I spent the first week and a half of the month scrambling to get the last bits of my coursework in and nearly drove myself mad… but it was worth it, I got at least a 2:1 on everything!

But I didn’t have much of a break from university as days after my deadlines, I started buckling down on my dissertation. Things are going quite smoothly so far, it’s just a lot of work and yelling at R and ArcMap.

Other than university, I have also been working regularly still. It’s exhausting!  On the bright side, my bosses are keen to offer me a working visa and assuming they don’t hit any obstacles getting a sponsorship and confirming my visa, I get to stay in the U.K. for a while longer!

In case you missed it, my brothers visited for two weeks and we explored London, Brighton, Edinburgh and the highlands together. You can read about it here.

What I’m watching: The Devil Wears Prada

What I’m listening to: Transquility Base Hotel & Casino by Arctic Monkeys, Celebrity Skin by Hole, Earthbound by Bury Tomorrow, Polygondwanaland by King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard

What I’m reading: Farmageddon by Phillip Lymbery, Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are? by Frans de Waal

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My brothers Kyle (21) and Ryan (20) visited me for about a week! They stayed with me in my student house in Brighton and let me be their tour guide most days, but made their own way on days I had to work.

Monday, 21 May: After work and a bit of last minute cleaning, I met my brothers at a train station near my house after they travelled on the red eye flight from home. To keep them awake so they wouldn’t be jet lagged, we did a few things in Brighton: i360 and the pier. After a little while, they were knackered, so I let them sleep.

Tuesday, 22 May: The next day, the three of us headed to London for a full day. We hit Buckingham Palace, Sky Garden (which was so worth the wait after months of trying to get tickets), Camden market, Trafalgar Square, Leicester Square and Picadilly Circus. We then went to the critically acclaimed Dishoom before seeing Les Miserables, both of which were my favorite part of the day!

Wednesday, 23 May: The day after, they went to Bath without me and had a nice time.

Thursday, 24 May: We went to Seven Sisters, a local country park. It was amazing… until we got rained on. But it was still beautiful! They went to see the new Star Wars movie while I worked and Diego and I met them at one of my new favorite pubs: World’s End. Kyle and Ryan did virtual reality simulator and the lot of us raced mini cars and played Monopoly. I could spend ages in there as long as I have a drink in my hand!

Friday, 25 May: The boys went back to London to do Tower of London, London Eye and Tower Bridge.

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Saturday, 26 May: The next morning, they got a tour of my university (Sussex) campus. They headed to explore more of Brighton, including the marina, while I worked and we met up (with Diego) in town later for dinner and to go to the pub to watch the Champion’s League game. It was an exciting game… I mean, for football. I just can’t seem to get into it but I’m glad Diego is so happy Madrid won.

Sunday, 27 May: The next day, we set off for Edinburgh… but not before one more half day in London on our way there. We had lunch in Convent Garden, walked the Millennium Bridge and strolled through Hyde Park before catching a train to Edinburgh, arriving late. We stayed at Kick Ass Hostels, which is one of my all-time favorites, I can’t recommend it enough.

Monday, 28 May: The next morning we took a guided walking tour led by the exceptional Greg. I remember some bits and pieces from my trip to Edinburgh two years ago, but there’s always more to learn in a country with such a rich and interesting history. After the tour, we visited Calton Hill and then hopped on another walking tour of the “dark side” of Edinburgh with two other Americans we met at the hostel: Matt and Bill.

Tuesday, 29 May: We departed early for a day tour of the highlands and Loch Ness. Both ways, we stopped at various scenic spots including Glencoe. Once we arrived in Loch Ness, we took a short boat tour, highlighting the geography and biology of the lake as well as the mysterious Nessie. Personally, I’m not convinced there is still currently a monster in the lake, but I suppose anything is possible. Also, we were lucky enough to be blessed with amazing weather throughout the trip!

This morning, we took a train from Edinburgh to London, where Kyle and Ryan went on their way to Heathrow and I went back to Brighton. It was great to see them again and I hope they had fun with everything we did!

 

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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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