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Our Rainbow Panorama in Aarhus

It seems like every time you turn on the news there’s a new story of tragedy and loss. How amazing, then, to get some absolutely great news from America at the end of last week – that same-sex marriage is now legal in every state. I’m not American, and proud to be from a country that has supported gay marriage for some time, but I consider this a huge step forward for the world in general.

It was fitting then, that only the next day the world celebrated with pride parades. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to celebrate in a parade, but I think I got the next best thing: the Rainbow Panorama in Aarhus, Denmark.

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On Accepting Sadness

Stress with my book, my degree, with money, with relationships… none of these things are all-consuming or life-changing. None of these things are even that bad. Taken individually, I probably would have shrugged my shoulders and chalked whatever it was up to, you know, the ebb and flow of life. But for whatever reason, the combination of these things made me reach my boiling point. I just got really, really sad.

And here’s what I decided to do about it…

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Flying Over the Okavango Delta

Nearly our entire group opted to take a scenic flight over the delta. We would be camping in the delta for two days, swimming in its shallow pools and navigating its twisting arteries by dug-out canoe, but as an introduction to the area, we could choose to fly over it first. At around £150 for an hour flight, it seemed like a good deal. In the little airport in Maun we handed over our credit cards and our passports, then were shuttled six at a time to tiny airplanes basking in the heat on the runway.

I could tell we were all a bit nervous; small planes have a tendency to do that to even the bravest souls. We took off, quickly leaving the the small city of Maun behind us. Within minutes, the delta appeared, verdant and alive, a contrast to the dusty ground we had spent the last few days learning. The water fanned out below, snaking its way through the lush landscapes. It seemed to go on forever, this vivid green against the blue of the sky.

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Just Not My Type: The Places I Didn’t Love

It would be impossible to think that one could love every single place in the entire world. Although I frequently claim to, and usually only write about the places I really do recommend and love, there are a whole lot of places that just didn’t really do it for me.

The thing is, I could never say that I hated a place, nor could I say I’ll never go back. It’s just not my style. In the same manner that I’ve never really had a bad date (interesting dates, definitely, but never a really godawful one), I like to think that I’m generally pretty easy-going and can make the best of a bad situation. But, just as I politely sipped my pint of beer on those mediocre dates, realising I would rather be at home watching Better Call Saul, there are a few places I’ve been to that I realised I’d rather move on (or go back to my room to watch Better Call Saul). I completely recognise that, in a lot of these situations, I was lonely or sick or in a weird place in my life or I just didn’t meet the right people – my so-so destination might be your favourite place in the world. I am also in no way not recommending these places, just acknowledging that I haven’t had the best time in every place I’ve ever been, contrary to what this blog might promote. So, in no particular order, here are a few of the places I didn’t love.

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Five Years of This Battered Suitcase: What Next?

The memory is a vivid one: I’m sitting on my bed in Osaka, looking out the windows to the low, grey buildings sprawled out as far as the eye can see. I’m wearing a dress – I think it is black with little red and yellow flowers. My hair is up, of that I’m sure. My fingers are resting on the keyboard of my laptop, hesitating, hesitant.

My days of Livejournal were waning. That platform had hosted my first blog, back when I called myself Chapter Fourteen for no other reason than I like how those two words sounded together. I needed a new name, a new online persona. My Livejournal blog was almost solely about travel anyway, and at this point, 2008, I had already decided that I wanted travel to be a permanent and prominent part of my life. I remember that I tried to find the right words and then, like that, they appeared – This Battered Suitcase – and I registered my new blog immediately.

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Why You Should Embrace Regret

I’m always a little bit wary of people who say they have no regrets. Really? Not one? There’s not one thing you would change about your past, not one decision you made or sentence you said that you’d like to take back? I used to be one of those people who said “no regrets!”. I used to write it in my high school journals after asking a boy out and getting rejected, or missing out on a party because I felt uncomfortable with who I was. In my fifteen-year-old mind, these were all the regrets that I could possibly have.

Yesterday was my birthday; I turned thirty-one years old. As much as I love my life and feel proud of (most of) what I’ve done, I still have regrets, some big, some tiny. Instead of banging my head against the wall in shame, however, I’m trying to take those regrets and learn from them. If those who ignore the past are doomed to repeat it, I’m going to try to do the opposite. Here are some of my regrets, and why I’ve learned to embrace them.

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How Travelling Can Help Your Career

One of the questions I receive via email the most – other than “how do you pay for your travelling” / “you have a trust fund, right?” – is “will taking some time off work to travel hurt my career?”

I totally get it. The job market can be a cruel and competitive place, especially, from what I’ve heard, in the United States. People who have written to me often say that their families are putting pressure on them, encouraging them not to travel or “sabotage their careers”. While I am writing a post soon about garnering the courage to travel, and I’d also like to write about education and travel, I thought it would be helpful to write a post why I think long-term travelling can help your career. It has certainly helped mine.

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The Most Overused Words in Travel Writing

Over the last year and a half, my degree and my job have taken up most of my life. I have sadly had to let this blog slip behind a little bit, which breaks my heart. I love writing blog posts. Sometimes I go back and read old blog posts for inspiration for the book I’m writing, and once in a while I feel really proud of what I’ve written. A lot of the time, however, I cringe. I’m totally guilty of doing some really lazy travel writing. Lock me up and throw away the key, because I have definitely described a city as a “fascinating blend of the ancient and the modern”.

So, mostly out of sheer self-shaming (in the hopes that I never blog/write using these words again… or at least minimise my use of them) here are the words I think are overused in travel writing and travel blogging.

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Returning to Nicaragua

I first went to Nicaragua in 2012, as part of my backpacking adventure through Central America. Through Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panama, Nicaragua ended up being my favourite country in that part of the world. It’s hard sometimes to describe exactly what it was about the country that I loved so much; if I say that it was the colonial architecture, the stunning landscapes, the friendly people, or the fun parties, I could be describing any of the other countries, too. Much like finding a soulmate, we often can’t explain what it is that causes us to fall in love. It’s that magic spark.

When my mum surprised me with a Christmas trip to Nicaragua a few months ago, I was overjoyed. Not only would it mean spending the holidays with my family, a rare treat, I also got to revisit one of my favourite countries. I expected to love it just as much as I had the first time.

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