Destination, Barcelona.

Features, Uncategorized

People travel for many different reasons. To find themselves, to lose themselves, to escape daily life and to experience the unknown. Travel is a mental journey, just as much as a physical one. For me, travel is what I turn to when I don’t know where I’m headed. When my life reaches a sudden point of change and I am forced to decide on the next step, that step is usually in the direction of the nearest airport check-in desk.

It all started when I finished school and didn’t know what I wanted to study at university. Instead of dealing with this unnerving prospect, I decided to take a gap year and booked a flight to South East Asia. I spent six months backpacking through various countries and while I was there decided I wanted to study many things, photography, psychology and nutrition, to name just a few. I ended up choosing none of these subjects but having one of the best experiences of my life. Fast forward three years and I graduated from university and was faced with the even more daunting task of entering the ‘real world’ and perhaps even finding a job, so me and my best friend – neither of us particularly thrilled by this prospect – began planning a trip to Indonesia and Malaysia. When I was diagnosed with a chronic illness last year, despite the fact that just getting out of bed was the last thing I felt like doing, I cautiously packed my bags and spent two weeks travelling up the Croatian coastline with my boyfriend. The amount of prescription drugs I was carrying was enough to get me stopped at security, but the best medication was being in a new country, experiencing the unknown, discovering the undiscovered.

This habit of reaching for my trusty old backpack when things get complicated has stuck with me as the years have gone on – although admittedly now it is often a suitcase I’m packing for a weekend mini-break, rather than a six month expedition. When I’m feeling low or unfulfilled I find myself scrolling through stranger’s beach snaps on Instagram, manically Googling holiday deals online and day-dreaming about my next adventure.

Recently, my agreeable nine to five existence came abruptly to a halt and I was faced with whole load of those dreaded, daunting decisions, so naturally I reached for my laptop and Lonely Planet and began planning a trip.

Funnily enough, one thing I don’t mind deciding on is where to travel to on my next journey. This time I settled on four nights in dynamic Barcelona. A city bustling with art, culture, history, shopping, beaches and of course, nightlife. I would go so far as to say that Barcelona is the pretty much the perfect destination for a mini-break, whether you have in mind a romantic escape for you and your other half or an energetic girls weekend away. Culture buffs, sun-worshippers, shopaholics and alcoholics, Barcelona will prevail. Absorb yourself in Gaudi’s awe-inspiring architecture, soak up some sun on the beautiful coastline (the weather was just about warm enough for sunbathing when we visited, although I didn’t brave the bikini) or treat your tastebuds to the illustrious tapas dishes and sip copious amounts of Sangria. Do any or all of these things. This city is what you make it.

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A Girls Gotta Eat… Indonesian Cuisine

Food

Wherever you are in the world, trying the local cuisine is one of the best parts of travelling, it can’t and shouldn’t be avoided. Trying different cuisine can be daunting for even the most adventurous foodie, particularly when you have never come across it before – and quite often are not entirely sure what it is! However, there is a buzz to experimenting with the unknown which I have grown to love, despite doubts which have held me back in the past.

While in Indonesia, I did something very out of character and took a cooking class – until now the furtherest I had ventured in the kitchen is adding mushrooms to my pasta bakes at Uni. With the guidance of a very talented local chef, I immersed myself in all parts of the course, from buying the -very fresh- ingredients at the local market, and experience in itself, to learning how to cook Tempe (fermented soya beans) to finally trying all of the finished products at the end – which turned out to be some of the best dishes I ate over the entire trip.

Here is a little taster of the dishes from that day, my next challenge is to try them at home!

 

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Fresh ingredients being bought from the local market

 

Ayam Goreng (Fried Chicken)

Ingredients:
1kg Chicken
1/2 litre Coconut Oil
1 litre Water

Spices:
5 pieces shallots
5 cloves garlic
50g palm sugar
10g tamarind
salam leaves (bay leaves)
salt and pepper

Method:
1.Wash chicken
2.Crush the spices until fine
3.Boil chicken in 1 litre of water and add all spices, cook until the chicken is half done
4.Fry the chicken until crispy
5.Serve with sambal

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Chicken boiling while Sayur Lodeh is prepared

 

Sayur Lodeh (vegetarian)

Ingredients:
50g long beans/green beans
50g spinach
50g tofu
50g pumpkin/aubergine
300ml coconut milk
3tbsp cooking oil

Spices:
3 shallots
3 cloves garlic
1 red chilli
1 green chilli
1tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
3 tsp white sugar
2 bay leaves
2cm galangal root

Method:

1.Wash spinach and long beans and put to one side
2.Cut long beans to about 3cm in length
3.Cut tofu into cubes 1cmx1cm
4.Peel the pumpkin/aubergine and cut into cubes
5.Chop the shallots and garlic into thin slices
6.Heat oil in a pan and fry the shallots and garlic
7.Add coconut milk, then herbs and hard vegetables
8.Half cook the vegetables and add salt, pepper and sugar
9.Finally, add spinach and cook all vegetables until soft
10.Serve in a soup dish with rice and fried tempe.

 

Sambal

Ingredients:
2 shallots
2 cloves of garlic
5 red chillis
1/2 tomato

Method:
1.Fry all ingredients together with cooking oil
2.Crush together until fine
3.Serve as a dip

 

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Serve prepared sambal with crackers or sliced, fried potatoes

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…and enjoy!

Overcoming the Post-Holiday Blues

Features, Fitness

They say all good things must come to an end, so what happens afterwards?

I hadn’t thought much past the four flights and two days of travelling which I faced in order to get home. When I had thought about returning home, it consisted of the very basic and shallow luxuries such as sleeping in my own bed, not having to worry about toilet roll and eating copious amounts of cheese. It hadn’t occurred to me that after the jet lag had worn of, reality would kick in and I didn’t have a plan for reality.

After a few flight extensions I had spent a total of four months in South East Asia with little else to worry about apart from what I would have for dinner that night and whether I would get any sleep on the night bus. I hadn’t had a moment on my own (aside from showering) the whole time and this was perfect for me. When you’re on the other side of the world with your whole life confined to a backpack, problems I faced at home on a daily basis were non existent. My own head was no longer the enemy, it was my survival kit.

Life was much simpler and I had subconsciously gained perspective and a contentment with myself, but on returning to the UK, familiar feelings of anxiety, emptiness and a lack of motivation had me wondering if this had just been circumstantial.

Most people are familiar with that impending feeling of dismay that surfaces in the final few days of the holiday and sticks around for at least a good week afterwards. Returning to reality after having a week – or a few months in my case – of escapism is an anticlimax to say the least, everything seems dull compared with the sun-soaked greener grass. It seemed I had an extreme case of the post-holiday blues.

I’m sure I won’t be the only one to find themselves suffering this summer, so here is my tips for dealing with a case of the blues.

 

1. Sort your life out

I have a terrible habit of not unpacking when I return from a trip, usually because I’m depressed and I hate unpacking. Actually, as soon as you get home you should unpack your clothes, do your washing and de-clutter your life. It will give you so much space – both physically and mentally – and make your home a much nicer environment to be in.

2. Relive the memories

As painful as it may seem at first, getting all your photographs together and looking through them is a great remedy for holiday blues. Put a slideshow together to show your family and friends, they will appreciate it, plus you get to relive all the best times through them, you’ll soon be laughing as you try to explain that photo!

3. Go outside

If you’re lucky enough to have a bit of British sunshine, make the most of it. If you’re not working have a day out, go on a picnic or even just sunbathe in the back garden. It might not be as spectacular as your previous surroundings but the sun has the same effect wherever you are, and vitamin D is your best source of happiness.

4. Catch up with friends

Make time to see friends you haven’t seen for a while, this will cheer you up instantly, they will be dying to hear your stories and you’ll find yourself eager to tell them.

5. Eat well

Summer is the season of strawberries – and all other fruits – so there is no excuse not to be consuming them by the punnet. For me, coming home meant I could indulge on all my favourite foods I had craved whilst being away, but getting back into the routine of eating a balanced diet is so important to help you feel good. If you’ve overindulged on the all-inclusive, make sure you go back to a balanced diet as soon as you get home. Eat well and you’ll feel well.

6. Get moving

This point needs little explanation, but get exercising (outside if possible) and you’ll have your positive frame of mind back in no time. Especially if you’ve spent the last two weeks lying on the beach, it’s time to get moving again. The longer you’re stopped, the harder it is to get going again.

7. Grab a new book

The bookworm that I am, finding a new can’t-put-down novel always cheers me up and keeps me occupied. Summer is a great time for new releases and must-reads so engross yourself in that book you’ve been meaning to read, to help pass the long summer hours.

8. Think positive!

Thinking positive can seem impossible when you feel surrounded by negativity, but it is so worth it. Just one small positive thought can make a world of difference to your mood. Try and look for the positives in every situation, you might be feeling miserable because your trip is over but that is only because you had such a damn good time.

 

 

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The Top 5…Islands To Escape To

Features

South East Asia is home to some of the worlds most exciting culture. I feel lucky to have experienced just a fraction of its’ mind-altering temples, vibrant cities and limitless jungle, but there’s something about South East Asia that steals hearts all over the world time and time again, it’s islands and beaches.

A self-confessed addict of all things sun, sea and sand, some of the best parts of my trip were spent taking in idyllic surroundings on a quest to find paradise.

Here’s some inspiration for your escapes this summer, the best of the desert islands I found:

 

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1. The Gili Islands, Lombok

For those who have been to the Gilis, they need no explanation of why they’re my number one. Made up of three islands, Trawangan, Meno and Air, the Gili Islands are the definition of an island escape. The more developed Gili Trawangan is becoming known as the party island of the three but it still harbours a relaxed, friendly vibe, whereas Gili Meno and Gili Air are perfect for the castaway experience. Snorkelling with turtles had to be the highlight for me.

 

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2. Koh Rong, Cambodia

Only discovered in the last three years, Koh Rong truly is, unspoiled paradise. White sands, turquoise water, fluorescent plankton and Long Beach the greatest stretch of untouched beauty I have ever seen. With only a few places to stay, accommodation is bamboo huts on the beach and electricity for just a few hours a day. It is untouched which means the wildlife is too, including venomous snakes. Despite my snake phobia it was worth every minute I spent on edge. I went for one night and stayed for five.

 

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3. Perhentian Islands, Malaysia

On the East Coast of Malaysia I caught the Perhentian Islands just as the season was reopening. Coral Bay has a sunset like no other and it’s worth taking the small jungle trek to Mirah Beach, a small stretch of sand but once you get here you pretty much have your own private beach.

 

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4. Kuta Beach, Lombok

Not technically an island, but the scenery at Kuta Beach deserves a mention. The unblemished golden sand and sparkling blue water are surrounded by lush green hills which offer sensational views of the surrounding bays. The lack of tourists made Lombok, for me, the Bali that most travellers go in search of but rarely find.

 

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5. Monkey Island Resort, Ha Long Bay, Vietnam

Ha Long Bay is a masterpiece. I took a boat from Cat Ba Island through the floating villages and towering islands to the private bay where Monkey Island Resort is situated. The remote setting is the perfect place to get lost and waking up in the morning to the views of Ha Long Bay is really something special.