Setting Goals and Keeping Them!

In 2014, I wanted to conquer the world but I wasn’t too sure where, what and how. Fast forward a few years and now, in 2017, I’m about to scratch off an itty-bitty yet awesome part of my scratch-a-map.

2 ½ years ago, I made a promise to myself that I would manage to achieve a personal bucket list dream to go out and travel for an extended amount of time. I even wrote about it here!

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I’d given myself 3 years to financially and mentally feel ready and responsible enough to take a year out, to *pause* my life in the name of awesome sunsets, meeting inspiring people who will have a completely different experience and to see what can be possible when I leave my front door.
Disclaimer: It’s my parents’ front door.

 

russell-up

And now it’s really happening!!! I’m ready or…as ready as Russell ever was to tackle his adventures in Up! Only female, thinner, 3D and physically less durable. I no longer sit comfortably in the spring chicken camp.

And I’m flying out in less than two weeks’ time!!

In lieu of leaving, I thought I’d complete a quick review of what 23 year old me had hoped for and to evaluate how 26 year old me actually measured up! There were a few commitments I’d made a few years ago. The first major step and barrier for most people is the finances.

So what have I actually managed to do? I gave myself a few goals to help me achieve the travel dream but to also develop as an individual.

Financial Goals

Well no thanks to the current state of affairs- I can literally see my beloved sovereign British Pound value dissolve my very eyes.

Oh Mr Raccoon. You have my complete empathy.

It’s honestly quite disheartening! However, when push comes to shove I did save up money despite not completely scrimping away as I thought I could. I’m taking approximately £12,000 with me.

This is less than the £15,000-20,000 budget sum I’d committed to save. However, considering in that space of time I’ve taken multiple holidays abroad, paid rent, bought a car, paid for my braces (which I absolutely love) and even splashed out on a memory foam mattress topper- I don’t think I’ve done that badly! The reality is, living expenses are just high so saving up £500-600 consistently was ambitious and perhaps a little naive of me?

Taking my destinations in consideration- of which 80% will be in South East Asia, I think it’s safe to say it’s a very reasonable sum to allow me to take in all of the sights and flavours.

Approx. daily budget:  £25 (accommodation, overland travel, food and fun) and £5 (flights)

How my daily budget rises and falls is really dependent on which country I do end up travelling through and how my beloved GBP currency does in the upcoming year (stop bloody falling, please?)  I will also be very honest and say that I won’t be taking all of my money, so I can definitely flex my daily budget for that must-do activity. On top of that, I’m also leaving the rainy trust fund behind because I don’t want to be financially vulnerable when I come home either! I’m sure the upfront rent deposit will hurt as much as before.

Result: Pass

Language Goals

I had wanted to improve my Chinese for multiple reasons but thinking about it now, I think my biggest motivator was embarrassment. I also reasoned that it would open up potential opportunity for me if I ever decided to go and live in Hong Kong. I’d started off well, sourced a local-ish Chinese teacher in Manchester and bought multiple learning books. However, Cantonese suffers from being nonsensical and my literacy remains pretty dreadful. I have learnt to recognise symbols such as duck, chicken, cow and meat. But that really is about it. I’m definitely striking this off as a somewhat failed goal and a potential future with food poisoning, indigestion and constipation in Asia awaits! I’m bringing the drugs to cope for when this happens.

More positively, I recognised that I no longer feel compelled to work in Hong Kong and that, even if I had managed my language goals, it would not have been enough for a cosmopolitan city that pretty much demanded Mandarin too.

Result: Let’s not talk about it

Music Goals (personal development)

Since the age of 7, I’ve always been able to play an instrument. As an aspiring stereotype, I’d picked up the piano and violin and, dare say I, I was good. Not Asian good, oh no, but decent enough.

It’s with some shame to say that I don’t have any piano repertoires up my sleeves. I have not touched the piano and violin in months. I’d even admit that I’ve not properly practiced for years and I’m just glad my music teachers aren’t around to see my downfall.

On reflection though, I wanted to achieve this goal because I was embarrassed and felt guilty. Now, I’m less embarrassed by this fact because I no longer feel the need to measure myself as a musician. I think in a lot of ways, we’re really guilty of being nostalgic and holding onto aspects of our past identity and berate ourselves when the present self no longer measures up. But I’ve changed and I’m much happier lowering my pass bar in this department!

Result: Fail

Graphic / Adobe Goals (personal development)

2 ½ years ago I’d also felt limited by my lack of ‘tangible’ marketing skills. I really enjoyed presenting my messages visually but I could barely recognise, let alone use, the brush tool on Photoshop. Now, through continuous use through work, I’ve been able to gradually use the programmes to a basic level and feel comfortable enough to write the words on my CV. I also feel able to improve my general photography and touch up my overall photos which will be really nice for my trip.

Interestingly, there’s been a decline in actually drawing, painting and using more traditional mediums. Perhaps we are simply given a creative quota to spend?

Result: Pass / Working Progress

In Summary

There’s been a lot of times when I’ve felt that I’ve not achieved enough. The early to mid-20s have been really difficult in many ways and the constant reminder that you’re not quite enough yet is always there. Everything has demanded more time and effort than I’d first imagined. It takes that much longer to get established in any job, let alone a career. The concept of an adult relationships, ha, let’s just let that bit wither and die until the next hypothetical blog post.

Despite all of that, I can’t help but feel like the hard work does pay off. On reflection I think it’s perfectly fine to admit that when values change over the years and that you’ve not quite managed to reach goals no. 2, 3 or 4. In addition, I feel more grown up and responsible and I’ve achieved other smaller goals that were never on my initial agenda, such as running a 10k race last year, fixing my teeth and leading a healthier, more stress-free life which I feel are suitable replacements.

In summary of the summary, (as I attempt to create a more logical voice in this blog, I’ll work on it) I guess what I’m trying to say is that it’s really important to set goals. It’s a real achievement to actually say I did stand by my word and made my past-self proud. Dreams can come true, not because you started the steps towards it, but because you didn’t stop after the initial momentum and steam ran out.

Adulting 101: Nothing really happens overnight, even though on the surface it may look like it. You’re in it for the long haul and everything will take longer than you initially thought, but if you keep at it, you will definitely get there- if you genuinely wanted to get ‘there’.

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5 key life lessons I learnt when tackling a mountain

I love mountains. I love the challenge of scaling something so big and formidable. I love how small it makes me feel when I first start off and how strong, albeit cold, I am when I reach the summit.  I even love inspirational mountain quotes you might find doted around office walls…

Unfortunately, after scrolling through Google image for a good 20 minutes, I couldn’t decide on my favourite one so, instead, here is Mount Rinjani from my own personal collection.

Mount Rinjani

I took a 3 days, and 2 night hiking package from the 24th-26th June 2015 from Senaru to Sembalun to climb this 3726m giant. I wouldn’t recommend completing this in 2 day, 1 night as it does take about 24 hours on your feet in total to come out, dusty and tired on the other side.

So, apart from the muscle burn trying to distract me, I had a lot of time to think and realise that there are rules which apply to mountain hiking and real life.

Be prepared

You need to prepare yourself mentally and physically. You are going to be very tired. You will feel gross and you’ll need to do everything outdoors *ahem* bring tissue paper. It’s pretty likely you will get blisters so try and patch your feet up as much as you can beforehand. You will be cold and you will wonder why you decided to do this.

Please, please, please do not attempt this in flip flops unless you are a battle hardened, veteran porter who is hiking the mountain for over the 100th time. I recall seeing a few tired, but fairly optimistic flip-flopping hikers attempt this on our way down. I wished them luck while simultaneously having a mental face palm moment.

Seriously, there are no extra kudos points for reaching the top with shredded feet.

Like most things in life, you want to give yourself the best chance of actually succeeding so be prepared. The first step to preparing is realising it’s on you. If you want it, you’ve got to work for it. Lots of people turn around on this trek because they were ill prepared for the summit and then you’ll always be left wondering if there was anything more you could have done.

Sometimes it's the grain of sand in your shoe

Personally, I did everything I could to prepare myself and kept my fitness levels up.

Romney saves the day

I owe so much to Romney.

Carry your own stuff

Unless you happen to have a really nice dutch boyfriend who’s happy to carry your luggage as well as his own, you’ve just got to take the extra weight and hope your legs carry you on regardless. If this does happen for you, I would like to ask you to be actually courteous and walk with your boyfriend/overloaded mule.

However, I’m digressing.

This follows on from being prepared, but you do need to carry your own water, your own clothes and both your doubts and self-beliefs.

I guess what I’m trying to say is, who here doesn’t have their own personal problems and burdened with at least 99 daily problems? After a 7 hour uphill hike, you feel like that 2 litre bottle of water has turned itself into the Hercules boulder but hey, at least you’re not carrying over 40kg worth of tents and food on your shoulders!

Carrying from 40-60kg on their shoulders

Carrying from 40-60kg on their shoulders

I guess it’s time we acknowledge our own personal faults, worries or problems and trust that, even though we have to carry them with us, so does everyone else. So it’s fine if you need to stop or if you stumble, because we all will… but don’t be inconsiderate and offload it onto someone else.

You’re all in it together but the journey is your own

Same as carrying your own stuff, nobody is going to carry you up that mountain except you!

So I’d advise you to take your time and go at a pace you feel able to. In my case, I enjoyed being pushed faster and higher than I could have done on my own. Unfortunately, this tired out our poor guide, Andy, so we were frequently asked where our guide has gone.

Apart from that hike on the last day where you’re racing against time to reach the summit before the sunrise, it’s ok to go at your own pace. Take a rest if you need to but don’t stop. You will never get where you want to go if you stop.

Also, there will always be people ahead of you, and people behind you…and that’s fine too. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter that everyone is moving at a different pace to you because it’s not a race. I have to admit, sometimes this can be a hard thing to realise when you’re in the thick of it. Your life is stagnant and playing out like FRIENDS, except probably on a much more mundane level, and everyone has moved on.

Just like hiking, you can’t worry about the people you are or aren’t going to see when you rest and look around. You can’t expect someone to slow their pace down for you and I have shouted for people to “Go on without me” so I could catch my breath. Sometimes, it’s also really hard to slow down too much because you just want to see the sights and get on with it too.

But you can expect ‘hi 5s’ “Skol” and a whole lot of encouragement every step of the way and the realisation that you’ve achieved something really big and it’s worth it.

Rinjani crater rim

It’s one step forward and two steps back

This hike really takes you through all the terrain. At one point you’re in the rainforest navigating through tree routes, the next you’re scrambling on boulders and your voice head is forbidding you to look down. However, nothing is worse than scree.

Goddamn Scree!

Extremely loose rocks which were designed to ensure you fell forwards, backwards and with some luck, not sideways off the mountain! I also imagine there’s been a lot of curses made daily on this last stretch.

The sunrise hike starts at 2am and you definitely need all the warm clothing you can get and a head torch! I’d also recommend trekking poles especially for this last part so you stand a chance of getting there for 6:15am sunrise. I won’t lie, I was extremely lucky and grateful to have made it, because there’s a lot of times when you don’t think you can. I was reduced to a rhythm of taking 20 steps, and either resting/falling over.

The last hour of the summit requires everything from you as you attempt to head up this insane, maybe 60 degree, incline on a terrain that won’t support your weight. Yes, it will feel like you’re moving/ sinking backwards if you stay still… and it’s cold up there…

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This is where a large majority of people admitted defeat… and that’s also ok too because there’s everything to be proud about.

And as far as life is concern, I don’t think I have to explain the feeling of taking 1 step forward, and 2 going back, but you’re never, ever back at square 1.

Anyway, picture time!

Waiting for the sunrise

Waiting for the sunrise

Clear sky

Just look at it!

Mandatory made it photo, all 3726m of the way

Mandatory made it photo, all 3726m of the way

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I was around the 10-15th person to the summit, and there was about 20-25 people who managed to reach the top for the sunrise. However, there was no end of admirable, indomitable people who were still climbing up throughout the morning and everyone deserved the view.

Enjoy it

Need I say anymore? Excuse me while I insert more picture and cliché inspirational mountains and quotes!

You can't see it, but I'm doing a thumbs up

You can’t see it, but I’m doing a thumbs up

climb that goddamn mountain

If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there (said the Cheshire Cat- Alice in Wonderland)

I like this quote. I feel it’s one that can be used to determine the optimistic from the pessimistic. It can be interpreted with optimism. It’s fine to not know what you’re doing or going because you’ll get there eventually. However, I’m not said optimistic person so the way I read this is that if you don’t know where you’re going then you’ll get there one way or another because, chances are, you’re going nowhere.

I’ve realised this past year that my life blueprint has pretty much run its course and the education system is no longer gentle guiding me along some sort of safe structure road and now, I’m not exactly sure where I’m going anymore because getting a job I enjoy was pretty much the climatic goal I’d had indoctrinated into me since childhood. Made it. Job’s a good’un.

Blank blueprint map (in case anyone wanted visual impact with my point)

No what? I’ve decided I need a plan and not a wishy washyplan- something I passionately want to do. Now to make a good plan you need two things. 1) The goal. 2) The timeline 3) How to get there.

Anyway, I love plans. Plans and lists are my forté!

So lets tackle this.

The Goal

Considering this is the time in my life where I don’t have to answer to anybody apart from probably my managers and landlord- I can actually do ANYTHING I want (within lawful reason as I’m not jammy enough to do the illegal stuff without getting caught). This has always been true if you consider that in my previous life I technically only had to answer to my teachers, exam papers and parents. Still the pivotal point in all of this is that I am now old enough to actually decide what I want to do, and have the means to do it.

So I’m expanding this.

What is the dream?

When was the last time you had a real dream? A statement that said I want to be this person or I want to have achieved that?

So it’s a bit of a generic dream but it’s something personal and something I’m deeply passionate about.

I want to travel around the world.

 I want to live and work outside of my country and understand culture.  

I want my next dream to materialise from this one (it might not happen but at least I’d have tackled one)

 

I also have a scratch a map and I reeeeeeeaally want to scratch some places off!

The timeline

 

As we know, it’s all good and well having a dream to think about but unless there’s a timeline of when it’s happening- there’s not going to be a day when I’m ready. I won’t ever wake up and thinking “Boom, it’s a Tuesday today and I need to get up and leave right now.”

                So, to really do this justice, I want to spend at least a year away from home, but hoping for several years.

Please note, I haven’t decided what ‘home’ means anymore. I don’t see my hometown as a place I’d want to make my home and everywhere else has yet to make me feel like I want to plant my feet and grow roots. Sorry Macclesfield. You’re not The One.  

  At least a year away from home and the countries I definitely want to hit is Asia, Australia, New Zealand and America. Europe, I love you but being on my doorstep means I will take trips here when convenient.

I also want to live and work outside of my country and understand culture. I have a few very real options open to me.

  • Hong Kong: Having family here will definitely help but, mostly, I want to spend time with the side of my family that I don’t really know from the two weeks holiday every few years. My two brothers are also currently residing here.

Another key reason is that I grew up not exactly enjoying my Chinese self because I found it very difficult to reconcile both cultures, which are quite contrary, in day to day living. I want to see if I was wrong and if I’ve done a disservice to myself.

Also having citizenship here does mean it should be marginally easier.

  • Australia/New Zealand: The economy here is booming and it’s the great escape.
  • America: I’m not sure about this one but if I hear they dig the British accent so if I get good bar tips then it can’t be that bad.

So the timeline is I need to be financially and mentally ready and equipped to just leave.

The only deadline I have for this is to be pre-30 in order to get a working holiday visa. I’m going to be 24 in 2 months time so I essentially have a max 6 years. Ok, lets half this because I don’t really want to give myself a chance to get comfy and rooted or have someone give me a reason to stay.

3 years (max) is the absolute deadline. Adventure to begin: January-July 2017

How to get there:

 

Financially

Of course: I’ll need dollar of many different varieties.

Having done some light research and some small personal experiences I expect to spend about £1-1.5k a month (which is very, very comfortable for Asia) and I will need at least £3-5k to be admitted into Australia.

So my financial target is between £15-20k and now I pledge to save at least £500-600 a month going forwards. It sounds like a lot but I will also be selling my goods before I leave i.e. my car so it should be a more than achievable business. Plus, having inventoried my possessions- there isn’t anything I need. I’ve got the car, I’ve got the piano and violin and a really, really big wardrobe full of clothes. I’ve always been resourceful and I can barely buy anything clothing wise unless it’s been discounted at least once- thanks Mum for this life-long habit.

 

Practically

Thankfully, English is a universal language and I know the places I’m going to go will mean it is enough to see me through. I also have Cantonese Chinese as a backup. Unfortunately, it is the lesser of the two Chinese languages and probably not that useful outside of Hong Kong.

Still, 3 years is a long time right to learn something basic. In addition to this, I will need to arm myself with better Cantonese and having a basic ability to read simple sentences should improve my chances of finding employment in Hong Kong and to get immersed.

So I will try and converse with my mum more frequently, watch TVB online (I am open to suggestions) and try to learn not only to recognise symbols but actually remember what the hell that symbol meant.

Practically, the rest is easy and straight forward planning. In addition:

  • I want to also be working on my music and have a simple piano repertoire so that I can play on any public piano (without sheet music).
  • I want to have basic photoshopping/ graphics skills and I have photoshop/indesign/illustrator v.3 and a lovely Wacom tablet to try things out.

So there we are.

I am a woman with a plan. I know where I’m going and I know how to get there.

Anyone that has a free couch, please give me a shout 

So it’s always good practice to leave things with a song:

Kodaline: Big Bad World 

Treat your career as if it was your relationship and your relationship as if it was your career

Treat your career as if it was your relationship and your relationship as if was your career may be a strange idea. However, I am advocating it as the way to evaluate your situation, or potential future, and decide whether to stay or if it’s time to move on. Why do I say this? I guess it’s mostly through seeing people who seem unhappy in both scenarios and you wonder how they’ve got themselves in that situation.

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Many would say that ‘it just happens’ and that they were caught unaware and that’s probably true. The job that was only meant to be temporary hasn’t gone anywhere in years and you’ve given up those aspirations for your dream career for the steady pay check and because you’ve realised you’re reaching your 30s and nobody is asking what you want to be when you’re older.  You’ve reached that sell by date and you don’t know how you ever got there.

On the flip side, your relationship which had started off with all the promises in the world hasn’t really lived up to expectations but you’re in it. There’s not really been that big fight where you could throw in your towel and it’s a bit boring but it’s not bad per se. You accept it because that’s just how life is- the excitement is meant to peter out. I won’t go into detail of either job or relationship stagnation because there’s just too many reasons and excuses.

What I have noticed however is that the way we think about our career and the imperatives we require from it are different to those of our relationship, naturally. Same goes for our tolerances for each one. They say you can cook a frog by putting them in a pot of cold water and slowly raise the water temperature. The poor frog just sits there until it’s too late.

So how do you treat your career like your relationship?

Actually, before you even get there are the somewhat exciting and dreadful dates (interviews) where both the company and you are trying to work out if there’s a spark. Or, like most cases, if it’s a “not you, it’s me” case. I’ve a fair share of those rejection letters and they can be a little ego denting if you’ve set your heart on the job.

By the time you do get that acceptance letter, you’re practically jumping at the gun for it. There are probably a lot of driving reasons for this ranging from financial to the realisation that half of your friends are married to their job. It’s that feeling of insecurity that makes you more susceptible to accepting that job you didn’t, deep down, want.

Now, lets go back to the rules of a relationship. If there is no spark, which has to be genuine interest from both parties, than it’s a no go. That goes for both parties. A good company right for you will not only be interested in your ambitions but also offer support and training to enable you to get to where you want. You wouldn’t/ shouldn’t stand for a relationship where your other half deems your place is back in the kitchen making a sandwich, so why would you settle for a data entry job when you have a [insert fabulous degree or experiences]?

How do you get that spark? Well think about your ideal other half and what that person might look like. Handsome aside, what hobbies and interests would you want them to have? I can’t really imagine being with somebody long term if they’re not interested in travelling and cultures. I can’t imagine being with somebody who isn’t smart and not their own person. So you have the blueprints and now you’ve got to impress that ideal person by, quite frankly, mirroring those passions. Want somebody cultured, then get yourself out there, travel and become cultured yourself. You don’t want to be caught as a phony and, as a result of your experiences; you’ll be able to smell a phony from a mile off too.  Of course, chemistry has nothing to do with a check-list but it will definitely set you off in the right direction.

Now, looking a few years into the future, you’ve settled into the company and job but it hasn’t really progressed. You’re as far from your aspired career job now at 25 as you were when you first graduated from University. However, you’re not thinking about that now. You quite like your job because it follows a simple, rhythm that’s almost comforting. You’re a whizz at data entry and you haven’t been able to develop those much needed skills in your current role. You’re ready to grow up and move on but the company doesn’t see you in the same way. If you were in a relationship and it became apparent that one of you wanted a family and the other didn’t, wouldn’t it become evident the best solution is to just go your separate ways from that point? I’m not saying it would be easy but your resolutions would probably be stronger because you don’t want to hit 40 without a family. Well, you don’t want to hit 40 doing data entry and the sooner you can see this, the sooner you can prevent it. Many people don’t want to think about that reality because they hold on to whatever wonderful thing they did and skills they had when they were younger. Unfortunately, unless you keep at those skills, they fade to nought, so beware.

Now you’ve got the gist of making these comparisons, it’s quite straightforward understanding how you should view your relationship as if it were you career or career aspiration. I won’t spell it out as there could be so many scenarios. The one and somewhat cliché point that I’ll want to stress is your relationship really needs to keep you interested and engaged. You want your career to expose you to new experiences and thoughts, to challenge you. So find someone that keeps you slightly on your toes otherwise you’ll take them for granted.  By that, I mean you both stop listening to each other, and you stop talking to each other on that Valentines dinner meal. Yeah, that couple.

Finally, it’s always good to stress how the wrong job or wrong relationship can and only will hurt you. You will lose your skills that will enable you to reach your goals and the confidence to pursue your interests and passions.

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I realise as I write this, I’m taking a very selfish viewpoint. I’m not downplaying the importance of factors such as compromise, 2nd tries and what happens when you’ve become responsible for other people such as children.

However, this is your life and ultimately it is only yourself who can make the choices that will lead to your own happiness. They are tough decisions but what have you compromised? What more are you willing to compromise?

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Why I love travelling (on my lonesome)

For those that know me, solo travelling has become a real passion since I set off on my lonesome to the one of the most famous couples’ destination in the world, Venice, in May 2012. I am going to refrain calling myself a backpacker just yet. For one, I still believe I’m a pretty green traveler although I have been to far more places in the space of a year and a half then for most of my life.  Secondly, I don’t actually carry a backpack and I cheat with those wonderful wheelie holdalls.

Now, everyone loves a holiday so it’s understandable that I’m a little of a wanderlust now and addicted to that feeling of moving, sightseeing etc. However, I’ve come across a good many people who would ask me “why solo travelling?” One of my non-believers was a taxi driver in Dubrovnik. He repeated asked if I had friends. I said yes but I’m not convinced he believed me and was convinced I was on a lonely pilgrimage.

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So here are 5 simple reasons why I’m on my own:

1)   I am completely selfish on MY holidays… me me me

I love my friends. Of course, I do. However, this is one of the few times in my life where I would have no commitments to anything happening back at home. I don’t just mean the routine but also, the social expectations. If you go on holiday in a group, the unwritten law that you do everything together. Think you know your friends from occasional night outs and hangout time? You will when you’ve been with them 24/7. You know how you get to restaurants and see couples who have been together for eons. They keep their faces down and not really speaking? Yeah, that happens with group holidays too. Further to this, you’ll need to coordinate with each other and make compromises of where you’re going and when you stop to eat. For me, the fact I generally power walk as a normal pace really would put peeve most people off. Of course, that’s assuming you get to that stage. The organising skills you need to get people on board before you even set off is such a ball ache.

Another subtle way that social expectations will affect your holiday is how you act. You’re probably less inclined to talk about the Spanish economy with a couple of dudes from Vienna at 2am because, this is a whole side of you that friends back home have never seen. You’ve never come across as particularly knowledgeable/ particularly social to strangers on nights out and I guess those judgments will also hold you back.

You get to be a real goof.

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2)   Confidence building exercise 101

There is no greater confidence building thing to do than constantly reaffirming what you are about, where you come from and other essential aspects that make up your identity. Think about it. When was the last time somebody genuinely asked who you were, what your interests are and not having that ulterior motive that they’re going to gain anything from it but your company? You could say there’s company networking etc but there’s always a hidden agenda.

One of the greatest tricks you can play on your mind is to say something enough times and you will naturally believe it and become it. I imagine many psychiatrists and social worker would have exercises such as speaking in front of the mirror to build up aspects of yourself.

Remember this scene?

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Frankly, there’s nothing better than replacing that mirror with a ‘was stranger 5 minutes’ ago who ‘would be a friend 10 minutes later’.

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Top tip: Hitchhiking really cements a good friendship

3)   ‘Finding yourself’

That’s a comment that really comes up a lot. “Did you, er, find yourself?” It’s so cliché. I think a lot of shy people are put off solo travelling. You don’t really want to talk about yourself and you’re embarrassed you don’t have friends with you. You might not be too sure about what your interests are and you don’t really have to check and prove yourself to longstanding friends so it’s a bit of a mystery. A mystery that you never knew you had. The wonderful thing about solo travelling is that you really do have to put yourself out there. When you meet people, you quickly realise who you are or want to be by the people you find yourself naturally attaching yourself to. As there is such a diverse range of people, too many to possible know in the short 3 days you’re day means you really concentrate on those people who really interest you. You really don’t feel like you have to suck up to anyone or try hard to be liked by anyone.

They say you know a person by the company they keep. This is actually a really hard thing to keep track of as many people sustain friendship over a long time and while we constantly adapt our opinions of people, they usually revolve around the first time we met impressions. So friends you make while travelling become that snapshot identity of who you were at that point in life.

4)   You will never feel more popular

You will be invited to everything. Long gone is the kid who didn’t go to parties (I did go to parties). It might be the fact that I’m somewhat small, female, etc? I always find I get mother-henned at work with middle aged women looking out for me. So thus, does the rule apply when one goes solo travelling.

“O, you’re on your own? Come with us”

Want to know how often this happens? Well it depends where you are but your chances are very high. At hostels it’s always. I’ve been invited to meals mid- walking tour in various cities. In Venice I was late to a concert I wanted to go to because of my dinner. The ticket man at the door ushered me inside for free. As I was late, a Texan woman noticed me and we got talking. Before I knew it, I was having a few cocktails and pizzas in a bar which had an assortment of bras hanging from the ceiling.

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My photography skills were lacking. It really was a fab bar.

Reading a book can always be a good conversation starter. This led to a conversation on a night train to Croatia and we later partied all the way through Split and the islands.

As a general rule:

Single travelling male are accepted by groups of males and females and other solo travellers.

Single travelling females are accepted by groups of males and other solo travellers.

5)   You are enabled to immerse yourself into the culture

Personally, one of my greatest interests is being able to understand more culture and viewpoints. When you solo travel, you don’t have any barriers or distractions from noticing everything and anything happening around you. It can be a real eye-opener, if trivial. For example, who knew Croatians were so in love with smoking and coffee drinking, despite not having a Starbucks or Costa in sight.

Sometimes the most random and trivial things are the most beautiful. I walked into a park in Zagreb, Croatia in the evening. There were fairy lights in the trees and oldies dancing around it with some old tunes being sung.

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One of the key comparisons I can make with travelling in a group, either friends or family, and on my own regards how much of tourism you take in as opposed to culture. There will always be a degree of ‘packaged’ tourism which sells you the trinkets and the stereotypes- simply because you are a tourist. Travelling in a group really puts that glint in tour operators’ eyes. However, my biggest problem is that travelling in a group means you still live in a cultural bubble. This means that you bring a mini-Britain onto the holiday space. You might have seen this on University campus where the Chinese sticks with the Chinese, the Indians with other Indians, etc. It makes sense. It’s a safe place to be to share your experiences with somebody who has the same cultural understanding as yourself but it really desensitizes you to coming to understand why and how somebody else might live. On family holidays, my parents will point-blank insist on eating at a Chinese restaurant. It really throws me for six.

Now, these are just a few select reasons advocating solo travelling. I’m sure many people will have more pointers to add and, if not, why not? Get yourself out there.

Wishing you many safe travels and ludicrous adventures.

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Nominating Harfest 2013: Best Boston Music Festival (despite not quite happening)

Originally, this post was going to be a review about Harfest which has become a real home grown and much loved free DIY music festival in my hometown Boston, Lincolnshire.

HarryHarfest 2013

The local bands that played from a trailer stage, the atmosphere with everybody catching up with old friends and finding new ones, the homemade coffee cakes and Lincolnshire sausages all found in a privately owned field. I was hoping to recall on the night antics, reflect on all the hard work that led up to this most anticipated event and end on a rare note of being Boston proud.

Unfortunately, the event has been shut down by the local authorities and po-pos.

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It’s actually police, my fellow readers, but for the sake of making this post slightly less of a travesty- I imagine it as an army of terrorising Po. From what I understand, the organising mastermind Harry Rylott was informed in his own kitchen, 6 hours before the start of the event that he may not hold an event that was months into its preparation on his own private property. Why? It simply did not follow the Boston Borough Council’s bureaucratic procedures who have to sign off such events in advance. It is clearly mishap that the organisers had not known this requisite as this event is in its 4th year running. It was being held on private land, not-for-profit and licences were not required to sell alcohol. You could say it was an extravagant party which was open to the public, out of Harry’s goodwill to ensure it was an event for the community. Very rarely do you have to ask the authorities to hold a party and I doubt anybody here did either. A forgivable naivety that I doubt many people would have thought of.

What isn’t quite forgivable is the manner in which the Borough Council has decided to put a stop on the event. It is quite clear that the higher authorities did not want to negotiate the terms of this event and intended to put it to arrest. The event has been publically publicised for weeks in a variety of mediums from local newspapers and radio. It has been in working progress and anticipation for months. Quite frankly, sending in a thorough application through to the Council would have been a doddle in comparison if anybody at the Council had thought to inform Harry and co of this corrective action. Informing somebody 6 hours before an event is not acceptable! I’m sure details would have been as easy to find via snooping on Facebook or a look in the newspaper.

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So much for the Big Community.

My support goes out to Harry and everybody involved in organising this rare treasure, from the bands for the music to his Nana for the food. I have, unfortunately, never been to Harfest despite its 4th year running and I’m afraid I may not get the opportunity.

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However, have heart. So the lead up to this blog is to reflect on Harfest and all the positives. As a marketing graduate [insert self-sell here], it is safe to say this would gain the award for the best and most incredible marketing for a ghost event. As I said earlier, this was a DIY festival in its 4th year and ambitious Harry wanted to make it bigger and better. In order to do this he needed to get the word out. How? For starters, he had the most coveted marketing weapon which is Word of Mouth. This can be seen by his Harry Harfest Facebook page with 280 likes. The event page shows over 300 participants who would be either definitely or might attend. It is quite important to add that these participants from all around the UK, notably from Durham. Did I mention that this event was written in the local newspapers?

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How about a chat with Dean Jackson from 1:53 onwards on BBC Lincolnshire Radio?

Perhaps I am to-be marketing cynic but do you know what it takes to get FREE publicity?! Companies are known to pay hundreds of pounds to B-list celebrities to get a 3rd party endorsement such as these losers. So, you know when you get others writing about you- be it an organisation with a professional face i.e. Boston Standards or just me in my own spare time- it’s because it’s something worth writing about, something with real substance and worth sharing.

Further publicity includes something akin to Kony 2012. Anybody remember that? I’ve found only one poster in this ‘movement’ in Venice.

ImageHere’s the Harfest version

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Pretty darn good job. Look how professional it looks too. Wonder Circus doesn’t stand a chance. I mean, it’s upside down!

The amazing artwork is from the truly talented fiend, as talent makes me green with envy.

Jim Edwards take a bow. An aspiring tattooist, it won’t be long before he makes his mark. Be sure to follow his postings and artwork.

Now, lets have a look at the bands.

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19 up and coming bands and artists all ready to take its listeners through from the noon to early hours of the morning. All passionate about the music they sing and write and have been practising their crafts. I won’t go into details of each one as they have been reviewed more thoroughly by Harry Parkhill. I can only speak on my behalf that it has been a real shame to not have heard you guys live. However, it is not all been for nought. You’ve been discovered by some new fans and the compilation mix as can be heard here is a real treat.

This all sounds great right? Well, there MUST be costs! Of course, there are. For the first year since its inception- all would-have-been goers would have been delighted to see Portaloos. A fundamental and surprisingly expensive, requisite for our comforts, along with a professional PA sound set up and DJ for the early hours of the morning were part of the billing. There’s even a caterer in the form of his Nana! Luckily, she is doing this for free (I presume) due to blood relations but I’m sure her effort should not go without a mention. A menu was posted up and it included homemade coffee or chocolate cake. Sadly, there is a bill and somebody has to foot it. Well, Harry was able to gain backers for £408 from Kickstarter. A fantastic result even if the money is going back towards its donators for the ghost event. I, personally, do not feel that Harry should foot the enormous bill on his own as a result. So cough up guys. What’s £2 to you anyway?

I should also like to unofficially speak on behalf of Boston Tesco and Asda. I’m sure many people like me have helped myself to some alcoholic tipple for the event. They are extremely grateful for the custom that Harfest has brought them. For a community like Boston, I am convinced the local economy works by Alcohol quantities sold.

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So what I’d like to say is that, despite the recent events and disappointing ending to a fantastic project. It, in itself, is not a failure and everything that has been done with Harfest in mind has been done to an incredible standard. You wanted a community and you’ve got it. We’ve got your back.

A Real Hero

What happens when time is no longer an issue?

So I’ve graduated! “Yay”

How should you read that yay? It’s hard to know- optimistic that ends with a confused twang. Sure, I worked hard for the last 4 years to finally get my wonderful little piece of paper and I’m off the educational gravy train into a peculiar new world. I no longer have any projects, any deadlines, any expectations, anybody specific to root for or rooting for me. What I do have is time on my side. Time. Endless time. Day after day…you get the message. 

Unfortunately, it has been starting to take an effect on me. I don’t need to get up for anything right now. When I do, I have to work out how to fill it. Everything I do is done on a slower, less up to par pace.

The effects of this is that I’m in a relatively rubbish mood today. I’ve overslept so I’m feeling tired. Added to that, it doesn’t matter if I’m feeling tired as nobody expects or needs me to get anything done for the day. Ironically, I’ve seen my whole family go through (and still are going through) this cycle and I know it will never lead to anything good. Depression. Anxiety, Low self-esteem. Insomnia.  

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So in conclusion?
When time is no longer an issue then it is all too easy to put everything off. I will do it in the future. I will start tomorrow but when tomorrow never begins we realise how shy we’ve become. How big the world appears and scared we are to venture out into it. We become the forgotten and our ambitions need dusting. We’ve learnt to conserve our energy because we’re waiting for that burst of motivation when everything starts. 

The issue is we forget the word ‘now’. Don’t forget it. It will save you from a very vicious trap. 

To illustrate. Here is the picture of a trap. Avoid it at all cost. 
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I’m not LIVING. I’m waiting for my life to start. For when my career takes off, when I move out of my parent’s house, I believe that my life will begin and truly fall in place. That my current situation is only a temporary limbo. I’m trying to change this viewpoint because the longer I stay in it, the more desperate and unhappy I will become. So here I am, learning how to live in the now, becoming the person I want to be now while ensuring my future is going to be wow. *Wish me luck* 

Note that time is a blessing if you use it wisely. I can pick up those hobbies I’ve always wanted, catch up with all my long lost friends, read all the books and watch all the films I didn’t have time for before. 

Time is such a weird thing. I never thought I would have to be so consciously aware of it all the time in order to stay in control and on top of it – if that’s even possible. 

Origami Me

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This is a paper crane. One of the most popular origami where the Japanese legend states that folding 1,000 paper cranes will grant the maker a wish. I’ve only made 3 and possible 2 more (which may be found in a bin) so I’ve got a long way to go.

It came about when I returned home for a few days. My brother decided it was time to concentrate on a new hobby so I was happy to join in. While I was interested, and I still am, I ‘ve decided that origami isn’t for me…and I probably wouldn’t make my 1,000 cranes. I am too impatient and believed any fold that appeared to be symmetrical would do. I would watch my brother and decide to try and learn it all. Running before I could walk. There were many trials and a few of my origami do look a little battered due to the wrong folds but all in all – I can say that I am the proud owner of a few paper lilies, a handful of cranes and, much to my delight, a stegosaurus and tyrannosaurus!
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That was a week ago, I can only competently make the lilies now. Colourful, simple, fold able.  I guess I’ve found my dinner table party drink. My favourite is the tyrannosaurus but it took so long and it was so complex. There were many times when I wanted to crumple it up with all its inverse/reverse/upside/inside folds but I persevered and eventually I’d made it. A whole 3D dinosaur out of one sheet of flat paper.

It got my thinking, and being reflective, that this origami, this origami process, was me. Project me. On the eve of eve of my University results, I find myself wondering where I am now, how I got here and where I am going. Perfect blogging material right.

The world is my oyster (as the saying goes) but what if I’m allergic to shellfish? Joking aside, I realized that from the moment I was born- I’ve been folded and prodded into the being that I am today. Just like the sheet of paper, I can now be perceived as a shape viewed from a variety of angles. Every choice I’ve made and every person whose inspired me has created a new fold in origami me. Sometimes, I have to unfold myself and go backwards when it’s the wrong choice or decision but eventually I’ll become something.

Question is: what do I want to be? All my paper creatures are made from the same shape and material but since I’ve made them- I’ve realised that I cannot imagine my dinosaur being anything but a dinosaur. My paper lily will never become a paper crane.

I’m hoping this blog will help me decide what sort of creature I want to turn into. In origami, nearly all folds start off in the same way and follows a set pattern. I feel that, with my life in education, the constant in my life, coming to an end- I no longer follow the safety of a pattern.

I think that’s the scary part. I am in complete control of where I should go, what should inspire me and seeking it, all the while, never quite sure of the end result. If I was granted a wish, right this second, on how I want to turn out- I’m not sure I would be able to answer it. I guess making 1,000 cranes would give me the time I needed to work it out.

So. It begins.
Project “Origami” Me