After an impromptu hiatus from blogging (I promise the reason why will be revealed soon!) I’m trawling through all the things I meant to post over the Summer.
Back in July perfectly timed with when the sun made a visit, my friend Rach flew over to Paris to spend a fun filled weekend together. I met Rach back when I travelled solo through India, along with the other member of our wolf pack Laura (who is currently working like a trooper in Oz). I swear trying to catch up with wanderlusters is as tricky as licking your elbow, but this makes it even more special when diaries collide and trips are planned.
You see, the friends you meet when backpacking are a pretty special bunch. You often get to know each other in a far flung exotic location, where none of you can speak the language, fully understand the culture and are never sure exactly what it is you’re eating. You can be anyone you want to be, nobody knows any of your sh*t from back home, they just take you for you. At face value.
Because of this some of my most precious friendships have evolved. Like I said, you may go months or even years before you catch up with them again, especially if they continue globetrotting, live in another country or just work and the routines of live make spur of the moment trips harder to do. But when you do see them again, even for a fleeting weekend you know you have something special when all you do is laugh, reminisce and chatter away as if it’s only been five minutes since you saw them last.
Keen to soak up the sun, kidding ourselves we were back on that sun-drenched sand in Goa, Rach and I hit the beach. Munching on freshly baked baguettes, skimming stones and avoided being dive-bombed by hungry seagulls before we took shelter in a nearby bar. So there wasn’t a chilli or curry in sight but I could share the delights of saucisson, an unattractive dry cured sausage that you get handed on a slate with a sharp knife (health and safety in France still amazes me!). Perfect for nibbling on as you sip cold beer listening to the waves crashing and gulls squawking.
Ok, so a lot of the weekend when we weren’t giggling like school girls or putting the world to rights was spent eating and drinking. Another reason why I’ve signed up to the 100 runs in 100 days challenge. Fresh salty moules, crisp fat chips and carafes of cold white wine in a packed lively restaurant for dinner. The following morning, we stretched our legs to visit the stunning Benedictine Abbey hoping to spot a monk making the sweet liqueur. With not a man in robes in sight we tasted cocktails in a pretty atrium, before heading to the local supermarket to stock up on picnic food that we gobbled down basking in the sun.
A few days later we had a sad farewell at the train station, with full tummy’s and happy hearts I waved goodbye to Rach. I told you backpacking friends are the best, especially when they love food and nattering just as much as I do!
Well hello there!
Sorry for the complete AWOLness over the past few weeks. I have SO much to catch up on including travel posts, writing posts and French life updates. But in the spirit of a new month (pinch punch, no returns and all that) I have a new resolution that I wanted to share with you, before normal service will resume…
Last summer I ran a 10km race. This summer I can barely run to the end of the street without doubling over wheezing and red faced. I guess with fitness you need to use it or lose it. I’ve never been into sport, never been one of those people who leap from their beds well rested and excited to hit the gym or pound the pavements. But I want to be. The older I get the more I realise the importance of not only staying trim but having stamina and power to build a healthy future.
I saw this challenge on Facebook organised by The Business Bakery. Starting today for the next 100 days it encourages you to make changes and improvements to your small business. Ok, so I don’t own a business but I got thinking that I could mesh this with my goal to get fitter, shed some weight and have the encouragement from others (there is a fb group and you get sent daily emails pushing you to continue) to start my own challenge.
So my personal challenge which I am putting on the interweb to be held accountable for is …. I am going to run every day for 100 days.
I bet some of you reading this will be like, ‘pah, easy peasy lemon squeezy,’ but bear with me. This is more than just getting my lardy arse out of my snuggly warm bed each morning, although that too is an achievement. This is about toning my body that has been lazily gorging on the delights of living in France for way too long now, having more energy to zap about with during the day AND a challenging milestone to reach. As I type this now thinking of running for the next 99 days seems equally terrifiying and bring it on exciting.
Let’s be clear here – I’m not saying I’ll be running a marathon a day but I am determined for the next 100 days to get out of bed, lace up my trainers and get outside for a minimum of 30 minutes (which will hopefully get longer the fitter I get). Technically my current version of running could be described more as a jork (jog-walk) but everyone has to start somewhere and the aim is to be running for the full 30 minutes non-stop. And when I say every day I mean EVERYDAY: come wind, rain, hail or sunshine. I will be giving this my all. For someone who thinks getting up to turn the TV off counts as exercise this is going to be a challenge.
Ok, so today day 1 (only 99 to go!) I got up when my alarm went off, bleary eyed and narrowly avoided stepping over the cat in the darkness as I went to meet my aunty who has signed up with me. These sort of things are always more fun when you’re sharing the load with someone. We jorked our way down the quiet streets, changing from a slow jog to a fast walk every two minutes for half an hour, even managing to chat a little as we went. I came back hot and rosy red cheeked but actually excited to have been able to ignore the lure of my snooze button (a big deal for me!).
If you fancy signing up, whether it is to start a business or work on one you already run, or change something in your life and stick to it for 100 days then check this out. I’ll be updating you on my progress every 25 days, you can hold me to that!
But enough about me, how the devil have you been?!
If you have enough time to spare whilst backpacking then hopping aboard an overnight bus can be full of interesting and ahem unforgettable experiences. It is one of the cheapest ways to get from A to B, a great chance to mingle with the locals and meet other backpackers heading in the same direction but it doesn’t come without its down sides.
Cramped seats, roads not touched since the stone age and hours upon hours of endless mind-numbing boredom sometimes make you wish you hadn’t been such a scrooge with your budget.
But you can get through it and even feel smug at how far you travelled on so little cash. Here’s how to survive the never ending road trip:
Plan in advance – Book your seat, not too near the toilet or the door for smell and safety reasons. Charge your ipod, phone and kindle before you board, take a pen and paper, pack of cards, flick through your guidebook and as I explained in this post make the most of this digital detox me time.
Lock up – I’m sure you already have a heavy duty padlock firmly attached to your backpack well make sure you use it! Put all your valuables in your smaller day pack that never leaves your side (sleep with it nestled against your body) and only put stinky clothes in the hold of the bus.
Stretch – Like a long haul flight you need to walk around and uncurl those limbs from time to time. Usually these long distance busses stop en route a fair few times, most likely at overpriced tourist stations where naff souvenirs and pricy food can be bought so instead use that time to stretch your legs rather than stock up on crap you don’t need.
Pack a picnic– Like I said the food stops are expensive and limited so it’s good to have a small bag of healthy snacks, drinks and sweet treats to keep you going.
Be early – There is nothing worse than rushing through a town you don’t know to get to the bus station on time. When I was in Chile I’d smugly booked my bus seat the day before, turned up with 15 minutes to spare only to realise the place I’d bought the tickets from wasn’t the place where the buses left from! Arrrgghhh!! Cue a panicked sweat dripping run with heavy backpack crushing my sunburnt shoulders to make it in the nick of time.
You get what you pay for – Some bus companies offer VIP seats where you get snacks, reclining leather seats and DVDs to watch. Others offer the cheap and dirty hard seats, no legroom and a box of squawking chickens next to you. Ask other backpackers or at your hostel for reputable firms and options.
Be flexible – As with a lot of backpacking you need to chillax and go with the flow. Sometimes buses run late, break down (which happened to me over the border from Peru to Bolivia) and unexpectedly stop for hours for no reason other than the driver wanted to go and chat with his friend. Take it all in your stride and enjoy the journey.
Can you add anything to this list?
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:
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 email@example.com
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.