Monthly Archives: June 2015

Wandering wondering

Screen Shot 2015-06-23 at 13.08.18Every journey starts with a single step. Sometimes that first step can be the most difficult. If you didn’t pack your world up into a backpack and disappear for a little while, would you find yourself a year from now sat in the same seat thinking “what if?”

If I were hit by a bus today, the first thing I’d think is “but I haven’t seen the world.”

If your dreams don’t scare you, they aren’t big enough.

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Book review: Amanda Lindhout’s “A House in the Sky”

As a general rule, I avoid non-fiction books that I know will disturb me. If it’s fiction I can cope with horrid/terrifying subject matter because I know it’s just the spawn of someone’s imagination. The books I absolutely cannot bear however, are true crime and accounts of people who’ve been abused as children.

The reason I tell you this is because I wanted to give a background for how I felt before reading Amanda Lindhout’s “A House in the Sky.”

A House in the Sky is the memoir of Amanda Lindhout, a woman who travels the globe. In August 2008 she visited Somalia, “the most dangerous place on earth,” where she is abducted along with her friend Nigel, by masked gunman.

They are held hostage for 460 days, tortured, and kept in chains before finally being released.

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I’d seen that the book had rave reviews online, but I was selfishly a bit scared to read it in case it put me off travelling. (It didn’t, but I’m not in any hurry to go to Somalia now!)

The book was incredible. I gave it a rare five stars on goodreads. I couldn’t put it down, I HAD to know what happened. The account is incredibly harrowing, as you can imagine, but ultimately uplifting. Lindhout survives her ordeal by visiting a house high in the sky, a safe place she’s created for herself.

There’s a passage where she fantasises about waking up at home, going for a run in the fresh air and returning home for pancakes. On reading, I was suddenly filled with an enormous sense of gratitude. These are all things that I can do any time I fancy, and I’m so lucky to be free!

Lindhout faced criticism for even going to Somalia in the first place. She is seen as a rich Westerner whom can be held for a huge ransom. Governments don’t pay ransom money as it’s seen as negotiating with terrorists, hence how she was in captivity for such a long time.

What did I learn?

There’s a lot to cover, but what struck me most was her incredible will to survive, her inner strength, her choices, and her friendships.

I’m filled with gratitude for the lucky life that I’ve lived so far, and eager to see the world in all its colours.

Here is a quote from a goodreads review which I think sums it up beautifully:

“Go anywhere. Fall in love. Make mistakes. Be kind. Forgive. Know that you are strong enough. Make change. Be hopeful. These are the thoughts I am left with, after closing the book. There are others of course – the baseness of human brutality, cultural realities that scare me, how governments work in our lives, the role of women in society, the feeling that there is so much work to be done in so many places. In all this, Amanda leaves her readers with hope, hope for change and hope that despite what she has been through that life holds for her so much more yet.”

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Go read it!

 

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Dreaming of Fiji

Today is a bit of a pants day all round – I managed to hurt my neck this morning whilst taking off a hoodie. How dramatic. The result: can’t turn my head, ergo can’t drive ergo can’t get to work. Hideous. It hurts so much I’d actually rather be at work!

Anyhow, it’s hard to be miserable when I have travelling to dream of.
Today, I’m specifically taken with dreaming of the islands of Fiji. We’l be there from the 19th-30th of September, en route from Hawaii to New Zealand. Meaning I’ll spend my 25th birthday of this year in Fiji. How crazy is that?

Did you know Castaway was filmed on one of the Fijian islands? I say one of, because Fiji is actually made up of over 330 islands. We’re not even sure which ones we’ll visit yet, other than we fly into the capital, Nadi.

Cast_Away__2000__2763977b(This is how Tom and I will probably look after our ten days in tropical paradise haha)

Alongside bellowing “WILSON!!!!” at the top of my voice, here are some other things we will be doing…

1) Scuba Diving*

divefigi*I think some sort of certificate is required for this. If we’re not qualified it’ll be more like snorkelling. I’ve only ever done it in the bath before though, so I’m sure I won’t be disappointed haha.

2) Mud baths

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(yes I did try my hardest to find the most hilarious photographic example here, but I imagine it’ll be a fairly true to life representation of mud+my eczema haha.)

3) See fire walking

beqaApparently this is done in traditional ceremonies, if you’re luck enough to see one. Ouch!

5) Get drunk on the beach on my birthday

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Because it’s obligatory. And it’s one of my 25 challenges before I turn 25!

Starting to get very excited now…

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New Zealand Bucket List

On the 1st of October, we will land in Auckland, New Zealand. It’s here that we plan to stop for a little while and find jobs in order to fund our next move to Asia. I can’t wait to see the stunning landscapes. Coming from the Lake District, I think it’ll be a home away from home. I thought I’d write a list of things that I want to do whilst in NZ today. Eek!

Also, I’ve now got one of those little countdown apps on my phone. 88 days to go!

1) Visit Auckland

Auckland is where we land, on the North Island.

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It’s known for its two harbours, and is built on the remnants of extinct volcanoes. (!)

2) Rotorua

Bubbling mud, steaming cracks in the ground, and other volcanic by-products.

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Apparently it smells a bit farty, but it’ll make up for having never been to Iceland.

3)Kaikoura

The best place to go for eating seafood and seeing sea life. I want to go whale-watching!

Kaikoura Peninsula May 2008
Kaikoura Peninsula May 2008

4)Glaciers

It’s possible to walk up the Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers. My brother and his girlfriend Charlie did it, and it looks incredible from their photos.

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Sadly, the glaciers are melting fast, so it’s a now or never opportunity.

5)Waitomo caves

 

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Also known as The Glowworm Caves, the Waitomo caves are famous for the little critters, and also black water rafting. Jacob and Charlie did this too, and said it was awesome. You go through on rubber rings. What really made me laugh was Charlie said that you have to line up and stick your bums out and then the instructors select a suitably sized rubber ring to fit on your arse. Hilarious!

6) Queenstown (for a bungee jump)

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Queenstown is famous for its extreme sports. It’s the place to go if you want to do a bungee jump (something that terrifies me, but I’ve always wanted to do.)

7) Heaphy track

A four to six day hike with stunning views along the way. Time to walk in my new boots!

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8)Maori culture 

Traditional Maori culture has always fascinated me. The tattoos, the music, the scary Haka dance. I’d love to see a concert, and try some traditional food. Get a maori tattoo? What?

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Books set in NYC

As you may have realised, I like reading.

Yesterday I suddenly thought: I should write a post about books set in the places we’ll visit!

The first stop on our journey is New York, New York. So I wracked my bookshelves and realised I’ve actually already read tonnes of books set in the Big Apple.

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Stephen King’s The Stand – Not set in NYC for the majority of the novel so I cheated here, but had to include it because I loved it. A must-read for anyone who loves the King, The Stand is an epic post-apocolyptic horror novel. I love Stephen King’s characters, and Randall Flagg (the devil in human form) is one of my absolute favourites. Definitely a book for summer, as it’s over 1400 pages long. It took me about a month to get through, and I dropped it on my face whilst reading it  and nearly got a black eye. The things you do for love…

Jonathan Safran Foer’s Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close I adore this book. It’s definitely one of my top ten favourite books I’ve ever read. They recently made a really naff film adaptation with Tom Hanks in it. Don’t bother, just read the book. The premise makes it seem really depressing (a young boy looses his father in 9/11) but it’s actually wonderfully uplifting. The way the book is used as a medium is revolutionary. You need to get your hands on a copy and flip through to understand what I mean. It made me cry.

Truman Capote’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s – More of a short story than an actual novel, this is one of the few cases where I prefer the film to the book. Having said that, I imagine reading the story would be much different if I didn’t have Audrey Hepburn swirling in my mind. Still, a good story based in New York.

Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking – The only memoir in the stack, I read The Year of Magical Thinking just a few weeks ago. Didion is an author who looses her husband suddenly and tragically. The book follows her grief throughout the year after his death. This was a really harrowing read. I found myself touching wood constantly, so grateful to still have my nearest and dearest with me. It was a really interesting insight into how we grieve, set against the backdrop of the Big Apple.

Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar – Okay, so not really focusing on NYC really, but this is a must-read for any human being. I haven’t read it since my teenage years so it’s most definitely due a re-read. “I took a deep breath and listened to the old brag of my heart. I am, I am, I am.”

Nicole Krauss’s The History of Love – The cover of this book makes it look really naff but don’t judge it by its cover (ho ho ho) I must admit, I really wanted to like this book. I read it when I was really busy and I didn’t give it the time it deserved. The result? I was really bloody confused by the whole book and missed the point completely. Whoops!

Others that I’ve read and loved, but couldn’t find on my shelves: The Great Gatsby. The Princess Diaries (admittedly when I was younger haha)

For the love of god you must read this book!!!!!!

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The reason I can’t photograph my copy of The Goldfinch is because I don’t own one – I listened to the audiobook. I fucking loved it so much! It’s a really long (33 hours) listen, but so great to have on whilst you do other things: I listened to it whilst I painted the living room last summer and it was wonderful. Made me itch to go to New York too, although I may avoid the art galleries…

Books on my to read list, set in NYC: The Catcher in the Rye, American Psycho, The Devil Wears Prada, Sophie’s Choice.

Do you have any recommendations? I’d love to hear. I also need to find books set in LA, Fiji, Hawaii, New Zealand, Australia and South East Asia.

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(And here’s a blooper from earlier hahaha)

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Book review: Rita Golden Gelman’s “Tales of a Female Nomad”

I’m still hunting for travel literature and devouring every single one I can get my hands on. My latest? Rita Golden Gelman’s “Tales of a Female Nomad”

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Golden Gelman is a children’s book author, who similarly to Elizabeth Gilbert (author of Eat Pray Love), goes through a divorce, sells her possesions and then takes off alone, with a dream of seeing the world, and living among people of another culture. To this day, (she’s now in her seventies) she lives as a nomad.

Nomad: a person who does not stay long in the same place; a wanderer.

During the course of the book, Rita visits and lives in:

  • Mexico
  • Guatemala
  • Nicaragua
  • Israel
  • Galapagos Islands
  • Indonesia
  • New Zealand
  • Thailand

(The above countries in bold are places Tom and I hope to visit.)

I loved this book. On goodreads, I gave it four out of five stars. (Had it been a mark out of ten, I’d have given it 9/10)

What inspired me most was how she lived with local people, became a part of their daily life, and paid back their favours by teaching English and helping them with writing.

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I loved how Golden Gelman met local people, many of whom she didn’t share a common language with, and experienced their way of life. I find this concept very life-afirming. At the end of the book she asks the reader to get in touch. I’ve just sent her an email.

I completely empathise with the sense of freedom that travel gives. I can’t wait to experience it again. Oh how my feet itch!

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Here’s to…

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Here’s to the Sunday hangover. To travel guides. To chai tea in the best mug in the world, given to me by my oldest friend. To bare feet touching grass. To cats who brush you affectionately as they pass. To fresh orange juice. To good books. To travel planning. To make up free days. To brush free hair. To holding hands. To pain au chocolate. To saying “I love you.” To excited feelings in tummies. To good health. To joy.

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