Wanderlust Novels

If you’re bitten by the travel bug, it doesn’t take much to fuel the desire to take off and see the world. Just on the train from London to my home city recently I was listening to Bruce Springsteen and thinking to myself “I could definitely just take off on a motorbike”, before reminding myself that a) I don’t have a licence, let alone a motorbike, and b) I am terrified of them.

And as literature is basically an adventure without leaving your sofa, some wonderful writers across history have written pieces of work that make you want to get off the sofa, abandon all current responsibilities and see the world.

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Dom Joly – The Dark Tourist

In this travelogue the comedian Dom Joly describes a dark tourist to be someone who likes to visit places that tend to be associate with death and tragedy. Sounds hilarious. But Joly makes it that, visiting places such as North Korea, Chernobyl and the scene of JFK’s assassination and making his accounts slightly nerve-wracking, but with a black humour most of us have and some admit to. It makes you realise travelling isn’t just about journeys of self discovery or instagram worthy snaps – but seeing the worlds that otherwise escapes your notice, whether its a culture completely different to yours, or somewhere that is cemented into the history books.

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Jack Kerouac – On the Road

Really an obvious one here, and I’ve written about Kerouac before, but this is a novel that inspired many to go out onto the open road, and I suspect will continue to do so for a long time. It has the carefree vibe of adventure that anybody feeling a little stuck in one place will want to seize for their own, and the appeal of grabbing a car (legally ofc) and grabbing some friends with the same lust for life and travel will be stronger once you’ve finished this book.

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Alex Garland – The Beach

My copy is now a rather old one, partially eaten by a dog and has the last few pages missing (damn dog). It almost seems like a right of passage these days to go travelling around Thailand, something I am yet to do. This novel is an enticing prose that shows how traveller’s lust for paradise away from the harsh world of reality can become a nightmare. Because if literature has ever taught me anything, is that humans tend to screw things up (and that dogs don’t respect great novels). I would avoid the film, which in comparison to the novel….is not great in my opinion.

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Gabriel Garcia Marquez – 100 Years of Solitude

I debated about adding this novel, seeing as it is not one about travel but instead is an historical account of one fictional place. The clue that it is not about someone who goes off travelling is in the title. But to me I think it’s worth reading if you’re itching to see the world. Even though it is magical realism and does not depict a real place, I think that Marquez’s creation and depiction of the history of one place and the people who lived in the 100 years makes you realise that the word is pretty large and varied. And although we are unlikely to meet someone who is followed by yellow butterflies, there is always more of the world to discover as individuals and embrace the communities that make up bigger systems.

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John Steinbeck – The Grapes of Wrath

Another author previously mentioned, and always worth mentioning because The Grapes of Wrath is one of my favourite novels ever. And perhaps another strange addition, as it is a document of a very difficult time in American history. But the Dust Bowl Migration is now the famous Route 66 trail (and definitely worth a road trip). Steinbeck’s account of one family among many trying to begin a new life shows that packing up and heading towards the unknown on the optimistic promise of greener pastures can be difficult and daunting, but can be endured if you are surrounded by good people. Ah, corny.

So what do you think? Researching for other lists of wanderlust novels has me keen to read some more, novels like Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer and The Geography of Bliss by Eric Weiner seem intriguing places to start!

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The Low-Maintenance Life

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I generally think of myself as a low-maintenance person. My daily make up routine usually consists of eyeliner, lipstick aaaaand usually that’s it. It’s useful for me to have a small makeup collection consisting mostly of the essentials, and a few bonus items usually left forgotten at the bottom of the bag. If you need to pack everything into a small weekend bag, or like me you are a very weak human being who cannot carry too much in their luggage, you can’t be doing with things you may only use in a blue moon and will probably lose somewhere anyway. And I’ve seen others cram massive makeup bags into suitcases, taking up valuable space.

My sister commented recently on trying to cut down on makeup usage, mentioning if I did it I would be going around bare-faced. Truth is, one reason I refrain from having an extensive makeup collection is because I hate the idea of women purposely trying to completely mask their natural face with contouring etc. And I know I don’t want to get into that habit, because a) it’s far too much effort to keep up with and b) I want to have the confidence to be able to look at my face even with all its glorious/hideous imperfections.

My hair witnesses my biggest high maintenance- trying to reduce the frizz and amplify the curls means it sees quite a few products on wash days. Even so I only started sporting curly hair after becoming too lazy to straighten it as I would nearly every day as a teenager. Nowadays I only straighten the fringe, which I’ve contemplated growing out just so I don’t have to. (Yes I’m very lazy…) But since ditching the straighteners almost 100% it saves me 20-30 mins of getting ready, which can be used for more important things such as hitting the snooze button or taking my time with a morning cuppa.

And a low-maintenance life doesn’t just apply to the beauty stuff – people who are low-maintenance are generally chilled about life and quite easy to please. We don’t freak out the minute something goes wrong, instead we shrug it off and take it in our stride. It makes us the perfect house guests because we’re just happy with a place to rest our heads, and arguably as hosts we are nice in that we won’t be hovering over you and fussing about too much.

And in the modern age I think it helps to be low-maintenance when there are social media accounts for everything. I have an on-off love affair with social media: some days I feel like posting any random thing, other days I’d rather not be randomly popping up in people’s lives who I haven’t spoken to in forever. If you’re less concerned about your image, you’re less reliant on “likes” for social gratification. And in all honesty I find people who update the internet incessantly about their lives, or have to have a selfie for every occasion or even no occasion a tad irritating. I want interesting, poignant articles about the world shared, and maybe a few articles on why FRIENDS is still relevant. I don’t care if you have a sore throat.

And although sometimes I feel like I should try a little harder with my make up routine (at least for big events), and bad hair days frustrate me more than they probably ought to, it feels good to fall under the low-maintenance category. To know I can just roll out of bed and begin my day. To not get too worked up over the things that don’t matter. When me-time can resemble something similar to an at-home spa routine, or can just be a nap.

Lesser Known Gems of London

I love reading travel posts about London, because it is my love and it’s always fun to discover new places. Therefore I find it a bit irritating when people headline with “Places in London you MUST Visit” with all the obvious choices: The London Eye, Big Ben, Buckingham Palace etc. I think most people visiting London are well aware of these places, so what about the lesser known attractions in London? The ones that make London the unique city it is as much as it’s famous landmarks. So I picked out a sample of my favourites:

Visit:

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Victoria Park: A place close to my heart and close to my home (for now), I wrote a previous post photographing the beautiful park. Although it is less known and less easily accessible than the likes of Hyde Park and Regent’s Park, it is hugely popular with local Londoners. A stunningly scenic place to walk or jog around, or perhaps go on a boat around the lake!

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One New Change: Specifically, the top floor of this shopping centre near St. Paul’s Cathedral. I prefer to go up at sunset- you get some fantastic views of London without the hideous price tag of The Shard’s viewing platform for example. There is also a Spanish restaurant at the top- I’ve never been, but there’s plenty of space to enjoy the view without disturbing the customers.

Eat:

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Sarastro, Drury Lane: A Turkish restaurant in the heart of the West End that offers pre-theatre meals, it also boasts evenings of live classical or jazz performers to come and provide a great show within the restaurant itself. The food is amazing, and the interior decor is a cozy and colourful wonderland.

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The Breakfast Club: A London based chain just expanding into Brighton, whilst there are lunch options the best thing to go for is the American-style brunch menu. All come with pop-culture names and a guaranteed food baby. When Halloumi Met Salad Wrap anyone? Or how about the classic Full Monty?

Drink:

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Two-Bit: The underdog (and formerly named UnderDog) of the Scottish craft beer brewery and bars named Brewdog can be found in the basement of their Shoreditch Bar. Whilst the main bar is your typical Brewdog lively atmosphere, and perfect for Shoreditch, the Two-Bit bar which opens later allows you to step back in time to an America under prohibition law. Except y’know, in 21st century London.

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The London Cocktail Club: I’ve been to the one on Shaftesbury Avenue a handful of times. Cocktails are the modern city dwellers way of feeling very fancy indeed (until we drink too many), and The London Cocktail Club’s are inventive, unique, and one even comes in a toy pirate ship.

Travel Destinations Top of my Bucket List

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India

Despite all the warnings about travelling around India in regards to food and what not to eat, and knowing my luck I will still eat something that won’t agree with me, I am desperate to visit this beautiful country. Possibly influenced by my love of elephants and tea? Yes… but it is a country with a culture I one day hope to learn more about first hand.

Egypt

I fell in love with its ancient history when studying it in school as a child, and since then visiting the pyramids has always been a dream destination of mine. Slightly put off when I watched The Mummy when I was still young, impressionable, and easily scared.

Iceland

When I studied geography in high school we studied glaciers and mountains (in all honesty I did find it fascinating), and there was once mention of a trip to Iceland. In reality we went to Scotland, and so since then I have been determined to visit the beautiful looking island.

North Korea

Okay, yes, kind of an odd one here (as a few people have told me), but since reading Dom Joly’s travel book The Dark Tourist (which is really worth a read for any wanderer), I have come to the conclusion visiting this strange, secretive country will be an experience like no other, and a story to tell for years.

And countries I have visited and would love to see again…

Mexico

I went with family as a child on a day trip when we were holidaying/vacationing in the U.S. As a child I loved it- I had my hair braided with purple beads and felt a million dollars. These days I’m interested in experiencing real Mexican food, practicing my Spanish and perhaps witnessing a Day of the Dead festival.

New York City

And this one is a city rather than a country, but I specifically want to visit NYC in the winter (and if it doesn’t snow I would be very disappointed). I went to NYC one summer (again with the family), and it was crazy, hot and amazing. But I also want to watch people ice skating at Rockefeller (and probably be too scared to do it myself), and visit the Empire State at nighttime.

Argentina

I sort of count Argentina as visited as I went over to the Argentinian side of the Iguazu Falls when in Brazil at the start of 2014. However to many that would not count as properly visiting the country, and I am anxious to return. Also why not make a fool of myself with my two left feet in the land of el tango…

Ireland

I have only visited the country once at the tender age of five, which is frankly a shame seeing as my paternal grandparents are from Ireland, and I even have family there. I vividly remember a lot of pubs sharing the same surname as I have, so this time I want to not so vividly remember similar pubs. And appreciate the friendly Irish nature and the stunning scenery of course…

Things I achieved before turning 21

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Just under I year ago I wrote this post on things I intended to achieve before turning 21, and my hopes on achieving them all were not high. But I managed some!

Graduate

I achieved a 2:1 in English Literature from Queen Mary, University of London. Of course it wasn’t easy- my final year was challenged by ongoing health problems that made it painful at times to even attempt leaving my bed, not to mention the whole three years were met with learning independence (sort of), emotional times, and all the wonderful/difficult life lessons university throws at you. And of course I’ve had some amazing adventures, met some brilliant people, and soaked up one of the best cities in the world without going into my overdraft!

Career Idea

Still not set in stone, but the more I think about it the more I realise how much working for human rights in some way would be my little way of trying to give something back to this crazy world. So fingers crossed!

Nose piercing

I finally did it, and can switch between a stud and a ring as the mood takes me. Not one family member was impressed…

Bake a Pie

Well, technically I looked over a friends shoulder as he did pretty much all the work. But it counts, and it was delicious.

Top London Club

This I ticked off, but truth is a can’t even remember which club…I think it was the Electric Brixton. I think that counts.

Improve my writing skills

I cringe less when I read previous posts, so that is progress!

Eyeliner Flick

Well I attempted it once successfully, other times not so successfully. Luckily if I’m wearing my glasses they help hide any wonky lines…

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Not to mention delving into the digital world! My new mission is to not leave film to expire so often…

Improve Spanish

I did another year of classes, and now I’m a CEFR level A2. Onwards and upwards…

Less Fried Chicken

Possibly only achieved because the final year of uni meant less nights out and more studying. I also had fried chicken Friday night/Saturday Morning…but the first one in quite a while!

Less Cigarettes

Due to ongoing health issues any sneaky drunk cigarette would mean my asthmatic lungs would punish me after, so it wasn’t hard learning to say no (or asking others to not let me have one).

Editing the Blog

It’s not slick and smooth, but I’m getting the hang of layouts.

And now I’m 21, I suppose an adult (of sorts), and awaiting a whole new set of challenges to be thrown at me. 12/21 goals achieved isn’t bad, although a lack of exercise routine and that I still haven’t braved a pair of heels is probably a little shameful…

The Perks of being British

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(Or living in Britain).

If you think of a British person you may think of a upper class gentleman/lady who drinks afternoon tea, maybe someone who’s a bit of a geezer, or a group of people stood queuing for no particular reason. Truth is we are all these things and so much more. We are quite proud of our quirks and our tiny nation, so here are a few reasons why a British experience is a top notch experience:

Humour

The British wit has made its mark on comedy history, and has evolved up to and beyond the famous days of Monty Python. From films to TV, from writers to stand up comedians, we all love a sarcastic comment and taking the piss out of ourselves (and everyone else).

Food

Some people think British cuisine is a little…unsophisticated and likely to cause a heart attack. They are right, but they are also wrong. We are ace at serving up classic, home comfort meals that are big plates of happiness. Pie and mash? Fish and chips? Stew and dumplings? I’m hungry…

Multiculturalism

One thing that makes me proud to be British is its multicultural heritage, and I hope this will continue to grow (I saw an advert for a bilingual nursery school in London recently, mandarin and english speaking, which is a brilliant idea). I believe we can only ever learn and learn some more from different cultures.

History

We’ve had a violent and greedy history as a nation, and as a result you can never run out of museums and historical sites to visit. We also know how to keep feuds going for waaaaaaaay too long, although these days it mainly involves retweeting jokes on twitter. War of the Roses was a bloody demand for the crown, nowadays the two English counties involved just like taking the piss out of each other.

Culture

Art, literature, theatre etc. We boast some of the greatest names in these fields, and although London is the main stage for shows and exhibitions, any major city will always have something to see. And our literature has altered and reinvented itself again and again for centuries- we’ve invented fantasy worlds, marvelled at the beauty of the real world, and also predicted the world will become a miserable dystopian nightmare. Brilliant.

TV

Gritty dramas, heart warming comedies, documentaries and reality tv that takes the piss out of its guests, we’ve got a show to please everyone.

The City and the Country

In Britain living in a city means heaps of entertainment, but if you want to escape the noisy city life the beautiful countryside is practically on the back doorstep. I have loved living in London, I’m hardly ever stuck without something to do, but when I visit family I can appreciate drives out into the country. And I’m from Yorkshire, who’s natural beauty makes the locals boldly claim the county to be ‘God’s own country’. (Yes, really).

Tea

Although tea is a cultural establishment in other countries too, the British have perfected the art of knowing the right time to put the kettle on. Which is pretty much any time. A favourite writer and journalist of mine, Caitlin Moran, once wrote in her book ‘How to Be A Woman’ that “Nine times out of ten you’re not having a nervous breakdown…you just need a cup of tea and a biscuit”. And it’s true.

Night Life

The British seem to have a bit of a reputation for being party animals/raging alcoholics. Also braving all kinds of weather on a night out in very little clothing. It might not be for everyone, but we know how to have a great, memorable (or sometimes not) time for everyone from students out on a themed night to the middle aged blowing off some steam at the weekend.

Pubs

One of the great British establishments. Particularly if you’re in the countryside, where you’re more likely to find a traditional one. Or one on a pub quiz night- expect laughs, free food, but maybe not to win..

Little Pick Me Ups

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Everybody has days when things are a bit poo. Could be from waking up on the wrong side of the bed, or because life never seems to ease up on stress and hardships. I compiled a list of small and mundane, but pleasant things I adore and use to recharge the batteries. They won’t change your life or save the world, but can come as a welcome (and cheap/free!) break from the hectic and crazy thing we call life.

Chai Lattes

I like lattes. I like tea. I like chai tea. And with a bit of cinnamon sprinkled on top it is my go-to drink when in a cafe. My university cafes even did different flavours- like green tea, mayo, peppermint. So when I’m down this is a definite pick me up. Usually bought after half an hour of attempted re-tail therapy before remembering I hate shopping.

Fried Egg Sandwich

Pick me ups are not meant to be healthy. For some reason scoffing one of these (and you have to eat quickly, it’s a v messy sandwich!), always makes me feel instantly better. And although it *may* clog up your arteries a bit, it won’t do as much damage or make you feel as heavy as, say, over estimating your Domino’s appetite- which I have done before. It’s like a light bite of indulgence.

Going Outside

Generally recommended for everyone to try once in a while. I always find escaping the stuffy indoors and feeling the fresh air and wind on your face helps make any situation calmer. As long as the weather is not too extreme to worsen your mood. Getting some vitamin d is also recommended for an improved state of mind, or going somewhere (safe) at night if the sky is clear and some stars can be spotted for some amateur astronomy.

Pet Cuddles

Cuddling any pet is good, but when it’s your own it’s even better. I have two dogs- one is an introvert like me and stiffens up when someone demands a cuddle (still likes to give friendly licks-whch I don’t do), but the other is a softy who never says no when I throw my arms around him.

Organising Something

Could be anything from meeting friends or travelling somewhere for a few days, getting around to not neglecting family. Or even just sorting out any academic/job/hobby related work that needs to be done. I guess when life might be a bit poo, seizing control of something manageable is one way to feel better about things that are less easy to control.

Get Stuck into a Book

Could be a new book, could be an old favourite. Reading is great brain exercise and having something to lose yourself into, plus the sense of accomplishment when the last page is read, is one way of taking your mind of things.

Comedy Sitcoms

A few of these helped my melted brain recover after each day slaving over university assignments. I even started to enjoy The Big Bang Theory, something I could never stand before. Like reading a book, its always good to escape reality for a while, and light hearted/completely daft comedy makes it even easier.

Cup of Tea

The British solution for everything. And it works.