VOLUNTEERING WITH GREENPEACE AT LEEDS FESTIVAL

Hello!

Festival season is coming to an end and while I’ve spent the summer scrolling through Instagram and seeing people partying it up in glitter and wellies at Leeds, Reading, Glastonbury and Burning Man, I thought I’d reflect on my first (and only) festival I attended last year: Leeds Festival!

First things first, festivals have never appealed to me that much and I never thought they’d be my kinda thing. I was kinda right. But when I saw Greenpeace UK advertising on Twitter that they needed volunteers for Leeds Fest last summer, I couldn’t turn down the opportunity. To be honest, I thought they’d have hundreds of applicants so I never expected them to choose me so I was thrilled when a couple of weeks later they rang up and asked me to join the team! Not only that, but they told me they were struggling for numbers so if I knew anyone who also wanted to volunteer then let them know… a quick chat with my boyfriend (he was grumpy because he wasn’t going to any festivals that summer) and he applied and was accepted within a few days!

Once our places had been accepted we just had to get ourselves to the festival and the meeting point for festival staff. We got to stay on the staff campsite (much cleaner and hot showers!) and were given two meals a day. I couldn’t believe I was not only going to my first festival but I was going for free!

However, I should say that I wasn’t officially attending the festival, as I had to work a 4-5 hour shift each day and therefore didn’t get to see many acts perform (although one of our stations was right opposite the main stage!). But the whole point of applying as a volunteer with Greenpeace was because of the work we were doing for their Deposit Return Scheme

We basically stood in a little tent and gave people money in exchange for paper and plastic cups. It was a great opportunity to help educate people on the importance of recycling and the role plastics are playing in our current climate crisis. On average, 16 million plastic bottles are put into general waste and therefore not recycled every day in the UK. And that is just generic every day use. Leeds Festival hosts around 90,000 attendees, not including staff, every summer – just think how much plastic is used and wasted in that one place over one weekend. Greenpeace is a frontrunner in the fight against single-use plastics and so this scheme was a joy to be a part of.

It’s a cause that I’m really passionate about and while my boyfriend was mainly there as a way of seeing the acts for free, it was also really nice to share that passion with him and (I think) he enjoyed it and understood more about why I feel so strongly about sustainability.

Greenpeace, along with loads of other charitable organisations, ask for volunteers every year at a number of festivals all over the country. If you’re not so keen on grubby camping (me) or can’t afford tickets, check them out and learn a little bit too!

EPIC VOLCANO TREK IN NICARAGUA

One of the BEST things to do when travelling is head off the beaten track and explore the natural environment of the place you’re visiting. This, for me, means lots of hikes and outdoor adventures!

My first taste of travel was on my Outlook Expedition trip to Nicaragua and Honduras with school when I was 17 (my first blog post was an overview of this trip so you can have a read here).

While some elements of the expedition were arranged by the company, such as a week volunteering and a week learning to dive in Honduras, we got a say in what our volunteer project would be and what extra activities we wanted to do in Nicaragua. Our group quickly decided that we wanted to go on a trek in Nicaragua’s Cordillera de los Maribios mountain range, which we were told is famous for its active volcanoes and opportunities to take part in adrenaline-fuelled activities.

The trek spanned 3 full days and included 4 active volcanoes.

Volcan Telica was the first volcano we trekked up to and we camped right near the top, with the crater just a few minutes’ walk away. Horses carried our main luggage, which was slightly questionable but helpful for those who struggled on the 6 hour hike to the camp. Our guides pointed out some of the incredible bird and insect life on our way up (less nerdy than it sounds) and we even caught sight of hummingbirds. When we reached camp in the evening we went to see the lava in the crater, lying on our fronts and crawling to the edge!

The next morning we woke up at 04:00 to watch the sunrise over the mountain range. The walk down the other side of Telica was much quicker and we were soon on a bus to the next volcano, Cerro Negro.

This was without a doubt the highlight of the entire expedition. It was super windy but it only took about an hour to reach the top, and then we got to experience the best bit: running down the volcano.

Cerro Negro, AKA the Black Mountain, is famous for its ‘volcano boarding’, where participants dress in orange jumpsuits and literally surf down the scree. For health and safety reasons, we weren’t allowed to do this (as it was a school trip), but it was so much fun sliding down with panoramic views of the volcanic rock merging with the forest landscape, and simultaneously witnessing one of the best sunsets of my life. Day two ended with us not bothering to pitch our tents and just lying in our sleeping bags under the stars.

The final day of our trek required another very early start, as we hiked to the lesser known and rather strange-looking El Hoyo, a comparatively smaller crater in the side of a lush green slope. This was on our way to the big finale: Asososca, a volcanic crater, which is now a lagoon, that we were able to swim in before we caught the bus back to our hostel. How many people can say they’ve been swimming in a volcano?!

Nicaragua was such an interesting country to visit and our 3 day trek was truly eye-opening as we had already learned so much about the city life, countryside and farming communities, colonial architecture, religious and political history.

I don’t know of anyone else who has visited Nicaragua and I think it is often overlooked as tourists visit its more popular neighbours, such as Costa Rica. The people are wonderfully welcoming, the food is i n c r e d i b l e and the natural landscape is exceptional.

If you’re a student looking to organise a group expedition like this, check out the Outlook Expeditions website! If you’re over 18 and looking for something a bit more budget-friendly and flexible, take a look at Intrepid Travel, a responsible tourism company which arranges hundreds of tours based on either location or activity/theme!

HOW TO SAVE UP FOR TRAVELLING

So many people put off travelling for years or never end up going simply because they think it will be too difficult to save up the money to go. Others scoff at young people who want to travel and assume that they are privileged or their parents are paying for them to jet off to exotic places.

But that’s not the case!

If travelling is something you desperately want to do, then nothing should stand in your way. Provided you have an idea of the length of trip to want to go on, the general area (i.e. Asia is super cheap whereas western Europe is not), how many activities you want to do, and what sort of transport you’ll use, it is possible to roughly estimate what your budget will be and how much you need to save.

Firstly, the most obvious thing you can do and the easiest if you’re not in college or at university, is to get a job. Try not to be too picky (although don’t land a job that will make you miserable for months while you save) and work as many hours as possible to save those pennies! In my gap year I worked in a camping store for 7 months and travelled for 5 months, so it balanced out well and I managed to save enough for a couple of big trips. Overall, even if it’s not that exciting, it’s a means to an end.

If you find it difficult to save, though, or think “but where do I start? How much do I need to be saving per week/month?”

Well, try to start off with a small amount; if you begin by saying you’ll save £700 a month and you’re earning £800, then that’s probably not realistic. Take into account whether you’re paying for rent, house bills, food, petrol, and social activities.

Cutting things out altogether is also unrealistic, and will probably affect your mindset negatively over a prolonged period of time and lead you to resent saving and maybe even travel altogether. Instead of saying you’ll not eat out at all for the next 3 months while you save, try to just limit yourself to how often you do eat out. Then try to do the same with how much fuel you put in your car, how many snacks you buy (admittedly difficult/impossible), how often you get your nails done or how many new clothes you buy, and you’ll eventually be saving little bits here and there and eventually you’ll realise how easy it is to save on the bigger things and end up putting away a significant portion of your wages.

Secondly, let your friends know that you are saving for something you really care about. If they are true friends, they will understand that you can’t afford to do all the things you used to do.

Don’t feel guilty about saying no to social events; instead, try to persuade your friends to meet up and do things that are cheaper (or better yet free) and still have just as much fun. My friends were great when I was saving for my travels, and instead of expensive nights out where we couldn’t even talk to each other properly (at the risk of sounding like such a grandma), we went for walks around the local lakes and parks, had movie nights, BBQs, or went for coffee and cake!

Another way to raise funds for travelling is to work with a charity and raise money through them. This is only really applicable to those who want to get involved with some kind of volunteering or charitable cause while they’re away, as you can’t really expect people to ‘sponsor’ you to go on a luxury holiday!

However, if you did want to do something for a good cause while you travel, there are plenty of options, such as bag packing in your local supermarket, hosting a bake sale or a dinner party for family and friends, dog walking in your neighbourhood, doing a beach clean-up, or doing a sponsored sporting event. The list goes on and there are so many opportunities to raise money in this way, just make sure to do plenty of research beforehand and try not to ask the same people for sponsorship every time.

Finally, don’t go overboard with buying things for your travels. It’s important to bear in mind the size of your backpack or suitcase, weight restrictions and your general comfort when carrying your luggage. I promise you will never need as many clothes as you think you do, as more often than not you will have access to laundry of some kind, so don’t waste your money on buying loads of new clothing. Also be mindful of how many expensive pieces of equipment you take, like phone, camera, tablets etc. Try to look for a good deal on gadgets, make sure they’re well protected, and if you’re really unsure or worried that they might end up lost, damaged or stolen, then again I just wouldn’t waste money on them.

I hope some of these tips might help you realise that it IS possible to save up enough money to travel! Of course there are many other methods of saving but over the years I’ve found that these work best for me and are really simple to incorporate into my everyday life. Please share if you have any other helpful tips!

72 HOURS IN… BERLIN

Back with another city break guide in my 72 hours saga!

Mine and my boyfriend’s first trip abroad together was a winter break in Berlin to celebrate my 21st birthday, and honestly it was the perfect place for us for so many reasons… the food, history, culture, and the added bonus of Christmas markets made it a magical weekend away.

WHAT TO SEE & DO

  • Reichstag – one of the best things we did in Berlin was go up to the roof terrace and dome of the Parliament building at sunset. The timing was perfect as we watched the sun go down over the city. Make sure to book this before you go!
  • Brandenburg Gate – an historic symbol of a divided Germany, the Brandenburg Gate is beautifully imposing and dominates the square at Paliser Platz. Grab a coffee and people watch by this architectural wonder
  • Holocaust memorial – the memorial to the murdered Jews of Europe stands out as one of the most important sights in Berlin. Walk through the stone memorial grounds and visit the underground museum for a sobering yet worthwhile experience
  • Checkpoint Charlie – another important symbol of 20th century Germany. This one doesn’t require a trip as such, as you’re likely to walk past on your way to the other bigger sights. The downside to this was tourists dressing as German guards and taking selfies, which we found a little inappropriate and insensitive
  • Berliner Dom – the main cathedral of Berlin, whose architecture seems in contrast with most other buildings in the city. It’s located on Museum Island which makes it ideal to visit at the same time
  • Museum Island – an abundance of museums for travellers interested in history, religion and culture. We only had time to visit one so we chose the Neues Museum, as I studied Ancient Egypt in a university module and wanted to see the famous bust of Queen Nefertiti!
  • Olympiastadion – the Olympic stadium, a 30 minute metro ride out of the city, was well worth a visit. It was built for the 1936 Olympics and still features some shocking Nazi decor, a reminder of fairly recent historical events
  • Victory column – climb the steps to the top of the Victory column and find gorgeous panoramic views
  • Gendarmenmarkt – a pretty square with two almost identical French and German churches side by side
  • Charlottenburg Palace – a short metro ride to the west of the city took us to this beautiful palace. Sadly we couldn’t go inside as they were setting up the Christmas markets, so I would recommend this more for summer visitors (the gardens look beautiful and ideal for summer picnics!) and stick to the main city if you are travelling in winter
  • Tiergarten – have a stroll around the gardens opposite the Brandenburg Gate, a peaceful oasis in this bustling city

HOW TO GET AROUND

The U-Bahn (underground) has set tariff zones. A day ticket is around 7 euros in zone AB and not much more for zone ABC. We didn’t use this service much as we mainly walked around everywhere (to keep warm!) but it was useful for trips further out to the Olympic Stadium and Charlottenburg Palace. In the summer I would definitely make the most of the underground to get around quicker and stay out of the heat.

WHAT TO EAT & DRINK

  • Stein!!! They’re pricey but duhh, it’s Germany
  • Mulled wine – we spent our first evening wandering around Potsdamer Platz, and as it was the beginning of Christmas market season we had a few mulled wines to keep warm. Obviously these wouldn’t be available in summer!
  • Bratwurst and Currywurst – alllll the German sausages please! Little stalls at the Tiergarten sell them for a good price along with a stein too
  • This is all I can remember that was typically ‘German’ food – I’d love to hear your recommendations if you have any!

Overall our weekend in Berlin was very busy and we returned home with sore feet but it was well worth it! I’d recommend a visit to anyone who has an interest or appreciation for the contrast between mid-20th century suppression and war history, and the lively metropolitan parts of the ‘newer’ city.

HOW TO TAKE THE PLUNGE AND TRAVEL SOLO

Scared to take the plunge and travel solo? Don’t be!

There are so many ways to overcome your fears of travelling alone. My sister has recently booked a few days in Budapest on her own as no one was able to go with her, and I’m so proud that she’s doing it anyway!

When I decided to take a gap year before going to university, I wanted to do something fairly independently (i.e. without friends, family, or anyone I knew) but also something that wouldn’t be throwing myself into the deep end. I also really wanted to volunteer abroad with some sort of wildlife conservation, and after discussing this with a friend in Sixth Form she recommended a company she had already booked a trip with called Plan My Gap Year. I’ve already written an article on the whole experience of volunteering in Sri Lanka, so if you want to check that out first, then click here!

This was the perfect first-time experience of sort of travelling alone and sort of not… I flew out there on my own and had no idea what would be waiting for me at the other end, and the first few days were pretty daunting getting to know other volunteers, arranging tuk tuks around town, navigating the bus systems with little help, and settling into life in a country thousands of miles away!

But after those first few days, I didn’t feel so alone. We all quickly banded together and ended up travelling around the country on our weekends off. I’m so glad I decided to do a volunteer project before committing to a big solo adventure as it gave me a taste of what it might be like and I learned to be really aware at all times, careful with my money and belongings, and the basic rules of traveller etiquette.

So don’t be afraid of solo travel, just take it in small steps and build up to it if you’re unsure or apprehensive. Here’s my top five tips that will help prepare for a solo trip, whether it’s 3 days or 3 months!

1. Research thoroughly – this includes a whole bunch of information stuff…

  • Know exactly where you’re going
  • Take some local currency with you
  • Ask your GP what vaccinations you might need
  • Find the best travel insurance deal
  • Check if you need a pre-arranged visa (and check your passport is in date!)
  • Learn about the religion/culture and take appropriate clothing with you (this is so important and I will expand on this at a later date in a specific blog post!)
  • Know where is safe to go after dark
  • Put the local emergency services number in your phone
  • Book your first night so you have somewhere to go when you arrive
  • Look at typical ‘backpacker’ spots, or places where you might meet other solo travellers

2. Look at reviews – check out websites like booking.com and TripAdvisor to make sure the reviews for accommodation, food, and activities are all up to your standard

3. Learn the language – I don’t mean become fluent, just learn a few basics like ‘hello’, ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ and it will not only help you but also be appreciated by the locals

4. If you’re going for a long time, maybe ask around if friends or family might come meet you for a few days somewhere

5. Budget sensibly – I will be doing another blog post soon about how to fundraise for travelling so watch this space!

The best part of solo travel is making amazing friends and stepping out of your comfort zone. My experiences at such a young age were really significant to my personal growth and my confidence grew so much. And because of my volunteering, I ended up going for 3 months to Southeast Asia with a friend I’d met there. So give it a go! If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to get in touch – leave a comment or contact me via email or Instagram!

Liv x

TOP 10 BUCKET LIST DESTINATIONS

My dad has a bit of a map obsession and I think it must have passed onto me because I spend so much of my time sitting staring at my scratch map, his huge Europe map, or spinning my little copper globe. While I want to visit as much of this beautiful earth as I can in my lifetime, there’s a few that have been top of my list for a long time. In no particular order…

1. MEXICO

Mexico is without doubt among those at the top of my list for so many reasons. It’s home to my favourite cuisine (give me all the tacos), gorgeous beaches and the awe-inspiring Mayan temples of Chichen Itza.

2. SOUTH AFRICA

The tumultuous and mysterious history of South Africa draws me in, as well as the variety of experiences on offer there such as wine tasting in the Stellenbosch vineyards, climbing Table Mountain, and meeting the penguins of Boulders Beach.

3. HAWAII

A dream destination of mine ever since watching Lost (it was filmed there and the scenery looks amazing), the nature lover in me would love to hike the trails of the Na Pali Coast, eat shrimp on the beach and learn to surf.

4. COSTA RICA

Known for its incredible array of wildlife, active volcanoes, magnificent waterfalls and lush rainforests, Costa Rica easily makes my top 10.

5. INDIA

My parents honeymooned in Goa, India and since I was a child I’ve been fascinated by the souvenirs they brought home. A visit to the Taj Mahal and an exploration of the Kerala backwaters, as well as the tantalising food in India, would make the trip of a lifetime.

6. NEW ZEALAND

The natural beauty of New Zealand has always fascinated me. The opportunity to visit Milford Sound, Hobbiton and perhaps even ski on the South Island may be coming up in a year or two…

7. MALAYSIA

After travelling a good chunk of Southeast Asia, I feel like I missed out on Malaysia. I can’t wait to explore the tea plantations in the Cameron Highlands, sunbathe on the beaches of Langkawi, and experience the hustle and bustle of Kuala Lumpur.

8. COLOMBIA

Wandering the colourful streets of Guatapé, snorkelling off the coast of Cartagena, and swinging from a hammock in the hills of Minca are high on my bucket list.

9. MALAWI

When I was about 7, I desperately wanted to go to Lilongwe monkey sanctuary. I had read about it in a magazine and I think it’s what inspired me to look into wildlife conservation. One day I hope to fulfil this childhood fantasy.

10. EGYPT

The archaeologist in me is desperate to see the iconic Pyramids of Giza and the Sphinx! I’ve heard that scuba diving in Egypt is also fantastic, as is a cruise down the Nile.

What are your top travel destinations?

Volunteering Abroad: Sri Lanka

Hello!

This blog post is an extra special one for me because, although I had my first taste of adventure on my Outlook Expeditions trip (read my post about it here!), my six week trip to Sri Lanka in 2015 kickstarted my #gapyah! So without further ado…

It was a rainy day studying for my A Levels, and as I stared out the library window, feeling like I was drowning in revision, a thought occurred to me…. Just kidding, that sounds like a really dramatic epiphany moment. The reality is I knew as soon as I finished Sixth Form I didn’t want to go straight to university. I just didn’t feel ready for that kind of leap at all, and at the time I thought I wanted to be a teacher (lol no thank u) so the thought of leaving school, going to uni, then heading straight back to a job in a school was far too daunting for me. So I planned to take a gap year and balance my time between gaining work experience and travelling.

One day I got chatting with a friend in the library about my ideas and she showed me a website she had booked a trip through: the company was called Plan My Gap Year. She had booked to go with another friend for 3 weeks to Sri Lanka on an elephant conservation experience, and after scrolling through their website at home that evening, I knew I wanted to do something similar. Not wanting to do exactly the same as her, but having fallen in love with the idea of travelling to Sri Lanka, I decided very quickly that I would book onto the turtle conservation programme!

Skip forward a few months and my A Levels hadn’t exactly turned out as planned, I hadn’t got onto the university course I wanted for the following year, and instead I had spontaneously accepted another deferred entry course for Archaeology at the University of Sheffield, beginning in September 2016. Plenty of people thought I was mad to enrol on a course I knew nothing about, but I had a whole year to change my mind if I wanted and my priority was to travel and, yes super cheesy, ‘find myself’.

So September 4th 2015 arrived and I sat on a plane bound for Colombo, the capital of Sri Lanka. I had met another girl in the airport who was also headed out to volunteer with PMGY so this put my nerves at rest a little bit, although she was on a different connecting flight so I was still due to arrive on my own. However, a few other guys had caught flights around the same time as me so after meeting my driver Manoj, I jumped on a minibus with them and had some company for the couple of hours it took to drive to where we were staying in our volunteer house in Ambalangoda.

The house was beautiful, our local coordinator Ashika was so welcoming and, as the last lot of volunteers to arrive, I got stuck into getting to know my fellow volunteers. There were 24 of us in total (if I remember correctly) and almost all of us were new, with just a few finishing up their last week or two from the summer, so it was nice to know we were all out of our comfort zones but still have some recommendations from those who had been there a while.

Our first week was mainly orientation, making new friends and being introduced to our projects; everyone lived in the same house but there were medics, turtle and elephant volunteers, orphanage and school volunteers, and construction workers. I quickly became part of a tight knit group who went and explored the nearby beaches and town together, and later went further afield and took long bus trips on our free weekends into the hills and along the coast.

It was exactly what I had hoped for and more.

Ashika and his team, through PMGY, also ran the occasional guided weekend trip, two of which I went on and saw a side to Sri Lanka which I wouldn’t have seen if I’d been travelling alone! The first was a weekend visiting tea plantations (sampling the many varieties of tea, of course), hiking past waterfalls up to World’s End, and taking a Jeep ride through Yala National Park where we encountered elephants, macaques, and other incredible wildlife. The park is famous for having the highest concentration of leopards in the world, but sadly we didn’t see any so one day I want to go back!

The second organised weekend away was to Kandy, the ‘Culture Capital’ of Sri Lanka. The city was crazy and beautiful and I learned so much about Sri Lankan history and culture, from the terrible wars with the Tamil Tigers to the religious significance of the Temple of the Sacred Tooth. No trip to Sri Lanka would be complete without a visit to Kandy. What made this my favourite weekend away, however, was our climb up Sigiriya, also known as Lion’s Rock. Nicknamed the 8th Wonder of the World, and for good reason, this almighty rock fortress sticks out like a sore thumb and offers breath-taking views of the surrounding the forest landscape. To top it all off we completed the trip with a visit to Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage, which is home to the largest herd of captive elephants in the world. While this was so much fun and an amazing opportunity to get up close to the elephants, these gentle giants shouldn’t be held captive (though Pinnawala aims to nurture and carefully breed their animals) and research after my trip to Sri Lanka made me decide not to endorse these kinds of experiences without careful consideration.

The other weekends I had off volunteering during my stay were spent discovering paradise beaches, drinking far too much Arrack, eating my bodyweight in street side roti and gorgeous curries, and trekking up the beautiful Mini Adam’s Peak. The actual volunteering itself was also so much fun as we rescued a turtle caught in a net, nursed sick turtles back to health, buried eggs and watched them hatch! The best part of my project though was releasing the tiny baby turtles into the sea and re-releasing the adult turtles who had previously been rescued. While the survival rate is supposedly very low, I like to think we did a good job of helping such beautiful creatures while most importantly raising awareness amongst the locals in an attempt to end turtle poaching.

I also spent two weeks volunteering at a local girls orphanage in the afternoons after my mornings with the turtles. This was really heart-warming to interact with girls aged 3 to around 15. The younger ones we played with and taught basic things like numbers and colours, while the older girls we helped with their homework and taught English to. It was so incredible to see children, girls especially, from struggling backgrounds enjoying their opportunity to learn in and outside of the classroom.

If you’re still reading this, thank you for sticking with me for so long! I can’t apologise for the length of this post as my experience with PMGY in Sri Lanka was a huge turning point in my life. I genuinely grew so much in such a short time frame; my confidence peaked, I made wonderful friends, helped local people and wildlife, learned about a completely different culture and ultimately became less selfish and more aware.

If this sounds like something you’d like to do, whether it’s for 2 weeks or 6 months, Plan My Gap Year have a brilliant range of volunteer programmes in countries all over the world, suited to anyone and everyone! My only regret was not extending my stay or booking another project with them straight away. It looks like another trip may be on the cards sooner rather than later…

Many thanks to Ashika and his team, Philip (the founder of PMGY), Emma (for her online help), and all of the incredible people I met and ended up travelling with again after Sri Lanka!

72 Hours in… Barcelona

If there’s one thing you should know about me, it’s that I love a European city break.

Endless coffee stops, exploring museums, walking around beautiful parks and seeing the most iconic sights make for a full and exciting weekend break.

My most recent city break was with my boyfriend to a place I’ve wanted to visit for years… Barcelona! Here’s a little guide on how to make the most of a weekend in the Catalonian capital.

WHAT TO SEE & DO

  • Sagrada Familia – this is an obvious one but it exceeded all our expectations! It’s still under construction so I can’t wait to go back in a few years’ time and see the finished product
  • Arc de Triomf – our hostel room overlooked this magnificent monument (the second largest of its kind in the world), which looked just as spectacular (if not more so) when lit up at night
  • Camp Nou – I’m not a football fan but this was Joe’s choice and was a very pleasant surprise! It was super easy to get to using the metro and although a little pricey, it was well worth the experience
  • Parc Güell – to be honest, this was a little disappointing for me. We thought it would be easy to have a wander up there but it turned out we needed pre-paid tickets, so we bought them and came back the next day. The hike up the hill behind was much better (and free) and offered stunning panoramic views
  • Ciutadella Park – a gorgeous green space in the middle of the city, perfect for a quiet picnic
  • Basilica Santa Maria del Mar – a more peaceful church for those who like religious history and old architecture
  • Casa Mila – we didn’t actually go inside but Gaudi’s architecture is iconic in Barcelona
  • Barcelona beach – although we didn’t have time to spend a whole day at the beach, we did go watch the World Cup at a beach bar and it was the perfect end to a busy day

HOW TO GET AROUND

We used the metro every day while we were in Barcelona as it was super easy and cheap! We bought the T10 pass for around €10 which enables you to use the ticket 10 times within zone one. So one T10 card worked for us both on 5 journeys, which we used up in two days. Other than that we enjoyed walking around when it wasn’t sweltering hot!

WHAT TO EAT & DRINK

  • Paella – we found a lovely little restaurant in the Gothic Quarter where we sat by a fountain and shared a seafood paella. It was heavenly!
  • Tapas – expensive but a must-do while in Spain
  • Estrella beer – perfect after a hot day exploring the city
  • Sangria – again, a must for Spain! While it’s a little more costly than other drinks on the menu, it’s also very cheap to buy in a carton (not so classy)
  • Crêpes (I know these are French but I had the most delicious crêpe for dessert from a food van on the beach front)

This trip to Barcelona was a wonderful summer city break. It was rather touristy and I do usually prefer more relaxing and quieter places, but the food, architecture, and religious history made it a really fun trip; I definitely didn’t expect to learn so much about Spanish and Catalonian culture.

The Importance of Sustainable Travel

What is ‘sustainable travel’?

Sustainable travel is a way of travelling the world without negatively affecting the natural and cultural environments, and ultimately being able to maintain tourism in the long run.

“development [which] meets the needs of present tourists and host regions while protecting and enhancing opportunity for the future”

World Tourism Organisation

why is this important?

Having always been passionate about environmental causes, and with the current rise in awareness surrounding our climate crisis, I am striving to educate myself on the benefits of sustainable travel and ‘eco-tourism’.

The concept is not entirely new but in the past has lacked awareness, advertising, funding, and in general: popularity. Nowadays, especially with the increasing use of social media, certain locations become ‘trendy’ to visit, with photos plastered all over the internet and online influencers promoting tourism to particular countries and cities around the globe. At the end of the day, the level of any kind of tourism in a location is based on how successful their marketing is.

The recent uproar surrounding climate change has significantly triggered a rise in sustainable travel, as many people have come to the realisation that it does not have to be expensive or difficult!

Yes, there are still major issues with tourism. Air travel is a major contributor to the depletion of fossil fuels which causes dangerous levels of CO2 emissions, and some naturally beautiful sites such as the Great Barrier Reef are being harmed and in some cases destroyed by the sheer quantity of tourists.

But I believe it is absolutely vital to educate tourists on the impact they have socially (or culturally), economically, and environmentally.

how can i travel sustainably?

Next time you’re on holiday, try out these super easy ways of travelling more mindfully…

  • Walk as much as possible!
  • Use public transport instead of hiring a car (not only is this environmentally friendly, it’s also much cheaper and you are more likely to meet other travellers and engage with the locals!)
  • Support locals cafes, restaurants and shops – don’t bother with chains like Starbucks or McDonalds
  • Take the time to talk to locals and learn from them
  • Volunteer with a local charitable organisation
  • Pick up rubbish on the beach and try to recycle it
  • Don’t get too close to or touch wild animals
  • Try to eat locally sourced food, or try going veggie for a day
  • Research your tour operator before booking with them – try to find tours with local guides
  • Snorkel and scuba dive responsibly – don’t stand on coral or touch turtles
  • Pack light
  • Pack eco-friendly items – reusable water bottle, coffee cup, bamboo toothbrush, non-plastic shampoos (try Lush products!)

I hope this has enlightened you on some really simple ways to be conscious of travelling responsibly, and let me know in the comments if you have any extra tips I haven’t mentioned!

Liv x

World Challenge: when the travel bug bit!

So I figured the best way to introduce you to my blog is to tell you how it all began…

My love of travel has been fairly constant throughout my childhood; my parents would take us on family holidays at every opportunity, whether that be a weekend in the Lake District, road tripping around the South of France, or visiting Father Christmas in Lapland.

My first ‘big’ trip, however, was with Outlook Expeditions, where every few years a group of kids in my school were given the opportunity to sign up for 3 and a half weeks of unparalleled adventure in a country we hadn’t even heard of. My big break: Nicaragua and Honduras.

Situated in Central America, these two countries were places I barely even knew existed, many people (including my geographically-challenged boyfriend) mistakenly believing they are in Africa… Although it was an expensive trip (over £3000 altogether including kit, vaccinations etc.) I believe it was worth every penny as without it I may not have gained the confidence and thirst for travel that I now have.

I will go on to explain in more detail about Nicaragua and Honduras in separate blog posts, but here’s a rough run-down of what the trip entailed:

  • Two weeks in Nicaragua, one week in Honduras
  • 4 days volunteering in Santa Rosa where there had been a drought so we planted trees along the empty river
  • 3 day volcano trek
  • Boat trip down Somoto canyon
  • One week PADI Open Water scuba diving course on the Honduran island of Roatan

It was a whirlwind few weeks and was the best first experience of being so far away from home, as we still had the comfort of being with friends and being looked after by our teachers and team leader. That glimpse into another culture was so important at such a young age (I was 17 at the time) and out of our group I think half have gone on to travel more and I’m sure they would also credit our expedition as being the experience that kickstarted the rest of our individual adventures.

I urge anyone contemplating going on any school trip, whether it’s a week skiing in the Alps, a weekend in Paris or three weeks on the other side of the world, to go for it. Don’t be put off by the cost; if you want it badly enough you can do it.

Liv x