Being a Guilty Traveller

I’m not sure if any of you experience this when you travel, but when I’m in a lull, either travelling between cities, before I go to sleep at night, or even planning what I’m going to do that day, I feel guilty. I feel guilty that I am not travelling well enough. Does this sound stupid? Well, I feel stupid when I do it, but it doesn’t stop my worrying.

I worry because I haven’t experienced the ‘real’ Amsterdam. When I was in New Orleans I didn’t go to Algiers – I didn’t ‘experience the day-to-day life of the city’. I worry I’m not travelling ‘authentically’ because I didn’t have a fish curry in Sri Lanka that Lonely Planet told me I just had to try.

I worry I don’t do enough when I travel. I’m a cheap person and I hate spending money, so I didn’t do the Empire State building, deciding to do it when I went back to New York either with my sister or maybe when I have $42 to spare on a lift. I still feel guilty about it. I didn’t do all the unique hikes in Nepal that I was told I just had to do, and judge myself for not doing them. I don’t spend money on tours, and feel bad for missing out on that experience, despite the fact that – and here’s the really stupid part – I don’t even like tours!

I don’t like spending a lot of money. I try what I want to try. I do what I feel comfortable with, and push myself fully outside of my comfort zone only occasionally, because let’s be honest, I’m a young female traveller and I feel it’s natural to be a bit more wary about certain situations. I don’t stay out all hours because I don’t want to be walking back to the hostel alone in the dark, and when people question why I don’t just join a group so I can stay out longer, it’s because I want to do what I want, and see what I want, spend what I want. It is, after all, my travel experience.

Even still, knowing all this, I still feel guilty, and feel stupid for feeling guilty, and then feel guilty for feeling stupid.

I want to do ‘different’ trips, like going to Uzbekistan and doing something crazy and unique, but there are other things that I want to do first. And as a result I feel guilty that Uzbekistan isn’t higher up my list.

I’m part Indian, and part Kenyan, and I feel guilty that I haven’t been to either place, which may be the stupidest thing I feel guilty about. Maybe it’s a mixed race thing, wanting to explore – for want of a better word – my heritage, and feeling a bit like a fraud that I haven’t.

I don’t know what makes be feel guilty, whether it’s all the blogs I love and follow where the authors travel all over the world to such diverse and unusual destinations, or the travel magazines I crazily consume, drinking in all the exotic pictures and incredible description of beautiful places. Or maybe I’m just a perfectionist who wants to travel perfectly, even though I keep telling myself there isn’t really a perfect way to travel.

I hope I can get over feeling guilty soon. Not during, but at the end of a long day out, the nice feeling that comes with exploration is numbed somewhat by the guilt, and that is the worst when I just want to enjoy my time travelling.

Do you feel guilty when you travel? Or is it just me?! Let me know.

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Film of the Week: Beasts of the Southern Wild

BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD
Film 4, Wed 29th October 9.00pm

Credit: Wikipedia

A.k.a. Quvenzhané Wallis being the cutest thing that ever existed. Set in a potentially global warming altered earth (the details are a little vague, part of the film’s magic), a little girl and her father try and survive in a community forced to change because of flooding. It’s a beautiful film, the acting is top-notch, and the surrealist elements are not overwhelming enough to turn off those who are opposed to whimsy. Also, the soundtrack is awesome, and have I mentioned that Quvenzhané Wallis is really cute? I love it.

Best U.S. Cities

Straight up, I should point out that the only city in America where I spent longer than 3 days was Los Angeles, and that was because I was working there for 3 months. L.A. was not my favourite city however, not by a long shot. While I may not have been able to spend as much time in my favourites (as are detailed below) as I would have liked, they certainly left an impression on me and I would love to go back for more.

Chicago

I immediately liked Chicago because it had such an amazing atmosphere. It was so laid back and chilled, and everyone I met was lovely. I was in Chicago during the run up to the city being host to a giant jazz festival, so the hostels were full (and more expensive – why I didn’t stay longer) the streets were busy and the music really good. I really discovered jazz in Chicago (and got more involved in New Orleans, more on that later). Before America I hadn’t realised just how good jazz could be as I had never heard it live. I have now decided that it is music that needs to be heard live because it sounds just awesome. Also, I would go back just for the pizza. Amazing.

Washington D.C.

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There is so much to do in Washington D.C. that you just can’t be bored. Aside from L.A., I was in D.C. for the longest amount of time and could have comfortably spent another week, even a week and a half there. I went to so many museums, toured Congress, saw the Lincoln Memorial, the MLK Memorial, the Jefferson Memorial… I walked by the Potomac river both in the day and as the sun was setting, stopped by the White House, explored Chinatown and got some good chow mein. I did so much but there was so much more to do! I didn’t get to see all the museums, or where Lincoln was shot, or the Vietnam War Memorial, nor the wider city of D.C. If you’re looking for a holiday destination this year where you can soak in culture until you explode, Washington D.C. is your destination.

New Orleans

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New Orleans is just so cool. I was there during a huge gay pride event and so I’m not sure if Bourbon Street is like that all the time, but that place was crazy. I was a much bigger fan of Frenchman’s, a lot more chilled out and relaxed, with good jazz streaming out the windows of clubs, or being performed right there on the street. I would describe New Orleans as Paris crossed with Coventry (hear me out) – it has the beauty of the French capital, as well as obviously being hugely influenced by French style in general, while having the run down, slightly grimy, ‘but don’t you dare judge us’ quality of Coventry. It’s a fun city where beautiful universities contrast with the eerie cemeteries (featured image) which are only a few miles away. I didn’t get to go to Algiers, but I’m sure that it would have allowed a whole new plethora of contradictions. Definitely a city worth visiting, if only because everyone will be so jealous you’ve been there!

What are your favourite American cities? Would these three make your list? Let me know.

Recipe: Chicken and Veg Pie

When abroad, no matter how good the food is where I am, after a few weeks I always crave a few home comforts. This chicken pie is one such dish, if only because you can’t make it in a hostel kitchen! This is adapted from a Sam Stern recipe – if you’re ever looking for a student cookbook I can’t recommend his highly enough.

Feeds approx. 4  with big portions, 6 with small.

Ingredients:

– chicken breasts, diced (4)

– onion, diced (1)

– lots of vegetables – diced potatoes, carrots, peas, broccoli – whatever’s around

– leeks, sliced (1 or 2)

– chicken stock, approx. 250ml

– milk, approx 75ml, plus extra for brushing

– mustard, teaspoon

– flour

– pastry, either homemade or pre-bought

– seasoning

Instructions:

Coat the diced chicken in flour with a bit of seasoning.

Stick the onions on to fry in oil in a large pan. When they start browning add the chicken.

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When the chicken has cooked on the outside throw in the leeks, potatoes and any other vegetables, letting them soften slightly. Then slowly add in the stock.

Once all the stock has been added, pour in the milk. Simmer for 20-30 minutes on a low heat, covered.

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While simmering, roll out the pastry on a floured surface to fit a suitable size dish.

After 30 minutes take the filling off the heat and stir in the mustard. Then pour it into the pie dish, and cover with pastry, roughly trimming the pastry to fit (remember that the pastry will shrink slightly) and pressing down at the edges.

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Brush some milk onto the pastry, and then cut two airholes into the top to let out steam (or use a funnel if that’s your thing).

Cook for 15 minutes on 220ºC, and then reduce the heat to 180ºC and cook for another 15 minutes until the pastry’s browning and the filling is hot and bubbling.

I usually serve with Yorkshire puddings, vegetables and lots of gravy.

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You may also have noticed in the background of some shots that there seems to be a chocolately dish being made next to the pie filling. This is Rocky Road, and I got the recipe from That Grace Girl. I didn’t use marshmallows – I was feeling too unhealthy as it was, all that golden syrup – instead using raisins. It turned out really well, very tasty.

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If you decide to give these a go, or have your own recipes that you swear by, let me know!

Film of the Week: Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter… and Spring

SPRING, SUMMER, AUTUMN, WINTER … AND SPRING
Film 4, Thurs 23rd October 1.45am

Credit: Wikipedia

Film 4 have got quite the line up this week: Hugo, Inglorious BastardsCalamity Jane among others. Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter… and Spring is slotted into this busy schedule with a late night viewing but is not to be missed, despite the late – or should that be early? – showing. I watched this film in an ongoing (and, as of yet, unfinished) challenge to view all of IMDB’s Top 250 films. It wasn’t what I was expecting.

This South Korean movie (subtitled) is set on a floating house in the middle of a lake. The story is split into 5 parts, starting with an elderly monk taking in a young child, and spans the length of the young boy’s life. It’s not fast paced, nor action packed, but it is beautifully filmed and very intriguing. I don’t want to give away too much of the plot – it is a film that should be watched without knowing too much about it beforehand I believe. The story – which covers love, redemption, death and life, plus more (light, no?) – confuses you, yet draws you in without you realising it. I hope you give it a go: it’s worth a watch.

Note: This was a difficult one for me because I was torn between this and Hot Fuzz (ITV2, Fri 24th October 9.00pm), my favourite comedy. But I figured that everyone would have (should have) seen it. If not, what have you been doing with your life? Essential viewing.

Edge of Tomorrow

Edge of Tomorrow was a really good summer blockbuster, and highly recommended,  though I was let down by the end. Spoiler: it was really Hollywood.

SPOILERS ahead.

This film was different from most summer films: about halfway through, I realised I was having a lot of fun. As in, Edge of Tomorrow (or Live, Die, Repeat – what’s happening there?!) was very entertaining and I was enjoying watching it. This may seem like a stupid statement, but with so many summer blockbusters I usually zone out and enjoy them in a sort of passive way. Controversial, but I didn’t enjoy Avengers Assemble nearly as much as I did EoT.

It was in the middle of the sequences where we see Tom Cruise’s Major/Private Cage die over and over again – clips where he’s both hit by and run over by trucks had me giggling more than probably seems reasonable unless you’ve seen the film. They’re so well edited and made to illicit laughs, and they’re fun. And that’s the thing, the laughs aren’t a result of puns or weak jokes (I’m looking at you Avengers), but instead it’s usually through quick editing and visual gags. It was so refreshing.

Credit: Bleeding Cool

Cruise’s Cage is good, going through smarmy, scared, depressed and then true action hero as the film progresses, but for me the film’s true standout was Emily Blunt. It does help that I love Emily Blunt, but her Rita has a lot to do with making the film as fun as it is. Cage is able to be a little more goofy than he would otherwise be able to be if she wasn’t so deadpan and straight. She is also very convincing as an extremely efficient – and scary – soldier, something that more people should have seen coming given her performance in The Devil Wears Prada (a joke, but she was a bit terrifying in that film).

Commendably, the film also manages to make the stakes seem higher than they usually do in Hollywood films. By the end I actually thought (even hoped – more on that later) that each character was going to die, and that maybe, just maybe, they were not going to make it. This is of course a Hollywood film – that doesn’t happen. But it is impressive that I believed that it was just about possible. One major reason for this was the mimics, which were actually a scary enemy for once, given their time-travelling ability and crazy killing skills. Also, there is a sense of the characters’ morality, especially after Cage loses his resetting ability. For the whole film Cruise is not really able to die; after that’s gone, the film manages to feel a bit more claustrophobic and you start wondering just how good Cage really is (and Rita for that matter) – can they actually pull this off? (As an aside, I loved how they filmed the whole sequence where Cruise was underwater, especially the long shot that showed him, the Omega and the Alpha. I was able to appreciate how beautiful it was even as I was waiting for him to die.)

Credit: PetroGX

The ending did irritate me. For once I thought Hollywood was going to do it, let all the main characters die. Or, when they reset, I thought that the mimics wouldn’t have been defeated and they would have to get started all over again on trying to defeat them, maybe in a sequel, or, better still, maybe never to be seen on screen, leaving the fate of Earth ambiguous. Yes, these endings would have been depressing, but they would have also made a nice change to ‘everyone lives, enemy defeated’. Like the Marvel films, no one at all dies, and it’s one of the things that really irritates me about the series. The death of main characters can strike you to the core, and can leave a film truly memorable (or book – for example the Harry Potter series). This instance is not nearly as irritating as Marvel because it’s a one-off and not a series, but even still. I know it’s a Hollywood blockbuster, I know it’s not meant to be heavy entertainment, but it is essentially a war film, not Back to the Future. Imagine Star Wars without the death of Obi-Wan Kenobi; it just wouldn’t have the same emotional punch. I think that if the ending has been a bit more horrifying then I would be rushing to watch this film again. As it is, I really enjoyed it, and would recommend it, but it’s not a classic blockbuster. That’s a shame, because it has so much potential.

Featured image credit: Huffington Post

Have you seen the Edge of Tomorrow? What did you think? Let me know below!

The Essentials: Make-up on the move

Some people question why I even bother taking make-up with me when I travel, and to be fair, it can be a justified question. Most days I don’t bother with making myself up – after all, no one expects you to look respectable when you travel, and there are better things for me to be doing with my time. Furthermore, in the heat and humidity of New Orleans, or caught in the monsoon rain in Sri Lanka, the last thing I need to be thinking about is how my mascara is holding up.

However. However. There is always that one night where I actually want to look presentable when I go to a party or to a club, and for this I need to be armed with certain basics. So here it is: my travel make-up essentials.

Accessories first. Tweezers are a must for me, fancy night out or not. When travelling I always allow my eyebrows to get a bit out of control, so these are very important come wanting to look decent. A compact mirror is always handy too – you never know when you’re going to be without one and it’s surprisingly limiting when you are.

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I don’t wear foundation at home, never mind on the road where it would melt off in a couple of seconds. Concealer on the other hand is a completely different story. Long bus trips, late nights, unhealthy eating and little to no exercise routine leaves bags under the eyes and a few spots across the face, tackled pretty effectively by a bit of concealer. Life saver.

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I’m a big eye person when I do make an effort, so mascara, eyeliner (both liquid and pencil) and eye shadow are always with me. Yet before I leave on a trip I empty my make up bag of all but one shade of shadow, cutting down on space a bit. And I never forget my sharpener – heaven forbid I should have a blunt eyeliner pencil!

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Finally, lips. For those who are interested I only recently got into lipsticks, but have always needed to have a lip balm with me on the road. I do bring maybe two lipsticks too (one for heavy eyes, and one for light) that will do the trick, but even then sometimes I just stick with the balm.

So what do I leave behind? After all, just because I’m packing make-up doesn’t mean I’m not still packing light.
– Blusher and bronzer, primer, etc. can stay behind as they’re just bulky and, like foundation, will melt off.
– Nail varnish too has no place on the go – who are we kidding, it’s just going to chip. If you do need to have paint on your toes, Maxfactor do great mini nail polishes that fit nicely in your make-up pouch.
– I also stay without variety – as I mentioned before I only take one shade of eye shadow. It’s likely that you’ll have the same make up on every time you do wear it as it will be so infrequent. Simplicity is key.

This is all I need when on the road, what about you? What are your make-up travel essentials?