First impressions of Cyprus

The plane landed smoothly on the tarmac at Larnaca airport, but the plane of Russians started clapping vigorously and smiling at their loved ones like they had survived a near miss. Larnaca airport seemed fresh, clean and relaxed after the chaos of Moscow Domodevodo. I picked up my luggage, bought a sim card and a Lipton iced tea and strode out into the sun.

I got the bus to Larnaca centre, not a long journey, but I found myself looking at the passing scenes with a manic grin on my face. I was in a new country, a country I knew little about and it excited me greatly.

The bus dropped me off right next to the beach. The strip was full of modern restaurants and coffee shops like Starbucks, Pizza hut and the Hard rock cafe. Not exactly what I was expecting. Nevertheless it was nice to stroll down the street and watch the people relaxing in the bars and restaurants. I couldn’t find my apartment so I asked in a local shop. The woman was incredibly kind and sincere and gave me much-needed directions in English.

I eventually found my apartment, it was a stones throw from the beach. The owner was once again genuine and kind, offering me as much advice as he could. I chose the apartments because it was called apartment Stephanie, and it didn’t disappoint.

I left my bag in my room, had a quick shower and headed out to explore. I had been advised to walk further down the beach to see the more traditional area. After six months of winter in Moscow, it was nice to feel the sun on my bare skin. It wasn’t hot but pleasant and I enjoyed strolling down the beach, watching the laughing Cypriots and the many tourists.

Happy to feel the sun after an eternal winter

I decided to stop off for some food and ordered a feta cheese crepe. Once again the service was friendly and genuine, there’s no fake smiles here. I decided to eat my meal on the windy beach to the sound of the waves crashing. It was so peaceful.

For some reason I decided to walk an hour out of my way to see the flamingos at the salt lake. It was just my luck that the flamingos were stood right in the middle of the lake, I could only see their shadows in front of the setting sun.

On the way back to my apartment I decided to walk through the narrow residential areas. Everywhere seemed a little dilapidated with flaking paint and broken balconies. However sporadic bursts of colour and the noises of living coming from the houses made it seem quite romantic. It was like I was on a movie set.

I explored a small mosque and an extremely old church located just metres away from each other. I love it when religions can live in harmony. I was yet to learn about the Turkish occupation of the North side of Cyprus and the problems that face the people because of this division.

Grand Mosque, Larnaca
St Lazarus church, Larnaca

In the evening I strolled along the beach-side bars and restaurants. Cypriot teenage boys walked proudly with their arms draped over their girlfriend and chatted in an animated and confident fashion with other groups of teenagers. I saw many nationalities of tourists too, all going about their business in a relaxed manner. It’s at times like this when I feel lonely. I guess it’s the downside of solo travel. I spotted a packed local kabab shop and enjoyed a chicken gyros and a beer in solitude.

Cyprus seemed like a relaxed and happy country. I immediately warmed to Cypriots with their honest hearts and sincere words. I had originally planned to spend 6 days in Paphos, diving and relaxing. But I realised that I wanted to see more of this beautiful island. The next day I rented a car and set off travelling around the island. It was the first time that I’d driven in over two years and i felt nervous yet exhilarated.

I felt at home.

Having second thoughts about my Travelling lifestyle

My jet lagged eyes struggled to open, it was as if they were stuck together with a viscous glue. I sleepily turned and looked out of the oval shaped window and saw a tall, triangular snow-capped mountain. ‘Mount Fuji’, I thought. This meant that I was finally in Japan.
My heart started to beat fast. This is it. I waited for the crowds to dissipate then slowly walked down the aisle. My feet touched the jet bridge and to my right the pilot was bowing to each and every passenger.

This Christmas I was lucky enough to spend three whole weeks at home. I spent the whole time catching up with friends and family and eating all of my favorite foods (mmmm cheese!). When I first arrived, I expected that I would be bored, but I grew to love spending my time with people who care about me and who can speak not only English, but Northern English. I met a new family member on this visit too, my niece Olivia and I was lucky enough to become a Godmother for the first time!

With my beautiful Goddaughter Olivia
With my beautiful Goddaughter Olivia

 

As I packed my suitcase I just didn`t feel the anticipation that I felt before. I actually felt a bit sad. I was enjoying my time in England and I didn`t want it to come to a close. as soon as I waved goodbye to my Dad at the airport parking and saw a tear in his eye I wondered if I was making the right decision.

 

Was I meant to travel the world when all of the people who mean anything to me live in England? I consoled myself with my traditional pint of Stella at the airport and watched as planes came and went. Suddenly I felt the same feeling inside me that I felt when I set off for Japan in March. I felt butterflies in my chest and an urge to visit every country in the world.

 

I realised that life back home is great but it`s not for me, not yet. Although I will miss everyone there`s a burning desire inside me to travel, and I know that I will only be happy as long as I keep on going. Keep on exploring and living life my way.

 

I’m not saying that life will be easy. Quite the contrary. In the same way that my heart burns for me to travel, I feel a deep void inside me when I’m away from my family. It will pain me not to see Olivia grow up but it’s kind of cool to be known as the brave, travelling Auntie.

 

As I stepped off the plane I made a promise to myself to make 2016 my best year yet.

inspiration

An alternative to paying for excess baggage.

me

‘Miss, your bag is 2kg over the limit. That’ll be £100’.

As if! My flight to Japan wasn’t starting out as the relaxing journey that I had anticipated. Despite flying with Qatar, a respected Middle Eastern airline they were extremely strict with baggage allowances, giving Ryanair a run for their money.

I was moving to Japan to live there for at least a year so I needed to pack some essential items. I have massive feet even for UK standards so I needed to pack a good supply. I also have crazy, curly hair so I needed to pack a diffuser hairdryer. Add that with all the smart suits I needed for teaching and 30kg just wasn’t enough luggage!

To avoid paying £100 so I had more money to spend on Sushi and Kawaii things in Japan, I decided to wear 2kg of clothes on the plane. As I clumsily floated through security wearing two extra skirts, two pairs of jeans and as many jumpers I could sling round my shoulders, I hoped I gave off the vibe that I was a stylish yet modest Amish woman, not a crazy mentally unstable eccentric.

I wasn’t going to let my fashion faux pas get in the way of my pre-flight tradition; a good old pint of Stella! As I made my way to my seat at the bar, a nearby woman looked visibly appalled as I peeled off my many layers so that I didn’t sweat to death.

Needless to say no-one sat next to me on neither of the two flights over….

 

pint

My first solo Adventure….to Spain!

I have never really had wanderlust until recently. I have always been fairly independant and I loved going abroad but I preferred to go on holiday with other people.  I felt that it was unsafe to travel alone, I was also scared that I would end up making misakes, missing buses ect and that I would be bored and lonely.
How wrong was I!

It was  late June  when I read a blog post (www.baconismagic.com) about a place in Spain where you can help Spaniards learn English through a language immersion programme. It sounded like the perfect holiday for a solo traveller and an interesting way to help get experience for any TEFL jobs that I wish to apply for in the future!

So I applied and was nearly immediately accepted (They must have thought that I have had quite an interesting life beasuse I listed all of my 1043 hobbies…) Initially I was over the moon but after taking some time to digest the thought I felt very nervous. I thought ‘what if I don’t like the place’, ‘what if I don’t like the people’. I then booked my flights to Madrid and decided to spend some days exploring Madrid after the weeks course. Even if I was alone Madrid seemed like the perfect place to explore with its amazing bars, museums, art galleries and parks!

A few days before the trip I decided to take just hand luggage. People who know me will know that I do not tend to travel light so it took quite a lot of work deciding on my capsule wardrobe for 2 weeks in Spain! I was unable to take any of my beloved vintage clothes too in case my shampoo exploded in my case son the day there.

But here I was, at Liverpool airport ready to board the plane. I had booked and arranged everything myself and I felt terribly proud. I had booked a hostel for the first night in Madrid and even decided to navigate the metro rather than take the easy option of a taxi from the airport! I felt so independant and free as I stepped on the plane.
I was doing it! I was going on holiday alone!

Goodbye Liverpool!

Madrid here I come!!

Seats with the most legroom on the flight! Nearly missing your flight does have it’s advantages!
When was your first solo travel experience? Were you scared or did you relish the feeling of the unknown?

Two months until my round the world trip commences!

plane

I first started thinking about my trip in April 2011, since then I have done a lot of work trying to save up for the trip, organise my itinerary, get granted my sabbatical and researching safety, what to do and what to bring! I hve been thinking about this trio for so long yet it is hard to believe that in less than two months I will be leaving the UK, hopefully for 12 months!

I am trying to ‘wing it’ as much as possible on my trip because it’s going to be such a long and varied trip. The thing that I love most about travel is meeting new people from all around the world and if I have a very basic itinerary it will enable me to be more spontaneous and to travel where I like with who I like.

I have been researching different destinations and safety by reading various travel blogs, mainly from fellow solo female travellers who have done a trip of this scale before me! Reading the blogs has put my mind at rest because every blogger seemed to have the time of their life on their travels and many said that they felt safer in Asia than they ever have in a Western country! I have also bought the majority of my clothes and equipment for the trip which is alot harder than it sounds! I will no doubt lose a considerable amount of weight whilst on this trop so I have had to take this in to consideration when planning my travel outfits and bikinis. I also want to save some room in my backpack so I can buy some souveneirs in Asia.

Soooo, what have I been doing during the past few weeks apart from planning? I have been making the most of the time I have left in the UK by visting friends and trying to tie up loose ends. I have also been getting my travel vaccinations each week. I decided to buy the Japanese Encephalitis and Rabies vaccines alongside the free ones offeredg by my GP. They are costing £325 which is a large chunk of my travel budget but I decided that money doesn’t mean anything If I’m not here due to a crazy tropical disease! I have also bought a kindle 3G with my Christmas money which has free internet access all around the world. It means that I can always email my family to say that I am ok whilst on the road.

Christmas fancy dress fun! (I told Santa that all I wanted for Christmas was to have a safe and fun round the world trip!)

It was hard thinking that this time next year I will be spending Christmas in Asia or Oceania! Will I be on Bondi beach, trekking through the rainforest or watching glow-worms in South Island New Zealand….No one knows! I had a lovely Christmas with my family, we even went for a curry on Christmas day!

Christmas Dinner!

My Mum and I on Christmas day

I hope that you have all had a merry Christmas and I wish you all the best of luck for 2013. May all of your travel dreams come true!

Drinking Baileys on Christmas Eve