Travel Diary

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Well hello there… I will be posting a weekly overview of my travels below (wifi permitting ha ha).

Weeks 14, 15 and 16: St John’s, Halifax, Québec City, Montréal and Ottawa

I am absolutely loving Canada and its natural beauty. So glad I decided to come here to see the Fall. Highlights have been the view from Signal Hill in St Johns’s, Peggy’s Cove, my journey on the Ocean train (18 hours overnight from Halifax to Québec City) and the old town of Québec City.

I’m really enjoying the simplicity of my life at the moment and simple pleasures – good views, good food, good drink etc. I’m ‘Poutined’ out now though – only so much of this calorific national dish I can eat ha ha. Keeping life simple allows you to reflect, puts things into perspective, makes you appreciate what’s important and has further clarified for me what I want out of life.

A funny thing I’ve noticed lately is strangers keep asking me for directions, looking to me to answer their questions when I’m in tourist places or just generally asking for help with things. In a gallery in Halifax a lady asked me where a particular exhibit was. In St John’s a tourist stopped me to ask me the way to downtown. It happened the other day in the queue to get into the Notre-Dame Basilica in Montreal. The lady behind me asked me how much the tickets were and where to get them. I made a joke about the fact I was just a tourist too so I had no idea and she seemed surprised. She said I give off an air of authority, like I know what I’m doing. I’d like to think that it’s because I’m comfortable in my own skin and people find me approachable. I took it as a compliment anyway ha ha.

I have found Canada to be chilly – thank heavens I decided to bring my winter coat along with me when I was packing for my travels. I’m managing fine but the cold temperatures do trigger my fibro symptoms a bit – been noticing some stiffness on very cold days, and some fatigue. I always feel in better health when the sun is shining. As much as I love this country, it’s not the best time of year for me to be here so in a week’s time I will be heading south to chase the sunshine in the Southern Hemisphere…though it was quite nice to get a glimpse of snow as I landed in Calgary today, on the way to Banff.

In Ottawa I was reunited with the lovely French-Canadian girl, Sophie, that I met in Jerusalem. We are very similar in many ways. Nice to spend time with someone who gets me and fully supports me. Definitely a travel buddy who has become a friend for life.

That’s all for now…

Bye Peeps! 🙂

Weeks 11, 12 and 13: Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Tel Aviv and New York

Wow! The last three weeks have been a whirlwind. So many amazing experiences and met some very cool fellow travellers. Been travelling for over three months now and I’m still absolutely loving it. I feel like a different person: strong (physically, mentally and emotionally), clear-headed, calm and above all, happy.

Jerusalem: Such a great place but I found it very intense and exhausting. So much to see and do. Experienced my first Shabbat here and visited my first kibbutz. Met Sophie, a lovely Canadian girl I am going to see again soon in Ottawa. Felt like I’d known her for years.

Bethlehem: Staying in the Banksy hotel surpassed my expectations and I was really lucky to share the dorm room with a very laid-back, super smart Irish guy Ronan. We visited a Palestinian refugee camp together and had dinner with a local man who shared his experiences with us. It was a moving eye-opener and gave me a lot to think about.

Tel Aviv: a blur of pub crawls and beach days. Some much needed light relief after the intensity of Jerusalem and Bethlehem. Shared a lot of laughs and shots with Canadian Carly and American Jessie.

New York: one of my favourite cities that never disappoints. I’ve done all the main tourist stuff in past visits so I really enjoy going back now and again and doing ‘real’ New York, exploring different areas, looking for street art and catching up on art at places like MOMA.

I wrote earlier in this diary that I felt as I set off on my journey that I was shedding skin, undergoing transformation, and for a while I felt in limbo – enjoying my travels but still attached to my past, still seeking closure. Whilst in New York, I finally got my closure and fully said goodbye to the past: truths were revealed, some friendships ended, and I completely severed ties with my old life. It was a long time coming and needed to be done. I no longer feel the burden of keeping a secret to protect someone who never really did the same for me and the lifted weight feels so good. No regrets.

A new chapter has begun. Ahead lies new places, new friends, a career change and a new me. The transformation continues. Watch this space….

 

Bye peeps! 🙂

Week 10: Eilat and Jerusalem

This week I’ve been in Israel and though it’s been a bit of weird week, I’m loving this country. This has been the week of crazy dorm mates! In Eilat, a German lady in her fifties latched on to me. One minute I’m making polite conversation as we’re sharing a room, the next she’s expecting to spend all her time with me. If we’d clicked then spending time with her wouldn’t have been an issue but we didn’t, plus her English wasn’t great and my German was even worse. I really hate it when people cling to me, especially when I think they’re only doing it because they’re lonely and don’t want to be by themselves, rather than because we genuinely get on. She was just a bit bonkers bless her. The other lady sharing a room with us wouldn’t speak to her at all as she found her so strange. It was awkward. One morning I snuck out of the room ninja-style, super quiet to make sure I didn’t disturb her. I just wanted to grab some breakfast and then head to the beach by myself. Five mins later, she popped up at my breakfast table asking to make plans with me. I politely declined – to which she told me she was disappointed as she’d really wanted to spend the day with me. As I would rather have eaten my own sh*t than spend any more time with her than I had to, I wasn’t going to be guilted into changing my mind. Eilat was a nice beach resort place, nothing special and overpriced.

I had a dramatic arrival at Jerusalem when, after a five hour bus journey I checked into my hostel at 1 am, got on the wifi and discovered that 30 mins earlier someone had started using my debit card details to go on an online shopping spending spree. They’d already spent £1,000 before I locked my card (which I will hopefully get back) and they kept trying to use it. So thankful I thought to go on wifi before bed otherwise I think I would have woken up to no money which would have been a total nightmare!

In Jerusalem I encountered my second crazy roommate. She was an Aussie girl who seemed nice but a bit of a hippy. She had come to Israel to convert to Judaism for a guy she had been casually dating for three weeks. As I try not to be judgemental, I humoured her – until she decided to lecture me about my medical condition fibromyalgia. According to her, fibro is caused by wifi and all the electronic energies in the world, and even though the medical profession say it is currently incurable, she insists it is curable and told me I just have to change my state of mind to be cured. I was fuming. I explained that I am managing my fibro well at the moment as I had dramatically changed my life and I was deeply offended, as I think anyone who has struggled with fibro would be, at the notion that a cure is as simple as a mind change. If only I’d thought of that! Silly moo. Positivity will only go so far folks. For the first time ever in my years of travels, I requested to change rooms. I’m staying in Jerusalem for a week and sharing a room with a nut job was just going to stress me out. The people in the new room are all lovely and very chilled, happy days.

Got a few more days in Jerusalem before I go to stay in Banksy’s Walled Off Hotel in Bethlehem for the night (super excited about that as I am a massive Banksy fan) and then I’ll be moving onto Tel Aviv for a week.

 

Bye peeps! 🙂

Week 9: Jordan

This week I’ve been mooching round Jordan haemorrhaging money along the way ha ha. Dear me. Anywhere after the cheapness of Turkey and Georgia was going to be a shock but my word, I did not expect Jordan to be this expensive or for the people to try so hard to get me to part with my cash – think there are some here who would charge their own mothers for breast milk if they thought they could get away with it!

It is such a shame because the country is beautiful. I didn’t like Amman or feel very comfortable there (hard to relax walking around on my own after being called a b*tch in the street for no reason) but the day trips out of the city are great. I particularly loved floating in the Dead Sea and visiting Jerash. The King’s Highway journey from Amman to Wadi Musa was spectacular and Petra was amazing (when you ignore the repeated requests to pay for donkey rides or buy over-priced trinkets as you drag your sweaty arse up to the Monastery).

As much as I would have loved to do everything here, like camping in Wadi Rum and snorkelling in the Red Sea, I’ve had to be selective about the things I’ve chosen to do as everything is so expensive and I want to be able to travel for at least a year.

The one good aspect about staying in Amman was the people I met – Inge from the Netherlands, Patri from Barcelona and John, a retired teacher from Queensland. They all really made my time in Amman enjoyable despite my low opinion of the city.

Tomorrow I will cross the border to go into Israel, somewhere I’ve wanted to visit for a long time but been unable to, and I’ll be spending a few weeks there before jetting to New York mid-September. The east-west decision was finally made – I will be going west over the next few months to explore the US, Canada and Mexico before heading down to South America.

Overall, I am loving travelling and I’m feeling very much at peace with myself…

 

Bye peeps! 🙂

Week 7 & 8: Istanbul, Göreme and Bodrum

For the last two weeks I’ve been in Turkey and I’ve been pleasantly surprised by my stay here. I’d been warned beforehand about the need to be extra cautious as a solo female traveller and to watch out for scammers but overall my experience of Turkey has been overwhelmingly positive and I’ve found the people here to be genuinely warm and accommodating.

I made the rookie error of forgetting to check whether I needed a visa to enter Turkey and was slightly embarrassed to be told after a long wait in the immigration line to exit and go buy my visa, which I had to pay for in British pounds, which entailed withdrawing liras and having to change them into pounds, and then re-join the queue. My bad. I could easily have applied for an e-visa online and saved myself some hassle.

As a blonde solo female I seem to have attracted a lot of attention but the guys have been respectful as well as complimentary. In my first hour in Istanbul I was told I had beautiful eyes by multiple men, asked out three times by guys who wanted to meet for drinks and show me round the city and even the airport shuttle guy asked me if I was on Facebook as he dropped me off at the hostel (for the record, I’m not). I’ve had to invent a boyfriend who is obviously highly intelligent, funny and good-looking but busy with work so he’s unable to join me on my travels ha ha. Apparently he is a very lucky man according to Omar, who I met outside the Hagia Sophia and still insisted I took his phone number when I told him about the boyfriend. When I went for food, a sweet waiter sat with me to give me tips about places I should visit and actually gave me his Istanbulkart (their version of the Oyster card) to help me travel round the city and told me to return it before I left. Bless him. I ended up having to wear headphones for my last two days in Istanbul just to get some peace!   

I’ve made some lovely hostel buddies in Turkey – Ellen and Sam in Istanbul, Semele, Marc, Aidan and the two Federicos in Göreme. A guy I met at my Istanbul hostel turned up to stay in my dorm room in Göreme – it can be a small world on the traveller circuit. I was really touched when on the day I left Göreme, my dorm buddies hung around the hostel and we went for lunch before my airport shuttle arrived to collect me as we had enjoyed our time together so much. Funny the bonds you make so quickly and I’m starting to build a friendship network of people I’ve met that I would like to see again in their home countries. 

Istanbul was manically busy with me trying to see everything in a couple of days whereas my stays in Goreme and Bodrum were very relaxing. The down time was much needed and has allowed me to get ahead with my travel planning. For the next month I will be heading down to Jordan and Israel and then I will probably head west to Central/South America. I’m not trying to visit every country, just following my heart and going to the places that I’m really drawn to and excite me. I would love to be in New York for my birthday at the end of September as it’s one of my favourite cities but we shall see… 

 

Bye peeps! 🙂

Week 6: Tbilisi

So after intending to spend only a few days in Tbilisi, I ended up staying in Georgia for two weeks. Visiting Kazbegi was a particular highlight – such beautiful natural scenery and I was really chuffed to manage a hike up to the Gergeti Trinity Church (see my blog post ‘Climbing Mountains: Living With Fibro’). I only came to Tbilisi because a friend visited at the end of last year and came back raving about it. There is just something very special about Tbilisi. It was great to return after my long weekend in Batumi and unlike the rubbish experience I had in the first Tbilisi hostel, the second one was brilliant and I made some lovely new friends during my time there: Rob, Stella, Niek, Toby, Chris and Qeti. Rob is an absolute legend of a guy from Bristol and he and I hit it off from our first meeting in the rooftop bar, becoming inseparable for the three days he stayed. He’s my brother from another mother (I’m not his type if you know what I mean ha ha), we had some fab experiences like renting a private sulphur bath, and I really missed him when he left. Love you mate – we’ll definitely be seeing each other again one day!

This week I stayed in a mixed dorm. One of the guys was a shocking snorer but apart from that, it was fine. I actually had the room completely to myself one night which was nice, a private room for the price of a dorm bed is always a winner. The next night a couple arrived to share the room and they were quite funny because whenever they thought I had left the room for the day, they would jump into bed together so I caught them in a compromising situation twice – they were more embarrassed than me ha ha. Later in the week another couple arrived who thought it was ok to completely ignore me, despite my attempts to say hello and give them a welcoming smile. I don’t really understand why people would stay in a hostel if they’re not prepared to at least say hi to the person they are sharing the room with – it was just bloody rude but such is life.

I love it when you get to the point when you no longer need a map to navigate a city and you have regular cafes/places you like to go to. Tbilisi has now become a home from home for me and I know I will return in the future if I need to base myself somewhere for a period of time. The money I was waiting for has now arrived so I can go wherever I want for a while and I’m really enjoying being able to travel more flexibly, only booking a few days ahead at a time. I have a rough plan for my journey ahead but talking to other travellers gives me ideas for places I may not have considered and I want to stay open to suggestions and travel intuitively – following my heart and letting my instincts guide me. It was Stella and Niek who sold me on Istanbul (where I am now sat writing this diary entry) and I’m really glad I listened to them – so far I’m impressed and will probably look to explore Turkey further in the weeks to come.

 

 

Bye Peeps! 🙂

Week 5: Tbilisi and Batumi

This week I’ve had Georgia on my mind, spending 4 nights each in Tbilisi and Batumi. Absolutely loved Tbilisi, my kind of place. Somewhere you can spend hours mooching round and find surprises everywhere: a beautiful architectural delight here, a cool statue or striking street art there. The people can be incredibly friendly, especially if you make the effort to speak some Georgian to them – Madloba (thank you) for example, but many of the women seem to be suffering from RBF (resting b*tch face for those of you unfamiliar…) and I’ve had plenty of disapproving looks from them, even though I dress modestly and make the effort to be nice. It’s a bit disconcerting but part of travelling is accepting that different cultures have their quirks so it is what it is.

Although I loved Tbilisi, I did not enjoy the hostel I chose to stay at unfortunately. It had great reviews and a good price for a private room but the usual hosts were away and a brother had been left in charge.  He was clueless when I checked in, asking me how much I was expecting to pay and did I know what room I had been allocated etc. He was overly friendly, asking me how old I was, why I wasn’t married and why I was travelling alone. I tried to be polite at first but there is a fine line between being friendly and being creepy and when he tipped over the edge, I tried to avoid him, which was difficult to do when he followed me around the place like a lost puppy. I thought perhaps I was being over sensitive – until I got up to go to the toilet at 5am and found him loitering outside the door when I came out. Freaked me out. As a woman travelling alone, safety is always my priority and I pay attention to my gut instinct. I felt so uncomfortable about him I didn’t go back to the hostel until I had to after each day of sightseeing and always kept my door locked when I returned. I think if I feel that way again I will just leave and go somewhere else. The hostel looked nothing like the pictures on Hostelworld, my bed was basically a mattress on the floor and there was only one toilet and shower for everyone staying in the hostel which meant long waits for a shower on a morning and evening. I felt like I had gone to a completely different place than the one I had read reviews for which is a shame because it might have a very different atmosphere when the usual hosts are present. It just shows that reviews are not always reliable and they are always subjective anyway.

The hostel in Batumi on the other hand was fab. More like a hotel than a hostel, with lovely decor, comfy dorm beds, free towels, free laundry and a short walk to the beach. All of the staff were friendly (without being creepy ha ha) and happy to help – the boys kindly carried my suitcase up and down the stairs for me when I arrived/left. I met a warm-hearted and funny Hungarian girl staying in the same room as me when I checked in, we hit it off and had some fun times together, enjoying many an Aperol Spritz. She really made my Batumi visit memorable and highlighted how the people you meet on the journey can really influence your experience of a place.

In other news, I’ve managed to break the handle of my beloved wheelie suitcase that has shared so many past travel adventures with me so we are going to have to part ways. Sad times. The pull-up handle is now locked in position, making it not flight-compliant. I will have to invest in a new one when I head back to Tbilisi for a few more days – will be staying in a different hostel thankfully.

Just waiting for some money to come through before I have total freedom to go wherever I want in the World so I’m making Tbilisi my temporary base as your money goes a long way there. After that, I need to decide whether to go East or West. Hmmm, decisions, decisions. Will keep you posted!

 

 

Bye Peeps! 🙂

Week 4: Bratislava and Dubai

Bit of a random week this one! The night train from Kraków was an experience. I shared a sleeper cabin with excitable 18-year old male twins from England who were hilarious. The cabin was roasting hot as the AC was rubbish so it was like sleeping in an oven. Other than that it was ok – you get a pillow and blanket and a bunk to yourself. I never sleep during night travel though, train or plane, so I rocked up to my Bratislava hostel on an hour’s sleep. Luckily the hostel let me get into my dorm room early so I was able to get two more hours of sleep before exploring the city.

What can I say about Bratislava? Hmm… I was supposed to stay two nights but only stayed one. I think that says it all. I just didn’t like it. Will put a post on about it soon to explain why.

I was supposed to have travelled on to Slovenia (which I hear is beautiful) and Romania but ten days earlier than scheduled I had to return to Dubai, where I lived for eleven years. I had to shut down my bank account there to provide a letter to my ex-employer to release my end-of-contract gratuity. Happily I was able to get things sorted quite quickly so after catching up with my ‘Dubai family’ Michelle and Martin, who are like a surrogate mum and dad to me and have done so much for me over the last few months, three days of Dubai was enough and I flew to Tbilisi, Georgia. I did love living in Dubai in the past but when I returned this time, it just confirmed for me that I have mentally and emotionally moved on from the place and my future lies elsewhere.

From here on, I am free to travel where I want, when I want, which is a new experience for me. In the past I’ve always been restricted by the timings of school holidays etc but now I can travel more flexibly and stay for as long as I want in each place – which is a little out of my comfort zone as I like to plan ahead but I think it will be good for me to live more in the present and be more spontaneous. We’ll see how I get on. I just know that I want to see as much of the world as I can and make the most of my life.

 

 

 

Bye Peeps! 🙂

Week 3: Poland – Warsaw and Kraków

What an amazing week this week has been in Poland. Some interesting hostel happenings: bugs invaded my dorm room in Warsaw in a scene befitting of a horror film, swarming in through the window, spreading across the ceiling and dropping on to our beds. A lovely lad working at the hostel came to our rescue though, swatting them with a towel as if his life depended on it. When I arrived at my Kraków hostel, I discovered the building was being renovated which meant being woken up at 6.45 am each day to maintenance men working away just outside my dorm window – and getting a morning wave from them as I staggered out of bed! I also flashed one of them when I was in the shower as I didn’t realise they could see into the bathroom too. From the smile on his face I’ll assume I haven’t scarred him for life ha ha.

Met a lovely English girl at my Warsaw hostel and we met up again in Kraków to watch the England-Croatia match in the most English pub we could find. A random bloke invited himself to join us as we sat at the bar necking Desperados and it turned out he was an up-and-coming English actor in town to shoot a film. Nice guy. Such a fun night. We found a bar post-match that served all drinks for 4 złoty (about 82 pence). It got messy and I made it back to my hostel at 5.30 am… Love the group shot of us that I’ve put on Instagram (and after two and a half weeks, I’m happy to say that my shadow ban has been lifted – thank you for taking me off the naughty step Insta!).

I’m walking between 15 – 25 km per day now which is incredible given how poor my health was just over a year ago. Proud of my recovery and how well I am managing my Fibromyalgia at the moment. Removing all stressful situations from my life seems to have made a dramatic difference to my wellbeing – here’s hoping my improved health continues.

I treated myself to a beautiful art nouveau necklace when I was in Riga and started wearing it this week. As dragonflies symbolise change and transformation (all about embracing change rather than fearing it with the ability to handle whatever changes may occur), it seems apt to wear it with pride during my journey…

 

 

 

Bye Peeps! 🙂

Week 2: Tallinn, Riga and Vilnius

Been a lovely week. I’ve visited three countries (Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania) in the past week and been impressed by each place for different reasons. See my Travel page for details and photos for each place. A few nights in each city has been enough but I could easily have stayed longer in each. My trip is fully planned up until the end of July but when I plan the rest of my round-the-world adventure I am going to factor in longer stays in destinations for a more relaxed travel experience. As in other parts of the world, even if you don’t share the language, a smile goes a long way – just don’t take it personally if you don’t get one back.

Stayed in a party hostel in Riga. I wasn’t aware of its hard partying reputation when I booked it but it was a lot of fun. A bit like Freshers Week at uni – everyone seems desperate to appear cool, likeable and looking for a ‘good time’ 😉 About 20 of us signed up for the Latvian beer-tasting session, a great way to meet fellow travellers, and I hung out with two Australian-Russian couples and an American guy, quickly bonding over shared travel experiences and an appreciation of beer. It was an hilarious night of karaoke and drunken dancing from what I remember…

In Vilnius I treated myself to a private room which has been lovely. Dorm life for the most part is OK as most travellers are respectful but poor dorm etiquette can get annoying. A young lady the other day decided to set her alarm for 6.30 am – which is fine as people getting up early for onward travel is to be expected – but she proceeded to press snooze three times and then stayed in bed. She was still in bed at 9.30 when I left the hostel to catch the bus to the next place. I never cease to be amazed by how selfish people can be – or by the kindness of strangers also. We are a funny breed human beings.

According to my health app I’ve walked around 90KM in the past two weeks so weight had been dropping off me – until I discovered a yummy smoked plaited Latvian cheese! I have eaten my body weight in cheese and crackers this week ha ha. Enjoying local delicacies is all part of traveller life – so I keep telling myself anyway!

 

 

 

Bye peeps! 🙂

Week 1: London

Only been on the road a week and it’s already been eventful! After starting my journey with a mild concussion (due to an unexpected altercation with a bathroom cabinet…), this week I managed to burn my face with my hair straighteners, lose my Oyster card, lose photos I thought I’d backed up, had wifi issues, failed to book enough nights in my London hostel as I’d mixed up my dates – I swanned off for a day of exploring only to discover I should have checked out that morning when I returned but luckily the lovely staff at YHA London Central sorted me out with a bed in a dorm/sauna (no AC during a heatwave was brutal but on the upside I think I sweated off some pounds as I slept ha ha) and got myself into trouble with Instagram after I posted a picture of boobs (not mine obvs, an arty abstract image from a photography exhibit) amongst a selection of pics, which resulted in my post being removed and a shadow ban. Oh well, such is life.

Being in London for the week has been an art and culture dream. I’ve been in street art heaven traipsing all over London photographing great work and visited some fab exhibits: Azzedine Alaïa: The Couturier at the Design Museum; Shape of Light: 100 Years of Photography and Abstract Art at the Tate Modern and Art Made Now: 250th Summer Exhibition at Royal Academy of Arts. Will post pictures on the Art page of my blog when I have time.

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Who said life on the road isn’t glamorous? A cheeky laundry selfie.

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All my Worldly goods in a 20KG wheelie suitcase and a backpack. Who needs stuff when you have travel memories…

Despite some mishaps, it’s been a great week. I feel on good form health-wise (keeping hydrated, eating healthily as much as possible and taking rest breaks when I need them) and I am happier than I have been in years, stress-free, and absolutely loving my nomad life. Can’t wait to see what next week has in store for me…

Bye peeps! 🙂

 

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