10 reasons why you should just go travelling…

It doesn’t matter when, where or how old you are, just travel somewhere, anywhere, whenever you have chance. Of course, some people may never get that chance or have barriers in the way. Some people may crave it forever and never fulfil the dream to travel somewhere but you should try desperately hard to see as much of the world as often as possible. Here are some reasons why you definitely should just go…

1: To escape 

It’s probably a common belief that travellers are seeking some kind of escapism and running full pelt away from their old lives. To some extent, they are. Maybe this is perceived as a negative thing running away from responsibilities, maybe a career or whatever else life has thrown at you. However, sometimes it’s good to escape life. Escapism gives you time – it gives you time to think, pause and review. Escaping from the monotony of everyday life can be liberating. Life can easily become repetitive, mundane and draining. Escaping what you’ve always known does not have to be disastrous and it certainly isn’t an easy option. Escaping life as you have known it might just be a chance to run away, hide and re-evaluate what you want out of life. Escaping life can refresh your mind and soul and rejuvenate whatever exhilarates you. Escaping life is sometimes just what is needed. 

2: To learn

That old cliche of learning more through experiences and actually ‘doing’ something is never truer when you are travelling. Through your new adventures, you learn an insane amount about: other cultures, religions, lifestyles, history, food, traditions and people. Everyday you are faced with alien people in alien places so, undoubtedly, you learn constantly. More importantly though, perhaps, you learn about yourself. You learn about your strengths, your weaknesses, your fears, your personal beliefs, your outlook on life and your future dreams. Learning feels amplified when travelling. It is not contained or controlled by a lecturer or teacher in a classroom – it just happens simultaneously and unpredictably as you travel, wander and exist in an unknown place. You learn that you are stronger, much stronger, than you think.

3: To reflect

Our busy lives never really allow time for reflection. It is probably underestimated how important reflection is. To reflect upon your past, present and future is vital. You have to have time to collect your thoughts on people and places in your life. You begin to reflect on who and what is important to you and how you want to live your life in the future. Reflection makes you more determined, appreciative and thankful. 

4: To experience

It is incredible the experiences you can squish into 24 hours whilst travelling. In fact, sometimes it’s mind blowing. One minute you can be exploring a stunning beach and then you are jumping out of an aeroplane and skydiving before ending the night in an Irish pub and winning a karaoke competition with a bunch of people you met the day before from all over the world. Experiences make life exciting. The experiences you have, whilst travelling, are incredible because you are solely concentrating on the experience and not distracted by anything else in your life. When you look back on travelling adventures, the experiences become fairytale-esque stories and hilarious moments mingled together. Travelling heightens your adventurous spirit. You feel compelled to see it all and do it all. You take more risks and you test your character. 

5: To appreciate

Travelling allows you to appreciate your life at home and how lucky you have been to live in a safe environment with loving people around you. Through seeing how others live, you definitely start to think about your own life and past. You appreciate the little things much more too – the stars, the sand, the sea, sounds, animals, art, mountains, rivers, food. You have time to appreciate how baffling and equally incredible our world actually is. I think you also start to appreciate yourself and appreciate the difference that you can potentially make to others’ lives. You appreciate just being alive in the moment. 

6: To change

Change is important but people often fear it even though it surrounds them all of the time. Without a doubt, after travelling you will change your outlook, feelings and who you want to be in the future. You change constantly with every adventure, every story and every person you come into contact with. Your feelings change. Your opinions alter. You know that your future is destined to change because you can feel it. 

7: To grow

As well as physically, and inevitably, growing older whilst travelling, metaphorically you grow as an individual. You become more resilient, fearless, more aware of who you are and what you stand for. You focus on the here and now and how you want to develop individually. Other people, who you randomly meet, also influence your growth. 

8: To challenge 

We would never achieve anything in life if we didn’t challenge ourselves constantly. Travelling challenges you to think on the spot; to get yourself out of a muddle; to take yourself out of your comfort zone; to try new things and to make you think in different ways. How you face and overcome each challenge is important. Learning to embrace new challenges undoubtedly prepares you for life. 

9: To believe 

Self belief is easy in comfortable, everyday surroundings but to believe in your ability to be brave enough to take a giant leap into the unknown and survive alone helps you to believe that anything is possible. To believe in your gut and your instinct without any familiar face or trusting person by your side shows that you believe in who you are and can achieve anything. 

10: To rejuvenate 

Travelling can heal, refresh your mind and expose your soul. Travelling has a unique way of refreshing you and rejuvenating your unique spirit so you are prepared to face your own world whenever you feel ready to face it again. The freedom felt from travelling strips you down to the core, makes you vulnerable and somehow builds you back up to a newly, rejuvenated version of yourself that you didn’t recognise before or realise was even possible. 

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30 things I’ve learnt before the age of 30… 

1: Life is not going to turn out like you planned it to when you were younger. It will take you on twists and turns, ups and downs but you have to embrace it.

2: Hangovers do get worse every single year of your life but don’t let that stop you having fun. Some of the best memories of your life will involve alcohol induced madness but you don’t need it to have a great time! 

3: Smiling at people everyday can make a massive difference.

4: Choose a career that you wholeheartedly, completely and conditionally love. Put your heart and soul into it but remember that it is just a job and don’t let it consume you. 

5: Do not spend your life worrying about things you cannot change. Make changes for you and nobody else. Think before you make a change and then stick to it. See it through no matter what the consequences. 

6: There will always be that one person who got away; where it didn’t quite work out or they didn’t quite fulfil your expectations. They may break your heart and it may be a complete and utter waste but, in the end, that’s ok. 

7: Surround yourself with the positive friends who deserve your time and effort. All of the others will soon disappear out of your life for a reason. The ones that matter will stay.

8: Make sure that you spend at least some of your 20s single – even for a short time. You learn more about yourself during that time.

9: Challenge yourself to experience things out of your comfort zone at least once a year. Always push yourself otherwise you will become stale.

10. Do not be afraid of the unknown.

11. Appreciate small moments. The sand between your toes; the stars in the sky and the views from the top of a mountain. Escape to those small moments that make you feel alive. 

12: Travel as much as you possibly can. Go to different places in your home country and appreciate different cultures abroad. Try new foods; experience unique traditions and immerse yourself in a completely different way of life. 

13: Be alone and be comfortable with that.

14: Be kind to everyone you meet because your actions and words will have an impact. Surprise people to put a smile on their face when you can. Appreciate people. 

15: People always remember what you say. Words are powerful. Don’t underestimate the power of how you express yourself through words.

16: Never stop learning. Try new hobbies and challenge yourself to learn a new skill regularly.

17: Judge people on the content of their character only. Accept and celebrate difference. 

18: Look after your body physically and mentally. Take care of yourself. Listen to yourself. Listening is sometimes more important. 

19: Be positive with others. Encourage, praise and motivate as much as possible.

20: Trust people as much as possible. You have to trust people. Don’t let a lack of trust define you. 

21: Forgiveness is powerful and should not be underestimated.

22: If you ever feel like you are just existing and not truly living, be determined and brave enough to change your world. 

23: Don’t make money your main focus.

24: You quickly realise that life is too short when innocent people are taken away from you. Don’t forget to tell your family and friends that you love them always.

25: Jealousy can eat away at your insides and control you. Try not to compare lives. Behind closed doors, everyone has struggles and different types of happiness.

26: There will be a tiny amount of people that you feel an instant spark with – don’t let those people go even if they hurt you. They are in a spark in your life that will teach you an important lesson.

27: Don’t dwell on the past. Move forward with your head held high always. 

28: Be generous and giving with your time and love not money and possessions. 

29: Do everything in your power to fulfil your personal dreams and ambitions. Whatever it takes.

30: Life is complex and there is no manual or correct way to live it. The purpose is to make a positive difference in whatever way you possibly can. 

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Top 30 places I’ve travelled to in the last 30 years… 

1: The Lake District, England

A stunning landscape of powerful, towering mountains that jut from majestic lakes. A place where famous writers and poets have been inspired. Beauty is scattered throughout. I always feel different in the Lake District. It is therapeutic somehow. Always enchanting.

2: Yosemite, USA

A truly beautiful National Park in California. Humongous, grey structures are imposing and stunning. The rock formations feel like they couldn’t possibly be real. A place full of character and special memories. Peaceful and yet fully alive. 

3: Koh Phi Phi, Thailand

A tranquil island famous for Maya Bay with crystal clear waters and a hub of activity. Crazy parties, dancing and alcohol-fuelled fun fill my memories but unique rock structures are dropped into the water and form an amazing location that offers lots of exploration! 

4: Halong Bay, Vietnam

Scattered with gigantic boats, Halong Bay is captivating and serene. Green boulders shimmer in the waters as you climb to the scenic hilltop which delivers incredible views. 

5: Angkor Wat, Cambodia 

Hundreds of spectacular temples are carefully slotted into place in the impressive area which makes it impossible to see everything. It is a maze of history, stories and a legacy of people. Complete awe and wonder.

6: Uluru, Australia 

A magical place in the heart of Australia offering a greater insight into Aboriginal history and culture. Uluru has its own personality and changes with the time of day and weather. It is a spiritual place and deeply intriguing. 

7: Gardens by the Bay, Singapore

The highlight and spectacle of an interesting city, the gardens boast huge tree-like, purple structures that come to life each night with a light show. A beautiful representation of earth and nature in a bustling city. 

8: Las Vegas, USA

A place where social rules and values disappear and you morph into a completely different person. No inhibitions. No restrictions. No responsibilities. Just pure entertainment and enjoyment! 

9: Ibiza, Spain

The party capital of the world. People are free to be whoever they want to be. Music is the heartbeat. Dancing freely, in unison, with people from all walks of life sharing a passion for music. Blistering sunsets that never disappoint.

10: Victoria Falls, Zambia

Simply incredible. A mass of water pouring , spraying and catapulting into the abyss. Wonderfully impressive. My happy place to escape to. Magical, uplifting and mesmerising. 

11: Le Grand Bornand, France

Hidden away in the French Alps, a quaint town where delicious food, quiet people and nature coexist. Striking mountains, wispy clouds and the fresh air enveloping every inch of you.

12: Verona, Italy

The home of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. A picture-perfect city where history and romance are intertwined. Delicious food, a humble aura and filled to the brim of culture. 

13: New York, USA

Nowhere else on earth like it. Regimented skyscrapers align and unite together. Everywhere you walk, you have to keep looking up – open mouthed! A melting pot of American culture. Brash, bold and beautiful. 

14: The Swiss Alps, Switzerland

Strikingly stunning mountains. A hidden gem in Europe and not always discovered. Snow capped mountain tops stand proud and tall. It feels close to heaven at times. 

15: Sydney, Australia 

A cove of hidden beaches that take your breath away. Modern, authentic and genuine. Rapidly changing and adjusting to the modern world. A divine lifestyle coupled with iconic buildings and bridges.

16: Rome, Italy 

Unbelievable how history appears from every corner in Rome. It encourages your inner gladiator and reveals carefully crafted fountains; delicious gelato and an impressive history ingrained in every building. 

17: Hvar, Croatia

A hidden gem where expensive yachts are anchored regularly. The island is beaming with life and yet you feel like lots of secretive spots are yet to be discovered. Glamorous and glorious. 

18: Lake Bled, Slovenia

My favourite Lake in the world. A separate, tiny island is situated in the middle where a gorgeous church sits majestically. Blues and greens dominate the view and people bathe in the luscious waters. 

19: Fraser Island, Australia 

A unique island off the east coast. The home of dingoes, shipwrecks and spectacular natural lakes. It’s fascinating, intriguing and filled with adventure. 

20: Auschwitz, Poland

A massively important place where I believe every single person on earth should visit. A reminder of what humans have the capacity and power to do. A life changing experience filled with darkness but also a sense of hope and change. 

21: Florence, Italy

Filled with art, philosophy and history, Florence is charming and reserved. The delicate buildings and statues reveal the creativity that flows through the city. 

22: Zion National Park, USA

Home to the famous Angel’s Landing walk, Zion National Park is another mountainous wonder. A steep scramble to the top of Angel’s Landing provides a 360 view of an undulating valley. 

23: Berlin, Germany

A defiant city crammed with the woes of the past and the hopes of the future. A graffiti-tastic expression of how a place can be divided but also overcome adversity. 

24: Queenstown, New Zealand 

The adrenaline junkie place-to-be filled with ridiculous and crazy activities to push you to your limits. A complete thrill and set in the backdrop of mystical mountains and glaciers. 

25: Monument Valley, USA

The home of the Native Americans. Unreal, deep red rock structures propel from the ground in different locations. Each structure has a deep meaning and a story about the special culture. 

26: Hoi An, Vietnam

A pretty, hidden town where lanterns hang from above and float down the river. Petite shops, inquisitive people and a picturesque setting. 

27: Cameron Highlands, Malaysia 

An emerald green patchwork of leaves and trees with rainforests that create a huge mass of stunning greenery. 

28: Majorca, Spain

A nostalgic place where I remember being a teenager and running along beaches and jumping through waves. A typical British tourist destination that oozes special family memories. 

29: Bangkok, Thailand

Vibrant, overwhelming and electric. A city that is a mishmash of Thai culture, religion and the modern world. Where you travel by tuck tucks, barter for everything and embrace the sheer madness. 

30: Wigan, England
Because everyone simply loves their home. Wherever you go in the world, your heart is always at home. 

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My oxymoronic relationship with teaching – it’s a love/hate thing

I love teaching and yet, at the same time, I hate aspects of it too. It’s like marmite. It’s a constant battle to try and master the balance between a career I adore and actually living my life instead of becoming engulfed, consumed and drowning. In search of this balance, after 7 dedicated years of teaching, and 5 promotions in the last few years, I recently handed my notice in and bought a one-way ticket to the other side of the world in search of, well, I’m not quite sure what. It all sounds rather glamorous, fairytale-esque or brave as some people tell me. Funnily enough, I have met many similar people along the way in my position. Not willing to burn out and escaping the monotony of everyday life, I’ve ditched the shackles of expectation and defied the norm in some respects. About the embark on my dream promotion, I threw it all away. 

I’ve never taken a risk like this in my life but, 12 months on from admitting something was wrong, I believe that I definitely made the right decision to escape for a while. I deserved some time away for myself, a break, a complete rest and a chance to refresh, rejuvenate and re-evaluate life. Yet, whilst I now sit on a stunningly beautiful beach, admiring our breathtaking world, for the first time, in a long time, I’ve been able to truly reflect. You know, that thing that they always bang on about at University, whilst training to be a teacher, but in reality we never actually get time to do. I’ve been able to reflect on what I’ve left behind in the teaching world and what state I might have been in if I hadn’t taken this sabbatical and somewhat spontaneous decision to completely change my life. So, a few months in, here are the things that I do not miss in the slightest and the things that I also desperately miss about teaching – the profession that can turn you from an enthusiastic, inspirational, passionate performer to a deluded, cynical, stale oddity within years. It is a profession that is completely misunderstood; wonderfully rewarding and deeply destructive at times too. It is a tangled web of complexities that make it both intriguing and challenging. 

What I do not miss: 

1: Marking: 
I’ve not picked up a red, green, purple or pink pen in the last few months and it’s been heaven. Marking policies are now absolutely insane. I completely understand that constructive feedback is essential for progression and, yes, most of the time it works but it also takes up valuable time and becomes a disheartening task. You feel compelled to tackle every single literacy mistake and, even when they say, make them do more peer and self-assessment, you still have to double check that. I feel like marking is an endless problem that cannot be solved. The guilt you feel as a teacher is unprecedented. It is simply not physically possible, especially for English teachers, unless they have more time dedicated to it or more frees to make it sustainable and effective. It’s mind-numbing and demoralising at times. We need to reconsider our obsession with it and leadership teams need to think of more inventive ways to help teachers manage their marking. 

2: Drainers: 
Here, I am referring to the types of teachers that unfortunately drain life and enthusiasm out of the profession and take great pleasure in doing so. Usually found whispering in a corner, they are bitter and twisted about every single child they meet and every new policy that comes into play. They struggle with the ability to adapt to change; to accept it and to embrace it. They have “done it their way for years” and ultimately won’t change for any Tom, Dick or Harry. They’ll ask you why you have even considered a career in teaching and warn you to get out while you can. These spiky individuals exist everywhere – fortunately, they are few and far between. Smile at them. Acknowledge them. But never ever become one of them. 

3: INSET: 
Apart from the free food that you sometimes get, if school can be bothered or afford it, and the relief in September when you haven’t seen 7am for 6 weeks, INSET is boring. Like any child on the first day back at school, I love seeing my teacher friends and reigniting the banter but, after an hour, everyone is yawning and everyone has heard it all before. I wish they would liven them up – make them engaging at least like we are told to make every lesson for the children! Challenge teachers to think in a different way; reinvigorate their passion for teaching instead of just harping on about facts, figures and Ofsted. 

4: Data: 
It has its uses and it is valuable but it is also absolutely ridiculous how obsessed we are about numbers. Children are not human beings any more in education – they are a million different statistics. Analysing data can help to see patterns and gives me clear information but it does not tell me: why the child is upset; why the child is acting in this way and why is the child not coming to school. 

5: Hierarchy: 
Although I’m at the top of the food chain, subject wise, I absolutely despise the hierarchy of subjects and how different subjects are judged and categorised according to an elitist view that certain subjects should be avoided and are not worthy. Ok, yes, literacy and numeracy underpin the majority of other subjects and are vital for everyday life but I despise the fact that some subjects have been completely disregarded, scrapped and destroyed. Mainly, this impacts upon the arts – some of the most valuable subjects society can offer. This is why so many children are disheartened and disengaged with school because it does not allow many of them to excel where their individual strengths lie. We’ve lost all of our focus on whole child development and personalised learning by replacing it with a warped view that somehow one subject is better than another. In my eyes, all subjects are equally important and children should have more exposure to various subjects to challenge them in different ways instead of being pigeon-holed and forced to study certain subjects because somebody in Westminster believes it’s a better subject. 

6: Exam Culture: 
Everything revolves around exams and exam results instead of the whole child and their personal, social, emotional and academic development. It’s as simple as that. We’ve completely forgotten and lost sight of the importance of helping children become good, honest, well-rounded individuals who feel happy, content and equipped to face the world.

7: Government: 
Education is a pawn which Governments enjoy playing with. Too many changes without enough support, time and discussions with the people actually on the ground doing the hard work makes teaching exceptionally difficult because we constantly face battles between expectations that are unrealistic and our own professional judgement that is completely ignored by successive Governments. Standards have to be set but teachers also need more input as well and feel that they are listened to. 

8: Break Duty: 
Always placed on the busiest teaching day on your timetable, I would regularly forget my duty and be seen running through the corridors trying to get to my spot on time. Others, relish every minute of the power that comes with break duty. Huge coats are on ten minutes early and classes are dismissed before the bell just so they be on their spot in plenty of time and relish 15 minutes of shouting and screaming at sweating, floppy-haired children that are running around aimlessly enjoying their freedom. 

What I do miss:

1: The children: 
Ultimately, the children make the job what it is. They create the magic and the madness. They are at the heart of every decision you make and they never cease to amaze and entertain you whilst driving you insane sometimes too. Teenagers are quite misunderstood and have a bad reputation but the majority are just struggling to fit in whilst trying to find out who they truly are and at the same time making important life decisions. I miss the characters: the quiet ones who sit at the back and roll their eyes with you; the loud ones who always have some gossip to reveal to you; the grafters who will try their very best no matter what; the lazy ones who moan every single day and the class clowns who can’t help cracking a joke when the opportunity arises. Children somehow manage to put a smile on your face when you’re having a terrible day and also manage to make you pull your hair out in frustration. They are challenging yet intriguing and underpin every decision you make. I’ll never forget one of the classes I taught in my first year of teaching (the nightmare class) and a girl could not understand the plot of a particular story. She asked me to put it into pictures for her so I prepared it for the next lesson and she couldn’t believe that I had done that for her. It made me realise that if you selflessly give a small amount of time and effort for a child, they will respond to you and respect you even more. The children are why we do the job. 

2: Colleagues: 
Because we spend a large part of our lives at work, your colleagues become like family. When you work in tough schools especially, you need your colleagues and their support more than ever. It’s a unique friendship because you are flung together in a working environment and wouldn’t necessarily have ever met in life otherwise. Having someone to offload to, being a shoulder to cry on or an ear to listen to is always important in teaching. I’ve been very fortunate to have met some incredible colleagues, whilst teaching, who have become cherished friends due to the experiences we have shared together; how we have worked as a solid team and how we have supported each other. I miss their loyalty, empathy and understanding. 

3: Creativity: 
To be a good teacher, you need to have flair, imagination and creativity in the classroom to keep your lessons vibrant, interesting and engaging. Sometimes, it is easy to become stale and yet teachers are some of the most creative people I know but you can easily become complacent and forget how creative you are. This means that it’s important to take risks; bounce ideas off other teachers regularly and have the strength to try new tasks in class. I miss creating new lessons that are aimed at specific classes and sometimes specific individuals in an attempt to engage their disengaged minds. It’s certainly a challenge and I wish we had more time to share creative ideas professionally sometimes. 

4: My teacher stare: 
Every decent teacher has one and can use it to their advantage. The teacher stare can have a profound impact and, as I’m out of practise, I’m concerned that I might lose my touch. I’ve been using it occasionally on my travels though. Once perfected, it never really leaves you. 

5: Dinner Ladies, Caretakers & Unsung Heroes: 
The heart beat of any school, I miss talking to the additional staff that are full of life and huge characters in school. Not only do I sometimes get a cheeky extra slice of bacon on my butty from the dinner ladies, they are also massively important to a school as some understand the children better than the teaching staff. We can learn a lot from the wisdom of unsung heroes who support the children unconditionally without question or thought. 

6: The buzz: 
There’s nothing quite like the buzz of a classroom environment filled with sparkling personalities, inquisitive minds and unpredictable moments. You can’t replicate that buzz anywhere else in life. When you have a class that connect, work together and are united, it somehow creates an aura that envelops the room. It’s hard to explain unless you’re a teacher and you’ve felt it – it’s magical. 

7: The achievements: 
A lot of people tell me that exam results are worthless and pointless. I understand their frustrations with a system that judges, pigeon holes and sometimes scars our young people. However, when you see the face of a child who gets the C grade that they have desperately wanted, and worked tirelessly for so they can get into college and achieve their dreams, it is a wonderful feeling. This Summer, whilst I was in Malaysia, I found out that someone in my set 2 class got an A*. This is the first time in my career that I have ever taught a child who got the top grade and I just knew she would do it. She was exceptionally quiet, reserved and polite. I wrote in her leaver’s book that she should aim for the very top and to believe in herself and she did it! It’s an unbelievable feeling to help someone achieve their ambitions. Her understanding and appreciatation of literature was remarkable. She defied all expectations. Achievements are not always a letter on a piece of paper though. They can be the smallest achievement – just making it to the lesson and sitting down or remembering a particular fact from last lesson or remembering not to shout out! Either way, encouraging success and celebrating achievements is definitely something I miss. 

8: The challenge: 
Without a doubt, I thrive on the challenges that face teachers daily. After all, without challenge there is no achievement. We have to be lots of different things to lots of different people. Working with young people, with various personalities, views and issues, is not easy but there is no other challenge like it at the same time. It pushes your mind and your skills to the limit. I miss the challenge of how I will deal with specific students’ behaviour; how I will engage the quiet ones; how I will teach a specific concept or idea and how I will support a particular child going through a difficult time. Maybe one of the biggest challenges for me is balance – being able to find a way to allow my love for the job not to be diminished and rise above the frustrations. Like in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, the love is always more powerful than the hate despite the two emotions being intertwined. I still believe teaching is the best job in the world and, after my well deserved break, I’ll be back to continue making a difference in a way that no other profession possibly can. 

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Quirky Melbourne

Arriving in another city, after days in the mountains and fresh air, is always difficult for me. I’m always a little overwhelmed by huge, imposing cities full of hustle and bustle. You are just a tiny ant in a world of gigantic skyscrapers, car fumes and people darting through streets. I guess cities are impersonal and sometimes make you feel insignificant – maybe that’s the appeal for some people. I’ve never lived in a city. It’s alien to me. I’m trying desperately to challenge myself to attempt something different – push myself to embrace city life. People adore the vibrancy, chaos and buzz. I just begin to seek the serenity of peaceful places where I feel secure instead. 

Melbourne is certainly a unique city. Quirky, alternative and certain of its own identity. It’s voted as the most liveable city in the world and it certainly has many charms. People say you’re either one or the other – Sydney or Melbourne. It’s a fiercely contested battle and they are definitely polar opposites. Melbourne is well-organised by a meticulous tram and train network that makes the city easily accessible and has created small suburbs that are littered with quirky coffee shops (literally, everywhere) and sprinkled with bright artwork/graffiti on the walls. There is sort of a grungy feel to some of the suburbs. Weird and wonderful characters appear in the streets – a true spectrum of all walks of life – all accepted. 

Being in Melbourne obviously makes you instantly think of the infamous ‘Neighbours’ soap opera phenomenon. Booking on the ‘Neighbours’ tour with a friend saw us driving out to the suburbs for half an hour and being told obscure facts about the 30 year old programme. We arrived at the studios and had a photograph with the famous ‘Erinsborough’ sign which is an anagram of the word neighbours. Parts of the set were there to take photos of and one of the cast members came to meet us. Unfortunately, or embarrassingly, nobody knew who it was! Finally, it was revealed that he was killed off (in the programme not literally) a few years ago but he still worked there. An elderly couple from St. Helens (the town next to my home town) suddenly realised who he was as they religiously watched it at home. We had photographs with the erm sort of famous actor and parts of the set before heading off to Ramsey Street. Unfortunately, to everyone’s disappointment, the street is not actually called Ramsey Street and the tour give you a sign to hold up to pretend! People actually live in the houses and they are just used to film once a week. They have tight security on the cul-de-sac and we all took photographs with the houses that appeared much smaller than I remembered or imagined. Finally, we were treated to an all-star documentary on the journey home. The legendary soap definitely tries to capture the Aussie lifestyle and culture. 

The chaotic Federation Square, outside the impressive train station, is just off the main road – Flinders Street. Like most cities, the centre is bustling and overcrowded but boasts some funky buildings and museums to explore. A short walk down to the Yarra River takes you to the Southbank and on to the many gardens that provide a glorious view of the corporate giant skyscrapers that tower in the distance. Art seems to be a recurring feature throughout the streets of Melbourne – it is clearly important to people and a strong expression of emotion. Hosier Lane is mightily impressive. Graffiti covers every inch of the intriguing street – a protest of feelings and emotions splattered against walls and even dustbins in defiance. It’s mesmerising and thought provoking. Side streets are crammed with Paris-style cafes that compete for the best coffee from around the world as people devour poached eggs and avo for brunch. Churches and museums pop up in the streets at different places and the old fashioned tram does regular circuits around the city for free. The city is fascinating because you are never quite sure what will appear around the next corner. 

The weather is often unpredictable in Melbourne and it changes the appearance of the city from a grungy, drab grey when the clouds are scattered to a vibrant, multicoloured rainbow when the sun shines. The State Library Victoria is a little hidden treasure and absolutely stunning. It has interesting exhibitions and is also incredible to look at as a building. Embracing the brunch and coffee culture, I met close friends and watched the world go by – everything feels like it is a slower pace in Melbs. Lygon Street is the Italian heartland and filled to the brim of deliciousness. You can eat gelato and pizza until your heart’s content. Just a short tram ride away, or drive, is St. Kilda where you can walk along the esplanade and admire the sea. They have a typical seaside theme park, called Luna Park, situated near the cafes and many houses/apartments that line the coast. 

Melbourne is a city that is sure of itself and proud of its individuality. It has hidden nightclubs, cool bars down side streets and petite restaurants. It continues to develop, alter and strives to be different. I can see the appeal but it didn’t steal my heart like Sydney and Brisbane. 

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Adelaide, The Grampians and The Great Ocean Road

Flying into Adelaide, rolling, emerald mountains could be seen from above and then the aeroplane cruised down closely towards the patchwork of typical Australian houses. My friend from college, who I hadn’t seen for over 10 years, was waiting for me in the airport which was lovely! Instead of the usually panic to work out how to get to where I needed to be, my friend whisked me off to the beach which was great. After a wonder down her local beach, we headed straight for Glenelg which has a small, pretty harbour, cute coffee shops, a tram that runs through it, modern apartment buildings and traditional houses too. It has a good mixture of modern and old fashioned shops and buildings. A large ship and old fashioned tram stand proudly near the harbour and we wondered about before stopping for a hot chocolate and a delicious treat of what I can only describe as long strips of doughnut mixture dipped in a shot glass filled with warm, melted chocolate – absolutely divine! 

Driving into the main city, it is clear that Adelaide is a well-structured, pretty and simple city. Quite a few churches are scattered around the city which again has a mixture of modern buildings and older architecture. We parked on the outskirts, near the Oval, and as we walked into the city we saw lots of people running in bright orange tops. My friend explained that this was a specific 5K run that happens every week and the concept is that work colleagues challenge themselves to run it as a team but the main focus is individual improvements. The results are published and people try to improve on their previous times and generally improve their fitness – what a brilliant idea! After a mooch around the streets, we had a delicious Thai meal at a quirky restaurant. 

The next morning, I awoke early and headed straight the bustling Central Market. Like most traditional markets, it was full of life and vibrancy. With bright fruit and small delights on offer, people hustled and bustled whilst exchanging their money and searching for bargains. Little children, from a local school, were busily rushing around the place too searching for different items which was refreshing to see (probably more exciting than the classroom). I treated myself to a steaming bowl of porridge, banana, honey and cinnamon with my new favourite drink – chai latte. From here, I walked down to the road where all of the local museums are situated. The buildings are stunning and are next to the University which is a beautiful building too. I visited an old, traditional library which was built from dark wood, with a traditional clock in the centre and filled to the brim of ancient books that stand regimented and seem untouchable. Next, I had a lunchtime reunion with another friend from school and we ate Japanese noodle soup which was another culinary delight and a great catch up. Returning to the museums, I explored more fascinating information on aboriginal culture and excitedly examined the science and history museum which was filled with weird and wonderful animals, rocks and minerals. I’ve definitely enjoyed exploring museums more than ever. Maybe you just appreciate it more when you are older or maybe I’ve just finally had the time to broaden my mind and be more open-minded, curious and thirsty for knowledge. Perhaps, that’s what travel encourages. 

Finally, a trip to the Botanical Gardens was well worth it as it was simply beautiful. Lovely pathways, huge trees, sculptures, fountains and a stunning glass house where cacti scattered the floor and plants bloomed. Wondering around the main town, I passed the iconic ‘Malls Balls’ which is essentially two gigantic, metal balls and finished the day with a little bit of shopping. The city is easily accessible and has a relaxed vibe. 

The next day, my friend picked me up again and we headed for Mount Lofty in the Adelaide hills. The 5K walk was quite a challenge for a backpacker who’s not done much exercise or been eating very well for a while! At the start of the walk, was a small, pretty waterfall and then we were tackling the steep path that meandered through trees up, up and up. Eventually, we reached the lookout at the top which was a fantastic view of the city and worth the strenuous activity. After a slice of cake and a hot chocolate, our walk down was much quicker. Next, we headed to a local winery (which Adelaide and South Australia is famous for) and it was a gorgeous little spot tucked away from the main roads. Sat in the beaming sun, surrounded by the peaceful vineyard, we enjoyed a glass of wine and demolished a cheese platter! I finished off my time in Adelaide with a table tennis and pool tournament with some lads in the hostel – some things never change! 

Early the next morning, I began a short tour from Adelaide to Melbourne via the Grampians and cruising down the Great Ocean Road. On our little bus, we had 14 people (13 women and 1 man) of all ages and from all over Europe. We had people from: England, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland. Our first day involved a long drive to get to the Grampians but we all chatted on the bus and made a few stops along the way. Chipping in to make burgers for lunch together, we all said who we were and where we were from like the first day of school. Before we knew it, we were heading into the mountains and made it to the spectacular McKenzie Falls which we walked to. When you’ve seen Victoria Falls in Zambia, every waterfall seems pathetic in comparison, but this was impressive still although we couldn’t get too close to it. We also visited Reid’s Lookout which gave us a great view of the mountain range. I always feel better in the mountains – it’s refreshing, rejuvenating and revitalising. Our accommodation for the evening wasn’t great but we all mucked in for dinner/tea and then played cards for a while. I taught some of my fellow travellers how to play ‘Chase the Ace’ and ‘Pig’ which are two family card games that involve no skill whatsoever but are very entertaining and everyone loved them both. 

The second day of the trip was probably my favourite day. We got up early and headed straight out for a trek through the Grampians to a place called the Pinnacle. Scrambling over the rocks, we eventually reached the summit which was amazing. The sun had just recently risen and we had clear views across the valley. The pinnacle had two huge rock formations that jutted out over the edge of the valley which made for some impressive photographs and felt like you were on top of the world! 

As a group, we then headed to the local Cultural Centre which our guide told us was one of the most honest cultural experiences that you could have in Australia. I learnt about more history and how the local people lived and survived. The past was not hidden or covered up but very raw in the exhibition. However brutal the truth sometimes is, it is important that it is still made available to people to learn about. Unfortunately, the weather had started to change (apparently this is common in Victoria and you can get 4 seasons in a day) and it started to feel like an autumn day at home in England. We headed to Tower Hill Volcano for our lunch and I spotted a wild koala clinging to the tree tightly as it rocked in the wind and rain. Emus aimlessly scurried around the spot and we entertained ourselves by chasing them away from our food by pretending we were emus ourselves. 

Before we knew it, we were cruising down the infamous Great Ocean Road and completed four stops at different compelling sights. The weather continued to be unpredictable and at moments the sun was glorious but it was still bitter and the wind was thrashing at our faces. We firstly stopped at the ‘Bay of Islands’ to see scattered sandstone structures plonked into the tumultuous sea that seemed animalistic. Next, we learnt about London Bridge – named after London Bridge obviously – and it had an interesting story because a section of it fell away some years ago whilst a man and a woman were getting jiggy on it! The joining part collapsed and the two people, having an affair, were catapulted into the sea and eventually rescued by helicopter after a few hours whilst camera crews captured their every move! Busted! 
Lockout Gorge was equally as impressive as this was where a shipwreck story had occurred and two people had managed to survive and take comfort in the caves. We were able to walk down to a tiny beach in freezing cold conditions as the sand blasted our ankles. It was a case of take the picture and get out of there quickly because it was so cold and the wind was wild! 

Finally, we arrived at the ’12 Apostles’ which is a bit of a clever marketing ploy because there are not 12 rock formations at all and there has never been 12. Originally, there were 9 and now there are 8. The Australian Government simply changed the name of the place to attract more tourists and it worked! Unfortunately, the wind was out of control by this point and we were struggling to hold our phones, cameras, selfie sticks and sunglasses as we were pushed and pulled in all directions by the strength of the gusts. My hair was blowing all over the place and my teeth were chattering! Australia is not meant to have weather like this! The black clouds dominated the sky and we could see that a thunder storm was looming. Wrapping up warm, we had a meal at a local pub and a few entertaining games of pool before snuggling into bed with heaters on as the wind, rain and thunder rattled on the window panes and doors. 

On our final day, we went for a walk at Maits Rest Rainforest and ate some of the ferns as well as learning about the trees, plants and wildlife. Further stops at Apollo Bay for a delicious cake and then koala hunting saw a wonderful performance for the flashing cameras. We also stopped at the lighthouse which was used to film the classic 90s TV programme ‘Round the Twist’. Excitable Brits walked up to the lighthouse singing the theme tune and taking photos. Our final stop saw us all having a group photo under the sign and statue which is dedicated to war heroes. Finally, we drove into bustling Melbourne. Skyscrapers filled the skyline as a new adventure awaits in the a brand new city… 

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Magical Uluru

I’ve been desperate to find some culture and history in Australia. When you visit anywhere in Europe, it is bursting with culture and history in every crevice but Australia, founded just over 200 years old, is a baby in comparison to Europe. In search of a greater understanding of Australia’s complex past, I booked a direct flight to the heart and centre of the Australian outback – the infamous Ayers Rock (the English name) or the spiritual Uluru (the true, aboriginal name). Whilst coming into the land, the pilot announces that Ayers Rock is to your left and the whole plane tilted with people desperately trying to catch a glimpse but I tried to resist. I wanted my first glimpse to be face-to-face, raw and real. 

Travelling with a friend, who I met in Vietnam last year, was a welcome and exciting change. The airport was tiny but we quickly picked up our luggage, the rental car keys and zoomed off to our accommodation. There is just one company who own all the different types of accommodation from camping to a posh hotel. We were in the 20-bed dorm which was comfortable enough. Firstly, we explored the main town centre which is very small and just has one of everything that is a basic need: one post office; one bank; one hairdressers; one supermarket and a couple of cafes and shops for the tourists. There is also a museum at the complex and lots of free activities too, for example, listening to aboriginal people tell stories or watching them painting the traditional artwork. It was a quaint and fascinating place. 

Itching to see the red rock, we sped off into the distance on the empty, swirling roads until we spotted the mighty entity that miraculously juts from the desolate wasteland surrounding it. It’s colossal and breathtaking. It almost seems impossible that something so magnificent even exists. Yet, it is peaceful and fragile at the same time. The purpose-built roads meander like a river hurtling towards the sleeping, lion-like structure and we suddenly spotted a sign saying sunset viewing. Pulling up on the road, we had a moment to take in the huge size of the rock. It’s completely unfathomable. For miles and miles all you can see is auburn dirt covered with tufts of stale, lifeless grass, shrubs, the odd, obscure flutter of small purple and yellow flowers and a couple of medium-sized, flakey trees gently poised and rather insignificant in comparison. Uluru proudly towers above all else – mighty, powerful and impressive. There is little sound. The rock, although defiant and strong, is somehow subtle and delicate at the same time. It’s bewildering and beautiful. As the sun began to lower, the whole rock changed colour – a deeper, darker red and a seemingly more despondent character. Scattered clouds filled the sky but Uluru didn’t cower or quiver it just remained regimented – a faultless spectacle. 

After a visit to the Visitors’ Centre to learn more about the aboriginal culture, stories and history, that evening, we attended an organised meal, sunset drinks, an astronomy talk and the latest art exhibition that is currently on show. Whilst sipping champagne, we took selfies and watched the sun slowly creep to its resting place. Clouds clung to Uluru and swept through the dusky pink sky but it still felt magical. After a lovely 3 course meal; traditional didgeridoo entertainment and dealing with pesky flies, moths and grasshoppers, we had a wonderful astronomy talk from a local guide. Astronomy is huge out in Central Australia and one of the best places in the world to look at the stars because the night sky is untouched by light pollution. Although we had a few clouds, we still learnt about the stars and complexities of our incredible galaxy from a very entertaining guide who used what can only be described as a giant, green light sabre pointing into the night sky! 

After mingling with our fellow tourists at the dinner table, we were allowed to explore the latest art exhibition which was coming to life in the distance. The ‘Field of Lights’ exhibition, designed by a British artist called Bruce Munro, is at Uluru for just under a year and is probably one of the most captivating pieces of art I have ever seen. It is one of those rare times in life where words and pictures cannot fully explain how enchanting an experience is – you simply just have to be there completely to understand it. Words and images do not do it justice. In the small booklet we were given about the artist and artwork, it said that it had inspired people, healed people and deeply moved people so I was quite intrigued to see this masterpiece. From a distance, it looked like a sea of multi-coloured poppies gracefully twinkling in the moonlight but from up close it was truly stunning. Walking around it, mouth wide open in amazement, I already felt what was written in the little booklet. On a simple, logical level, it was just light bulbs at different levels joined together by wires of light and it changed colour. On an artistic, metaphorical level, it was a tangled web of human veins joined together by a complex maze of light-filled wires and each light bulb somehow represented a person or life or something unique. Strolling around, I was blown away by it. It was peaceful, mesmerising and uplifting. It’s amazing how something so simple can be transformed into something so incredibly mystical, imaginative and powerful. 

On our second day, we bravely awoke from our slumber at ridiculous o’clock to capture sunrise. We sped down the twisting roads again, in darkness, and poised ourselves (cameras at the ready) waiting for sunlight. Thankfully, sunrise did not disappoint as it was spectacular. The sun’s rays crawled up the side of Uluru and gave it new life again. The white moon could still be seen and only wisps of white cloud hung on in the sky. Uluru changed from a drab, brown to a magnificent sun-burnt orange. 

Next, we headed to the 8am free walking tour where a guide took us to a few different spots on the walking track around Uluru. Standing underneath the rock makes you feel very insignificant and powerless. Our guide told us many stories about Aboriginal people and asked us kindly not to walk up the single track to the top of the rock. Currently, you can walk up the structure but people have died doing so and the Aboriginal people have asked that people do not walk up it as it is an extremely important place to them and, as he described it, like their religious scripture as it tells so many stories. Just as you wouldn’t disrespect or destroy a bible or Qur’an, you wouldn’t want to contribute to the erosion and destruction of their holy place. With this in mind, although intrigued to see the views from the top, I decided that I would respect the Aboriginal people’s wishes. We saw where the aboriginal people would have collected water; learnt some information about the stories and saw the markings on the walls that the men use to inform the young men about how to survive in the brutal environment of the outback. Whilst many Aboriginal people do not live like their ancestors now, it is important to keep their sacred place safe and pass on the history and importance of it. There are still many issues regarding the history of what happened to Aboriginal people and the current situation in modern society. I guess like many different countries that were colonised it is very difficult to change and adapt to different ways. With colonisation comes conflict, change and chaos. Some of the history regarding how Aboriginal people were treated is deeply shocking but I can see that Australia is trying to rectify past mistakes. The Aboriginal people believe in a strong connection with the land, environment and animals. You cannot imagine how overwhelmed they must have been when colonisers approached with their diseases, weapons and enforced new ideas and beliefs upon them but, such is life, and we have to learn from history. 

After the walking tour, we decided to complete the 10.6 KM trek around Uluru. Most people either cycle or drive around it but we relished the challenge to walk – well, at least for the first hour! In blistering heat, it was difficult at times although very flat. What struck me the most about the sheer structure of Uluru was that it looked completely different from every single angle. Every ten minutes or so, we would look up and admire the rock formation from an alternative perspective. It was quite bewildering but at times it had smooth, bulging boulder shapes and then at times it was rugged and had eroded circles splattered into the side like craters. It had eye lids blinking at you and mushroom shaped structures too with scratches. Black lines are carved into various sides of the rock where the rain falls. I would actually love to see Uluru when it rains or there is a thunderstorm just to see a different personality. There are particular places that you are asked not to take photographs and designated places which are separated into being spiritual and important specifically for men and women accordingly. Also, little stories are revealed at different points throughout the walk. We were definitely relieved to finish the walk but felt we had accomplished it too. 

On the third day, we headed to the lesser well-known structure of Kata Tjuta which is slightly further to drive to but equally impressive and definitely worth it. The rock structure looks like something taken straight from The Flintstones as the giant, smooth lumps are connected like the humps on a camel. We completed two steady walks here to different lookout points. One was through a gorge with the rock formation at either side. It was a more intimate experience and you felt completed engulfed by the gigantic structure. Again, reiterating how miniature and insignificant we are in this humongous world. If I learnt anything from this visit, it is that culture, history and people are always important. Although we are relatively invisible in the grand scheme of things in our huge world, the small things that we do and experience are important and can still have a profound impact. I feel lucky that I’ve experienced Uluru and its spirit. It is definitely a completely different side to Australia. It was just simply magical. 

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15 things for a trainee teacher to remember…

Most trainee teachers will be coming towards the end of their first Half Term and feel absolutely exhausted already. Their brains are probably about to explode with the amount of information that they have been given at University and they probably haven’t even taught many lessons yet so they are starting to think how will I ever cope! They’ve probably heard the phrase, ‘sink or swim,’ a lot and they are possibly feeling at a complete loss or wondering why they even chose the teaching profession in the first place. Panic has already set in and they are likely to be completely overwhelmed and start to consider whether they have chosen the right path. Here are 15 things that might help them feel a bit better…

1: Remember why you came into the job; what inspired you to be a teacher and never lose sight of it – even if it’s imprinted right at the back of you mind behind the other 20 things on your to-do list! 

2: You are on the biggest rollercoaster of emotions in your life but you will survive – I promise. Somedays you will cry at night (never in front of the class); somedays you will be belly laughing at the comments from a pupil and somedays you will clawing your eyes out! 

3: You will eventually become au fait with the ridiculous amount of acronyms that dominant your teaching life.

4: It is massively important that you maintain a work-life balance by any means possible. Do not say no to meeting your friends. Do not say no to spending time with your family and loved ones. Do not allow your hobbies and interests to stop. You have to have some balance – you deserve a balanced life! It is too easy to let the job consume and engulf you – you must be strict with your time. Keep Saturday free – always – no matter how impossible it feels!

5: Your mentor may be young and hip; old school to the core or give you the demon stare and speak to you like one of the pupils but you have to suck it up! Whatever happens and wherever you end up on placement, you learn something and you will not be there forever. You learn what type of school you like or dislike very quickly. No matter what the experience, you will end up where you are meant to be.

6: Unfortunately, you may feel from time to time like a failure because you are constantly trying to impress different members of staff who have different ideas about what teaching is like. Teaching is a science to some extent but, perhaps more importantly, it is an art form. Like all art, it is difficult to perfect because everyone has conflicting opinions on it. Remain focused on the idea that you will learn and pick up ideas from a range of teachers; try to listen to their thoughts and advice but, ultimately, you are responsible for developing your own, personal art form. You are unique and you have to bring that unique person to the stage – never be afraid to reveal a little piece of who you are to the class.

7: You can’t run before you can walk. It takes time – years even. Let go of being a perfectionist. 

8: Every bad, disastrous, terrible lesson can be learnt from. Reflection is vital. Give yourself time to think about what happened, why it happened and how you would change it next time. Reflective and honest teachers are the best kind. For every bad lesson, there will be many good ones too. Don’t dwell on the bad or beat yourself up about it. Be proud of yourself when it just clicks or works! Inner strength and resilience is massively important and needed more than ever.

9: Ignore the drainers and the moners who repeatedly tell you that you are making a mistake with your life and career. You are not – teaching is a tough profession but also exceptionally rewarding.

10: Perfect your teacher voice and teacher stare so that it becomes natural. Feel free to try it out on friends, family and pets!

11: There is always one pupil who you feel that you can’t quite get through to, connect with or understand. This is ok. You cannot change, alter or form a bond with every child that you teach. You can make them a priority though and never give up on them. Think of that child now, focus on them next Half Term and see what happens.

12: Planning lessons does get easier over time. Although it feels like an endless task now, and takes you hours to plan an activity or plenary, it does eventually becomes natural. Never lose creativity from your lessons though and never be afraid to try something new – even if it doesn’t quite work. 

13: Don’t be afraid to ask questions, explore different teaching methods and discuss what has happened. Talking about the disasters and the successes is so important. Communication is key to keeping you sane! Remember, everyone, not matter how long they have been teaching, has moments of despair! That’s why teachers become so close – they share emotions together through the difficult times and the wonderful times.

14: Remember how it feels to learn something new. Challenge yourself every year to learn something new, if you can, so you can relate to the pupils and remember what is it like to be frustrated, agitated or annoyed with yourself if you struggle and also how incredible it feels to achieve something. Words are powerful and praise is probably your most powerful tool – you can motivate a child forever with your positive words.

15: Never underestimate the influence you have on the children you teach. They are the most important part of your job. Your actions and words will stay with them forever. You never really know how much influence you are having over a child’s life but you are having a huge impact every day. You are worthy, valued and embarking on the best job in the world. 

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Noosa, Brisbane and Byron Bay

Noosa is a glamorous, small town. I arrived in the middle of a bank holiday weekend and the NRL Grand Final. The place strikes me as rich, if not a little pretentious, but also the perfect spot for families and a getaway weekend. The hostel I was staying in was situated quite far out from the centre but they ran a regular bus service to the beach which was useful. After getting a lift down to the main beach, I quickly realised that it was chaotic and absolutely heaving. I think I’m possibly a little beached-out now even though they are wonderful places. I much prefer the secluded and interesting beaches compared to the Baywatch style ones! The town is full of designer shops and upmarket restaurants. Typically, I ended up in an Irish bar with a friend from Fraser Island. We watched the Grand Final together which I thought would be an amazing atmosphere but there was no Queensland team in the final so the atmosphere was more subdued. Apparently, last year they were packed full with over a thousand people! The supporters watching were quite serious and focused on the game which luckily I love too. My Geordie friend didn’t know too much about rugby league, obviously because Newcastle is football through and through, but I think she might have been a converted fan after watching what was an entertaining game. 

I only had one full day in Noosa and unfortunately the weather took a turn for the worse and rain was forecast for the afternoon. After checking TripAdvisor, one of the main things to do was check out the National Park which was very close to my hostel. Therefore, I set out on a 3 hour trek down to Sunshine Beach, which was more secluded, and followed the path all the way round to Main Beach in Noosa. The path saw me walking along the beach; up steep steps and I was taken to various lookouts to scan the pristine ocean. Even when the clouds are looming, the temperature was still quite high and the views still magnificent. The nooks and crannies, rocky coves and inlets were full of character and natural beauty. Towards the end of the walk, I was joined by more and more people who were just walking a short distance from Noosa to some of the coves. One of the most popular viewpoints was Hell’s Gate which which had a steep and jagged drop filled with rocks but, ironically, the view was anything but hellish. 

The afternoon, as predicted, was rain-filled and most people chilled out in the hostel watching films, relaxing and chatting. That evening was a free wine and cheese night which was a great idea from the hostel. Once I’d had a free glass of wine and got chatting to a few people, the next thing I know I’m in a random pub involved in a pool competition with some of the locals! It was possibly one of the strangest pubs I’ve ever been in. You could probably people watch in there all day and be completely entertained by the weird and wonderful people. For a Monday night, it was a bizarre atmosphere and turned into a rave by midnight which was quite odd too! Either way, it was a fun night with some more new people. Moments and memories come and go so quickly when travelling. I often wonder where people will go next; what will they experience and what will happen in their futures. 

Brisbane gets quite a hard time off travellers who claim that it’s not worth going to and tell you to miss it out but I absolutely adore it. It is a quietly charming city, not pretentious in the slightest, but sincere, modern and safe. The YHA that I was staying in was absolutely huge! Luckily, I was planning on meeting a few friends for a reunion and I always think that knowing people in a city is much better because you get to know the city in a different way through the eyes of people who know it well and already love it. I met some friends that I travelled with in Vietnam last year and we chilled out at a local bar whilst a wonderful signer serenaded us all night – just one man and his guitar! Perfect evening!

The following day, I met up with another friend who I had made friends with in Airlie Beach. Together, we headed over to the West End for coffee and brunch. We went to a quirky cafe called ‘The 3 Monkeys’ and the quote ‘never judge a book by its cover’ has never been so apt. When you walk in, it has dark wood everywhere and a grungy yet intriguing feel. However, after you’ve ordered and turn the corner, the whole cafe opens up into a Narnia-esque cavern. Filled with wonderful pictures, photographs and memorabilia from all over the world, it is a fascinating, hidden gem. After that, we drove up to Mt. Coot-tha for a scenic view of the entire city, ocean and surrounding places. It was the perfect day for a perfect view. In the afternoon, I explored Southbank which is one of the major attractions in Brisbane. Set along the river, there is man-made beach/lagoon; a brightly coloured Brisbane sign; quirky bars and restaurants; a large wheel (like the London Eye but smaller); theatres and art galleries. It is beautifully presented and you can easily explore the whole area during the day or night. You walk along pathways that are surrounded with metal structures and purple flowers delicately blooming above you. Impressive and unique bridges can be seen at different places along the river and are lit up at night. There’s something peaceful and refreshing about the Southbank. It is relaxing and not overcrowded. It is the first place in Australia where I thought I could actually live here. That evening, I went for a run along one side of the river to the Botanical Gardens, crossed a bridge and headed back to the other side of the river. People were out running and cycling the route in droves which was great to see. 

Excitedly, I also spent some time exploring the Queensland Art Gallery and Gallery of Modern Art situated on Southbank as I have found it difficult to discover many cultural/historical information from my adventure so far. I thoroughly enjoyed both galleries as I learnt more about aboriginal art and how art was an important part of aboriginal culture. The modern art was also thought-provoking, if not sometime ridiculous, but always interesting. In the confines of everyday life, we probably forget to stop and appreciate art as much as we should. I am not really artistic in the slightest, apart from a little with photography, but for once I enjoyed looking at the artwork from different angles and perspectives and learning about it. Maybe it is an appreciation that comes with age or maybe it’s just finally have the time in my life to ponder and observe life in a different way. After a wild night out with my friends, sampling a few of the bars and nightlife, I can confirm that Brisbane is definitely worth a visit! 

My last stop on the Eastern adventure was Byron Bay – the hippy capital of Australia. A quaint town, filled with hipsters, music, artistic influences, peace, love etc. Situated on yet another golden beach, buskers pop up in streets and on the beachfront to entertain the masses. The local shops are quirky, alternative and unique. It’s peaceful but I could never live there. I booked in for a surfing lesson for the following morning for 3 hours. I was excited but slightly nervous for this. You can’t really come to Australia and not try surfing – it’s their favourite pastime! I was picked up by a stereotypical surfer dude with straggly, blonde locks who called me ‘man’ a lot. We headed down to the beach and learnt about the positioning on the board. We had to name our boards and, in the instructor’s words, make love to our boards! Mine was called Bruce. We practised pushing our arms up, then moving our right knee first before the left leg and then pushing up into the surfing position. I was with a couple of other girls, of a similar age, and we were all keen to get in the water and just have a go! We only went out to about waist height and our instructor helped us out by giving us a little push when the waves came. Miraculously, I stood up first time and absolutely loved the thrill of it. I think I got a bit cocky then and fell off straight away the next time after standing up for a few seconds. It was such great fun but hard work physically as well. The hardest bit was pushing the surfboard back through all the waves to get back in position again after you had surfed out to the shore. Although I was a bit nervous originally and thought I would be useless, I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and I was surprised at how many times I was able to stand up. Our instructor was showing off later though by doing handstands on his board making us all look rather inadequate! I probably should have had a rest after the surfing but I met a Dutch girl and we went for a bike ride to a different beach which was secluded and stunning. The bikes didn’t have any gears but luckily the route was pretty flat! The next day I paid the price for my competitive nature as I was in agony with my triceps! 

At night, walking around the streets, I stumbled across a busker who was mesmerising. He was singing Jeff Buckley’s ‘Hallelujah’ with just his guitar and there must have been about 100 people in the street watching him. I immediately got goosebumps. Raw talent like that is always so inspiring. I could have stayed to listen to him sing all night – it was incredible. I love those spontaneous moments whilst travelling that just appear from nowhere and force you to stop and really live in that actual moment. A morning of reading followed as the weather took a turn for the worse but in the afternoon, although still cloudy, I walked up to the lighthouse which was a great walk along the coast passing coves, pretty beaches and whales and dolphins in the distance. The lighthouse was built in 1901 and had fantastic views of the surrounding area. It was a perfect way to conclude an epic trip along the wonderful east coast of Australia. 

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Travellers… We’re an odd bunch! 

For anyone who’s ever been travelling… How many of these types of travellers do you recognise? Which type do you belong to? You might just recognise yourself in a bit of all of them… 

1: The Meticulous Organiser

Organised within an inch of their lives, some travellers like to plan every moment, minute and second. They usually carry a book, file or diary with them and have every single time, place and destination carefully mapped out to ensure that they don’t miss one thing on their adventure. Every flight, bus ride, boat ride and camel ride has been considered, paid for and must be adhered to due to fear of the “plan” being altered. Research here has been the key as they’ve spent hours and hours meticulously planning every event beforehand. Their organisational skills are phenomenal and they usually ensure that every tourist attraction is ticked off the list without fail. However, the lack of freedom, spontaneity and ability to embrace change can sometimes be a downfall. 

2: The Unbelievably and Ridiculously Chilled Out and Laid-Back 

Usually seen lying down, with blonde, matted locks, they take couch potato and chillax to the next level. Regularly seen sauntering on a beach, park bench or bed, this traveller has no worries, concerns or problems with their lifestyle. Mainly, they have no plan whatsoever and just see wherever the wind takes them. Usually, the wind takes them to a hostel which has agreed to let them stay for free if they clean a couple of toilets for an hour a day. Never knowing where their next meal will come from or what their next adventure will involve, they see life as easy and simple. Nothing is over-complicated. However, the lack of drive and ambition can lead to incompetence and a limited existence. 

3: The Panic-Stricken Hypochondriac 

When life throws these people lemons, they definitely don’t make lemonade. They make a mountain out of a molehill and fireworks explode out of every issue and problem. Often seen sprinting around a hostel, in numerous directions, looking dishevelled, bog-eyed and confused, this traveller is frantic – constantly! Worrying about every moment of their trip; panicking beyond belief when something alters, they simply forget to actually enjoy watching the sunset or be in the actual moment that they are experiencing. Continuously asking multiple questions, to whoever they can, whenever they can, to seek comfort or support is a common feature. They can also regularly be seen sat in a corner, on the phone, with their hands on their heads or whispering to themselves whilst punching their forehead. A moment of peace is rare. 

4: The Silent Communicator

There’s always one person who doesn’t speak or communicate in any form other than maybe through a death stare. Often found lurking in the dorm rooms, tucked up in bed with ear phones in and a blanket over their head, you’ll be lucky to ever find out their name or nationality. Traumatised by other human beings being in the vicinity of their presence, I’m never quite sure why they came travelling in the first place. Maybe, to “find themselves” but, ironically, they’ve realised that they already know that they are ignorant and lack all social skills. Sometimes, the language barrier can impact upon this person and understandably it must be difficult but the refusal to smile, make eye contact or even raise an eyebrow doesn’t help anyone. 

5: The Fog Horn 

Heard within a mile radius at all times, the loud traveller pops up regularly at inappropriate times. Whilst most normal people are quietly listening to music or reading on a bus journey, they take the opportunity to have an argument, on the phone, with their loving partner and share their inner most thoughts with the rest of the bus. Alternatively, they spend time singing aloud on flights with their headphones in just so you know that they are still there as you try to snooze! Every cultural experience and tourist attraction deserves a high pitched whoop and fist pump to demonstrate their exhilaration! Often surrounded by others tutting, eye rolling and eye brow lifting, they are completely unaware of their annoying presence and continue in a brash manner because they won’t change for anyone! 

6: The Group/Romantic Couple 

Travelling with a well known sidekick provides some strong positives e.g. power in numbers. The girls tend to have pre-planned their outfits and hairstyles so they can embrace their inner ‘Mean Girl’ and unite. With a strong sense of ‘Girl Power’, they conquer every situation together and can often be seen perfecting the Macarena on the dancefloor in unison. The boys’ Wolfpack can mainly be seen with beers permanently attached to their hands whilst wrestling, flicking each other or rugby tackling into any form of water. There’s usually one alpha leader and the rest just go with the flow and leave a hurricane of chaos in their path. The romantic couple travelling are always interesting. Managing to tactfully avoid the carnage of group travellers, they are trying to pass the ultimate test of can they cope in each other’s presence for an extended period of time. Who wears the trousers is usually interesting… The female of the species has usually booked and organised the accommodation; enjoys busting some moves on the dancefloor and takes the loving selfies. The male of the species usually organises the travel arrangements; props up the bar with a beady eye on his misses and struggles to perfect the correct selfie smile for his girl. 

7: The Younguns 

Generally seen starfishing on a nightclub dancefloor or sprawled on a pavement somewhere, the younger travellers know no limits and are embracing every second that they have left on their adventure. Often intoxicated, their objective is to destroy their bodies as frequently as possible and prioritise dancefloors over scenic walks or cultural experiences. Constantly overheard whispering about the previous night’s antics and what happened with who in what hostel, their ignorance is bliss. They are the masters of selfies and pouting and have a meltdown when the wifi doesn’t work. With a zest for life and a determination to drink their way through every travelling experience, you can’t deny their enthusiasm. Liberated from the parental chains, with an innocent smile, they live for the moment. Fearless, energetic but completely unaware of the life changing memories they are creating. 

8: The Oldies 

Mainly suffering from a midlife crisis, meltdown, relationship breakup or some other complicated crisis, these old hat travellers have been there, done it and got the t-shirt yet can’t quite let go. Ageing slightly due to spending previous travelling adventures acting like ‘The Younguns’ (see number 7), they now see life from a different perspective. With age has come wisdom. Whilst appreciating travelling from a more mature perspective, they watch the younguns with a sense of despair and yet, every now and again, still reignite their youthful spirit in a moment of madness on the dancefloor whilst telling themselves “I’ve still got it!” Appreciating travelling in a unique way, they grasp every moment and feel more grateful than ever. Escaping grown up life and running away from responsibility where possible, they can offer advice to the younger travellers and feel 100% comfortable with who they are; what they want to achieve and how they want to experience life.  

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