I waded into the warm water, the shock of crushed corals and shells under my feet almost instantly turning into smooth, soft sand. In the distance I could spot the island of Koh Phi Phi, a dark green against the blue sky. A few other people were in the water, but not many, and on this little stretch of sand – aptly named Relax Bay – there really was nothing to do but laze around in the shade. And it was then, floating in the calm water, that I decided I’d finally found my favourite island: Koh Lanta.
I waded into the warm water, the shock of crushed corals and shells under my ...
Because that's the thing - we have absolutely no control over the weather (short-term, anyway, ...
I will be back in Nepal in less than a month. I'm actually in Thailand ...
Because I've also been fortunate enough to stay in London a bit longer, I'm seeing ...
As I sat in the main square myself - I ordered my first glass of ...
Because that’s the thing – we have absolutely no control over the weather (short-term, anyway, don’t get me started on global warming). When we go to book a holiday we have little to go on other than what previous years have told us. I may know that a particular season is rainier than others, but even that doesn’t guarantee that I’ll need a raincoat or umbrella.
But looking at that forecast for Bergamo, I decided to pack accordingly. “I’ll bring an umbrella,” I thought. “A pink one.”
I will be back in Nepal in less than a month. I’m actually in Thailand for about two weeks beforehand, and then in Bhutan for a week after, so I will have to pack accordingly. While I’m usually quite confident with what to pack, for some reason I keep humming and hawing about what to bring on this particular trip, perhaps because I’ll be in various climates (from the sunny beaches of Thailand to the chilly temperatures of the Himalayas) and because, well, I’m not backpacking. That’s right, I’m bringing a – wait for it – suitcase. This means don’t have to worry as much about trying to fit everything into a smaller space or wrinkled clothing.
That being said, when I started to think about what to wear in Nepal, and what to bring on this trip, I still thought back to the backpacking trip I took around Southeast Asia and the Subcontinent in 2011. I can’t help it – the clothes I wore then and the outfits I put together were some of my favourites ever.
Because I’ve also been fortunate enough to stay in London a bit longer, I’m seeing this as an opportunity to see more of the UK and of Europe in general. It is incredibly cheap to fly to many European countries from London; with airlines like RyanAir and Easy Jet, it’s possible to fly to some European cities for less money than my weekly Oyster card update to travel around London. I don’t know what the future holds after those couple years in London, so I thought I should take advantage of the proximity to Europe as much as possible in the upcoming year. While I’ve visited a lot of the major cities around the continent, there are a lot of smaller cities and towns I haven’t seen yet. More than that, there are experiences I’d really love to have if I can.
As I sat in the main square myself – I ordered my first glass of wine at 11 a.m., because when in Italy, you do as the Italians do – I was reminded of my first trip to Italy. It was 2006, nearly ten years ago. I was newly twenty-two years old. I had short, dark hair I had cut myself with my mother’s sewing scissors the night before I left my hometown in Canada. Italy was my sixth country on a huge, whirlwind backpacking trip through Europe: I had already been to the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Switzerland, and Germany. I was completely on my own, bouncing from one major city to the next, staying in hostels for a few days before strapping my backpack on and clutching my Eurorail pass to my chest to find another train to another city. When I think of that trip, I think of the click-clack of the destination board in the train station as it updates; I think of arriving in dark cities late at night, searching for a taxi; I think of staring out the window as the world whizzed past, watching green hills unfold in the distance, fairy-tale castles perched atop a few of them. I think of movement. And then, I think of Italy.
If you’ve ever taken a look at my Instagram account you know that I’m not exactly one for muted, soft tones. I love bright colours, vibrant reds and blues and yellows. My winter jacket is lime green, so that has to tell you something. I’ve often written about my love of bright colours on this blog, always highlighting different hues I’ve found around the world.
I started noticing brightly-coloured photos of an adorable vintage-inspired amusement park on Instagram about two months ago. It was aptly named Dreamland, and I quickly discovered it was located in the coastal city of Margate, in England’s region of Kent. Less than two hours away by train from London, I started to plan a weekend trip or even a day off in order to go and experience the place for myself; it just looked like too much fun to not see it in person. Less than a week later, fate intervened, as Visit England wrote to me and asked if I’d like to visit Dreamland on their behalf.
This year, I will say that I’m thankful for the things I normally list: my friends and family, my health, the health of those I love, my job, my flat, this blog and all of the amazing people who read it, and so on. But this year, I’m thankful for something else, too: for being present.
My mum has been saying this to me for years: be present. I’ve also thought that to be present is a key quality I want and need from the other important people in my life, whether they’re friends or romantic partners. So what do I mean by being present? I mean to be fully engaged and aware, to take in what’s going on around you, and to appreciate the life you’re living. To really listen when someone’s talking to you. To take some time to look around you when you walk somewhere. To actively seek new and fun experiences, even in your hometown. I’ve felt it a lot when I’ve travelled, but it’s not as easy to do when you’re living in the same city for a while, or living a more repetitive life.
I once spent a bit of time in Copenhagen… a few months, to be exact. I wrote about why I lived there – and why I love the city so much – in this post. While I spent all that time in Copenhagen, however, I never really explored the rest of Denmark. Call it naivety, call it being broke, call it whatever you want, but the fact is that I never really saw another side of the country.
Fast forward nine years, and I ended up meeting Kathrine at a travel blogging conference. We instantly hit it off and I learned she works for Visit Denmark.
“You should come to my hometown sometime!” she told me. “It’s called Aarhus.” The name rang a bell – I knew that I had met a few people from Aarhus before, and after a bit of research found out that it is known as Denmark’s second city. Only three hours by train from Copenhagen, I was a bit embarrassed that I never made the journey there while I spent time in Denmark.
Part of the struggle of finding shows to go to in London is the cost. In March I went to see the brilliant The Ruling Class with James McAvoy, but that set me back £60 for a matinee ticket. I tried to go see Photograph 51 with Nicole Kidman, but ultimately decided I’d rather by a Eurostar ticket to Paris with the money it would have cost me. And yes, I know – you shouldn’t put a price on art, it would be worth every pound, and what have you – but I simply can’t afford to drop that kind of money all the time when I’m constantly saving to travel, and, you know, living in one of the most expensive cities in the world. But just because you can’t afford to see a show in London’s West End, doesn’t mean you can’t get involved in the theatre scene in London. There are plenty of venues, playhouses, and festivals that promote affordable theatre. My new favourite? The Albany in South East London.