We flew from Luang Prabang, Laos to Hanoi, the capital city of Vietnam a couple of days ago. It took 55 minutes and I only had one minor breakdown during turbulence. Not bad going considering… More
We have arrived safe and sound! We took off from Gatwick on Wednesday morning and landed in Laos on Thursday afternoon.
We are 7 hours ahead here which is confusing because our body clocks are still in England and it feels as though we missed a day whilst in the air.
Talking of being in the air; first things first… the flight. Oh my god the flight.
I’m not a great flyer at the best of times; during take-off my hands clam up, my eyes squeeze shut and I convince myself that the plane hasn’t got enough thrust and I can feel it falling backwards.
So needless to say I wasn’t overjoyed at the prospect of over 13 hours of back to back flights …my first long haul flights since age 6.
HOWEVER. I had never flown with Emirates before.
Wow. I was acting like it was the first time I had ever left the house, I was so excited by this floating 5* hotel that I barely even noticed take-off.
Waiting for me on my seat were headphones and a blanket and pillow for my comfort. My personal little screen played host to thousands of films and TV shows – I watched ‘Bridget Jones’ Baby’ , ‘Bad Moms’ , ‘Trolls’ and an entire series of ‘Friends’.
I’m aware that I have no palette when it comes to entertainment – but it kept me occupied and calm.
Oh and the refreshments – unlimited drinks (including alcohol), a 3 course meal and afternoon tea?! I mean, come on. I barely wanted to get off!
Emirates got our trip off to the perfect start. We went from London to Dubai to Bangkok to Laos without a hitch – and our luggage made it here too. Absolute bonus.
Now, I’ve got to be completely honest… 2 days in and we have already made 2 huge rookie errors.
1. We succumbed to the jet lag. The day we got here, we powered through despite missing 2 days of sleep, went to bed at 10pm and set an alarm for the following morning – textbook. But then we snoozed the alarm. I don’t know what happened to the second alarm but all I know is that we accidentally slept through an entire day. We awoke at 4pm (9am UK time), made the most of what was left of the day and then tried to go to sleep at 10pm again. Needless to say, that did not work. We were wide awake until 6am this morning playing cards and watching ‘The Grand Tour’. We then woke up to our alarm at 9am. Shattered. But we WILL power through today and get our body clocks reset!
2. WHERE ARE WE. Laos was one of the countries on our list so naturally we thought we should start in the capital; Vientiane and work our way towards Vietnam which is next the next country we will visit. Theory = good. Reality = fail. This capital city is about as buzzing as a traditional English village. Without the village pub. But it’s fine. We are using our time here to sort out our body clocks, plan our next move, make the most of the pool and get a base tan. With months of travelling ahead, I think a few days of chilling and getting our bearings is just what we need.
So all in all, the trip is off to a slightly rocky but entirely manageable start. We will be fully refreshed and ready to embrace our next stop when we leave here on Monday.
We can’t complain really; all the Laotian people we have met so far have been so friendly and helpful, our hotel is lovely and it’s 30 degrees.
The next stop in Laos is Vang Vieng, which is a much more lively and scenic place with lots to do and see. We have also found a hostel there with unlimited free whisky in the evenings …sold.
After months of dreaming, planning and saving; s**t has most definitely just got real.
Tomorrow, my boyfriend and I board a one way (3 legged) flight to begin our Asian adventure*.
As expected; my irrational thoughts have begun to circulate…
– Is my passport in date?! Yes.
– Is my flight definitely booked?! Yes.
– Have I packed enough underwear?! Yes.
– Have I had all the right vaccinations?! Yes.
– Are the visas I got online actually legit?! I really hope so.
– Is my body bikini ready?! Absolutely NOT but it’s too late now.
Meanwhile, my better half’s main concern is whether 6am is too early to have a boozy breakfast at the airport (spoiler: it’s never too early).
It’s because I’ve always been a planner. I’m organised, I’m always on time and I always know what’s next.
So although the spontaneity of this trip is entirely out of my comfort zone and has my brain working overtime (usually just as I want to go to sleep), it’s exactly what I need.
For the next 6 months I have no plan, no schedule, no idea what to expect and to be honest; absolutely no idea what I’m doing.
All I know is that I’m about to indulge in once in a lifetime experiences, adventures I can’t even comprehend and a whole load of sunshine, sunsets, sandy feet and turquoise sea.
I am SO ready.
All that’s left to do now is enjoy the last night of reality; home cooked food, double bed and cups of proper tea.
The bags are packed / stuffed within an inch of their life, the alarm is set for 5am and my lovely mum has agreed to do the airport run.
The next time I write a post, I’ll be on the other side of the world!
*My route as it stands (bearing in mind it has changed countless times) is as follows:
As my trip draws ever closer, one question people have asked me has really stood out – and although worded differently each time I hear it, it’s essentially the same;
” Are you going off to find yourself? ”
I know it’s that whole gap year cliche and I know they don’t mean it literally, but it got me thinking.
At 25, I feel like I know myself pretty well. I know what I like, what I don’t like, what I want in life and what I don’t.
…and so does everyone else because my poker face is pretty much non existent.
So I think it’s because of that awareness of myself that this is the right time to travel, rather than going in order to ‘find myself’.
Everyone is different, but as the saying goes; not all those who wander are lost. I think that applies to me entirely.
I’m genuinely happy with my life as it is and I don’t yearn for much more (other than to win the lottery and wake up looking like a Victoria Secrets model).
So although you can always learn more about yourself, I’m not off on my travels to learn or search for anything in particular – I just want to explore, enjoy and embrace a new adventure because it’s the right time for me and because I’m lucky enough to be able to.
It really is as simple as that.
So, I guess my answer to the question of what I want to get out of my trip, is; I don’t know. But I can’t wait to find out.
It’s now 1 week ’til take off and it cannot come around quick enough!
First things first… WHERE ON EARTH DID JANUARY GO?!
I feel like I only just finished devouring my Christmas Dinner(s).
Today marks my last day at work before I escape reality for the foreseeable future.
I thought I would feel really odd, almost end-of-term-like, but I don’t at all.
Perhaps it’s because I’ve been planning this trip for so long that I’m ready to just get going – or maybe it doesn’t quite feel real yet.
Either way, I feel bizarrely normal considering I’m about to step away from my life as I know it and embark on the adventure of a lifetime.
Although I have travelled before, I have never done anything quite like this. I have never been to Asia, never gone far off the beaten track – and have never been away for as long as I plan to be.
For the coming months, I will wake up every day with my biggest concern being where to explore next or which bikini to wear – or maybe more likely; locating the bite cream before I scratch off all my limbs.
Either way, it’s different and it’s exciting.
So as my final dose of reality fades, it’s time for the next chapter.
I have given my friends and family strict instructions to not get engaged, give birth or partake in any other major life events while I’m away, so hopefully they stick to that.
Two weeks today I’ll have landed, ready to begin.
And I can’t wait.
In my recent posts I have mentioned my packing checklist and a few people have asked what’s on it.
Initially I thought it would be a diabolically dull post if I literally recounted every item, but then I realised that it may actually be helpful for anyone planning a similar trip.
So, if you’re not in the mood to read a list – I would check out of this one early!
My travel checklist is a compilation of what I have learned from previous trips, some tips from other travellers and a bit of common sense.
Always have originals, photocopies and scanned versions in your emails.
- Driving license
- Pre-booked Visas
- Rough Route
- Vaccination booklets
- Proof of Travel Insurance
- Booking Confirmations
- Some loose currency for each place
- Passport sized photos (for visas)
- Bank card
(I’m using a ‘Revolut’ Card as the exchange rate & withdrawal charges seem to be the lowest)
This is the most expensive category so ensure it’s insured.
(Take a few chargers and adaptors – they seem to go walkabout and you NEED them)
Not very exciting but you’ll appreciate it when you need it!
- First Aid Kit
- Sun Cream & After sun
- Mosquito Repellent
- Pain killers
- Travel Sickness Tablets
- Waterproof Plasters
- Antibacterial Bite Cream
- Antibacterial Hand Gel
- Any medication you take
- Flight Socks
(Girls; they’re not sexy but if you’re on the pill and flying long haul, you should wear them)
I had my travel jabs at ‘Boots’ and collected enough loyalty points to buy most of this list.
- Toothbrush & Toothpaste
- Razor & Spare Blades
- Shampoo & Conditioner
- Hair brush & Hair ties
- Tweezers & Nail Clippers
- Shower Gel
- Sanitary Items
- Baby Wipes
- Toilet Roll
- Bag for wet/dirty clothes
- Travel Detergent
(Use this to wash your clothes as you go – all you need is hot water, so a sink or bath will do)
Pack light – you’ll be carrying it all! Light clothing is easier to wash and quicker to dry.
- Underwear & Swimwear
- Cotton Pyjamas
- Waterproof Jacket
- Flip Flops
- Cap or Hat
(I went for microfiber towels – they’re quick drying and when folded they’re tiny)
And that concludes the checklist!
I appreciate this isn’t the juiciest of reads, but I hope it’s helpful!
I definitely prefer packing to unpacking, but the pressure of making sure I’ve packed everything I need (and inevitably a whole lot of stuff I don’t need), stresses me out.
Especially as I’m going to be away for so long and will not necessarily be in places where I can buy toothpaste or sun cream – or more likely Imodium, at any given time.
It’s now only a couple of weeks until I leave for Asia and my idiot proof packing checklist is ready. It’s printed, complete with boxes by each item for my ticking off pleasure.
For some reason when I write a list, it’s as if I think that future me has had that ‘Men in Black’ zappy thing and forgotten everything about life. The list includes items that absolutely no one would ever forget to pack.
But I love my irrational lists and I would be lost without them.
Now; this may be controversial (probably not) but I have decided to take a suitcase instead of a rucksack.
When I travelled around Europe I took a rucksack and it was fine. It was small enough to have as hand luggage and big enough for what I needed.
Unsurprisingly, I always needed what was at the bottom and I was constantly unpacking and re-packing.
So, this time I’m taking a suitcase. That way I can open it up, see what I’ve got and retrieve items without it looking like my entire life exploded.
Plus, the thought of casually rolling a case – compared to a rucksack on my back in the scorching heat, really appeals to me.
So, here goes. I’m about to fit 6 months into 30kgs.
I have a bad habit of zoning out of real life and into the land of daydreams.
When I was younger it was about being scouted as the new member of S Club Juniors or replacing Vanessa Hudgens as Gabriella in High School Musical; but at 25 I’ve come to terms with the fact that it’s not happening for me.
As I’ve got older my day dreams have become much less exciting and revolve more around owning my dream home or starting my own business.
But one dream has remained constant – I want to see the world.
Maybe it’s because I have family all over the globe, or maybe it’s because I’ve been lucky enough to have a taste of travel throughout my life – I don’t know; but the wanderlust has never faded.
So I decided it was time to take that dream and make it a plan.
I got a map*, a notepad and the old decrepit University laptop and began to organise.
- First: The budget. How much could I realistically save in a year?
- Second: The route. Where do I want to go and for how long?
- Third: The method. How will I get from place to place logically, cheaply and safely?
- Fourth: The base. I’ll book accommodation as I go and trust Trip Advisor reviews.
- Fifth: The boring bit. Jabs, insurance & visas; unavoidable and absolutely essential.
- Finally: Supplies. Backpack, toiletries, medical bits, technology and light clothes.
Over the last few months I’ve written ‘to do’ lists, ‘to pack’ lists, ‘to buy’ lists and ‘to book’ lists …and I’m pretty sure my boyfriend now thinks I’m completely insane.
And so; with a LOT of research, planning, moments of ‘am I really doing this?!’ and the route changing approximately 497 times; the plan is set. The one way ticket is booked.
In February I’m off to travel South East Asia for as long as my budget will allow.
And I can’t wait.
*I love that ‘scratch map’. I bought it with the aim that one day it will all be scratched off.