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By Mel Elderfield

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Chiang Mai weekly budget: Cheap Tuesday #7

Chiang Mai Expenses: week 7 My cheap Tuesdays are proving to be anything but! But this is okay, because collectively I want the posts to demonstrate a kind of journey through spending. Obviously at the beginning I was smashing it with some killer cheap weeks, and thats  a fun challenge for a while. And then it gets a bit old and you have to start making some changes and relaxing a little. Like living anywhere in the world, the key is to live within your means. Mine do remain meagre, but as the freelance money starts to trickle in (and I do mean trickle), I have allowed myself a few small luxuries. The challenge is no longer to spend as little as possible; more to try and create the life I want for myself here.   Chiang Mai expenses: Where did my clams go this week? I had a few more big costs this week; namely I bought a few bits on Monday to enable me to cook for myself after I purchased a little stove off my friend last week. I got a puncture in my bicycle, and obviously went and bought the wrong pump *face palm*. I also splashed out on a few more high-end food places … though relative to the actual cost in £ its still cheap! Otherwise I’m living off groceries every day and cooking at home. Some oats and soy milk for brekky usually, and then some eggs and veggies for dinner! My biggest expense was a gym membership for the month, at £28. This is mainly for the classes, as my usual... read more

Chiang Mai weekly budget: Cheap Tuesday #6

Chiang Mai weekly budget: How did I go this week? Six weeks in, and my time (and money) continue to go through some kind of bizarre portal. This week I spent £47 on food and general day to day living. The upshot… a little indulgent on the old western food front. And I bought a little stove and some groceries so I can cook for myself. I’m not eating as much as I should be otherwise. I’m putting in long hours at the laptop and I’m just not hungry. Can you blame me, after last week’s #ClenchOrRun exhilarations? I have no desire to become a gastrointestinal geyser once again. A plus point is, I’m now a bum-gun convert. It was an invigorating 3am learning curve- one that ricocheted off the rectum and sprayed itself majestically across my bathroom. I think I saw a rainbow. I eventually mastered water pressures and trajectories. It transpires that neither should be trifled with in an anally delicate context. But I am convinced: bum gun for the win. Hygienic salvation. That’s enough. I must rise above toilet humour. The words, they just come to me. Here’s the breakdown for this week… To view as image click here Monday 13th ฿ £ $AUD $USD Water refill 10 £0.19 $0.40 $0.29 Western brunch 155 £2.92 $6.20 $4.56 Yoga class 100 £1.89 $4.00 $2.94 Rambuttan 20 £0.38 $0.80 $0.59 Chocolate rotti 15 £0.28 $0.60 $0.44 Total 300 £5.66 $12.00 $8.82 Tuesday 14th ฿ £ $AUD $USD Western brekky 170 £3.21 $6.80 $5.00 Western lunch 210 £3.96 $8.40 $6.18 Veggies at market 200 £3.77 $8.00 $5.88 Oats &... read more

Chiang Mai weekly budget: Cheap Tuesday #5

Chiang Mai weekly budget: This week, naughty Something incredibly amusing happened this week, whereby I spent my predicted monthly budget in a week. Yes, I have parted with a whopping £250 ish this week. However, £100 of that is rent, for all of July. Unavoidable- a girl needs a bed and roof. The rest is one might call an enormous ‘oops’ moment, and I explain it as the culmination of several ‘f*ck it’ moments. The big one is a new phone, £100 ish. Mine got stolen last week and wah wah wah but it was killing me not to have one. So thats £50 odd on living. That really is an oops. Okay, the truth… If you really must know- and I’m sorry to share such details- something rather bad happened in my guts this week. That is, I dropped them. Repeatedly. I will divulge more below (literally), but suffice it to say that my appetite for cheap street food has come to a very undignified end.   Chiang Mai weekly budget #5: where did my clams go? Monday 6th ฿ £ $AUD $USD Rent 5200 £100.00 $200.00 $152.94 Chicken + rice 30 £0.58 $1.15 $0.88 Smoothie 30 £0.58 $1.15 $0.88 Coconut drink 60 £1.15 $2.31 $1.76 3 x mangoes 55 £1.06 $2.12 $1.62 Total 5375 £103.37 $206.73 $158.09 Tuesday 7th ฿ £GBP $AUD $USD Coffee at work space 50 £0.96 $1.92 $1.47 Iced latte 90 £1.73 $3.46 $2.65 Cake 50 £0.96 $1.92 $1.47 Chicken curry 30 £0.58 $1.15 $0.88 Total 220 £4.23 $8.46 $6.47 Wednesday 8th ฿ £GBP $AUD $USD Milk for weeks breky 55 £1.06 $2.12 $1.62 Teabags 70 £1.35 $2.69 $2.06... read more

Chiang Mai monthly budget: Cheap Tuesday #4

I can barely believe it, but somehow I have been living in Thailand for a month. A MONTH. In honour of this milestone, I’ve OBVIOUSLY been having multiple spreedsheet-gasms today; compiling all the financial data from my previous four weeks of living to produce some spectacular Excel epiphanies. It is interesting to note that I am terrible at maths and lack anything remotely resembling numerical competence; and YET, I am obsessed with facts, figures and data. Go figure. Get excited, guys; I am. I’ve made freaking PIE CHARTS and everything. My nerd nipples are erect. So, I am ready to give you some mad averages and answer my golden question: How much is my monthly Chiang Mai budget?   Chiang Mai budget: Week 4 But first, let’s look quickly at what I spent this week, a whopping £110 ($168USD). Though £67 ($102) of that was my birthday present from my family: a bicycle. Thanks!! So if we deduct that one time expense (that I will hopefully make back by selling when I leave, and that will pay for itself in saving me from taxis) then my costs this week sit at £45. Still a lot, for me. But yes, I did allow myself a few birthday splurges… especially the next day when I couldn’t move after the previous night’s ‘excesses’ of THREE glasses of wine. Alcohol, you are dead to me. Monday 29th ฿ £ $AUD $USD Coffe + sandwhich 75 £1.44 $2.88 $2.21 Chicken + salad 75 £1.44 $2.88 $2.21 Chip 55 £1.06 $2.12 $1.62 Electricity bill (1 month) 49 £0.94 $1.88 $1.44 Water bill (1 month) 28 £0.54 $1.08... read more

Chiang Mai Budget: Cheap Tuesday #3

Ready to peek into my finances and have a little nosey?   Chiang Mai Budget: Cheap Tuesday #3 Welcome to this week’s budget. Three weeks in, and life just keeps getting better! I’m settling in nicely with a wonderful group of people, I’m finding my feet and my way around, I’ve been able to get out and see some of Thailand this weekened… and perhaps the best news of all, I have some steady freelance work. A few bits, actually. Wowsers. Looks like I can officially say I’m a freelance travel writer living Thailand and even Im self-employed Those are some big claims for me! When I have a bad day (it does happen) I just tell myself those things, and then I remember how wonderfully privileged I am. Check back with me in a year, when hopefully I’ll have this site monetised, and maybe then I can even call myself an ‘entrepreneur’. Ha. The very notion makes me giggle, in my mind I’m still just this little girl who can’t quite believe she is ACTUALLY an adult. But here I am, 4 years, 6 continents and 41 countries into an alternative patchwork life on all over the planet. Anyway, I’m late for three different midweek drinks (welcome to Chiang Mai), so I’ll stop digressing and keep it brief… this week I survived on £36 (AUD $73 / USD $56). Please note this does not include rent or bills- these I pay monthly so check back for next weeks budget when they WILL be included. I will also do daily and weekly averages based on my first month here. So below is exactly... read more

Chiang Mai Budget: Cheap Tuesday #2

Week 2 of my new life in cheap-as-chips Thailand… and this week I lived off a Chiang Mai budget of £27! Let’s be clear here- I have already paid for my rent and my phone data (including unlimited wifi at Camp co-working space) for the month. These costs I have not included- I would prefer instead to publish a monthly budget, in a couple of weeks, with everything all averaged out. I also did a large grocery shop the day before this week began, and that meant I barely had any food costs. Anyway, let’s see where my clams have gone this week.   What did I spend my money on? I am aiming to survive on 1,000 baht / £20 a week (mainly because it is a nice round number, one which will allow me to still have a life!). I am still over what I would like, then; but a mere two weeks in I suppose I should cut myself some slack. A girl has to find her feet (and her cheap coffee vendor)! Indeed, it is rather fascinating to look back at the week and see where the biggest expanses are. Naturally, they are associated with socialising; being that I am balls deep in the ‘someone please be my friend!’ stage and can’t really NOT go for coffees or lunch when invited.   How can I improve? Actually, I think for my sanity I need to SPEND some money. I need a set of wheels- bicycle or otherwise. I can feel the first worrying signs of cabin fever creeping in, and I must avail myself up into the mountains,... read more

Chiang Mai Set up costs: Cheap Tuesday #1

I’ve been here one week… wow! Its time to review some costs… (and then soon some more fun stuff!) I have several reasons for my move to Chiang Mai, which I cover fully here in due course; but the most critical factor for me is the low cost of living. But just how low, is low? Before I moved here I naturally did a lot of research into the associated costs and what kind of monthly budget I could expect to live on. Mostly, this research took the form of blogs and simply asking people who had lived out here. I roughly knew the cost to be about $150 (US) for rent each month, so I was somewhat surprised to read that $500 (US) was the typical monthly outgoing for a digital nomad. I devoured blog post after blog post listing the monthly expenditures, and I had to conclude that $500 was simply not necessary.  These were the budgets of people that had full gym memberships, a 2 bed house in the burbs, a coffee addiction bordering on grotesque, and the willingness to spend triple the amount on western restaurants and food. They also tended to pay for a co-working space, which easily eats up a couple hundred dollars too. All these things are very lovely, and if you come out here with a little money then there is no reason you shouldn’t live like a king (or queen) and continue your western lifestyle at a fraction of the cost. Fair play to them all. Given the chance, of course I would eat at Salad Concept every day and... read more

Moving to Thailand: My £100 Chiang Mai apartment

It took all of a day to get myself set up here. Yep. That’s right, one day. And the best part… I found a bright, clean, spacious Chiang Mai apartment with an enormous pool, AND mountain views, for GBP £100 p/m. Say whaaaat?! It’s unreal value. Fancy an exclusive peek inside? Course you do. You can read about the details of all my expenditures, specifically in getting set up, and full breakdowns of my Chiang Mai apartment costs, right here. Each week I’ll be baring all financially (and otherwise!) and posting a budget for every.little.outgoing. Quite the commitment, but I NEED to be held publicly accountable for every last noodle. I am not pulling ya leg when I say… I have £300 in my bank account. That is, I’m overdrawn an untypeable amount…. and I have £300 remaining of this overdraft. But you didn’t just read that, Mum and Dad. Fear not, I’m a smart girl, and I can do this. (Actually, I already am, having just landed my first two freelance writing jobs today! Both ongoing contracts. But that’s a separate post of aggressive stoked-ness). On that note, you can soon read all about exactly WHY I have made the move out here, and just what the future holds for me…. besides losing myself in the all-consuming romance of playing the ‘destitute writer’ in the tropics. Sigh, isn’t it wonderful to be penniless and on a passionate adventure into the unknown. Right…? Either way, it’s exciting chasing your dreams (and framing them heroically when you should be questioning your sanity)! Stay tuned, this girl has big things... read more

Indoor Skydiving in Spain

Any high-octane endeavour necessitating that I get manhandled by a strapping young Spaniard, in a 165mph wind tunnel, is obviously awesome. Throw in the liberal use of banana terminology, a fetching jumpsuit, and the capacity to fly like a dick-head around a small glass room… and my wildest zero-gravity lunatic fantasises are realised. I am talking, of course, about indoor skydiving, and last week I was lucky enough to have a go! If you’re not much of a reader (no one’s perfect), scroll to the bottom for the video.   Indoor skydiving in Spain Couple weeks ago I had a ‘f*ck it’ moment (shock) and found myself in Spain, attending a travel blogging conference. As you do, when you should be setting up a new life in New Zealand, but instead you’re stuck in England, at your parents house, waiting on the NHS… sigh. Anyway, the conference was incredible (more on this soon)… but let’s be real here; the highlight was obviously throwing myself around a wind tunnel in the arms of a Spaniard. Somehow, after the conference, I managed to land myself a spot on a four day press trip around Girona… including delights such as indoor sky diving, kayaking, paddle boarding, sailing, canal boating, hiking, lavish hotels and of course more food and wine than I could handle. All thanks to the local tourism boards; Visit Costa Brava, Catalunya Experience and Emporda Tourism…. Yay! Don’t envy me too much; I did also have to go to an actual anchovy factory. Like, my gag reflex is still recovering. Understatement of the century, but I don’t do seafood. I actually would rather pass a large cactus than be within ten feet... read more

Aloha! A new adventure

You would have thought the Jet Star rep had just announced the end of life as we know it; an enormous crisis of some abhorrent, unprecedented, universe-altering magnitude. I spooned some more Pad Thai into my mouth and watched with amusement as the chaos erupted around me. Children were crying and clutching at their mothers hems, men were red-faced and twitchy, women were anxious and screechy. Somewhere in the vicinity voices were being raised, and distraught phone calls to loved ones were being hastily made. I can only assume that cancellation of a flight to Hawaii, is, naturally, something of great vexation to normal people- with only two weeks’ vacation and expensive reservations in paradise, it is somewhat less than ideal to find yourself herded to a hotel in Brisbane, of all places, I’m sure. But my disposition these days is such that very little, outside my control that is, really bothers me in life. My travel mantra (one of them) is this: provided I am psychically unharmed and remain in possession of my passport and credit card, then nothing is insurmountable. I had only a $30 hostel bed awaiting me, and personally- something which everyone around me seemed to be curiously forgetting- I had no real desire to fly 9 hours across the Pacific in a vessel with a broken windscreen. Call me cautious, but I was only too pleased to wait for one which wasn’t going to deposit me gruesomely into the clutches of a shark. Original image source: Creative Commons  That aside, I was admittedly rather chuffed to suddenly find myself, alone, in a five star... read more

Leaving Australia for Peru: My life is a tangent

To say that my life has been busy the last six months is a woeful understatement. It has been sheer chaos: beautiful, beguiling, life changing and wonderful… and it has largely kept me offline. Which- I’m not going to lie- I have relished. I do, however, have many stories to share (and I do like to share), and they are being bashed into my laptop at every conceivable opportunity.  I am playing catch up. My bad. But sometimes, you just have to get busy living. The internet isn’t going anywhere, but my time on this planet is.   Leaving Australia I am working hard on a whole series of posts about how living here changed my life. Like, for reals. Watch this space. Australia pays rather handsome wages, and I am fortunately gifted (or rather, well-practiced) in the art of stretching them. You can preach about ‘high cost of living’ all you like, the fact remains that when my working holiday visa expired at the end of November, I had saved $7000 Aus. And I had $2k worth of kite gear, yeeewww! (I’m still shit, btw, and still loving it regardless) As my visa was up, I went to Bali (on a visa run and yes, a jolly), and came back officially a tourist. Cue a rather indulgent three months of couch surfing, kite-surfing, and… well, just surfing, as I moved around, on the tourist visa, visiting all the beautiful souls I had met that year.   Did I spank $7k on a three month holiday? You bet I did. Do I regret it? Hell no– I’m actually PROUD to admit I... read more

A cheeky little visa run to Bali

Do you know what excites me in life, what really pushes me over the edge? Transitions. This visa run to Bali is one such transition. Specifically, moments of blinding clarity at the airport. Where one chapter ceases to be, and another, practically simultaneously, but not altogether quite seamlessly, begins. The watershed. The final frontier. The moment that will never again be. The brief interlude in life’s dancing- when you could hear a pin drop- as someone changes the record. You wait with baited breath for the needle to hit the vinyl, to hear the fresh beat, and to learn a new rhythm once again. In that blinding flash of silence and nothingness… There is simply sweet, sweet, anticipation. And to a lesser extent some lingering- but rapidly diminishing- melancholy, reflections. Whatever it is, it just ended. And whatever the new thing is, it is just beginning. Right here, right now. The longer I play out my days in collections of temporary existence, the further I descend down the rabbit role of nomadicy… The more I treasure these moments. They are the hallmark of my existence. The stitches holding together the peculiar, varied- occasionally threadbare, but more often than not rich and velvety – patches of fabric which make up my patchwork, but aggressively couture, hand-designed lifestyle. Nothing will ever intrigue me like the unknown- the moment you sit alone in an airport lounge and have no idea what the next few days will bring. So today, this glorious moment I am so intoxicatingly balls deep in right this very second, is a transition. It is so IN THE MOMENT... read more

Face-planting paradise: 5 ways to NOT suck at life (and kiting)

Suffice it to say, I am not gifted with athletic prowess and natural sporting ability. Nor am I gifted with patience. I learn new sports slowly, with great difficulty, carrying within me an enduring frustration that I am not as good as everyone else. I am perpetually angry at my shortcomings, cursed with an unfortunate compulsion to crack the shits and throw all my toys out the pram because… I. JUST. CAN’T. DO. IT. Which is unfortunate, because one of my challenges this year has been learning to kite surf, many thanks to Zephyr Kite Tours over on magical Cocos Islands, where I was lucky enough to do live for almost three months and do some of my second year visa work. And kiting on Cocos has broken me. Mentally and physically- face-plant after face-plant, tangled lines after tangled lines, walk of shame after walk of shame- broken me. So I’m going to have a rant; because if there is one thing I’m actually good at, in all my British glory, it’s having a good old fashioned moan. But it’s a rant with a positive spin (which is something, given my epic struggles, manifesting themselves in an insatiable desire to go ‘full retard’ and hack up my kite with a kitchen knife), because face-plants and tantrums aside, I am learning some valuable lessons. And I wanted to share them here, to inspire anyone else that is one tantrum away from giving up on something. These lessons are borne of my kite surfing woes, but in reality, they are universally applicable…   1) Quit worrying what you look like Who are these women that rock... read more

When wanderlust’ers don’t know where to wander

I’m the little blonde scruff with brown skin and bare feet and a shell tied round her neck, sleeping alone on the airport floor. I wear mosquito bites instead of make-up. My only brand is necessity. I’m clad in the veritable armour of K-Mart’s cheapest sleeping bag, with a bright yellow minion hat on my head, and a tatty backpack by my side. I don’t know what will happen tomorrow. Or the next day. Or any day. This is my life, and I wouldn’t change it for the world.   A wanderlust update Three days ago I left a paradise island in the Indian Ocean. I had been living there for two and a half months to finish my working holiday visa extension work; and to tend bar, to learn to kite surf, to get very brown, and to have a million heady adventures atop crystal clear waters and palm fringed beaches. I have some stories to tell you (some will not be repeated), and I will post them very soon. Paradise was not conducive to being chained to my laptop, despite my best intentions, and, as per, I have much catch up to do. Now, however, after three days back in Perth, I of course find myself thousands of kilometres across the country, curled up in a sleeping bag possessing similar qualities to tissue paper, on the floor, at Adelaide airport. Surprise! Would you expect any less? An absolute YOLO moment. I feel alive with recklessness; despite being told several times that I would have to sleep outside (like, literally, outside) because the airport ‘closes’ at night. I laughed. Like, I... read more

Do YOU want to live and work in paradise? Cocos Islands are looking for WWOOFers!

For those of you that read my site or follow my adventures, I have doubtless been making you all sick with jealousy these past couple of months. I’m sorry. But I really do live in paradise, a Utopian speck of little known euphoria in the Indian Ocean. Cocos Islands, Australia’s best kept secret. And I really do spend my days doing nothing more than writing and kiting. And I really am in love with it. But I’m only partially sorry for making you jealous. I’m partially sorry, because my aim is not to make anyone jealous; my aim is to inspire you that you could be doing the same as me. So if you see my pictures and I depress you and demoralise you, then I am sorry. That’s rubbish. But the rest of me isn’t sorry at all. Because it’s not like I ripped my way into this world (quite literally, sorry Mum) with a ticket to paradise strapped to my umbilical cord. None of us do. And it’s not like the job offer just floated through my window one day, gold-plated and clutched majestically in the talons of a eagle, as a chorus of woodland animals sung of my greatness. I am not special. I just work hard at making things happen for myself. The truth is, that the vast majority of you could be out here too if you so chose. Granted, not all, but I’m aiming this post at backpackers and travellers, for the most part- and at all those who keep emailing me saying ‘for the love of all that is holy, how do I do what you do?!’.... read more

Barefoot elopement: A cocos Island wedding

How bored are you, really, of seeing weddings and rings and baby pictures in your newsfeed? I mean no offence to those that are blissfully loved up, and/or blissfully (or otherwise!) knocked up; but some of us just don’t want to settle yet, some of us just don’t want anything clawing its way out of our special place just yet, and us single girls don’t really enjoy being smacked in our ever-ageing ovaries with the tick-tock of reality.   BUT, yesterday I ended up attending an exciting paradise wedding on the beach (as you do), that challenged my outlook, and as such I wanted to share it briefly. Not only has the experience just made it into my list of top peculiar travel encounters,  it has made me feel alive; because it has reminded me there are people out there who really do live life in the fast lane, DESPITE getting married- which I have always assumed, if I’m honest, to be the beginning of the end.   Weddings scare me   What does marriage mean to me? It means you’re a grown up, you’re mostly done. You’re just a mortgage, a 9-5, a sensible car and a screaming baby away from death. I’m sure there’s some comradeship and some cuddles thrown in too? Great, but the thought of picking one person and being bound to them forever is quite frankly terrifying. Bleak I know, but I’m the girl who gets itchy feet after three months in the same place. I’m the girl who looks at babies and feels her (incredible, thankyou very much) pelvic floor muscles recoil in abject horror. I’m the... read more

Life lessons from my ipod

This will be a cheesy post.   Because I’ve just run 10km through paradise and I’m buzzing my absolute b-cups off. Wherever I travel, I try to run. I think about my future as my feet hit the ground. I throw my thoughts at the bush stars, or I bounce my ideas off palm leaves. I sink my determinations into mountain ice, or tropical sand, or red outback dust, or park grass, or city tarmac. It matters not where I am; I carry my sweaty determinations with me everywhere.   I get out my tree with endorphins, and my thoughts become drunk with aspiration. Usually about ten minutes into a good run, nature dumps her drugs in my bloodstream. The music swims from my ears to my pumping heart, propelling bass right into my muscles, which rises up to meet nature’s euphoria like a cresting wave. This crashing surge of electro breaks upon a beach of pure adrenaline, and all I can hear is the roaring tide of my fierce thoughts. In this moment, I could take on the world. It is the clarity of a racing heart and pumping muscles. It is a headlong sprint into a million exploding aspirations: I am a strong, powerful woman, I am a force to be reckoned with, and I can achieve anything I damn well want to. But it is the music too. Flowing like an oxygen-rich life-blood, pumping through my veins as if it carries the endorphins themselves. Synth like honey. Beats to echo your pulse. Lyrics to pull you upwards. It feels like when oil mingles with water- silken... read more

Cocos Islands: A Barefoot Paradise

Cocos Islands: for the free of sole, and the free in soul. Do you like secrets? I’m going to share with you a delicious one. It’s about a little known speck of tropical paradise that sits forgotten in the Indian Ocean. It’s palm trees and white beaches and land crabs and coconuts. It’s unlocked homes, keys in the ignition and perpetual bare feet. It’s turquoise waters, it’s an intoxicating tropical breeze, and it’s the best darn kite-surfing in the world.   It’s Australia, but not as you know it. And I’m going to let you peek behind the palm trees of this clandestine utopia…   Welcome to Cocos! Now remove your shoes. Welcome to beautiful, and little-known, Cocos Keeling Islands–  one of Australia’s 7 remote off-shore territories– an atoll of 27 islands some 3,000 kilometres from the mainland. I’m living here, on West Island- the lesser populated of the two inhabited islands (120 people). So, I have done it- I have found the best darn visa extension work in the whole of Australia. In exchange for food and accommodation, I work 20 hours a week on an organic food farm for Cocos Tropical Foods. While most backpackers – for their 88 days rural work in order to extend their visa for another year – bust their guts on melon farms or have their fingertips erased picking mangoes (this is an actual thing), I am frolicking in absolute paradise. Not a hostel in sight. Not a job board in sight. Not a drunk 18 year old German backpacker in sight (no offence, but you guys are everywhere in Australia). Not much in sight, actually, except pristine white beaches,... read more

From the bush to the Cocos Island beach

Moving from the outback to a remote tropical island I’m currently at the airport, embracing one of those beautiful transition periods where I move seamlessly (ha!) from one surreal experience to the next. The sun is just coming up across the runway, the tips of planes illuminated pink in the morning haze, and I’m so very excited. I’m off to live on a desert island, can you believe that? I’m flying to Cocos Island – which is actually a collection of smaller islands, most uninhabited – up near Malaysia, though still a part of Australia technically. I’ll be helping out with a small organic food company, Cocos Tropical Foods, in exchange for food and board and the rest of my second year visa work signed off. There will be also be a paid bar job on the side I’m told- for when I’m not busy exploring the pristine beaches and kayaking off to any of the 27 islands. Just, wow. As if chasing bulls around the bush and playing cowgirl in the outback for two months wasn’t enough… I’m now going to live in paradise for a couple months too. I am so utterly blessed, and I have Gumtree to thank for all of it! Of course, I still need to write about my wild outback adventures, and that is something I plan to do over the next week. Watch this space, I got some stories…. But while I have a spare half hour before my plane boards, here’s the latest in this crazy narrative that is my life…   Goodbye, outback I left the Kimberley with a good... read more

Karijini National Park: Nature’s sacred playground

Perth to Broome part 4: The magical Karijini National Park Karijini is WA’s second biggest national park, covering some 627,422 hectares just north of the Tropic of Capricorn in the Hamersley Range. Sitting atop such a high plateau in northern WA, the park is defined by breathtaking gorges, tree-lined waterways and ancient mountains, which rise majestically out of flat, dusty plains as far as the eye can see. Like most places of beauty in WA, Karijini National Park is ancient and sacred land; the beautiful gorges and canyons carved into the landscape by 2,500 million years of erosion.   The main draw of course, is that you can swim. And boy were we ready for a swim. We had been sleeping in tents for four weeks now, barely washing, and we were feral to say the least. But first! Never a dull moment, the journey from Exmouth had seen a spot of car bother and a rather horrendous night’s camping- exploits I shall share with you briefly.   Tom Price: When nature calls, your car breaks, and dingos come to eat you We had intended to camp overnight near Tom Price, some 6 hours away from Exmouth. Within 40k of Tom Price, having driven all day, my rear passenger-side tyre suddenly decided to explode whilst I was cruising at 130kph. If you’ve ever had a tyre erupt in the outback, you’ll know its not ideal, and the sensation felt within the car when the thing goes at such a speed is rather unsettling to say the least. Of course, my reaction was to laugh, as I tried my hardest not to kill us all and... read more

10 reasons you should travel alone

Do you desperately want to see the world, but are too scared to travel alone? It’s a scary thing to leave your loved ones behind and travel alone, and anyone that tells you otherwise is lying. Take it from me. There are a million things that can go wrong, and let’s be honest, we all want to have friends around us when they inevitably do. But what if I told you that you don’t need to be sacred? That, just like the thousands of others backpacking solo all across the globe right this second, you can do it? And not just do it, but thrive on it, getting more out of the experience than you ever imagined possible… Hands down, travelling alone is the absolute best decision I have ever made, and I could bore you for hours with the reasons why. Instead, here’s the short version: my top ten reasons why you should stop waiting, put on your big girl knickers, and  just…. go.   10. The world is not as big and scary as you might think We live in an age of publicised panic. Mass rape in India, deaths at full-moon parties, abductions, stabbings, kidnappings…. the list goes on. These things are truly awful, but you have to remember that they are incredibly, incredibly rare. It pays to process the news you intake with a rational, balanced mind, and to look always at the bigger picture… I mean, statistically you are more likely to die crossing the road, than get eaten by a shark whilst swimming at Bondi Beach… You never, ever, see a news article about things just swimming along nicely in the... read more

Broome: Gateway to the goodlife

Smiling at you seductively from behind the dust of Northern WA is beautiful Broome.   Broome is heat-worn, hazy, humid, and home to a haphazard, potent mix of locals, backpackers, pearlers, miners, hippies, aboriginals, wild old outback fellas and… just about anyone you can imagine. Broome is unique, in both character and location, and she gets under your skin with her small-town vibe and beachy hedonism. She is impossibly relaxed, ridiculously friendly, endlessly fun, and the very epitome of cruisey. You will make friends in Broome, and you will make them fast. You will party in Broome, and you will party hard. The flame of natural beauty burns bright here, and yes, you will be floored again and again by that sunset, no matter how many times you park your 4wd up on the sand and gawk it at over your beer. Which, by the way, is practically a religious custom in Broome. If old mate (who is old mate? Everyone is old mate) has a 4wd and can finish work before 5pm, then you’ll find him at the beach with a beer, his ute lined up alongside hundreds of others, as far as the eye can see, everyone collectively worshipping the gods of beer-infused-beachy-liberty. Intoxicated by the setting sun, warmed by the hazy breeze, relaxed smiles illuminated by the firey hues of the crimson Broome sky. Relaxing is religion here, leisure time a divine right. You’d struggle to be stressed in Broome, the very AIR is laid back. Because living in Broome isn’t just living in Broome… it’s a whole lifestyle. It’s a statement. It’s a decision to live... read more

Swimming with whale sharks on the Ningaloo Reef

Perth to Broome part 3: Up close and personal with the world’s largest fish Back in November 2013, when I was wondering where next to direct my quarter life crisis, I read an article about all the cool stuff you could get up to in Western Australia that mentioned swimming with whale sharks. It was like dangling a bit of cake in front of a fat kid. My chubby paws reached out for this rich, indulgent experience. I had to have it. So to say I was excited when the day finally rolled round this Easter, is an understatement.   The tour: Cake and pictures? We had driven thousands of Kilometres up the west coast to Exmouth, the gateway to the Ningaloo Reef, and we had booked onto a whale-shark tour. There are many different operators and competitors you can go with, just be sure to do your research first. Most tours are for the full day and include food, transfers, snorkel hire, and sometimes photos… but ours also included a FREE snorkel set to keep, a FREE try dive, and a nice discount… all because we picked up a great promotional coupon in Denham, Shark Bay. So like anything, it pays to be smart and keep your eyes open for deals and vouchers. Either way, this is obviously not a cheap thing to do, and most tours will set you back about $360 – $400. We went with Ningaloo Whale Sharks and paid about $360 each, INCLUDING a free scuba dive and a snorkel set to keep, which overall I would say is a good deal, especially compared to competitors. My quibble would... read more

Shark Bay: Dolphins, off-roading and breakfast with emus

A few hours above Kalbarri, up the North West Coastal Highway, sits the breathtaking world heritage site, Shark Bay. I didn’t see any sharks, but there crystal clear waters (so quite frankly I didn’t WANT to see a shark), emus galore, dolphins aplenty, and even a giant sea turtle… This  area is simply stunning, and, typical to WA, draws you in with that distinctive rugged and remote character. It is an unmissable stop on any journey North through WA, containing, in my opinion, three main highlights: Moneky Mia, Shell Beach, and the Francois Peron National Park. Let me tempt you….   Monkey Mia, Shark Bay – Go for the dolphins, stay for the emus. Monkey Mia gets a bit of a bashing from lots of travellers, and to be honest it is easy to see why. Essentially it is a resort sat atop a dolphin-rich area, and it makes its money by being the only place where it is physically possible to stay for hundreds of kilometres, cashing in shamelessly on the dolphins. Every morning there are three dolphin feedings, where hundreds of punters stand on the beach and listen to a commentator chat away about the creatures, as they swim up to the shore to be hand-fed by specially picked volunteers. Okay, so all very touristy and commercial. A bit tacky, a bit crowded, a bit too Sea-World for some folk. Monkey Mia also happens to be some way off the main road, so you have to consider whether it is worthwhile making the detour. HOWEVER. If travel has taught me anything, it is that you should never let other people decide... read more

Chasing the Indian Ocean

The start of our Perth to Broome journey. Chasing the Indian Ocean on the aptly named Indian Ocean Drive: Lancelin, Pinnacles, Jurien Bay and Kalbarri.   Goodbye Perth For two months, there had been nothing but blue skies and bright sunshine. The palm trees along my road would dance their sultry sway on that delicious Indian Ocean breeze, and the sun would caress my skin and cuddle my bones- stretching her embracing arms into every fibre of my being. Undeniably, my soul was sunkissed. But not this particular morning. I was leaving Perth (to chase the sun with some complete strangers, as you do), and it was an uncharacteristically grey day; fat drops of rain cascading silkily off my car as I endeavoured to fill it with my life. Which did not take long. I had a last fond look at my old home- lingering over every surface as if trying to etch each corner and each crevice into my mind’s eye forever. Just ten weeks here, and such happy memories. The kind that make you smile to yourself like a loon. And what a blessed thing, to be able to look back at certain times in your life and say, with complete conviction…  I was utterly happy. That’s a very special thing indeed. Yet as much as every goodbye saddens me, the exhilarating promise of the next hello intoxicates me. It pulls me onwards, with unwavering zest, to discover, moreover experience, something NEW. It doesn’t matter how good my life is, nor how much I love it, New will always tempt me away. New never stops whispering questions... read more

Crewing my ship

Finding travel buddies on Gumtree So there has been a bit of drama here. My beloved, been-round-the-world-with-me, contained-my-life, extension-of-myself-laptop is no more, following a most unfortunate incident where a friend accidentally left it somewhere between the supermarket and the library, and to be honest it is very much a sore point and will continue to be for some time. One repercussion, of the many gut-wrenching ones on offer to me, is that I lost hours upon hours of writing and blog work… and an SD card full of all my beautiful hi-res images from the last five breathtaking months of my life. So I will play catch up for some time, and poor quality Facebook photos will have to do. Bear with me while I cry into my new and infinitely shittier laptop. But c’est la vie, here’s the month old next instalment…   Gumtree loving I’m not usually at home when my Student Loans letters come through the post, but I really enjoy receiving them because they never fail to make me laugh. Humour will charm any girl worth the effort; and so hilarity is also the corner stone of my beautiful relationship with the Student Loans Company. It is a relationship of give and take- they give me love letters saying I owe somewhere in the region of £20,000, and I take off, laughing, in another plane. Sometimes I allow myself to momentarily wallow in self despair; that this laughter-inducing debt, and the series of love letters it has borne, are the only tangible fruits of my academic endeavours. I usually eradicate such loathsome sentiments with a heady... read more

I’m not being sexist, but…

There comes a time in every independent woman’s life, when you just kind of need some male help. I know, I know, what fresh blasphemy is this?! But I hold my hands up and admit I’m a fully fledged fair weather feminist. I want to smile and flirt my way to an easier life, but don’t you dare try and tell me I can’t do anything because I’m a woman. Hold the door open by all means, and naturally, ladies first, but never, EVER, insinuate, even in passing, that I am weak or less able because of my lady parts. It’s a bit of a minefield. Blokes, you can’t win. But find a twenty-something dreamer who wants to go on a 4wd adventure but knows NOTHING about cars, and you can win. Or you could have won, because I really needed some male advice. When I say I know nothing about cars, I do, quite literally, mean nothing. It is common knowledge that males, on the other hand, know lots. It’s also common knowledge that if you buy a second hand car, you take a big scary looking no-nonsense male with you (usually your dad, rocking his most intimidating frowny face) so you don’t get taken advantage of. So I needed a male. But I male I did not have. So what can you do? The same attitude that has seen me take on many new challenges over the years came to the fore, and I just started to search for a car anyway. If in doubt, get stuck in. Knowledge is acquired; no one is born knowing about... read more

The beach is my mistress

All it took was a run on the beach. A spectacular sunset, drum and bass pounding in my ears, waves chasing my trainers as I danced with the ocean. And I knew. The unknown was sighing to me on the wind as it whipped my hair into tangles. The salty air was tinged with the heady scent of possibility; I inhaled questions, I exhaled trembling intrigue. Hidden promises were painted in the red sunset, challenging me to come and dance on the ocean with them. The beach that night was tickling my soul into submission, teasing me in a lusty whisper…. Are you coming to play? I stood at the water’s edge, sweaty and out of breath, endorphins coursing through my veins to the rhythm of deep house, and let me tell you that’s a heady mix. Sometimes when I run, and the music is intoxicating, and the sky is burning, and nature dumps her drugs in my system, well, its hedonism at its purest. You feel alive, euphoric, like you could fly, like you could burst with happiness. Lost in the moment of this soaring embrace, I tell the tide, Yes, I think I would like to buy a car, and I think I would like to drive it somewhere. And then like a crazed lunatic, I stand and laugh at the ocean, unable to stem the flow of endorphins pumping through my body. I grin at nothing, at everything, like a drunk hobo; till Deadmau5 pushes me over the edge and I’m now full on dancing. Alone on the beach, as the stars chase the sunset back... read more

Wwoofing on a goat farm in WA

They say variety is the spice of life, and as I reflect on my past 3 months in Oz (nay, the past three years of my life), I am inclined to wholeheartedly agree. Life feels deliciously spicey. (And the 90’s chubbster, forever within me, just did a  little zig-azig-ahhh). Peculiar experiences, people from wildly different walks of life, starkly contrasting moments thrown together in all their juxtaposed glory… it is the chase (and thrill of finding) these moments that keeps the life blood pumping through my veins. I feed off new. I thrive off different. Ironically, I find myself when I lose myself- typically balls deep in the moment of ‘otherwise-wouldn’t-encounter’ encounters. Because we feel most alive when we learn, no? And I mean really learn; things about life, and people, and other ways of living that exist out there beyond our own insular little bubbles of thinking. The outback pub was an eye-opener in this regard. You’ve not really met an Australian till youve sat in the desert dust and listened to a wide-eyed local, who has definitely just deep-throated his crack pipe, tell you about licking poisonous tree frogs if you want to get REALLY high (and apparently don’t have money for acid). I kid you not, these people exist, and it sure makes your journey richer to look back and remember how they made you laugh till your sides ached with their crimson language and their neon stories. While half naked girls danced around you for money, and the aboriginals in the corner tried to beat each other to death with the pool cues for the third... read more

The flatback turtles of Port Hedland

Much has happened since I last wrote- mainly goats and aggressive amounts of frenzied dancing (alas not together, despite my best efforts)- but before all that I wish to chat TURTLES. With hindsight, my last post regarding Port Hedland may have been a little derogatory- deserved or not. I wish to be nothing but fair, and Port Hedland does have one saving grace: Flatback turtles!  So let me tell you briefly about a beautiful moment that didn’t rely upon boobs or beer for its memory-creating potency. There are only a very small number of places where you can go flatback turtle watching in WA, and this happens to be one of them. These guys are actually quite rare now (is there anything humans aren’t destroying?), and so there are big conservation efforts afoot to try and help numbers increase. Despite this, they are endangered, and so it is a special thing indeed that they choose Cemetary Beach in Port Hedland as a nesting site. New Years days, we hunt on a turtle hunt- and whaddayaknow we were lucky enough to see some of the dudes. Very lucky, actually, as the recent cyclone had caused quite some damage to the turtle population. At first we just saw dead ones. We felt pretty sad, especially when we saw the destroyed nests; the winds having exposed the eggs and babies to the merciless birds. Still, the beach is a great place to blow away those NYE cobwebs. With the sun setting and the rock pools full of life, it was calming indeed. Daylight fading, we started to walk back along the beach to the car, when an excited old man... read more

Beer, boobs and the beauty of life

I have come to understand that life cannot simply be categorised into either ‘bad’ or ‘good’ moments; nor, indeed, can people. Life, instead, is an intriguing, varied, beautiful, experience. People, instead, are complex, fascinating, bewitching stories. I try, therefore, not to categorise my experiences and interactions; to not compartmentalise my existence into convenient little boxes of pre-determined worth. We should not discredit something just because it didn’t meet the criteria to go in the ‘good’ box, likewise we should not be overzealous about things that avoided the ‘bad’ box… No! Rip the boxes up, throw them out the window! Because every single moment of our bizarre existence- good, bad, ugly- has immense inherent riches, riches that cannot be neatly quantified. Life, after all, is anything but neat. And it is definitely not quantifiable. Do I mean to say life is one big grey area? Well, it is certainly not black and white, and if you approach it in that way you will miss all the glorious hues of curiosity, every dazzling shade of peculiar, every rich blush of passion, and every melancholy tinge of sentiment. I prefer to think of life as multicoloured; with each and every situation we find ourselves in, whether superficially pleasing or otherwise, as having immense value and importance. Each moment beautiful in its own way, even the ‘bad’ ones. Specifically the bad ones. And as soon as you start thinking that way, you will see silver linings everywhere. You will feel the worth of moments that challenge you, you will see the value in the people that vex you, and you will taste the... read more

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Years nomadic