It’s good to be impulsive. And occasionally life threatening.
It’s the year of the monkey. Naturally, I was born in the year of the monkey. Witty, sociable, easily bored, stubborn.
Sums me up perfectly I think.
No better time to get harnessed up and back on the face of a mountain.
It’s been a few years since I went boulder climbing. It used to be a regular thing, but after my hand injury I didn’t trust my wrist to support my weight.
I didn’t know what to expect on the half day climb with The Rock Shop. I’d signed up for a beginners course because I was worried.
Climbing had been my way of dealing with my fear of heights. I don’t like to be scared, or limited. My way of handling fears is to throw myself into them. More than often the return is something beautiful. The views from the top. The reward of an isolated spot. It’s a risk, but one worth taking.
When I floundered on the first climb our guide grinned at me
“You can be good or bad, but you must have fun!”
He was right. Once the pressure was off, it was more fun.
After the day’s climb, the rest of the group wanted to grab food and see some of Railay. We were all keen to find the lagoon for a relaxing swim to end the day. We deserved a break.
Little did we know.
We had assumed that it would be a calm walk, a couple of dips and then back to Tonsai.
The warning signpost and the exhausted faces of people scaling down from a point up into the mountain, should have been our first indicator this wasn’t going to be easy.
The route had ropes set up along the way. All you had to do was find your feet and hoist yourself up. Easy enough. I decided to pop my flip flops into my bag and go barefoot.
My feet still haven’t forgiven me.
When we finally reached the clearing at the top it dawned on us that we’d have to climb deeper down into the mountain to reach the lagoon. Unless there was an off chance this was a magical lagoon at the top of a mountain that defied gravity.
The downward descent to the lagoon was a little more than “strenuous” as the warning at the start of the ‘hike’ suggested.
We were lowering ourselves through slippery sharp rocks, climbing through narrow holes with back packs on and at times reaching around for a foothold, or handhold when we couldn’t see behind us. After my first slip and near fall onto craggy rocks, my faith in my wrist was completely restored.
It was a precarious climb to the bottom. But it was completely worth it. Photos don’t do it justice.
It’s the things we really work to get that bring us the greatest satisfaction.
I’m quite impulsive in the risks that I take. God knows how far this ‘All or nothing’ attitude will get me in Vegas in a few weeks.
Colonic irrigation is about as fancy as it sounds.
The room was small, incense burned, a jazzy tune played, but the roar of the ocean could still be heard in the background. I stared hard at the long wooden plank leading to the toilet in the middle of the room. Above it, a bucket filled with coffee infused water and a system of tubes. I listened carefully as Mun acted out how to carry out your own colonic, occasionally eyeing up the plastic bottle filled with olive oil that I would be using to ‘lubricate my anus’
Maybe the juice fast had me deluded.
This had seemed like a much better idea after a clay shake. I am very suggestible and mildly violent when hungry. I had wanted to purge any residual negaitivity I was storing up mentally. Why not physically? Start afresh: body, mind and soul.
I hadn’t imagined a new start would look like a 6 by 4 propped up on cinder blocks and an open toilet.
I’ve never been one for diets or health fads. I attempted Beyonce’s Maple Syrup diet 7 years ago. Well I say attempted, I drank herbal tea for 5 days and chased them with short stacks drowned in, maple syrup.
The Sanctuary is an amazing place to satisfy your curiosity for detox and cleanse programs. It is possibly the cheapest place in the world to have a colonic, or carry out a cleanse. Its staff are friendly, and well informed. There are also ongoing classes in yoga, pilates and meditation, as well as massages, a spa and steam room.
The whole environment encourages you to live and eat well, and fills you with a sense of well being.
I was intoxicated. Which is probably why a Juice fast sounded good.
I love juice. All drinks in fact. The more beverages the better. A day of juice sounded easy. Anyone who has seen me wolf down an order of tacos, or observed me eating my three lunches, knows I won’t fade away after a day fast. What I didn’t know was that all cleanses ended with a colonic.
I had a vague understanding of how they worked thanks to an episode of Jackass where Johnny gets a colonic. It didn’t prepare me at all for what it would feel like. It didn’t feel as hilarious as Johnny’s looked.
As I returned to the wellness centre, I looked visibly traumatised.
I won’t lie, when I decided to come out here I had been hoping to get in touch with myself. Just not via my anus with a tube I inserted myself. But you can’t predict what turns the game around.
I thought the emotional elements I couldn’t shift were with me for a reason. But just like a physical cleanse, it takes time to flush out the more noxious parts of us.
They can be shifted though.
It won’t be pretty, but as I lie swinging in this hammock with a massive smile on my face and not a care in the world, I’d say it was worth it.
John Lewis and shiny stuff would lead most of us to believe that this is the most wonderful time of the year. Christmas can be pretty wonderful: friends you haven’t seen in years, time with family, spreading joy, giving and receiving, great food, the list goes on. This year my attitude, normally on a par with Buddy the Elf, is a bit more like the weather: lukewarm.
Christmas comes but once a year. At least that was my mantra in past years when I forced a smile when being nagged by my parents about when I was going to meet a nice boy. Or when I was being nagged about when I was going to move closer to home. Or when I was wincing at drunken shouting and trivial arguments. Or when I was joining in on the shouting. I still managed a smile because a week down the line I would be back on a plane and far away. Future conversations could be tolerated. Or at least muted.
This year Christmas feels like it is building up to be Wrestlemania. All the previously small bouts that have taken place lover the last four months will now culminate in this one off spectacular event.
There is no tapping out.
A chair may be employed as a last minute act of desperation.
My plan to hide in the gym was thwarted. I may no longer have any idea what day of the week it is, but most of the normal working world have been counting the sleeps until they could go out, get battered, safe in the knowledge there was no getting up at 7 am the next morning.
This is my life.
Maybe that’s why my cheer isn’t as cheery. The biggest factor in my love of Christmas was desperate relief. The winter term was the longest one at school. After seven weeks of crowd control, marking, observations and prising kids off windows and walls, I wanted to sleep for two weeks. It’s like the Eddie Murphy joke about the cracker you get offered after weeks in the desert.
Christmas was the best cracker I had ever eaten.
Every day is like Christmas now. In the sense I get to stay at home watching bad television, balancing my finances and drinking anything mulled. All I’ve been missing over the last four months was a festive hat at a jaunty angle.
The traditional Christmas dinner is also a festive selling point.
Roast potatoes, Turkey, Christmas pudding, even sprouts, there’s something about that Christmas spread. It warms the heart.
As I sit staring at the swede that will be the crowning joy in vegan Christmas, I find it hard to get excited.
My brother is an excellent cook. It will be a Vegetarian/Vegan delight. But it’s not quite Christmas this year.
I nearly went full Scrooge when Facebook asked if I wanted to see what 2015 looked like. But what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.
The Ghosts of Facebook Statuses past have helped me to gain some perspective this Christmas Eve.
This hasn’t been my worst Christmas. Not by a long shot.
There was the Christmas Air France lost all my luggage. The Christmas I lost my phone in a taxi on the way to the airport. The Christmas I nearly lost my hand and had to have surgery. Last Christmas, when I was sent blow by blow details of how my then boyfriend liked to get down in the bedroom, and then had to spend the day comforting him.
This has been quite an uneventful festive season in retrospect.
Christmas has it’s good points. I get to make it magical for my nephew. I stay up watching cheesy movies and playing board games with my siblings. It’s the only time of the year when I can hit reset with my parents and start afresh. I also get to see friends I love and laugh. Drunkenly.
It’s the most wonderful time of the year. If I let it be.
So I’m going to get me some wine and listen to Jingle Bell Rock until the spirit of Christmas, or Christmas spirits restore me to my normally hyperactive Christmas state.
Happy holidays. Get merry. ’tis the season.
Distance can really help to gain some perspective on life.
In the last month I have been making a more concerted effort to find a job. A friend of mine pointed out to me that if I actually made an effort and a plan, rather than planning to escape as I always did, maybe I would get where I wanted to.
I am not the most patient person when it comes to my goals. If I haven’t made it work in a month it starts feeling like failure. The panic sets in and I start looking at the international teacher posts on TES, or escort work.
I get desperate.
In comparison, I am far more functional in a foreign country alone, with limited funding and only the clothes in my back pack. After 10 years of travel and living abroad I have grown to have more faith in that version of myself.
The woman stuck in her parent’s house isn’t to be trusted and is a proven flight risk.
After the last four months I needed to get away. Recharge. Try again. I needed Brazil.
My days would start with the view of Mount Corcovado and coffee. I visited The Selaron Stairs, Christ the redeemer, Sugarloaf Mountain, and relaxed on Ipanema and Copacabana. In the evenings I would have conversations with friends, grab a drink, have a laugh and make the best of my time in town.
Christ the Redeemer
I was pretty proud of how well I had managed on my own, a feeling that I’d forgotten after months of rejection emails and depressing bank statements.
In my short time in Rio I visited Paraty and Ilha Grande. My Portañol (Spanish/Portuguese mash up) was getting me through the day and I was able to have conversations where I would normally be taught how to pronounce things, (that r is a killer) or how to swear.
Add to this the fact everyone in Rio seems to be a walking gym advert, and that they advocate for teeny bikinis and no tan lines, then you’ve got a city I can get on board with.
After talking to a few people, I found out that it might be possible to get a teaching job for the new year. So why not move there?
I’ve never had more reason to leave London. Everyone would understand if I gave up. If I went back to Mexico. If I went back to teaching. But things had changed and an escape plan, though great for the short term, would not get me where I needed to be.
On the way to the airport Nelson, my taxi driver, explained the meaning of the word saudade, a word unique to portuguese. He said it was the feeling of missing something you hadn’t felt or experienced in a long time. Like sadness and nostalgia, a longing for something that you didn’t have anymore. Though bittersweet it didn’t always have to be sad.
He then serenaded me with Girl from Ipanema before telling me all the beautiful girls lived in Rio, and I should come back.
Margaret smiled at me. She looked very mum like. I always run into well meaning mother figures when I’m abroad.
She and I were the only passengers on the airport shuttle into Budapest. We got talking about the plane delay. Complaining is a great way to start a conversation it would seem. We got on the topic of why we were in Hungary. She was there for work. I was there because I could be. I was lucky enough to have friends there, the time, and no responsibilities.
“For £500 you could buy a Eurorail pass. Travel around Europe for a month.”
It’s around £500 if you’re 18- 25. If you’re 26 or older, it’s closer to a grand to get a Eurorail pass. It wasn’t a bad idea though. When I got out in district 8, Margret told me to do it while I was still young. I thought about how ‘young’ I was. I was strongly considering it.
It had been four months of applying for jobs I didn’t really want, and getting no where.
One morning I woke up and I contacted my agencies and said I was having a crisis and wouldn’t be available for work until the new year. This may be the only time when I’d have the money to travel and no commitments. When I could take a last minute deal. Buy a cheap ticket and see some more of the world.
I’ve realised I have quite a good network of friends around the world. I’m off to Brazil in November. A weekend in Paris in December. Perhaps Singapore in the new year, or China. I also know a lot of teachers scattered around the world in schools that need an English teacher. Maybe the life of a travelling teacher could be resurrected in Europe or Asia.
My friend Diana was right. I wasn’t fat and toothless. I did have options.
There is a lot to be said for having your gap year in your 30s. On the plus side, I have some money saved. I can do it in a bit more style. Hungary was a whirlwind of G&Ts, steak dinners and strudel. It beat my pizza pie budget when I was in New York.
On the downside, my mum and dad think I’m having a mental breakdown, and my savings are starting to dwindle, while my credit card balance gets bigger. It’s all I want to do though.
I didn’t have a gap year before uni. Well I did, but I was living at a mates house after my dad had kicked me out, working three jobs and desperately trying to lock down a job at Topshop #ambition. It was hardly ‘See the world before uni’ It was more ‘Prepare yourself for how much your life is going to suck when you have bills to pay and nowhere to live.’
I didn’t save a lot that year. Enough for a ticket to New York. I managed to meet my friends at the end of their travels, listen to their adventures around the world. We all still travel. Alone most of the time, I’ve noticed. We’ve even met up in different countries.
I think it’s something in your blood, wanting to be out there in the world alone, on your own adventure. Some people can’t live without it.
I like travelling alone. It’s never been something I thought was unusual. I always had a friend to meet somewhere, or I would make friends when I got to where I was going. I’ve never felt lonely. I’ve felt lonely at parties, in relationships, stuck at home. Traveling is something I’m happy to do by myself.
The reactions I get when I tell people I’m travelling alone make me smile. The concern, the sympathy. Did I have no friends to go with? Surely I’d enjoy it more with other people? Next time I could ask them to come along.
Being a woman makes it seem dangerous, but it’s just as risky as it is for men. I have been mugged three times, but I’ve made it out unscathed and often with most of my possessions.
The first time was at knife point and I was able to talk my way out of it. His pen knife was an embarrassment. I’d rather have been stabbed. The second time I was being an idiot, and wandering around at night with my headphones in. He got my iPod. But only as he ran away after i beat the shit out of him with an umbrella. So British. The last time I was mugged, it was at gun point, so I couldn’t really fight my way out of it. I managed to hold onto my shopping. It was worth more than the crap in my purse. Suckers.
Ok, it may seem uncertain. But it’s no more dangerous than your own back yard. You take the right precautions, you’re careful who you trust, and it all works out, most of the time. Occasionally you get a bit of bad luck, you wander into a bad area, fall asleep on the night bus with your iPod out; or date a man who thinks it’s acceptable to hold your possessions hostage because he’s teaching you a lesson for breaking up with him.
There are risks in everything we do.
Over the years my travels had introduced me to wonderful people, some of whom I’m lucky to still be in touch with. Sometimes you just spend a few nights having a good laugh, going to bars and wandering naked into the ocean. Other times you make travel buddies and end up at reggae festivals, or crossing the border into Panama.
I have had hand made pizza straight out of a make shift oven in a friend’s cave. It even had a door. The cave, not the pizza.
I’ve soaked in thermal baths under the stars. I’ve hiked up a mountain in Andorra, cooked my own dinner and then hiked down into France for breakfast. There were parties on the beach, night swimming in lagoons, and once I jumped on a motorbike to a ghetto in Belize to shave a man’s beard off.
Traveling has been good to me.
There was never a trip I regretted. Not even this one back home. It took me to Hungary, a dick fountain, dear friends and the knowledge that Hungarians will not budge in a bar. Soon it will take me to my nap buddy, caipirihnas and samba.
I was told I couldn’t live like this for the rest of my life. Maybe what they meant to say was that they couldn’t live like this for the rest of their life. It’s not for everyone.
If you have a travel suggestions let me know. I live out of a suitcase.