Things every girl needs to know before travelling

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Before you read this grandly titled blog I feel I should caveat… I’m by no means the most experienced ‘traveller’ in the world. But, I have travelled, a fair bit, and spent long periods of time moving from hostel to hotel to hostel all around the world, so I feel I have some authority on this subject and most importantly, some useful insight and tips that I wanted to share.

When I reference ‘travelling’ for me this means the time in your life when you give everything up (job / house, etc) to go and discover the world – on a shoestring budget. When I was 27, my (now) husband and I gave notice on our London flat, quit our jobs and said goodbye to friends and family for six months. I can honestly say that we prepared for hours upon hours to maximise every single part of it, but the majority of the below were things I realised along the way, as a girl, to help make the most of that trip.

Just another day in Paradise

Just another day in Paradise

  1. A capsule wardrobe is your best friend 

For a girl, one of the most exciting elements of going on holiday is the packing. When you are planning a round-the-world travelling trip, the chances are you will have one bag with you, for a number of months. This bag is going to be prohibitive in terms of weight because ultimately you need to be able to get their bag onto your back (and walk with it!)

It sounds like the simplest of tips but you really do need to plan your wardrobe to ensure that everything you have is actually going to work. Does that amazing, aztec print skirt actually go with anything except plain vests? In which case, do you have enough plain vests? I can’t recommend enough to stock up in Primark on plain vests / bodices / tube tops to pack (they’re small & cheap!) and then team up with a statement necklace (like this one from Topshop) to help bring them to life and dress up for the evening. The chances are you’ll find some stunning pieces of jewellery on your trips that are perfect to brighten up any Primark number.

  1. You actually can have too many shoes 

You may have the most amazing pair of shoes but if you’re really only going to wear them on ‘special occasions’ or with a certain outfit – they can’t come. Every girl needs a quality pair of flip flops that you could walk all day in, a pair of practical sports / walking shoes (if you are planning on undertaking any kind of activity – horse riding / bungee jumping /sky diving) and a pair of shoes that you would happily wear in a bar. I didn’t take a single pair of heels with me for 6 months and didn’t once wish I had.

  1. Travel backpacks come in all shapes & sizes

Travel backpacks are your most treasured possession and your worst nightmare. They are hugely practical but for the most part become the bane of your life that you’re constantly re-packing and readjusting as they rest unhappily (and heavily) on your sunburn. Having undertaken a few trips with backpacks my preference is always to have a backpack that opens up like a suitcase (i.e. you pack it in, not down) such as this Berghaus Jalan. Most backpacks have innovative and thoughtful storage spaces but for the most part, with any backpack that you have to vertically ‘stuff’, the chances are that one skirt you’re looking for will be right at the bottom. 

  1. Your trust micro bag ain’t gonna cut it

As a fairly novice ‘traveller’, when embarking on our 6 month trip I selected a beautiful leather cross-body bag from Urban Outfitters to be my ‘day pack’. I quickly realised that it was far too small to carry my ‘day’ essentials – a bottle of water, sun cream, a jumper, food, camera, Lonely Planet book and my trusty travel journal. Cue my new best friend in the shape of the ugly-came-as-part-of-a-package Berghaus day pack. Aesthetically unpleasing but absolutely essential. So girls, treat yourself to a ‘pretty’ pack like these ones from ASOS… 

  1. Carrier bags can come in handy

To help support your packing ethic, ensure that you have plenty of carrier bags (or just ways to segment) to easily separate clothes. You may want to do this for any washing that needs to be done, or if you have a short stopover / fleeting visit to a hostel, it helps to have your clothes packed in an easy to reach location. 

  1. French plaits are bad hair day saviours

On our second day of the 6 month travel trip I smugly plugged in my ‘travel’ straighteners only to find that the wattage in Rio De Janeiro was around a fifth of that in the UK and so my straighteners sadly flickered red for around 10 minutes before essentially whispering heat onto my humidity kissed fluffy hair.

 Leave the straighteners at home. Embrace the beach look where you can. And where you can’t, a french plait is your best ally. The single best thing you can do for your hair before travelling is to learn to French plait. Fringes, full head, side – it works for all.

  1. Beer is brilliant

This sounds like an odd tip but if like me you’re a large glass of Sauvignon Blanc kind of girl, you’re in for a shock. Excluding South America as you drink nothing but wine, the majority of far-flung destinations prove more cost effective to drink beer or cider when travelling. This of course is very budget dependent but you’ll thank me when you’re not suffering from a wine hangover and have saved some budget for ‘things’ (see point 10).

Good old Chang beer

Good old Chang beer

  1. Fancy pants

‘Hold back’ some knickers until later in your trip. This sounds fairly obvious but if you don’t plan it, you won’t do it. If you are going on a travel trip for 6 months, its well worth spending £10 in Primark beforehand to purchase 10 pairs of knickers that will be new halfway through your trip! There is nothing quite as luxurious as fresh underwear when you’ve been ‘slumming’ it so make the investment now and hold them back in your backpack as a special treat!

  1. Smell sweet — don’t drop your standards

Another way to add a touch of luxury to your trip is to take with you a body lotion version of your favourite perfume (we all have them at home as old Christmas gifts). Not only will this help you to be moisturised (useful for darned sunburn!) but also you’ll smell gorgeous and feel good!

   10.  Beautiful budgeting 

As I mentioned above, our trip was planned to within an inch of its life – it of course didn’t work out as per the itinerary but the thought was there. The one thing that did catch us off guard was budget. The small things and the big things that we just hadn’t accounted for. Firstly there’s the day trips, the adventures, the once-in-a-lifetime experiences that you have to do. And of course with those come the souvenir packs – what’s the point in jumping out of a plane if it isn’t documented on video (that’s another $250 thank you very much). Then there’s the booze budget. Not to sound as though I have a problem but I found two occasions (which I had to force myself to abstain in) whereby I didn’t have a drink. You just do. You drink to socialise, to celebrate, to over-compensate for the not-so-nice-hostels and to embrace yet another incredible day gone by. This all adds up and means your best intentions of spending just $10 per day might not be so realistic. Wi-fi is another hidden cost when you travel, particularly in Australasia with places charging up to $10 for 24 hours so be lean with it. Do you really, really need to check Facebook every day? Chances are things won’t have changed too much overnight… Lastly, as a girl, there are going to be times when you just need ‘things’. Be it toiletries, medicines (nurofen & immodium will become make up bag staples), MORE ear plugs, jewellery, scarves, bags – the list goes on. So add a little buffer in your budget for ‘things’ so that you don’t have to go without.

Sky diving in Taupo

Sky diving in Taupo

Happy travelling!

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Puppy love #2

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Following on from my previous post, we are so ready for a puppy as ‘young and irresponsible’ is pretty far from the truth. We recently took the Buzzfeed challenge to ‘find your real age’ and scored 55 and 62! (I still don’t know what tipped me into the 50’s…) We have a little garden, plenty of patience and really don’t need any more excuses to have a night in with a DVD and a takeaway / M&S dine in for two.

Last night was the first of I suspect many, sleepless nights. Not because puppy misbehaved but with the sheer responsibility for his little being looming over us, sleep doesn’t come as easy.

I’m so excited for all of the puppy milestones to come – final vaccinations, first walk, first trip to the pub (well, we need to integrate puppy into our lives!) and many more.

I’ll keep you posted…

Puppy love

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This week has been fairly monumental for me as, after 31 years of waiting, I am now the proud owner of my very own dog.

Having spent my entire adolescent years in the company of dogs it’s quite the shock when you reach adulthood and have to experience life without a dog, until that very time that you can in all honesty say you are ready to 100% commit to another being and take full responsibility for them.

There really is nothing quite like coming home / waking up / re-entering a room that you left 2 minutes ago and being greeted by your ever adoring, always trusting dog.

I’m therefore incredibly proud of myself for being responsible & grown up enough to not have rushed into this. Dog ownership is not (excuse the pun) a walk in the park and requires commitment, time and money.

Yesterday we collected our beautiful 9 week old cockapoo – the trip to collect him was one filled with trepidation, excitement and mild fear. As soon as we had our little bundle in our arms excitement prevailed (until we had a minor incident of car sickness on an otherwise seamless journey back to London!) Driving away did feel slightly surreal, as if we had managed to fool someone into giving us – young, irresponsible us! – a puppy. To be continued…

Sloths – finally, we found one

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I consider myself incredibly privileged to have experienced the Jaguar Rescue Centre in Cocles, Costa Rica as part of my recent honeymoon. 

Entirely run by volunteers who spend their days navigating groups of tourists through the centre to admire the vast array of animal waifs and strays, providing a stress free environment for the animals and administering medical support where possible, this centre is a haven for animals in need. 

The centre is so important in Cocles due to the level of mistreatment of animals still experienced in the area – predominantly due to superstiImagetion or fear, not through malice. We heard stories of crocodiles saved from being beaten to death by a stick because locals believed that eating the tail would provide them with a valium-esque prowess. The centre looks to rehabilitate and educate to ensure the animals & locals can live in harmony and keep Costa Rica as beautiful as ever. 

We saw many different animals including parrots, monkeys, deer, frogs, rhino beetles, over-friendly toucans and finally, sloths. The sloths are undeniably docile, slow and dare I say it, cute. We had expected to see sloths at every turn in Costa Rica and spent many car journeys scouring the trees and floor to no avail so we are incredibly grateful that the Jaguar Rescue Centre, Cocles facilitated this meet up!

Keep up the good work…