Tag Archives: working abroad

Tinder Travel Tips

It’s a little known fact that the whole reason I started blogging was a guy I met off Tinder. Although I know many of you will doubt me when I say this, Tinder isn’t always used for hookups. I know, shocking. It can be the greatest tool in your world conquering toolbox, if you use it right. If it can give me a job, it can give you a good night out. If you utilise it correctly.

In August 2015 I arrived in Malaga teary and sleepless, having just days before ending the longest relationship of my life. When it was over, I immediately ran away to work on a beach in Spain for the rest of the summer, because at the time that was exactly how I dealt with my problems. I still do, in a way.  I already had tinder installed on my phone, before we had broken up my ex and I had made a bet to see who could get the most matches in a day, which in retrospect was probably a sign that our relationship was drawing to its natural end.

After checking in to my hostel, I immediately fired up Tinder, hoping desperately to find a fellow soul to spend my two days in the beautiful city with. After returning from Guatemala my brother had told me how he had used Tinder to find English speaking tour guides amongst the locals, so I figured I could do the same.

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Now, first things first. If I ever use tinder in England, which isn’t often I admit, I tend to get roughly a 50% return on my right swipes. In Spain, I was getting closer to 100%. Secondly, Spanish guys on tinder tend to be a lot more to the point, and half the messages I first got were no more than dirty bootycalls, even though my profile stated quite clearly that I was only looking for a tour. If anything, this openness actually makes it easier to find that one person who you expect might not be an asshole.

Then, something interesting. I met a guy who owned a travel site, and who was looking for exactly the same thing as me. Someone normal to go and get a drink and see the city with. We ended up bonding so much that when weeks later he recommended I start writing down my experiences, I took him up on his word as if he were a closer friend than just a guy I’d seen twice on holiday. We’re even still in contact today.

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I still use tinder when I’m travelling, sometimes you just get a free tour of the city, others you walk away with a friend for life. The last tinder date I went on was in Rome this January, and it actually ended up being one of the most enjoyable dates of my life, even if it lacked that special spark which prompts a second date.  (Looking back, this may have been because we ended the night in the gay district and my eyes were slightly distracted elsewhere.)

You might hate tinder, you might think it sucks and it’s users are pathetic. Be realistic, the vast majority of young people these days have a tinder account, the chances are that at least one of them is looking for the same thing you are.

So here are my tips for using Tinder as a travel tool:

  • Know what you want from it. Are you looking for a tour? A local? Other tourists? People to get a drink with? A hook up? Make sure you’re clear in your own mind before you attempt to meet anyone.
  • Be upfront about what you are looking for.  If you’re not looking for a hook up, make that clear. My go-to tinder bio when I’m travelling starts with the sentence. “I HAVE A BOYFRIEND.” That way people know what to expect and can’t get irate when you’re inevitably not interested in taking things further.
  • Safety first. Most of us know that when we go on a date, especially with a stranger, it’s of utmost importance that someone, somewhere, knows who you’re with and what you’re doing. This isn’t any less relevant just because you’re on holiday. If you can’t tell someone back home, (or if this would be useless), tell your hostel staff. Tell them you expect to back at X o’clock and give them a phone number so they can call you if you’re not. Meet in a safe place. Preferably a place with lots of people about, and a place of your choosing. No, you don’t know the city, but a big square with lots of people in has less danger than the small cafe down a dingy alleyway that no-one has ever heard of has.
  • Have fun. We live in a world where potential friendships, unlikely hookups or even job offers are only a swipe away. Use this to your advantage and let social media help your travels not hinder them. No, don’t be that guy sitting in the hostel kitchen mindlessly swiping through all the girls on tinder until he finds that one girl on the second floor that he was too scared to talk. But where’s the harm in having a little fun whilst you’re away?

Written by Bethany Naylor

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Constellations

 

The more that I explore this vast and mighty planet, the deeper I find myself rooted in the common ground of humanity. Each journey down a new path fuels my fourth chakra by time spent with those along the way.

 

I believe in acceptance. I believe that the things that divide us are issues based in fear and ignorance. As a child I was exposed to diversity with a side of apple pie. Romanticizing the unknown was what freed me from the gravity of suburbia. Compared to most parts of the U.S., New Jersey and New York have always offered a metropolitan mix of cultures, but many people never seized the opportunity to learn about their neighbors. We were all the parts of a well-oiled machine, disassembled and placed side-by-side on the table. Normalcy and comfort glazed over our blissful lack of awareness. Still, this fascination called to me, thirsting for exploration, knowledge, and connection.

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Currently, I’m working onboard a cruise ship, sailing the seas for a second six month period of time. I first embarked early March 2016 as an American and left that fall a Global Citizen. Through those first six and a half months my family grew in size and diversity and offered me deeper connections to a world outside my own. There are roughly 1500 employees on this vessel and with only 58 of us being American, it was the first time I had ever truly been a minority. Suddenly I was living with people from almost every continent, social, economic, and religious background making our bubble like a floating UN. I have never seen a place where everything just worked.

 

Down time onboard is often spent communally in designated crew areas. Crew members shoot the breeze with others, rapidly evolving relationships from strangers to friends/lovers/family. These seemingly small experiences blessed me with a refreshed love for humanity all over again.

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During my time here I have strengthened my ability to listen, which I believe is one of the most important qualities to possess. Fundamentally, we all want to be heard. When you give your undivided attention to another person you are not only fulfilling their social and emotional needs,  you’re also gaining a broader perspective without even trying. By being a silent listener. I have strengthened my inner empath, stepping outside of myself and into the experience of the sharing soul. This ability is a completely golden opportunity in itself. Carrying that out into the world continues to help me meet people where they are, in the timeline of their own life experience. These magical abilities don’t even stop with the human race. Strong listeners and empaths are able to extend their influence out to all other aspects of the conscious world.

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When you are not exposed to the world outside your front door, it isn’t always easy to figure out who you are. Through this experience and my travels since, I have become more deeply connected to my core identity. There is a certain confidence and fearlessness acquired by diversifying your circle. By challenging the limits of my comfort zone I have been able to really cultivate these qualities, trusting in my own ability to understand what I need to thrive, based on who I am. I was stifled by my safety net for so long that I seemingly changed completely to those who knew me before. In reality, all I had done was uncover layers of disguise and years of expectation from my true self. Shedding the extra skin was just as liberating as it was to travel across the world and back.

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So here I am on my fourth month of contract number two, an evolving human who can confidently say that I am constantly falling in love with the human race. I continue to bond with as many people as possible, both onboard and on land, to expand my heart’s pallet. We bond over passions and art forms and we push past the small talk early on. We embrace similarities, respect differences, and let the armor fall to the ground. When I return home again I try to bring these moments with me allowing them to free me time and again from the gravity that once felt crushing. We all keep searching for our little piece of freedom but what we can easily forget is that freedom grows from an accepting heart. Open your arms to the world and the world opens its arms to you. We are points in the universe connected by invisible thread, a mighty collection of stellar lines creating the most beautiful constellations.

Written by Allie Pizzo

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Dealing with Anxiety

Anxiety is really hard to write about, as everyone has a different experience. It’s one of those things which can be so subtle that nobody notices until you’re completely overwhelmed, and is also something that almost everyone experiences at some point in their life. I’ve always been an anxious person. Some of my earliest memories I have are of a 3-5 year old me, worrying about something she said or did to upset someone, even if that person never noticed. When I look back at my life, my strongest memories are the fears, the worries, and existential crises which still keep me up at night if I let them. It’s strange then that now, I am capable of catching 9 hour flights and 16 hour bus journeys alone, with only my own mind for company,  even if it’s still hard.

Me, not being anxious, by a different lake in France
Me, not being anxious, by a lake in France

Sometimes my anxiety disappears. It will hide itself under the surface for weeks or months at a time, and slowly I begin to feel like a real person again. Other times, my anxiety is so bad it makes me throw up, scream at someone I love, or quite literally hide myself so no one can find me. A single word will reduce me to tears, or a bad attitude will leave me aggressive and looking for a fight. I remember in an old house I used to share with a friend and my boyfriend, there was a huge cupboard, quite capable of hiding a fully grown woman inside covered in coats. It became my refuge when things were too hard. Nobody knew. Sometimes you need to hide from the world, and that’s okay.

 

Often my friends ask me why I’m shaking. I do it a lot, so much that I usually don’t even notice. During a bad phase I will spend hours of the day quivering like a leaf, whilst on a good day it will only last maybe half an hour and then I’ll be fine. When it first started, maybe at age 14, I had no idea that it could be a symptom of anxiety and instead assumed I was chronically ill. Added to this, certain foods would make me feel so sick to my stomach that I could not keep them down. Many blood tests later, there is nothing wrong with me, at least physically.

Me, probably being anxious, by a lake in France
Me, probably being anxious, by a different lake in France

When I started to travel, the anxiety was extreme. Although I would always be having a good time on the surface, underneath guilt, fear, and trepidation were bubbling away quietly, threatening to boil over and destroy the facade I had made for myself. Over time, it got easier. On my first real travelling experience, six months of backpacking and volunteering around Europe, I had my boyfriend with me, and he made everything okay. Although there would still be days where I found it impossible to get out of bed and face a constantly changing life, and I would still be a shaking mess whilst waiting at the airport or train station to move on somewhere new, having that support with me, constantly at my side, holding my hand and telling me -“Fuck it, you’re strong enough, you can do this” – made every day that much easier. We’re no longer together, but his voice of wisdom still lives on every day in my head.

Us, not being anxious, on a beach in France
Us, not being anxious, on a beach in France

Next, I worked in Rome, alone. Although that time realistically can only be described as the best and most rewarding time of my life, within 2 months of being there I had lost more than 30 lbs. 22lbs in a single month, the first month. I was scared every day. Alone every evening. Lost. Guilty about rewarding a body which my anxiety told me did not deserve the love and care it needed to survive. I worried everyone hated me, I worried that my relationship would fail, and I worried about what the hell I was doing there anyway.

I gave up. I came home. Abandoning what was suppose to be a year of work after only four months, terrified that if I stayed, I might actually die.

So trust me when I tell you this. Anxiety is the evil monster under the bed. Anxiety is the bad man walking towards you on a darkened street. Anxiety is with me, every single day, every single minute of my life, even now, and even tomorrow.  And still I continue.

Whatever happened there, Rome will always be in my heart
Whatever happened there, Rome will always be in my heart

So how can you cope, when you feel like everything is falling to pieces before your eyes, and you’re a world away from everyone you love? I want to try help, I’ve been there, I’m still there, and I’m still travelling.

Build a support network

One of my problems originally, was that when I left the country alone, I felt like that meant I had to be truly alone. I would put off calling my family for weeks, thinking that if I called, that meant admitting weakness. How silly does that sound? Now when I travel, I have my list of helpers who I know will always be there for me if I’m in trouble. Even if it’s just skyping your grandma to find out what’s going on in her life, having regular contact with the people back home helps you to stay grounded. Calling your best friend just to have a chat about some silly thing you did reminds you that people do love you, people do care. I’ve even found that staying in hostels or couchsurfing rather than hotels or Airbnb makes it easy, as you have automatic friends there who just want you to have a good time with them.

Take a moment

When we travel, we rush around the place, trying to cram in as many perfect memories as we can into one day. This is great, but it can leave you exhausted and craving peace and quiet. Just taking five minutes alone every morning can make that much difference. Some people call it meditation, but I just see it as grounding myself in my place in the world, acknowledging my own fears and desires, and slowly letting them go. Another way to look at this could be the opposite, essentially. One of the best tips I got from a therapist was to set out a certain time every day where I was allowed to worry and fret as much as I desire. The hard bit, if anxiety were to surface at another time, you have to write it down, remember it for your later worry session, then cast it from your mind. Harder than it sounds.

Make a list

First I have to admit something. I’m a huge fan of lists. On any given day I have several lists I work from, things I want to do, things I need to think about, things I want to stop and appreciate, or even things I just love so damn much. On a bad day my lists can be pretty negative, but on a good day they give me hope and inspire me to be the person I want to be. Having a list will let you get that little bit of routine back into your life, which although I claim to hate, I secretly crave.

The best place to write a list and take a moment, Nerja, Spain
The best place to write a list and take a moment, Nerja, Spain

Plan ahead

Although travelling without a plan is great for some, I personally couldn’t do it. Finding accommodation for my trips is usually the first thing I do, because as well as giving you the best price at the cheapest hostels, it gives you a little sense of security that if all else fails, you’ll have a bed that night. I’ve met people before whilst travelling who never book a bed until they arrive in the town. I could never do that. I would be worrying constantly that I’d be spending yet another night sleeping in an airport. Before I travel I know where I’m staying, what the place is like, how I need to get there, what time the desk is open, and how much every step of the journey will cost me. If I don’t, I probably wouldn’t catch the flight.

Look after yourself

This is an easy one in theory, although a lot harder in practise. Healthy body, healthy mind, so the saying goes. I’ve found it to be true. Even if you can’t, eat well everyday. Even if you can’t, sleep well every night. Even if you can’t, wash everyday, even if it’s only with a wet wipe. If it makes you feel better, put on some make-up, dress up nice, or wear your impractical high heels for a historic town tour. Do what makes you feel most comfortable, nobody is judging you, and if they are, who needs them?

On the flip side, if you need a day in bed, take a day in bed. Don’t feel bad about it, you owe nothing to anyone. On my first day in New Orleans I didn’t get up until 5pm, and then parked myself on the sofa with an aspiring actor for five hours watching NCIS and drinking cheap champagne.

Suffering from anxiety makes everything in life harder. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t explore the world at your own pace, seeking refuge when you need and excitement when you please.

If you’re struggling, there are a lot of resources you can  make use of.

Mind

Headspace

B-eat

Written by Bethany Naylor, who is currently experiencing severe anxiety from the thought of expressing this to the world

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Travel and Home

That first morning, light burst through at a time my body told me it should fade. Thoughts scattered across my eyes, as inconsistent as the light that touched them.

 

We lay intertwined and marvelled at the concept of flying. Home felt close, connected by only a days travel. Familiarity lingered between us as we repeated the comforting words our families had left us with, comfortable vowels and nouns are reshaped and reused. Wrapped in the sheets of our new home.

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Yet at the end of our embrace, the connection drifted. Familiar smells were replaced and goodbye hugs washed away. Soon we were wrapped up, completing the backdrop of our new surroundings. Familiar items we had brought with us became part of the now and the new. A bracelet my Mum had given me before we left clung duly to its previous context. My carry on, so carefully organised for the flight now contained a mixture of biscuit crumbs and books.

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It was scary and yet exciting to step forward into our present. To accept the distance between us and everything we knew. To not cling so violently to the memories of home. To not hope so avidly to see those we missed the most.

We embraced the drift.

Home became the foreign land. It held the tang of excitement, just as New Zealand had before we arrived. Nostalgia twisted memories into perfection. Travel no longer felt like travel. The easy rhythm of our new country felt like home. Being far, was what we had become accustomed to and although at times it stung, overtime the ache dulled. Still, when my guard dropped, sharp memories hit hard like a wave, stopping me, recalling me to home. I learnt to let them slip and glide away. Not cling to them and demand they stay, like the mad king and the sea.

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As time drifted past, friendships blossomed and opportunities arose. I took up offers to explore and to settle. Festivals and future plans in our new home. But as plans stretched on ahead of me, their distance took me by surprise.
“Will you be here next year?” New friends chirped and I choked. I’d reply with a quiet “no” and a vague promise that I might return someday. Just as I settled it was time to start leaving again. I hadn’t planned to enjoy myself this much, to love people this much. We’d planned to arrive, explore and flow on. Collecting experiences, not pain.

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This is where the great contradiction in travel arises. To explore is to stretch yourself thin, building connections and memories everywhere you go. There is always somewhere not here that beckons. There is always the pang of what lies behind and the enthralling excitement of what is to come.

To lurch forward and to reach back. Endlessly longing, in one direction or another.

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Written by Charlotte Greenstock, edited by Bethany Naylor

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City Of Shadows

Every so often in life we all find a person, a place, or an idea, that makes us fall so deep in love we are blinded to all of their faults and shortcomings, creating a picture in our minds of complete perfection. This false ideal is unsustainable and fragile, eventually shattering and more often than not, leaving us broken-hearted and lost. For me, that was place was Barcelona.

Barcelona. One of the most popular tourist destinations in Europe, the home of Gaudi and his brilliant architecture, the capital of Catalonia, and one of the most interesting cities I’ve encountered in Europe. From the wide open beaches of the Barceloneta and the gleaming high buildings of the Port to the rambling cobblestone streets of El Quarto Gótico and the fairy tale gingerbread houses of Parque Güell, the city is full of magic and mysticism. Barcelona is not simply a modern, fun, and vibrant city, it also has a long, mysterious, and incredibly interesting past.

Arc de Triomf
Arc de Triomf

When I first went to Barcelona I was 13 years old. My family stayed in a small flat in the gothic quarter, I remember feeling terrified as we entered through the graffitied and barred door in a dark and silent street. I had just finished reading ‘The Shadow of the Wind’, by Carlos Ruiz Zafon, which to this day remains my favourite book of all time, I reread it at least once a year. The book, set in post civil war Barcelona had ignited a passion for the Spanish culture and history in me and I hold it solely responsible for my degree choice. The four days I spent wandering in this incredible city did not quench the fire inside of me, instead, fed it steadily until I made it a life ambition to live there one day.

The following summer, my family hosted a language student from San Vicente, a town very near Barcelona. We became friends and I visited her once a year for the next four years. Every time, I would spend a few days in Barcelona, simply walking and watching, breathing in the city. My favourite method of seeing a city is to in one direction until I hit a red light, then turn down the available route. The grid system of Barcelona is perfect for this. Forward, Stop, Turn. Forward. Stop Turn. Rinse and repeat until done. Now  you’re in a place you’ve never seen before and have no idea how to get back to where you started. At this point, have a beer and contemplate life, before guessing your direction again, and heading back home. These were the times I lived for. I would spend all year waiting for the next time I could go back, not even thinking about other places because my goal was Barcelona. It still is, in a way.

During my A level studies, my school offered the chance to do a week of work experience in Rosas, a small but beautiful coastal town north of Barcelona. At that time, I was working on a project on Catalonia, essentially a detailed political, cultural and historical assessment of whether Catalonia should be independent. In Rosas I had the chance to interview several of the people I worked with, and the week taught me a lot about the history of Barcelona, embellishing the sheer respect and understanding that Zafón had already instilled in me. It also convinced me that if I wanted to live in Catalonia, I would have to learn Catalan.

Beach front hotels, Rosas, Spain
Beach front hotels, Rosas, Spain

The year after, I went back again. This time with my best friend, to visit my friend in San Vicente, and a girl who had au paired in Bath, and ended up staying at her house in the final weeks. This experience opened me up to a new part of Barcelona, the nightlife, restaurants and shopping which before I had stayed away from.

After a few months of travelling and volunteering in Europe the year after I finished school, my sights turned back to Barcelona. The plan at the time, was that I’d move there in April and work a volunteering job until I have managed to find a stable job and flat, and to remain there the following three years for university. This however, was when my plan began to fall apart. I was travelling with a friend, and we had secured a workaway position in ‘The Hipstel’, a hostel in the centre of Gracia. Our flight from Venice, where we had spent a romantic weekend getting lost in the narrow backstreets, landed at midday. Within an hour, we were on the airport bus into the city centre. The fare had doubled since last time I had been and we found ourselves struggling to find cash for lunch as the heavens opened as we arrived in Plaza Catalunya. Our hostel did not remember us. They had no idea about the dozens of messages we had been sending back and forth, and could not offer us a job. We would later find out that this happened at least once a fortnight.

Plaza Real
Plaza Real

Eventually, we were provided with beds and a job in a partner hostel, two minutes away from Plaza Catalunya. Within a two weeks I was forced to find a second job, as the hostel did not provide food as advertised, and the meagre 30 euro salary a week for 40-50 hours work could not even begin to cover the costs of life in the city. Being a not very unattractive British female, who could speak Spanish, I was offered four interviews within two days and accepted a job offer on the Barceloneta. 70, Carrer de Sevilla. Bar Celoneta. What a wonderful place, what an original name. The increase in income meant we were able to live better now, and my experience there taught me how to make 14 different types of sangria, something which has never been relevant since.

Yet again, this time the city failed me. Finishing work most nights after 2am meant that rather than an easy metro journey, more often than not I had to walk home 40 minutes through the port and up Las Ramblas. Every single night, without fail, I would be harassed by drunk men, usually tourists, who wanted to know ‘what a pretty girl like you’s doing out so late at night.’ It got the point within a couple of weeks that I was so sick of having to bat away the advances of idiots, that I would instead latch onto the closest looking normal person when I left work, and make them walk me home. This, whilst wearing long skirts or jeans and high-necked tops, I can only imagine how bad it would have been were I not dressed so conservatively.

There was one night which convinced me I would never be safe living in the city alone. I was talking to two young men after work one night, I had told them I could speak Spanish earlier on in the night but they had forgotten, and we’re addressing me in poor English. Luckily, this meant that I could easily eavesdrop. That’s the story about how I ran home, after hearing two young men discussing how they would be able to take advantage of me.

A dragon statue in Parque Ciutadella
A dragon statue in Parque Ciutadella

I left Barcelona two years and six months ago, after trying for several months to make it work and being struck down at every attempt. The night I left, £500 worth of valuables were stolen, including every single photo I’d taken travelling. I’ve only been back once since then, for two hours.

Barcelona is a difficult city. There is a darkness which lurks under every doorway, behind every corner. A thick smog of shame and secrecy hangs over the city, a city where so much has happened, and no one ever talks about. I love it, and I hate it all at the same time. I am ashamed that it bested me, and I know that one day I will go back, and that that time it will work.

 

Written by Bethany Naylor

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There’s a story behind it

One of the most common question that those of us with tattoos are asked is -‘Why did you do it?’ Here’s why I did it.

As anyone who travels frequently, either on soul-searching adventures or daily commutes will know, music is the food of the road. How else can you block out the screaming baby behind you, the arguing family on the metro or even the unwanted noise from the bed two feet away? Two hours into my second twelve-hour bus journey in two days, with no phone, no music, and no more books, I began to ponder this question. For the next couple of hours until daylight departed I rambled on in a newly acquired notebook about the subject. Now let me tell you how music is a life saver.

Firstly, finding someone with a shared enthusiasm for your music is one of the quickest ways to form an intimate bond with a stranger. You can never underestimate the importance of this. When you consider your friends at home, there’s a high likelihood that at least some of you have similar tastes in music. The same happens at a gig, you instantly become best friends forever with the people around you due to the combination of good music and alcohol, which is also the atmosphere of a good hostel. There really is no difference travelling.

At a free flamenco evening with my hostel in Seville 2014
At a free flamenco evening with my hostel in Seville 2014

To give an example, I doubt I will ever forget the afternoon I spent driving through the Tuscan Mountains with my couch-surfing host, both singing out hearts out to Gong, a band I had no idea anyone except me and my Dad still listened to. This led to wine filled evening singing and playing Pink Floyd, David Bowie and Guns n’ Roses. (We couldn’t keep up with Gong.) Another one of my best memories from travelling took place in the summer I spent working in Sevilla with my best friend. Ten minutes of conversation led to a six-hour dancing, singing, andguitar night, on the riverside of Triana, which only came to an end when the increasing morning heat reminded us of a flight to catch back home.

P.S The band are called Triana Paraso Fiscales and are getting quite popular. Perhaps I should have accepted that 4am marriage proposal from the cute guitarist

P.P.S Alejandro if you’re reading this, I never forgot you, and as I no longer have EU citizenship…. hit me up.

On a mountain top in Tuscanny with my couchsurfing host in Bologna
On a mountain top in Tuscanny with my couchsurfing host in Bologna

Secondly, I grew up with music. To this day, my favourite bands are still the ones my parents introduced me to. I remember driving through the welsh countryside standing on the back seats, my brothers and my heads sticking out of the open roof of the 2CV watching the convoy of those beautiful but terrible cars stretch out in front of us. ‘Knocking on Heavens Door’ was playing I think, but maybe I made that up, I have been known to have an overactive imagination. After abandoning violin because neither my parents nor I had the patience to put up with the screeching until I got better, I began to play clarinet with the promise that if I got on with it I’d be allowed to learn the saxophone, like my hero Lisa Simpson. (I’ve also tried Veganism, Buddhism and being better than my brother too but it didn’t really work out.) Throughout school, I played in three bands and two choirs, and as soon as I had a job saw live music as often as I could, probably contributing towards my minor case of tinnitus these days. When my saxophone needed to be fixed during my A levels whilst I working towards a still unachieved grade 8, I lost a big part of myself and didn’t really realise for at least a year. It was actually my Grandparents who encouraged me to get back into music in the last year, and I’ll always be grateful to them for that, especially my Grandad, who very recently passed away. He was probably my biggest inspiration musically growing up, always singing and encouraging all his grandkids to practise their instruments. Even a few months ago I remember playing my new saxophone to him over skype, and how proud he looked.

Thirdly, music is really, really cool. In much the same way as taste and smell, important songs, small melodies or even a certain key change can fire us back into the past, as we remember the first time we heard that song on a night out, or when we first kissed our partner to that song so long ago. Every time I listen to the Mary-Anne and the Grave Diggers album by Regina Spektor I am transported to Sri Lanka, staring with excitement and disbelief out of the window as my brother’s head annoyingly hits my shoulder every five minutes as he drops off to sleep for the fiftieth time. I can see the colours, smell the trees and feel the shaking of the bus. Bebe’s ‘Siete Horas’ takes me to Rosas Spain, my first real experience of freedom, when my friend and I realised how much it annoyed another friend so decided to play it as much as possible. When I hear that song I develop a slight hangover. Rudimental’s ‘Feel the Love’ reminds me of my best friend and every great weekend we had over the years in London, pre-drinking and wondering aloud if we’d get served that night. Anything from the Kill Bill soundtrack or Pink Floyd ‘The Wall’ instantly reminds me driving to school with my Dad, whilst Coldplay’s ‘X and Y’ album reminds me of my mum working in her studio and ‘Wires’ by Athlete reminds me of the months after my brother was born fourteen weeks premature.

I will never be able to listen to ‘St Christopher is coming home’ by Frank Turner without remembering that evening in Rome when I realised how much I missed all my old friends. Being on the road a lot is really tough. You leave your friends, family and safety nets behind, any friends you make whilst on the move are usually (but not always) temporary ones, and it can be really hard to feel yourself when no one you’re with knows the real you. Music which reminds you of old and new friends is one of the best ways to feel in touch, even if you really aren’t.

At a free Fado concert in Faro, Portugal
At a free Fado concert in Faro, Portugal

So, as previously said, music is just tops. I love it. I need it. Having said all that, one of the worst things to happen to me travelling also involves music. Now, I’m the type of girl who can barely walk in a straight line without some kind of beat to keep moving, and the selection of music on my (already cracked and therefore worthless) IPod was a collection I’d spend 6 years building up. Through no-ones fault but my own inability to wake up even during an earthquake, one early dawn my IPod, camera and laptop were stolen out of our tent near Barcelona. Three months of travel photos and 6 years of music, gone. I hate to admit it, but that really threw me. Due to spend the next month walking through mountains and fields, how would I cope without music? Well as it turned out, I treated my (very understanding and very gentle with criticism) travel buddy to 40 days and 40 nights of Broadway renditions.

It wasn’t until three months later walking across a bridge in Rome, after a couple of months of disillusionment and confusion, when I realised what I had been missing. Singing along to ‘Jet Lag’ by Frank Turner and having the wobbly moment about travel and leaving people behind that the song induces, I suddenly felt a complete peace. I worked out that I had barely been listening to or doing any music, explaining my feelings of loss. I think it was maybe 2 days later that I got my first tattoo, a small heart on my wrist made up of a treble and bass clef. In doing this, I conquered three of my biggest fears.

Not a single regret 2 years later
Not a single regret 2 years later

 

1) Wrists. I’m not sure how normal this is, but I can’t stand wrists. I think they’re fragile points of weakness in otherwise well-designed bodies. Veins? Don’t get me started. They are definitely not something which should be visible, let alone raised! However, rather than beginning to shake and hyperventilate when the sweet talking Italian begin to gently sterilise my wrist, I pushed through, even watching him work the design into my skin. I only got lightheaded once, despite his clever little joke about this being his first tattoo as well when I told him it was mine.

2) Permanence. From Ice cream flavours and pen colours to degree choices and relationships, I think it’s fair to say I’m not the greatest at making decisions, although some people wouldperhaps phrase that with stronger words. More often than not I’m the one who still hasn’t decided when the waiter comes and ends up just ordering the first thing they see when they look down. Important decisions have been struggled over for months, only to inevitably be decided through a coin toss, game of darts or on my better days, a long page of pros and cons. To choose my degree, I applied for five completely different courses at five completely different Universities and then just went with a prettiest campus when the day came. (Spoiler Alert: I dropped off that course after a week.) Sometimes the decisions you make in a rush don’t ruin your life forever, hard to believe I know.

3) Losing my music. I can’t imagine that I’ll ever stop wanting to make music again, but it has happened before and I didn’t expect it then. This is a reminder that music makes me happier, stronger and more creative. It’s hard to describe the rush when an audience breaks into applause in a huge auditorium, whilst you are all standing there trying to recover from what just happened. In typing up this article I’ve realised that the worst thing that could ever happen to me would be sudden onset deafness.

Tattoos, although certainly becoming more popular these days especially amongst the younger crowd, are still not entirely accepted. When it’s pointed out to me that ‘tattoos need to mean something, nothing is so important to be marked permanently on my skin’, I tell them how music has made me who I am today and that without it I would be lost. Every day I have a reminder that life always looks better when you give it a soundtrack.

 

Written and edited by Beth Naylor

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