New Year. New Start

I love this time of year. While summative essay deadlines and figuring out summer internship options seem to be weighing me down the optimism associated with the start of a new year is palpable. London is particularly enjoyable during this time of year. People are happier (maybe just drunker), families are together, Christmas lights still entertain and the sales are in full swing. All this and more contribute to make Londoners as a whole, I think, happier. You might even catch an accidental smile form a stranger on the tube.

When we were in Tanzania for NYE we used to have a barbeque with some family and friends. We’d eat ridiculous amounts of barbequed goodness and then line up along the pool and jump in, fully dressed, as the clock stuck 12. The sky above us would be brightly lit by fireworks from Sea Cliff, The Yacht Club and an assortment of neighbors. It was always a great start to the next year. When we moved to England we tended to spend our NYE in London at the Embankment for the London firework show. The music, the atmosphere and the group of friends we went with ensured that it is always a fun night out.

Still what I love most about the start of the New Year is the optimism in the air. I love coming up with New Year Resolutions for myself and see no reason to stop at just one or two resolutions. These are some of my resolutions for 2014:

  1. Convince my mum to take another holiday
  2. Visit 3 new countries
  3. Pay more attention to this blog (use  travel journals to write about the  Morocco, Paris and Nepal trips from the summer)
  4. Get better at healthy baking
  5. Bake for at least 3 charity bake sales on campus
  6. Come closer to figuring out what I want to do after university
  7. Donate blood
  8. Try harder to keep up with land law readings
  9. Take advantage of living in Exeter by going on more day hikes and taking a trip to the Cornish beaches
  10. 10. Bully my siblings into finally visiting me in Exeter
  11. 11. Pluck up the courage to go to the dentist on my own before my mum drags me kicking and screaming.

With love and best wishes for the New Year 🙂

Why Travel isn’t just a frivolous activity:

People often thing of travel as not having any serious purpose or actual value and that is probably why it is sometimes thought of as rich person’s frivolous hobby. Obviously i’m inclined to disagree and these are my top 10 reasons:

1)Travel doesn’t always have to be expensive.

It is no doubt true that traveling far away from home can be expensive – airline tickets are often stretching a student’s budget but there are multiple ways around this:

  • a. stay close and take a bus – the budget traveler and student’s favourite Megabus is always a good option
  • It isn’t about how long you stay, its just about going somewhere new to experience something different (try to arrive in the early morning and leave in the late evening to maximise on the amount you spend on accommodation)
  • save 3.50 every week (the amount I see students spend on a cocktail every friday night)  for a year and save over £150 – more than Waseem and I spent on bus fare and accommodation in Paris for 4 nights this summer (and we booked last minute – book earlier for a better deal)

2)  Travel to Volunteer – here is a great way to do some CV building while experiencing a new culture and benefiting from cheap accommodation. I can personally recommend:

  • Original Volunteers in Morocco to enjoy cheap easyjet air travel; or
  • VCD Nepal for cheap volunteering prices (include all meals, accommodation and transport in country!) but air fare starting at £480.

3) learning about different cultures – Well I can safely say that if I hadn’t spent 2 weeks at a  Buddhist monastery in Nepal where I attended free and optional Tibetan Buddhist philosophy class I wouldn’t have been able to tell you about Buddha’s teachings or the stages to enlightenment. And while I don’t follow Buddhism myself, it is certainly a good thing to know about.

4. build your confidence – This is a big one for me. I believe strongly that travel can help young people feel more confident about their abilities because you have to do things for yourself. Think about about where your next meal is coming from, keep track of your money and plan a budget that you have to stick to, learn to navigate through many different forms of public transport and pluck up the courage to ask for directions when you mess up.

5. step out of your comfort zone

  • being dragged up the Arc de Triomphe by a very energetic sister and friend, for example, was out of my comfort zone. I felt anxious, nauseated, even angry but I’m very glad that I did it because those views were spectacular.

6. Experience Ultimate Freedom

  • no mum, dad, aunt, brother, sister, roommate, friend, no one waiting to make sure you get home. If you thought you’ll be somewhere at a certain time then you (and your travel party) decide to do something else – nobody cares!

7. Feel fewer Inhibitions:

  •  If you are so inclined you can dance around that fire at the Sahara Desert because you’ll probably never see the rest of the tour group again.

8. Make New Friends:

  • I don’t care how shy and quiet you think you are, when you are somewhere where the number of people who speak English is limited you’ll quickly become desperate enough to talk to that other english speaking stranger. When you travel it is easy to start a conversation – “So what brought you to…?” “How have you found it here so far?” “where are you from originally?” – next thing you know you’ll be exchanging facebook accounts and promising to get in touch about that trip you’re planning to Tanzania (you should be planning a trip to Tanzania, if you aren’t already) because said stranger can give you a lot of tips about where to stay, what to do, which restaurants to eat at and which to stay at least 3 meters away from.

9. Learn a new Language/improve your language skills – fading IB french anyone?

  • Another excellent CV builder. You can even do this while you volunteer abroad. Or if your budget is too tight for that you can take a TEFL course (Groupon frequently has vouchers for it) that will allow you to teach abroad while making money and learning a new language.

10. Take in all the history

  • No better history lesson than a soul shaking walk through Auschwitz. Furthermore, planning a trip to pretty much anywhere in the world gives you the perhaps otherwise lacking motivation to read up on the history.

Bonus reason: Invest in your own happiness!

I’ve become sick and tiered of people saying “you’re so lucky to get to travel, I wish I could do that”. It is true that I am lucky to get to travel but often the only real thing stopping people from traveling is themselves. If it would really make you happy (and I think that it would) then you have to make it happen for yourself. My siblings and I have been saving for a trip to Venice for over a year now and we’re hoping to be able to go next summer. How do you save for a trip when you have so many other expenses? you make it a priority!  Soon enough you’ll forget about those amazing boots you saw in some store but you’ll never forget seeing the starts from a rural village in Zanzibar or ridding into the Sahara dessert on camel back or the bustling and chaotic streets of Thamel in Kathmandu.

So people – give in to that wonderlust and get planning! Where do you want to go? How much do you need to save to get there?