Wednesday, 28 January 2015

(Another) Quarter Life Crisis

For the last few months of 2014 I wasn't in the best of places.  The weather was cold and dark, the previous year I had been in sunny Singapore having the time of my life, half of my friends were travelling the world, my job was boring, and I couldn't find anyone I wanted to be my boyfriend.  I was stuck in a rut.

On the first weekend of the new year, I woke up feeling pretty down.  I checked facebook and saw my travelling friends had uploaded some amazing photos, and I made a decision that I wanted my own adventure too.  I went online and booked a Trek America 21 day tour of the USA, with the intention of continuing to travel and not coming back.  I am a stubborn cow and I could have just booked flights to wherever my friends are, but I didn't just want to follow them across the globe, I wanted to do something on my own first.

I paid my deposit, started to look at what travelling options I could do from the USA when the tour finished, then totally freaked out. Like properly freaked out.  It didn't feel right.  I started to think about the logistics of going - moving out of my house, worrying about where I would put my stuff, saying goodbye to everyone. I even started to worry about the most inconsequential of things, like 'but what will I do with my oyster card if I went away' and 'what will the cat do without me' and 'do I take my house keys with me?'.  All logical, important stuff right?!

On Monday morning my boss asked me how my weekend was and I burst into tears.  I had worked myself up into a hot mess of stress and it all came out there and then, in front of my boss.  MOST embarrassing.  He looked horrified, then sort of did a 'there, there' nod and handed me a tissue. He's the best.

I explained that I had booked the trip to America, and I was planning on not coming back, but now I wasn't sure.  I told him I wasn't happy with my job, happy with my social life, missed my friends like crazy and was freaking out I was 27 and didn't have a boyfriend or a house or all the things that you should have when you're that age.

We had a good old chinwag and together we came to the conclusion that I was running away from what I had in London because I wasn't happy, and that's probably not the best reason to do that when things here can be fixed.  We're going to work on my career plan (I don't want to be a PA all my life), and I am going to focus on all my personal things I am unhappy with that he can't fix.  I am going to do the trip and see how I find travelling on my own, and see if it'll cure my wanderlust (urgh that's such an overused word these days) or make it stronger.  My boss is the greatest man on earth - he's incredibly understanding and supportive and though he can drive me up the wall at times, I love him to pieces and am eternally grateful I have landed a boss like him.

I have had a few weeks of waiting to see if my trip will go ahead as they need to wait for minimum numbers.  This came through this week AND WEEEEEEEE I AM GOING TO AMERICA!!! (that deserved pink bold letters)

This is my trek below, I land in New York, have two and a half days on my tod before I join the tour group (currently 5 of us, hopefully more will book on, if you're reading come along!)

I am most excited about NYC* THE FOOD.  In N Out Burger, Philly Steaks, Froot Loops, giant portions - arghhhhh I will come back a size billion.    I am currently researching accommodation and can't decide between an airbnb or a hostel, any tips?! Gotta do your research properly with these things, I was looking at one airbnb that looked cheap and really good location, was scrolling through the pics and up pops a photo of some naked people eating at the dinner table - I read the blurb and he's a naked host....I'll cross that one off my list!

*fact - I once dressed as the Statue of Liberty when I was about 6 for a fancy dress party. I presume my arm got very tired.  I have tried to find a photo for the purpose of the blog but alas, mother doesn't have it anymore. Sigh.

I am also VERY excited about the Grand Canyon (and will be trekking down it after Amy's advice) and have wanted to see it since I was little - maybe I can make it a mission that each year I definitely do/see something I have always wanted to see (Angkor Wat last year!).  I can't wait to see the Appalachian Mountains after reading Bill Bryson's book about his trek. The cowboy camp looks amazing too - American saddles are so much more comfortable than UK ones.

There's a bit of prep to do - I bought some travel insurance (trekamerica offer a policy for £85 but that's a single trip, I managed to get an annual global policy from Insure and Go for just under £100 which seems much better value and appears to cover everything the trekamerica one did but hopefully I won't need to put it to the test!).

I need to buy a sleeping bag (foolishly booked the wrong tour when I booked on a whim, didn't realise it was the camping one, oops! not the best camper...), get my ESTA processed and I would like some leggings and t shirts and hiking shoes so I can look like one of those cool chilled out girls with a pineapple bun on her head who wears aviators. Hmmm.  Also toying with the idea of upgrading my camera. Double hmmmmm.

Does anyone have any sleeping bag/air mat recommendations?  Or know of any cheap but nice places to stay in NYC? Or wanna come with?!

Friday, 23 January 2015

Being a tourist in my own town

I have been taking my camera out and about with me a bit more (inspired by Martin who's taken some cracking shots of Madrid).

The other day Dan and I went up the Monument, then strolled along the river bank for a few miles.  We ended up at Vauxhall and hopped on a bus home, it was pretty nippy, I could no longer feel my feet and had snot dripping all down my philtrum (that word sounds so rude yet it's so innocent).  The Monument is quite a nice little tourist attraction - very reasonably priced at £4 plus very good exercise walking up all 311 stairs, with a nice enough view at the top.  I don't recommend if you're of a large and unfit disposition, or if you're afraid of heights - the spiral staircase is quite narrow and seemingly neverending.

I think when you live somewhere and see it every day, it's easy not to spot the beauty of it because you're so used to it, so pretending you're a tourist is a great way to capture some of the things you take for granted. (I may have literally pretended I was a tourist...with my trainers and sensible waterproof coat and camera round my neck and wooly bobble hat...I was even going to go as far as speaking in a foreign language if anyone happened to speak to me...weirdo)

I took all the day-time photos on the walk, and all the night-time ones on my way to my spanish lesson.

Millennium Bridge at Sunset

Tower 43, Cheesegrater and Walkie Talkie

Tower Bridge from the Monument

The Shard from the Monument

HMS President, Victoria Embankment

MI6 and St George's Wharf & Tower

Blackfriars Bridge

Sea Containers House, Oxo Tower and London Eye, seen from Blackfriars Bridge

The Blackfriar Pub


Sunday, 18 January 2015

Internet dating - it's a jungle out there

I first dallied with internet dating back in 2010, when me and Lisa were freshies in London.  We set up profiles on Plenty of Fish (being careful to have random usernames so no one would be able to tell it was us) and sat back and waited.  Whilst she managed to find the love of her life after about 3 different dates, I am still waiting for my Prince.

My very first date was with a really nice but very shy guy back in August 2010.  I only really went on the date out of curiosity, I had my eye on someone else who wasn't from the internet and I was just biding my time until a he came to his senses and dated me.

We arranged to meet in Hyde Park and have a picnic, he was an hour late because he didn't realise the Jubilee line wasn't running that day.  I just sat in the park and read - it was a nice day and I didn't mind too much, probably because I knew I was never going to date this guy anyway.  The date was pleasant enough, but he was very quiet and I did all the talking.

My next date was 2 and a half years later.  I had broken up with the guy I was biding my time with, and signed back on to POF the day after we split, more as a big F U to him than actually wanting to find someone else.

I chatted to this tall, dark and handsome stranger (so his profile led me to believe), arranged to meet him the following weekend - and it was a disaster.  He was dark but certainly not tall or handsome - being only a few cm taller than me.  We went to a comedy club and the only jokes he laughed at were the incredibly sexist ones, and each time he laughed he grabbed my thigh.  We had nothing in common and he was difficult to talk to.  When the comedy finished I made my excuses and left, but not before he tried to walk me to the station, put his arm round my shoulders and somehow grabbed my boob.  He texted saying he wanted to see me again and I let him down semi-gently, which he seemed to accept, though two weeks later out of the blue he bootycalled me - I was a bit 'wtf' and he said 'but you said we could be friends, you're a strong independent woman, this is what people like you do'.  Errr no - and added him to the block list.

Fast forward two years and I've been on a dozen or so more dates.  Notable ones include:

Mr America - a  guy who had a strong American accent though he'd only spent 6 months working in the US.  Immediately irritated me and he was checking out my bum each time I turned round.  Nice enough but a mutual understanding it wasn't going anywhere.

Mr Irish - he was really sweet and we had a good 3 dates.  Unfortunately I lost interest somewhere between the 2nd and 3rd, went out the night before the 3rd date and turned up very hungover and with a love bite on my neck.  He was very annoyed I was so late (and possibly because of the love bite too) and barely spoke to me, we went to Nandos, I ordered the huge platter as I was starving (he insisted on paying, the fool!) then couldn't eat any of it as I felt sick at the sight of food.  Not my proudest moment. Understandably I never heard from him again AND the guy I got with 'liked me but didn't want to date me'.  Sigh, boys - 2, me - 0.

Mr Pushy - as a joke I went speed-dating with my friend from work.  We both got quite drunk and had an amusing time.  One guy caught my eye as he seemed normal and not desperate like some of the others.  I ticked him, he ticked me, and we met up, got very drunk together, snogged for 2 hours in a bar until I realised it was way past my bedtime and had started to sober up.  Unfortunately he was really pushy in wanting to come back to mine which immediately put me off him, and he never texted again so I guess he was only after one thing.

Mr Shit Shoes - we had been talking for a while and eventually met up after I came back from travelling.  First date was amazing - instant connection, and we got kicked out of the bar, talking for so long we didn't realise it was past closing.  Second date was not as fun for me, third date was great again and we sort of started dating. Unfortunately he went a bit mental over a miscommunication on whatsapp, and it ended as quickly as it'd begun.  I wasn't too bothered - he had a awful taste in shoes (seriously who wears smart leather loafers for EVERYTHING) and every now and then I did worry he might be gay.
*We once had an awkward convo about his shoes.  In his room I spotted a pair of Nikes hidden in the depths of his cupboard, so as subtley/innocently as I could I said "you know, if you wear smart shoes all the time just for me to like make a good impression, you don't have to you know, they don't look comfortable so you can wear trainers if you like".  Turns out it wasn't that subtle and he was all like 'err don't you like my shoes' to which I had to backtrack and pretend I did.

Out of all of my friends who've done online dating, the majority of them have found their life partners after only a couple of dates - I guess it works for some people, but not for me.  The idea of falling in love with a complete stranger freaks me out a little to be honest, and all of my past relationships have been with someone I already knew or a friend of a friend so they could be vouched for.  However I am not ready to uninstall the dating apps just yet, mainly for the laughs I get when I come across some people's profiles...take a look at some of these bad boys!

I have had to umm, edit, them slightly to protect identities and other items, as you'll see...

nice to see he's patriotic

Mate, I'm looking buff right now, take a pic of me with my hand down my pants yeah? That'll certainly get the ladies' attention

Dave is an exceptional story teller

I am pretty sure he's been reading all the tinder 'don't be a dick' buzzfeed articles

umm, whatever floats your boat, I guess

don't you just hate it when there's 3 people in the profile pic. which one is he?

posing in your pants is a sure fire way to get girls interested. not. 

yes - the bottle is covering his penis. yes, it is the size of the bottle. no, i didn't swipe right,

there are no words...

i am flattered, truly. 

can't even think of a caption. 

There you have it, a brief history of my internet dating.  Do you have any dating horror stories to share?

Sunday, 11 January 2015

Just Keep Pedalling...

Just keep pedalling is the advice I wish I had known when we hired mountain bikes today and went to Bedgebury Pinetum.  On the first section of the track, I went through a HUGE puddle, got freaked out by how much deeper it was that I was expecting, stopped pedalling, lost my balance and fell sideways into the cold water.  I really wish I had it on video.

I have wanted to try mountain biking for a while but never got round to doing it, so was pretty happy when Sepha agreed to come with me, and even happier when Ben and Jaime also tagged along as I haven't seen them in AGES.

We convened at mine, piled into the car and headed down to Kent for the day.

The parking in the pinetum is pretty extortionate at £9.50, but the money does go back into the maintenance of the area (which is very well kept).  We hired bikes for 2 hours from Quench cycles who were really friendly and gave us a free map and a group discount, making it £17 each rather than £20.

We started off on the family trail but it wasn't long before we decided we were pro enough to try the single track, labelled 'difficult'...the red single track is a big loop of the park, encompassing different sections so you can choose to do all of it, or come off it at certain points.  We decided to do all of it which I am pretty sure my butt and lady parts are going to hate me for tomorrow.

yeah....not for us

"which pose looks rad....this one?"

The single track consists of mainly narrow trackway winding through the woods, it's mostly mud but there are some gravelly bits and some rocky sections too.  There are also some jumps/humps and windy sections, tough uphill bits which we ended up getting off and walking up, and some fast downhill sections.  It's a very beautiful track and each section is named to give it an inkling of what's to come, for example the bit with a ridiculously steep hill is names 'Cardiac'.  I think my favourite section is 'Gloomy Woods' which ends with blind twists and turns in the woods.

these were fun

Ben's bike was a bit dodgy and the chain kept locking, and then eventually snapped at the furthest point away from the bike hut - annoying!  Luckily they'd given us their number in case of any issues, so we gave them a bell and within 15 minutes they'd driven a Landrover up the mud track with a new bike for Ben and carted the old one off. Great service!

so much mud!!


Around 3/4 of the way through we started to get very tired and cold and the last few tracks were a hard slog, but I am so proud of us that we completed all 14km of the track (admittedly in about 3 hours, lots of people kept overtaking us!).  IT WAS SO MUCH FUN!!!! It's so nice to get out of London for the day but even better to actually do something with your day.

We headed back to London and rewarded ourselves with a Roast Dinner at the EDT, before heading back to our respective houses to collapse on the sofa.

We've decided to do "Adventure Sundays" where once a month we'll go out and do something a bit different, any ideas on what to do next?

In other news:

I am doing dry January - so far I have gone to Swingers (indoor crazy golf in Shoreditch - fun but probably much more fun if you're drunk, and the course is SUPER hard and only 9 holes so you go round quite quick), had 2 dates and sat in a pub several times without having a drink - I am pretty impressed with myself (this makes me sound like an alcoholic and that I need alcohol to function - this isn't the case I swear...hmmm) Meant to be going to a Ceilidh this Friday though - not sure I will be able to handle that sober!  I have, however, noticed how cheap it makes your life if you don't drink - plus it turns out that the EDT does soda and lime for FREEEEEEE! I can't believe I have lived here 5 years and never known about this.   Do other pubs do this too?  Is it normal?

I have started learning Spanish.  I've signed up to a 5 week intensive course and I am really enjoying it, feels like being back at school.  It's pretty hardcore though - 2 hours on a Tuesday and Thursday, and on Wednesday I am doing the swimming training again, so I am pretty busy during the week.  You get given homework too, which reminds me I need to do mine for Tuesday, better get on that really....pero estoy muy cansado! Hasta luego!