Tag Archives: travel

Bags are packed

‘It is wise never to travel unprovided with a small flask of brandy and water,’ wrote Lillias Campbell Davidson in her 1889 guide Hints to Lady Travellers at Home and Abroad. Similar essentials, advised Davidson, include ‘a tiny case of court plaster, a tiny case of needles, a map and road book, some lighter literature, air cushions, suitably covered with chintz or satin, for putting under the feet, and for nervous invalids, the addition of another cushion to sit upon is a still further prevention of headache and that shattering of the nerves which make the mere thought of a journey by rail or carriage a nightmare to the imagination.’

No satin cushions for this lady traveller.

Items currently stuffed in my backpack include sleeping bag liner, mozzie net and spray, torch, padlocks, spork, pack of cards, flip flops… The only toiletries I’m bringing are a pack of wet wipes, suncream and multi-purpose soap – and no make up whatsoever. In fact my current face of foundation, bronzer, blusher, eyeshadow, liquid eyeliner and mascara is the last makeup I’ll be wearing for a fair few months. Liberation!

Have rounded off a great summer at home with one of Mum’s Sunday lunches, something which I always miss when I’m away from home. Now of to the pub to say bye to friends before we jet off tomorrow evening. My next post will be from Hong Kong!

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One month to go

When I tell people that I’m going travelling with my brother, I expect one of two reactions: either encouraging head-nods and general enthusiasm, usually accompanied by sighs of “isn’t that nice that you two get along so well!”; or, more commonly, the person I’m talking to will look as if they are about to vomit. “I can’t think of anything worse.”

In just under a month’s time we’ll be heading to Southeast Asia. Matt’s just got into his uni of choice for 2013, and I graduated with a First having been chained to a library computer for the better part of a year. We’ve both wanted to take gap years for a while, so why not together? We’ll save money, visit the parts of the world we both want to see, and have a laugh- fortunately we get on quite well.

Having said that, the reactions are understandable- the thought of spending seven-odd months in the company of a sibling is enough to make anyone nauseous. Will those things that I find hilarious about my brother turn out to be headache-inducingly irritating? Will I inevitably lapse into the role of older sister, organising everything and enjoying nothing?

I have no idea how it’ll pan out. The gap year guidebooks don’t generally include a section on ‘travelling with siblings’…


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Year Abroad- the accommodation headache

à louer: boîte à chaussures

It’s about that time when students across the country are gearing themselves up to head abroad for the coming academic year. Job placements and teaching assistantships are being secured, meetings attended and university handouts devoured, and “essential” country-specific wardrobe additions purchased. (One does not simply embark on a year abroad without a new handbag.)

However advanced the stages of preparation, there is one organisational nightmare causing headaches for students nationwide: accommodation. Apart from those blessed few handed over the keys to their new apartment or student room by their employer or university, the rest of us have to struggle with the pressure of finding a roof over our heads in a far-flung land whilst sitting, almost powerless, at home.

Short of actually flying over to Salzburg and Paris before moving there last year, I pretty much tried everything to sort out my accom in advance. You can imagine my frustration when most of the replies I received from flat-sharing websites were from absolute weirdos (“couple seeks young girl to share bed”; “Spare room available on the condition that you let me rub your feet whenever I want… for a reflexology course.” I’m sure.)

In the end I booked a week’s stay in a Salzburg hostel and took the plunge, and once I was actually in the city it became much more straightforward to set up house. After getting to know the network of teaching assistants in the area I became great friends with another girl in the same situation, and we quickly moved into a flat with an obsessive compulsive landlady with a fear of garlic who was writing a self-help book. But that’s a blog post for another time. I did the same thing in Paris, and even though nearly everyone had been helpfully warning me about the lack of accommodation there, I found a multitude of ads on the American Church noticeboard and in the FUSAC magazine’s apartment pages, and managed to secure a room in a student flatshare on my first day. The next six months were spent living in relative harmony with four foreign students, two English girls who became my best friends, and another completely erratic landlady who slept in the corridor and sang naked around the house – again, another time.

Despite the initial gut-wrenching panic everything worked out well, the landladies provided classic anecdotes and once the organisational headache was over I could get on with enjoying the best year of my life. If you’re heading abroad next year and are losing sleep over accommodation, my advice is this: keep calm. Get to know as many people in the area as you can and ask them to keep their eyes open for rooms to rent. Have a look at the links below, especially Couchsurfing, for possibilities. And even though it has the potential to get expensive the ‘Metro Journal hostel plunge’™ is always an option. Good luck!

Useful Sites

YoHo Salzburg – my favourite Salzburg hostel. Great party atmosphere with a bar doing drinks deals and cheap food, dorms are clean and comfortable, and a daily showing of the Sound of Music. Need I say more?

Couchsurfing – a great resource and free to use. As well as looking for couches if you need to stay somewhere, try searching for language exchanges and weekly Stammtische in your area as they’re a great way to meet people and improve your speaking skills.

EasyWG and Appartager – not a roaring success for me but worth a try! Free to upload a profile but costs a bit to be able to contact people. Stay clear of shared beds and foot fetishes.

I found that FUSAC, a magazine aimed at Anglophones in Paris, and daily ads on the noticeboard outside the American Church were the best places to look for flats. Be prepared to spend most of your wages on a shoebox – lots of postcards, photographs and a thick duvet are essential for Paris living!

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