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Getting Started

Being a graduate is bloody tough.

If choosing your degree felt like the biggest decision you would face, I bet (like me) you’re laughing at your more ignorant younger self.

My decision back then went along the lines of ‘I want to work with cameras, I’ll try filmmaking. York is a good University, so I’ll try there!’ Now, it’s more like ‘What job will make me happy, able to afford rent, tax, food, allow me time with my partner, friends, working out and have some much needed alone time?’ I now see why complaining about a morning lecture seemed laughable to my family. (I still maintain that it was hard at the time…It’s all relative).

So here I am, one and a half years later and still with no real clue where I want to end up. Over the last few months, I have seen that I am not the only one. Far from it, I actually think almost no-one has a clue what they’re doing.

And that’s okay! (I keep telling myself).

I was in a rather lucky situation this year. I had a comfortable London-based job in the industry I wanted, at a company I loved, and with prospects of moving to the department that I possibly wanted a career in.

However, the ‘possibly wanted’ was something that nagged at me. If I continued to work there, I knew without a doubt that I would never leave and try all the other things that I want to do. Backpacking. Freelancing. And recently, writing a blog!

So here I am, back in my parents’ house in Cheshire and working at my old bar job that I’ve had since I was 18 in order to fly to the other side of the world and see what happens.

Leaving London to do this has in many ways felt like a step backward when all of my fellow graduates seem to be taking steps forward. Everything feels a little (a lot) lost right now, so I hope writing this will keep me from getting further lost in the on-tap prosecco at work.

So here’s the rather rambling beginning to my blog about life after University. Whether you have a job, are sending off applications at bullet-like speed or saying f*** it and leaving for a while, I am convinced (and really really hoping, please guys) that we’re all just as confused. Maybe writing about being confused will confuse me more, we’ll just have to see.

 

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That boring side of travelling

5 weeks left in the UK and I feel so overwhelmingly underprepared.

Between working as much as I can, organising good-byes, learning to drive, wrapping up things I can’t do whilst I’m away (such as preparing for my brother’s wedding on my return, eek) and squeezing in some workouts for good measure, I am finding it really hard to find time and energy to sit down and do boring jobs such as finding the best travel insurance! Mike has left me to my own devices whilst he applies to grad schemes and so our cute coffee date planning the trip of a lifetime together has been a one-time affair.

Slow progress is probably down to two main reasons:

Firstly, I have a habit of congratulating myself after doing small tasks. Applying for my Vietnamese visa (about 20 mins max) and cooking a healthy dinner for work was apparently a days job well done. Phoning up myself and finally booking in an appointment at the doctors to get injections was also apparently a big feat. I feel a bit duped by this as now I have to do the same thing at a travel clinic for even more injections.

Secondly, I have found myself stuck watching travel vlogs for hours…for some Asian country that I’m not even going to…or South America. Okay, sometimes it was a ‘girly chat video’. Great use of time Raynor.

So from tomorrow- no, from right now (which is kind of ‘tomorrow’ as it’s 1am), I will get some actual shit together and prove it by writing about it. I guess this blog is more about holding myself accountable than being an entertaining read.

Visas

Back to that visa I mentioned…I chose to get an e-visa for Vietnam as it seemed like the cheapest and easiest option. It cost me roughly £20 and I don’t have to pay any stamping fee on entry. I had read that some applications get rejected depending on the photos you upload, but I literally just checked and mine has been approved! So as far as I am aware I just need to print that off and I have my 30 days in the country.

I won’t be applying for any more visas now as we don’t know when we will be moving on, but getting an e-visa looks even simpler. Thailand will be more complicated as you can be asked for proof of forward travel when you enter (maybe too many people have overstayed their welcome!) I’d rather make things up as I go, but if we need to book an advance flight back home, that wouldn’t be the worst thing that could happen.

Here are a couple of useful links to official visa pages:

Vietnam e-visa

Cambodian e-visa

Camera equipment 

This week we had our first snowfall of the year, which of course meant getting out and taking some photos. I forgot just how much I love photography and I am incredibly excited to see get some done over there. However, this brings new complications. I’m planning to bring my old and new camera. This is because I only have a 300mm lens for my old Nikon and in the likely event of one getting robbed, I still have a fighting chance. We won’t talk about both getting robbed just yet.

My main issue is storing all of these photos. In an ideal world I would buy a Chromebook to take with me, but with mounting costs of rabies vaccinations and travel insurance, this is looking less likely. If anyone has any advice please share it with me!

Vaccinations and health

I have visited my nurse and will be booking an appointment with a private travel clinic for rabies and maybe hepatitis B. There are lots of websites saying what you might need but my advice is always to just take what they recommend, especially when you’re lucky enough to get it for free.

Rabies and hep B doesn’t come under that bracket, but I’m definitely willing to pay for them. In some towns, there can be wild dogs roaming about, nevermind trekking through jungles and forests and a bite or scratch can be fatal. Hep B is transmitted via bodily fluids, and so long-term travellers are at greater risk as the chances of needing medical treatment whilst away increases.

Luckily, my nurse didn’t seem to think that anti-malarials were necessary for where I wanted to go, but was keen to let me know that most prescription medications can be bought over the counter in Asia.

A great website she told me about was Travel Health Pro, which updates it’s information every 24 hours with new outbreaks and anything to watch out for.

Budgeting!

Before I go, I am planning to write a whole post on this, as it’s actually something I love doing. I have a whole spreadsheet on the go, because organisation is key! When you have over a couple of grand for the first time in your life, it’s easy to start getting cocky…but then you realise it’s not as much as you first thought. This is where excel comes in handy.

If you made it this far, I hope there was something useful in this for you. Otherwise, I hope to get something a bit more exciting for the next one…maybe some pretty pictures of Cambodia. If nothing else, reading over this in the morning actually got me doing more. Just booked Mike and myself in at the travel clinic!

 

First Step: Booking the Flights

Having found my way back to my parents’ house, the last couple of months have been pretty difficult. Not only has Christmas in hospitality been more mentally and physically draining than I remembered but I was hit by question after question.

Why are you back working here? Why on earth would you leave your job? Are you looking for a new job yet? Are you still living with your parents? Not to mention the advice I never asked for and wasn’t at all helpful. Don’t be lazy and keep continuing your ‘gap year’ just because you can’t think of what you want to do. Clearly, those people didn’t know me well at all.

For some, I was probably reading too much into their questions because I was tired of hearing it. However, I was feeling quite defensive about what I was doing and why because I was so unsure of myself. I didn’t need people poking holes in my plans and filling me with doubt. After the support I got from everyone at the London office, I was quite shocked to be met with so much negativity for taking time out to travel. If it’s good enough for me, it should be good enough for them.

All of this has taught me something. If you have even just an inkling to do something, you must ignore the negative voices around you. Whether for you that’s traveling, following your creative instincts or even something as simple as changing your diet or exercise, ignore any negativity before it infects you. That’s not to say don’t listen to anyone, but knowing the difference between genuine advice and someone trying to put you down is a good lesson to learn!

Rant over, January has been the long-awaited light at the end of the tunnel! We went for it and booked our flight out on 12th March, no return.

Now, for the first time since deciding to go, I have no worry or doubt in myself. Rather than quietly muttering a response about saving for travelling, I can excitedly respond that I am going on a trip of a lifetime and I’m nothing but ecstatic!

Our plan is to fly into Hanoi, work our way down to the South of Vietnam, into Cambodia, Thailand and then possibly Malaysia. I want to experience sleeper trains, mountain towns, floating markets, volunteering, water sports, hiking, biking, learn about the cultures, taste the coffee, the street food and anything else I haven’t even heard about yet. All of this is pretty overwhelming and I had no idea how to start.

A few days ago, Mike introduced me to the world of travel vlogging. How I never thought to watch videos is something that will never cease to amaze me as an ex-film student. I guess I just like to highlight and categorise things into a big ‘Monica-style’ folder that couldn’t possibly fit inside my backpack. I haven’t watched much yet but my favourite YouTube channel so far is Int Affair. If you want to travel to Vietnam in particular, their informative and visually exciting (they have a drone, job done) videos are a great place to start getting ideas and the general vibe of different places.

With Vietnam being first on the list, we have a pretty good idea of where we want to go. So here is what we have so far:

  1. Hanoi
    Starting in the hustle and bustle of the capital, which is based in the North. I want to get street food in the old quarter, roam around Hoan Kiem Lake and of course, take a look inside the Ho Chi Minh museum. Then up to…Related image
  2. Sapa
    Right next to the Chinese border, this place has it all. Mountain views, exploring the local hills and valleys, shopping in the night market, Ban Gioc Waterfall. A lot of people apparently do homestays, which is definitely an option I would love to look into. I only like the occassional nice hotel, but experiencing something with the locals sounds like an amazing opportunity. Then from the mountains to…
    The undulating hills and rice terraces of Sapa, Vietnam.
  3. Ha Long Bay/ Bai Tu/ Cat Ba
    I have been waiting to explore this area on a little boat ever since I first saw the incredible rock formations. From here we may also explore Cat Ba Island and Bai Tu Long Bay. Then from here to…
    Image result for ha long bay
  4. Tam Coc
    Also known as ‘Halong Bay on Land’. This picturesque looking village has rice fields (yay), ancient pagodas and may be a perfect chance to rent a motorbike and explore or take a ride on a Sampan down River Ngo Dong. Next is…
    Image result for tam coc
  5. Phong Na
    Home to incredible cave systems including the biggest cave in the world, this should give us something brand new to experience. Then off to another city…
    A gaping cave at Phong Nha Ke Bang National Park
  6. Hue
    I added this to our list for its rich sounding history and architecture and the fact that it’s a popular destination. After this, we’ll be off to…
    Image result for hue vietnam
  7. Da Nang
    A city with beautiful beaches and the Marble Mountains. I also think this is where the ‘hand bridge’ is that keeps popping up all over social media.
    Image result for marble mountains vietnamImage result for hand bridge vietnam
  8. Hoi An
    Still have no idea what we could be doing here- I’m sure Mike would love the Hai Van Pass, then there is also paddle boarding in the fishing villages, cooking classes or just eating and drinking our way through the visit! Moving onto…
    Related image
  9. Nha Trang
    Apparently a perfect spot for relaxing on incredible beaches (which I think we will need at this point!) I imagine I will want to try out some diving or snorkelling here. I have never been scuba diving and I am quite terrified of the idea, so let’s see if I manage to convince myself. From here, I’d also like to see Po Nagar. After this it will be…
    Image result for nha trang
    Image result for po nagar
  10. Da Lat
    After hitting the beach, this cooler mountain town sounds like the perfect next destination to get back into adventure. From the sounds of it, I want to be rock-climbing, canyoning and hiking my way through this visit. Then we descend into…
    Image result for da lat
  11. Saigon
    The major city of the South and our last stop before heading into Cambodia. From here, I want to explore the Mekong Delta and possibly Phu Quoc. We will be definitely be exploring the tunnels of the Viet Cong. Both Mike and I studied the Vietnam War when we were in college together, and both keen to learn much more whilst we are here. This will also mean museum hunting too!
    Related image
    Related image

Do you have any favourite places to see in Vietnam, or unmissable places to eat? We’re still looking for ideas so please let us know!

 

 

Travel Essentials

This last week I have been moping around in an unproductive ball of slothness. However, shopping always cheers me up! So I think it’s time to buy some of my ‘essentials’ for travelling.

Before I get into my shopping spree (of which I think only 2 items are on a Black Friday sale, cry) I should probably talk about my plans!

South-East Asia is the goal. Ever since my brother went, I have wanted to do it all myself. When he left, it was the first time I was all by myself and as I was stealing his room as my own and painting it in incredibly bright colours, I would think about all the amazing things he must be seeing and doing. But now, about 7 years later, it’s finally my turn! I do tend to copy my older siblings a lot, but I’m hoping to return minus the beard, blood-shot eyes and horrendous smell. I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

I had always imagined doing this alone (I’m a bit of a loner and not the most compromising person)…but I have a partner who seems to be on the same page as me, so we’re doing it together! At the moment our plan is vague. Land at the top of Vietnam, make our way down into Cambodia, onto Thailand and then finally finishing off in Malaysia before heading back.

We want to go for 2-3 months and won’t be buying our flight back beforehand. It’s basically a situation of ‘let’s go until we run out of money and/or time’. Going away for this amount of time, I’m trying to plan certain things ahead to make it easier, cheaper, lighter, you name it. So without further ado, here’s a list of things I just bought to try and stop me buying clothes I don’t need.

First Aid Kit 
For obvious reasons! I want to do a lot of hiking and there’s a strong chance I will hurt myself at some point…but even for the more sure-footed of you, you should probably take on of these anyway.

Screenshot 2018-11-23 at 12.54.39

Link: First Aid Kit

Lifestraw Bottle
A filtered bottle may seem unnecessary and expensive but it will allow me to drink tap water (and possibly rivers etc.) without worrying about getting ill. For the amount of time that I am going, it will actually save money as I won’t be buying about 3 plastic bottles a day. Not to mention better for the local environment!

Screenshot 2018-11-23 at 12.57.17

Link: Lifestraw Bottle

Universal Power Adapter
This one works in 180 countries and I’m hoping will work with every socket I come across. I’ve heard that in some Asian countries, sockets can vary even from hotel to hotel so I’ll see what happens when I get out there. A must have, especially for the more techy.

Screenshot 2018-11-23 at 12.58.14

Link: Travel Adapter

Microfiber towel
If you’re only taking a back-pack, you definitely don’t want all your space to be taken by a big fluffy towel, as nice as they are. Microfiber towels are cheap, quick drying and save huge amounts of space. This makes them a must-have for this type of travelling where you won’t have lovely hotel towels to wrap in.

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Link: Towel

Jungle spray
I’ve used this in Egypt and China and it is incredibly stinky and horrible when you’re applying, but definitely worth it. This is the only brand I have ever used and I find it effective, but if anyone has any suggestions I’m keen to know!

There are some other options out there, such as taking your own net and mosquito repellent bracelets to wear etc. but I’m not too sure if these work well or are practical.

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Link: Jungle Spray

Packing cubes
These may not be essential, but I like to be very organised. I spent 2 weeks camping in Scotland this year, and as soon as I tried to find one pair of leggings I would pull everything out onto the floor which stresses me out.
My sister and brother-in-law recommended buying some of these and they’re so cheap I thought I may as well give it a try. They just separate your clothes and should hopefully help with space.

Screenshot 2018-11-23 at 13.01.03

Link: Packing Cubes

Dioralyte
I don’t think I need to say much about this. If you’re going to a very different country, this might be one for you. Don’t believe the ‘pleasant tasting’ and you’re golden.

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If there’s anything you think should be on this list, please do let me know!