The musings and misadventures of a girl unprepared

Sunday, 28 July 2013

Here's To Never Growing Up

WE FINALLY HAVE INTERNET!! We got it all installed and set up ourselves. Well, Will did, though I still feel rather accomplished. I've been gathering thoughts for this post for a while due to our connection drought, but it was only when I heard this song that I finally found the inspiration to start writing. And YES I still love Avril Lavigne. Belated teenage angst and all that.

Recently I've caught myself saying the phrase 'maturity is overrated' rather a lot, in a feeble attempt to protect myself from the process of aging, as if to defend myself from becoming - dare I write it - a 'grown-up'. Perhaps I'm having something of a quarter life crisis, having recently moved into a new flat and inherited all sorts of crazy responsibilities like paying bills and dealing with pesky estate agents. Sometimes I go on a night out and I feel OLD (granted most places in Preston are full of 16 year olds) and I'm now at that stage where I'm transitioning between being referred to as a 'girl' and a 'woman'. Oh and I keep getting excited about things like food shopping and interior decorating...

Maybe I'm just overreacting a little. It's not really the prospect of getting older that scares me; my Mum tells me constantly that she's never been happier than she has being middle aged. It's the idea that I'll start growing up in negative ways - all too often I'm told I'm naïve or that I'll grow out of my ideologies in time. A quote from one of my favourite German films 'Die Fetten Jahren Sind Vorbei' (The Edukators in English) goes, 'Wer unter 30 nicht links ist hat kein Herz, und wer mit über 30 immer noch links ist hat keinen Verstand' (Roughly translated: Anyone who is under 30 and not a socialist is heartless, and anyone who is over 30 and still a socialist is clueless). It's resonated with me ever since, just because I fear that the world will break me down and eventually I'll fit into this category. My world and political views are somewhat of a defining feature for me, so the idea of losing that is a little bit scary.

Personally, I think we can learn a lot more from children than we can from adults in terms of values. Children aren't rascist, sexist, homophobic, obsessed with tradition or believe in social hierarchy. These things are learned from - you guessed it - the older generation. I strongly believe that no child is born evil. Things are always very straight forward to children. Politicians get paid far too much money every year to sit around and debate issues like whether or not marriage equality should be legalised where as kids like the ones above think it's a no brainer. I'm not blaming adults for their ways, it seems to be something that develops through experiences, both good and bad and later in life people just want to settle down, which is understandable. I just hope I never opt for the easy life and become passive.

Also, I don't like the rules that I'm now 'too old' to do certain things. Things like having Disney dance parties in the kitchen and singing in public and wearing certain clothes... I don't see why adults can't be silly too. I understand there are some necessary rules of social etiquette that begin to apply as you get older, but where's the fun in taking yourself too seriously? I wrote in another post about how on starting uni, I became a lot more insecure and worried about other people's opinions of me. However due to this recent epiphany I seemed to have gone full circle to how I used to be, basically not giving a damn. And believe me, this is way more fun.

'It's never too late to be what you might have been' - George Eliot

I'm often reminded of this when I set out travelling, with friends and family telling me 'embrace the opportunity now, you won't be able to do it when you're older'. Um, why not? If you want any inspiration on really living, I'd recommend 'Old Man On A Bike' by Simon Gandolfi, who rode across South America on an old pizza bike at the age of 73. That's SEVENTY THREE. I want to be like THAT when I'm a pensioner. So none of this 'I'm just to old for that', alright? As I said earlier on to my Dad who is turning 49 again in a few days, you're only as old as you feel ;) (I don't care how cheesy that sounds, it rings very true. Also you should be used to cheese on here by now).

Doing the 'love train' at Hideout festival. One guy came up to us and said 'Have you ever been to something like this before? What are you doing?'. When I retorted 'Well who made you the fun police?' his come back was 'Grow-up'. No thanks Mr Cool Hipster Guy. We'll just dance with your mate instead. :D

Being referred to as a woman is possibly the strangest part of it all for me. I mean, I'm often told I seem older than I am, that I'm 'mature' for my age, but I can't say I feel anywhere near like a woman yet. It's the same as when news reporters say, 'an 18 year old man blah blah blah' and I'm all like 'MY BABY BROTHER IS NEARLY 18, HE CAN'T BE NEARLY AN ADULT'. Can anybody tell when exactly this feeling of being a grown up starts kicking in? A friend at work told me that he'd heard that really, a person isn't really deemed an adult until they're 35. Does that sound about right? I think I finally understand what Britney was singing about back in '01.

I suppose that my main concern really, is that I'll start taking myself and life in general far too seriously. Life can be both sucky and awesome but in my opinion, the only way to get through it is to be as carefree as possible. Of course there's times for being serious and fighting for things you believe in, but in the end you're going to die one day so don't forget to live now. So if someone tells you you're too old to travel or act in a certain way, tell them to do one or even better, get them to join in.

Wednesday, 17 July 2013


That's right, I finally reached my 10,000th blog view yesterday!! I can't actually believe that so many of you are continuing to read my ramblings - thanks so much :)

I thought I'd do a quick post dedicated to all my trips since I started the blog. I suppose this could act as a bit of a catch up for any new readers, as well as a celebration of all the wonderful things I've experienced and incredible people I've met over the past two years.

East Coast USA

New York - Philadelphia - Washington DC - Knoxville - Nashville - Atlanta - Orlando - Miami. In three weeks. Possibly the most hardcore travelling I've done to date. These first two trips are the reason I started the blog, which is pretty crazy considering how much it's come along now!

Started off the trip with Rach and Ferris as well as Aimee to celebrate Rach's 18th birthday! We managed to pick the rainiest cloudiest day to visit the Statue of Liberty and to be honest were pretty underwhelmed by how big it was... Still, been there, done that, got the t-shirt and it was still a pretty good day.

WE MET ED SHEERAN. In Nashville after a Snow Patrol concert at which he was the support act. He smelled wonderful where as I was sweaty and horrible and hadn't washed my clothes for far too long. Sorry about that Ed.

Our first basketball game! Heat vs Pistons and Heat won it by a mile. We also got on the big screen by dancing like loons whilst people around us held up giant cardboard cut outs of H E A T.

Peru, Chile and Bolivia

Lima - Cusco - Arequipa - Arica - Iquique - San Pedro de Atacama - Uyuni - Potosi - Sucre - La Paz - Copacobana - Isla del Sol - Cusco - Huacachina - Lima. A beautiful continent full of beautiful people. I'd go back there in a heartbeat.

Peru: This was actually taken on our return to Peru at our last stop in a place called Huacachina. It was a great place to end the trip, with our good friend Sam from Aus, pretty much just partying all night and eating BBQ chicken wings all day. In this picture we'd decided to go on a midday booze cruise on the tiny lake with a surprisingly strong current in the middle of the oasis town. Such a great memory :)

Chile: Arica, the dryest city in the world, where in 10 years in rains only enough to fill one tea cup. 25 degrees everyday without fail. What an incredible place.

Bolivia: Sugar Daddy, The Cow (that's me...), G-meister General and Evester, setting out on three day 4x4 tour of the salares and salt flats. The trip consisted of the absolute coldest nights I've ever experienced, as well as the most breath-taking views.

Eurotrip 2012

Prague - Vienna - Budapest. A trip to reunite all the homies after a year away at university and travelling.

Prague: For some reason we decided to climb a really big hill just to see what was at the top. If I remember correctly, there really wasn't much up there, but the view was pretty special.

Vienna: This is from the night out where we went to the club 'Flex' and got invited on stage by the DJs simply because we were 'foreign'. Great night, from chucking shoes at Peter to the wall of sweets in the bathroom. Even though I wasn't wowed by the rest of the city I had a really good night.

Budapest: Since we're dead mature and all we decided to spend a day renting go carts and bikes and ride around the park. One of my absolute highlights of the trip as Pete and I rented a tandem and failed miserably at riding it. We also enjoyed ice creams and played in the musical fountain.

Abersoch- Girly Summer Holiday

A week holiday with all my favourite girls from high school. Unfortunately I didn't blog about this at the time but we had a lovely time chilling out at the beach and doing some serious charity shopping, whilst sleeping in a lovely cottage we rented.

The beautiful girlies. We decided we weren't too old to fit on this little train ride around the park and all six of us crammed into the back seat, making the ride rather squished.

This was pretty much our own private beach, about 15 minutes walk from the house and hidden away from the main busy one. This is also the beach that destroyed my apparently indestructible camera that had survived three months in the USA and South America... 

Five days in Amsterdam

Another one I didn't blog about - sorry fellas! - because I only really started blogging again in January where as this trip was in November. In short we stayed in a caravan, visited a lot of Van Gogh exhbitions, the Botanical Gardens, Anne Frank's House and a fair few coffee shops. You know, the usual Amsterdam thing.

Note to self: Going on a holiday with four boys and no girls to a place like Amsterdam is probably not the smartest thing you could have done.

Me and the guys chilling in a pretty cool coffee shop in the Red Light District. Going with four guys means you spend a little too much time in that area of town.

I met Desiree and Sophie from the Machu Picchu trek!! We went out for a lovely traditional Dutch meal and I tried Bitterballen which I am a BIG fan of. It was great to be reunited with some old travel friends :)

We LOVED the Botanical Gardens. I can't remember the exact price anymore but I know it was pretty reasonable (especially if you have a student card) and they also have a butterfly house!

Eurotrip 2013

Siegburg, Cologne and Bonn - Krakow - Vienna - Bratislava - Budapest - Belgrade - Sarajevo - Mostar - Novalja, Pag (Hideout Festival!) - Zagreb - Dubrovnik.

I spent the first four nights with my friend Mani who I met in Cusco, Peru. We had such a great time chilling in the sunshine, swimming, sharing a few beers and throwing popcorn at each other.

Highlights picture created by my wonderful friend Mitch. I joined the trip at picture number nine. I can't believe how much we did in such a short space of time!

Mitch and I chilling at the lake in Bratislava, one of my favourite pictures from the trip. This is the day we tried Bull's Testicle Goulash and Josie burnt her ass and stomach. Silly girly.

And last but not least... Hideout Festival and Zagreb!

On Novalja, Isle of Pag with 11 other members of the Preston crew. Probably the best festival I've ever been to.

Danny and Ki living it up on the first day. This was at a pool party with a live DJ set (goodness knows who it was) where we danced like crazy and drank tasty but pricey cocktails.

Sunrise at 6am. I saw four of these during the five day festival. Not bad for a girl who didn't even like house music before she went.

(Almost) Everyone together in Zagreb, which pretty much acted as a recovery session for the festival. Despite the criticisms it's had I actually really liked the city, which is much more chilled out than others so a welcome break on a busy trip.

And that just about sums up my last two years worth of travelling. Looking back at the post I really haven't done too badly have I? Especially considering I had to cancel two trips to Madrid and Dublin. I'm really excited for my cruise round the Canary Islands in August now :D Once again, thanks so much for reading (I wouldn't be a proper Brit if I wasn't excessively grateful now would I?), it really is quite flattering that so many of you want to read my thoughts, documentaries and rants. You're the best! :)

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Being yourself: Officially a Dreadhead!

Another dread update! Last time I mentioned their progress I'd just brought the number up to 11 in Sarajevo. I now have a couuuuuple more than that.

I used the twist and rip method and despite the adverse advice, used elastic bands to secure the sections because my hair is just to smooth and straight to do it without. Will be taking them out within a week though! No product and I'm going to throw out my crochet hook because I've only heard bad things about them since I starting using it. I also have a few beads and fancy bits which I intend to start putting in soon. So yer, this is how they look right now:

Dread count: 36

I finally took the plunge and thought, 'Hashtag YOLO, let's just go the whole hog and hope I don't look too ridiculous'. I've wanted to dread my hair since forever (well early high school but that does seem like a life time ago) but to be honest I never really thought I'd pluck up the courage to do it. It's not that I've always tried to blend in, far from it, I've always liked to do my own thing. However, for some reason doing anything crazy with my hair has been something I have been worried about being judged on.

I worked out recently that this was mostly to do with the fear of not being considered 'attractive'; that because so many have people have warned me that I won't suit dreads or they look dirty or just plain awful, I started to think, 'Well maybe they're right. Maybe if I change my hair I'll all of a sudden turn into some hideous monster that no one will ever love ever again and I'll have to become some crazy-cat-lady-spinster who is forever alone.' When in actual fact, that is just THEIR opinion (the not liking dreads thing, not necessarily the crazy-cat-lady bit) which of course, they are fully entitled to. I, on the other hand, have always loved dreadlocks. If I see someone rocking dreads I will literally fall in love with them on sight (no exaggeration, ask my friends) and have always thought of it as a really beautiful and individual hairstyle.

Most of the above realisation came to me during a conversation with a friend whilst travelling, when discussing how society has conditioned us to think that looking a certain way is attractive, whilst everyone else becomes completely undesirable. It attempts to impress on us an ideal way to look and boxes us off into categories. Short skirts, long blonde hair, fake tan etc etc are a big yes, whilst dreadlocks, baggys jeans and facial piercings are a big no-no. Now I'm not suggesting that if you want to have the blonde and bronzed look there is anything at all wrong with it - I'm merely suggesting that if that's not how you want to look, don't just to it because society says you should. I know plenty of people who find their other half more attractive without make-up and dressed down anyway.

Too many times this year I've found myself wearing tighter and more revealing clothing than I'm comfortable in, simply because that's how you 'look nice'. Then I spend the whole evening feeling self conscious and either go home early, or get a stupid level of drunk so I don't have to think about what I look like. True, I'll get a lot more attention dressing that way than I do dressing the way I prefer, but it is attention I've never enjoyed. It's nice to be called pretty, but when it's accompanied by a slap on the ass (swiftly followed by a return whack in the face from yours truly) it completely loses any complimentary value. Being treated like a piece of meat just makes me feel cheap.

I finally made the decision to progress from my 11 hidden dreads to a full set due to meeting a guy in a hostel in Zagreb, who was just as infatuated with the hairstyle as me. I'd never met someone else who has as much love for dreads as I do, whose first question wasn't, 'Have you thought about how you're going to take them out?', but rather, 'They look incredible, when are you going to do the rest?!'. I know it sounds silly, but that was literally all it took and my mind was set. I think far too often people are scared to do what they want to do with their lives because they feel like they'll be the only one to think that their choices are the right ones. That they'll be alone in their decisions and it'll be difficult to find any support. But if I've learned anything from that accidental meeting, it's that sometimes you'll find people you can really relate to completely by chance, in the strangest places and at the most unexpected times. And really, if the decision is right for you, who cares what anybody else thinks? Also it turns out that after all my worrying, aside from a few exceptions, almost all of my friends and family admitted they actually quite like the do, or can at least tolerate it.

(Instagram @gracelund1)

Aimee and Pete actually HELPED to finish off the last couple.

I know it might seem a bit odd getting all deep about a hairstyle, but for me it's more about what it represents. It's a lifestyle choice that allows me to express myself, despite the stigma which can come with it and I'm just really pleased that with a little encouragement, I've finally been able to carry it out. In today's society I don't think there's enough emphasis on the importance of being yourself, so I hope I can at least do my little bit to spread word that it's OK just to be you. Judging people is for losers, so who cares what anybody else thinks?

This post is inspired both by my new dreads and the above video my Jenna Marbles, who I think is an absolute babe. It's an inspiring video for me, so I thought I'd share it with you all :)

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Last days in Zagreb

I feel bad about giving little prior warning for this but I actually flew home today! Currently sitting in Leeds train station waiting for a lift from my big sister. There's a few reasons for leaving early, mainly money and feeling bad about letting my flatmate sort out all the boring new house stuff by himself. But never fear, I shall keep blogging and I'm off again to the Canary Islands in August :)

I spent my last three days in Zagreb, which were mostly treated as recovery days from Hideout. I was pleasantly surprised by the city considering all the negativity I'd been fed about it from fellow travellers. It's true that it's not exactly the most beautiful of cities - but by no means was it the ugliest either! And despite reports of it being boring I actually found there was a lot to do it the way of site seeing and museums.

(Instagram @gracelund1)

Beautiful mosaic church roof, it must have taken bloody ages to put together.

(Instagram @ljcowgill)

One of my highlights was the Museum of Broken Relationships, which caught my attention mainly due to it's rather odd concept. It's a museum of items donated by people to help them let go of a past relationship. Each memento is accompanied by a story or anecdote written by its original owner either about the relationship or why they chose this particular keepsake, which ranged from wedding dresses to teddy bears to an axe (a particularly amusing story about a girl who destroyed her exes furniture when she left her for another woman) I found it to be a really moving place; I both laughed and was moved to tears and even left my own message behind in their anonymous 'confessions' book.  

My hostel 'Mali Mrak' was great. About 15 minutes out of town and extremely reasonable for Croatia (just 90 Kuna or £8.50 per night). I had to stay in a different hostel to the others because they'd booked way in advance but it worked out pretty well - I met some really cool/strange/interesting people - one guy who was literally my male double, crazy times! - and the staff were the absolute best.

Hostel rules, the last four are my favourite.

On my final night in the city before heading to catch my flight home from Dubrovnik, we decided to head out to see what Zagreb offered in terms of nightlife. Staying out til 4am in a club with the absolute worst DJ ever, drinking Long Island Iced Tea  and dancing like a loon seemed like a good idea at the time, but 11 hour bus journeys are NEVER fun, especially on a hangover. And missing your first bus because you had to ask your taxi driver to pull over so you could throw up in a busy street isn't much of a party either. I'm such a classy bird. However, it wasn't a bad night all in all!

Ste and Lauren soaking up traditional Croatian culture en route home.

All together, my trip was pretty incredible! Not only did I get to see some of the most beautiful and moving sites in Europe I also met some really amazing people, who I hope to see again in the future! Because for me, it really is the people you meet that make a trip. Thank goodness for Facebook eh?!

Sunday, 7 July 2013

Hideout; LET'S JACK

Since my last post I've been partying continuously and sunning myself at Hideout Festival (a house music festival on the Isle of Pag) hence the lack of much to write about. Staying in the same place for six days should have been a nice break after moving so quickly but thanks to a week of podium dancing, boat parties, one too many cocktails and watching four sunrises back to back, I can safely say I haven't felt this tired in an incredibly long time.

(Instagram @gracelund1)

I didn't expect it to be so picturesque... I'm so sorry for the British Invasion, Pag.

(Instagram @taneli_uk)

Four tet at sunrise at our favourite club Kalypso. This is where Pete told me I 'dance like a black girl who grew up in Detroit'. I don't think I've ever been so flattered. *blushes*

I went with the Preston lot who are all very much into their house music and that whole scene, so I was a little apprehensive about what I was getting myself into, being a bit of a rocker myself. (Especially Danny i.e. Taneli who is a bit of an up and coming DJ himself - I'd highly recommend checking out his tunes:;)

However after a week of being fully immersed in 'the vibes' I can unashamedly admit that I am a house music convert. I never really understood it before - sounds a little cheesy I know but it really is something you have to experience to understand. And as someone who likes to boogey like crazy I fit in pretty easily.

(Instagram @gracelund1)

I wanted to do this SO BAD but unfortunately I had to be sensible/boring with funds. Maybe next time... SIGH.

(Instagram @ljcowgill)

Ste enjoying the Numbers 10 pool party with Jackmaster. Hannah 'God IS the beat'... 

The crowd were a rather colourful bunch; 90's get up and high heel trainers to teeny tiny bikinis and netted vests. I'm quite into my fashion quirks and creating my own style, so I'm not one to judge on other's outfit choices, but let's just say some were a little extreme even for me. Each to there own though, life would be boring of everyone was the same.

(Instagram @taneli_uk)

Boat party!! So much fun but it seriously takes in out of you.

(Instagram @taneli_uk)

Some of the crew soaking up the sun.

I'm now chilling in my hostel in Zagreb waiting for the others to recover at theirs so we can meet up and explore. Since they just crashed last night, I spent my evening with a group of guys from London who turned out to be super chill and lovely, which was a rather welcome atmosphere after the madness of the past week. 

Aaaaaaaaaand there's not much more to say really, just that this week has easily been the highlight of my year so far. Oh and I found out I passed my first year with a 2:1!! Who'd've thunk it eh?