Spring Foraging in the UK, a British Foraging Guide by Sarah Tamsin [guest post]

Spring Foraging in the UK - Dandelion

I feel as if spring has really snuck up on us this year. It’s officially time for people living in Britain (or anywhere temperate in the Northern Hemisphere) to come out of hibernation and start enjoying the extra hours of sunshine. And so, I have written this guide for spring foraging in the UK.

Despite living in a city, spring is palpable. It’s still light at 8pm, the warmth of the afternoon sun is beautiful but there’s enough of a morning chill to still need a scarf.

We’re very lucky in Cardiff, having so many large parks and green spaces to explore. Walking through the grounds of Cardiff Castle, Sophia Gardens or Bute Park, it’s so easy to forget you’re in the middle of a city. It’s difficult to hear the sound of the traffic through the birdsong and trees rustling in the breeze.

One of my favourite things about spring in Wales is that my favourite edible plants are sprouting up everywhere right now. I had no idea about edible plants until about four years ago, when I was introduced to foraging in the UK by a friend of mine. Read more

How I Make Friends in a New City (In the UK & in Other Countries)

How to make friends in a new city - cover

Making friends in a new place is always hard, whether it’s in the next town over or in a new country. Trust me, I’ve moved around a lot, but I’ve found the key thing when it comes to how to make friends in a new city is perseverance.

That’s right. You don’t need to be a social butterfly, you don’t need to know the local language and there is no magical secret to getting people to like you. You just need to persevere and hold strong to the fact that you will find your people. Everything takes time.

So, even if they sound super-obvious, here are the steps I follow to make friends in a new city or a new place. If you do them all and stick with it, then I guarantee that you will find your tribe:

How I Make Friends in a New City: Ask Around

How to make friends in a new city - 1

Ask your friends, family, neighbours, your cousin’s goldfish, social media and the woman who runs the post office if they know anyone in the place you’re moving to. The world is big, but it is also small.

When I moved from the UK to Hong Kong, I was introduced to three separate people who were moving there at the same time as me. And that was before I even got on a plane. It’s the law of six degrees of separation, right? Everyone knows someone who knows someone. Read more

24 Hours in Qatar | A Long Layover in Doha

24 Hours in Qatar, a Long Layover in Doha - MIA Outside

I have flown in and out of Hamad International Airport in Doha, Qatar, a bazillion times, travelling to and from Hong Kong. However, for this flight back to the UK, I booked a long layover in Doha just so I could spend 24 hours in Qatar and finally see more than just the airport!

I’m not in any way sponsored by Qatar Airways (I wish I was), but they are genuinely one of the best airlines I’ve travelled with, hence why I’ve done it so often. They’re cheap, they fly where I need to go and their service is always of a high standard.

So, here is the story of my 24 hours in Qatar, how I made the most of a long layover in Doha and some travel advice for anyone looking to do the same:

24 Hours in Qatar: Hamad International Airport

24 Hours in Qatar, A Long Layover in Doha - Hamad International Airport
By Ken Yamaguchi via Flickr

The first couple of times I flew in and out of Hamad International Airport, it was nothing but a shack with a duty free section and nowhere to exchange money!

Now, the new fancy terminal is like a miniature city in itself. There’s so much to see and do in the airport alone that you could easily make the most of a long layover in Doha without venturing out into the city (and I have done that too).

Aside from the obvious restaurants and shopping, Hamad International Airport also has art galleries, lounge facilities (all-inclusive food/relaxation areas starting at US$55), an airport hotel and a spa that has massage packages and even a swimming pool! Read more

Two Months in Southeast Asia | Backpacking Trip Roundup

Two Months in Southeast Asia

Hurrah! My #40days40blogs challenge meant I finally posted up all the details of my two months in Southeast Asia! Here’s a roundup of all the places I managed to squeeze into my two months solo and on a shoestring budget, including detailed itineraries, travel journal entries and more:

Two Months in Southeast Asia: Myanmar (Burma)

Two Months in Southeast Asia - Yangon

I started my two months in Southeast Asia with Myanmar, also known by its old colonial name, Burma (this confused some of the Brits back home so FYI).

This country is fascinating. I was intrigued by its history and the tragic stories of the governing military regime and the colonial wars.

Two Months in Southeast Asia - Yangon

Also, I personally found Burmese cities to be overwhelming, even for someone like me who had been living in Asia for five years. The traffic, the crowds, the business, the noise! It was chaotic, but beautiful. I really felt like I’d thrown myself into the deep end. Read more

Bedtime Stories | The Best Hostels in the World (And Some of the Worst)!

Best Hostels in the World - Cover

“You’ve slept in a lot of beds,” one of my oldest and best friends said to me a few weeks ago. When I gasped in offence, he was quick to add, “I mean, travelling, of course!” That got me thinking about all the places I have stayed on my travels: some the best hostels in the world, the comfiest of pillows and… some of the worst places I have ever ‘slept’.

After five years of living in Asia, I have pretty much perfected the ability to sleep anywhere. But, there are still a few standout beds that (bed)spring to mind. Here are, in my humble opinion, some of the best hostels in the world and the places I’ve most enjoyed resting my head.

Oh, and a few of the worst, too:

Bad Bed – Noah’s Ark, Hong Kong

Best Hostels in the World - Noah's Ark
By HK Arun via Wikimedia Commons

Did I ever tell you about the time I moved to Hong Kong and stayed for three weeks in a life-size replica of Noah’s Ark? A life-size replica of Noah’s Ark. How is that possible? Why is that possible? How could they possibly know it’s life-size? All very good questions that I have no answer for. Read more

Post-Travel Blues: Two Travel Bloggers Share Their Stories

The post-travel blues. I’ve definitely been wrestling with them these past few months. However, that’s all a little tied up with moving back to the UK after half a decade living abroad. Plus, there’s a little reverse culture shock thrown in there for good measure!

And so I asked the travel blogging community if they had ever experienced something similar. Here’s what Megan Roughley of Where My Travels Takes Me and Rosie Fluskey of Flying Fluskey had to say about the dreaded post-travel blues:

Megan Roughley – Where My Travels Take Me

Post-Travel Blues Megan Roughley

After an adventure away from home for quite some time, your mind is racing with all of the memories you have recently made and all of the experiences that have changed you for the better. You are coming home a changed person. Read more

Two Weeks in Bali, A Series of Unfortunate Events | Travel Diary

Uluwatu, Bali - Two Weeks in Bali

I’d witnessed Bagan sunsets in Myanmar, splashed around in the lagoons of Laos, buffed up on history in Cambodia and stuffed my face with Vietnamese delicacies in Saigon. I was, sadly, coming to the end of my big Southeast Asian backpacking trip, but at least I was going out on a high. It was time for an incredible two weeks in Bali.

After five years of living on the continent, this trip was something of a farewell to Asia. And my final two weeks in Bali were a farewell to that trip itself. After six weeks of sightseeing, I was ready to flop on a beach somewhere, stretch out with some yoga and relax with a cocktail in hand.

I had been trying to get to Bali for at least four of the past five years, specifically for the amazing surf and therefore surf schools. In my two weeks in Bali, I visited Legian, Kuta, Uluwatu, Nusa Dua, Lovina, Amed, Ubud and Canggu. I absolutely loved it, but unfortunately, luck just wasn’t on my side… Read more

Pico Iyer: Movement is Nothing Until You Stand Still

Pico Iyer

I’ve been back in the UK now for four months. I’m still reluctant to say ‘back home’, but I’ll admit that it’s slipped off my tongue more than once. Like travel writer Pico Iyer says in his TED talk, ‘Where are you from?’ and ‘Where is home?’ are more complex questions now than they once were.

In fact, I’ve been wrangling with that word ‘home’ even since I breathed it in along with the crisp, British air outside Birmingham Airport.

I’ve tried on the word ‘home’ like you might try on a pair of jeans at a high street store; they don’t quite fit, but you try and justify the purchase anyway because you’re planning to lose a few pounds, right? So, they’ll fit in time, right?

And I’ve written. My lord, I’ve written about it! I’ve always found it easier to articulate through the written word than through the spoken word. I’ve typed the word ‘home’ and then hit the backspace key, paused, and then typed it again with quotation marks wrapped around it.

Trapping the letters between two floating apostrophes, like pegs on a washing line, is exactly how the word feels to me.

I meant what I said when I wrote that moving back to the UK is so much harder than moving away – so much more than I anticipated. There were parts I left out from that post. As personal as it was, there was stuff going on one level down, down in the basement, that I didn’t want anyone to see.

Because it is a struggle and it’s a work in progress and it’s more complicated than i thought. I’m rethinking everything. My goals. My dreams. How I should work towards them. How I’m going to get there. What I need to sacrifice in the short term for what I want in the long term.

Anyway, these four long months have been dragging and yet they’ve gone by in the click of my fingers. I applied ferociously for jobs for two months, but then stopped because it wasn’t the right approach and I was getting no where.

I worked on my CV and was more careful about the jobs I applied to. I worked on this blog. I visited other British cities to try and find my feet, eager to play the tourist and find a place to call my own, but I was back in that high street store. I can’t get anything to fit right.

I gave myself a deadline of three months to find a job before I would implement plan B and look at moving away again. But, then I found myself counting down the days until it could be a possibility. Because, if I was being honest with myself, wasn’t it always plan A instead of plan B?

The longer I deliberated whether to stay or go, the more I panicked that I was failing by doing nothing and the more I felt myself slipping into a routine that I had tried so hard to avoid. Freelance work. Sorting out rent with my parents. Doing a lot of nothing

I’ll be honest and say that the last couple of weeks have pretty much been rock bottom, most likely amplified by the passing of the three-month deadline and my 27th birthday. This was not what I imagined for myself after three months back in the UK. This was not what I imagined for myself at 27.

I was punishing myself for not managing to find my dream job and create my dream life within this ridiculous time frame of December to March. I was so frustrated that I had chosen to come home – not just because I was listening to my head, but also because I was listening to my heart – yet, the more I leaned into a life back in the UK, the worse I felt.

‘Why are you back?’ was a question a friend asked me just a few weeks after Christmas. I smiled and talked confidently about my plans, but I was surprised to see that he didn’t seem convinced.

‘Why are you back?’ another friend asked a couple of weeks ago, seeing how down I’d let myself become.

‘I don’t know.’ I tearfully replied.

It wasn’t until this past week that I really started to understand.

You know that quote: ‘Do the thing that scares you’? It’s one that I always think of when I think of travel and I think it’s good advice to live by. But, do you know what scares me most? Living at home with my parents, working two jobs and sitting still for a while.

So, Amy, maybe that’s the exact thing you should do.

I’m beating myself up for being neither here nor there; not fully committed to being back in the UK, yet not ready to just give up and move abroad again on a whim. But, maybe this is exactly where I’m meant to be. Maybe I just need to be still for a while.

That’s where Pico Iyer comes in. A fellow travel blogger commented on previous post and told me that she related to what I was saying, offering up some words of wisdom. She gave me a link to the below TED Talk by Pico Iyer and it completely resonated.

It’s 14 minutes long, so I appreciate if you don’t have time to watch it all, but his speech pretty much articulates everything I want to say about being back. Not just all the stuff about redefining home – that’s a whole other discussion for another day and he’s bang on about that too – but, what he says in the second half about stillness.

Pico Iyer says that movement is nothing unless you can be still. Home doesn’t need to be a nation or a house or even a family. It can be somewhere where you can be still for a little while. Still so that you can collect your thoughts. Still so that you can plan your next move.

That’s exactly what I’m doing. It’s frustrating because I’m so used to moving around and my feet are itching like crazy, but it’s exactly what I need. It’s what I need to do in order to collect myself and my thoughts, before I can move on.

Then, regardless of what comes out of that process, at least I know I’m not making a decision on a whim. Only when you’re still can you really listen to what you want.

I’ve lived out of a suitcase. I’ve carried all my belongings on my back. I’ve hopped from country to country literally without a care in the world. I’ve loved it all, but if you move that fast and that often, sometimes you lose sight of what you’re doing it for.

So, girl, if you can do all that then you can spend a few months at home binge-eating British food and catching up on all the TV you’ve missed! You’ve earned it. More importantly, you need it. You have some figuring out to do.

Notice that the quotation marks have disappeared.

My adventures aren’t over just because I’m taking some time out to reassess. Moving around means nothing unless I am still, somewhere, sometimes, even if it’s just as a point of reference.

So maybe I just need some time standing still.

#NoFilter: The Truth Behind My Instagram Photos

The Truth Behind My Instagram Photos - Vang Vieng

I love me a bit of Instagram, but I also love me a bit of truth. I feel like it’s very easy to get sucked into the #FOMO caused by social media. I’m very aware that I’m only showing and seeing the highlight reel, not the full story. So, here I thought I’d share the truth behind my Instagram photos.

There’s no ‘big reveal’ here – I’m pretty upfront about my experiences travelling, that I’m a serial user of filters (no #NoFilter here!) and I use an editing app to make my photos pretty. Because duh – I’m no professional photographer and I don’t have a big fancy camera.

So, here’s the truth behind my Instagram photos:

Manarola, Cinque Terre, Italy

The Truth Behind My Instagram Photos - Manarola
The Truth Behind My Instagram Photos – Manarola

It rained all day. All the walking paths were closed, so I couldn’t walk or hike between the villages and I got soaked. Manarola was the fourth Cinque Terre stop of the day and the skies had *just* begun to clear, thank goodness!

For the third village, Corniglia, I had to take off my shoes and socks and wade in water that went up above my knees, it was so flooded. Read more

What We Learnt From Living Abroad

Living Abroad Cover

Don’t get me wrong, I love to travel. I love to go on holiday and lie on a beach somewhere, I love to go backpacking on a shoestring budget and I love playing the tourist both at home and abroad. But, it’s all a whole other kettle of fish when you’re actually living abroad.

The lessons you learn about life, about the world and most significantly about yourself, are invaluable. You don’t just visit a place and learn about it; you become part of it. To better explain how living abroad changes and challenges you, I asked a couple of fellow travel bloggers what living abroad taught them:

Megan Roughley – Where My Travels Take Me

Living Abroad Megan Roughley
Living Abroad: Megan Roughley, Where My Travels Take Me

I am fortunate that my family instilled in me the passion for travel. Read more

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