Dear retired Passport…..


We had some fun didn’t we? 10 years have passed since you landed through my letterbox. I took you out of your envelope and cradled you with love and affection. I marvelled at your empty pages and the swirl print that decorated each page. You did well, I’m proud to say. You fought the elements and the random spillages (we both remember that custom officer saying that you smelt bad from a recent coffee wash) and were forever faithful when we boarded another plane or when your pages were fondled by yet another customs officer. I heard of other owner’s who’s passports strayed. Badly behaved one’s that chose the day of traveling to play hide and seek. You never tortured me like that.

We filled your first page with a visa for America and you took your first trip in your stride. You were proud and clean, ready to take on the world, full of naïve optimism. We set off to China and weathered the bleak cold and blistering winter winds. That was the time you were taken from me and held hostage, but I fought for you of course and as soon as we were reunited we ran for it, back home to safety. You slept in a drawer full of broken dreams before deciding that indeed you felt bare and naked with your empty pages and wanted a few more decorative pieces. I am not one to mess with dreams so we filled you up with multiple stamps from Australia, a visa for Laos, a visa for Thailand, another for Vietnam. A stamp here and a stamp there, like Kisses. I showed you off by taking pictures, showing your latest and greatest decorative piece. Yes, we did have some good times you and I.

It pains me that you are retiring. Don’t take the trim off the edge of your front cover from that frightful passport renewal officer to heart. You took on more than most passports I can assure you and just because there will be someone newer and fresher taking your place does not mean you were not loved. Yes the new passport may have more pages and a fancy chip but it has nowhere near the experience you have. It is a newbie, a real young’un compared to you. I can only hope that it continues your legacy and takes on the world as you have. May you be a lesson to the new passport and others (particularly my parents passports as they have never been anywhere). You have set the bar high and I know in years to come you will indeed come out for those occasions where any future children and hopefully grandchildren will look at you in wonder and delight at all the places you have been, touching your colourful pages with all their beauty.

Yes, take this time to relax with the various other retired documents. Reflect on the good times and all that you have achieved as you will always be my first real passport. The one that took on the challenges, faced the fear and did it anyway.


Reviewing the suitcase

I have temporarily put a pause on my wanderings in order to obtain the documents needed to teach in South Korea. Filled with promises from various people claiming South Korea to be just ‘awesome’ I have decided that’s my next port of call, even though it looks colder than anything the UK could possibly fling at me. My partner in crime (well, my gay travel partner) could not stop going on about his obsession with k-pop and his need to find a Korean husband….Immediately. Not one to interfere with such a fab goal, I have decided to help him in his quest for love, and maybe find a hot guy in the process myself. So as I unpack, back with the parent and the promise of Tesco’s delights, I have decided to review my suitcase, mainly the ‘what was I thinking’ items.


After spending the entire duration of my trip in either flip-flops or canvas trainers, it is a fact that I really did not need to be lugging those wedges and black work high heels around the world with me. Did I throw them? Hell no. Once you find a good pair of shoes – especially the wedges – that are pain-free and go with anything, they are with you for life. Or until they fall apart in over wear which doesn’t bear thinking about. I did, however, wear the wedges once. This was purposely so I could justify them taking up room and weighing my suitcase down. And no I did not care that the roads in Hanoi do not cater for wedges.



I took four and wore none. Dreams of soaking up the sun on a Thai island, sipping cocktails were non-existent. Being a person that tries to ‘go with the flow and just see what happens’ I just seemed to travel north throughout the duration of my trip. My shorts, bikinis and summer dresses didn’t get a look in. Instead I wore the same grey jumper for the entire trip as this was the only ‘winter’ wear that I had managed to bring. By the end of the trip, I was sure it was ready to sprout legs and make a run for the door.

That dress

I have a lacy little number that always makes me feel good, covers enough whilst sucking everything ‘in’, sexy but classy. That too came along for the journey, never to escape the suitcase. Thoughts of great bar scenes, eligible gentlemen and fancy restaurants was replaced by chanting in a Temple, shivering from 4.30am winter mornings starts, 21 hour bus journeys amongst questionable body odours and dribbling noodles over myself. Wearing every layer of my suitcase to shield off the cold ensured that not only did I not bother with any beautification ritual or fancy outfits but I also didn’t want to. You could barely get me change out of my multiple layers.


Nail Varnish

Taking at least 5 bottles in my favourite colours, I assured myself that I would mix it up, colour coordinating and generally making my nails look pretty. No need to be a rough and tumble traveller, I said to myself. Just because you are ‘backpacking’ does not mean you don’t put effort in. Bahahaha. Oh the lies we tell ourselves. The majority of the journey was trying to get the damn stuff of my nails, particularly when I was living at the temple. Forgetting the nail vanish removal, I spent my time picking at the colour in a bid to rid myself of any sign of beautification (which was not allowed). Finally I manage to use some removal at the monks wife’s home and breathed a sigh of relief to finally be rid of it. Moments later M looks at me all excitedly and tells me she wants to paint my nails. Not one to dash someone’s delighted and hopeful expression, I proceed to let her do her worst, which was to paint my nails in garish colours with added flower prints. So much for looking natural.


Ah, I said natural….

Those skinny pants

Yes, I admit it. I took my skinny trousers in the hope that a few months hauling my luggage around South East Asia would melt inches from my thighs. Who knows when I would have the opportunity to eat, therefore bring the pants! Well its true, I managed to get into them and apart from being a bit snug, they did fit. Although by this time in my travels and with a whole new perspective  to boot, I suddenly thought – arse catapulted into the pants, why the hell am I doing this to myself?! Yes life is far too bloody short to spend my time wanting to fit into a pair of trousers! How absurd that a piece of material could have such a hold on me. So I bravely left them behind – to be donated of tossed, free to make someone else just as miserable with their unforgiving lack of elasticity.


They fit!!!

Now, I am back to parents house with all its questionable odours such as mould and dog farts. My days will be spent curled up on the sofa, devouring Netflix like a pro and in the process observe my mind as it turns to mush. I will indeed relish the art of doing nothing.

All eyes on me

Again I wandered out of my hotel into the sleepiness of Ha Long bay. All market stalls were closed and the fog still drowned out the scenery. Again the sky met the sea in a blanket of silver with just the faintest edges of the mountains in view, watercolour in a haze of shades. I walked along the beach front, wandering aimlessly and trying to calm the increasing feeling that I was being watched. Constantly.Eyes on me

I am in a tourist destination where hundreds of ‘farangs’ get dropped of weekly, if not daily to explore this gem, a world heritage Site and popular travel destination. So if this is the case can you please stop staring at me as if I have grown multiple heads in the space of seconds. I feel like I have become something of a freak show as I walk alone along the hidden streets where groups of local people stop and gawk, before turning to their friends and having a good old chin wag about my presence. It doesn’t help that I have come in the quiet season (aka the freaking freezing season).

beetle juice

Do I have something in my teeth?

I am not immune to the staring. I spent a year in Huairou – Beijing, teaching English, which was a very quiet place to be situated. With only three ‘farangs’ – myself and two guys – we were something of a novelty. There, it was a whole different ball game of staring. Shopping trips became a constant game of hide and seek where, basket in hand, I would try to lose the groups of local people amongst the aisles as they followed, curious as to what I was going to put into my basket. My shopping was scrutinised and commented on, especially when I would stock up on multiple chocolate bars in some sort of desperate attempt to cure my home-sickness. Tube rides became a photo opportunity for locals, who would sneakily hold up their camera phones to take various snap shots of my hung-over state.

Did you get my good side?

Now I find myself battling those familiar feelings which I had long forgotten about. Can I just accept that they may be curious? Can I just let it slide and feel overjoyed that I don’t blend in? Can I just saunter down the streets with the careless freedom that comes with wandering in new and unfamiliar territory? No. At the moment I feel like doing this, if one more person stares at me.


Just look at me once more……

Hoodie up and scarf wrapped round my face, I was still recognised as a foreigner. What is it exactly? Do I have a particular ‘farang’ swagger that I’m unaware of? Guys on mopeds frantically turned their heads in shock at my presence, before shouting only God knows what. I’m hoping it was all sweet words of ‘welcome my dear long-lost friend’ although I might be just a bit optimistic there. Whilst I was with my travel companion I could handle it and took it as innocent curiosity and no more than that. Now, alone and feeling vulnerable, I notice every stare and hear every heckle, which makes me want to kick off and throw random, clumsy Kung Fu moves on the unsuspecting audience.

Forcing myself to eat, I found a small restaurant to eat my beloved noodles. I sat at the back and felt all eyes on me as I battled my way through the use of chopsticks and slippery noodles, which of course made me even more self-conscious and therefore had me dribbling, dropping and slobbering over my bowl of deliciousness, much to the amusement of the multiple pairs of eyes as they watched my discomfort.


I have now retreated to my hotel room, feeling comfort in my sanctuary and away from preying eyes. Tomorrow, I shall again brave the curious stares and random comments thrown my way, that I do not understand. I will keep smiling through gritted teeth and try to take it all in innocent jest and when I eat my noodles I will dribble with abandon, relishing every splatter that covers my face. As I say, Vietnamese food is there to be thoroughly enjoyed, audience or not.

Welcome to Lonerville….Population? You.

I have and always will be something of a loner. Maybe its having brothers and sisters who are much older than me, so as a child they were pretty much making their way into the world, getting married and settling down, while I was playing ‘teacher’ with various stuffed animals. My parents had me late in life, my mother being 45 when she went into the doctors complaining of weight gain and feeling under the weather only to be told that she was indeed expecting. Of course I was an accident (a lovely surprise, as my mother will say). The doctors advised her to abort as having a child at her age – in those days, was just risky and opened up many possible health risks. My mother, already having 5 other kids under her wings decided against the doctors orders and thus added another sprog to her brood.

Growing up, I was a very quiet child. I could play alone for hours and hours without needing company from adults nor children. I would collect the figurines from kinder eggs to create armies which would entertain me for days. Stuffed animals would be marked on the ‘teachers’ register, with grades given to the best ‘students’. Art classes were held where I would hold the toys hand/paw and guide the crayon across the paper to create various images, and of course there was a competition for the best drawing. I look back and wonder how on earth I was able to entertain myself for so long, with these ‘make believe’ games. If I knew the answer perhaps it would certainly help me right now.

I decided to escape Hanoi and travel to Ha Long bay. I have gone from holding my breath and being constantly alert to the various sights, sounds, people and traffic to just sheer quietness. Ha Long bay is apparently sleeping. The sky is completely grey and with the thick fog the sea blends into the sky. It has gone passed the ‘romantic, dreamy mist’ state in which you can immerse yourself in the beauty to just not being able to see anything, never mind picturesque, rugged mountains. I already feel pity for the hoards of tourists that are getting off the bus only to be shuffled onto the cruise for a night of sightseeing where you will be hard pushed to see anything.

So now I find myself alone. My travel companion is waiting in Hanoi for my return where the offer of employment as teachers awaits us. I sat at a café where a herd of Chinese tourists chatted, comparing purchases of coffee and nuts. One by one they took the chairs around my table. All but the one I was sitting on. I felt my vulnerability levels peak, sticking out like a sore thumb with my blonde hair everywhere. I tried to immerse myself in a book but felt the eyes of the locals on me. I sneaked glances as a local man watched my every move, from drinking my coffee, opening and closing my book, paying the waiter and gathering my change. I quickly scuttled off to walk off the insecurity that had begun to brew. Throwing my hood up to ‘disappear’ I walked and found a secluded spot overlooking the sea. Looking at my watch I noticed that I had been ‘out and about’ for just over an hour and suddenly I felt the dread that comes with ‘what the hell am I going to do for 3 weeks here?!!’

A person who is bored is bored with themselves. I read that somewhere many years ago and at the time I could not have agreed more. I agree with it now and am trying to ‘pull myself together’. I walked the stretch of the bay, continually trying to calm the feelings of uncertainty that comes with the unknown. Then I remembered that I could entertain myself for hours on end when I was a child, not needing a single soul to entertain and reassure me. So really I should embrace the solitude, the misty landscape, the sleepy beachfront with the wide roads that are not cluttered with mopeds beeping their horns frantically and missing running over my toes by inches. As I looked out to sea in all its murky grey glory, I asked myself ‘Here? Or at your corner desk staring at the computer screen?’ Here….Definitely here.

Calm in the chaos

Chaos in Hanoi

One of my favourite sayings is ‘wherever you go, there you are’. It was my internal reminder when I decided that life was just too tough, the job wasn’t what I wanted, that city just wasn’t for me. Whenever I sat at my desk, staring into the computer screen, eyes and mind slowly rotting from dissatisfaction, I would tell myself under muttered breath that ‘wherever you go, there you are’, so basically don’t even think about running away from your problems when all you are doing is running away from yourself.

I did that a lot. Throughout my early twenties to fairly recently, its what I did best. The grass was always greener and I was constantly searching for ‘something’. In fact my Dad said to me before I packed up for another adventure into the unknown ‘I don’t know what it is you are searching for, but I do hope you find it’. I am now in Hanoi, which fills me with immense uncertainty. The air is filled with adrenaline and chaos. If you have been to Hanoi then I am sure you understand the terror that comes from crossing the road. I was brought up as a kid to look left and right before crossing, always keeping your eye out for any cars that come into view and of course always cross when the green man is showing. Now I find myself looking left and right and just walking – looking straight ahead – at snail pace, hoping and praying that I get to the other side in one piece. Don’t run – was the advice I was given. Slow and steady wins the race (or in this case, keeps you alive). The constant stares and comments that are thrown at you by locals have my irritation levels soaring. The constant street sellers who shout for their donuts, books, fruit, and various other random items that need to be bought only adds to overwhelm me. My travel companion is slowly deflating in front of me. He is so cultured shocked and overwhelmed that the two of us together is like a ticking time bomb of irritation, just waiting to happen. Today I watched a guy on a moped carrying a plasma TV on the back with one hand on the handle bar and another holding the TV. There was another with a family of 4 on one bike with the man texting as they swerved through various bikes, cars and pedestrians.

Although I feel I have been slapped in the face with culture shock, as I walked around in a state of fury, exasperation and mental exhaustion from constantly being alert, I said to myself ‘wherever you go, there you are’ and suddenly I though of that saying in a whole different meaning. I am here so therefore its ok as I have myself. This crazy environment is neither good nor bad. It is neutral. I am making it into an overwhelming experience. It is all my own doing. Suddenly, with that in mind I felt a certain peace come over me amongst the beeping horns and swerving wheels. I am here and I have myself. Wherever you go, there you are and suddenly its not about deciding to run away from yourself. Its not about what city, job or situation you’re in. Its about knowing that you have yourself and that its up to you how you ‘paint’ your surrounding. It whether you take all the negatives and let them eat at your insides or you see things for what they are in that moment.

Of course I am still trying. I have come back to my hotel room exhausted while my travel companion is practically having a break down in the other room. It takes time to adjust but if you just observe your surroundings and try not to label the experiences with good/bad or get attached then everything becomes a little easier, a little less intimidating and you can finally say ‘wherever I go, there I am…thank heavens for that’.

Tick Tock Charmer

Been there, done that messed around
I’m having fun, don’t put me down
I’ll never let you sweep me off my feet

This time, baby, I’ll be bulletproof

La Roux – Bulletproof Lyrics

So literally the day after my previous post of ‘seek and you wont find’ I found someone. We clocked each other at the airport, making the one hour flight from Luang Prapang to Hanoi. I immediately found myself drawn to his overgrown stubble (leaning towards beard, but not quite there), his hunky physique, rounded belly, cute smile and dishevelled dark hair. Also the guitar that he was obviously lugging around the world gave him that extra touch of ‘artsy’ that I sometimes quite like (or maybe its just the image of a cold winter night around a bonfire singing with an acoustic guitar that does it for me). We do the usual side glances and bashful coy smiles before boarding the plane. Maybe it was the whisky both I and my travel companion had drunk (forced upon us by the wonderful owner of the Khammany inn, Luang Prabang) that made my leering all the more obvious. After going through customs he makes a beeline as I try to take money out of the ATM, which provided the opportunity to have a riveting conversation on conversion rates an ‘oh my God, how many millions am I taking out in VND???’. Parting ways we say goodbye, no names exchanged just the inevitable fact of two travellers going their separate ways into the big enticing city of Hanoi.

Although, it didn’t quite end there. Around 9pm he saunters past us sitting outside a restaurant, spotting me, Ed and another fellow traveller we had managed to pick up at the airport (as you do). We chat and do the shy introductions. Leaning away I try to play the ‘cool, calm and collected’ card but instead just dribbled noodle soup everywhere. As Hanoi’s nightly curfew came to an end at 12am we parted ways until the following day with plans for us all to take on the town with as much full force as one can with such an early curfew.

Now if you add it up – all these synchronicities – it can evoke a certain number of feelings. That bubbling, tingling ‘oh I’ve met someone’ feeling that can leave you floating around, practically in a daze of lust, love and infatuation. Suddenly the horrendously chaotic traffic of Hanoi – where you wonder if your toes are going to make it across the road, never mind the rest of your body – becomes irrelevant. To have both been in Bangkok on the same day without knowing, then Luang Prabang and then Hanoi….It can make you wonder. But I am no longer that girl anymore. Call me cynical, call me bitter and pessimistic but my bullshit radar is so finely tuned that not even Casanova himself could have worked his magic….(maybe Ryan Gosling but lets stick to the story here). It was just a few comments, which mostly involved him asking me back to his….for cuddles. Now this was the deal breaker and I indeed told him so.

Indeed, the world of travelling is of course a full blown, life changing, magical journey where there can be lots of sun, sea, sand and sex sex sex. Hats off to those who choose to throw caution to the wind and get down and dirty in the hotels of Hanoi, the beaches of Thailand, the grungy back alleys of Europe, but I just cant. For him I was a ‘passing through’ attraction. He played the game well in all fairness, with invitations for both myself and Ed to stay in his home town, then invitations for me to join him on his travels, then more offers of amazing dates that he just could not wait to take me on. And on and on. Compliments thrown right, left and centre. Couldn’t he see me withdrawing from him with every word then fell out of his mouth? Of course not, he had a time limit. One more night to ‘get lucky’.

We spoke about attraction. ‘What if  you met someone and you just had that immediate attraction where you both wanted to sleep with one another and that was just it. Something you both felt the urge for…That animal instinct of attraction…Haven’t you ever felt that?’ He asked, pleadingly. ‘No’ I replied. Tough crowed you may think but personally, it needs to be built up. Maybe a friendship that just blossoms. Maybe I’m just at the age where a slow burn is what I need. Just to have that continuous warmth, not the hot, searing fire that leaves the scars before you’ve even realised you’ve been burned. Give me the Ferris wheel instead of the rollercoaster as experience has me believe that sometimes the ups and downs are just not worth it.

We parted ways with little else to say. I was not another badge for his travel humpathon backpack. You are passing through this adrenaline packed city. I am not. He tried and failed but of course I will be forgotten as soon as he arrives at his next destination, where there will be another, more willing participant.

Seek and you won’t find

The sky was covered in a blanket of grey cloud and the air was mountain fresh, with a touch if ice to keep the scarves and jumpers wrapped tight around our shivering bodies. Of course this did not dampen our afternoon as we sat on the hippy chic floor cushions in Utopia, Luang Prabang, taking in the breath-taking views of the Mekong River and the lush tropical forest that trickled down the river banks, making you automatically think that this wonderful moment would be forever engraved in the mind. This wasn’t the case unfortunately, as I was too busy wanting to kick the loved up couples who were lounging on the cushions – kissing and canoodling – off the edge of the bamboo balcony.

You see, I decided to actually make one New Year resolution which was to stop seeking ‘The One’. I rarely make any resolutions, believing that the pressure is sometimes just too much and that if you want to stop a bad habit and replace it with a good one, you will do so, when the time is right for you. Not because the clock has struck 12am to welcome a new year. Hopeless romantic that I am, it seems to be continually at the forefront of my mind, this longing of meeting someone. It is embarrassing to admit to such a strong desire of wanting someone to share life experiences with, but I just can’t help myself. On New Year’s eve I actually caught myself with this burning desire and found myself completely deflated with the emptiness that comes with wanting something and just not getting, something Buddhist teachings would certainly call Tanha. I felt awash with the embarrassment of my neediness, believing that I should know better that to believe having a partner is going to make everything ok. Also let’s face it, I am probably reeking of desperation which doesn’t add to the aloof, mysterious persona that I am trying to radiate.

I watched row upon row of couple’s Ville with a certain envy which was then replaced by sadness. Reason being was as I watched the couples – some whispering sweet nothings, some resting on each other’s shoulders – I remembered my own moments of tenderness and intimacy in past relationships and realised that I was completely miserable with those men. Men that I spent years with. Yes, we would sit and cuddle up and do all those annoying thing couples do when they are ‘loved up’ with one another. With one partner we would get yelled at by passing strangers with comments such as ‘get a room’. Yes we were annoying, but my God we were so very unhappy with one another. It was just one big act. One big massive performance that I actually didn’t realise I was a part of for a very long time. You see, it’s easy to pretend. Just look at Facebook. I added countless photos of me in various long term relationships and realise now how extremely unhappy I was in them. Of course we didn’t look it, all cuddled up, spooning ice-cream to each other and laughing for the flash of a camera. Two people, bound together with what was once love (or more likely lust) but had turned into a sour companionship over the months of bickering and neediness. Both too scared to leave each other and brave the unknown world of single Dom, so instead brought out the worst in one another, each day bringing another insidious punch to the confidence and spirit.

Seek and you shall find. Stop looking and it will happen. Both different ends of the spectrum and both utterly confusing. It’s not a case of desperation. Not just anybody will do. Of course there are countless pros to being single. For one thing I am no longer on that ‘roller-coaster’ of one minute being ‘up’ with the excitement and adrenaline of feeling so overwhelmingly, passionately in love, to the ‘down’ with plummeting drops, bringing anguish, heartache and horrendous disappointment. But sometimes, you do want someone to share those magical experiences that life throws at you. To see a gorgeous sunset and share in that moment with someone who is emotionally and mentally ‘there’ with you.

So, yes that’s my resolution. Just that one resolution. To stop seeking and seek ‘inside’ instead. To not be consumed with envy of others fortune of finding that someone that makes them truly happy and instead wishing them well throughout their journey together. After all, life throws some challenging situations at us, so if you are have someone to share the load, then all the better. And to the singles out there? Well, just keep looking inside and you will realise that you are never really alone. You have yourself and sometimes that is all you need. You will surprise yourself at what you can accomplish alone, how you can make yourself laugh and appreciate the small things, and how much you can actually feel ‘love’, not just the relationship kind, but from random strangers that smile your way or show you even the simplest gesture of kindness. Those are the moments that will really melt your heart and make your realise that actually you are never really alone.