+ A reflection on my travels around the world

Franz Josef glacier hike
Writing from the (dis)comfort of Bangkok airport’s waiting area, it all seems so unreal that I’m actually going home. For over five months I’ve not had a proper bowl of cereal, have no idea about the UK music charts, and have not slept in the same bed for more than a week at any one time!

*Cliché warning* It feels like I’ve learnt so much since departing from Heathrow on Sunday 15th February as a semi-innocent graduate with the rest of my life ahead of me. Here's some of the 'life lessons' I discovered on the road!

1) You really don’t need as much as you think you do.
Everyone tells you before you go travelling to only pack half as much as you think you need, but obviously we all try and squeeze as many home comforts in as possible. In my case it was a big but warm and furry Abercrombie and Fitch cardigan, too many dresses, and enough body butter for multiple bodies!

2) Necessities aren’t as necessary as you first thought.
Seriously, I haven’t used shaving gel for five months – thankfully shampoo lathers up a treat! And thinking back to all the keepsakes I have back home, like old magazines, cassette tapes from the early ‘90s and books I’ll never read again, I’ve decided to carry on this new minimalist lifestyle and de-clutter my life as well! I am even going to go as far as throwing away clothes that I only mildly like, because what’s the point in keeping things you never use? I’m not going completely mad though and throwing away my shoes; a girl has to have one addiction!

3) All over the world there are nice people, and not so nice people.
If you’ve never left your own country you might have a tendency to think people from other countries are vastly different to you because of their ‘weird’ culture and habits. But, as I’ve travelled and met face-to-face people from all over the world, you realise that essentially human beings are simply the same. We all care about our friends and family, want to make friends, have fun and just enjoy being alive. I guess travelling does make you cross paths with people who can be umm... on a different page mentally but that’s part of the experience! At least when you’re backpacking you can leave them whenever you want!

4) Being a diva gets you everywhere and nowhere at the same time!
In SE Asia particularly you have to lose your (may I say it?!) middle-class pretentions and muck in like those less unfortunate than you. That means having more cold showers than you would like, needing to fill up a grubby bucket full of water in order to flush your shit down the toilet, and generally slumming it. During some points of my trip i’ve had to forgo a shower due to being on subsequent overnight buses, which was HELL but also is sometimes necessary. Also, being surrounded by people gobbing phlegm all over the streets, usually right near your feet, is not nice but it comes with the territory I suppose.

So diva might not be the best word to use but you definitely learn to hold your own and put yourself to the forefront when needed. Many people try to take advantage of young foreign backpackers, trying to overcharge them or fool them into buying services they never wanted. In Vietnam and Cambodia especially you are constantly hounded and surrounded by up to a dozen jobless guys all offering you ‘friendly’ assistance for a price. During my Thailand-Cambodia border crossing visit, a guy took my passport off me and proceeded to fill out my forms even though I never asked him to! He then demanded money for something I could have done myself. Basically you have to stand your ground and refuse to pay for things that you don’t want. Taxi drivers and tuk-tuk drivers in Bangkok can also be twattish in their ability to take you to the opposite place you asked them – in one day I had three different guys drive me to the wrong place (Tesco-Lotus rather than Jim Thompson’s House, The Royal Hotel rather than the Palace), so I point-black left them and told them I wouldn’t pay a dime – I managed a whole day around Bangkok without paying for a single taxi/tuk-tuk!

5) As much as you might dislike being home you will end up missing it.
For me, living at home in England is sometimes not unlike being permanently asleep! If you’re skint at home you really don’t have many options for things to do. You row with your parents, grow bored of working full-time or studying, and yearn for some adventure! So while travelling ticks the boxes for making you feel alive and enjoying new experiences, it is not all it’s cracked up to be. If one of your family gets ill or you crave a good night out with close friends, it’s impossible to be with them. Travelling at least makes you appreciate how much family and friends mean to you.

Some words of advice

+ I have probably said this before on my blog, but if you are thinking about going away but are scared, pull your bloody socks up and just do it! Never again will you be as young, fit and free as you are now. So try and dissolve those fears by going to STA Travel or ringing Trailfinders and book a trip.

+ It’s really not as difficult as you might think to travel independently. There are travel shops all over the world or you can go direct to bus stations etc to transfer to your next destination. Also, most of the time you don’t even need reservations for hostels and guesthouses and you can just turn up. Failing that, use to be on the safe side.

+ Make sure you scan or photocopy your debit and credit cards and passport. I lost my debit card and it would have been really difficult to freeze the missing card without knowing the card number etc.

+ Whether you’re going on your own or with friends you’ll have a great time!

+ Things I can't live without

+ Music. I realise just how big a part of my daily routine my iPod is when I forget to charge it and have to endure a day’s commute soundtrack-free. Music can change my mood within a few minutes. I have different playlists for different occasions and am so grateful to musicians for churning out these 3-minute long pieces of genius! In a similar vein, going to a club and hearing your favourite so loud you can feel your stomach throbbing.

+ My nan and granddad. Unfortunately my granddad died last year, but I will still add him on this list because him and my nan have been a big part of my life and mean the world to me. I can’t imagine being unlucky enough to not have known them, and think it’s so important to listen to senior family members and take advice from them.

+ Lost. There are so many critics about this TV Show, but you have to cut the programme makers some slack! The plot itself is so in-depth and complicated, many people think it’s all a ruse to keep us watching and thus make them more money. But what’s the harm if people enjoy it? The show’s characters are all great to watch and I really admire the sheer variety of episodes they’ve created. Every episode succeeds in drawing me in further, and any show that can transport you into another world has to be a good thing!

+ The internet. With google etc the world is literally at the tip of our fingers. It’s amazing how little more than ten years ago to find out about things we had to look into an encyclopaedia. There’s an abundance of information on any subject, and on top of that there are endless ways to connect to others. Without the internet I would not have found people to live with when I went to America, I wouldn’t have discovered about half the places I’ve been to, and I also would have been unable to buy so many good bargains on Ebay.

+ Nature. This is going to sound so soppy, but just being surrounded by beautiful scenery, or experiencing a stunning sunset all contribute to making it worthwhile being here. When I think back to my travels, visiting national parks in west USA or spending a couple of nights camping in the middle of nowhere in rural China, it is these moments that give you a little inner peace.... and I hope that going to different places will continue to affect me in this way for years to come.

+ My Dreamlist

This is a re-hash of an article from my old website; a list of my dreams and aspirations... hopefully I can start ticking these off soon!

+ Within the next few years I hope to have fallen into a career that is fulfilling, creative, and (of course) pays well. When I was ten years old I began a ‘novel’ – basically a childlike story that kept on going for over a hundred pages! My dream is one day to feel confident enough to start a piece of fiction that ends up getting rave reviews and secures me financially :) I don’t think there’s any point in writing if it doesn’t affect anyone else in some small way. Sometimes I have delusions that I might go into TV production – I would LOVE to be a female version of Louis Theroux or Michael Palin and journey across the world learning about people and places.

+ I am really excited to one day own my very own apartment (it sounds more sophisticated than the word ‘flat’!) As a little girl I would wish to be a grown-up so badly that I used to go through the Argos catalogue and pick out furnishings and even plate sets for my very own place. When I do eventually own my own place, I am going to throw myself into designing each room in great detail – I will buy tons of home magazines, make moodboards and play about with different colour schemes until the room’s look is exactly what I want. In another way, having my own place will be fantastic because since I left university I don’t have my own personal space anymore. I hope to live in London or (visa allowing) in California while I’m in my twenties. The San Diego area suited me to a tee; I love the thought of living in a city that is only minutes away from a gorgeous national park and a beach.

+ Being in a position where I can start to buy things whenever I want without having to look at the price tag. I have a real thing for shoes and would kill to be able to walk down Bond Street and choose what shoes I liked most rather than just choosing ones which I can afford. It’s sad to say but not having to worry about money in general is a big dream of mine. I think the reason why so many people are unhappy, either in their families or in relationships, it tends to boil down to financial issues.

+ I hope I never have to work 9-5 in an office for the rest of my working life. To me it seems strange that some people my age actually rush into full-time work even though they will never get these carefree years back. Office work is fine if it’s doing a job you cannot live without, but hopefully I will find a job that involves travelling around and having a varied routine.

+ One day having my own family. Although I worry I’ll never meet anyone I would actually want to start a family with, it’s exciting to think that one day I might be in charge of my very own human beings! It must be so surreal to get pregnant and to realise that a little being has their whole life in your hands, but I guess it’s one of those things most people end up doing with their lives and manage fine!

+ One day having the patience to grow my hair and stop cutting it off whenever it gets long. Me and a friend often have this conversation; why do we sometimes get possessed to cut it all off and then realise a few weeks later that it will take years to get it all back! I think it’s a myth that short hair is easier to handle; with short hair the slightest kink can ruin your hair, but with long hair the bedhead look always looks great.

+ Travel away from home as many times as possible. I can’t understand people who never want to go travelling... I honestly feel like it’s only when I’m off exploring somewhere new that I’m truly alive!

+ Relaunch (again)

This is quite possibly the fifth time since the beginning of Miss Brightside that I have had to start all over from scratch due to my ineptness as a 'webmistress'. This time, I have taken it as an opportunity to rethink exactly what i want to use this domain for. Since its creation in 2005, I have had sooo many high hopes for it, but unfortunately have let it slip and never bothered doing much of note with it.

Now I am living miles away in Shanghai, China, I figured what better time to get the site up and running again... partly because I now have some (perhaps) interesting topics to blog about.

The site is going to be my outlet for everyday musings on absolutely anything. Hopefully within the next few weeks I will start to upload my old articles and some fresh, new, content inspired by my time in Shanghai!

It's exciting because I have way too many ideas - all i need is to actually give myself the time to write them down. Ever since I first attempted to broadcast my writings on the net (god knows what kind of crap I wrote at eleven years old thats floating in the web right now!) I have tried to think as far outside of the box as possible... wish me luck!