Thursday, 30 May 2013

The trouble with being a people pleaser- Learn how to say NO

It’s a lovely quality, to put others first, but being a loyal people pleaser can sometimes be detrimental to your own well being. There is a fine line between being a lovely, selfless person, and sacrificing your own happiness to succumb to the needs of others. Do you hate the NO word? Perhaps it’s time to learn how to be a bit selfish from time to time.

My fear of the NO word got so ridiculous that at one stage when my friend’s dad asked if I wanted a slice of cake I said ‘erm, I’m ok thank you’.  He raised an eyebrow; ‘so what does that mean..yes or no?’.  It was at that point that I realised how much I struggled to say it. I don’t know why, but ‘no’ felt like a rejection (which is ridiculous as I’m sure he would have been grateful for me not snaffling his cake).

So do you people please too much? There is a mountain of work to complete but your colleague has troubles at home so you tackle it alone. You’re shattered after a hard core week of work, household chores, and trips to the doctors but you said you would drive two hours to meet your friend (and hate it when people bail), so you sacrifice your day off to help her babysit. You are an angel, and we love you, but remember that you matter too.

Sure, help out colleagues, friends, family, I’m all for going the extra mile to make people smile, but include yourself as one of those people. If you’re getting stressed with taking on the extra load, tell someone, and let someone else please you for a while (insert rude joke here). Give yourself a break, and when you’re asked ‘do you mind doing...’ do not feel bad about saying no. If you desperately want a night in to recuperate instead of filling in for the missing player in your friend’s football team, just say no and let them nag someone else (trust me you’re not the only people pleaser in their phone book). The thing is, people say no to you all the time, sure sometimes it really annoys you, but most of the time you hardly notice, you just accept it and move on. So if your crumbling under the weight of your angel people pleasing wings, take them off a while and be your own guardian angel, remember you’re only human.

Sunday, 26 May 2013

Focus on the positives

Well, I’ve had a few pretty hectic days; I bought a car, moved into my own flat, and got a new job. All in less than a week! Unfortunately my job has me waiting on pompous old men and spoilt, ketchup smeared children rather than waiting on my next article being published, but hey, money doesn’t grow on trees. While I’m still waiting for my lucky break, at least I have my own space and a get-away car should I feel too trapped in the small town life of Biggleswade (cue rev of the engine). 
I must point out, I am writing this half way through a bottle of red wine, sat on my balcony overlooking a beautifully picturesque river, and this is why my outlook on life is as rosy as my alcohol flushed cheeks. Earlier on I wasn’t feeling quite as gleeful.

Today was the first day of my new job. Nervous, and excited at the prospect of earning some much needed money, I struggled to eat breakfast. I styled my hair and put some make up on (knowing this kind of effort wouldn’t last the week), and drove around the corner to the pub. Confident with my abilities as a waitress, I wasn’t so much worried about the job itself, but the fact that I was the new girl and that I was at least 6 years older than all of the other waitresses. I couldn’t help feeling like that awkward mature student in university; trying to blend in with the youngsters and failing miserably. Feigning interest in fuchsia pink acrylic nails I had some impressively mind numbing conversations which, thank god, were cut short by the ringing of the bell calling for service in the kitchen. After a day of serving food and wearing a super glued smile, I collapsed onto my bed and buried my head in the pillow (before quickly removing the pillow for fear of my greasy, food reeking face making it smell and inducing work related dreams). 

I groaned (alone and self pitying) what am I doing, I don’t want to do this, I should be writing, creating, dreaming! And then I reminded myself that I’m not rich and I’m not living in a fairytale. The only way to get past feeling like a failing pensioner at 24 was to focus on the positives. Sure the pay is shocking, but it’s a whole 20p above minimum wage!! Ok, so that’s a bad example. What I am currently reminding myself of, is that working this crappy job is  keeping me motivated to work hard for what I want;  if I was content with my job I may not be as driven to make my dreams come true. Positives: I am earning money, proving that I am a grafter, and I am still on my way to becoming the successful writer I envisage myself to be. So when you feel like life is bullying you, stay strong and focus on the good bits; remind yourself of all the wonderful things you take for granted. Your family, your friends, the fact that you’re healthy. Then if you’re feeling really determined, try to turn the negatives into positives too; I may no longer be a care free high schooler like my work colleges, but I’m now at an age where I don’t need half a litre of vodka to embarrass myself on the dance floor (I’ll do it sober).  

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Food envy

And so it arrives, that sizzling stirfry, that succulent leg of lamb, that gooey chocolate pudding with creamy vanilla ice cream. The waiter has a little grin at everybodys 'oo look at that!' reaction, proudly carrying the spectacular dish as if he had anything to do with how good it will taste. It arrives, looking and smelling sensational, and it is put down on the placemat opposite you. As you stare down at your comparatively average looking dish which was smuggled in under your nose, you kick yourself for having changed your mind last minute. Your mouth salivates as you imagine feasting on that far superior dish, and the child in your head whines 'I want one!!'.. I call this food envy.
On Tuesday I went for a 'moving out of your boyfriend's parent's house and growing up' meal with (as you may guess) my boyfriend and his parents. We went to a wonderfully quaint little pub in the nearby countryside. When the menu arrived I studied it meticulously knowing that as I wasn't with my sister I couldn't get away with spending 20 minutes deciding what to eat (hey, these are important decisions!) . Feeling the pressure (such a first world problem), I opted for duck with an orange glaze on sweet potato (it was a posh pub). My decision was made with the following guidelines in mind  1.) It's not something I would cook at home. 2.) It's more exciting than the rest of the menu. 3.) When you go out for a meal you're allowed to choose fatty duck over a salad. 
Everybody else went for a classic pub grub style sausage and mash or steak pie, and when they arrived they were huge plates of home cooked bliss. Mine was not. 
My tough duck with its layer of soggy fat was as disappointing as it sounds. To make it worse I did the worst thing you can do in such a situation; I asked to try my boyfriend's dish. Never do this! Even if you are quite enjoying your meal,  trying the superior dish will always make yours taste like gruel in comparison. So here is my advice: When ordering against the clock, or in a place where you can't recite the menu off by heart, stick to the basics, you can't go too wrong with fish and chips (unless your vegetarian). 

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Travelling duo- will it make or break you?

Before setting off on my Australian/ South East Asian adventure with my boyfriend, I was given some seemingly wise words of wisdom: travelling with your partner will either make or break you. Unsure of what to do with this non advice, I must admit I was a little on edge at both the idea of returning from my trip engaged (made), or with a broken heart and a few more notches on the bedpost (broken..the relationship not the bedpost). 

Absorbing the idea as gospel and embarking on my trip of a lifetime, I couldn't ignore that faint niggling feeling that sooner or later my relationship was going to turn into a soap opera. This did not happen. In reality, yes there were times of 'breakage', mainly as a result of the excruciating 28 hour bus journeys, tired, incredibly tetchy and desperately in need of a toothbrush (arguing becomes a form of entertainment and halitosis is a major passion killer.)  But then came the 'making up', watching the sun set in a brilliant blaze of tangerine and magenta breeds romance and unashamed PDA. 

Travelling will affect your relationship, but so will starting a new job or going on a diet. Don't worry that travelling will push your relationship to the edge, it will, but if a relationship is meant to last, it will. Don't expect that standing the test of travel puts a ring on your finger (just because he likes it does not mean he will put a ring on it), life will change a lot when your plane lands back on reality. When the blazing sunshine and sumptuous street food are replaced by grey clouds and Gregg's pies, you will wonder what on earth you are doing with your life. But if your relationship makes it back in one piece give yourself a pat on the back and buckle up for life's next roller coaster.

Sunday, 19 May 2013

Do opposites attract?

You have that ideal person in your head...A dark, mysterious Italian? A blonde Aussie surfer? You may day dream of that Latino lover, but chances are you won't end up with them. I'm not being negative, I'm saying that the person who we think is our ideal other half tends not to be. 
When I was eight I had a massive crush on Stephen Gately; Boyzone posters wallpapered my walls and 'Key to my Life' blared from the stereo (much to the disappointment of my classical music loving father). My sister, friend and I used to argue about who was the most worthy of being Stephen's wife, the result of which was based on who had done the most research reading Boyzone annuals. It came as a bit of a shock when in 1999 he came out of the closet, and I was informed that my dream guy was dreaming of guys. Yes I know I was a child and I also wanted to marry Ashton Kutcher and Josh Hartnett, but you see where I'm coming from; our perfect person often isn't as perfect for us as we think.
But how about your ideal half being your opposite? Going for a leisurely stroll with my boyfriend I was surprised when he referred to us as opposites; I had always thought the fact that we were so similar had made us such good friends, and that was the key to our relationship. So I asked him to elaborate. He responded by telling me that I am a chatter, I'm from a family of talkers who (as the name would suggest) fill any silence with questions, a spontaneous outburst of song, or a verbalised train of thought (or verbal diarrhoea as he so nicely put it). He, on the other hand, is very chilled out and, not quiet ,but content with a bit of silence . I protested that I enjoy silence from time to time and I don't always ask questions.  So he took me back to earlier that day when he was half way through getting dressed and I asked the 'what are you thinking?' question. He replied '..erm, nothing'. I was confused...'what do you mean, you have to have been thinking something' (isn't everyone's mind a constant whir of activity? My mind is a breeding ground for the deep and meaningful). Exasperated he replied 'ok, well I guess I was thinking..hmmm which socks shall I wear today?'. I found it very hard to continue that conversation. 
And so I realised yes, I do fill silences with pointless questions. I exaggerate while he dumbs things down. I'm an attention seeker while he.. Isn't.  For many things we are quite opposite, but actually that's why we work.  He is the perfect antidote to my 'everything's a drama' reaction to life. Learn from this; opposites do attract and can sometimes be a great combination. Be thankful that your partner isn't your carbon copy, their OCD probably does your messy house wonders. Or if you're looking for love, try somewhere you wouldn't usually go, and rub out the boundaries of your 'type'. Don't be disheartened if you don't end up with Mr right or your girl next door, your perfect person may just be living opposite. 

Saturday, 18 May 2013

Have a good laugh

Unexplainably  moody,irritable and argumentative? We've all been there at some point, when no matter what you try, you can't seem to shift that depressive fog obscuring your vision. This was me recently; I felt like a dementor had sucked all of the happines from my soul (if you hadn't already noticed, yes I do have a tendency to overdramatise). The troubles occupying my mind felt like a straight jacket  infested with fleas, inescapable and irritating. All day I tried to shift it, reading, exercising and eating chocolate (which as we all know is ordinarily a cure all).

 It wasn't until later in the evening that my cure eventually revealed itself in the form of Alan Carr. Opening his show with a stream of inappropriate jokes it took all but 5 minutes to dig me out of my suffocating  pile of gloom and let me breath again, or rather near choke on my own laughter and snort all over my boyfriend (something which he found highly attractive). I followed Alan with a dose of Michael McIntyre and after an hour of his self deprecating jokes I was on cloud nine.
Comedy was my saviour. It reminded me of the importance of laughing at yourself; don't take yourself too seriously and you'll be less hard on yourself when things go wrong. Give yourself a parental telling off and 'think of all those poor kids in Africa', we all hate that overused phrase but the heart of it rings true; there are people out there with far worse problems. Things are never as bad as they seem! It also reminded me how a bit of hearty chortling can totally transform your mood. So next time you feel glum and you can't kick yourself out of it, prescribe yourself some comedy because laughter really is the best medicine!

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Everybody needs some friend therapy

The best type of therapy! A dose of a good friend can be more potent than an anti depressant, more entertaining than a night at the comedy, and more relaxing than a week at a beachside resort (I'm thinking Bali, not England).
 I've had a few pretty spectacular sessions recently. First with some old school friends who never fail to make me feel sixteen again. Retelling tales of embarrassing high school crushes, successfully spread rumours and controversial hook ups, I'd say we were more saucy than sweet sixteen. Then my year abroad ladies with whom I get to pretend to be one of the successfully employed London crew (it WILL happen). And then my Melbourne mate. Salivating over a couple of hot salt beef bagels we swapped stories between bites; tales which tickled the taste buds more than the lashings of hot mustard (no I can't share, we're sworn to secrecy). 
I realised that despite having no house, no job and less than no money (get your violin out), when I had my friends around me nothing mattered but who was going to buy the next round. Treat your friends like gold dust (I'm not sure exactly how you would treat it, but I imagine it would be with lots of care).  When you lose your job and your boyfriend/girlfriend finishes with you (don't panic I'm being hypothetical) your friends pick up the pieces, tell you that you're amazing (even though you're probably a bit of a mess), and help you get back on your feet. Never underestimate the effect a friend can have. 
So when you're too busy to meet for coffee, or you might cancel dinner because you've just remembered that Game of Thrones is on tonight (I know you've been tempted at some point), remember this: Friends are our fuel; they give us energy and life when we're running low, they are more valuable than our wage packet, they are our night vision goggles to help us see the light at the end of the tunnel and they are the best life coaches we will ever have. 

Monday, 13 May 2013

Preventing a hangover

As we know, prevention is better than cure, but as we are never in the right frame of mind to refuse those free sambuca shots at the end of the night, preventing a hangover isn't as easy as we think. As my last trip to London saw me moping around my sister's house sickly and tired after a VERY heavy night of red wine consumption, I decided that this time my night of Shoreditch shenanigans would stop at an overly giddy level of tipsy (well that was the original plan). Waking up at 8am the next morning gasping with dehydration and fighting the need to purge last night out of my system I reached for the vase of water (yes you did read that right) left by my beside and reflected on the night's events...
After an awkward train ride next to a teenage couple openly throwing around sexual innuendos as though the rest of the carriage were naive virgins I finally arrived at Bar Kick in Shoreditch. Walking into a sea of denim and leather, androgynous shirts and oversized frames, I realised now probably wasn't the best time to re wear my graduation dress. Unknowingly meeting my friends in a basement with an uncanny resemblance to the grungy club I used to sneak into when I was sixteen, I quickly regretted my decision to wear royal blue silk. This prompted my choice of drink, a strong Mai Tai topped up with extra rum (I think the bar tender was a mind reader), and so the drinks and dancing commenced. By 3am the lights came on in the club (the name I can't remember) abruptly revealing everyone's alcohol abused faces which were previously obscured by the flattering darkness of the dance floor.
Floating back to my friend's house in a mist of rum, vodka, gin, goldschl├Ąger, beer and sambuca, we protested that, actually we really weren't that drunk (giggle, stumble, giggle). Arriving at the flat I was offered not a glass, but a vase of water  (something which I didn't find odd until the following morning) and toast (never underestimate the power of a piece of bread!). 

So it would seem that I failed at hangover prevention, but I can advise this... Goldschl├Ąger is the devil in liquid form, blue silk is only acceptable at graduation, and drinking cocktails does not give you the ability to dance like Beyonce. 

Friday, 10 May 2013

Never take your boyfriend shopping

After fulfilling my Start Trek obsession (I realise this seriously affects my street cred) and watching 'Into Darkness' in IMAX 3D, which was totally worth it by the way, I went for a wander around Manchester's Arndale Centre.
Lured into the shops with promises of exciting new fashion and drastically reduced items I demonstrated shockingly good self restraint and managed to buy absolutely nothing (cue round of applause please). This was partially due to the fact that my debit card was screaming in agony from the heavy burden of my ever increasing overdraft, and also because I was shopping with my boyfriend. Horrible mistake. Yes I know today's advice seems obvious, everybody knows it's a terrible idea, and yet we still do it. Us ladies kid ourselves into thinking that our men rather enjoy a little shop from time to time. This is delusional. Shopping to a man involves popping briefly into the shops for that...(insert singular item) they wanted, grabbing some...(insert tasty food item), and going home to play FIFA/watch football/sleep. Shopping to a woman involves raiding the racks, stopping for coffee to refuel, and visiting as many shops as possible before her time is up (ladies stop denying it you know it's true). The two just do not mix. I was reminded of this when dragging my boyfriend around; with the face of a moody primary school child he walked silently beside me for just over 1 hour until I gave up, bought him some sweets to cheer him up (which actually worked) and jumped on the next train home. Lesson learnt; sometimes retail therapy isn't therapy at all...never take your boyfriend shopping.

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Jumping through hoops

As the dark clouds have returned in the sky so has the gloom of unemployment. Taking a breather from internship hunting I decided to search for some temporary jobs in what is soon to be my local area, Biggleswade. Yes, it is as small town and rural as it sounds; the nearest shop is a miniature Costcutter 20 minutes walk away, and there is a crazy old lady living in the flat below who is said to frequently knock on your door offering to show you her stamp collection (not sure if this is an innuendo or not, but at least I'll have some stories to tell!). However, this was the closest I could get to London without needing to sell my organs to pay the rent. To my utter dismay the only jobs in the area were in ASDA; 8 hours a week to work as a grocery assistant. Great. As my boyfriend currently shares my jobless status he decided to apply whilst I read Grazia and Glamour, which is definitely classed as research when applying to work for magazines! An hour later he slumped into the chair beside me, exasperated at the fact that in order to handle fruit and vegetables he had to complete a personality questionnaire, fill in his entire work history, complete a numerical test, verbal reasoning assessment and he was now waiting to find out if he had been rewarded with an interview. Seriously, is it just me or is this ever so slightly excessive!? It would seem that with the current lack of jobs, employers are making us jump through hoops just to get an interview. One of my family friends joked that in his time, if your boss asked you to do something you didn’t fancy doing you would tell him to 'stuff it'(PG version), quit and walk around the corner to get yourself a new job (thanks for rubbing salt into the wounds). But fear not, a job WILL turn up (she says still unemployed). We will be crowned as the most resilient, recession defeating ASDA employees in the country.

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Soak up the Summer in Spring!

Summer is here!! As has become typical in England, our glorious two days of summer sunshine has arrived in spring(we really need to sort out our seasons).  The trees are teeming with cherry blossom, the birds are singing, and the beer gardens are rammed with a scantily clad nation frying in the sun. As the subtle pink tinge develops into a more obvious beetroot burn we remain adamant that we wont succumb to sun cream; we need proof that the sun was out when it starts raining tomorrow! Following stereotype I donned my denim shorts, vest and grabbed my fake ray bans, which despite doing nothing to protect my eyes, look great. My afternoon sunbathing was divine, but when popping into the kitchen to make some dinner, I foolishly switched on the news and heard two reporters moaning about how our brief summer was nearly over. They predicted that tomorrow will bring grey clouds and rain- just what we wanted to hear. It's a fact, sunshine makes us happy (sunburn isn't included in this statement). So soak up those rays, don't look at the week's weather forecast (it will only depress you), and get booking a holiday in the the words of Ned Stark; winter is coming.

Monday, 6 May 2013

Working against the clock

I've had a few Cinderella moments of late. Not the beautiful transformation type,  but the striving to make an impression before a deadline. We've all experienced this at some point; that essay you pulled an all nighter for because it was in at 9am the following morning, that ridiculous fad diet you went on in an attempt to lose half a stone before your beach holiday. I spent my entire Sunday exasperating, trying to perfect an original piece of writing I was itching to submitt to Grazia magazine's writing competition.
By twelve o'clock at night I was near drowning in a sea of metaphors and similes, exhausted by the emotion I had poured into the story, but driven by the deadline of the next day. Without any fairy godmother magic I substituted fairy dust for bottomless cups of coffee and a plethora of Easter chocolates which I had previously resisted (diet starts tomorrow?).
Clicking the send button to submit my application was more satisfying than waking up early for work and then realising it's a bank holiday. Though I'm usually more of the overly organised type, working against the clock was exhilarating. I realised that a looming deadline should be seen as a challenge rather than a noose. It can help us to knuckle down and take that much needed, 'now or never approach'. So try not to panic if you find yourself in a race against time,  just be determined, give it your best shot and try not to leave your shoes behind. 

Saturday, 4 May 2013

It's Saturday morning and I'm not hungover...

It’s Saturday morning, I’m not hungover, I didn’t go out last night, in fact I didn’t even have a drink. After experimenting with my dad’s treasure chest of cocktail spirits I ended up making the most appalling concoction of gin, strawberry liqueur, fresh lime and tonic (definitely not one to recommend) and gave up. Instead I grabbed a vimto (what am I eight?) and put on some Alison Moyet (what am I 50?).  

I spent last night playing Masterchef with my dad, I was the judge, so basically I just sat down and watched him cook for me. I indulged in a sumptuous dish of scallops, king prawns, button mushrooms, asparagus and almost a full pack of Lurpack butter (dad doesn’t do ‘healthy’). The night came to a close with a father daughter Amy Winehouse jamming session in which we both awkwardly skimmed over the beginning lyrics to ‘back to black’, and then dad fell asleep on the couch (standard father behaviour). Not the most eventful of nights; no throwing up from excessive consumption of cosmopolitans, no outrageous dance moves, no drunken phone calls (cue my next weekend in London). My night may have been peaceful rather than pissed, but it certainly wasn’t a night ‘wasted’. After a lovely evening I’ve woken up feeling lively, fresh, and unlike many of my Facebook friends, without declaring that I will never, ever drink again (which we all know just isn’t true).  So if you don’t have an epic weekend planned, don’t be disheartened. Relish the calm, invest in quality family time, enjoy the lack of hangover... and get planning next weekend!
Counting down to belated birthday celebrations with one of my faves!

The cons of travelling- Part 3 Prices and perceptions

Picture this, you’re walking into Tesco to pick up some last minute ingredients for the dish you’re making tonight, but there are no prices on the shelves. That quick 5 minute whizz around (maybe 10 minute if you tend to get distracted by the reduced items) turns into a 40 minute chore of having to price check each item with the nearest store assistant. Then imagine that the store assistant hasn’t decided on a price yet, they ask you how much you will pay for it and then they shake their head and offer it for double that price. This is Asia.

Admittedly in Asia things tend to be cheap. Yet after a few weeks of careful observation you will become savvy to the way that every item has a foreign price and a local price. For bags, Bintang vests and fake Rolex check out my previous post on Haggling. Food stalls are a whole other playing field. Being charged double is often unavoidable, but learn, if you will, the art of surveillance:  Channel your inner Sherlock! Hold back before asking how much something is, wait for a local to buy one, take note of how much they hand over and then thrust the same amount into the stall tender’s hands before swiftly departing with your 30p spring rolls.

Dog sticks anyone?
Don't be offended by being overcharged. As a Westerner you will often be stereotyped as a rich, ignorant fool who can’t handle spicy food, and yes there are many of us out there. Deciding to use this to my advantage and wearing my wealthy stereotype like a cloak, on my last night in Bangkok I went to indulge in one of the swanky rooftop bars. Despite having tamed my sun stroked hair and adorned my smartest dress, to my utmost embarrassment I was turned away for wearing sandals! Ok havainas ... ok fake havainas covered in dirt. Be warned that stereotypes do not make up for a lack of acceptable footwear, and trade rooftop cocktails for a barbecued cricket and a bucket of Sangsom rum.

Friday, 3 May 2013

The cons of travelling- Part 2 Accommodation

Time to get specific, forget the minor inconveniences of hostels in Europe.  Creaky bed..oh dear. Slight smell of damp, how appalling! Oh gone are the days of complimentary shower gel, towels and general cleanliness. Backpacking in South East Asia, hostel 'luxuries' include clean sheets, hot water and a friendly cockroach to keep you company in the bathroom. You're lucky if the bed creaks, that means you have a spring mattress instead of a square of foam covered by a sheet. The smell of damp is something which in time you will become familiar with as the majority of hostel bathrooms come with an attractive layer of black mould and no fan. The cons of accommodation are extensive enough to produce a novel, but here are my favourite few...

1.) The toilet situation- Whether it's a blocked pipe or a hole in the ground, toilets are guaranteed to be a hassle at some point in South East Asia. Running out of toilet roll won't even cross your mind, mainly because there won't be any there to begin with. However, you will be supplied with a gigantic, brightly coloured plastic bucket brimming with stagnant water. This, you soon learn, comes fitted with something resembling a plastic pan with which you are welcomed to scoop up some putrid water to both flush the toilet and wash yourself (delightful!). My advice: make toilet paper part of your day pack essentials checklist so you're never caught off guard. 
2.) Wet rooms- Do not fool yourself into thinking wet rooms are desirable, they are NOT. They are called wet rooms because there is no space for a shower cubicle, so the erratic shower head nailed to the wall spits out water at every angle soaking everything in its path. After a while your learn that unless you put your beloved toilet paper in the bedroom it will soon become an unusable soggy waste. Oh and don't forget that the bathroom floor will ALWAYS be wet, only when forgetting this and quickly popping into the bathroom with your shoes still on do you realise just how messy this can get; dusty Asian roads and wet floors equal dirt everywhere. 
3.) Crepe paper walls- I needn't describe this one in too much detail as I'm sure you can imagine the horrors which entail. You may be surprised to know that it isn't the neighbour's raucous sex which is the most disturbing, but their noisy bouts of upset stomachs.
Not until you experience this can you comprehend how a night in a Travelodge is five star luxury.
Backpacker sleepover on the deck of a boat

Thursday, 2 May 2013

The cons of travelling- Part 1 'The little things'

I've been back in England for less than 5 weeks (actually 3 weeks considering I've spent the past 2 weeks in Spain) and already the magnificent, exotic photos posted by my travel buddies are turning me green. Somehow my evening watching Iron Man 3 at the cinema surrounded by over excited 10 year old boys doesn't quite compare to cocktails on the beach after a day of diving. So just for fun, and to ease the envy, I thought I'd write a few posts about the cons of travelling. These posts are here to dutifully ignore the good and entertain you with the bad and the ugly of travelling South East Asia. 
Beach time after a day of diving in Koh Tao
I'll begin lightly with the every day luxuries which you can say goodbye to when you fill up that backpack. Ladies first.. Say hello to your naked self. 
Make up is not a necessity and if, like me, you're foolish enough to bring along your Mac foundation and Clinique mascara you'll only end up lugging it around begrudgingly, not wanting to throw it away but having no opportunity to actually use it. Your mascara will melt, your foundation will become too pale and your lipstick (yes I was vain enough to take that too) will attract far too much unwanted attention from the locals, to whom you will appear utterly bizarre. Looking your best in a photo will now be determined by the level of grease in your untamed hair and how much sweat is dripping down your back. 
On the topic of sweat, even Mitchum deodorant doesn't make the grade. I didn't have a sweat free day in the entire four months I spent in Asia, it IS impossible. There's nothing quite like being told you can't try on an item of clothing because you'll make it dirty.
Then there are the mosquito bites. After spending five minutes by the riverside in Luang Prabang I'd been bitten so many times that my feet had swollen to twice their normal size and my frantic scratching matched that of a kid with a severe case of chicken pox. All hail tiger balm. 
Beside the river in Laos
In South East Asia you will smell, you will itch and your high school 'hot or not' rating out of ten will half. Accept it and enjoy.

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

The curse of being an 'all rounder'

For those of you hopeless at all but one subject at school, prepare to feel smug. For those of you who gave up on academic life to pursue a vocational career, join in. However, I rely on you 'all rounders' to acknowledge this bitter twist and empathise with me. High school was my prime: I got the grades, 14 GCSE's nothing lower than a B. Ok I'll stop before you think I'm bragging. The fact is, this premature success turned me into an indecisive dreamer. I now acknowledge how being an abysmal artist but brilliant biologist helps you to decide what to focus on. Knowing what you're bad at helps you to recognise what you're great at, but making the grade at all of them only makes you spread your time too thinly. I realised this when deciding what to do at University.. English? Psychology? Italian? It wasn't a sure fire decision, it was a pick a name from the hat.
The thing is, I made my decision to study languages based on what I thought may be useful when trying to get a job, what seemed impressive, and what I thought I was rather good at. Upon arriving at University I encountered some of the most sensational linguists who talked Italian in their sleep, and I fell way short of the top of the class. Sure they were horrendous singers and lacking creativity, but whilst I was on stage pretending to be the next Idina Menzel (ultimate girl crush), they spent that extra time becoming one better than me . My once highly desired 'all rounder' status had worked to my detriment. Now that I know what I want it's taking time and pure determination to gain the experience to catch up with my peers. For my younger readers.. embrace what you're good at and more importantly what you enjoy, oh and don't be afraid to spend more time revising for Drama (preferred subject) than Chemistry (just an example), your Chemistry teacher will get over it. I'm fairly confident that my future career doesn't rely on that extra Statistics GCSE my maths teacher signed me up for. This is the curse of the all rounder. 
Studying languages has its perks- Erasmus in Venice