marley & Me) so when I’m faced with one of the greatest days of my life, trying to stay calm and ladylike goes out of the window.

Instead, imagine hyper toddler on redbull flavoured haribo sweets and you’ll get the picture!

Yesterday was quite simply EPIC. I don’t think I stopped smiling all day. I didn’t even care about the manic looks I was getting on the train as I headed home. The reason for this insane giddiness is because a childhood dream came true. I got to walk into an actual real life bookshop and see my debut novel, Destination Thailand, sharing the shelf with some of my absolute literary hero’s. Incredible. I couldn’t catch my breath, couldn’t stop the happy tears and couldn’t stop shaking. I had no idea it would cause such a physical reaction.

I left the shop in a daze feeling similar to how I imagine a mother feels leaving her first born at school for the first time. My book baby was out in the world and had to fend for herself. I probably should have licked a hankie and wiped her face or dropped off a packed lunch… too far?

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I spent most of the day in Media City, Salford, acting like I fitted in among the achingly cool hipsters and serious journalists at work as I did back to back BBC radio interviews and ITV Granada Reports, all of which was SO much fun.

I think that after appearing on This Morning when I was in the Philippines with my iPhone propped on a tub of Nivea moisturiser (the glamour!) as I chatted into a black screen and tried to concentrate my jet lagged but buzzing mind on what Holly and Phil were saying, I knew I could squash any nerves and just have fun with media interviews. I know how lucky I am to be able to get to do this and how much it means to me to tell others who may have been dumped or ‘jilted’ that you can find happiness after heartache.

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The reason I was so emosh, wasn’t just because a childhood dream had been realised but because I also came true on a promise that I make to myself, to past Katy. When my relationship ended and life suddenly seemed very bleak and confusing I told myself that one day something good would come of this. I knew that deep down I would be happy again, smile again and I would use this as the making of me. I just had this small nugget of belief that If I could use my experiences to let just one other person know that what they are feeling will pass and that everything will work out ok then I had to try.

I just never in a million years imagined the scale on which I could achieve this.

It has truly shown me that anything is possible and that if I can do it then anyone can.

 

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Thank you to everyone who has bought, read, shared or reviewed this book. I wish you could know just how happy this has made me. I feel like I’ve failed as a writer as I can’t find the words to tell you just how much your support means to me, even if we have never met in real life or I haven’t had the time to personally respond to your messages, it doesn’t change the love and gratitude I feel for what you have allowed me to do. *Virtual hugs for ALL*

You can buy the paperback of Destination Thailand in store from Asda, WHSmith high street and travel stores, Easons and online retailers such as Amazon. It will also be available in Tesco from 25th Feb!

P.s If you have read and enjoyed Destination Thailand and could find the time to add a review online I’d be super grateful.

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09. 02. 2016

See TheWorldWith Me

Just because I may have been tagged the Bridget Jones of Backpacking doesn’t mean I’m any less optimistic about finding love. I am a huge romantic at heart, a real soppy puppy who hopes that those butterflies and giddy smiles you get when you’re hanging around with that special person will hit me again. Just because you’ve been hurt in love it doesn’t mean you have to close yourself off to those happy feelings forever.

But I would say that you need to love yourself first. Cliché, I know. The thing with clichés are that they’re usually true. You need to be comfortable in your own skin and with your own company before you let someone else come into your special world. You only get one shot at this thing called life so make sure the person you want to spend it with (or even a part of it with) is worth it.

Of course with the 14th February coming up this day of lurve can impact on even the most confident and sassiest of people. Whatever your relationship status on valentine’s day you can always spend it starring gooey eyed with your one true love – travel. Whether you’re loved up or single as a pringle ready to mingle here are some ways that travel can inspire your Valentine ’s Day gift guide.

Anything travel themed is a winner in my eyes which is why I’m swooning over the range from Luckies. Choose from wanderlust inducing and heart-warming presents either for the one you love or as a way to treat yo’self for just being awesome. We all know how much I love making lists so in my eyes this adventure travel journal is calling to be filled with either solo trips you plan to take or couples mini breaks you have scheduled in the pipeline.

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I also think the love note is just too cute for words. Take the empty bottle, scribble down your affections and pop it in to leave for your partner to discover or go old school and throw it out to sea with a positive message for someone else to find and see where it ends up in the world.

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Personalised gifts always go a long way so why not keep a record of the journey you’ve taken together by getting a map with the hand-stitched route you took?  Perfect for remembering the path you trod as you travelled the world together, took your honeymoon or the place you met. Alternatively get one of these for you to cherish so you can trace with your fingertip just how far you’ve gone in the world on your own.

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Something that has been on my to-do list for way too long is to get round to printing off my fave photos from all the trips I have taken rather than leave them lost in some folder on my laptop. One day I will pop the best ones into photo frames, string them together as adorable polaroid prints or stick them in an album like this from Notonthehighstreet.com. One day. This would be an amazing gift if someone could tick this fun but lengthy task off for me.

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So this weekend you don’t need to be bogged down with naff plastic roses or cuddly toys that only collect dust, think outside the box and spoil that special someone. Obviously the ultimate gift for travel lovers on Valentines Day has to be a plane ticket… *runs off to check out Skyscanner*

08. 02. 2016

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Apart from my love for travel and writing there is another huge passion in my life… cake. Whether it is hot, cold, dolloped with cream or covered in thick icing I love ‘em all. So I was in my element when I got to indulge in afternoon tea and take my pick from a stack of perfectly proportioned sweet treats. I justify that it’s ok to eat cake as it’s somebody’s birthday somewhere, right?!

Put the kettle on and be prepared to dribble on your keyboard (just me then…) as I share my recent experience of afternoon tea with a twist.

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Oh Me Oh My doesn’t just have a name that is as cute as a button – the venue doesn’t disappoint either. The grade two listed building that was once the bank of West Africa has the perfect spot near the infamous liver building and the buzzing Albert Docks in Liverpool. The high ceilings, sweeping fairy lit staircase and bright pastel décor takes the stuffiness out of afternoon tea. Think less chintz and more chic.

Speaking of tea the staff here know their Tetley from their tea leaves. The smiling waitress was over in seconds running through the many varieties of loose leaf blends and their benefits. The hardest part was deciding which to start with but thankfully as the tea is unlimited it means you’ve got the chance to test them all! Music to the ears of any respectable English man or woman. Along with bucket loads of tea was a glass of prosecco, which with everything I’ve been lucky enough to celebrate recently was exactly what was needed.

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After the bubbles had been drank and toasts had been made it was time to kick off with savoury snacks of finger sandwiches on the softest fresh bread and chunky fillings to toasted buns oozing with cheese and ham. I always feel less guilty stuffing my face when everything is bitesized, surely the less mouthfuls you take the less the calories count? Amiright?!

Then it was onto the main event. Cakes. The small pots of golden brown glazed crème brulee were heavenly, especially when paired with crumbly sweet shortbread. My faves from the stacks of sweet treats had to be the tangy lemon drizzle cake, guys – the runny icing was just something else *drool* and the chocolate cake that packed a serious strong cocoa punch. Bruce Bogtrotter would be in his element.

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On my way out I spotted they also serve homemade jaffa cakes. Yup. I now NEED to return just to try one of these bad boys out, #cakegoals right there.

Just FYI, Oh Me Oh My had no involvement in this review. I just wanted to share with fellow cake lovers out there. We all need to stick together after all. If you’ve got any recommendations for the best cake in the world then don’t be mean – let me know!

03. 02. 2016

 

Travel regrets

They say in life you should never regret a thing. A life lived with regrets is a life half lived, and all that jazz. Of course I believe in this to an extent but I think it is totally normal to have some, erm let’s say ‘niggles’ over the way you spent your last travel trip.

You can never do everything you want to do when you travel. There will always be some restaurant you didn’t get the time to visit, some exhibition you had to skip or some town that was just too far out of your budget or schedule to explore.

These travel ‘regrets’ are one of the reasons we pack up our backpack time and time again in order to tick off as much as we can. It is also why during the following trips we explore differently by using the knowledge we’ve learnt from the previous trip.

I’ve been working on edits for my second novel Destination India (out in March – just FYI!) and have loved being transported back to this mystical and magical country once more. The sights, smells and sensations that India gave me have been like no other place I’ve ever visited. I got to see and do a lot of cool things whilst I was there but there were of course things I missed out on. This country is enormous for one thing so it would probably take a good few years to get around and ‘do’ it properly, at which point you’d need to start again as there would be a whole host of new things to explore.

One thing that I do regret not experiencing when I was in India is taking a sleeper train. I will admit that as I was travelling on my own I wimped out at spending a night riding the rails. I heard a lot of stories about women travellers being at risk during these journeys and stupidly believed the hype. If/when I get to revisit India I will grow a pair and book a bunk on a long train journey as I’m sure that any cons are outweighed by the many pros.

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Another thing I ‘regret’ during my travels is missing out on photo opportunities. My hard drive is full of thousands of incredible images (mostly taken on my knackered mobile phone) but there were so many shots I could have captured had I been bolder to get out my camera lens and snap away. I don’t know if it is being British or worrying that I will offend someone by acting like a paparazzi but I wish I’d had the courage not to think what others thought and documented more of my travels. I have often pondered about creating a travel vlog but again my stupid conscience kicks in telling me that I’ll look stupid chatting to myself and filming my sweaty sunburnt face in the middle of some packed foreign street market.

Well no more. I’m going to put these travel niggles in their place and act more confident in situations even if I don’t feel it. After all, who’s going to be able to tell the difference?

Of course the greatest regret anyone can have is missing out on opportunities in the first place. Say yes, jump in feet first and see where the adventure takes you. If that means working on just seeing or doing the highlights a country has to offer then just do that. You can always go back to right these ‘regrets’, that’s what I’m planning on doing!

I’d love to hear from you… have you ever missed out on things because of fear and kicked yourself later on for not being bolder?

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01. 02. 2016

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My first travel romance was short but sweet. I fell in love when I was 11 years old with Guillaume, a French boy with floppy hair and cute dimples I met when we were staying in a campsite one hot summer. I took his photo on a disposable camera and cherished the grainy slightly blurred print for weeks after. But life moves on, we never spoke again and it wasn’t until years later did I discover that he was gay. But even with the odds stacked against our young (one sided) love I still think fondly of that time. Of the butterflies I felt when he scrawled me a letter in badly written English and the utter sadness as we said our goodbyes and I made my way back to the car ferry totally heartbroken.

The older I’ve got and the more I’ve travelled I think I’ve wised up to the realities of a destination ‘relationship’. It doesn’t mean listening to Say You’ll Be There by the Spice Girls on repeat wishing I was fluent in French and kicking myself for giving away my prized Tamagotchi to a boy I’d never see again.

Some lessons in life are hard ones to learn.

Travel romances have always had a bad rap for being a fleeting fling based on the powerful cocktail of sun, sand, sea and *ahem* sangria. But do they ever work? Can you build up a bond with someone in such a short and intense time? Can you really get to know them when you’re both in foreign lands experiencing a life far removed from your normal routines?

You can be who you want when you travel. You can create a whole new identity away from the life you lead back home but others can do the same which means that you only get to see the positive side of someone usually in the most flattering of (sun)light. You don’t experience the mundane weekly food shop, the inevitable bickering over money or who hogs the TV remote. You get to experience the best bits of someone set against a wonderful exotic backdrop.

However, there are downsides to meeting someone when you travel. If it doesn’t work out then you’ll be kicking yourself that you should have spent less time exploring each other and more time exploring the place you were in. The memories of your trip could be tinged by what did or didn’t happen with your new found crush and he or she will most likely be in a lot of your travel snaps. There is also the temptation to scrap your plans in order to spend more time together, which could lead to some major awkward moments if they turn out to be not who you thought they were. These romances usually have an expiry date before one or both of you is on the move again and discovering new places and the new bunch of single people that come with it.

But before you start throwing things at your screen calling me a pessimist (I am such a soppy romantic at heart it is embarrassing) it’s not to say your travel romance won’t or can’t last. Finding love when you travel and keeping it is rare but not impossible. I’m a sucker for stories of couples who met whilst on the road, sitting next to each other on a long haul flight or sharing a camp whilst scaling Everest and keeping that magic spark going in the long-term happy relationship that followed.

You already have travel in common with this complete stranger who has chosen to take the same route as you. Finding someone who understands the need to be out there exploring, someone like you who says yes to things and someone who just ‘gets’ that pull that travel has on you is a huge turn on for many backpackers and something that Tinder simply cannot compete with.

You never know what’s around the corner (it is fair to say I can completely vouch for this!), you never know who’s waiting in the wings to jump into your life and you never know when or where you will fall in love. So if you do meet someone whilst travelling then enjoy the rush of luscious emotions and their company for however long it lasts knowing that if it doesn’t work out you can mark it down as a good story, as after all isn’t that what travelling is all about?

Especially as for many, travel is our first love and it takes a very special person to come between this unbreakable bond.

{Previously published as a guest post on Miss Barlow – do pop over and check out this inspiring female traveller for a dose of serious wanderlust}

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