A Little Clarity.

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It’s time. Time to pick up my laptop. Time to dust off the keyboard and once again, time write a post I’ve been dreading – not just the ‘white girl’ drivvel about ‘following my dreams’, that probably only my Mum reads.

Truth is, I’ve had two naps today and it’s now 3.00am… I’m cranky and there’s not a hope in hell of sleeping. So I’ll make short work of it.

It’s been almost 7 months since I boarded a plane in rainy ol’ Manchester, hauling my hefty backpack behind me. Eyes brimming with tears *ahem* enthusiasm, and off on my very own quest for ‘self discovery’… meaning that, 24 years in, I knew very little bugger all about myself apart from what I thought was expected of me.

Just over half a year later, and counting down the final few days of my Asia expo before I board an ‘Air Asia’ special to the gleaming shores and shark infested waters of Oz, I think it’s time to come clean…

The inevitable happened. I’ve changed. Moved on. And outgrown ‘My Happy Rucksack’.

**which was only a matter of time really because it literally sounds like fresh merch from My Little Pony’s ‘back to school’ collection. WHAT was I thinking?!

But seriously.

I feel hollow when I read back through my life as it was, just 7 months ago. I sounded like every other privileged Westerner whose idea of ‘adventure’ was to ‘boldly’ quit my job, totter to the other side of the globe and stare the ‘unknown’ in the face, from the comfort of the well-trodden tourist path, that is…

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I’m not knocking people who do the same. It’s inspiring, empowering and bloody brilliant that travel is such a commodity in the West. It’s great that everyone, whatever their age, can sample a little more of the world than the one they grew up in. It’s wonderful that people are able to make businesses through blogging / making films about their adventures and encouraging others to take the leap too. It’s also hugely important for developing tourism trades in the countries which really depend upon it.

I’m not against any of that.

Point is, I don’t want to write about ‘me’ anymore. My story isn’t new, it’s been done a hundred times over by people just like me – who get tired of the old and need an awakening.

I like to hear stories, other people’s stories. I like to tell them, share them, give them a voice. I’m a journalist at heart and, looking back, this was the most provoking reason why I carefully selected it as a profession.

I’d just forgotten.

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Now, I’d like to use it. Somehow. (I haven’t figured out how). To do something good and make a little mark on the world.

It’s time for a new chapter. It’s time to be selfless.

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Train Tripping China From East to West: The Good, The Bad, The Downright Ugly

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One of the best ways to get from A to B in China is to TRAIN IT.

Inner city train stations are huge, literally like airports – without the planes; housing everything from check in desks, security and shopping malls, to a grand selection of fast food chains and cake shops. Not to mention the zillions of platforms with an array of weird and wonderful sleeper carriages, slow trains and bullet trains ready to whizz off to the far reaches of the Chinese borders.

A few weeks in to my virgin voyage travelling solo, I decided to get adventurous ambitious.

Knowing I needed to be in Chengdu, in the West, for my outbound flight to Japan in 2 weeks time; I thought it might be a nice idea to train trip across the country from Shanghai, in the East, and stop off at a few places along the way that I wouldn’t have seen otherwise. AND a great excuse to test my metal in speaking Mandarin.

FYI, “Wo bu dong le” (I don’t understand) was my favourite phrase.

Here’s how I got on. All of it. The smiles, the sights and the hysterical sobs (yeah, that happened)… Continue reading

My First Hostel Experience (Review: Le Tour Traveller’s Rest, Shanghai)

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I’m an utter snob.

There, I said it.

Hostels, to me, seemed like a weird sort of transit place where hordes of grubby travellers in limbo use, abuse and sleep in dorms with floor-to-ceiling beds, before moving on to their next destination.

Truth is, I’m now one of them

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A 5 Night Love Affair with Shanghai

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It’s 9.30pm on my 5th and final night in Shanghai.

Like a crazy woman on a mission, I ditched my cosy dorm room bed, ran out into the street and strode around the block to Jing’An Temple in my neon orange pyjama top, jeans and my freshly washed hair slapping against my face.

I looked insane.

Not even the warm hue of the Gucci neon signs or the ultra-chic locals, fresh from after-work drinks, could drown me out.

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Why?

Because I’ve eaten too many dumplings and my brain is clouded with oodles of that oh so delicious baozi bread…?

Nope. I think I’ve fallen for Shanghai.

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Am I Worried About Travelling Solo?

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Since I waved an emosh-goodbye to the fam, hopped on a one-way flight to China and waded my way through the sea of people on the Beijing subway, alone, I can honestly say I’ve never felt more alive.

Most people have asked me whether I’m nervous about any of it; travelling solo, eating by myself, not having someone to share my experiences with?

What they don’t realise is… people piss me right off.

I’ll quite happily spend a few days with other folk, until I catch sight of their annoying habits or loud eating – by which time I’ll make a speedy getaway and continue my journey, relieved and on me’ todd.

This trip, for me, isn’t a spur-of-the-moment escape. I’ve diligently saved money, horded travel books and watched ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ on repeat until my eyes bleed, dreaming that one day, it might be me.

As it happens, right now is the perfect time for me to spread my wings and immerse myself in the places I have only ever seen through a cinema screen or read in blogs.

So whether I had someone to share this with or not, I was making damn sure I was doing it before I got married, knocked up and my beloved travel books were bound for a one-way destination; a dusty cupboard under the stairs.

Here’s my take on why going solo is one of the best decisions I have ever made…

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Climbing The Great Wall of China, Again.

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The last time I visited the Great Wall (July 2013), the weather was not on my side.

*Flashback 2 years: We trekked up to the summit at Badaling in the choking heat. Choking in a literal sense because the smog was so bad I felt like I’d been smoking 30-a-day since the age of 12 and I could hardly see my hand in front of my face.

So there was no hope in hell to spot the miles of mountains and the “wonder” of the largest man-made structure in the world, which took blood, sweat and thousands of lives to build, snaking into the distance.

It was a nightmare.

But ever the optimist and willing to give most things the benefit of the doubt, I went in for round two on my visit to China in 2015, in the hope that a second attempt would have me eating my words completely.

Once again, I was proved wrong.

*Cue a ton of selfies. Not sorry.

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Adventures on the Night Train: 5 Truths About Sleeper Trains in China

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Sounds magical, doesn’t it? “The night train”. Almost like the Cadbury-coloured, three-storey beaut Harry Potter frequents.

It was actually one of my bucket list goals to try it, and with sleeper train travel being the most common way to get around in China (inner city stations are literally like airport terminals), it was only a matter of time before I was able to make that little dream of mine – a reality.

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We were travelling as a group from Beijing South to Zhengzhou, to see the Shaolin temple. Full of jittery excitement like a kid before Christmas, I skipped along the platform happily snapping pictures of the carriages.

Everyone else seemed to be reluctantly dragging themselves along… perhaps they knew what was to come.

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