The musings and misadventures of a girl unprepared

Saturday, 31 May 2014

Border Crossing

We made it! We are officially in México! It was surprisingly easier than I thought it was going to be, they didn't even check our passports; they simply told Greg to push a red button on the passport desk and we were on our way into Tijuana. Even the checks at the bus station were more thorough, at least they asked us whether or not we had drugs or illegal weapons on us.

Anyway, now we're en route to our first Mexican destination of Hermosillo, in the middle of the desert. It's a 12ish hour bus ride but it turns out we have wifi and there's a film about a dog president playing, so I think we'll make it through. Plus the landscape isn't too bad either...

Beach Bums

From Greg's Instagram. Be-a-u-tiful.

Yesterday we didn't get up to too much and it was glorious. We spent most of the day lounging on Venice Beach in the sunshine and 'frolicking' (another Gregism) in the Pacific Ocean. The weather was wonderful and the water was lovely and basically I want to move to LA and open a hostel on the beach.

'Look, look! I'm hugging the ocean!'

No, Greg isn't wearing fake tan on his face.

My natural habitat.

We took a walk down the board walk to Santa Monica beach and Muscle Beach. A large part of the walk was a bit of a hippy paradise, with loads of stalls selling bracelets made of hemp and sage for burning, so of course I was loving it, even though my ice cream melted all over my hand and my clothes and my face...

My favourite part of the day however, may have been Greg's super exciting 'tan', which consists of being totally red aside from his eyes and a white patch on his stomach because he sucks at putting sun cream on.

This is just a taster, but it did look kinda like he was wearing a strapless mini sun dress. I laughed so hard I cried.

This morning were packing up to get ready for our Mexico stint of the trip; our bus for Tijuana leaves in just a few hours! I'm super excited to discover an entirely new culture and country, it's been too long.

Friday, 30 May 2014

Hollywood Boulevard

We're currently lounging in the beautiful morning sunshine on our second full day in LA, eating another signature Rochester breakfast at the Mansion (our hostel), which turns out to be the old home of Eddie 'Rochester' Anderson, who acted in Gone With The Wind, and has been converted into a hostel which is run by his son! It's such an awesome hostel that we decided to stay another night before heading off to Tijuana tomorrow.

Yesterday we spent most of the day in Hollywood, firstly visiting universal studios then walking up and down the boulevard. We went with two of the guys from our hostel called Daniel and Peter who are from Poland.

En route to universal studios.

My feet and Fleetwood Mac.

Moon landing!

My fav ❤

We also managed to get a pretty awesome view of the Hollywood sign and paid a visit to the Chinese Theatre, where I got to put my hand where Rupert Grint's and Johnny Depp's hands had been and it made my life complete.

After a morning chilling with the stars, we decided to go off and explore downtown for a little while. It turned out to be, to quote Greg, very accurately represented in Grand Theft Auto, and also strangely empty compared to London or any English city. We mainly wandered aimlessly, but did come across a few gems along the way, such as the Walt Disney Concert Hall.

Greg's arty Instagram of inside the concert hall.

In the evening we came back to the hostel to enjoy some beers in the pool and take some hilarious underwater pictures, involving a lemon picked from a tree and a lost button. It's the simple things eh? However, as I don't have access to a computer yet to upload my camera shots, you'll have to sit tight for Greg's sexy underwater snaps.

Today's plan so far consists of heading to Venice Beach (because I want to make myself feel as ugly as possible for some reason) and perhaps a trip around Beverley Hills. So I have to attempt to dress a little more 'fancy' than usual. Wish me luck! 

Thursday, 29 May 2014

What happened in Vegas...

First of all, no, we did not get married in Vegas. Let's just clear that up right away.  Not to say we didn't consider it though... (I'm joking)

We spent three days there all in all and if I'm honest, I wasn't really a fan. I was really quite relieved to get out of there yesterday, not only for the heat but mainly for the sheer hedonistic excess of the place. However like in everyone I meet and everything I do, I like to try and find the good stuff, so I'll try and write a little about that first.

Of all the things that Vegas has got so so wrong, it's impossible to deny that it really is a testament to man's skill and creativity in architecture. Seriously, in the space of a couple of miles you can visit the Eiffel Tower, New York City and King Arthur's Castle. It's completely nuts.

Before I'd visited, I'd heard stories that people wouldn't leave their hotels at all, and it's easy to see why. Each one is like it's own little city with shops and casinos and pools and shows and the best air-conditioning ever in the world ever. One even has its own aquarium and another a roller coaster! We spent an entire day just exploring the hotels and ended up walking for about 11/12 hours (we guesstimated about ten miles in the blistering -literally for our feet! - 43*C heat).

Little did we know that this was an UNDERestimate.

I also have to say that it was a pretty awesome place to go out at night. On the second day, after raiding an outlet store in the morning and a visit to the 'Welcome to Vegas' sign that nearly killed us, we decided to conserve our energy for the rest of the day and re-explore at night.

We went for dinner at a place called 'Bubba Gump' which is a shrimp restaurant based on Forrest Gump which was super yummy and had a killer view of the strip.

For me I suppose Vegas was an experience, but not necessarily one I'd like to repeat, because for all its star quality, there's so much about it that makes me want to cry a little inside. It's (to use Greg's favourite phrase) an affront to nature, in that it is so unnatural. None of what Vegas is, is an attribution to the beautiful scenery that surrounds it and its excessive energy waste is so ridiculous I had to fight back my inner eco warrior from going on a rampage. It's basically a giant adult playground, that promotes so many things that are wrong with humanity, from the objectification of women to the ignorance of those in poverty - there were people gambling away $1000s in the casino and others starving on the streets outside. That was probably the most painful to watch.

I think it's safe to say that I've done enough of Vegas for one life time, though I can't say I regret going. I think it's a completely unique experience in itself and I'm glad I got to see it (and even gamble a whole dollar myself!)

We're now in Los Angeles after a loooong bus ride (actually it was only 6 hours but I'm out of practice) in the coolest hostel. It's called The Mansion, and as the name suggests it's big white mansion, with the main housed furnished in such a rustic style, we were genuinely confused about what time period we were in. It's also run by the loveliest people who make a killer breakfast (are there any other qualities to look for in a person?) I think we're off to Hollywood today with a couple of guys we met in the hostel, so hopefully it should prove pretty exciting :)

Monday, 26 May 2014

A Blue Popsicle and the Mafia

As I said yesterday, everything seemed to be going far too swimmingly on our outbound journey and it turns out I was right to be suspicious.

After collecting our bags, we began walking towards the second security check before leaving the airport. This means that before this point, we'd already had a thorough passport check, finger prints and mug shots taken and visas scrutinised. A random security guard/serious looking police officer man decides to pull us to one side to do some kind of unofficial background check on us.

'Are you two married?
*classic gets-em-out-of-everything-giggle* 'No!'
*stoney faced* 'What is your business in Las Vegas?'
'What is the actual name if your hostel?'
'Las Vegas Hostel...' (Perhaps I can see why that was kinda suspicious)

And he went on like that for a while, so I decided to word vomit our entire trip at him until he let us go. Now I get that the security here is tight and that on a plane full of hen parties and fake baked middle aged men we did stand out a liiiittle bit, but just coz I haven't brushed my hair in a month and we didn't smell the sweetest after a 10 HOUR flight doesn't mean we're up to something. Honestly.

The second exciting event happened just after we arrived at the hostel. We'd had a lovely shuttle bus ride with Belltrans (highly recommend!), who drop you and your luggage at the door of your hostel for just $8. This meant that we got not only a trip of all the fancy famous hotels (whilst we were praying we'd be dropped off last, seeing as our digs were bound to be of no comparison and no-one in the bus even understood the concept of a 'hostel') but also some solid advice of where to go and what to see. Lots of people told us about their favourite places to visit and where we could find the best chapels - EVERYONE thinks we're eloping... - and of course the best places to eat. Our driver was particularly lovely, and on dropping us off warned us not to go any further right down the street we're on. The location, he said, is great, but six blocks in the other direction and we're in gang territory. 

So we got into the hostel, unloaded the bags and headed across the street to the 7/11 which is literally only half a block to the right of the hostel. I mean we could see it from our dorm room window. Yet straight away I was approached by a man, who I kid you not, literally fanned out a spread of $50 bills in my face (there must have been thousands there), looked me up and down and asked if I was interested in making some quick money... As always, I took a little time to click onto what he meant but, I mean, I didn't know my pasty white legs could be so enticing... Luckily, when I said a respectable 'no thank you', he was actually very lovely, wished me a nice day and went about his business. I'm still confused.

Finally, I am awake at this ridiculous hour (it's 3.22am), in part due to jet lag and partly due to my dorm-mate Chris, who woke me an hour ago to offer me a popsicle in exchange for helping him blow up a lie-low for the pool downstairs. He's been awake for two days and is afraid to crash in case he sleeps through the remainder of his trip (which is three days...) and was very surprised that I was a girl for some reason. Vegas is really weird.

Sunday, 25 May 2014

And we're off!

Today we got up at 4.45am to embark on our long awaited trip to the Americas! The flight left Manchester at 9.15am UK time and seeing at the time difference is eight hours, we've been up for nearly 24 now.
Here's a few of my ramblings from the plane...
14.55 (uk time)
We're just over half way of our flight from Manchester to Vegas and to be honest it's gone pretty quickly so far (touch wood!) PLUS they have 'Frozen' on the flight movie list so with 5 hours to go that gives me at least one or two more watches before we land.

Not much to report, aside from the various old men who seem to have 0 sense of spacial awareness and think it's ok to lean over to chat to their mates and forget about where exactly they're putting their asses. Which, btw, seems to be in my face. A lot.
We also had some celebratory bubbly for breakfast which is possibly why Greg is completely passed out right now... Poor boy, can't handle his champers.

17.08 (uk time)
JUST THREE HOURS TO GO!! (Said with more hysteria than excitement in my groggy state) Still not much to report, I'm actually beginning to get suspicious about how smoothly everything seems to be going. Even the in flight food was kinda tasty! 

Sausage and mash apaz by some fancy chef (I've never heard of him but they seemed pretty proud of themselves)
I'm taking a little time off from my headphones and TV after watching The Lego Movie, due to it being a complete and utter mind boggle. It's possibly the weirdest film I've ever watched, so of course I loved every second of it. However it did take me a little while to convince myself that they weren't seeking hallucinogenics in through the air vents. Oh and I finally convinced Greg to watch Frozen and I think we might be on to a winner...
We've now been here for a few hours and things have been much more eventful; I knew I was speaking too soon! However I'm too exhausted to think straight so I'll elaborate tomorrow, just checking in to let you all know that we arrived safe and sound :)

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Nostalgic Feels

It's less than two weeks until I head off on my next journey.

I'm excited/nervous/terrified/raring to go/trying to come up with ways to get out of it. Nothing particularly out of the ordinary for when pre-travel stress finally starts to sink in.

I always knew I'd be going away on another big trip again (and again and again and again) but it's been two years since I last left the continent and I've changed a lot since then. Undeniably travel is one of the things I live for, I guess I'm just nervous that it won't love it as much as I love being at home in London. I've become so settled where I am, with awesome family and friends both here and back in my home town and the prospect of leaving them all behind is rather sad. I feel like last time I really had something pushing me to leave; I'd just come out of the most important long term relationship I'd ever had (and still have ever had to be honest) and I was on my gap year between college and uni and all my friends were away having fun at their respective unis. Really, I just wanted to get away from it all, to escape the quiet of my home town and head off on my own adventure, that was more exciting than working three jobs in the town centre. This time it's all a little different, seeing as I've finally found somewhere that I feel settled and happy within myself.

There's also the added factor that some of my bestest friends in the whole wide world who I've hardly seen over the past year will be returning home from their years abroad - in Australia, USA, Hungary, Germany... the list goes on - and I won't be around to see them when they get back. I've been pretty shabby at keeping in touch over the year too (I'm so sorry guys), which makes me miss them EVEN more. Plus there's all the summer fun they'll be having without me...

I know right, BOO HOO to me going off travelling, it's a hard life. Believe me, don't for one second think that I don't feel super lucky to be in the position I am in, but our highlight orientated society dictates that I should focus on all the awesome stuff I am missing out on and sometimes that mentality is difficult not to sink into. It's when I think about that, that I realise exactly why I am so in love with travelling.

I mean, there are no expectations or constraints on you as an individual. Yes, you may be in the expectant mindset of 'THIS IS GOING TO BE THE BEST TRIP EVERRRRR', which isn't a bad one to be in, but there are literally 0 expectations on you as a person, and you learn how to be a much more open-minded and well-rounded person because of this. You can get up when you like, eat when you like, eat what you like, talk to whoever you like (travellers are friendly folk). There are no deadlines, essays, time constraints, meetings, classes, events, nothing that you HAVE to do or anywhere you HAVE to be. Whilst society back home is telling me I should be sad about missing out on the guaranteed fun I could be having there, travel beckons and whispers, 'Who knows what will happen, let's go and explore'. How could I ever say no to offer like that? As cliché as it might sound, there is nothing that can read or buy and no prediction that you can make to 100% prepare you for travelling.

'Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness' - Mark Twain

I was reminiscing with a couple of friends last night about previous trips I've been on, as two of them had come up to stay the night before jetting off this morning on a trip around South America (they'll be in Brazil by tomorrow night!). Of course you remember all the big highlights of your trip: the big mountains climbed and oceans you swam in, but what about all the little things that make the journey so worthwhile? The people you meet, the foods you try, the music you listen to; all the things you would never and could never experienced from the comfort of your own home.

This was taken in San Pedro de Atacama, just before a three day 4x4 trip towards the Salt Flats. We met Steve and Georgia a day and a half earlier when getting off a bus, when I dropped a bag on my foot and swore rather loudly in strong northern accent, to which Steve responded, 'Are you English?'. We then travelled together for a month and a half.

I met Mani in Cusco, when he had tagged along with our crew for a while on his year long world trip. Since then, we've visited each other in our home countries of Germany and England, and no doubt we will do again.

My favourite story to tell is that of an unlikely couple. When Evie and I travelled to Peru, we met a guy called Sam (far right on the cover photo!), who quickly became a close friend of ours. One thing lead to another, we travelled together and then he came to visit us in the UK on the European stretch of his world trip. Which is when he met our friend Niamh, who I'd gone to high school and was living in Edinburgh for uni. The two met, fell in love pretty much instantly and he has now permanently moved to Scotland to be with her and they are making plans to move to Aus after her degree has finished... Sometimes I forget just how crazy-romantic that story is until I say it out loud. I'd like to think that story alone made our trip worthwhile, but we got that and more, along with life-long friends all over the world and some of the craziest stories that you just cannot make up.

These are the things I try to focus on when I get scared about going away, that uncertainty is not necessarily always a bad thing; it can be terrifying and fun and absolutely bewildering all at the same time. Over my travelling years I have done some of the craziest things and met the coolest people, including zip-lining over the Inca Jungle, surviving drugs raids on Peruvian buses, epic car chases and becoming the best of friends with the male version of myself just one afternoon together in a Croatian hostel. Who knows what this next trip is going to entail.