My top 10 travel spots from 2015

Happy New Year!

It’s New Year’s a day later (than in Australia) here in Peru, but it was worth the wait! Let’s just say, legal fireworks are as fun as they sound 😉

This past year I was lucky enough to travel through 13 countries, and loved every one. I always have a travel wish list, but as I tick each item off the list it only grows longer. So before I think about my wish list for 2016, I wanted to look back on my favourite places and experiences.

Here’s some 2016 travel inspo for you. Hope you enjoy the list as much as I enjoyed making it!

Sziget Colour Party1. Budapest, Hungary

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Major Bucket List item: Swimming with Whale Sharks in Mexico

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Whale Shark, Cancun, Mexico

I screamed so loudly through my snorkel they could hear me from the boat. I began frantically swimming through the haze of bubbles from the other swimmers, until a huge creature almost the exact same shade of blue as the water came into view. It looked as surprised to see me as I was to see it, and it kept swimming as quickly as my heart was racing. I couldn’t believe it- I had finally done one of the top items on my bucket list- I had seen my first whale shark.

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5 travel lessons we can learn from kids

These lessons apply to everyday, but are especially helpful when travelling. I have worked with kids a fair bit in different environments and have learnt to appreciate a lot of the behaviours of small humans that we lose as we get older.

  1. Get excited by everything

I didn’t take me long when I first started travelling to realise that the same exact type of food or clothing or person can be approximately 18 times more interesting with a different setting/store front/accent. Things that would be normal at home are more exciting overseas. Add to that the plethora of incredible things that actually are new and different and ancient and cultured etc, and travel will teach you to see things with the excited wonderment of a child.

  1. Smile at people

Almost too obvious, but something that we need to be reminded of. Not matter what the situation, it will always be helped by being friendly and wearing a smile. I need to remind myself of this every now and then, because even when you don’t feel like smiling, it will make you and everyone else feel a little better. It is the one true universal language.

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The best festival you’ve never heard of: the almighty Sziget

Sziget festival lights

I first heard of the Sziget music festival while staying at the indescribably, ridiculously awesome Retox hostel in my favourite city in Europe- Budapest. I was living in Europe at the time and had been to Budapest before, thinking that the party haven couldn’t get any better. That was until I heard people talking about the upcoming festival (which I would be gone for). I remember talking to guy who worked as a Roadie, traveling the world with different concerts and festivals, who told me Sziget was the best one he had ever been to. I vowed to one day return for this wondrous event, that the hardest partyers in Europe waited for all year, and this year I finally did.

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Sziget Fireworks

If you’ve never been to Budapest before, it is actually a city divided by the Danube River, with Buda on one side and Pest on the other. On this river there are several Szigets (islands), and one of the biggest is the location of the Sziget Music Festival, a 7 day event held in August every year in which around 80,000 tie-dye and fluro clad individuals head to the ‘island of freedom’ and go absolutely bonkers.

Sziget was everything I expected and everything I had no idea could happen at a festival. It wasn’t just the festival’s location right near the heart of city, meaning we could actually stay at the fabled and most drunkenly joyous Retox Party Hostel every night, and go with new friends from the hostel on a massive party bus to the actual festival.

Retox pres

It wasn’t the line-up either, which was great but nothing special for a European festival. It was everything else that was around it.

There was the beach-

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The Illumiarium-

wpid-received_10153555373626085.jpeg Sziget Illuminarium

*Thanks to my wonderful matey Sigrid (@sigridf123) for her handy phone shots

The different themed party every day at the main stage-

Sziget Colour Party

The Colour Party

The field of wonders with different activities at each station-

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The different performances other than music, including this insane dance-music-bubble spectacular-

Sziget Bubble Show

Why yes, that is two people reaching down from the bubble that encapsulates the audience during the show…

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And yes, that too is a man inside the tube that formed from within the bubble around the audience…what fun

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..and there was even a wall to write down your deepest hopes and desires (don’t ask me what I wrote, I shall never tell)

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There were tea houses and volleyball and debate tents and marriage tents and all the food anyone could imagine and Alice in Wonderland themed bars. There was a full circus section with circus games, fortune telling and puppet shows, there was giant table setting complete with giant crib for people to play out all their weird fantasies. There were so many things to see we didn’t get to everything, and every time we thought we had the festival mapped in our heads we found a new section. There was even an underground labyrinth of tunnels for crying out loud, but we never made it because we kept getting distracted by all the shiny things. Most importantly, there was no judgement, very few dickheads, and not a shirtless, overly muscled butthead guy looking for a fight to be seen. Just a lot of people dancing their faces off, and occasionally rolling around in mud (I did not partake).

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For an Australian, the 5 day pass I went for was about the same cost of a 2 or 3-day festival back home, while drink and food prices were the same as you any place in Pest. In Melbourne, you basically have to give over your first born to buy some crappy vodka pre-mix at a festival, so this left my friends and I pretty shocked (cut to us with 8 mojitos..).

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The music itself was awesome, but my favourites of the festival were pretty unexpected. While I knew Ellie Goulding’s songs before and liked them I was no devout fan, but she put on an awesome show, while her rendition of Your Song by Elton John actually gave me goosebumps. She was just a great performer, and while other acts I expected to really enjoy like Major Lazer and Kings of Leon and Milky Chance, they either performed well but had no stage presence or the other way around. I had an amazing time at all of them, but nothing compared to C2C’s set for absolute boogy-ability. Maybe it was because it was the last day, maybe it was the rain, but I was dancing my tooshy of for every second of their set and absolutely loving it. Yasssss C2C are the besssttttt.

Sziget Lights

Sziget was everything I wanted it to be and everything more. I would go again in a heartbeat/once I have recovered. I miss it already. You should go. Right now. Or, wait until next year…whatever suits you…

New beginnings and why I need those moments of doubt

Airplane window view

I have a one-way ticket. I have no job, no real plans.

I love it.

This isn’t my first trip, or my first time on a plane, or my first time traveling solo. I’ve done this all before, but that doesn’t mean I don’t get the exact same anxieties every time.

Every single time I go away, I experience the same moment of gut-wrenching anxiety. It is a beat in time, a moment in which I question everything, I ask myself ‘Why on friggin earth am I doing this? Why do I put myself through all this anxiety and the stress of saving and inevitable pains of actual travel, when I could live a nice, comfortable life in Melbourne where I rarely experience the fear of planes crashing or of being robbed on a train??’.

The irrational fear lasts for a beat, but in that short time I question everything. It happens in the same way it does when I am scuba-diving. On the descent, every time, I feel fear and panic that I won’t be able to breathe or that something will go wrong. Until I reach my destination, and then the world shifts. Whether that destination is 30m underwater or the international airport of Santiago or London, I have that moment of sheer panic, and then I see whole new world (que Aladdin music).

I see everything different when I travel, and it’s partly because the world is incredible and varied and wonderous, and partly because when you change your circumstances you allow yourself a new perspective. Sometimes my new perspective is a shipwreck, sometimes it is a new culture or language. Either way, I have come to almost enjoy the panic (almost). It’s because the panic is what comes right before the life-changing moments, stressful saving is what allows me to see the world, and anxiety is my body preparing itself for the unexpected. The moments of fear are worth it, because that’s mostly how I know I am pushing myself, getting outside of my comfort zone, and doing something amazing.

My one-way ticket this time is to South America via Europe. In between I fully intend to swim with pigs and whale sharks, dance my booty off on a Hungarian island, and everything in-between. I’m so excited I may bounce out of my seat (although that might be due to all the ovalteenies I just ate).

Bring on the adventure, and all that comes with it.

xoxox

On photography: favourites

One of the reasons I love photography is that it’s so unexpected. You’ll photograph a scene or moment that is taking your breath away and because of that, the photo just can’t do it justice. The photo is just a link for you to that memory, and inspiration for others to go experience it for themselves. At other times,  something seemingly innocuous or even ugly can be made beautiful and interesting when photographed from a different angle or perspective. I love that. In deference to my fledgling skills in, but love of, photography here are some of my favourite photos from my travels so far.

South-East Asia

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Melbourne/Australia

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South-East Asia

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Tasmania

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Morocco

Chefchauen: the blue city

Atlas mountains

South-East Asia…again

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The circus, the temples and the bus of death: Weekend in Siem Reap

Weekend trips can be a pain in the butthole. Especially when they involve a night-bus followed by two huge days followed by another night-bus. Especially when the first night-bus was a death-bus. Luckily for me, Siem Reap is a wee little town choc full of amazing places to explore, and even a circus, so the craziness was worth it.

As I am not strictly backpacking at the moment, due to this pesky internship at the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights, I must cram all my exploring between Friday and Sunday nights. This means if I want to really go anywhere outside of Phnom Penh, I gots to gets the night-bus. Good news though- it was terrifying! Yay! I was initially taken to a bus station where I was the only white person, where I promptly made friends with the first friendly looking dude that sat near me, partly to make friends and partly so someone could translate the Khmer being yelled by the bus company staff. Lucky I did this, as my new matey was able to spot a tuk tuk for the siem-reap-bound that I definitely would have missed. Imagine me, just sitting at creepy ass, middle of nowhere bus station, waiting for a bus that was leaving from an entirely different place. Phew.

So I was taken to the proper location in a tuk-tuk jammed with 5 other dudes. Mmm, I had missed the sweet smell of man-sweat. Not. I finally got on the right bus, and though it had leaky air-con and jammed/broken seats, at it least it had wheels and was semi-functional. I would later find out that this particular bus company is run by a super-dodge tycoon of sorts in Cambodia, and has been involved in several lethal head-on collisions in past few months. All unreported in the media of course. Good. Thank goodness Mr Hostel Man in Siem Reap could tell me all this and book me with a non-death-bus on the way home.

Once in Siem Reap I got right to business. I arrived around 4am, and at around 4.30am left in yet another tuk tuk to see the ancient temples around which the little town of Siem Reap was formed. Viewing Angkor Wat at sunrise is absolutely worth it, or it was the first time I went, so getting a good 10 mins of sleep before heading out seemed like a good idea. Even though my sunset this time was less than amazing, spending the day wandering the temples is quite the experience.

Angkor  Wat

Angkor Wat

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Went to the Koh Rongs, nothing went wrong :)

I recently went to the beautiful island off the coast of Sihanoukville, Cambodia with my loverly friend lushy tushy (real name has not been used to protect her anonymity. She shall be vair famous one day, you wait.) We started on Koh Rong island, Koch Tuch village, a place that has been variously called a paradise but known to some closer to me as a place where tourism and development has continued to damage the local community and environment to a heartbreaking level. Mostly, and definitely for visitors, it’s a super duper purty island with white sand beaches and awesomely chilled bars and people. We spent one night boogying out on the island then headed over to Koh Rong Samloem, the quite island, for a night.    

Our super sturdy boat over to the second island may have also had a big one the night before, as about 5 minutes into the journey the second engine sputtered out. Not the greatest feeling in the world being stuck between two islands with all your not-so-waterproof crapola. Alas, our trusty skipper managed to start it again and we were off, but not without running through the entire series of ‘Lost’ and the movie ‘The Beach’ in my head first.

I spent six weeks living on Koh Rong in 2013 with some friends of mine, but somehow never managed to make the 30 minute trip over to the less developed but equally beautiful Koh Rong Samloem. These islands are developing at a rate of something very fast…a cheetah…or a very hungry bear. Anywho, what a few years ago were relatively untouched islands are now teeming with guesthouses, dive centres and bars/restaurants. 


Samloem is definitely less busy and a therefore a different vibe to the other island, but I would say the key factor contributing to that is that the village in Samloem is not actually on a beach (or at least not a proper sandy beach). When your boat arrives on Koh Tuch village Koh Rong, you are presented with a beautiful white sand beach with all your hearts desires for accommodation, food, drinks, adventuring and even massage now.  Samloem has most of these things, but you have to take a 10-15 minute walk to get to beach (pictured above in my attempt at a above/below shot). 

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