Monday, 24 October 2016

Tips for Iceland Roadtrip

Doing a road trip around Iceland has been one of the best things I've done hands down. There's so much more to Iceland than just the Northern lights and the scenery there is just so spectacular and unique that even driving around for 9 days I couldn't close my eyes for a second as there was so much to see. So here's a list of my do's and don't's for the ring road.

- DO rent a campervan as it gives you so much flexibility and is a fun experience within itself. We have actually never been camping on our own before but we really enjoyed it and the campsites were well maintained and had all the necessary amenities - showers, toilets, kitchen space and a few had some pretty amazing views too - particularly in Vik and Hofn. The van was also well equipped so we didn't have to bring anything but clothes and shower stuff.

- DON'T forget to check if it's a manual van. We both drive manual so it was OK for us but a lot of Europe mostly just do manual or charge exorbitant prices for an auto vehicle so double check. 

- DO bring a credit card with you as pretty much everything is cashless though I did take out a small amount of cash just in case some campsites didn't have a card machine. All of them did.

- DON'T forget to pack lots of layers. The weather will vary a lot and though it was on most party sunny for us we had a few bitingly cold nights and rainy days. Remember the swimsuit too!

- DO stop when you see something interesting happening. We almost missed one of the highlights of the trip which was the Jokusarlon iceberg lake as it wasn't on our itinerary for some reason but stopped because there was so many cars about. It was a pretty amazing surprise and I would be burning if we'd missed it.

- DON'T just go for the Northern Lights. Yes, they are amazing if you're lucky enough to see them however Iceland in the Summer is just so stunning and everything is still accessible. We went in late August and due to good weather we got the best of both worlds but we certainly didn't go JUST for the lights.

- DO check the cloud and aurora forecast. We had one night where we completely missed the aurora but everyone else had seen it because we got lazy and fell asleep. Luckily we caught the Northern lights on our last night there but we did have to drive 2 hours out of Reykjavik for some clear sky. Even though I said not to go just for the lights it's good to be vigilant because you never know...

-  DON'T buy a map. They're pretty pricey and if you get yourself a phone holder for the car then google maps worked just fine. Plus the road signs are pretty straightforward and you are technically just going down one road.

- DO the main ring road which will cover all our favourite spots like the black beach at Vik in the Southwest, Jokarlson iceberg lake Southeast, Myvatn in the Northeast and Grettislaug in the Northwest. 

- DON'T worry about petrol stations as there are so many of them and some you will get discounts for free coffee and free wifi. We read in some blogs that you should fill up when you can but the tourism has increased dramatically over the past few years to make  this advice outdated.

- DO make your own meals as eating out is expensive and you can make a pretty decent meal from a supermarket shop. We made pancakes with caramelised apple for breakfast, marinated lamb and pasta for dinner and lots and lots of warm tea for those chilly nights.

I can't recommend doing this enough, Iceland is so much more than just the blue lagoon and the Northern lights. It's vast and beautiful and really is the adventure of a lifetime.

Sunday, 18 September 2016

Dealing with Travel Burnout

We've been away from home the past 3 1/2 years and have been back once since. At this point it feels like a long time to have been away. And now we're in our last legs of this somewhat epic adventure with a few more somewhat amazing destinations on the itinerary I'm starting to feel a concerning level of apathy towards travelling. Oh another temple/waterfall/statue? Another long bus ride? More seafood pasta? It can get somewhat repetitive.

And not to mention the relationship strain of being in the company of one person 24 hours a day. I find myself dreaming of wonderful brunches with friends at home. Laughing and just relaxing. Doing a good jog along the coastal walk in Tamarama. Lounging in my own living room, maybe doing some watercolouring on a sunny spot on my balcony next some friendly cacti sitting in some cute pots I made myself. Yes, I'm dreaming of domestic bliss. Because for me, travel seems to be best appreciated when it is at bookends with being productive and work. When it is a reward for working hard. Once it starts to feel like routine - it becomes the work. 

So I'm wondering now, if it's worth it. The monetary, physical and emotional investment, to do the travelling for a bit longer or whether not just to go home and do it another time when I'm in the right frame of mind to appreciate it. I don't think there is a right answer but I hope I'll be able to work through it.

Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Watching My Sister Ships

I read a poem once about watching your other lives, your sister ships, from ashore, wanting to be them and follow their paths yet helpless as you watch them row off into the distance. They are those other life decisions you didn't make. Those choices you said no to instead of yes and vice versa. They are your friends of similar age who had families, businesses, houses, holidays and fellowships. They are you and yet...they aren't you. They represent to me what is now colloquially known as your 'FOMO' (fear of missing out). 

These sister ships always have a certain allure, like a mermaid song to a lost seaman. They call to you with the promise of better things and make you second guess your own choices in life. However, I never for a millisecond regretted the decision to sell up and travel. My own ship has taken me to exotic countries where everyday my eyes, ears, tastebuds have wondered at the variety of life. It has taken me to treasure chests of different experiences and people beyond my own sphere and comfort zone.

All this in the search of the ultimate truth in life. Doing what you feel the authentic you would do and following that internal compass that hasn't failed you yet. Because you're the captain of your own ship and the shores you seek are those of happiness. And this place is different and ever changing. 

Thursday, 1 September 2016

My love

My boy takes me on adventures
To the world's edge
And holds my hand
Whilst I peer over the ledge

He knows I'm a bit loose
with my ideas and whims
Will nod patiently
Until one of them sets in

As we lie in the darkness
And the night is deep
I listen to his soft breaths
And smile myself to sleep

Because my boy's love is endless
It fills up my world
And all that it asks for
Is the love of this girl

Sunday, 21 August 2016

The Big Move

Our first unpacking in Shoreditch

The countdown is truly on now. Our final full week in London and though it's exciting there a few hideously boring but necessary things to do. The big one being de-cluttering so as to only send back one box back to Sydney. I didn't want to send back anything really but for one item - my invitalis massager. So because of that we decided that we can fill one medium box. For practical things we we'll need anyway - running shoes, my wonderful Miss Patina cat shirt, my watercolours. The rest had to go.

So it all went, my beloved red bike that I really didn't make the most of. My terrarium jars that never reached their full potential. Little knick knacks and small gifts, all carrying cherished memories of a time and place. There's a sadness and perhaps guilt to throwing these out but also with a little sigh of relief. Because stuff in general is a burden. It gets shuffled around, stored away but when you go through it - only 20% of it is in active use.

When we first moved from Kevin's sister's couch to a shared flat in Shoreditch we walked two blocks with our backpacks. When we moved from there to London Fields we took a cab with about 5 bags of goods. From there to Stoke Newingotn we had a full van full of things. And to Dalston it took two van trips. Every time I was increasingly incredulous of the 'stuff' that we had accumulated.

It becomes almost a passive thing to accumulate things. But requires active effort to cut it down. Which is why I'm glad we're moving back. We will start fresh back in Sydney. With little from London but wonderful memories and a lingering penchant for clotted cream, Sunday roasts and iberico bellota ham.

Saturday, 30 July 2016

Things I Will Miss About London

With a keen sense that we now have a very finite time left in London (4 weeks to be exact) I am suddenly feeling a rush of appreciation for this home away from home. It's very easy to complain about London what with it's high living costs, gloomy weather and heavy work culture however there are certainly things that I am sure I'll look back on and miss.

- Summer fruits. I bought a 550g punnet of cherries yesterday for £1.79. And they are bloody delicious too. Thank you cheap Spanish imports.

- Sun. OK so there's about 10 proper days of sun a year. But those days are seared on your memory for the rest of the year. Because you cannot help but frolic and picnic and feel a palpable sense of joy and appreciation. You never take the sun for granted here.

- People. Lively conversations and a variety of people from all walks of life are a highlight at any London BBQ. When you finally find a way 'in', people are generally very welcoming and open.

-Travelling. Two hours by plane in any direction and you will yourself in a completely different culture with amazing food. It's pretty easier and affordable to fly further afield to the States or Asia if you're organised about it. Travelling is pretty convenient and last year alone we were able to go to Spain, Abu Dhabi, Italy, Farne Island, Greece, New York and Austria. 

-Opportunity. There's chances for real personal and career growth here. But you have to work at it. I've had a great variety of opportunities and would never have gotten as far as I have back in Sydney. I've also saved a decent amount despite all the travelling we've done (thanks to work giving me a flat and a car).

- Exploring. After three years I don't feel like I know the whole city and even now find myself in new parts of town I didn't know existed. Plus there are always new pop ups and events happening.

- Drinking it up. Yes the drinking culture is widespread here so it's perfectly natural to enjoy drink down at the park or on some rooftop somewhere.

- Public Transport. When I do have to catch public transport it's never a drama what with tube coming every 2 minutes, plenty of busses and the ever helpful citymapper. Also, being so flat, bike riding is pretty easy too.

So you can see that there was enough to entice us to take on that extra year after our Tier 5 visa's expired but perhaps not enough to keep us here til our new visa's were due to expire in 2017. But now, we feel ready. It's the final countdown.

Thursday, 7 July 2016

What Next?

Two months. Then we're off again. I'm so excited. This year was panning out to be pretty awful what with my poor broken back, long working hours and an apparently endless London Winter. But now we get to get back into the swing of travelling again. And suddenly, my soul is lifted.

The general idea is do some relaxed Europe travelling. One week in London, another week out. So I finish up work end of August. And the next day we'll be flying to Iceland. It's always been one of those destinations everyone raves about. It's savage natural beauty. So unencombered by human interference. What a contrast to the heaving frenzy of London. I plan on taking a very deep breath. Just in and out. That's all I want life. Simplicity. 

Next will hopefully be a sunshine filled visit to Croatia. Then cheering on Kevin at his 4th marathon in Berlin and checking out the much raved about Budapest and Prague. Then it's a final hurrah in the Netherlands where Kevin will cheering on his fellow runners at the Amsterdam marathon - yes he's that dedicated to the game. 

And last but not least fulfilling a long awaited desire to see animals. Lots of them. In the wild. In Africa. For maybe 6 weeks. Because why not. Because life. Because time has been freed like air rushing out of a balloon. So much time. Not compressed into small compartments I have to beg the rota lady for. Squeezed and pushed into neat, convenient cubes. 

So that's 3 months of travel in the pocket. And the best part? Going back to Sydney. Going home. I look forward to my first Summer thunderstorm. To my body board purchase. To sun and waves and so much laughter. I'll hug my dog. And swim in salt water. And hear my dad's voice and eat my mum's food. And I'll appreciate it so much more for being 3 years without. To be within again.

Thursday, 2 June 2016

Goodbye London

One of my first shots in London
So after much deliberation, many wait-and-sees and a sudden revelation in the middle of the night in a Japanese airbnb, we have made the decision to make our way home.

It's funny because if you had asked me 6 months ago if I was happy in London I would have said yes. And then out of no where. I fell out of love with her.  It was not one specific factor nor one moment but a jenga tower of reasons that suddenly just came tumbling down.

At the end of the day I knew the minute I arrived that it was only ever going to be a temporary situation. I never allowed myself to truly settle here. Never got that sewing machine. Lived on bare necessities.  Focused on what was on was most important to me - travelling. 

The surprise of the situation was being offered a sponsored job that allowed us to to stay here longer. It was both a blessing and a curse. Suddenly life became about work. And along that came stress and the repercussions of neglecting one's health. But I wouldn't take back that decision. It was a steep learning curve and being at the top of the learning curve I can see it's worth.

But after three years of a somewhat haphazard existence it's time to for a more solid foundation. I won't be having 8 holidays a year anymore (though maybe one more to Africa before coming back).But I'll hopefully have a place of my own near the beach. With a sewing machine. And a dog and cat. To spend time with loved ones. And to feel whole again. 

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Top 3 Places in Japan

There are just so many positive adjectives I can use for Japan that it makes it really hard to write this post because I just want to gush over everything. My original post about Japan was just ridiculously long. So I've had had to really elevate my standards, sure I generally had a great time in all the places that we went to, but what were the top three places that really can't be missed?


One of the most stunning places I have ever visited. A four drive out of Kyoto (and lots of expensive freeway tolls) lies the small and well preserved ancient town of Shirakawa. It's divided into two parts. The very old village which is more of a museum I guess as you pay a small fee to get in. But it's so worth it. It was just so tranquil and naturally beautiful, straight from a Japanese fairytale. With the emerald river on one side, snow capped mountains on the other, the stroll around the cherry tree lined pathways is nothing short of breathtaking. We were really lucky to have the cherry blossoms still in full bloom.

The second part of the town is to cross the bridge into the functional part which is still quaint with it's well preserved houses that people still live and grown crops. Then finally it's a 30 minute upward trek to the viewpoint at the edge of the town which gives you a stunning vista of all beauty below. If you do one thing in Japan - let it be this.


A sleepy little onsen town known for great ski/spa trips in the Winter time. We stayed at Tsuyukusa Inn and just loved the 24 hour access to indoor/outdoor tubs and the friendly service we got - which included a photograph of us at the onsen (like a real one, printed out and all). I would have loved to have stayed in the tub all day but really you can only feasibly do it for 30 minutes because it's so hot, and that's with frequent cold water splash downs. There are only a few restaurants in this tiny town but the best thing we had was Hida beef at a rather unassuming BBQ place, so tender and delicious. One of the best beef steaks I've had ever, and I've been to Argentina!

Hitachi Seaside Park/Ashikaga Flower Park

OK I'm cheating a little as these are two separate places about 90 minutes apart but we visited them on the same day (during peak times Ashikaga closes at 9pm and the blooms at night all lighted up look just as spectacular). 

I've always wanted to visit Hitachi as there are always photos of it in those top ten beautiful things in the world lists for it's Autumnal red Kochia bushes. However the blue nemophila flowers hills were really stunning as well and I really enjoyed just riding a bike around the whole park. Extra bonus that we got to see this group of really cute dogs pose for a photo in front of the tulips together.

Ashikaga is a lot smaller but more impressive in the sheer amount of colour. Wisteria trees so large that they need a lot of scaffolding to hold them up. Bright splashes of pinks and purples everywhere you look. Wisteria flavoured soft serve. The fragrance in the air. It had a more cultivated feel but it was so beautiful I could overlook that.

So Japan is just one of those places that I will keep visiting over and over again and each time fall in love with it all over again.

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

A Break for a Break

I've been signed off from work from my GP due to a back injury. It's nothing too serious but as I've discovered,  it needs to be rested a lot to give it a proper chance to heal which means staying at home. Previous to this, I've been quite under the weather anyways, what with catching a bad flu a few weeks ago which lead to a nagging cough which definitely did not help with the back injury, so I've been feeling the strain of my 9-8pm days a lot more. I desperately needed some time off.

Though doing my back in is not really how I would have gone about it. Actually, this whole thing I have found to be akin to the grieving process. First, you're shocked and scared. Then you just want to quickly get back to normal and you're frustrated that you just can't. Then you bargain and make a lot of promises to yourself. Then you relax and accept that you're just going to have to wait it out. Healing takes time and the more you rush it, the more you put yourself back a couple of steps.

The first day was great. I had the luxury of taking TWO naps.  Kevin is working so I don't feel at all guilty for not earning anything whilst I'm off. I'm on some good meds to help me with the pain and then more meds to help me with the side effects of my pain meds. I was feeling good.

Then the restlessness kicked in. I wanted to feel productive but lacked the inclination or ability to do so at home. I was reading a book. Cleaning the house. Staring at my paints. But it's almost like having too much free time stifled my ability to channel my energy properly. I was trying too hard. And become fast stuck.

So I sat. And I thought. And I mulled. I pondered over the big questions one rarely has time enough in the a regular day to pay full attention to. Like, what do do I really want to achieve while I'm here.  And suddenly, the answer was simple. 

I need to get a market stall going. I'd really regret leaving the UK and not giving it a shot. And so far I've been scared to do so because the markets are a lot better here, the standard is higher and I was fearful that I might fail at it. But the seed was planted though. Two days ago, I got one idea about my market. And then another. And then a whole barrage of inspiration hit me. I hadn't felt this creatively inspired in a long time. So I'm going to run with it. I'm going to use these 2 weeks I have to work on my market stall and make the dream a reality. Because the only difference between a dream and reality is action.