Friday, 28 February 2014

So what am I actually doing?!

If you read this blog often* then you'll probably be wondering what the hell is going on? After a series of relatively coherent posts about hitchhiking in Australia, there have been entries on Honduras, England, Scotland, Italy and Portugal- not generally in any kind of logical order. 

I'm basically waiting and saving money until May 18th when Dan and I fly here...

(Zoom out for a better view) work on a little farm in exchange for our food and accommodation- it's a sort of modern-day consensual slavery. ;)

This will be my first time using Workaway, so I'll let you know how that pans out.

We'll probably stay on Trinidad for a while (and hopefully see some Leatherback Turtles) before heading down into South America. I can't really tell you exactly what we'll be doing or how long we'll be away for, as it was a one-way flight and we want to see how long we can make our money last, but it's a big continent that's sure to be full of ridiculous adventures. 

I'm excited. 

Thanks for reading and watch this space.

*Thank you so much!

In the mean-time you might want to have a look back at some of my favourites...
Hitchhiking Sydney to Melbourne.
Eight amazing seaside spots on the Isle of Islay- advice from a local.
Beg, Borrow and Steal your way out of Athens during a riot.

Sunday, 23 February 2014

Music that wont make your fellow travelers hate you... probably

So you've bought yourself one of those tiny pop-up speakers and are all set to provide the soundtrack to your travels, but what should be on your ipod? You might be into heavy metal, carnage drum & bass or the sort hip-hop with angry rappers, but unless you're already quite familiar with your room-mates these genres are unlikely to make you many new friends in a hostel. This is a guide to avoiding any awkward social situations that might arise from clashing music tastes.

I can't guarantee everyone will like these suggestions, but hopefully they wont make anyone hate you. Some of them you might not have heard of before, others you definitely should have...

I've tried to arrange them in a vaguely chronological order, but my favourites are near the end.

(I don't get any money from these links by the way)

Sunny day-times

For sunny days on the beach you really want some reggae, but it's best not to bang on Mr Marley strait away unless you are also wearing a hat in the colours of the Jamaican flag, have been cultivating your deadlocks since you were ten and are just about to light up the biggest joint anyone has ever seen... Nobody else can get away with 'One Love' in quite the same way.

Here's a couple of alternatives:

Easy Star All-Stars are best known for covering popular albums in a reggae and dub style. Here's a good example...

Laid Blak at Boomtown Fair.

Laid Blak, originating from Bristol, always seem to get the crowd going at festivals and certainly aren't a bad bet for chilling out when the sun is shining.

I've seen them perform 'It's a Pity' with a couple of different female singers. It's different every time, but always catchy.

If reggae isn't your thing, maybe John Butler will float your boat? John Butler Trio- John Butler started out by busking in Australia, was joined by a drummer and a bassist and is now so successful that it isn't uncommon to hear him referred to as the "million dollar hippie". I don't feel like he's sold out too much though and you can't argue with this guitar...

I stole this from his Soundcloud.
Fed up of acoustic sounds? Bondax are cute (like a couple of over-enthusiastic puppies cute- I've never seen anybody look so cheerful when they're DJing) and this is Justin Martin ->

What's not to love?

...or try this? It's just a little bit magical.

For road-trips 

If you're asked to choose music for a long journey, you'll want something to help the driver stay awake. Hypnotic Brass Ensemble will do the job nicely! They put on a pretty fantastic live performance too.

...or maybe a classic?

I'm sorry, but I can't choose between these two- you can't beat The Rolling Stones for road-trips.

Mike Stroud and Evan Mast, from New York, form the experimental electronic rock duo Ratatat. This song is particularly fantastic...

The 3rd time...

Evening down time

A sure winner with the majourity of laid back loungers is always going to be Bonobo. Simon Green, as his mother calls him, has been on the music scene for over a decade and now, even with five albums under his belt, is probably only just reaching the height of his influence. If you get a chance to see him live, make sure he is going to have his band with him and you're sure to be mesmerised by their clever concoctions of electronic and acoustic sounds. I've managed to see them three times now, once travelling to Amsterdam especially, and I'm still keen for a chance at a fourth.
There's Bonobo there- trying to hide in the background.

Depending how hipster you're trying to be, Bonobo may be a little too well-known these days. In that case you should try Demain...

...and enjoy the satisfaction of being able to tell your new bohemian friends that you found him through an obscure little blog and a Soundcloud link.

This video is awesome too (can you guess what it is?)...

14th at Glastonbury last year.
Maybe you'd rather test the water with some soulful female vocals?

They're still pretty small, but with Tracey Duodu's voice and Tom Barber's production, 14th have been recognised by more established artists such as Bonobo, The XX and Jakwob, so I'm hoping it's only a matter of time until they make it big-time.

To set 'the mood'

Are you trying to get laid?! Maybe this won't work so well if you are a pasty little white boy/girl, but India Arie has an amazing voice.

My friend Bryony and I are going to see Chet Faker in London soon. I can't wait! I like him even better for looking like a bit of a tramp. Apparently born 'Nicholas James Murphy', he decided he needed to play under a stage name after people came to his shows thinking he was the already established musician named Nick Murphy (any idea who that is?!). 'Chet Faker' is a tribute to the deceased jazz musician Chet Baker.

After a heavy night

Coming in from a 'wild' night out, you're going to want something gentle.

Skyphos is an up-and-coming* producer from Holland. I love most of his music, but this remix of Nils Fram's 'More & Less' is perfect for winding down before bed time. If you like some classical music, Nils Fram is certainly worth a listen on his own too.

Everything Jamie XX touches turns to gold...

I'll leave you with this. If you haven't heard of Maribou State, then you really need to watch this video.

That's it for now. Maybe I'll collect another selection for a sequel some time soon.

Thanks Bryony, Sam, Steve Edwards, Chalky and of course Dan for sharing their fantastic music taste with me over the years.


You might also like... The Street-Art of Stokes Croft, Bristol
or... Melbourne, its Street Art and why it would be cool to live there

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Trying to get lost on Islay

I have no sense of direction. Seriously, plonk me down anywhere in the world without a map or compass and I will walk around in circles for an eternity until I find somebody helpful. I don't always exactly enjoy being lost, but it has come to be an expected part of my daily existence. Even after three years of living in Southampton, I still only knew very certain routes from place to place.... I find it hard to navigate my way around shopping centres, forget what way I came in a door and head back out in the opposite direction and sometimes even get a little bit lost when swimming underwater in a swimming-pool.*

You would imagine that all of this is a bit of a handicap while I'm travelling alone (and sometimes it is awful), but recently I have developed a game. It's very simple...
  1. In a new city wander down whichever roads/alleyways take your fancy (the windier the better).
  2. Keep on doing so for half an hour, maybe an hour if you're feeling brave/very bored.
  3. Now simply try and find your way back.
I started off playing this game in places I supposedly knew very well (Dorchester, Southampton, driving around the single lanes near my old village in Dorset...), but soon became cocky enough to try it abroad. In Marrakesh there was no chance of me finding my way anywhere, so that wasn't a good beginning, but the small blue-tinged town of Chefchaouen was ideal. Ten minutes of walking in random directions and it took two hours to find my way back to the hostel. Since then I've explored Seville, Lisbon and Porto in the same way and am keen to have another go the next time I'm alone in a big town.

Whenever that might be...

The Dower House- dilapidated home of my parents and my current abode.
For now that isn't very easy to organise on the small island of Islay in Scotland. Instead, I tried the same thing in our little car and drove inland along all the roads I didn't recognise. Unfortunately I couldn't get lost, there aren't enough roads, but at least now I know where they all lead.

Here are a few photos from my afternoon's exploration... 

This is the little car that my parents are letting me use while I'm living up here- it's not exactly cut out for the pot-holes and mud swamps we try to get through sometimes.

A village I'd never noticed before- Ballygrant apparently.

Thanks for reading- if you're lucky I'll write you a slightly more informative post next time. :)

*As my university lifesaving friends would testify after I once managed to swim into a wall during a competition.

Thursday, 6 February 2014

Seven big Italian cities, three weeks and an almost non-existent budget.

This is another travel flashback, this time to 2009. My thinking is that if I could travel around Italy on the cheap age 17, then it should be possible for everyone. 

My friend Caitlin and I had been planning our adventure long in advance- we knew our route (Milan, Verona, Venice, Florence, Rome, Pisa and then La Spetzia by the sea), had bought our inter-rail tickets and saved as much money as physically possible as a waitress earning £3.75 an hour while still at school. Needless to say, Italy probably wasn't the best choice of low-budget destination, but young and enthusiastic we were lured by the promise of ancient architecture, romantic language and plentiful sunshine. The fact that Italy's wine was one of the only things actually cheaper than in the UK was just an added bonus!

Although hostels can be a cheap form of accommodation, those in the major Italian cities were still a little out of our price range. Instead, we decided to camp and surprisingly found convenient(ish) campsites everywhere we wanted to visit. 

If I was to visit Italy again now (hopefully some time in the not too distant future), I'd probably try and hitchhike, couch-surf and visit some of the smaller towns and countryside in order to make my money stretch further, but as a first attempt at travelling on the cheap this wasn't bad.


This was a disaster. We'd hopped off the train with a plan to quickly have a look at the amphitheatre before heading to Venice to set up camp. Unfortunately, we weren't as organised as we had first thought... with no map, no money for taxi's and heavy bags we wandered aimlessly in the forty degree heat, too scared to ask for directions until it was time to catch the next train.

Not a promising start, but thankfully that was our last major disaster (excluding an encounter with a definite paedophile in Rome).


I'm always fascinated with coastal cities and Venice goes one step further by being built into the water itself. If you're anything like me you'll probably spend most of your time here lost, but only away from the central Piazza San Marco will you find the most interesting little alleyways, quiet canals and the cheapest gelato. The lemon sorbet alone is refreshing enough to sustain you until your find your way back to a water-taxi. 

Ok, sorry, went a little crazy with the canal photos- just one more!


My (and many other people's) favourite of Italy's famous cities is undoubtedly Florence. Smaller and not as aggressive than Rome, with less tour groups than Venice, but still steeped in history, art and culture, Florence is a city for relaxing in coffee shops- probably watching attractive Italian people walk past.

Art nerds will enjoy the Uffizi gallery, which boasts a pretty exciting array of work (including that of Botticelli, Michelangelo, Raphael, Rembrandt and even a bit of Leonardo da Vinci). It only costs €3.50 if you're a youngster under twenty-five, just remember it's shut on Mondays and the line can be pretty long so get there early. 

Above: There are several David's in Florence. This isn't Michelangelo's original, but it's the only one you can see with a sunset!

Everything in Florence looks good enough to eat your own body-weight in, but we survived mostly by cooking our own supermarket tagliatelle and settled for staring longingly through shop windows.

The Ponte Vecchio (above and below), built in 1345, is one of Florence's famous landmarks. Seems like an excellent backdrop for a little topless gardening. ^

The view from our campsite was incredible, but the massive hill to up get there meant we probably earned it.


Home to Italy's biggest famous sights, most terrifying pedestrian crossings and pushiest sales-people, Rome can be a little overwhelming. The campsite was pretty fancy, but inconviniently far away from the city center, relitively expensive and unfortunatly home to the creepiest man in Itlay. We left two days early to escape his leaturous advances!

Rome's boisterous, but I found not even the crowds could ruin the sight of a two-thousand year old building on the scale of the Colosseum...

AKA- Flavian Amphitheatre
Why is it so special?- It was the largest amphitheatre of the Roman Empire, is considered to be one of the greatest ever Roman works of architecture and engineering and is still the largest amphitheatre in the world.
Who built it?- The emperor Vespasian started building the Colosseum in 70 AD, then his heir Titus completed it in 80 AD. Further modifications were made by Domitian, Titus' successor. These three emperors are known as the Flavian hence the name 'Flavian Amphitheatre'.
What was it used for?- The Colosseum had a capacity of 50,000 to 80,000, and was used for spectacles such as gladiator fights.
Why is it in such a state?!- A combination of earthquakes and stone-robbers (yes that was a thing...). Give it some slack though, it's pretty old!

So, how old is the Colosseum compared to some of the Earth's other big stone things?

These are the newly chosen 'Wonders of the World' chosen by an opinion pole around a decade ago.
Read more about them here-  

This is the Trevi Fountain, built in the 1700s. If you have a coin to spare (I don't think I did), then you are welcome to contribute to the estimated 2000-3000 euros thrown in there each day for luck. Thankfully they are supposed to donate this to the cities poor, but I think it also gets robbed pretty regularly so it's up to you.

Vatican City

A city that forms a country, within a city, within a bigger country- the Vatican is a great place to visit if you are
A. Religious 
B. Into art, European culture or incredible architecture
or C. Trying to rack up your country count...

Make sure to dress appropriately- I got told off for having too much cleavage looking like this...

Remember, no photos in the Sistine Chapel- unfortunately very little space to relax and absorb Michelangelo's work either as an annoying recording reminds you to stay silent every few seconds in an excessive amount of languages...



As a city, Pisa hasn't got a lot to write home about, or at least not much that my 17 year old self could find, but it's pretty much obligatory to have your photo taken with the leaning tower. I'm not going to share mine here.

We had a fantastic time here drinking giant bottles of beer, dodging exploding cartons of sun-ripened milk and making friends with the other nutters at our campsite.

La Spezia 

Our final destination and some well-earned beach relaxation after the craziness of Italy's bustling cities. La Spezia is pretty touristy, but once you get away from the main beach it's possible to find some peace and quiet.

The sea is beautiful...

Finally, I'll leave you with this baby-faced photo of me on my 18th birthday. Sunshine, pizza and wine- what more could you want?

I've been obsessed with travelling ever since.

You might also like... Beg, Borrow and Steal your way out of Athens during a riot...