So you’re going travelling? Travelling alone? As a female? Isn’t that dangerous? Will you be safe? Are you sure you want to do that?
YES, YES, YES, NO, YES, YES
I’m sure we’ve all heard one of those questions, if not all of them at one point or another. I know I heard all six, and I still hear them now when people from home find out I’m travelling.
Here are some helpful tips, that have definitely helped me along the way
KEEP YOUR WITS ABOUT YOU
I’m not telling you to be terrified and trust nobody, but be vigilant. Just because you’re abroad and acting like a holiday, it doesn’t mean you’re invincible. When I go to a foreign country, especially alone, I write down the local emergency numbers and local words that can help you in you get lost or injured.
THINK, DRESS AND ACT LIKE A LOCAL
If you’re travelling to South India, make sure you cover your shoulders, chest and knees. If you’re entering a mosque, cover your hair. This really helps if you want to blend in, and avoid the unwanted stares and attention. A lot of the time when you travel you don’t want to look like a tourist, blending in with their clothes etc will definitely help you fit in more.
ARRIVE AT YOUR LOCATION BEFORE NIGHTFALL
This one is mainly for locations like Asia, but not limited to. Getting off the coach in the dead of night on an unlit road with no internet on your phone probably isn’t the safest. I personally always book flights/coaches where I know I’ll be arriving in the day time. Or at least know someone is picking me up from the other end safely.
DON’T BE SCARED ABOUT BEING ALONE
Solo travelling doesn’t mean you’re going to be alone. Whether you’re in a 16 bed dorm or camping on Fraser Island, you’re pretty much always surrounded by people. My mums biggests fear before I started travelling was that I would be alone constantly and that would be dangerous. I don’t think there has been a day where I’ve been completely alone unless out of choice.
TELL SOMEONE ABOUT YOUR TRAVEL PLANS
Before you venture off into the Amazon Rainforest, tell someone, maybe some back home, where you’re going and the rough amount you’ll be gone for. That way, if no one here’s from you, then they can give a rough location of where you were last seen. I know a lot of people like to be care-free and separated from home, but sometimes that isn’t a good idea.
TRUST YOUR GUT
If you feel that something doesn’t seem right, then you’re probably right. If you ever feel uncomfortable in a situation, don’t feel nervous to leave or speak up. Travelling alone can be daunting sometimes, but it doesn’t mean you have to be scared. Don’t leave you luggage unattended, and don’t be too trusting of everyone. Not everybody you meet is going to have good intentions.
ENJOY YOURSELF BUT DON’T GO TOO WILD
This one probably makes me sound like a party pooper, trust me, I’m not trying to be. I’ve seen too many occasions where girls (and guys) drink way too much and end up in sticky situations. Yes have a drink, enjoy yourself, but know your limits, especially when you’re in an unfamiliar foreign country.
But at the end of the day, enjoy yourself. Travelling alone is one of the best decisions I have ever made.
the post where I apologise for being crap at blogging..
Hello, I’m back *hides face in shame*
The whole point of this blog was to document my travelling. Well I’ve been travelling for 5 months now and I’ve made precisely 0 blog posts. Zero, nothing, nought, none.
I know I know, terrible. But I do have an explanation, well more of an excuse really.
I’m new to this whole travelling malarkey. It was my first time in a hostel, and to be truthfully honest I have no clue what I was doing whatsoever. As you can imagine, flying 24 hours around the world by yourself, landing in a brand new continent can be pretty overwhelming. I did plan to blog, but yeah, that didn’t happen.
Well enough of me trying to justify my actions, I will now try and get into what I was going to say.
WHERE HAVE I BEEN?
So on the 29th November 2016 I left raining Cheltenham to flew to Australia. I landed in Meblourne on the 1st December at 7:30am, and I had no idea where the hell I was. Since then I have travelled Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland. I’m not going to go into too much detail here as I am (hopefully) going to make individual blog posts on some of my adventures up the East Coast.
Brace yourselves people, this is where it gets good. I have made a friend here (I know, exciting), and when my visa expires in December, we are going travelling and she is coming back to England with me. Hopefully by then I would’ve worked out how to hostel and blog at the same time, and I won’t leave it 5 months until you hear from me again.
But yes.. that was the reason for my blog post today. So people (mainly my mum) know I’m alive and well, and just merely go so side tracked with life that blogging wasn’t something that came to mind *I did try and do vlogmas, got to day 5 and realised I can’t vlog*
In order for this blog to work I really do need to try and jazz it up a bit, you know make it all fancy so people think I’m a professional (fingers crossed anyway).
Birth. School. School. College. University. Job. Marriage. Children. Retire. Die
Where in that list do you get time to travel? Do you skip University, not get a job, don’t have children? Or can you still do all of those and travel?
So far I have done birth, school, school, college, job, travel.. and now planning more travelling, having deferred university twice. This probably isn’t the most standard route, but it seems to be a lot more common nowadays. Young adults, in their late teens early 20s are going on the ‘gap yah’ before University. A lot of people say this is the only time you get to travel before you settle down with your life and get tied into too many commitments to actually ‘live’.
I remember being at sixth form and turning up to one of those sessions where lecturers come in from Universities and try and sell it to you. I remember walking out of the hall after, turning to my Head of Sixth Form and telling him that I won’t be applying to Uni.I remember he made me write a personal statement, a personal statement that had no life or drive in because frankly I had no passion for Uni. I remember after results I panicked that I would have no career, so I applied through clearing and go accepted onto a Criminology and Psychology course (even though I knew I didn’t want to do that as a career). And finally, I remember deferring that place two days later, and the year after, because I realised that Uni is for everyone, but the world is.
So now I’m sat in my living room, having worked in insurance for a year and a half, quitting that job to volunteer in India for 3 months, and now I’m thinking what to do next. After getting back from India I had numerous people asking me, ‘so which Uni are you going to in September?’. They were shocked and very often confused when I replied, ‘no I’m not going to Uni.’ A lightbulb would soon click and they would then proclaim, ‘oh, so you have a good job lined up?’. Again, ‘no, no job lined up.’ You would then see their face register that I was going to be a bum, on the dole, lay about or simply a dosser.
Finally I would tell them about my plans to travel the world, to which they would scoff and joke about me going on a ‘gap yah’.
‘So what are your plans when you return?’
‘I don’t know..’
‘What career are you going to do?
‘I don’t know..’
‘Are you going to go to Uni after?’
‘I don’t know..’
‘What do you mean you don’t know?’
‘I just don’t know..’
But I think that is the beauty of it, I DON’T KNOW. I’m 21 years old, am I really meant to know what I want to do with my life? I’ve heard numerous stories of people who do years at University to be a doctor, they complete all the relevant exams, do all the relevant training, have a year in the profession, and then they realise they actually want to be a stand up comedian and they rushed into what they thought was the right thing to do.
I’m 21 for goodness sake. I want to see the world, experience new things, live a life of adventure and wonder. Yes, that might not be the ideal life for everyone. I understand a lot of people go to University straight after school, get their degree, go into their desired profession, and stay there until they retire, absolutely loving it. Kudos to them. But that’s not me, and as far into the future as I can see, that won’t ever be me.
So yes, to everyone who is asking, I am off on my gap yah to galavant around the world, with no true goal in sight. I want to see the Taj Mahal, the Great Barrier Reef and Machu Picchu. I want to reach base camp of Everest and walk The Great Wall of China. I want to lie beneath the stars of the Australian outback and the Aurora Borealis of Iceland, with no real aim and journey planned.
To me, that is my life. One day I will settle, or return to where I am now. Hell I may be back in two months, but maybe, just maybe, I will never come back. I may go to Jordan or Japan and realise this is where I should be my whole life.
But until then, I will step on that plane next month, and say goodbye to Cheltenham and hello to Melbourne. The rest of my life starts then, and I cannot bloody wait.
“Hello mum, I do not want you to panic, but I am having emergency surgery tomorrow morning!”
That is the last thing any parent would want to hear from their child when they are abroad in a foreign country. That is exactly what my mum had to hear on the 17th June 2016 when my appendix burst in rural India.
*warning : this post is going to get very graphic*
As you may have seen from my previous post, I have just returned from three months in Tamil Nadu, India, where I was volunteering with Restless Development, ICS. For the first 4 weeks I was there, I was absolutely fine. I was actually one of the only people to not have experienced number 7 on the Bristol Stool Scale.. but then it all went down hill.
On the morning of the 6th June, I woke at 2am with the sudden feeling of sickness, and to be truthfully honest, I knew the shits were coming. I was lucky that in our host home we had a western toilet, so I rushed in there, and *warning here comes the graphic part* it came out both ends. Four times that night/morning I was up and in the bathroom crying as I pooped.
I stayed off work the next day, which was a massive shame because it was World Environmental Day and our team were planting trees at the local Government High School. That night it again was a repeat of the night before, and I felt like absolute death.
On our Restless placements we have a kind of rule that says if you are being sick or doing a number 7 for two days then they’ll take you to the doctors. I had the most painful stomach cramps at this stage, and I was convinced it was my appendix. So on Tuesday 7th June I ventured from the village to Thiruvallur town on the bus to go to a local hospital. It was pleasant enough, and they gave me an injection in my bottom which made me feel 100x times better straight away. A doctor insisted that I have an ultrasound scan to see what was wrong with me. Slight issue, they wanted me to have a full bladder for the scan, and I couldn’t keep anything down. Long story short, I drank 4 litres of water, and threw up about 3 litres of pure water in the hospital corridor.
3 attempts at an ultrasound scan later and the doctor concluded it was not my appendix, but it was in fact colitis, an inflammation of the colon. Suddenly I started feeling really ill again, and I’m not sure if I was fainting, or if I kept falling asleep sitting up. Either way this happened in the hospital waiting room as I was waiting for my medication, at the bus stop where I had to wait an hour and a half for the bus home, and also on the bus, where I always threw up into a bag which had to be chucked out the window.
However, when I woke up the next day I felt a lot better. I ventured to our youth centre after lunch, and for the next couple of days the pain went away and I actually started pooping normally again. Let’s not get too ahead of ourselves though. From the beginning of this post we all know it doesn’t end here.
By the following Monday, when my medication had finished, I was starting to feel bad again. The pain in my stomach was now just on the right *major red flag*, and the code brown was back. I was still convinced it was my appendix, but I didn’t want to sound like a hypochondriac, so I tried to lay off the spicy foods, which is quite hard to do when you’re living in rural India.
I remember this day perfectly, it was the night England beat Wales in the Euro’s, and it was the only time we actually watched the tiny combi television our host family had. I went to bed mid way through the match with the host horrendous stomach cramp which I put down to constipation because code brown had changed to code nothing is moving at all. My stomach was so swollen, I thought it was just bloating, and I looked about 4 months pregnant.
2:30am I woke it the most excrutiating pain (I later found out this is the moment my appendix burst) and I couldn’t sleep for about 2 hours. Eventually I either fell asleep, or passed out, who knows. I woke up the next morning, and the pain had completely gone. Eager not to miss anymore time out of work, I went to one of our schools to do a session with the children. Mid way through, it all went down hill. The pain hadn’t come back, but I felt weak and I nearly passed out on top of the children. Back to hospital I go.
2 hours later the taxi finally arrived and I was off to a different hospital in Thiruvallur town. This time I was put on a drip and left in a room by myself for 30 minutes, and again I straight away felt a lot better. The hospital recommended I have a CT scan, but they said they weren’t able to do it until the next day.
After two not great experiences at the local hospitals, I told my team leader I wanted to have the CT scan at the city hospital, Sri Ramachandra in Chennai. It was a 2 hour taxi ride, but I knew it would be worth it. The second I arrived the next day I was taken into the surgeons consultant room and he straight away was convinced it was my appendix. I was whisked straight up to the International ward, where I was told the terrible news that my visa didn’t cover me for surgery. I was finally in hospital, but now I was being told to go away so my Indian team leader could go to the embassy and get a emergency medical extension on my visa before any tests or surgery could be done
Luckily our charity had an office in Chennai, so I ended up going there for 3 hours whilst I hoped and prayed my visa would get extended. Whoo it did, and I was back to hospital. After 8 capsules of blood, 2 failed attempts at inserting an IV and a CT scan later, I was told my appendix had been burst for 2 days and I was having emergency surgery at 6:30am the
Jump back to the beginning of my blog post – “Hello mum, I do not want you to panic, but I am having emergency surgery tomorrow morning!”
As you can imagine, before I even finished the sentence she was in tears and trying to book the next flight out to India. Thank god I convinced her against this idea. She can barely cope in a city like Birmingham, let alone the crazy city of Chennai. At this point I was led in bed with drugs getting pumped into me to stop the spread of the infection that was probably racing it’s way through my body.
The time for the surgery had arrived. I woke up in a pile of my own sweat, to a nurse giving me a bed bath with a baby wipe. School girls in India have their hair done in tied plaits, and the nurse insisted on doing this for me as another washed me.. lovely. It’s strange, but I wasn’t actually nervous about the surgery, I was more nervous about the needle in the IV line, and that was over and done with now.
The recovery room was probably the highlight of my surgery. Every time I blinked 10 minutes passed, and when I looked up there were different people hovering over me. The only thought that was running through my head was how numb my bum was. Every time I woke up I kept trying to wiggle around to stop it from cramping, but I kept drifting off again.
Next thing I know I was being wheeled back to my room and this is when I started to properly come round. For some reason the doctors were convinced my name was my surname, so no one called me Courtney the whole time I was in hospital. I arrived in my room to find my team leader, and three other remembers of the Restless Development staff eagerly waiting for me.
Shortly later I found out I was in surgery a lot longer than expected, and they nearly had to open me up further due to all the pus that had been collected from the burst. Luckily they were able to operate through keyhole surgery and my surgeon thinks the scars will be gone in around 8 months! The surgery was a success, apart from the fact I had E-Coli poisoning from the pus and a really painful shoulder from the medication.
There was definitely perks though of having the surgery. I had an extremely comfortable bed, Western food on demand, a flat screen TV, no cockroaches or mosquitos, and air conditioning.
Surprisingly the recovery time was really quickly. I was up and about the next day, and by day 3 I had the draining tube from my side removed *graphic moment* it looked like Sex on the Beach, blood and pus.. sorry if I’ve ruined that drink for you now.
After 4 nights in an Indian hospital, I was finally released back into the wild. It had already been arranged that our Mid Placement training in Pondicherry was on Thursday, so instead of me going back to the village I was allowed to stay at the Chennai office with another volunteer for the two nights beforehand.
Within a week all the bandages were removed, and I was fully mobile, my eating was back to normal (without extreme spice) and I was back at work again.
I’m not really sure if there is a moral to this story, but what I am going to say is, if you do think you are ill, especially abroad, do get a second opinion, because I was left for nearly two weeks with an appendicitis, which could have sent me into septic shock, or probably even death if it had been left untreated for another 48 hours. I’m not saying it was India that made me ill, because even if I was home back in the UK it is likely my appendix still would have burst. I understand that sometimes the good hospitals are far away, mine was a 2 hour car journey, but it’s worth it in the end. If I hadn’t gone that day, my surgeon said another two days and I would’ve been unconscious with major complications.
I would like to thank the medical professionals and all the staff as Sri Ramachandra Hospital in Chennai (Madras), who saved my life and cared for me throughout my whole stay. If it wasn’t for you, I probably wouldn’t be here today. Thank you.