Lessons Learnt

As hipstery/tumblr as it sounds, travelling changes you a lot whether thats your intention or not. Travelling for the better part of a year and experiencing a whole lot of different cultures and situations I have been lucky enough to gain from all of this. Whilst I could go on forever talking about what I have gained from my time travelling, mostly solo, and about the benefits of travelling, I have compiled a short list of the top ten things I have learnt and realised while travelling. Enjoy!

Alone time is good for you                                                                                                              Pointing out the obvious, solo travel means a lot of the time I am alone. For someone that is quite introverted like myself I am happy to be alone, but for those that prefer to be surrounded by others its good to be alone sometimes. Travel gives you the chance to get to know yourself more, take time and enjoy whatever you want to do. While there was times when yes, having friends with me would have been fun, my itinerary could be all what I wanted allowing me to be selfish and not compromise with others. That being said, I did not realise how much I would miss having company at times, but that was never a problem as there was always someone to hang out with – especially in hostels! They are a perfect match for solo travel, just make sure you pick one thats right for you, they range from wild party places to yoga retreat on a budget so theres one for everyone!

You are stronger than you think                                                                                                 This relates to my previous point. You have to graft when doing solo travel, its not all instaworthy shots and meeting new people. Whether its something as basic as surviving a hike with no GPS, feeling a bit low, carrying your suitcases around, sleeping with all sorts of bugs, or keeping yourself safe in a bad situation. You will know what to do, and learn both physically and mentally how to deal with situations you would not encounter at home. These skills are then transferable to every day life and can boost up a resume.

Money isn’t everything                                                                                                                        While I would love to be able to travel and stay in fancy five star resorts, but unless I win the lottery soon that isn’t going to happen. But thats not going to stop me from getting out. Set a budget and plan within it. You will realise that truly experiencing a place you don’t need money. Go out and immerse yourself in local everyday culture, hang out with locals, ask what they suggest doing that isn’t an expensive tourist trap. That is not to say don’t treat yourself, just realise that as long as you have enough money for somewhere to sleep, some food and your way home you are all good! Adventures come free.

Neither is planning                                                                                                                                     I have spoke about planning before on a post. If I don’t have strict lists and plans galore my anxiety creeps out and starts to take over usually, but that has calmed down a lot with travelling. You can’t predict how you will find a situation, a hostel or anything. Be spontaneous, take that trip someone suggests. Get a boat out to an island. Throw caution to the wind a bit. You will only regret what you miss out on!

Push your boundaries                                                                                                            Whether its trying a local dish, sleeping out in the middle of nowhere, taking a solo hike or making the first step and booking a plane ticket! Travel is all about pushing your boundaries, stepping out and being bold. Choosing to travel solo for the first time is making the first step right out of your comfort zone.

Be social                                                                                                                                                                 Travelling solo means you gotta be confident enough to approach people. Whether its for directions, to find out more about the culture, or to make new friends! Speak up! Go talk to others in the hostel and plan a night out. Ask about a cultural tradition you want to know more about. Chances are people are happy to share their culture with you and even more up for hanging out as they are in the same boat. This is where solo travel comes up with one big difference to travelling with a group of friends, with others you are less likely (generally) to meet as many new people as you already have a group with you.

 

Differences should be celebrated                                                                                                 More and more in the world today we see people spreading hate about others and different preferences. There is so much to learn from other cultures and customs and so much to be celebrated and embraced. Don’t shy away from each others and cultural differences. Whether its learning from the people you meet or the countries you are visiting, be open!

Work : Play                                                                                                                                                      One thing I found hard adjusting to was enjoying everything and having fun whilst also getting my work done. While most of the time they overlapped, there was times I needed to just sit down and crack on with editing and sorting out interviews. Sometimes I would work too much, other times I would do too much of the opposite but it gave me the perfect opportunity to work on my time management and self organisation!

Appreciate the small things                                                                                                                Both at home and away. The constant wifi, comfy bed and hot showers at home. The sunsets, amazing fresh cheap food and new people while away. Theres so many moments and things we often take for granted its good to slow down take note of them and appreciate it all.

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Treat Yo Self

Travelling on a budget does not mean that you have to rule out all luxuries. True, travelling in itself is a luxury and I’m pretty damn excited to do it however I can with the money I have. That does not mean however that I am not partial to a few little treats here and there, which is something I tend to do in life a lot. Maybe a little too frequently…

Back on track! With travelling I love staying in hostels and eating at local warungs for example on my current trip in Bali. They are the cheapest and the most fun and sociable, especially when travelling solo! And the warungs definitely have the most delicious, local and authentic food you can find – won’t see me stepping in a MacDonald’s for a cheap quick dinner. But sometimes you want to experience that little bit of luxury. And you can! Admittedly its easier here due to how cheap everything is (for example, dinner at a waring is about £2-3, and the most expensive dinner I have had here which included a bunch of cocktails came to £23), compared to travelling in Europe but these tips can apply anywhere just make them work for you!

  • Take a spa trip! Travelling can be tiring and lead to achy muscles from lugging stuff around everywhere, take a break for a while at a spa. There is something for every budget, here in Kuta for example there is day spas everywhere, you can get an hours massage for under a fiver. Or for a more luxe experience check out my post about my trip to Karsa Spa.
  • Lounge out on the beach! Rather than get sand in your toes and bikini, rent a lounger for the day. Take plenty of water and entertainment with you! Most lounge hires are linked with beachside bars and restaurants so if you want to treat yourself to a cocktail, it can get brought straight to you and you won’t have to lift a finger!
  • Splurge a bit on a fancier meal out. Whatever it is you a partial too; seafood, steak, sushi have a good look for somewhere near you that has rave reviews. Obviously Trip Advisor is a great place to start, but Zomato is another great app that can help with your decision making. They even show menus so you can see where fits your budget. Places along the beach are great for a treat yourself dinner, especially if you head there around sunset!
  • If you are travelling for a long time all in hostels, see if you can afford a hotel, even just for one night. Having a room to yourself and a double bed and your own bathroom is one of the best luxuries when travelling and staying in hostels. It doesn’t have to be fancy, just clean and a good location or whatever you can afford! If you are in Bali/Indonesia, home stays are another great choice, cheaper than a hotel and just a fraction over the cost of some pricier hostels.
  • This tip is not something I done due to lack of time, but something I looked into a lot. If you want to experience the peak of expensive luxury, a lot of high end hotels offer day passes. This includes use of all facilities and often includes drinks and food in the price. I was looking into taking advantage of this at the W Hotel in Seminyak, next time!
  • Stick to a budget! This doesn’t mean being too strict on yourself and having a line you won’t cross each day when it comes to spending money, but just think about it. Don’t go out for a drink every night, get cabs when you can walk etc. Divide your money roughly for your stay, then you can work out when and where you can treat yourself. Or like me, give yourself a few days at the end of the trip to push the boat out a little bit more.

2 Days in Gili Air

Where and what is Gili Air? Its one of three small islands off the coast of Lombok in Indonesia, reachable by boat from Bali. Although there is three Gili Islands; Trawangan, Meno and Air, the latter was best for me. All three islands are different and have their appeal so if you are planning a visit and only have time for one island pick one for you. Gili T is like the Ibiza of Indonesia, Menois a honeymoon destination, and Air is kinda in between and is the least commercialised and built up, however there is a fair bit of construction going on. Best bit about all the islands? No cars. Transport is either horse and cart or bikes.

The trip to the islands? Not so fun, if you are scared of boats and/or the sea its best not to look up the travel route. It is a very rocky, jumpy two hour ride where you are likely to get wet. I was particularly unlucky on my journey to the islands as my boat broke down which was not fun. But for roughly £30 return boat trip and shuttle bus to/from Ubud (or you mainland destination) its a bargain.

There is plenty of hotels, home stays and hostels on the island, all within a walking distance to the harbour (the islands circumference is only 5km!), but I stayed at Begadang Backpackers on the west. Its got a perfect location next to the beach, beach front bars and restaurants, and a shop. The hostel is made entirely out of bamboo with plenty of social areas and a pool also, so I would definitely recommend a stay there.

The island itself is a tropical paradise, perfect for relaxing for a few days but don’t be too reliant on wifi and electricity as it has been know to have the odd shortage. The islands are renowned for snorkelling and diving so its the perfect place to give it a try! In terms of shopping, theres not a whole lot on offer, a few stalls and shops near the harbour is about it.

Compared to Bali, Ubud in particular, food isn’t much to write home about as they have to work pretty much with what they can get on the island so don’t go expecting great food. However, The Mexican Kitchen is great, if a little bit more pricy than the mainland. Its right on the beach too and a great spot for sunset. The beach front bars are great too, offering wifi, and beanbags/sun loungers along the sea front and an open tab policy (if you want to pay each time you can), so its perfect for relaxing.

The sunset is great from the island, viewed from the beach near the hostel I stayed at, you can see the sun setting over Meno, with mountains in the far distance.

All in all, I would totally recommend a trip to Gili Air, I spent more there on food and drink than so far on my trip, but I did treat myself a bit and had quite a few beers and cocktails on the beach. My only tip is to travel to the islands light. I travel with a big suitcase as I cannot pack light, and I was lucky enough to be able to leave it at the home stay I was staying at in Ubud as it would have been impossible to get on the boat, and tiring to drag around the sand paths in the sun.

A Morning at Ubud’s Top Rated Spa

After posting on my social media platforms that I paid a visit to Ubud’s Karsa Spa the other day, got so many replies and messages about how amazing it looked and from people travelling in this area saying they are going to pay it a visit. So what is it like to visit the most popular (according to trip advisor and other online sources) day spa in Ubud? In short, the best spa experience I have had.

Although  I had always planned to visit a spa in Ubud for the traditional Balinese massage, I came across Karsa by accident as there was a video featured on its flower bath on the Culture Trip Facebook page. Immediately I headed to their site to make a booking, which was where I first realised how popular they are. After some email exchanges back and fourth I grabbed the last free spot of the week, not at the most ideal time when factoring in the trek to get there but I took what I got.

If you don’t want to pay out for a a taxi to get to the spa, you have a nice little trek along Campuhan Ridge Walk out of town. This is a great way to start the day seeing the beautiful countryside and villages surrounding Ubud. It is only a short trek, coming to about 4km including the walk through town from my homestay. But, be prepared to be very exposed to the Sun as there is nothing but an occasional tree to shade you so take water!

Due to my excessive planning I arrived 20 minutes early to my appointment (thats 20 minutes before the 15 minutes they advise you get there early). Thinking I would be left waiting a long time, I was pleasantly surprised when I was greeting and invited into the seating area and given a drink, and the form to fill out and products to choose from. I went for the Lulur Vegan Delight package. This includes an hours Balinese massage, half hour scrub and body mask treatment, and half hour flower bath. I got to point out any areas I would like focused on during the massage, the massage oil, and the scrub. Before I knew it I was going through to the treatment room.

I was taken through tranquil gardens with ponds and water fountains, with the whole spa set in amongst a rice field. The spa room was completely private, with everything in one small room, the treatment bed, bath and shower. Although perfectly private, designed in a way so that you are in some sense still outside in the garden setting and not in a stuffy room.

All the staff were the perfect mix of personable and professional. When getting the massage, I felt comfortable and encouraged to say if it was too hard or too soft, and ask for any water and tea that I wanted. The time very quickly flew by and before I knew it I was getting ready to experience the infamous flower bath. Personally, I am not a huge fan of baths. I love having them every so often, but want to get out after about ten minutes. However, when the half hour was up this time I dragged it out for a extra five minutes. The smell was incredible, and the bath was completely blanketed in beautiful fresh flowers that I couldn’t even see the water.

All of this, and it cost roughly £20, which is how much it costs back home in the UK for a back massage. You can do the walk back, but after feeling so relaxed I didn’t feel like working up a sweat in the midday sun so they called me a cab which cost me around £6.

If I was staying in Ubud longer, I would definitely be coming back here again. Its very easy to see why they are the best spa in town, and I recommend a visit if you are ever visiting the area.

Travel and Anxiety

This is a post I have been thinking about doing for ages now, and seeing as its Mental Health Awareness Week I thought what better timing?

Something I don’t broadcast about myself is that I get a lot of Anxiety, which comes at any time and in many forms. It seemed to come on quite suddenly a  few years ago, and I still do not know what triggered it. Despite this, a lot of people think I am very confident and outgoing, which I can be for sure, and is how I try and put myself forward.

So, how does anxiety work with travel? Surely that would be a no go, right? I mean, what if something fucks up beyond my control and my anxiety spirals out? Well, thankfully, nothing Earth shattering has happened on my travels for one. Secondly, travel has been a great help to me and my mental health. Travel is something I love, and want to spend my time doing so if thats definitely a motive to push myself and overcome obstacles such as anxiety.

Travelling is the one time my anxieties nearly completely diminish. I am not scared of flying, not scared of other people, going out alone in a new place – the list goes on! Although I meticulously plan and make lists before I go somewhere new and make sure I don’t turn up without somewhere to stay. Never have I had an anxiety fuelled breakdown while travelling, never have I had a panic attack while travelling.

The only time my anxiety can play up bad when travelling is socially. While some people that know me may be reading this and thinking that I am quite a confident loud person, thats not always the case. When I get comfortable with people, yeah you can’t shut me up. And even in some new social experiences meeting new people I can seem quite confident. But that doesn’t mean I don’t sometimes get terrified meeting new people. And when travelling – especially solo – this can get a bit too much and make me freeze up or not leave my bed. Although, I am always striving to get over this, whether it being faking that confidence, going at sitting at a communal table and joining in conversation, or walking into a bar alone.

Adventure is good for you, seeing the world new experiences. If I can travel the world alone, then I can achieve whatever I want. Being put on the spot when it comes to anxiety and learning new ways of dealing with stuff is super helpful. And for me, doing what I love and what I want to do for the rest of my life puts me in a permanent happy place, which kicks anxiety to the side a bit.

Of course, anxiety and mental health in general affects people differently, so the prospect of travelling with anxiety may put some people off entirely, and thats okay. This is my personal experience of anxiety and travel, and I can say that the idea of travelling and seeing the world has never terrified me or scared me, even doing it alone. To me, it makes perfect sense, and is a massive help.

My advice if you want to travel but anxiety is holding you back, give it a go with a friend, even if its a short trip somewhere near. Or go away alone for a few days – but plan! Figure out what works for you. I have read so many other blogs where people say that despite all the odds, anxiety has not held them back travelling, and even helped them dealing with it!

I hope this post has been somewhat coherent, and maybe even helpful to some. It is something I have wanted to talk about for a while, but being something I am not vocal on, I was unsure how to go about it, so this is a very brief overview of my experience. If you like it, and want to hear more stuff like this then let me know!

Perspective and First Impressions

Greetings from Ubud! Let me set the scene right now;

Its 8pm Friday night, and I am sat outside with some fresh veggie spring rolls and nearly a litre of Bintang beer (all which cost less than £4), its about 30 degrees celsius, I can hear birds chirping and there are cute little lizards running about on the ceiling. I have had an amazing day seeing the sites with a great private guide, and I am loving life right now.

However, it wasn’t always like this.

I have been in Bali four days now, and I have fallen in love with the place and its culture. Tuesday was an entirely different story though. We got lost on the way to my hostel so it took nearly double time. When we got there, the location was not where I thought, and although close to the centre it was a little far out. Don’t get me wrong, the hostel was beautiful, set in a rice field with great hosts. It just wasn’t for me, there was not enough shelter from the outside world and it was very easy for mosquitos to get in. It may seem petty, but being insanely jet lagged and wanting nothing more to sleep, not feeling comfortable sleeping was a big issue. Quickly, I found a new hostel which is lovely, and where I am at the moment.

This didn’t end the negative feel though, the lack of sleep really messed me up. Baring in mind I was up 4am Monday morning GMT, and it was over 24 hours later with about two hours sleep. I frustratingly find it nearly impossible sleeping on planes. I was tired, and was questioning all my decisions. Was I prepared to be alone in a completely different place? What if I got bitten and sick? What if my project doesn’t pan out? In total honesty there was nothing wrong with the trip at all, it was just the tiredness beating me down and making my anxieties flare up. Sleep was non existent that night as well but I didn’t let it ruin my time and headed into town.

This changed things entirely, pushing through the tiredness and panic made me realise that I was fine, safe, and in an amazing place. Somewhere I have dreamed of coming for years and now I am here! Since then there has been nothing but smiles and amazing adventures. I have met amazing people, held monkeys, met local artists, swam in a water fall and drank a speciality local coffee made out of animal poop (possibly the best coffee I have had).

The lesson to take away here? Don’t give up, push through the shitty jet lag stages, go out and explore, immerse yourself in the local culture. Don’t hide away and be negative because you will hate yourself for it. Live you life as fully as you can and take all experiences and adventures when travelling. This sounds super soppy, but its true!

Make sure to keep an eye on my Instagram page, which is linked to this blog, to see what I am up to daily.

In Review: Travelling and Work Experience

After doing a semester in Groningen studying Fine Art (click here for that review), I decided that as much as I loved what I was doing and how much a learnt and developed, it was time to put all of that to the test. For the second half of this past year I have been travelling and undertaking community based documentary projects, as this is what I plan to do long term in my future.

Of course, I was apprehensive about all of this. Chucking in the security of being in a school and a constant environment for travelling and working solo. This was a huge leap, and there was a lot more work to be done and in fact more stress. Working with new communities and around the world is hard, and solo travel for the first time is a bit daunting. However, it turned out to be the best time of my life and taught me valuable skills and developed myself and my practice in ways I could not have in any university or school environment.

I am very much interested in identity, and this is something that flows through all of my work be it community identity or personal identity. I am also interested in exploring, documenting and sharing different cultures so that has been the aim of my current projects. This has taken me all over the Europe so far, Sweden, France, and my biggest project to date ended last week in the Outer Hebrides. Next stop is Bali to make a comparative project to my previous one in the Outer Hebrides, exploring what unites communities all over the world, and what makes them unique. Bringing all these aspects together has been fascinating, taking me to places and experiences I never thought I would do, and meeting amazing people from all different backgrounds who are now contacts in different places for future projects. I met people travelling from all over, who are interested in my work and who want to work with me again, or people who have connected me with people in Bali that can help with my next project. I am extremely honoured to be welcomed back to Comunn Eachdraidh Nis, a community historical centre on the Isle of Lewis where I done a lot of interviews and research for my Galson project, and I would love to go back and make a follow up in the future. Experiences I have had, range for sailing a boat to going weeks without phone service and wifi (which is surprisingly and disappointingly harder than I thought) to generally immersing myself into different cultures. For more on this make sure to check out my other blog posts that go into more detail on this.

As I previously mentioned, I have learnt a whole range of skills and lessons that I would not have if I was in education during this time. Working full time self employed on these projects has been a learning curve, as instead of working to deadlines and schedules set by others, all I had was myself. I had to set all my own deadlines, and aims and expectations of my project and work my hardest to meet them. Anyone who knows me knows I like to take on a lot of work and have a strong perfectionist streak so this was both a simple and hard task. Simple being I know I can work alone, difficult being that I had to know when to shut off and create boundaries for myself. My confidence has considerably grown, both in my work and when interacting with others. I am now more comfortable sharing my work with strangers, being assertive in what I want out of them for my work, and pushing outside of my comfort zone to achieve this. My confidence with talking to others has increased to, and my communication skills. Working with different people I can now read people better and tailor communication to the person, and subject. General confidence has increased a lot more, I can go up to people and say “hi, this is my project, can I interview you and take a photo of you for it please?” without worry. This confidence has grown as far as hitchhiking, something I never thought I would have the guts to do.

Deciding to undertake these international documentary projects has been the best decision I have made for myself, my work, and my career. I have developed in myself and made connections with people all over the world. My work has dramatically improved, I have found my specific area of interest and worked out the approach for it which is best for me and what I want to show. For example, with the Galson project I have experimented with a range of presentation methods from video work to online publishing and books. This chance to give my career a kick start and see if it really is what I want has been great, it has solidified that yes, I want to be documentary photographer exploring communities. It has showed me how to approach this, and given me a vast range of contacts for projects after I graduate.

If you have the chance to do both studying abroad and undertaking your own work experience, I one hundred percent recommend it, as despite the struggles and difficult times I learnt a lot more and gained more experiences to carry with me to my final year at uni and beyond graduation than if I had stayed studying for the whole year. I am not saying one experience was better or more valuable than the other, but both of them together changed and developed my work beyond my expectations. Getting the chance to study in a new environment and looking at Art as a whole, then put into practice what I learnt in a international and work environment.

My time working and travelling isn’t up yet, with a trip to Bali in May and my Galson project currently being finalised. Make sure to follow the blog to keep up to date on my adventures and progress. I cannot wait to share with you all the final result of my time in the Outer Hebrides, a portrait of the community.