Why I hate New Year's Eve

I wonder what the ratio of "I hate New Year" to "I love New Year" blog posts is.  I reckon both will be as common as sand at a beach around this time of year.  I find it a time of year that it is impossible to be ambivalent about.  Personally I dont go in for New Year's resolutions.  I find them a bit like declarations of love on Valentine's Day, the fact that we are "supposed" to make them renders them meaningless.  And who is actually going to keep a meaningless resolution!  

That said, New Year definitely makes me re-evaluate my life, and so I can see that spontaneous resolutions from that introspection might actually be more genuine.

There is also a benefit in stating ones goals to the world in that it makes you accountable (and hopefully therefore more motivated to achieve them).  Obviously the more concrete these goals are the better, though not all desires can necessarily be most accurately captured using measurable targets. 

So...my goals for 2011 are...

  1. Buy a van
  2. Begin the conversion
  3. Finish my Cognitive Psychology module without going insane
Hopefully none of those will prove too challenging.  I feel like there should be some additional goals on there, some which are more inspirational and demanding.  But that's a feeling I have about my life in general, and like I said, I dont do New Year's resolutions!  I find New Year the worst time of the year.  Partly because there is so little daylight and the whole world seems cold and grey.  Partly because it makes me think about the previous year, the mistakes I have made, and how far I am from where I would like to be in my life.  This year I have made a lot of mistakes.  Far too many.  Maybe goal number 4 should be to stop making mistakes.  If only that were achievable.  It would be nice to be one of those people who see New Year as a fresh start, a clean slate, a new opportunity.  Unfortunately I am not so good at releasing my hold on the past.

Sally fell yesterday and hurt her shoulder.  For the first time, she looked old, frail and horrifyingly mortal to me.  I cannot imagine life without that dog, it isnt a reality I want to face.

The joys of Christmas

Highlight of Christmas 2010...not quite what I expected if Im honest.  I was retuning my Grandma's Freeview box so that she could get Radio 4 to listen to The Archers...as she is about as technologically able as a blind ferret on acid - so I was trying to help her out.  Anyway I ran the autoscanner thing which brought up a list of all the new channels it found.  Grandma was watching intently to see if we had found Radio 4 yet, and this is how the conversation went...

Grandma -    "From where I'm sitting, it looks like that says 'ADULT Filth'!"

Me -               "That's because it does..."

...long pause...

Grandma -    "What's 'Gay Rabbit'?"

Me -               "......................................................................................................................................"

Priceless :)

The power of the human mind

The power of the placebo effect has intrigued me for some time.  As part of my Psychology studies I learnt about an (ethically dubious) experiment where they operated on people and told them they had had heart surgery, when in fact they had no procedure at all asides from the creation of an incision wound so the surgery would be believable.  In the first 6 months after the operations, they experienced as much benefits as those who had actually had the heart operation performed.  All those benefits were brought about through the expectations of the effects of surgery.  Wow.  How amazing is that.

On Wednesday, after a very long and traumatic hospital visit, I was given a new drug for my bad skin.  Now I have been on antibiotics for this for about 2 years now, and these had no effects either on my skin or my psyche.  But this new drug is a lot more powerful, and comes with an A4 book of side effects.  Now usually with the little leaflet of terrible side effects, I just flick through it and ignore most of them.  But as this one's side effects were worthy of an A4 booklet - I read them properly.  And got terrified.  I was really nervous about taking this drug, and sure enough, in less time than the drug could possibly have had all these effects, I was feeling sick, achey all over, my eyes and skin were dry and I had a headache.  Again, all through the power of expectation.

It makes me wonder - how far do these miraculous effects of expectation stretch beyond the physical, internal environment and into the wider aspects of our lives.  I mean we all know that we influence what happens to us through our attitude to a certain extent, but are we prepared to accept that what we expect actually determines the outcome.  What amazing things could we achieve using our minds when we expect good things to happen to us.  And how many times do we attain a worse outcome for ourselves by expecting only the negative.  I guess the moral of the story is, we all could use a little more faith in ourselves sometimes.

Mmmm its eclipse time...

I saw the lunar eclipse today.  It was very cool.  The moon looked spherical instead of flat like usual.  Almost as if you could reach out and touch it.  Its funny how you get so used to seeing things in an entirely different dimension to how they really are.  I suspect a lot of things in life are just waiting for you to see them in their true dimension.  There is a definite magic in seeing the ordinary in a new and extraordinary way.

Anyway, the lunar eclipse reminded me of the last time I saw an eclipse.  It was the solar eclipse in 1999, I was 11.  My mum, grandparents, Aunt Jane and I all went down to Cornwall and stayed in a big static caravan up the top of a big hill.  The eclipse was amazing, and I saw the Red Arrows for the first time as well.  I remember wearing those ridiculous glasses things and being not allowed to look at the eclipse for too long.  I thought it was kind of silly that we had come all the way to see something that I wasnt even allowed to look at properly.  I remember long hot summer days, ice creams, and paddling in the freezing English sea.

Some days I miss being a kid, when the only responsibility you had was not to scorch your eyes out by gazing at the sun for too long :)

What it means to lose someone

My grandad recently passed away, he has left a hole in all our lives.  My grandparents were married for 57 years, the thought of even getting married terrifies me.  Growing and maintaining a love that lasts for 57 years is an incredible achievement which I am totally in awe of.  But even more unimaginable to me is how it must feel to lose that person after so long.  So much love, so many memories, so much time, so much of you that is tied up in them.  I cant imagine that your life would ever feel the same again.  And yet, to have something that is so precious must be worth the pain of losing it ten thousand times over.

I honestly believe that a lifetime of love is all we really desire.  We may deny it, reject it, hide from it...but it doesnt change how much we need it.  We can surround ourselves with other worldy objects or emotions, but it is the transcendent nature of pure love that we hunger for.  It is only necessarily to momentarily detach ourselves from the incessant clamour that is our everyday consumer-driven lives to realise what it is we truly need.

My biggest regret is that I didnt learn this lesson a little sooner.  Even with the beautiful and simple example of my grandparent's marriage right in front of me, I still couldnt see how important it is to strive for a lifetime of love.  As usual, I insist upon making my own mistakes though... one day I might even learn my lesson... who knows!

"You have no idea how hard it is to live out a great romance." ~Wallis Simpson

How to cheat death...or how not to go hiking in Cappadocia

Due to the arrival of the coursebooks for my next Psychology module, I am totally lacking in any form of goal-directed motivation or life-loving inspiration.  So instead of even attempting to look to the future or evaluate the present I am going to tell a story from the past today.

While I was in Turkey I was fortunate enough to visit the stunning region of Cappadocia - where there are loads of great but very confusing hiking trails for you to explore the gorgeous valleys on.  Downside is that not one of the trails is that well signed, and the map that the tourist info people can give you is only really good for helping you to work out which direction you should be vaguely attempting to find a path for.  That said I successfully managed to find me way both in and out of Rose Valley and Love Valley in about 3 hours - so was feeling pretty good about things when I hit Red Valley.

Having walked a really long way up a dry river bed into Red Valley (the valley in front of the far away hill in the photo), I ended up pretty high up on a plateau.  I kind of wanted to come back down into Goreme now as I had a bus to catch - but couldnt see any way down off this plateau that was anything remotely resembling safe except the way I had come.  And I have this thing about never going back - so I really wanted to find another way.  In the end I decided I would follow the massive "Exit" arrow painted onto the wall on the cliff behind me, even though I didnt really want to gain any more height and was kind of concerned that this route would be taking me away from Goreme.  But...I foolishly thought to myself - how bad can the waymarked exit from this valley really be!

I guess when I reached the sign and saw that I had to climb up these footholes carved into the vertical rock that I should have realised that it was probably a bad idea.  But I figured that as this was the signed route it would be ok - maybe once I had climbed the rock footholds it would be flat from there....wrong.  Very wrong.  So I climbed up the cliff - which was a little awkward but not too bad really, though I realised when I got too high up to go back that coming back down it would be a lot more difficult!  And then I looked down the other side, to see that this nicely signed route had led me to what literally looked like a death chute.  If I had been in a water park looking at a slide that narrow and at that angle I would have been scared!  But no, this was not a nice smiley plastic chute, this was a slippery smooth sandstone channel barely wider than my hips plummeting steeply down with no hint of when or where it might end.

So being the stubborn idiot that I am, I set off down the death chutes in a kind of spider pose like the Ninja Warrior guys use on the Jumping Spider obstacle.  Please note that I am not some muscle-bound crazy person who is used to such stunts so this was terrifying and also kind of impossible!  Obviously I did eventually make it down the twisting spiralling abyss to safe ground - but not without getting everything I was wearing covered in red mud and my entire body covered in grazes and bruises.  Also I was a nervous wreck - as the whole way down I was painfully aware of easily I could break an ankle or worse..and how long it was likely to be before anyone else came through that way to find me!  
And then to top it all off, on the way back to Goreme I met some old guy who proceeded to grope me and make me feel really uncomfortable.  And it was freezing cold! Not the best day of the trip, but definitely one to remember...

What did I learn from this experience then...well hiking in Cappadocia is TOTALLY worth the death risk - it is quite possibly the most awe-inspiring landscape I have ever seen in my life.  But also thatas usual my mother is right, you really should never go up something that you cant come back down - as the grass may not be greener on the other side!


This week I have been learning a lot... I have learnt the various things I will need to do to my van to store it while tryingto avoid letting it end up like the bus I went on in Tanzania in the picture.  This is my list:

put something in to soak up moisture
open windows a little
HVAC system off
warm up right before storage
oil change (right before)
filter change
antifreeze change
power steering fluid change
transmission fluid change
brake fluid change
remove battery
fill with fresh fuel
add fuel preservative
tyres at right pressures
lift at outermoist points of suspension
insulate garage floor
add antifreeze to cooling system
coat engine metal with lubricant
lubricate distributor contact points
wash and wax
Remove wiper blades and wrap wiper arms
Oil spark plug cylinders
Spark plug antiseize lubricant
handbrake off
lube hoses with rubber protectant
drain radiator
detach radiator hoses

I also learnt that even if I want to take the van straight off the road when I get it, I still have to complete the full import process first which kinda sucks.  But in a way it is also good as I means that I can drive the van to get the roof done which will save money.  I also get the peace of mind that it can actually pass an MOT!

I discovered that it is not really much difference in price to get some second hand properly finished furniture board compared to regular unfinished plywood - so that will save me many hours of sanding and varnishing.

And finally I discovered that my van will not fit through the door of the garage.  This is a pretty annoying setback - but I am not giving up on keeping it indoors.  This weekend I will be visiting the local farms to see whether any of them would be kind enough to give me some suitable barn space to put the van in.  I would ideally like to keep it as local as possible so that it is easy for me to work on - but even more important than that is to get a suitable environment for storing it in.

My next set of coursebooks came today.  Its like opening the door to find a letterbomb on the doormat.  Ugh.

People Who Love

Sometimes in this life we meet people who seem inexplicably and magnetically attractive to everyone around them.  Physically they look ok...but nothing special.  They are intelligent...but not geniuses.  Competent...but without incredible talent.  Good personalities...but no outstanding traits.  Funny...but not comedians.  So what is it that makes these essentially average people into individuals that others gravitate too like moths to a flame?

My Psychology studies would point me towards the answer that they possess outstanding social skills.  They are attractive simply because they are so rewarding to interact with.  This might be true up to a point, but the more romantic side of me believes there is more to it than that.  I met one of these rare and wonderful people while I was in Istanbul, and that has brought me back to thinking about this subject.  My conclusion was...these people stand out like an oasis in the desert because they genuinely love people.  Their passion is life and everything in it.  And their passion is so strong that they cannot help but overflow with love for those around them.  I am aware I am at risk of sounding overly sentimental here, but I dont mean the wishy-washy kind of love that is wheeled out at Valentine's Day.  They simply delight in existence, and while you are part of the world in which they find themselves then you are automatically included in that joy.  And I have yet to meet anyone who manages to avoid getting caught up in that emotional connection.

As a Christian we are called to love mankind, and I think that these people who love are the living definition of what this means, regardless of their faith.  Love is not charity, or projects, or good deeds.  Love is the unconditional offering of an emotional bond, and those who can offer it in this form make the world a far better place.

I hope that one day I might become the kind of person who lights up rooms with love.

The picture is me in the vortex tunnel in Edinburgh's Camera Obscura - you can take the coolest light pictures in that thing and the whole centre is well worth a visit if you are in Edinburgh!

Field Report!

I made it (eventually) through snowy England to visit the van on Sunday - it was definitely worth the trip as I am now super inspired!  I have made a few modifications to my design plans based on my visit, and got a few good ideas like having various holes to put the table leg into so you can change its position depending on what you want to use it for.  I am also feeling a lot better about the whole sleeping in the roof idea - that thing is spacious!

So this is my rough draft of my design.  Obviously its not to scale and massively open to influence from the positioning of doors and windows (none of which I will be changing).  I know its a little unorthodox in that I have the kitchen bit at the back - and there may be a good reason why the kitchen is usually in the middle which Im not aware of yet!  But I want to get a seat in sideways if at all possible - and it will feel way more cramped if its opposite the full height cupboards.

Ill probably change all this once I have the van and can measure up etc, but I just wanted to get some ideas down so I dont forget.

I have ordered a vehicle import information pack from the DVLA.  None of the vehicle import companies I have emailed seem keen on answering me, so it looks like I will have to do it myself!  Its a scary thought if Im honest.  As is trying to find decent websites to source European vans from!  The German ebay is the best I have found so far.  Although I would ideally like to buy from Southern Europe so there are less rust issues etc.  Maybe Im just too picky.  Either way, the search continues!

Suddenly the world seems such a perfect place...

Floss dog in the snow :)
I often wonder why my emotional state is so bound up with the state of the weather.  But days like today make me so happy that I am made that way.  Today was the first snow day of this winter.  We had a completely unexpected 1.5 inches of snow overnight.  I am not one of those snow haters, and snow is sufficiently rare around here that every time we get some I am still so crazily excited by it.

I love the feeling of opening the curtains in the morning and feeling that hit of delight like a child at Christmas.  I love the sound of the fresh powdery snow crunching under your feet. I love how different everything looks, its like everything is interesting again.  Everything is new.  Everything is worth a second glance.  I love how my dogs are filled with the infectious pure joy of existence.  And most of all I love the light, how bright and clean and dazzling the world suddenly becomes.
Snow rekindles my love for England.  And it rekindles my hope like nothing else.  It makes winter a little more bearable.  The picture is of my other dog Floss, who acts like an innocent excited puppy in the snow despite the fact that she is an elderly and quite neurotic rescue dog.  On the downside - it may completely screw up my plans for visiting this van tomorrow.

Research Research Research!

I have been doing a LOT of van research recently.  Mainly because I am one of those sad individuals who like to completely overkill in the planning phase for projects.  Also because I actually know nothing...so any research has to be a good thing right!

So I have been reading, and googling, and thinking, and doing more googling, and MORE googling!  And this is my wish list so far:

For the van - I am looking for a VW T4 diesel for about £2000.  Trouble is I REALLY want a LHD, and they are not exactly easy to find.  Next step is to look into getting one imported.

And inside...

  • Pop-up roof - this is going to cost me about another £2000 which I hate.  But I really think its worth it as I can sleep up there and standing space will make the van a lot more livable in
  • Swivel seats - apparently to fit these to the Transporter you have to detach the handbrake and shorten the handbrake cable.  Boo hiss.  I might just do the passenger side if this proves to be too tricky or too expensive
  • Electrics - power points and lights.  I know nothing (and I mean NOTHING) about electrics...so I am really dreading this part.
  • Gas cooker.  I think I will probably just try and fit a camping stove rather than a real kitchen type one.  But I havent looked into the feasibility of this yet.
  • Cupboardy type stuff.  I want to get a secret compartment with a safe in made to put valuable stuff in.  Also need storage compartments for water containers and gas cylinder
  • Insulation - apparently you need to insulate the walls and the floor.  I think I will just do some kind of vinyl floor covering once the insulation is down

And what have I decided Im not having...heating, air con (which I will most likely live to regret), a sink & water pump combo ...and some other stuff I cant think of right now.

So whats next?  Well more research for one!  And this weekend I am going to look at a done out T4 camper - to steal ideas on layout and get a feel for what it is like to drive etc.  Im hoping Im going to love it.  I might go and look at a few to get as many ideas as possible.

And keep looking for "The One" - the sooner I can get it safely into my garage the better!  I am psyched to start work (and also terrified)

A Rave Review

I have decided not to do a full kitlist from my recent Greece & Turkey trip (and yes I know I said I would) for the following reasons:
  1. I have unpacked...and I dont remember what I packed.
  2. My selection of gear is not based on it being the "best" or even necessarily the "best deal" - so I dont feel competent to preach about what people should be using.
So how do I select my gear then?  Well I believe there is a healthy balance that you can attain between quality and cost.  While I am on a very tight budget - I dont think you should necessarily buy the cheapest item you can find on the market if it means you are sacrificing on quality.  My number one requirement is that an item does what I want it to do - and that is prioritised over cheapness.  There is also the time factor to consider, just because I know I can find a better deal elsewhere doesn't mean I can always justify the additional time it will take me to find it.  So basically  I look for the best compromise between a quality, cheap and readily available purchase that comes as close to my requirements as I can find.  And my top tip - do your research so you know exactly what you require.

And the rewards of careful shopping?  Well...you end up with an amazing incredible wonderful product like Vibram Five Fingers (I have the KSO in black) at 20% of the retail price.  Good deal, great product.  I literally cannot recommend these shoes enough - if I didnt live somewhere so cold and wet I would literally wear them every day of my life.  They are super comfortable, your feet feel fresh and unrestricted in them and they are actually the best conversation starting item I have ever possessed.  By miles.  These things bring people joy!  They are super versatile, from boat trips on the Bosphorus to wandering the marble streets of Athens to hiking down death-defying vertical rock faces in Goreme they never let me down (which is just as well or I wouldn't be here!) Downsides - if there is water on the ground your feet WILL get wet.  And they do smell.  Which sucks.  But they are washable so all is not lost.  And no disadvantage can ever outweigh the indescribably natural way of movement and intense connectivity with your surroundings that they provide.  I love them.  

Putting my trainers on to go back to work was truly painful.  I miss my silly shoes!

I got some frogs for my tropical fish tank the other day.  They are super cute and they are doing a great job of distracting me from my grandad's funeral which is on Monday.

To Amsterdam And Back?

I got a letter from the source of evil that is my bank offering a free cruise ticket to Amsterdam if I go and sit through some stuffy stifling meeting with some vapid vampiric salesman trying to squeeze me for every last penny I possess.  This is pretty tempting - as I need to go and have such a meeting anyway.

And even though the free ticket would actually save me very little money - it still feels like a good idea.  I have looked into this cruise company before...been like "oh yeh thats pretty cheap I should do that" and done absolutely nothing about it.  But if I had a free ticket...I'm damned sure I'd go.  I hate that I'm like that - incapable of making myself get out there and do things that I would do without a second thought if I only had a little incentive.

But this is me...and I would like to see Amsterdam!  Think I might go pay a visit to a certain bank tomorrow

I put a load of my holiday photos up...enjoy.  And I found a blog design I like better.  Its still not quite right though.

The most beautiful sound

I am back. I miss Istanbul.  I miss the smells, I miss the light, I miss the energy, but most of all I miss the sound.  The sound of the call to prayer.  To me, even though I am a Western Christian - this is the most beautiful sound in the world.  It fills my mind with peace and soothes my soul like a summer's day, a starlit sky, a lover's touch.  All that is still good and pure and timeless about humanity is reflected in that sound.

I love it.  It is one of my requirements for my future "home".

I am not glad to be back.  There is death in the air.  Sitting down to write was an effort today.

The Geography of Bliss

Have finished my holiday reading material...which is bad as its not the end of the trip yet...but good as it proves its a great book.  Recommended by the guru on all things that is Tynan, The Geography of Bliss is a superb travel book by journalist Eric Weiner.  The basic premise of the book is that he visits countries that are supposedly extremely happy and those which are unhappy in order to try and establish the common factors necessary for happiness.  I wont spoil the book so I wont tell you what he finds, but it is a witty and incredibly readable different take on an old theme.  Definitely worth a read.  Got a few strange looks and attracted a stalker for laughing out loud at the book in Ankara train station...but thats another story!

Anyway he went through all the standard ideas about happiness being related to family, community, trust, money as well as some more interesting ones like and expecting to fail.  However one of my key ideas about happiness wasnt mentioned in the book - which actually really surprised me.  To me, the basic prerequisite for happiness is acceptance.  All the other contributing factors are meaningless without it.  Which is why not all rich people are happy...although money is a contributing factor to happiness.  They may be rich but they still do not accept their lives. 

And by acceptance I dont mean you should expect the worse and let people walk all over you.  Its more an attitude of living in the present and accepting life as a gift without any other desires or requirements from it.  Happiness is not having the perfect life...it is seeing your life as perfect just because it is yours. 

Hmm...actually I guess my view is kind of similar to Eric's Thailand chapter...Happiness is Not Thinking.  Maybe I should make Thailand my next stop - I guess I might fit in well there.

Today Im kicking back in Athens waiting for my Mum to arrive tomorrow.  Didnt get a Greece stamp in my passport...gutted!

This post is in the 61st
Book Review Blog Carnival

Published at Her Ladyship's Quest

On Turkish Travels and Time

I am glad to get out of Istanbul.  It is a great city, but it requires more energy than I can muster right now.  I have successfully managed to save myself 2 days and 2 nights accommodation expense by night bus-sing it to Ephesus and Goreme - which coincidentally are both incredible places which should be on anybody's Must See list.

But this retrieved time has given me more space to think than perhaps I would like.  I believe that too much education is not good for your wellbeing...it is indeed possible to know too much.  Like with my Psychology degree - the more I learn the more I despair in the Psychology profession and in humanity itself.  So logically - does that mean the more I travel and "learn" about the world, the more restless and unsatisfied I will become?  When education is new it is good.  But not any more.  Will it be the same with travel?  Once it gets old will it just be an unstoppable path of unnecessary damage to my psyche? Is it in fact simplification of life which is needed in order to become contented?  This thought has serious implications for the Master Plan.

What prompted this introspection? For one, this is the first time this year I have had any space to actually stop and think about such things.  And I have some fairly major life events and imminent decisions to process.  Two, I am reading The Geography of Bliss by Eric Weiner - and such thoughts are a natural outcome of this excellent read.  I am serious about attaining happiness, and I am becoming concerned that it is something I should be considering a lot more in my daily life.

And what is the answer? I have no idea.  But given I have no other ideas - Im going to continue onwards in search of new dreams and hope that I am wrong! Tomorrow is hiking day around Goreme...sounds good to me!

Merhaba Istanbul

So I made it to Istanbul.  Journey from the airport went well - though I wish I knew more Turkish.  Thats kind of a recurring theme through all my experiences so far - but saying it once will do.  So far I have made it to most of the tourist traps of Sultanahmet, but as they really are worth the visit I dont think there is any shame in that!  Hopefully will make it out of Sultanahmet to Beyoglu tomorrow.

I am staying in Istanbul Hostel - its everything you need and has great breakfast as well as a great location.  Only downside is its very quiet - which is obviously as its out of season.  But that means there arent many people around for me to talk to,

After 2 very stressful visits to the Serkeci and Otogar - bus and train stations - I think/hope I have obtained valid information about how to get to Selcuk.  So the next stop will be Ephesus on Tuesday...hopefully.

Favourite experience so far - that has got to be the feeling of my Vibram Five Fingers shoes bending around the curves of the worn marble steps of the Harem in Topkapi Palace.  That and the feeling of utter calm I got when I entered the very first stop on my visit - the Basilica CIstern.  This feeling reminded me just how much I enjoy travelling, and just how much good it does me.

Looking forward to tomorrow!

2010 Packing List

OK...so I am packed. I may not be entirely sure what is in my 35l Regatta rucksack...but this is what I can remember:

  • 2 T-shirts
  • 2 pairs socks & pants
  • PJs
  • Towel
  • 1 dress & tights combo
  • FlipFlops
  • Kanga (super useful Tanzanian clothing which works as a towel, skirt, duvet, bag, shawl etc etc etc)
  • Greece and Turkey guide books
  • 1 book (The Geography of Bliss....as recommended by Tynan)
  • 1 bag shower type stuff
  • 1 bag makeup, first aid, electric type stuff
  • 2l Platypus water bladder (these things are amazing and they have a lifetime warranty - turns out you can actually just go switch them at random outdoor shops without a receipt with no hassle)
  • Passport & tickets (obviously)
And that is just about it.  That bag is seriously small. Im not entirely what is in there...or what isnt in there that should be.  But if its not in there - then I guess I dont need it! Im pretty impressed with how little I am taking.  Although I admit it is mainly because I had no choice.  

This isnt as detailed a kit list as I was hoping to get done - but I have had a 3h exam today and Im pretty exhausted after packing.  Once I get back I will try and get a more detailed critique done of whats good and bad and why - mainly for future reference for myself if Im honest!

So next post will be from Turkey! I cant wait to get away.  The horizon is beckoning.

On Orchids And Achievements

I have always wanted an orchid.  So on seeing a half price mangy looking flowerless one a few months ago I decided to buy it.  Despite containing half a small jungle in my house since the age of about 11 I have always been wary of buying an orchid as I thought it would be too difficult to look after.

My fears were increased when the super-exciting first buds that appeared on my orchid went brown and fell off within a few days of appearing on the plant.  This was probably not helped by the fact that I dropped the plant... 

But finally, I have a flower!!! It is almost fully open so I think I can successfully count it as my first ever orchid flower. I am unexpectedly proud of myself over this - even though technically I dont think I really did very much to help it flower! If anything I probably hindered it from flowering... 

My unexpected attachment to the orchid's flower has got me thinking about the nature of achievements, and how incredibly subjective they are.  For most people, a single semi-open orchid flower wouldnt even register on the achievement radar...but for me it is a far greater achievement than the Distinction I got in my last exam. 

The subjectivity of achievement is important because it shows you what drives people, what motivates them, whats important to them.  So my whole orchid flowers-over-exam results achievements hierachy neatly sums up exactly why I am rejecting all the life choices that I am expected to make, why I desire to experience the unknown above all other things and why almost all the people I know look at me like Im slightly insane whenever I explain my Master Plan to them.

4 days till exam. 5 days till Turkey. Revision...minimal.  Packing...nonexistent.

Adventure Is Imminent

Next Thursday (1 day after my huge and horrible exam) I am off on an adventure! As this is my first holiday in 18 months and my first "adventure" in 3 years I am super excited.

I am going to Turkey on my own for 2 weeks and then my Mum is joining me for a week in Athens.  In Turkey I will be going to Istanbul, which looks like an incredible city that I think I am really going to love; Ephesus, one of the Seven Ancient Wonders of the World; and Goreme in the Cappadocia region that looks unbelievably pretty.  Given that its rained constantly for the last 2 weeks in Turkey Im thinking I might be going to get a little wet, but I dont care! I am already dreading coming home though, this 9-5 lifestyle grates on my soul like you would not believe. 

But beyond the...

"Unicorns and cannonballs
Palaces and Piers
Trumpets, towers, and tenaments
Wide oceans full of tears
Flags, rags, ferryboats
Scimitars and scarves
Every precious dream and vision
Underneath the stars"

...And general joys of exploration, this adventure does have a more serious purpose.  I have recently lost the promise of a travelling partner in my future escapes, and I think it would be fair to say that this has knocked my confidence a little.  So this trip is as much about proving to myself that I can do this on my own as it is about anything else.

I am going to be hostelling and intend to only take a 35l rucksack with me (which looks TINY) - so there will be updates on how it all goes.  This is a pic of the "silly shoes" aka Vibram Five Fingers I have bought especially for this trip. 

I have been mocked mercilessly for these at work - but I love them. They are super comfy and so much easier to wear than trainers. I also hope that they will provide a nice icebreaker! I am slightly doubtful about how they will do in wet weather....but time will tell!

Not sure how much internet time I will get while Im away - but I will try and get at least a couple of posts done.  Or at least write them to post when I get back.  I am going to try and stick to a 2 posts per week rule...lets see how long that lasts!

The Master Plan

So to set the scene for all this... here is an explanation of my master plan.  I will be finishing my Open University undergraduate Psychology degree in October 2012 (which right now seems as far away as the end of time).  Between now and then I need to buy (and most likely do up given my limited budget) a motorcaravan.  I have chosen a motorcaravan as my transport because...I am going to be taking my dog.  And a motorcaravan seems to be the least impractical means of achieving this highly impractical goal!

I hope to be hitting the road soon after I finish my degree - probably right after Christmas 2012.  And the plan is...well Im not quite sure yet! The rough idea will be to stay in Europe to start off with - as to get out of Europe you either have to go through some very hot (and Sally doesnt do hot) or very dangerous (and Id rather work up to very dangerous a little slowly) places.  As we will be in super expensive Europe I will therefore need to work to avoid running out of money very quickly, so the plan is to do some kind of voluntary work for a couple of years.  I have been checking out Workaway (awesome) and Se7en (pretty good) for stuff to do.  Im liking the sound of eco projects in Portugal right now.  As Im going to be going away in winter I need to start off in southern Europe...as I am a lizard-like person who cannot stand the cold!  Any suggestions on any other cool sites for free or low cost voluntary work would be greatly appreciated!

Given that when I leave Sally will be 11 - I reckon I will have a few years to spend around Europe moving from project to project, sightseeing etc etc.  I guess my main aim to start with is just to switch off from my current manic 100mph life in which I have a to-do list thats longer than me and strip it all back to basics.  Im hoping this gear change will get me realigned with my faith and open my mind up to understand what exactly I am supposed to be doing in this life...or something like that anyway!

And then once my best furry friend is no longer with me and therefore there is no-one left to determine where I go or what I do...who knows. I'll figure that one out when I get there I guess.

But right now I am stuck in this manic cycle of commitments, yearning for the horizon to just swallow me up.  But thats the master plan as it stands anyway...

Meet the love of my life

As this is my first ever post...it only seems fair to use it to introduce the most important thing in the world to me. My dog Sally. She is a 9 year old labrador x german wirehaired pointer, and she is the sweetest stupidest mutt you could ever meet. And I love her. I know that aiming her to take her with me when I go is something that most people would consider to be at best stupid - but I wouldnt even consider going without her.  So we are in this together!

And here she is... in a very snowy Cumbria.

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