Writing 101 – A Room With a View (or Just a View)

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For a quick explanation – here’s the writing 101 task I was set today and below is my submission: http://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_assignment/writing-101-setting/

I’m 8 years old and after a year long specialised project (infiltrating all the different subjects) at school, I find myself completely and utterly engrossed/obsessed with all things related to the Amazon rainforest. I write an extremely long fictionalised story about a girl and her family, which is partly inspired by a school play we did about the Yanomamo. This year when I was 8 has given me an endless love of the Amazon and insatiable need to go there.

So this is where I’m transported to, although it’s the view I have of the Amazon as an extremely imaginative child. It’s probably melded with films and cartoons from around that time too, so ‘Ferngully – The Last Rainforest’ has undoubtedly had an influence on how I imagined the Amazon to be in my story. As I close my eyes and picture the scene, I’m engulfed with the smells and aromas. A fresh grass type smell mixed with the heady scent of exotic and unknown flowers. My Amazon is a naïve place; filled with the wonderment only a child can create. It has dazzling blue rivers that don’t actually exist in reality, at these rivers young children fish with spears taught by their elders. There are trees too tall to see the tops, trees that are alive and view the world from their lofty heights. No doubt looking on with derision and disgust – I think the poisonous tree featured in Ferngully is a metaphor for the havoc we wreak on all of nature that surrounds us. On a side note, I know everyone said the film Avatar was a parody of the story of Pocahontas but more accurately it was a total rip off of Ferngully!

The forest in my child mind is akin to the forests and woods from the Enid Blyton books ‘The Enchanted Wood” – they have mysterious lands at their invisible tops that transport you to either excitement or danger. I think this is how I pictured the Amazon, although I mixed it in with all the things I’d seen and read in books. Somehow creating a magical place of unbelievable depths that may or may not come close to the reality. My cynical adult mind tells me that the place I created could never be matched up by reality, but then the adventurous child that still lives within tells me that there is nothing more beautiful, amazing and wondrous than what is already here on Earth.

Back in the Amazon…. I’m hit by the freshness that’s juxtaposed with intense humidity creating an environment that is heavy and at the same time light enough to bear. It’s hot and damp but not to the point you couldn’t acclimatise to it. The rain provides relief in the day and the cover of trees can be so thick it becomes dark, cold and occasionally frightening. If alone in the rainforest it’s not long before your mind and consciousness start to become one with the living being that is the Amazon. I see the Amazon as one giant living, breathing entity. It’s not a series of parts and should only be view as a whole. Once you’re in the thick of it you also become part of that entity. It’s your life force, oxygen, food, shelter, and comfort. But it’s also the source of danger, death and destruction. Although all of our environments are like this, I imagine that none more so than the rainforest. Nothing could make you so aware you are directly dependent on it than the forest, or so aware it can take it away in a second. The idealistic part of me would like to think that in response to this humans learn to live alongside the forest and also alongside one another – as it is only with co-operation and compassion we can thrive in such an environment. The humans in my story co-existed with strength and unity – I suspect that those living in the Amazon also would too if only they weren’t pressured with the evils that the rest of the world forces on them. Cocaine production, destruction of the forest, total environmental rape for resources and medicinal goods is what makes the fractions rise up and pit themselves against one another. Without all that, I have a feeling life would be more similar to the life my 8 year old self created.

When I visit Manaus with my little monkey in a couple of years time as part of our RTW trip, I can only hope it matches up even 5% to the world I have imagined. I will only be touching the tip of it too, as with a 4 year old I will have to adjust how much we explore and what we are able to do. There is nowhere else on earth though that I want to see and explore more than the Amazon and it all stems from that year long project at school. When I’m older I would love to do a proper lengthier trek, but until then a tourist trip to Manaus will definitely keep me happy. As with any child memory or imagining of a place my thoughts and feelings of the Amazon are slightly fractured, incomplete, as if my naïve mind couldn’t fully comprehend the shear size and scale of the forest. I am looking forward to completing my imagination and having some solid memories to hold onto for the rest of my life.

Travel Tip Tuesday: Travel Blogs to Check Out for Inspiration

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Travel blogs to take a wee look at if you have time:

Originally posted on Samantha En Route:

These are a few of my favorite travel blogs, ones that I always look to for inspiration and wanderlust ideas! They’ve all got such wonderful content that makes me feel so inadequate and inexperienced in comparison. Check them out and add some more in the comment section! I’m always looking for more.

Adventurous Kate

Besu Desu Abroad

Never Ending Footsteps

Candice Does the World

It Started in Asia

Girl vs. Globe

Eff It, I’m On Holiday

India Untravelled

World Wide Vegetarian

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Writing 101 – Unlock the Mind: Stream Of Consciousness

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streamMy first writing 101 task! I’m actually quite intimidated by this first one; I was expecting to be drawn in gradually and given an easy ride and instead I’m meant to just write about whatever pops into my head for the next 20 minutes. Although I expect the fact I’m intimidated by this says more about me than I would like. Back when I was a child I struggled with the concept of a private mind. It took me a long time to realise that people couldn’t hear my thoughts – which meant that I didn’t often speak up when I had something to say and also didn’t understand that my private inner self was just that – private. This probably made me quite a strange kid to be around which was no doubt part of why I ended up being a bit of a loner who always had their head in a book. Books were definitely my friends (they still are); I longed to live in the world of Enid Blyton adventures where everything was just peachy (life was an endless stream of babbling brooks and ginger beer). But instead I had to make do with what I had and for a very long time I was an unhappy child with a severe tendency to be a complete fantasist.

But every cloud and all that, as an adult I’m incredibly grateful that books are a source of comfort and also some escapism from the stresses of adult life. My imagination is vivid and imagistic so I only have to open the pages of a well-written book and I’m plunged into whatever world awaits me. If it’s a very good book I get that sadness that comes with finishing it. If it’s not a series you know your time with those characters and worlds is over. I’m not one to re-read books either, not unless it’s been years and years since I read it. I also feel like there’s just so many books to read in the world and not enough time in our short human lives; so I don’t want to waste any of it re-reading the stuff I’ve already experienced.

I rehearsed this post several times over in my head because I was worried about writing it; then I realised that was kind of missing the point! I’m glad I realised that, as the last 2 paragraphs never came up in my ‘rehearsal writes’. I’m sat at my computer covered in a facemask trying to give my self an hour or 2 of pampering before I head of to collect my little girl from nursery. I went to my kettlebell class earlier and just after realised I was actually not feeling that great. Nothing specific, just a bit blurgh. So I’m doing what I haven’t done in a long long time – spoiling myself. My uni finance came through today and it’s been a big relief as I’ve been living as frugally as possible recently, which has the result of sucking all the joy out of life. I don’t need a lot of money but I do need some! Anyway, I decided to go and by some things I’ve been wanting for my skin. Since having a baby it seems as though my hormones are waging war against my face for most of the time. I used to have very oily, and acne prone skin growing up. The acne cleared up with a 3-month dose of roaccutane but the oily skin remained. I’ve got used to this and actually oily skin has its benefits as it stays wrinkle free for longer and if you manage it well will look younger generally too. But in the last 5 years or so and more since the birth of monkey my skin has gone horribly dry. Not all over, but in patches. I now can’t use proper foundation but have to use a tinted moisturiser – but not all of them are OK, some still cause even more dry patches. I have to use an alchemists variety of moisturisers throughout the day and night just to keep things calm. I have a great oat based moisturiser from Neal’s Yard that works wonders at night but it’s expensive and also a bit heavy in the day. So I use a Lush moisturiser called skin drink in the day under my make up… but by 4pm my skin is itchy and dry and I need to take all that off and I’ve now started to apply a comfrey essential oil based ointment.

I probably sound completely mad about now, right? Well you’re justified in thinking that I guess. Since my skin has started playing up It’s made me realised how such supposedly tiny things can really have a massive effect on how we feel each day. And also have an effect on how we view ourselves and how we think others view us. I suspect (or know) that I’m a little bit vain! But I don’t think that’s a bad thing if by vain you mean someone who feels better when they know they look their best. I do know that all this stems from being an awkward little ugly duckling as a child and an awkward acne ridden gawky teenager. At some point around the age of 17 or 18 I really blossomed and came into myself. I’m now an elegant (occasionally) attractive woman – but inside I’m still that wee ugly duckling. So anything that makes me feel awkward and ugly really has a bigger effect than it should do. When I meet people who knew me as a child or a teenager they tend to make things worse with very well meaning albeit back handed compliments. I remember bumping into an old primary school teacher once, and the first thing she did was exclaim loudly that she ‘always thought my sister would be the pretty one’. Now what she was actually saying was that I was looking very nice that day – what she actually did was basically remind me that I was a very awkward child who everyone just assumed would turn into a very awkward adult…..

I’m up to my 20 minutes now. I’m not sure if this is what you had in mind WordPress but that was my stream of consciousness for you. In about 45 minutes I’m hoping to step outside my front door as the confident woman I am, who couldn’t care less what she looks like or what everyone thinks of what she looks like – but deep down I really am just a 13 year old who desperately needs that affirmation and approval from everyone else and dry skin just doesn’t hep matters! :)

Filmed/Reviewed – The Big Year

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I decided I’d try and branch out a bit and do some film and book reviews on this blog. Films, books, and TV actually make up a big chunk of my life. I passionately consume all kinds of books, films, TV programs and anything else vaguely related and have done since I was a kid. I think books in particular used to offer me a kind of escapism you can’t get anywhere else. I’d open a book and plunge straight into a world that most of the time I’d much rather be a part of than what was the reality of my own life. I’ve nerdily written lists of all the films and books I’ve read and watched since I was about 7 years old too. I still have the old notebooks I used to do this in but now I use a more technological platform and do this online. It’s mostly about keeping track of what I watch and read as I’m generally liable to forget. When I was little I used to read all those long series like Sweet Valley Twins and the Nancy Drew Mysteries and all the Enid Blyton books; I’d write them down so I didn’t lose track of what I’d read and what I still needed to read. I guess old habits die hard and I still do this to this day.

I’ll try and keep my reviews at least vaguely travel related or maybe those things that have inspired me indirectly in my bid to travel. I’ll also admit something that maybe I shouldn’t admit straight away… I’m not a massive film critic! By that I mean I tend to look for the good in something, and I’m happy to just enjoy it for what it was rather than try and rip it apart for no reason. So you might find that my film reviews in particular are all very ‘nice’ – but at least there’s some positivity in that!

I’m not sure why I’ve chosen The Big Year as my 1st film review – it’s not my favourite film by a long way (I’m not even sure I can pick a favourite as I’m always very indecisive when it comes to that question). But it surprised me and I like stuff that surprises me. I went on a date to see another film at the cinema (I can’t remember what now) and it was sold out, so The Big Year happened to be the next film playing. We weren’t sure what it was about but it looked fun and my date was a big Steve Martin fan and I like Jack Black and Owen Wilson so we decided to chance it. The tagline from IMDB is that “two bird enthusiasts try to defeat the cocky, cutthroat world record holder in a year-long bird-spotting competition”. And that basically sums it up. The travel influence comes in because they of course travel all round the US trying to spot all the birds they need, so you get some fabulous locations and wildlife shots. The writing and script is funny and the delivery is given by some real comedy heavy weights. I love films that teach me something and I think the thing I like the most about this film was that I had no idea ‘the big year’ was even a thing (it really is an actual thing people do) – I’m fascinated when I find out about these underground ‘scenes’ that clearly absorb other people’s entire lives or at least part of their lives and I know nothing about them. It almost made me want to sign up to do a big year it was so infectious.

I definitely have that ‘collector’ personality (my love of Pokemon comes to mind) and I think the film and the general idea appeals to this aspect of my personality. But as well as that it’s just a really funny but honest film about these 3 guys and how their love of bird watching and their obsession with ‘The Big Year’ effects their lives, their relationships, their jobs and everything else. Jack Black’s character has the disapproving Dad who thinks he’s wasting his life, Steve Martin is the workaholic whose wife finally convinces him to follow his passion and Owen Wilson is the cocky record holder whose marriage is suffering due to his obsession. I guess it’s kind of predictable but you don’t notice that in amongst the writing and the acting as it’s all just great quality. It comes across as heartfelt and emotional, I really became invested in their lives and wanted them all to succeed in life and in birds (the same thing for these guys I guess). I then looked into it all and discovered the big year is an actual thing and I became even more fascinated with the whole concept. I guess I’m just a sucker when anyone has a passion and truly chases it.

Anyway, the film surprised me and I reckon a lot of people won’t have watched it because they’ll assume it’s not really their kind of film due to the subject. I can’t stress enough that that’s a mistake. If you have a spare night and you fancy curling up and watching something that isn’t too serious but is still good quality then I reckon this is worth a shot. I loved it – maybe that’s because my expectations were so low but I’d be wiling to bet there’s a wee bit more to it than that.

Theoretically Driving

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Last Thursday I passed my driving theory test. Those of you residing in the UK will know that this is the 1st major hurdle to actually gaining a full UK driving licence. Once this is done you’re kind of home and dry in regards to getting your proper test booked and getting the pass certificate. Of course you need to learn to drive but hopefully you’ll have already been doing this.

I thought I’d do a little post on my hints and tips for getting this one under your belt. Everyone who has passed it will tell you how easy it is, but actually quite a few fail it (and not just once)! I think the test is relatively easy, but only if you do some work and practice the hazard perception section online. The best advice that I received was to NOT rely simply on the mock tests that are available all over the place and the apps for smart phones. I think this definitely stands as helpful advice. I had access to an online learning tool via my instructor, this had practice questions from all the sections, it had mock test, highway code practice and hazard perception videos. I found the only really useful thing was the mock test bit, but only after I had bought the proper DVLA book and worked my through all the multiple choice questions. This is an absolute must. The book seems really thick which is a bit off putting, but in reality I was able to work through the 15 sections in a week. It has all the multiple choice questions in it and the answers are at the back. there are also clues next to each of the questions. I basically went through this with a pencil and did all the questions whilst checking the answers in the back. I’ve got a pretty good memory so I went through it once and then did a load of mock tests. I was passing all the mock tests with between 48 and 50 out of 50. The pass mark is 43 so I was pretty happy that I was up to standard. 

If you struggle with memory tasks I would give yourself a month instead of a week and go through the book a few times. I good way to look at the test is that about 70% of the questions are genuinely common sense knowledge and about 30% are questions that you either know the answer or you don’t. Once you’ve identified this 30%, you can focus your memorising energy here. When I say common sense it really is questions like: “If you are at a crossing and an elderly person is taking more time to cross the road, should you – a) rev your engine and press you horn, b) speed round them whilst gesturing or c) wait patiently for them to cross the road. 

Doing the mock tests will identify any problem sections you have and allow you to focus for longer on these if you need to. The really annoying part of the test is the hazard perception section. This test is really not  a test of anything except your ability to pass this test. However, you do need to pass it and it’s worth practicing. I found the AA driving school online practice was the best quality videos and also the closest match to the real thing. You can find that here: http://www.theaa.com/aattitude/games/hpt.jsp

The instructions (even on the practice tests are ambiguous). It tells you to click every single time you see a potential hazard (parked cars, pedestrians etc) but that it will only mark you for one major hazard that develops fully in each video apart from one video where there will be 2 hazards. The crunch is that if you click too much it will tell you that you did the test inappropriately for that video and you will get nothing. There are 15 videos and they are marked out of 5 each. The hazard that you are being marked on is always obvious; something like a horse rider you have to pass, a car on a narrow bridge or kids playing on the road or a cyclist that rides in front of you. You are given a 5 second window in which to click the mouse and register that you have seen the hazard. If you click at the start of this window you get the full 5 marks and lose a mark for every second that passes. What I found really silly and frustrating was that I realised on the practice tests that I was seeing the hazard sooner than they wanted me to, so I’d click but it would be 1 or 2 seconds too soon and I would receive no marks as it would tell me I had missed the hazard when I knew full well I hadn’t. So I developed a technique where whenever I saw a hazard I would click the mouse about 3 or 4 times in a row – guessing that at least one of the clicks would register in the window they wanted you to click in. I also didn’t click on the smaller potential hazards so as not to risk ‘clicking inappropriately’ and getting zero marks. There is a potential 75 marks up for grabs. I passed with 60 so got an average of 4 per video so I think my technique worked well. But it’s stupid in my opinion and is nothing other than a test of how to pass their test. It has given me no knowledge on how to avoid hazards on the road, as obviously learning to drive means you already know that a horse rider is a hazard and you must drive slowly, or that an old lady crossing the road means you need to slow down and allow her to pass. The whole thing is a ridiculous palaver.

The actual theory test is useful though, and it has also improved my driving. Particularly the road sign knowledge and vehicle safety etc. I wish I’d sat the test sooner in the course of my lessons as it has been useful. So my advice would be to book it within a month of your first lesson. I passed with 48/50 and I would say I did minimal but enough revision for my own learning and memory style. Being at university and studying for exams means I have good knowledge of my own learning style and how quickly I pick up new information. If you struggle to retain this kind of thing, as I said, I give yourself a full month to revise. I gave myself a full week, working every night through the book and doing mock tests. 

My driving instructor has told me I’m ready to put in for my test now – it takes about 6-8 weeks to get a test here so she means that in the period of time I’ll have ironed out all of the little glitches I need to in order to pass. I”m confidant on the roads now and it really i just a case of practising. A lot of it is getting to know the junctions and area the test is done in, as a lack of local knowledge can really throw you when it comes to getting in the right lane at a busy junction or similar situations to this. My opinion is that gaining a 1st time pass will depend on nerves as if they get the better of you then you’ll make silly mistakes you wouldn’t do normally. It also has a bit to do with luck on the day though, I’ve had a stupid lorry driver pull out on me really fast whilst trying to join the expressway – what this meant was I didn’t have the time to join the carriageway and had to slow down before getting over and this held up the traffic behind me. I’d have failed if this was my test day, but really it’s was just bad luck. In real life there would have been no harm done but my instructor said in a test situation they would have expected me to have built up enough speed to get out in front of him. I just didn’t have the guts to do the manoeuvre due to lack of experience. So if you see a learner driver and they’re annoying you or making you impatient just please remember that they could be taking their test, and you pulling out in front of them or beeping and gesturing at them when they stall or cutting them up could actually jar their nerves enough that they fail their test. We’re annoying us learners, I know that, especially if you’re in a rush – but you’ve all been there and it’s worth remembering how nervous you felt when you did it. It might give you the patience you need to just let us get on with it, as really it’s only going to take a few extra minutes out of your day. :) 

Anyway, I’m very much looking forward to finally being a driver, life will be so much easier, especially with a child , to just load up the car and go off for day trips around the UK. I can’t wait, so watch this space and hopefully there’ll be another post soon telling you I’ve completed the proper test and passed it!!

What the best education systems are doing right

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This is a really interesting article below. I think it just compounds even more my thoughts that when it comes to academic success there are many many different and successful ways to achieve it. However when it comes to the flourishing and happiness of the child, and the creation of stable identity and personhood there are different ways of doing this that are better or worse depending on your perspective.

In the UK we recently had a program on TV that’s now on every year called ‘Child Genius’. In this show, extremely intelligent children with very high IQs compete with each other in a variety of ways to win the crown of ‘child genius of the year’. Their feats of neurological prowess are breathtaking (and have the tendency to make me feel a little inadequate to say the least)! This year the 2 final children provided an interesting means for an analysis. Sharon and Tudor (a wee girl and boy) were the last 2 children standing – they had both displayed incredible amounts of intelligence and skills such as memory, critical thinking and general knowledge. However the style of these 2 children’s parents couldn’t have been more different. Sharon’s parents took a very backseat role on her insistence. She said that she wanted to do all the work herself, her parents are both doctors and she purposefully chose topics that were outside of their realm of expertise. Showing insight well beyond her years she said that she didn’t want any help because it meant that if she failed she would only have herself to blame, but equally if she succeeded she would know she had done all the work so the victory would entirely be hers. Sharon’s parents encouraged her no matter what, told her how well she had done regardless of any small failures or slips and generally were a relaxed totem of support for her in the background.

Tudor’s parents were incredibly hands on – pushing him at every stage. They worked with him for hours and hours at home in an extremely strict style. When he didn’t reach his target on the memory section (memorising between 1 and 2 decks of cards), they admonished him and told him how disappointed they were with him, because they knew he could do better. They did this whilst ignoring the fact that he had actually memorised over 70 cards – one of the highest numbers in the group. He was bitterly upset and disappointed with himself. This did spur him on to try harder but he did so with a lot of stress and anxiety whilst they looked on with strict and sometimes crushing disapproval. They clearly adored and loved their son enormously, this was just how they thought he would achieve the most in life. Motivation pushed forward by the weight of their own hopes and dreams for him, mixed in with outright disappointment and disproval if he didn’t do as well as they thought he could. 

It was Sharon who won the competition in the end, but obviously both kids achieved some incredible things and proved their intelligence levels and abilities were well beyond that of most of the population, never mind children their own age. So both parenting styles worked in terms of what they achieved – however what I found interesting was that there are other things we should consider in this. Sharon achieved this feat happily and without too much stress (just a normal amount as is necessary to achieve anything you care about deeply – after all, complacency is the high achievers biggest enemy). Tudor on the other hand proved the same things but did so with stress, unhappiness and anxiety. He worked his way through the competition thinking he was constantly disappointing is parents (because he was) – they never once said they were proud of him or that he’d done enough – not until the very end. And of course lets not forget that it was Sharon who actually won (this girl has won over 50 trophies of some sort – all off her own steam without any pressure from her parents). They just seemed flummoxed by her drive but support her and encourage her on the way whilst telling her it’s OK to not win. So it just showed that self directed learning and parent directed learning can achieve greatness, but both of those things didn’t achieve happiness and flourishing and anxiety free learning….. which would I choose? well I think by now we know the answer to that given my hopes of ‘unschooling’ in the future. This isn’t to say what Tudor’s parents are doing is wrong, I wouldn’t ever do it myself, but I can’t deny their son is a high achiever. Also you never know what goes on behind closed doors. He could be the happiest most carefree little boy outside of that competition. But inside of it his stress and anxiety and the weight of his parents own hopes and dreams for him seemed to be crushing his wee spirit, and it made me sad.

Originally posted on ideas.ted.com:

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In South Korea and Finland, it’s not about finding the “right” school.

Fifty years ago, both South Korea and Finland had terrible education systems. Finland was at risk of becoming the economic stepchild of Europe. South Korea was ravaged by civil war. Yet over the past half century, both South Korea and Finland have turned their schools around — and now both countries are hailed internationally for their extremely high educational outcomes. What can other countries learn from these two successful, but diametrically opposed, educational models? Here’s an overview of what South Korea and Finland are doing right.

The Korean model: Grit and hard, hard, hard work.

For millennia, in some parts of Asia, the only way to climb the socioeconomic ladder and find secure work was to take an examination — in which the proctor was a proxy for the emperor, says Marc Tucker, president and CEO of the National Center on…

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Emotional Landscaping

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heartmapquoteThe last few months have been a massive change emotionally for me. After deciding to step out on this path of travelling and working abroad I’ve really had to take stock and it’s had a big effect on my thoughts and feelings surrounding what I want for myself and my daughter. I think in a way, entering into the final year of my degree or even just coming back to university after giving birth, has been the biggest catalyst to all this emotional change.

If you’ve had kids then you may have had a similar experience to me, where during the pregnancy and straight after the birth it’s not really possible to really know what you want. I was pretty scared and a lot of things were going on that were outside of my control. I just didn’t know what I wanted pure and simple. I knew what I had wanted in the past intellectually speaking, but it was put on hold in a strange way that I’ve never experienced before. There was an unknown entity on the way and I was really conscious that the minute they came into being and ventured into the outside world things would change – I don’t mean in the obvious ways, I mean more in the sense that there would be a person who would eventually have thoughts and opinions that would change the decisions I was going to make. This mentally put me in some sort of freeze hold and I just couldn’t conceive of much beyond the birth. Even after she was born I spent the usual few weeks recovering and acting like a hormonal wreck and then I started to focus on getting back to university.

It was at this point that I really started to ask myself what I wanted, I found myself caving in to those invisible societal pressures that surround us as parents and even just as people. Those pressures that tell us to conform, take a normal path, provide for our family and not take risks. Despite having never wanted to follow a ‘normal’ path in my life I suddenly found myself looking into ‘normal’ graduate schemes and ‘normal’ jobs. I was convincing myself that having my daughter meant I needed to make the ‘responsible’ decisions and not do the outlandish things I’d always wanted to do. Whilst in the early stages of my pregnancy, Monkey’s Dad and me discussed things that we wanted and we both expressed a wish to travel. I said I wanted to finish my degree and give myself the option of further study, but I said that travel was definitely a part of my future. He seemed to need something more than this and I just couldn’t give it to him. Now, the reasons he decided to leave are way more complex than I can do justice to in a blog post. And I don’t think it would be fair to him to claim that this is all there is to it. But I think a small part of it was that I was too busy trying to control everything, whilst he was too busy trying to force me to commit to things I just wasn’t ready to commit to. We were both panicking and we didn’t know each other well enough and he didn’t give me or himself the chance to find out what we wanted, together as a family. Within weeks of finding out I was pregnant he’d gone. I often wondered what would have happened if we’d just given ourselves the time to get used to the new situation we were in; instead of trying to force each other to be the people we thought we needed the other person to be….

Since that point I have changed and developed so much as a person I’m partly unrecognisable. I’ve gone through such a lot having my daughter on my own and coming to terms with the effect that will have on both out lives. As I said, I really ended up convincing myself that I needed to do the ‘normal’ thing for the sake of my daughter. It was only as I got further down those paths, and truly started looking at things like the NHS graduate scheme or civil service as a realistic option that I knew it was never going to make me happy – and that would make Monkey unhappy. It was this realisation that made me really start thinking about what I actually wanted – and that’s to travel. I know without a doubt that if I get to the end of my life without travelling, without living in another country and possibly without learning another language then it will be my biggest regret. So to allow that to happen whilst knowing that would be a big crime against myself.

A while ago I did a post about how big my safety net should be: http://www.backpacksandbabygrows.com/2014/07/03/how-big-should-a-safety-net-be/ . In this post I discussed giving myself a back up plan that involved completing a Masters at the same time as saving to do a RTW trip, so that if travel didn’t happen I would have other options to fall back on. Options that I actually wanted to take, such as postgrad study. Since writing that post though, I’ve realised that actually, I just want to go. I don’t want any other distraction; I just want to save up as much as I can and head off into the unknown with my wee Monkey. This trip and travelling has somehow evolved into so much more than ‘just’ a trip. I know that thought is probably echoed in the minds of countless other travellers or wannabe travellers. So much so, it’s become clichéd – but it’s clichéd because it rings so true for so many people. For me this trip is about finally starting my life. That probably sounds strange, but I’m a late starter in life – my own potential and personal development has been delayed and diverted time and time again. Mostly due to circumstances out of my control, particularly as a child and teenager. My 20s were spent coming to terms with this, and it’s only been since starting college and going back to university that I’ve become the person I always knew I could be. Having my daughter has finalised that in a way nothing else could. Making these steps to travel and jump out into the deep end, as a single parent is really the first step in what I feel is my ‘true’ life, the life I’m meant to have. So there’s a lot riding on it. It’s not that I don’t want the postgrad stuff anymore, it’s that I’m acutely aware they will be there when I get back, I can do those at any time, anywhere in the world. But it’s travelling that will help me to be who I need to be emotionally; it’s travelling that will let my daughter be the person she can be….

Another thing I’ve slowly admitted to myself is that I don’t want to put monkey into the daily grind that is the school system. I know there are some amazing teachers out there; my sister is one of them. But there’s also some terrible teachers out there and the school system is there to cater for the middle ground; it’s there to create an obedient workforce who behave themselves, turn up on time, don’t question authority and basically live life with a set of blinkers on. The world does not need any more of those people, that I do know – if it’s to survive, if we’re to survive as a species we need the mad, creative, wild and inappropriate types. I know too many people who had every last bit of creativity and individualism drained or pummelled out of them at school, to be OK with signing my child up for that. I really want to do something that probably lies in between home schooling and unschooling – (although as with most of the other unschoolers I’m not that keen on the name, as it implies no learning whatsoever which couldn’t be further from the truth). Admitting this to myself has made me realise that those are my 2 core beliefs and aspirations in my life: travel and home schooling, so the rest just needs to somehow fit around them. Or I need to make it fit around them because in the end it’s me that’s in charge of my life. No one else can do these for me. I would love to start working for myself, writing and making a living by piecing together all my skills in a way that makes me happy. Whether that’s teaching English, writing, doing photography, or a bit of all these things and maybe some other things too, I don’t know. But I’m definitely not a Monday to Friday kind of a woman. I would also love to meet someone who shares my dreams, I’d like to let go enough to fall in love again and maybe (just maybe) expand my little family, as having monkey has been the best decision I ever made. Finally realising that these are the things I truly know has given me emotional freedom that I’ve never felt before. It’s given me a purpose and something to aim at. I don’t need riches (not that I ever wanted them), I do want to have the finances to travel (obviously) and to provide my daughter and myself with a half decent standard of living but beyond that I really don’t care. I don’t want her to grow up in the consumerist mess we have in the UK, where how we view our own worth and the worth of others is somehow inextricably linked to what we own and how much money we have in the bank. I want her to know that there is so much more to life than money and possessions. Poverty is horrific but so is having all the materialistic things you ever wanted, only to realise that you’re still looking for something that can’t be bought and now you’ve not got the time to find it.

So this is where I am today, embarking on this adventure is a strange thing for me at this point in time. I’ve still got a year of my degree to complete. This will undoubtedly be one of the most intense years I ever experience but it’ll be worth every drop of blood, sweat and tears that I shed and have shed over the last 7 years. The RTW trip still feels completely imaginary – because it is. It probably won’t feel in the slightest bit real until I actually book us those tickets, and maybe it won’t feel real until we step off the plane and head into our first country on the list (hopefully China). To keep myself focused on the long-term future I keep looking at this big map online and planning where we’ll go and when, I’m reading all these travel blogs and talking to my closest friends about my plans. But on the flip side, I also have to keep my feet firmly on the ground and focus on the here and now. I HAVE to get this degree; I’ve worked too hard to fall at the last hurdle. Not only that, I know I’m capable of getting a 1st. It’s where my grade point average is lying at the moment and I’d be fibbing if I didn’t say a 1st is what I want. Although saying that, I do now know that it’s not the be all and end all, any degree will be a massive achievement for anyone let alone someone in my position.

So this is my bit of emotional landscaping – making that decision to travel has just brought on an avalanche of life choices and realisations that I could never have expected. I’d love to hear if any of you have had a similar experience in the comments section! I suspect that travel and making those massive decisions takes on this huge role in nearly everyone’s life – especially if it’s something you end up turning into a lifestyle choice rather than just a holiday. I’m so excited already at the thought of the adventures to come and the experiences me and my daughter will have together – I’ll have to increase my vocabulary and powers of articulation just to put into words how I feel when we actually go!!