This post has been sitting 95% complete in my drafts for ages, but now I’m excited to share it! 

I have a total of five tattoos and three two piercings. My first tattoo are song lyrics from the We Came as Romans song “Beliefs.” It says “We are not meaningless” on my left ribcage in the lyricist’s handwriting. I got it done at State of Art Tattoo in Tucson, Arizona in summer of 2013 when I was eighteen. I don’t remember much more than that since I was done so long ago, but I remember the pain wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. Typical tattoo aftercare includes washing with unscented soap and applying moisturizer a few times a day for about a month.

When I got back from my study abroad program, I got a second tattoo of a paper airplane on the back of my neck to symbolize my past and future travels. I got it done at Fast Lane Tattoo in Tucson, Arizona in summer of 2016. I found a clipart that I liked and simply had the artist transfer it to my skin. I recently got it touched up and, man, did it hurt. But since it’s so small, the pain only lasted for a couple of minutes.

I’ve wanted a nose piercing for quite some time now, but my parents thought it might jeopardize my chances of getting a job. My government job at the Arizona Game and Fish Department hired me without ever seeing me (my interview was conducted over the phone), so I finally proved their faulty logic wrong. With that, I got my right nostril pierced a few days after graduation in summer of 2017 at Living Canvas in Tempe, Arizona. The pain was tolerable and the piercing was quick, but my eyes watered like no other. For aftercare, I needed to wash the piercing out with soap twice a day and with saline spray about five times a day for several weeks. Since nose piercings take a long time to heal, I didn’t risk it by taking out my stud for more than a few minutes at a time. However, three months later I traded out my stud for a nose ring. The nose ring hurt a bit at first (it was too tight), but I traded it out for a larger ring and loved it! With my scuba classes, trading it back for the stud was easier to equalize. I hope to get the other nostril pierced or a septum piercing within the next few months.

Shortly after my nose piercing, I also got a smiley piercing, also at Living Canvas, a few weeks later. I’ve wanted this piercing for quite some time, too, at least since my freshman year of university. The piercing is through the small flap of skin between your gums and upper lip. The pain was similar to that of the nose piercing, but lasted a bit longer as my piercer took a little longer getting the jewelry in place. Oral piercings can be tricky as the saliva makes the needle and jewelry slip out of place. For aftercare, I just had to wash my mouth out with non-alcoholic mouthwash every time I ate something or drank something at wasn’t water. When I got my jewelry changed, in the car on the way home right after my appointment, one of the tiny screw balls that hold the jewelry in place fell out. I promptly turned around and the piercer fixed it for me. Not a day later when I was on my New York and Washington, D.C. holiday, it fell out and the screw ball was lost. With my jewelry out, it closed up within a day. I got it repierced on holiday in Brooklyn a few months ago and was happy for a few more months. Then, when I was learning how to scuba dive, it was quite uncomfortable to have the piercing in the way of the regulator and snorkel. I wanted to trade my smiley piercing in for a small, subtle jewelry again, I realized it would be damn near impossible to do it without a piercer. I decided it wasn’t worth the fuss of going in to a piercer pretty much every time I want to change my jewelry and took it out completely to let it close up. It was fun while it lasted.

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Smiley piercing and nose ring drawing away from my exhausted look.

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With the great reception to my science-y post on the evolution of human sexuality last month, I’ve decided to make this a somewhat regular things with a new bit I’m going to call Science Sunday. I hope to make this a concise and easy to follow bit to inform my readers of conservation issues I find important or interesting.

At university, we have weekly guest seminars given by researchers from non-government organizations or other universities about their work. My favorite so far was given to us by Tom Moorhouse from WildCRU (Wildlife Conservation Research Unit) on wildlife tourism. This talk was given in November and still resonates with me. I love travelling, I love animals and I love conservation: is there a way to marry the three?

Wildlife tourism attractions may account for 20% to 40% of global tourism and rake in millions to the local economy and provide employment. However, animal attractions may not always be what they seem: the infamous Tiger Temple in Thailand had a TripAdvisor certificate of excellence but was raided by the government and shut down in 2016 under the premise of illegally breeding and killing tigers to sell their body parts.

Moorhouse and company assessed trade-offs between conservation and animal welfare for non-consumptive (where no animal loses its life directly such as in hunting and fishing) and non-zoo attractions. Broadly, conservation issues regard the long-term preservation of the species and its habitat while animal welfare regards the quality of life and freedom the population or individuals experience.

The graph below shows the following “scores” (conservation vs. welfare) of several wildlife attractions from +/-3 for both categories. The green quadrant represents the “best” attractions for both conservation and welfare, the yellow quadrants represent attractions that are good for welfare, but not great for conservation and vice versa, and the red quadrant represents attractions that are bad for both conservation and animal welfare.

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BD = Bear dancing, BF = Bear bile farms, BP = Bear parks, BS = Bear sanctuary, CC = Civet coffee, CF = Crocodile farms, DC = Captive dolphin interactions, DM = Dancing macaques, DS = Dolphin sanctuary, DW = Wild dolphin interactions, EP = Elephant parks, ES = Elephant sanctuary, GT = Gorilla trekking, GW =Gibbon watching, HM = Hyena men (Nigeria), LE = Lion encounters, LS = Lion sanctuary, OS = Orang-utan sanctuary, PW = Polar bear watching, SC = Snake charming, SD = Shark cage diving, SF = Sea turtle
farm, TF = Tiger farms, TI = Tiger interactions.

Of all the animal attractions considered, the best for both conservation and welfare are sanctuaries and gibbon watching while some cases of animal welfare sacrifices could be made for the conservation benefits of gorilla trekking. However, all the other attractions, including shark cage diving, snake charming and tiger interactions are neither good for conservation nor good for animal welfare.

But, there is hope: the study goes on to find out how we can fix this lack of understanding through a series of surveys. “Good” and “bad” fake wildlife tourism attraction names with factual descriptions were used to assess people’s understanding of animal welfare issues:

  • With the first survey, not many people could recognize the “good” attractions from the “bad” attractions based on the name alone.
  • Then, priming questions were asked about animal welfare (e.g. “Should animals over 50 kilograms be kept in captivity?”), but the rankings remained largely unchanged.
  • For the final survey, more information about the attraction was given and the results were promising to show that people can distinguish what’s not good for animal welfare.

Now, I will be the first to admit that I live and die by TripAdvisor and may not think twice if it has a high rating or certificate of excellence. I also fancy myself pretty in touch with animal welfare issues, but had no idea even wild dolphin encounters (such as the one I had on my LiveAbroad trip) and cage diving (which I’ve already booked for my South African field course trip) could be so damaging.

Simply taking time to think about the impacts of your holidays on the local environment and the lives the animals behind the selfie lead can be an important step to conservation marketing. The burden of regulation falls on us tourists and we must take responsibility to uphold animal welfare and the integrity of the habitats wherever we go.

Resources:

TripAdvisor: Improving Animal Welfare in Tourism

TripAdvisor: The Impacts of Wildlife Tourist Attractions

Moorhouse, T. P., Dahlsjö, C. A., Baker, S. E., D’Cruze, N. C., & Macdonald, D. W. (2015). The customer isn’t always right—conservation and animal welfare implications of the increasing demand for wildlife tourismPloS One10(10), e0138939.

Moorhouse, T., D’Cruze, N. C., & Macdonald, D. W. (2017). Unethical use of wildlife in tourism: what’s the problem, who is responsible, and what can be done?. Journal of Sustainable Tourism25(4), 505-516.

Photo by jinsu Park.

Please leave feedback on this post, especially those who are unfamiliar with the topic, so I can gauge audience interest and understanding of this bit for future posts.

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It’s that time again. Here are my top five posts from all categories:

  1. Warner Bros ‘Making of Harry Potter’ Studio Tour: My friend Alyssa will be visiting in July and we both will be going to the Harry Potter studio for the first time and I’m excited!
  2. 7 Continents in 2017: A Round-Up: A belated 2017 travel round-up, but boy was it worth the wait!
  3. 5 Reasons I’d Book a Tour Over Exploring on my Own: Very insightful and creative post. On point!
  4. Prioritizing Self Care – Should You Skip Lectures at University: This post is so relatable. I sometimes find myself skipping lectures because I can’t be bothered but tell myself it’s because of my mental health but let’s face it: my mental health is rarely 100%, so that’s no excuse. Skipping lectures when I actually feel okay makes me anxious and is never worth it, but when I’m feeling really down, a day off works miracles.
  5. Let’s Talk – My Morning Routine: I’m really enjoying these posts! For different topics, several people contribute to make a well-rounded discussion.

Science, sustainability and veganism

General travel and study abroad

Travel: South America, Africa, Australia and Antarctica 

Travel: Europe

Blogging

Lifestyle

Entertainment

Photo by Andrew Knechel.

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For this third installment of Blogger of the Month, I’ve asked my personal friend Clare to be featured! We became acquainted through a mutual friend and have met several times when I was seeing someone who lived near her.

Clare started blogging this year to further grow her (dare I say it, already amazing) writing skills so I thought I would show my love and support by featuring her this month.

Without further ado, here are some questions she answered for me:

Tell us a bit about yourself.

doTXpmiFI’m Clare, a 23-year-old blogger from Ontario, Canada who dreams of one day moving to the UK. When I’m not blogging or finishing up my degree, I’m usually found either writing for TenEighty Magazine or binge-watching something on Netflix. (I’m currently looking for a new show to watch!)

How did you get into blogging?

I’ve been wanting to blog for a while. I set up my current blog about four years ago to use as a writing portfolio, but I wanted it to become something more – I have a lot to say, I just couldn’t find the time between work, school and my other writing obligations. But now that I’m finishing off school and have a more consistent work schedule, I have more free time. So I decided to revamp my site and give blogging a try!

Tell us about your favorite blog post.

I really enjoyed writing 10 Things I’ve Learnt Since Moving Out On My Own. I’ve learnt a lot since moving out of my parents’ house, so I thought I might as well share… Oh, and I’m serious, doing dishes is literally the WORST.

What are you doing when you’re not blogging?

When I’m not blogging, I’m either at work (I recently went full time), studying or writing for TenEighty. I honestly feel TenEighty is the best thing to happen to me. Not only has it allowed me to grow more confident in my writing, but the friendships I’ve made through it are invaluable – they’re some of my favourite people!

What is your favorite and least favorite parts about university?

My favourite part about university would have to be how small mine is. I got to a university college, which is basically a school within a school, and instead of having massive class sizes, mine range from about 20 to 35, at the most. Not only does it mean my professors are able to learn everyone’s names, but it also means I’m able to get one-on-one help you wouldn’t necessarily get in classes with around 50 to 100 students. My least favourite part would have to be school itself, if I’m being honest. I LOVE learning, but I’ve been doing my undergrad since 2012. So I’m feeling burnt out.

What have been some of your favorite gigs?

Damn, why do you have to make me choose? If I had to narrow down, I’d say my favourite gig would have to be Enter Shikari’s Mindsweep Tour 2016. I’d never been to a Shikari show before and I was blown away at how great the guys are live! Also, helps that Hands like Houses were one of the tour’s openers – they’re one of my all-time faves. Apart from that, I’d have to say Warped Tour 2014. I’ve attended Warped five times and the 2014 tour was by far the best. I got to see two of my favourite bands (The Ready Set and We Are The In Crowd) and it was pretty much the only year I didn’t get rained on.

Where else can we find you?

Twitter || Bloglovin’ || Journo Portfolio

Photo by Arnel Hasanovic.

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Blimey, where has the time gone?!

Six months ago today, I moved from Arizona back to Brighton. Here is what I’ve been up to since my leap across the pond:

September 

  • In the days and weeks before I left, I spent quality time with my family and friends, including a trip with my dad to New York and Washington, D.C.
  • On 11 September, I flew from Phoenix to London Gatwick via Calgary.
  • A few days later, I moved into my university house.
  • I walked the Camino de Santiago from Porto, Portugal.
  • Before lectures began, we took a local class field trip to Knepp Wildlands, where I got to knew my coursemates and lecturers well.

October

  • Lectures properly started and I chose my dissertation topic.
  • I got a cleaning job.
  • I saw Arcane Roots and Chon live.
  • I got my Open Water Diving qualification.
  • My course got a private tour of the Natural History Museum.

November

  • I saw Rise Against and Enter Shikari live.
  • I quit my cleaning job and got a pub job.
  • First term lectures concluded.

December

January

  • Got let go from my pub job.
  • Got two new jobs as a care giver and cleaner.

February

On Twitter, I wanted to hear your questions about my move, and I got a lot of great ones!

What on earth are you doing here?

I studied abroad at the University of Sussex for my entire third year of university (September 2015 to June 2016) and loved it so much I decided to come back for my Master’s degree. This time around wasn’t as scary as my year abroad because I’m familiar with Brighton and know my way around, so there are few surprises in that aspect.

Why Brighton?

I have been lucky enough to travel quite a bit around the U.K. and Europe, but Brighton has always been my favorite place. I love being by the sea, but also surrounded by rolling green hills. The city is also quite lively, but not too busy (most of the time). Brighton is also not too big like a city like London and is easy to reach every corner by public transit. There are a lot of like-minded people here: tree-hugging, socially liberal lefties like myself. All in all, Brighton is a beautiful, free-spirited town that feels like home to me.

What was the first thing that stood out to you as different from where you came from?

How green it is! I’m not exaggerating when I say I’m used to seeing all dirt landscape in Arizona. It makes for lovely mountains, but I was ready for a change of scenery.

What’s your favo(u)rite British phrase that you’ve started using since you moved to the UK?

I love the word “cunt.” Here, it’s almost never taken as a serious insult like it is in the U.S. It’s all about tone and 99% of the time, the tone is playful. I’ve also grown quite fond of “blimey” recently and find myself saying “faff” and “can’t be bothered/ arsed” a lot.

What are the best and worst things about moving to the UK?

Best: rediscovering my love for Brighton… and still do everyday! And the ease of local and international travel.

Worst: the visa and housing rigmarole, which I wrote all about in this post.

What was the most difficult part of your move and how did you overcome it?

I would have to say, again, visa and housing. Visa process is fairly simple, but I kept messing up, my appointment was at a really inconvenient time and I wasn’t sure if I would get my passport back in time for my move. To put my mind at ease, I paid for expedited service which was 100% worth it. You can’t put a price on the peace it brought me.

As for housing, some parts were simple while others were quite stressful. At first, I was just going to live with Diego and his friend Alex, but we couldn’t find a decent three bedroom place, so we sought out other roommates and landed with two more roommates. With that, Alex really took the lead from there finding a place, giving it a look and moving forward with the paperwork. However, as a student, the housing agency required a U.K. homeowner guarantor, which I lacked. I could have gone through a scheme to help me out, but that would have been an extra few hundred pounds. Luckily, it was Alex to the rescue who volunteered his dad to stand as my guarantor, but he knows I’m good for my money. Once moving day came, our house was not in great shape and my room was a lot smaller than I expected, but we all worked together to make repairs and I made the most of my room with storage solutions and little bits to make it feel cozy.

What’s your best memory of the UK so far?

Since I’ve been back, some of my favorite moments would have to be I would have to say seeing it snow in Brighton, meeting other international students and showing them around Brighton, getting to know my coursemates on a short field trip, meeting friends at concerts (particularly Enter Shikari, Architects and Rise Against) and getting my care giving job. It’s hard to pick just one!

What was the biggest culture shock when you moved to the UK?

On my year abroad, I don’t remember the culture shock being that bad. There were most certainly some new things to get used to, but it never frustrated or upset me. However, the reverse culture shock coming back home was all too real. I wrote about reverse culture shock and coming back to the States in this post.

What stereotypes about England have you found not to be true since moving here?

I wrote about this a bit in this post, but I would say the biggest one is that before I came, people claimed it rains all the time. I didn’t find that to be totally accurate. Yes, it rains quite a bit, but the downpour is always so light and sporadic that it barely merits an umbrella. I’d say a more accurate description is that it’s more cloudy here than rainy.

Was moving here worth it? Or would you rather have stayed home?

This is a really tricky question and the answer varies day by day. When I was let go from my pub job and had a lull in university work a few months ago, the lack of things to do made me depressed and wondering what the hell I’m doing here. The truth is this: my life would have been quite comfortable back home. I excelled at my internship and would have been offered a decent entry-level job relating to my degree, I would be close to my family and friends and I most certainly would have been content. However, despite all the craziness, I’m extremely happy here. Living abroad is an invaluable experience and the ups and down will ultimately manifest as important lessons I can carry with me for the rest of my life.

What do you miss the most about the US?

My dog. My family may take this personally, but I’m gone for a larger percent of his life than theirs and he’s not getting any younger. I’m tearing up just thinking about it… I also of course miss my family and friends, Chipotle, Ike’s… mostly my favorite restaurants. I also have a love/ hate relationship with public transit that’s tilting more on the side of hate these days as I spend up to two hours on a bus everyday for a journeys that could take less than half an hour by car, so recently I also miss having access to a car.

Do you want to move back to the States?

I’m not quite sure. I’m really happy in the U.K. but I understand that working here upon graduation may not be possible. Staying would be my first choice, but if I can’t then yes, I’ll probably go back to the States, at least for a while. However, I don’t think I’ll live in Arizona, I would like to try to live in New York, Seattle, Chicago or Philadelphia.

Thanks for all your questions, I had a lot of fun with this post!

Here are some other posts in the text about my study abroad journey, life and travel in the U.K. and my move respectively:

One Day More || Freshers Week & More || Holiday at Home & Term in Review || First Week Back || What I Will Miss Most About England

Great Britain Exploring I & II ||United States vs. United Kingdom: University, Student Housing, Stereotypes

T-Minus One Month || T-Minus One Week || From Exchange Student to Resident || What I Wasn’t Told: Bank Account and National Insurance Number|| House Tour

Photo by John T.

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