Wow, I can’t believe I’ve been blogging for three years now.

It all started a few months before my study abroad journey, with my mom suggesting I make a blog so family and friends could keep up. I was hesitant at first, but got really into it quickly.

I started to blog a bit more seriously around this time last year, posting more personal posts and opinion pieces, and becoming even more involved in the community at the beginning of this calendar year, engaging with others and promoting my blog.

I find a lot of joy in maintaining this blog and thank you all for reading, whether you’ve been with me for a week or since the beginning! I’m not stopping any time soon.

I’ve more or less written about everything that has happened to me:

 

2018 (so far…)

2017 In Review

2016 In Review

2015

Concert index (needs updating, sorry!)

Travel index (needs updating, sorry!)

Alternatively, have a look through my archive and see what I’ve been up to all these years.

Without further ado, here are my top five favorite posts from this month in all categories:

  1. The 25 Most Incredible Things I’ve Done Before Turning 25: I recently published something similar for my 23rd birthday and although it isn’t a competition, this blows mine out of the water! So many amazing things done, both of our lists could fill three lifetimes of adventures.
  2. Best Vegan Food in Brighton: I’m always looking for more places to try!
  3. A Weekend in Prague: This post is so well organized with great suggestions. I went to Prague during my year abroad with my grandparents and it was nice to relive our time together through this post on the one year anniversary of my grandpa’s passing.
  4. 10 Interesting Facts About the Galapagos Islands: It’s every conservationist’s dream to visit these iconic islands, I hope to get there some day!
  5. How to Survive Youth Hostels: While I consider myself somewhat seasoned in staying in hostels, my brothers could learn a few things before we stay in one together next week!

Science, sustainability and veganism

General travel and study abroad

Travel destinations

Lifestyle

Photo by Andrew Knechel.

 

 

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Over Christmas, I went on my first LiveAboard trip based out of Hurghada, Egypt.

If you don’t know what LiveAboard is, you’re not alone. I had no idea what it was until my scuba instructor for my open water certification told us about it. LiveAboard is where you live aboard (duh) a vessel that takes you around to numerous scuba diving sites in your location of choice, excursions usually lasting about a week with about three dives a day.

I booked my trip not really knowing what to expect, but here are a few bits that would have made my trip a bit easier:

Although some vessels have quite a minimal dive requirement (for example, mine didn’t require any logged dives, but others my require up to 30), you might miss out on a lot of good dives if you’re not at least an advanced open water diver, which allows you to go up to 22 meters under, dive wrecks and participate in night dives.

But fret not, a lot of boats have a range of courses on your trip at little time cost to your vacation time.

I would also recommend being an enriched air diver. Apparently, it makes you less tired and you’re going to need all the energy you can get.

It is a busy time, so don’t expect to get a lot of reading or relaxing done. Scuba diving is an extreme sport and your body knows it. Here’s what a typical day looks like:

6:00: Wake-up call

6:30: Briefing and early morning dive

8:15: Breakfast and free time

10:30: Briefing and morning dive

12:30: Lunch and free time

14:30: Briefing and afternoon dive

18:00: Briefing and night dive

19:30: Dinner and free time until you decide to go to bed

I packed a bunch of cute outfits thinking of all the amazing Facebook-profile-picture-worthy snaps I was going to take on the tip. Boy, was I wrong. You’re going to want to be in cozy clothes when you’re not diving. I lived in my sweatshirt, jumper and cozy socks.

Bring your own mask, snorkel, wetsuit, dive log book, dive computer and torch. You will be doing several dives a day and although rental wetsuits are usually accommodating, you want to be as comfortable as possible. I also can’t recommend enough buying your own dive computer, even if you don’t think you’ll use it terribly often. Renting one of the week ran me £80 and a decent dive computer is only double that. A good price if you’re going to be diving even once more.

You will also want to bring several swimsuits. Three was about right for me, but four would have been especially comfortable. I like changing out of my swimsuit and into dry clothes between dives.

Although the company my advertise it, don’t expect to always have WiFi. You’re in the middle of the ocean, for Pete’s sake!

You are expected to tip both the dive guides and the crew about £50 each at the end of the trip.

This might be included in booking information, but if not, make sure any dietary restrictions are known. Although they were quite accommodating to my vegetarian diet, other specialty diets such as veganism may not be as well known.

Make sure you give yourself at least 18 hours between your last dive and your return flight. You can ask your tour company what time of the day the last dive will be and book accordingly.

There will be one or two fellow passengers that you’ll just fucking hate…

… but there will also be a few people that you’ll really connect with, and that makes sharing the experience worth it! Connect digitally with these people afterwards (e-mail, Facebook, etc.) to share pictures and memories!

Lastly, you’ll want to do it again as soon as possible once you get a taste for it. It’s an unforgettable experience! 

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I’m free! Okay, kind of. I handed in my last piece of coursework for my Master’s degree yesterday and I can finally breathe… if only for a moment before I start buckling down on my dissertation.

Anyway, I’m especially excited to feature Charlie in this installment of Blogger of the Month! I absolutely adore her candid travel posts and gorgeous themes.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

image1I’m Charlie, an almost-30 year old travel blogger who lives in North London. I’m half-Jamaican, have a weird phobia of balloons, and I’m the first result if you search for ‘Eurovision fancy dress’ on Google Images! I started travel blogging when I went off on a solo three-month adventure and two years later here I am still writing but fitting travel into my annual leave at work and mainly travelling with my boyfriend instead of on my own. I’m all about ‘flexible luxury’, so getting a bargain flight but having a fancy hotel, or staying in a hostel so I can afford a Michelin star meal!

How did you get into blogging?

I started it about seven years ago to get noticed in the social media industry as I wanted to put it on my CV! I wrote about living in London on a budget but it obviously developed into travel over time. I’ve also worked in influencer outreach for about seven years, so I met lots of other bloggers at events and a lot of those have turned into friends as well!

Tell us about your favorite blog post.

I have two and they are both looking back on my big solo travel experience. The first is The Real Reasons I Went Travelling (and Why It’s The Best Thing I’ve Ever Done) which is me basically laying myself bare as to all of the horrible shit I’d been going through in the run up to leaving the UK and I still get emotional reading it back. The second is 19 Amazing Women Share Why Solo Travel Is The Best Thing They’ve Ever Done, where I asked my followers across Twitter and Instagram to tell me why travelling solo, whether a weekend in the UK or years as a digital nomad, has changed their life. The answers were so varied and so many people contacted me to tell me they’ve started planning their first solo trip as a result of it which is so amazing!

What are you doing when you’re not blogging?

I’m Head of Social Media at a PR agency in London so Monday to Friday is normally super stressful and jam packed with adult responsibilities! I cook a lot at home and I’m launching a foodie/travel YouTube channel with my friend Katy soon which is really exciting! Other than that, the usual Netflix binges and of course, planning my next trip away!

Tell us about your most stressful or frightening travel experience.

I don’t think I’ve ever felt as stressed as I did being alone in Xi’an in China on a bank holiday. I’ve literally never seen so many people crowding the streets and unlike bigger cities like Shanghai, there’s very little English around there. I was the only non-Chinese person around, my VPN wouldn’t work so I had no access to Google Maps and I was completely lost and so hungry. All I could find was pigs trotters and chicken feet which is fine if I was feeling more adventurous but I just wanted something I recognised. Eventually I found some kind of spring onion pancake thing, managed to get back to my hotel and Skyped my mum whilst watching the Lego Movie on TV!

My most frightening experience was driving in South Africa from Cape Town to a little place called Swellendam. Our rental car was old and slow and as we were slowly driving up a very steep hill, two lorries started to block us in. Obviously, carjacking is a thing in South Africa and it was just me and a female friend so we started to freak out about what to do. I ended up slamming into reverse, doing a super quick three point turn and just racing back down the road we’d come from. Part of me wonders if we were just on edge because it was getting dark and actually those lorries didn’t know our tiny car was between them, but I wasn’t hanging around to find out!

What has been your best accommodation experience?

I worked with Shangri-La hotels when I was in Shanghai and it was insane (full post on it here)! I had a corner room on the top floor, overlooking the whole of Shanghai. I had lunch in their Japanese restaurant, Tsuru, which was divine, and their whisky bar is incredible. It was total luxury, especially compared to the manky hotel I’d been staying in in Chengdu before!

Where else can we find you?

Instagram | Twitter | Facebook

 

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Good morning and happy Monday! I’m kicking off your week with some hate to add to your feed…

Okay, not really. I hope nobody takes any of this personally, it’s just my opinion. I’ve had this in my drafts for ages now and after a Twitter poll on what I should fill this uneventful few weeks with, this post was the winner!

  1. Zoella is boring. My fellow Brightonian and famous YouTuber is adorable, but God, is she boring. She makes half-hour vlogs near daily about… what exactly? Things she has, mediocre make-up looks and clothes she buys. Yawn. Who told her she was interesting?
  2. Pugs are ugly. These poor critters are bred to have smaller and smaller snouts, leading to a hoard of respiratory problems and genetic defects caused by inbreeding. Plus, their bulging eyes scare me.
  3. I can’t fucking stand Alaska. I love Drag Race so much, but I can’t stand Alaska. And the fact that I rarely bring out the f-bomb on here as I do as much in real life hopefully portrays my disdain well. She has such a horrible attitude, the world’s most annoying voice,  can’t dance or deliver looks for shit and fails to stand out in the runway looks on most occasions. She didn’t deserve to win All Stars 2.
  4. The Grand Canyon is overrated. You drive a stupid amount of miles to snap a picture and leave. My advice: do something in the canyon (hiking, water rafting, etc.) to make the journey worth it. It’s beautiful, but take it from a local: it’s not really worth the hassle.
  5. Burgers are gross. Although I’ve been meatless for about six years now, I never cared for beef burgers.
  6. The Office (U.S.) is okay at best. I watched about five seasons and I’ll admit, it had its moments, but it’s grossly overrated. Michael Scott is a straight-up asshole, not ignorant, just a dick, and it gets old after a while.
  7. Hamilton didn’t impress me. I can appreciate the nuance of the music, but it didn’t blow me away. Perhaps I’ll appreciate more when I see it live when tickets become more readily available. Stay tuned for my review in 2025.
  8. Fjallravens are way overpriced. I see these popular backpacks everywhere, especially in Europe, but I don’t find them particularly handsome or functional, especially for the outrageous price. But to each their own.
  9. Disneyland is hell. When I went for the first time when I was 18, I understood why my parents didn’t bring me in my childhood. It was okay… until about 10AM. Then, it’s a nightmare for everyone over the age of 10. Screaming kids, lines hours long, overpriced everything… no, thank you. I like Disney and it was fun for a few hours, but I much prefer thrill rides, which Disneyland lacks.
  10. I am neutral about Harry Potter and Disney. I like them as much as the next person, possibly a bit less, so the idea of theme parks, spending money on merchandise and getting overly excited about the next thing is a bit juvenile to me. It seems to be all about money at this point.
  11. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is overrrated. Despite it’s massive praise, it’s one of the most underwhelming movies I’ve ever seen.
  12. Camping can suck a fat one. This might be a relatively popular opinion overall, but as a conservation major, I’m surrounded by people who love anything outdoors. I do, too; I could go sunrise to sunset outside without a single complaint, but I do not mess with tents or camping. I want to shit in a toilet and sleep in a warm bed and will only not do so under extreme circumstances.
  13. The cracker is better than the stuffing of an Oreo. Someone had to say it.
  14. I have absolutely zero desire to go to Las Vegas. I can get pissed and throw away money a lot closer to home.
  15. “Instagrammable” anything makes me roll my eyes. I’m not spending hundreds of pounds to travel somewhere new just for the likes. I understand the idea behind the posts, but maybe describe such places “photogenic” or here’s an even crazier idea, something like “beautiful.” God forbid you enjoy the landscape for your own pleasure first.

Photo by Nick Karvounis.

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One popular trend in the blogging world is creating time-sensitive bucket lists. With my birthday just past and realizing what awesome things I’ve done in my adult life so far, I thought it would be fun to set some really long-term goals to reach for before the big 3-0.

Here are a few things I hope to accomplish in the next seven years:

Lifestyle

  1. Have my own place. While I will probably take on roommates for the next few years to save money, I eventually want a place all to myself so I can express myself fully in the entire space.
  2. Change my surname. I’ve never cared much for my surname. I used to look forward to the day when I get married to take my future partner’s name, but why wait? Maybe they’ll end up having something equally, if not more, difficult to pronounce. Not to mention, if I’m going to be a published scientist and author someday, I want it to be my name, not theirs. With that, I hope to change my surname to something I love (don’t worry, it will still be somewhat in the family) and will be happy to carry with me for the rest of my life.
  3. Become totally fluent in Spanish. Although Diego says my Spanish is better than I think it is, I’m not comfortable in my skills quite yet. I can read most anything (or figure out the gist of it with context) and write okay, but my speaking and listening are abysmal. I hope to take proper classes to grow my skills and practice.
  4. Get a car. I will either prioritize living on my own or getting a car first… at current rates with my job the latter is more possible.
  5. Double my tattoos. I have four at the moment and hope to have four more, no matter how small.
  6. Get a dog. While I set the goal of getting some pet this year, it will likely be something small and low-maintenance. However, no pet can ever be as amazing as a dog and I hope to have my own furry friend once I’m settled into my career.
  7. Read 100 more books. That’s a bit more than one book a month, seems easy enough.
  8. Attend a dance class. For the longest time, I’ve wanted to take a dance class. I’m dismal at dancing, but I find it so fun and would love to learn properly!
  9. See 30 musicals in my adult life. 19 down with the most recent one being Chess for my birthday.
  10. Complete the Fellowship Quest… because what’s a bucket list without something alcohol related?

Travel

  1. Visit six continents. Three down.
  2. Visit 35 countries. 18 down.
  3. Do 150 dives. 35 down.
  4. Complete the Camino de Santiago. In September, I walked half of the Porto to Santiago de Compostela route… just the wrong half. I got too tired and injured to make it past Baiona. I hope to return to walk from Baiona to Santiago de Compostela soon.
  5. Go skydiving and/ or bungee jumping.
  6. Visit three more U.S. states.
  7. Take a holiday with one or both my parents.
  8. Go to a music festival. I have never been to a multi-day huge festival and as a big music lover this seems like something that is bound to happen in the near future anyway.
  9. Spend New Year’s Eve in Times Square.
  10. Visit five national parks either in the U.K., U.S. or elsewhere for that matter!
  11. Book an impulsive trip. I mean, not too impulsive. I’d take the weekend off from work, but just show up at the airport and ask them for the cheapest return flight.

Career

  1. Be a published scientist.
  2. Become a dive master. This isn’t in my travel because for recreational purposes, I wouldn’t feel the need to go beyond my current qualification. However, if you want to do marine biology, a dive mater qualification is usually required.
  3. Publish a book.
  4. Go to a conference.

It doesn’t take a mathematician to notice that my 30 Before 30 list isn’t actually 30 items long. That’s because as it’s so far away, I would like some flexibility to add and edit the items.

But for now, here’s to the future.

Photo by Tim Johnson.

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