Why I’m moving to Japan

japan

On my birthday last year I cried all morning, now people who know me will understand how I hate getting older and how I cry on every birthday. This time it was different though.

As well as being upset about being older I was upset about my life. I had a deep burning desire to travel inside of me and I tried my best to put out the fire. I went out with friends, dated and desperately tried to enjoy the life that everyone else seemed to enjoy.

But It wasn’t for me.

After a lot of soul searching I decided to embrace it rather than try to fight it. Sure society says that I should aim for the typical milestones in life, job, husband, children, but none of these set my soul on fire. Travel was an integral part of me now, I tried to be happy with three holidays in 2014 but even that did not satiate my wanderlust. I needed more to be truly true to myself.

My birthday present to myself

I sat in my garden on my birthday and felt the warm rays of the sun on my body. Despite making me feel better the sunlight stirred old memories. Memories of faraway places and adventure that now seem like a dream. I decided there and then to live a life true to myself. If I didn’t live a life of passion I would be just existing. No, No. Life is far too short for that.

I come across a book on Amazon called ‘work your way around the world’, and was immediately intrigued!

I then waited patiently for the book.

Decision time

My problem was that I just didn’t know what I wanted to do or where I wanted to do it! Hundreds of possibilities flew around my head. ‘should I go a country I’ve already travelled to?’, ‘Nah, I’ll go a brand new country, life’s too short’. I drove myself crazy with incessant chatter as I tried to assimilate my thoughts. I decided on a few countries and a few jobs that I would like to do.

I received the book and read through it, the world truly is my oyster.

Finding my passion

It’s a hard decision to leave a career that I have worked towards for over eight years, not a decision to be made lightly. Although I love podiatry and would like to do it again at some point in my life, I was due a new challenge. Something completely new.

My favorite clinic in work is the paediatric clinic. I treat patients from 0-18 and I absolutely love working with children. Every clinic is fun, unpredictable and fascinating, I leave with a smile every week. I decided that I wanted to do a job where I could work with children, so I could leave work every day with a smile on my face.

pod

Exotic location

Next I had to decide the location, this decision was even harder to make than the last! Australia kept coming in to my head but I wanted somewhere new, somewhere exciting. Even better somewhere CHALLENGING! I thrive on challenges!

Asia was the continent that stole my heart on my sabbatical. I loved simple things like popping in to the shop to buy food and being confronted with a million products in crazy packaging and ending up with seaweed crisps. Simple things like that made me happy so I narrowed my search to exotic Asia.

Why Japan?

The first country that cropped up was Thailand. I absolutely loved my time in Thailand and spent three and a half months there on my sabbatical. I researched the jobs there to find they were quite low paid and many accepted people without degrees. I knew the wages would be adequate to live on but I didn’t want to teach with loads of 20 year old lads who just wanted to get laid in Thailand.

I then thought that Taiwan would be the perfect place. From the blogs that I’ve read it seemed like a friendly country and very quirky. An online search showed that many jobs were for ‘cram schools’ in the evening and offered two days off but not together. I wanted to explore the country with my free time so that crossed Taiwan off the list. I didn’t really have a burning desire to learn Chinese either and the food scared me a bit, too much meat!

And then I thought about Japan. ‘Oh everyone want’s to go Japan, choose somewhere original’, I thought. I then realised that most people NEVER visit Japan! They say they will but when push comes to shove most just don’t make it there. I’ve been fascinated with Japanese history and art for as long as I remember. The language is so different and exotic and the food is varied and delicious. I realised that I’d always harboured a deep longing to go Japan but just never really realised it. I had them made my mind up.

I will teach English in Japan!

It’s now just over one month before I start my new life in Japan. I’m planning on a week in Tokyo sightseeing before starting my training. I’m apprehensive because I don’t even know where I will be placed but I’m putting my trust in the Universe!

Were you surprised that I’m moving to Japan? Is Japan somewhere that you would like to live or visit yourself?

 

 

2014, Reflections and travel summary

2014reflections

As I write this I’m tired, aching and with flushed cheeks after spending the day walking through Delamere forest in the bitter cold. I have a cup of tea at my side and I’m sat in my warm and cosy room, as comfortable as can be.

2014 was the year where I appreciated what I had in life and where I forged new goals and exciting changes to my life. I spent a lot of time with my family and friends and tried and failed to settle back in to small time life. It was a year filled with much happiness but mush frustration and boredom at my lack of travels, at times I felt like a caged bird who just wanted to break free.

At the start of the year I bought a DSLR and started to study and take an evening class in photography, something that I’ve always wanted to do. Throughout my life I’ve always inhibited my creative side, preferring to think of myself as an academic. My travels in 2013 made me realise that I can be whoever I want to be, I’m the only one holding me back.

I didn’t blog as much as anticipated in 2014, for some reason I found it hard to find motivation to write after working hard all week. This will definitely change in the future as I will have a lot to write about.

Travel, It’s what I love the most but it’s something that I’ve not done enough of in the past year. Having a few weeks annual leave doesn’t help the cause but I could have been more pro-active. I did explore local areas of interest with friends throughout the year though. England is a country rich with history and you are never far from a castle, a stately home or an area of exceptional natural beauty.

 

March 2014, Poland.

Ah Poland, It sounded so exotic to me, so different to anywhere I had ever visited before. I was certainly not disappointed. During my time in Krakow I stayed at Mosquito hostel, a really friendly and social hostel. I had a ready made group of friends and I loved socialising each night in the various bars and clubs of Krakow.

In the day I honed my photography skills and satisfied my interest of WW2 history. I went on two walking tours; one of the old town and one of the Jewish parts of Krakow. I visited Schindlers museum , the salt mines and spent a harrowing day at Auschwitz too. A day I will never forget.

The food was amazing too, I loved the Polish pizza and Pierogi; Oh and the beer and vodka was cheap and plentiful! It was hard socialising with fellow travellers knowing that I was going back to a 9-5 and couldn’t just pop on the next bus to Hungary like they could.

poland, Krakow

pol2

polmos

April 2014, Egypt.

Just a week after arriving home from Poland I was back on a plane heading to a completely new continent, Africa! I was travelling in a very different way and staying at an all inclusive resort in Sharm El Sheikh. I had a very relaxing two weeks enjoying beer in the sun but felt trapped just staying in the resort.

I did manage to get out of the resort. I went snorkeling in the Red Sea with my parents then spent 5 further days scuba diving in the Red Sea, one of the best experiences of my life! The amount of different fish and the sheer numbers of them is indescribable and it just took my breath away. My scuba diving skills improved immensely and I kept up with the other scuba divers who all had years of experience.

pool, Egypt

smile

scuba diving, Egypt

June 2014, London.

It’s no secret that I’m absolutely mad about culture. I love nothing more than spending my days gazing at amazing architecture or discovering ancient artifacts in a museum. I travelled down to London solo to do just that. One of the perks of solo travel is that there is no-one telling you not to go to your third art gallery of the day!

I managed to go to the V&A, the British museum, the National portrait gallery, the Natural history museum and the national gallery. I loved wandering around Chinatown, It reminded me of Asia! I saw Maleficent in Leicester square and went on a walking tour of London, the same day that the trooping the colour was happening at Buckingham palace.

London

 

British museum

 

British portrait gallery

 

July 2014, Italy.

It had always been a dream of mine to visit Italy, the language, the food, the art and the wine all appealed to me greatly. I decided to go on a mini backpacking trip around Tuscany and I visited Pisa, Lucca, Florence and Siena. I loved my time in Italy but it just didn’t feel exotic. In hindsight that statement sounds weird but It felt similar to Spain and the places I visited were a lot more touristy than I naively expected.

I loved Pisa. It was so laid back, unpretentious and the leaning tower (and leaning Cathedral and Baptistery!) were so quaint and quirky. Lucca was equally charming, I found the people to be friendly and welcoming too. I ate a delicious pizza and enjoyed a leisurely glass of wine watching the world go by, Italian style.

Florence, I just didn’t get the hype. I’ve never seen a higher concentration of tourists in my life! I loved the city but It did not feel Italian at all. I spent my days tactically calculating how to avoid queuing up for tickets to each attraction and eating copious amounts of gelato. I did visit the Uffizi and the Accademia and loved the culture and artwork. Even a culture buff like me sometimes gets sick of seeing paintings of the Virgin Mary and Jesus, no matter how beautifully they are painted.

Siena was another touristy town. I loved the architecture but once again didn’t feel like I was in Italy. I treated myself to a posh hostel in Florence on my last night and spent most of the day lounging by the pool.

leaning tower of Pisa

street view, Lucca

ponte veccio

 

The future.

I love new year because it’s a blank canvas, the year is what you make of it. 2015 will be a year of great change for me and will certainly include a lot more travel than 2014!

 

How was your 2014? Did you achieve your goals? Was it the year that you decided to take a change and travel? As always I’d love to know your thoughts.

 

 

 

 

 

How I decided to take a sabbatical and travel long term

 

sabbatical

I devour the words of other travel blogs. I love seeing what made people just like me take a permanent or temporary break from the treadmill of’ real life’ in exchange for a life of adventure and the unknown. There’s one similarity between all of these bloggers.

They have always wanted to travel.

My tale does not start with such romantic notions. Throughout my life I’ve always aimed to be the best at something, be the cleverest girl in class, the best netball player etc. Travel seemed like something other people did, dare I say it lazy people who want to escape from real life. Don’t get me wrong I loved holidays and exploring new places, the thought of doing it long term or moving abroad didn’t cross my mind.

It was not the done thing for girls like me.

 

So I did what society told me to do, worked hard in school, got good grades and chose a vocational degree course (Podiatry) so that I’d never be out of work. I fell in to the trap that many people do.

I waited for happiness.

I told myself that I would be happy when I got my GCSE’s, then I would be happy when I got my A Levels, I would be happy when I got a boyfriend, happy when I moved in with said boyfriend, happy when I got a degree, happy when I got my own flat….etc, etc. Happiness was always around the corner…

But happiness didn’t magically come with a piece of paper, even a piece of paper that I worked very hard for. Don’t get me wrong I have always been ‘happy’. I was just unaware that there was any thing else in life to aim for but the magical milestones.

I can’t quite remember when travel started to intrigue me. I had been on many holidays but never really travelled. The first travel blog that I came across was Neverendingfootsteps. Here was a girl, with a degree who just decided to travel and ended up making a living of it and meeting the love of her life on the way. If a normal girl from England can do it why couldn’t I?

My blog lust somehow spiraled and I was absorbing every travel blog that I could get my hands on. I had opened up a brand new world and I couldn’t get enough. I wasn’t from a middle class family and long term travel seemed like something for other people. I knew no-one who had travelled long term except for people doing the working holiday visa in Australia.

One day I sat down on my sofa, in silence and thought deeply about what I wanted to do. I know now that I was basically meditating and that all the answers are within us. I suddenly had the thought to travel, to do a big trip. Why not? Toeing the line in society was like groundhog day. I had to break free and now I knew how.

I felt so liberated, like a great weight was lifted from my shoulders. I wasn’t weird, I was a traveller. It took me 25 years to realise it but I’m so glad I did.

There was an overriding feeling of guilt at this epiphany too. At the time I had an amazing lifestyle living in Liverpool city centre. I had plenty of friends, socialised regulary, ate great food and spent my spare time horse riding and at ballet class. My friends couldn’t understand what my problem was. Nevertheless, something was missing.

Pre-travel Steph riding in the Welsh countryside.

My other great love is Vintage fashion, here I am at a burlesque night for my friends birthday.

I had an amazing lifestyle in Liverpool.

The seed was planted and I wasn’t going to let it die. I booked a volunteering holiday to Spain on my own, something that old Steph would never have done. During my time in Spain I let go of so many inhibitions that held me down and I met travellers from all over the world. After the programme I travelled with the friends I made to different parts of Spain, I never knew where I was going to be from one day to the next. I felt so free and so liberated.

I had truly discovered who I was meant to be in life!

Bursting with happiness after discovering what really makes me happy in life!

Armed with a fresh take on life I finalised the itinerary for my big trip. I included Sri Lanka even though it seemed quite scary to me at the time because I wanted to push myself and learn about different cultures.

My departure date was the 23rd February 2013. The date the second phase of my life began.

 

Can you empathise with feeling like ‘something is missing’?. When did you first realise that you wanted to travel? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

 

 

 

July travel plans: I’m heading to Tuscany, Italy!

If you follow me on Facebook you will already know this exciting news.

 

File:Collage Firenze.jpg

I originally intended to travel to somewhere in Eastern Europe after being captivated by Poland’s culture, history and friendly people.  When searching on the Ryanair website I suddenly had an urge to go to Italy. Visions of an Eat, Pray Love kind of holiday filled my mind so I decided to book a return flight to Pisa without knowing much about the region.

I figured that Rome would be full of tourists and that Tuscany will be a little quieter at this time of year (I may be proved wrong…).

The more I researched about the region the more excited I got about my trip. So here are my travel plans for the week.

3 days in Pisa with a day-trip to Lucca. I’ve always been fascinated by the leaning tower and have been recommended to visit the small town of Lucca by a good friend who has travelled in the region.

4 days in Florence with a daytrip to Siena. I’ve always wanted to visit Florence, I love small cities where you can walk everywhere and it seems full of culture. I decided to stay in a campsite on the hills which is a ten minute walk from the centre of the city. I’m staying in a ‘tent-dorm’ which will certainly be a new experience. It will be well worth it though when I wake up to views of Florence and the Tuscan countryside! I also can’t wait to see my favorite piece of art in person; Botticelli’s Venus in the Uffizi!

Siena is a small Medieval town in southern Tuscany, I’m fascinated by medieval architecture and I am going to try to take some beautiful photos on my DSLR.

File:Sandro Botticelli - La nascita di Venere - Google Art Project - edited.jpg

Apart from the beautiful scenery and culture I can’t wait to eat delicious Italian food, drink Italian wine and try and blend in with the stylish Italians despite packing only carry on luggage!

 

I miss long term travel but for the time being small holidays are satisfying my wanderlust. I’m so lucky that I live in Europe and have so many different countries just a short flight away!

 

Have you ever travelled to Tuscany? If so do you have any travel tips for me?

 

 

The first 24 Hours after returning Home

I’ve been meaning to write this post for a while but for some reason I’ve been putting it off. Maybe because after the initial 24 hours my thoughts and feelings changed so often that really I did not know what I was thinking. Travel really does change you and coming home is a shock to the system in many ways, both good and bad.

dubai editedtext

 

My last plane ride felt very different to every other flight on my big trip around the world. Instead of feeling butterflies and anticipation because I was arriving in a brand new place, having to adapt and learn the local ways I felt nervous and excited because I was going back to ‘normal’ life.

I was going home.

My motto is que sera sera, what will be will be. I initially planned to be home after a year, after all I managed to get a career break and I had a job to go back to, a luxury not many returning travellers have. I guess along the way I wished for something amazing to happen to me, for my life to change irrevocably. To fall in love with a person or a place, for my heart to tell me to stay in one particular place, for something extraordinary to happen.

Unfortunately for me this did not happen. I actually felt ready to go home.

My last flight to Manchester actually arrived early. I was surrounded by English people in the terminal and I didn’t realise how much I missed the English accent and the way we interact with each other. I had been away for ten months and was about to meet my parents again. Although we had kept in touch via skype when I’d been away I still felt like I didn’t know what to expect, will it be the same as before?

Throughout my trip I had been waiting for this moment, the moment I walk through the arrivals gate, drop my bags and run towards my screaming parents. As I took the tentative steps out of the arrivals gate I looked around and my parents were no-where to be seen. All around me families and friends were being reunited, tears were shed and hugs were given.

I had missed my moment.

I decided to sit down on my heavy backpack for one last time and just soak in the atmosphere. This was home. This was normality. It felt easy yet alien at the same time. In the back of my mind I was glad that I visited ‘Western’ countries at the end of my trip. Suffering from reverse culture shock would have made coming home unbearable.

They finally walked through the doors, looking the same as when I left them. I don’t know what I was expecting. They didn’t see me and walked right past me so I crept up behind them and surprised them. The feeling of love was overwhelming, it was so nice to see my parents after ten months of new people. Everything felt familiar and almost too easy from that moment on-wards.

In the car on the way home I watched the changing scenery go by, surprisingly parts of the journey reminded me of places that I had seen on my travels, a leafy roundabout in Australia or factories in Malaysia. I had to remind myself that I was now back at home, not on the road.

 

I had always thought that moving back in with my parents after all this time would be weird but it was the most natural thing in the world. It was nice to sit in familiar, comfy surroundings and feel completely at home, something that is rarely encountered on the road. After sometimes experiencing loneliness on the road,  it was so nice to have people to talk to all the time, people who understand me and know me.

After flying for over 30 hours in the past 4 days I was mentally and physically exhausted. I went to bed to try and sleep but my mind was in overdrive. I couldn’t stop thinking about the past, present and future. I was in a new cycle of my life and I couldn’t focus. I stayed up the rest of the day and ate loads of salad, I was craving it after weeks of unhealthy eating in New Zealand. I watched TV and was very happy just doing nothing. Not having to think about anything, plan anything, everything just felt easy!

I was overwhelmed by the amount of possessions that I owned, despite selling or giving away most of my possessions before I went travelling. For 10 months I had owned just what could fit on my back, now I had a room full of pretty shoes, dresses, handbags and makeup and I wanted to try them again right now! Probably my favorite part of coming back home was ‘going shopping’ in my room, finding outfits and possessions that I had longed forgotten about. It felt amazing when I wore my first vintage dress again. I felt more like ‘me’.

I had expected to be inundated with invitations from friends but that was not the case. People get on with their own lives when you are away. When you get back you have to fit in to their lives again. It’s crazy to think that life goes on without you.

After a few days I did meet my friends, other family members visted me and I started to feel more settled. What surprised me most was how little people wanted to talk about my trip. I had kept everyone updated about my whereabouts on Facebook but I still thought that people would love to hear my travel stories, about the time I lived with that crazy ex monk, when I rode an elephant or even the time I jumped out of a plane at 12,000 feet. Nope, no-one wanted to know anything.

I guess if you have never experienced long term travel you can’t be expected to understand what it’s like. Maybe people are not interested, maybe they can’t understand what it’s like or maybe they are jealous that they won’t take the plunge and travel.

I will never know. All I knew was that I would never be the same person that first stepped on the plane to Dubai.

Travel has changed me and I’m ready to start the next chapter of my life.

 

 

How did you feel when you came back from a long trip away? Did you find it hard adjusting to ‘real’ life or did you find it really easy? Did your friends and family react how you thought they would?

 

 

New Travel plans: I’m heading to Krakow in Poland!

On Wednesday I celebrated my two month anniversary. It’s been two months since I got back from my amazing 10 month trip to the other side of the world and back.

freeimage-1833183-high

The beautiful Old Town square in Krakow

Although I’ve enjoyed being back home It’s been hard adjusting to ‘normal’ life again. A life where I can accurately plan what I will be doing for the next few weeks if I want.

Did I mention that I hate repetition and knowing what I will be doing each day?

I decided that two months at home was enough for me and that I was ready for a new adventure. I’ve always been interested in the history and culture of Poland and I’ve always wanted to visit Auschwitz. I visited Dachau in Munich in 2012 and it touched me more than I can ever imagine. I learn’t a lot about world war two and humanity despite having more questions than answers when I walked out of the gates.

So I decided to combine my love of history, culture and beer and visit Krakow!

Krakow will be my first foray into Eastern Europe, a place that seems very mysterious and intriguing to me. In the past I have only visited Western Europe and I can’t wait to see how different it is.

I’ve even started to learn basic Polish, It’s a lot harder than any other language that I’ve attempted to learn but I’m trying my best!

I’m back on the road, if only for 5 nights….

 

Have you ever travelled to Krakow or Poland? Do you have any tips for me?

 

I’ve been nominated for the Leibster blog award (For the second time running!)

Ooh, I was nominated for the Leibster blog award for the second year running by Char Williams from LovefromCornwall.com.

So here are the answers to the 11 questions asked by Char!

1) What motivates you to blog?

I enjoy writing and imparting my knowledge to others. When I was planning my big trip I absorbed the itinerary and packing list of every solo female travel blog I could read. I have experienced and learnt so many things on my travels and I want to help both newbie and experienced travellers.

2) Top three favourite blogs?

Adventurous Kate and Never ending footsteps are my favorite blogs. I love their writing style and they are what inspired me to travel to South East Asia and follow in their footsteps.

I also used to love Girl and the world, she inspired me to travel to Sri Lanka even though it’s not a typical backpacker destination. Unfortunately the website is no longer updated.

Beautiful Hikkaduwa in Sri Lanka

 

3) What was the best day of your life?

Wow, what a hard choice! Climbing Adams peak was special, we started climbing at 1am and watched the sun rise from the Buddhist temple at the top. It was a very special travel moment.

4) The best place you’ve ever travelled to?

Koh Tao was my paradise. Good food, beautiful beaches and it’s where I got over my fear and completed my PADI.

5) Who would you hate to be stuck in a lift with?

David Cameron.

6) …And who would you love to be stuck with?

Baz Lurhman (The director of The Great Gatsby and Moulin Rouge), I would love to see inside his amazing mind.

7) Most embarrassing moment of your life? (I’ve had many!)

Forgetting that I had a knife in my hand luggage when going through security in Australia, oops!

8) Describe your ideal Saturday… no cash/travel limits!

Wow, I guess I would wake up in a luxurious hotel in the Maldives, enjoy breakfast on the beach then go for a scuba dive.

I would travel to Naples for lunch, enjoying real Italian pizza. Then head over to Rome and Venice for some sightseeing.

I would then skydive over the Grand Canyon in America and enjoy a steak with a cowboy in Texas. Mmmmm

I would then pop over to Iceland to see the Northern lights before enjoying a few drinks in an icebar then falling asleep in a big, fluffy bed.

That would be my perfect day if a time/teleportation machine was invented.

9) As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

It sounds really boring but I wanted to be a dentist or a geologist. I collected rocks and was fascinated about how they were formed and where they were found.

Saying that I was also obsessed with Tomb Raider, I wanted to visit the places she does in the games. Now I can say I have 🙂

10) Favorite song ever?

I absolutely love Porcelain by Moby. It reminds me of a time in life where I went against everything that I knew and planned a whole year away. The song is featured in the Film ‘The Beach’ and it was always my dream to go there. In August 2013 I realised my dream and travelled to Maya bay in Thailand.

11) The best advice you’ve ever been given?

‘Decide what you want to pack in your backpack then just pack half.’

I took a massive bag and greatly overpacked for my trip. I was in South East Asia for most of it where just a few vests, pair of shorts and a dress or two would have been perfectly adequate. Don’t be like me and carry a 20kg backpack around the world!

 

My nominations are:

George on the go

Y Q Travelling

Helen in Wonderlust

My Eleven questions are…

1) What is your most essential possession in your backpack?

2 What is your least essential posession in your backpack?

3) Where was the first country abroad that you visited?

4) What spf do you use? (If any?)

5) What is your favorite travel song?

6) In your opinion what country has the best food?

7) What continent is your favorite?

8) What backpack/suitcase do you use for travel?

9) What is your favorite foreign beer?

10) Have you ever kissed a fellow traveller?

11) Describe your ideal Saturday… no cash/travel limits!

 

I look forward to hearing your answers!

 

 

 

You can keep up to date with my adventures by following my Facebook page. I update it daily and it’s an easy way to contact me.

https://www.facebook.com/PearlsandPassports

Nine Months of Travel: Summary and review

koala

My ninth month of travel was mostly spent in Australia, I place I have mixed feelings about. I don’t think that I ever really got over my reverse culture shock whilst I was there.

 

 

After a few days in the chilled out town of Coolangatta which is right on the border of New South Wales, it was time to head to the cool alternative town of Nimbin!

 

 

If only travel was as easy as that! When I arrived in Byron Bay, fully expecting there to be transport to Nimbin I was told that there was only ONE bus a day travelling to Nimbin and that I was an hour too late!

Initially I panicked, big time. I had arranged to stay in Nimbin because there was no accommodation in Byron Bay due to it being a busy weekend. I started thinking rationally about how I could sleep on the streets that night and how I would hide my valuables when a helpful woman at the information centre interrupted my train of thought and handed me a list of hostels in Byron bay.

I rang about 6 hostels, saddened to hear that there was no room at the inn, then I found one! I was so happy I accepted the bed without even enquiring how much it was. Luckily it was the cheapest hostel bed that I payed for in Australia.

I stayed the night in Byron bay, made some great friends and went on a fun night out. I was on a high and really enjoying New South Wales. The next day I got the bus to Nimbin,  but all was not what it seemed…

 

 

 

The bus to Nimbin is sold as a kind of hippy bus. Basically people go to Nimbin for the day to gawp at aging hippies, buy a few space cakes then hop back on the bus to civilised Byron Bay. I wanted to explore deeper than that and I ended up staying 2 nights in Nimbin (Sleeping in a teepee!) and 1 night in nearby Jiggy staying with a guy called ‘Dave Cannabis’ and riding ‘Hippy horses’. I had the true Nimbin experience!

 

 

 

In hindsight I should have stayed in Nimbin for longer, I loved the laid back attitude of the town and the beauty of it’s natural surroundings. There’s nothing nicer than falling asleep to the sound of wallabies, exotic birds and badicoots outside!

But no, the adventurer in me wanted to see more of this massive country so after a few more days in Brron bay I spent 2 nights in Coffs harbour. One of the most boring places in the world. The beach was beautiful and I enjoyed some delicious fish and chips there but the whole town was very residential and ‘vanilla’. Not my cup of tea.

 

Coffs harbour. This is the best bit about the town.

 

Bellingen was supposedly another alternative town like Nimbin and I was very excited to visit. If alternative means middle class ladies who lunch dressed in hippy pants this is the town for you. It was not an alternative town by any means. It was very chilled out and a nice place to spend a few days though. I will never tire of seeing ‘old’ heritage buildings that were built in 1921 though!

 

 

 

 

It was time to get back on the Greyhound bus and head to Port Maquarie, a place I chose to go because I found a flyer for a hostel that had floral bedding, a swimming pool and free WIFI! Did I mention the FREE WIFI?!

When I got there I was told that there was no free breakfast and WIFI like the leaflet promised. The bedding was a manly gemoetric style too. Noooo! Port Maquarie was another ‘vanilla’ town. Probably a nice place to live but a boring place to visit.

I’d had enough of small town living and needed to spend time in a metropolitan city, boy did Sydney deliver!

Sydney ended up being one of my favorite cities of all time. I stayed in a quirky train carriage right on the tracks of central station and I set my alarm for 7am everyday because there was so much to see and do. I loved how historical Sydney is, something that the rest of Australia lacks.

 

 

 

 

 

I spent my days wandering around the city, exploring every museum and art gallery within walking distance, sipping Lindt hot chocolate and attending every free walking tour available.

I was in love!

 

IMG_8830

In love with a city in Australia? I could barely believe it! It felt good though so I extended my stay for 5 more days.

Melbourne. Oh Melbourne. It’s the city I had highest hopes for in the world and the city that disappointing me a bit. I absolutely loved the city but it was not the ‘alternative city’ that people had been promising me. No one dressed individual or arty like I was expecting, just ‘charity shop chic’ and I was the most ‘vintage girl’ around apart from a beautiful 50’s girl in an alternative shop.

It was quirky but nothing like what I had expected. I don’t think the freezing cold temperatures helped either. I had to buy tights, cardigans and a skirt because it was so cold and rainy. The cold and rain also limited what I could do.

I loved the quirky laneways in Melbourne and the diverse little districts like St Kilda, Fitzroy and Brunswick. Melbourne is also home to one of the  best museums in Australia: Melbourne museum and the most useless museum in the world: The Hellenic museum (Greeks settled in Melbourne. The end).

 

The South Bank at night.

The street art is very cool though!

 

Australia tired me out mentally and physically. It was not what I had been expecting and in a way that was quite liberating.

Part of me was expecting to fall in love with Australia, I thought I would love the sun, nature and the laid back lifestyle. I found out that it just wasn’t for me and that was ok.

I still think that you are either an Asia lover or and Australia lover.

I’m certainly an Asia lover!

 

Which one are you?

You can keep up to date with my adventures by following my Facebook page. I update it daily and it’s an easy way to contact me.

https://www.facebook.com/PearlsandPassports

 

Coping with reverse culture shock in Australia

australiahat

I was always a little skeptical of reverse culture shock. I experienced slight culture shock when I arrived in Sri Lanka, a crazy country for my first visit to Asia but I never thought that I would experience culture shock when going to a Western country like Australia!

Why was I feeling like this?

I was excited to arrive in Australia, Asia had been my home for over 7 months but the constant bartering and language barriers can make travelling there tiring. I was looking forward to travelling in a country with set prices where everyone spoke English!

As soon as the plane landed and I traipsed through security it hit me that I was not in Asia anymore. The extreme price of things first shocked me. It cost $20 to get from the airport to the city centre. That would have bought a bus ticket to a place miles away in Asia.

I was certainly not in Asia anymore!

As I looked out of the bus window the landscape of buildings and shops looked so familiar that I half expected to see sights and people from home.

I was really confused.

I felt like I was back home but everything was different. I told myself to get a grip and checked in to the hostel. As I chose my bed in the darkness and tried to find my wash bag in the dark I unexpectedly collapsed in a heap and started to cry.

Being in such familiar surroundings made me extremely homesick.

I longed to be back home and questioned my reasons for coming to Australia. It seemed so similar to the UK that in the back of my mind I wondered why I had bothered to come to the other side of the world to a place that reminded me of home.

I felt so alone.

The next morning I decided to explore the city and try to see the city in a more positive light! I hadn’t even left the hostel and already I was harboring negative thoughts about the city. I had to give it a chance.

 

 

 

 

At first I felt quite disorientated, It was such a peculiar feeling. Little things that you don’t even think about perplexed me. Waiting to cross the road was a new phenomenon and I started to feel impatient. All around me were people dressed normally and I started to feel scruffy in my travel clothes.

I headed in to a pub for lunch and was startled to hear words in English. I had got used to the sing song hum of a foreign language in the background and hearing all of these English speaking voices was sensory overload.

Despite enjoying my first few days in Brisbane I spent most days fighting back tears. I felt like booking a ticket back to Thailand, a place where I knew and understood.  I felt guilty for not appreciating this beautiful city. I was used to the lack of rules and order and sensible Australia was certainly a culture shock. I got asked ID in a pub and the tears streamed down my face as I walked away. I had not been asked for ID in over 7 months. In Asia it’s normal to see children riding motorbikes to school so they certainly don’t bother asking for ID. I felt confused and ashamed at how I was thinking and reacting.

Luckily I got used to Australia after about a week when I went to Noosa. The small town suited me better and I started to appreciate the uniqueness of Australia and the laid back lifestyle.

 

Have you ever experienced culture shock or reverse culture shock? If so was it expected or unexpected like mine?

 

Seven months of Travel: Summary and Review

kohrong

My Seventh month of travel was a very different month for me, I travelled very fast compared to normal but it was one of my best months yet!

My month kicked of in the gritty seaside resort Sihanoukville. Despite looking worn out Sihanoukville has a hidden charm. It’s extremely cheap and you could easily live off $5 a day if you budgeted very hard!

I stayed at Utopia, little did I know that It’s known as the scuzziest place in Sihanoukville. You can get dorms for as little as $1 a night if you don’t mind sleeping on a mat on the floor in a line with other people. I opted for the ‘deluxe’ dorm that had air com and a private bathroom. I think it’s called the deluxe dorm because it’s the only one without bedbugs though….

The nightlife in Sihanoukville is amazing! You can get free drinks from most bars, cheap beer and ‘buckets’ for as little as $1! (They are cut open Sprite bottles instead of actual buckets though). They also sell laughing gas, something that I had never seen before. I loved my nights in ‘Snooky’ but there wasn’t much to do in the day.

One day I took a ferry to Koh Rong where a French child projectile vomited all over himself. This was quite a scary sight, not dissimilar to the exorcist. Luckily as soon as I stepped off the ferry all my worries went away.

Koh Rong was my idea of paradise!

A handful of bars, guesthouses and restaurants are dotted along the pristine beach. The sand is white and so fine it looks like talc. I spent three very content days and nights in Koh Rong.

My Cambodian visa was running out so I took the overnight bus to Bangkok. As always the bus ride was very eventful and I was spooned by an Asian man and nearly fainted at the border because I was suffering from severe food poisoning. No one helped me even though I made it clear that I was struggling. Traveling solo makes you realise that no one really cares about you and you have to be strong and look after yourself.

Bangkok was heaven after months in poorer Asian countries. I spent my days buying a whole new travel wardrobe and drooling at all of the beautiful makeup and toiletries that I could buy! I was also in heaven thanks to my beloved 7-Eleven! I went on a day trip to the floating markets, the bridge over the river Kwai and I also visited tiger temple where I got to stroke actual tigers!

It was then time to experience the Thai islands, something that I had been looking forward to for all of my trip! My first island was Koh Samui, despite being quite touristy and full of couples and families I had a fantastic time thanks to meeting a great group of friends! The nightlife in Koh Samui is legendary!

Drinking buckets on a night out in Koh Samui

I travelled to Koh Tao with a group of friends that I met in Koh Samui. I fell in love with the island instantly, it’s so chilled out. The town area is small and pedestrianised. I spent the first few days eating delicious food (They sold Spanish omelette! yay) and relaxing on the pristine beach.

On September the 9th it was my birthday! I normally hate my birthday, It’s a day of reflection for me and I hate getting older. Luckily I have so much to be thankful for at this time in my life. I spent the day sunbathing in my new bikini, I had a massage and enjoyed Mexican food and cocktails in the evening!

Life is good!

It was then time to face my fears and complete my PADI qualification! I’m normally such a wimp when it comes to the sea but I challenged myself, faced my fears and gained my PADI open water certificate! I will write more about scuba diving in a future blog post.

It was then time to head to Koh Phangan and tick the full moon party off my bucket list! I spent my time there in a 40 bed dorm and once again met some lovely friends. It was amazing to see the population of the town swell as the full moon party neared. The pre parties really put me in the mood for the main night, the full moon party!

The actual full moon party could not be more different to how I celebrated the last full moon. At the last full moon I was at the retreat and spent the evening chanting around a fire and throwing rice in to it. This month I was partying in neon on the beach with over 20,000 other people! There were skipping ropes of fire, ‘death slides’ and loads of crazy sights to behold. The pre parties were such good fun too. The mood was amazing and watching the sunrise was one of the most beautiful moments in my life.

 

 

I rounded up my seventh month of travel by taking a night boat, bus and ferry to the beautiful island of Koh Phi Phi where I got to tick another item off my bucket list!, I will tell you more about my time there in my next monthly round up!

In conclusion month seven was one of my easiest months of travel. I made amazing friends which really does enhance the travel experience. I spent the month doing what I like to do best, partying and lazing on the beach. I also spent most of the month in my favorite Asian country, Thailand. It’s so easy to travel here and the food is amazing!

Next month I will be leaving my beloved Asia and heading to a whole new continent, AUSTRALIA! I’m kind of scared and apprehensive about leaving Asia, it’s been my home for seven months after all!

Total countries visited=2, Cambodia and Thailand

New travel wardrobes bought= 1, I replaced nearly every item of clothing during a crazy shopping spree in Bangkok! I had actually forgotten how to shop believe it or not…

Number of times I was spooned by an Asian man on a night bus= 1, on the night bus from Sihanoukville to Bangkok.

Modes of transport= Night bus from Sihanoukville to Bangkok then a variety of buses and ferrys as I island hopped.

Night ferry’s taken= 1, from Koh Phagnan to Surathani. We had to sleep on tiny thin mattresses lined up on each side of the boat (It actually reminded me of the dorms in Utopia…). The guy next to me actually put his leg over me as I was sleeping…

Number of buckets imbibed= 13, I had a very fun time on the islands, the hostel owner even gave us one free because it was his birthday!

Bucket list item ticked off= 2, to attend the full moon party and visit the beautiful Maya bay in Koh Phi Phi.

Lessons I have Learned= Have fun and enjoy the friends you make on your travels whilst you can. You never know when you will meet a group of like minded people again.

Number of 7-Eleven toasties consumed= 36

Number of 7-Eleven iced lattes imbibed= 10, I had to give them up because they started giving me heart palpitations, so tasty though!