Year Abroad Update: Two Months In

year abroad two months houses

So, I started writing this post more than a month ago, at which point I had intended it to be my “one month in” update for my Year Abroad, but sadly, I wrote a few sheets on a train in Austria and since then, they’ve been gathering dust on my desk. Funny, how life runs away with you.

It’s more than two months since I arrived in Tübingen. At risk of sounding like a cliché, it feels both as though I arrived just a few days ago, and like I’ve lived here for years. Maybe I was always supposed to be here, then. Perhaps it’s that I’ve had so long to get used to the idea. Continue reading “Year Abroad Update: Two Months In”

My Top 10 Grateful Moments in… India!

Travelling, as we all know, has its highs and lows. Unfortunately, when we’re out there, sometimes we get so stuck on dwelling on the little things which are going wrong, that we forget how lucky we are to be able to travel in the first place. I know that I, all too often, find myself complaining, even if it’s just in my head. Maybe I should make it a resolution to go just one day without moaning about something, even if it’s just an internal gripe.

Once you accept that things won’t always go off without a hitch, you’ll cope much better. Trust me. Because in the end, most of it is magical. Nearly every cloud has a silver lining. Nearly. And at the end of a bad day, you just might find something which will make you smile. I always do.

In no particular order regarding their amazing-ness, here are my top ten most grateful moments from my two trips to India these last couple of years… As far as I can think of right now!

Continue reading “My Top 10 Grateful Moments in… India!”

Returning to India: Delhi, One Year On

To anyone who asked me about Delhi after my trip last year, I always said the same thing. It’s a place you love or you hate, I said, and thankfully I took to it straight away. It was true – from the moment I stepped off the Shatabdi Express train from Dehradun in the middle of June, 2015, I knew there was something different about this city. I have also always said that I am eternally grateful that I had two months to acclimatise to India in Dehradun whilst volunteering with the Saheli Trust, rather than coming straight to Delhi and being thrown into the deep end. I don’t think I’d have coped nearly as well in the capital if that had been the case.

More than one year later, I’m back again. Or I was, for a day or so. Whilst last year I spent more than a week in Delhi, this year, it’s been a flying visit before moving on to Dehradun for a couple of days to visit, and then catching a plane to Mumbai (please, save me the 40-hour train journey!)

So, a few things have been different. I’m no longer wide-eyed and unaccustomed to Delhi traffic, and I have even less patience for touts and over-eager rickshaw drivers. More on that later.

Continue reading “Returning to India: Delhi, One Year On”

Pai: At The End Of A Winding Road

Hi everyone! To celebrate me getting back on the blogging train, I guess it’s time for a throwback to one of my favourites from my last trip!

One of the best places I visited on my trip to Asia last summer was a lovely little town called Pai. It has so much character and things to do for such a tiny place, and some of my happiest days during all that travelling were spent there. I was lucky enough to spend the Fourth of July there with some newfound travel friends from the US and Canada, and it’s surprising how the American celebrations managed to make it all the way to Thailand!

Formerly a “hippy enclave”, Pai is one of the northernmost towns in Thailand, and well known to those on the backpacker circuit known as the “Banana Pancake Trail” – the route around South East Asia popular with Western travellers. Trust me, the hippy vibe remains! It’s part of Mae Hong Son province, and lies about 150km north of Chiang Mai, the heart of Northern Thailand. Pai lies at the foot of the mountains and so it’s a popular base for visiting the hill tribes, though not so much as nearby Chiang Rai. Continue reading “Pai: At The End Of A Winding Road”

2015 Roundup

I’m writing this because… Well, to be honest, it’s because I keep seeing people writing soppy Facebook statuses about the New Year and I wanted to do one, but I also didn’t want to embarrass myself. So why not do a longer post here, a forum completely dedicated to embarrassing myself? Ha ha. Anyway, it’s probably going to wind up being a lengthy one, so buckle up.

I should be revising. How strange, and yet how completely predictable that I’m back in the position I was in at this time last year, with a few marked differences. I’m panicking about first-year exams I haven’t revised enough for, preparing to go back to Exeter to start another term. But I’m studying something I enjoy. Even though I have to make myself work sometimes, and I still get distracted by stupid things, and a lot of the time I just want to stay in bed, I don’t feel helpless. I’m not held back by a cloud over my head which makes me doubt whether I’ll make it into the next week, let alone the next year. Continue reading “2015 Roundup”

Why Workaway? A Beginner’s Guide to Travelling for FREE!

Being a broke kind-of-student leaving midway through the year, I don’t exactly have a ton of money to spend nearly half a year travelling the world however I like. This is why I’m a huge fan of websites like Couchsurfing (see my beginner’s guide HERE!) and Workaway.

But Bea, what is Workaway?

So many volunteering projects charge participants extortionate amounts, knowing that naïve gap-year students will willingly pay a lot of money to go to a developing country and make some kind of contribution. But a lot of this money is never seen by the people it’s supposedly helping, so it’s my opinion that you’re much better off skipping the middle man and contacting NGOs and projects directly.

This is where Workaway comes in. It’s a work-exchange website where NGOs and individuals can post requests for volunteers to come and help them at short notice, throughout the year. The sheer range of placements is amazing, and with hosts in pretty much every country in the world, wanting help with all kinds of projects and jobs, there’s something for everyone.

You set up a profile with a picture, a few paragraphs about yourself, and an idea of how long you’re travelling for, where you’re wanting to go, and what you’re willing to help with when staying with a host, and hey presto, you’re ready to find a host!

Continue reading “Why Workaway? A Beginner’s Guide to Travelling for FREE!”

Voluntourism and the ‘gap yah’ stereotype; young people and the Western saviour complex

I’ve already mentioned how aware I am that sometimes, to those who don’t know much about what I’m doing and why I’m travelling, I could be viewed as just one of the hordes of young people on a gap year to ‘find themselves’ through travel. Maybe I am.

Such a stereotype! It’s one I am definitely familiar with, as many students at my university seem to have already taken a “gap yah”, so called in a mockery of the “rah” accent and background of the typical Exeter student; well off, middle class and privately educated. I assure you that despite falling into the fairly loose “middle-class” category, I am neither rich nor public-schooled. My parents have always made it clear that they will support me, but we don’t have money to throw around, and I am always conscious of my spending. I attended several run-of-the-mill comprehensive schools, and a state college.

So I perhaps don’t quite fit the “Exetah” stereotype, but as far as being a white, middle-class, “Oxbridge-almost” (that’s another story), lacking a regional accent, I suppose I fit some of the criteria. Not to turn this into some kind of tale about what a special snowflake I am, and how I’m not like other people. I am simply writing this to talk about my own feelings on this stereotype and what we can do to dispel it. Continue reading “Voluntourism and the ‘gap yah’ stereotype; young people and the Western saviour complex”