Reducing our impact on the world

With Christmas just around the corner, it’s the perfect time to think about us and our impact on the planet. As a kid, there was nothing better than waking up and seeing a massive pile of presents under the Christmas tree, all wrapped up in wrapping paper in a different pattern for each of the four of us. Now, at almost 24, Christmas has taken a turn – I love picking out presents for my loved ones, and less is really more. 

New Zealand's Bay of Islands, beautiful, but impacted by plastic pollution

We’re at a point now, where we only have 25 years to save the planet. And that’s terrifying. Within my life time, within our lifetimes, we would see the damage that years of carelessness have damaged the planet and the irreversible climate change. Over the last few years, thankfully, we’ve all become more aware of our impact and started to make changes, but some of that may have come too late.

Over the last 40 years, the world has lost 60% of its animal’s population. Thanks to our need for land for cultivation and keeping animals, only a quarter of the worlds land is human free. And when you think places like Antartica, Greenland and the Arctic Circle is included in that – that’s terrifying.

Cape Reinga, the most northern point of New Zealand

Some easy ways to reduce your impact….

There’s no way to hide from or ignore the impact of plastic.  The ‘Great Pacific Garbage Patch’ is growing daily and it’s currently three times the size of France. There are also floating plastic islands in four different areas of the worlds ocean. And you can’t avoid it in your own country – go for a walk along the beach or through a park, and you can pick up at least five different pieces of litter.

  • Coffee Cups – Worldwide, we use 256 million takeaway coffee cups, and for the most part, they’re not compostable or recyclable. You can buy a reusable coffee cup from as little as NZ$2 (Kmart) or choose a mostly glass option like a KeepCup (around NZ$30).
  • Plastic bags – The most talked about plastic issue – and the one people tend to be aware of. But we’re just scratching the surface with the plastic bag issue. You can grab some reusable produce bags online – like these – a three pack for just NZ$11. When you grab your reusable shopping bags, why not grab some Tupperware and use them with the bulk bins or deli counter.
  • Straws – We’ve all wished we’d not seen the video of the tortoise with the straw stuck up its nose – but that’s reality. Metal straws are super cheap and affordable and fit easily into a bag for you to take with daily to use.
  • Plastic wrap – every little bit of plastic can be replaced – you can use Beeswax wrap instead of plastic wrap or bags! You can get beeswax wrap made from organic cotton, which helps with decreasing your environmental impact.
  • Buying glass containers rather then plastic – Tupperware and Sistema containers are traditionally glass, but for a few extra dollars, you can invest in glass containers! There’s talk that there are chemicals that leach from plastic containers into your food due to microwaving, and glass containers eliminate the risk.
  • Reusable drink bottle – one of the easiest changes to make. Unless you’re travelling in certain countries, tap water is drinkable. There’s no need to go out and constantly repurchasing plastic bottles when you can buy one drink bottle and use it for months to years before it needs to be replaced.
  • Reusable cutlery – This may sound silly but if you go anywhere and buy take out, it’s likely that you’ll be given some plastic cutlery. Online, you can find sets of either metal or bamboo cutlery in their own carry case all for less than $NZ10. 

This list may seem daunting, but if you make the changes slowly, it’s an easy transition to make. Set aside $10 a week and you can switch everything in the space of a few months!

Cape Reinga and its sacred lighthouse

Photos from Paihia and Cape Reinga, in the North of New Zealand

The Long Haul Essentials

Back in August, I put myself through the pain and sleep deprivation of (what was meant to be) a 28-hour long haul flight.  As my third trip between England and New Zealand, and with flights to America and back, I’ve started to hone in on what my long haul essentials are.

Wherever you look or google, there are long lists of all the essentials you need, but do you really need them all?

Here are my picks-

Sunrise over Australia from a Qantas plane

A full sized pillow

Forget a travel pillow or a neck pillow, if I’m flying between England and New Zealand, you’ll see me rocking up to the airport with a pillow I’ve probably grabbed from my bed. That may sound crazy, but I’m not talking a top quality thick fluffy pillow like I have on my bed here at my parents. I’m meaning a £3 pillow from Argos that was as flat as a pancake. It folded in half, fit into my carry-on suitcase and squished into the smallest of spaces. I struggle so much with sleeping on a plane, that anything to make it a little bit more comfortable is a winner in my books.

Earplugs and an eye mask 

This last trip was the first time I’ve attempted the eye mask and ear plug combination. And for the rest of my life, no matter how long the flight they will always be with me! Having never slept with an eye mask on before, I didn’t know how I’d cope, but it really did make all the difference. I’d only bought a cheap one, and I’m planning on getting a better quality one before I fly again.

As for earplugs, they were a lifesaver. I bought some cheap ones from Boots, but before I go away again I plan on buying some like these from Kathmandu, with string between them – I managed to lose both of mine on the first flight and had nothing for the next two flights – and I really struggled to sleep on those!

Lip balm and a drink bottle

There’s no denying that an aeroplane is one of the most dehydrating places you can be. I always have my Lucas Paw Paw balm one me, whether I’m on a plane or not. For flights, I usually take a thicker balm, like Lush’s Honey Trap. I don’t know why it took me so long to clock on, but now whenever I fly no matter the length, I always have an empty drink bottle with me. Take an empty drink bottle in your hand luggage, and there’s always a cafe or water fountain where you can fill up your bottle after security.

Flying over Salt Lake City, thanks to Southwest airlines.

Fluffy socks

For future flights, I’m going to get some flight socks, after suffering badly with swollen ankles in the Philippines, but I always have a pair of fluffy socks with me. Slippers are too bulky to fit into a backpack, so some thick or fluffy socks are the best alternative. I always pack a fresh clean pair and throw them in the wash as soon as I get home – just because plane floors are so gross! And let’s be real, no matter which pair of shoes you’re wearing, socks will always be comfier!

A change of clothes

My parents taught me this for my first flight and I’ve stuck by it since – and after being stuck in Manila for a few days without access to my suitcase, I was glad for a change of clothes!

Toothpaste and toothbrush

You can’t rely on an Airlines amenities pack for a toothbrush and toothpaste. Over the last year, I’ve started the habit of buying a new toothbrush for every trip.

And that’s it! I’ve found I’ve always packed more, but it remains untouched! My carry on bag always has more – and for a long haul, I’ll have all these essentials in a small bag by my feet. I’ll usually have a larger bag – whether it’s a suitcase, small holdall or just a backpack in the overhead locker, with things like my cameras, laptop (if I’m travelling with it), a notebook, and anything I don’t want in the hold.

Flying into San Francisco, on an early morning South West flight - check out some long haul flight essentials!

The Seville Guide

Seville is the capital of the southern province of Andalusia and a place I was lucky enough to call my home for three months earlier this year. After work and on my days off, I’d spend all my free time, heading out and exploring both this city and beyond. I worked for a tour company which meant at work I was looking for everything and anything going on in the city. I lived in the north of the city, which felt like a different place to the centre of the city.

La catedral de Sevilla, catedral gótico mas grande del mundo

When to visit-

April is home of the famous April Fair, and if you want the true Sevillano experience, you’re going to want to visit during the Feria week! The city basically shuts down for the week-long party. Semana Santa is the week leading up to Easter and again, shuts the city down with all its celebrations. If you’re lucky enough to be there during June, you’ll get to see Corpus Christi as well.

Weatherwise, you need to prepare yourself before arrival. If you’re there between June and September, pack all your shorts and t-shirts! It can get up to 40° daily! Luckily, all the houses are built for the weather – cool for the summer and keeping the heat in during winter. Don’t worry about sitting outside at restaurants – they spray water onto you, to keep you nice and cool!  If you’re there in July or August, you’ll find that the city seems empty! All the locals escape the city and its heat – so all you’ll find during the daytime are tourists! Restaurants and cafes have different opening hours during these months, so be prepared to eat later as all the restaurants are open later in the cooler hours.

Where to visit-

Type ‘places to visit Seville’ into google and you’re left with some of the main tourist attractions – the Alcazár, Catedral y Giralda and the Plaza de España. But there’s more to the city than these three. When you visit the Plaza de España, turn around, and spend some time wandering through Parque Maria Luisa. The park is full of pavilions, fountains and statues. If you’re visiting Seville in the summer, look out for the Alcazárs summer music series – they open the garden up daily for a concert in the evenings. I was lucky enough to visit one night and saw a string quartet, nestled behind the garden wall, with the Giralda lit up in the background.

Las Seta’s will always be a talking point in the city. The real name for them is the ‘Metropol Parasol’ but everyone refers to them as ‘The Mushrooms’. When you buy your ticket, you get a drinks ticket! Enjoy a drink at the top, which will cost a couple of euros on top of the drinks voucher, or enjoy a free drink on the ground! If you’re after a wide selection of food and drink spots, head slightly north of the city centre to the Alameda de Hercules – it’s an open square with so many amazing restaurants and bars!

If you’re in Seville around Halloween – or any time of the year, check out the abandoned Isla de la Cartuja! The island is located on the east of the city and was home of the 1992 exposition. The site is a mixture of buildings currently used as offices, and buildings that are completely abandoned.  The Museo de Bellas Artes is the main art gallery in Seville and is free for European residents! You can spend hours there looking at all the amazing artwork, and the architecture of the building.

Sevilles most famous landmark, the Giralda tower of the cathedral

Getting around Seville-

Seville as a whole is quite a small city, and most of it is walkable. If you’re staying close to the historical centre, walking is the best way as the streets are narrow and a maze to get through! Taxies are cheap, and you can get a bus ride for €1.40 each way. Another great option is Sevici! You can sign up for a short-term pass – €13 a week, or a long-term pass which is €35 a year. Your first 30 minutes are free, and thanks to the size of the city, you can get pretty much everywhere in half an hour of cycling.

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Where to eat-

Throughout the city, there are gems of restaurants.  One of the most popular chains in Seville (and Spain) is 100 Montaditos. Cheap buckets of beer, large Tinto de Verano’s and cheap tapas and sandwiches (montaditos), it’s got to be your go-to on a Wednesday or Sunday – where all their sandwiches are 1€!

If you’re wanting a little bit more fine dining, head to the Alameda! The Alameda is home to Arte y Sabor, a beautiful restaurant, full of amazing artwork. And the best part? It serves both ‘traditional’ Spanish tapas, as well as plenty of vegan and vegetarian options! Try their tuna steak or tempura vegetables! You’re not going to regret it.  Another great option is El Pasaje. Tucked down some side streets not too far from the Cathedral, El Pasaje is surprisingly cheap for its location! Whilst you’re there, try their salmon lasagne, or their espinacas y garbanzos!

Whilst you’re near Las Setas, check out Perro Chiko! Beautiful creamy croquettes, amazing vegetables and patatas bravas. It’s open super late, and the few times we went there, all the food was just as good every time. The further north you go, and the further away from the city you are, the more unique the food is! Koala was one of my favourite restaurants in the Macarena part of Seville – a beautiful family restaurant, with amazing goats cheese, asparagus fritters and patatas alioli. As you keep going north, you’ll find the widest range of Cuban and Southern American food! They’re all restaurants full of locals, which is a good sign of the food being the best!

If you’re after a traditional Andalusian breakfast, head towards the Alameda and check out Cafe Piola or Cafe Hercules – with all the crushed tomato, garlic oil and oregano you’ll want to top your toast!

Hidden sights of the Alcazar- read about more in the city guide

Flamenco –

Seville is the home of Flamenco. And whilst you’re there, it would be silly not to watch a show! There’s the well known Museum of Flamenco, as well as some shows hosted at restaurants and cafes. My favourite was Casa Ensembla, located north of La Setas and east of the Alameda. It’s a wonderful, family run show, located within a beautiful art space. The show only cost a few euros and it was definitely a family show – and everyone jumped on stage at the end for an impromptu dance.

Where to visit outside the city-

Thanks to the Ave trains and Alsa buses, Seville has great travel options, whether you’re after just a day trip, or a quick weekend away! Nearby is Jerez de la Frontera, a town known for its sherry, Granada and the Alhambra, Cordoba and its amazing mosque. There’s also Cadiz, on the coast with all its amazing fresh seafood for you to try! Nearby, you can find the historic town of Carmona, high up on a hill looking out over its Andalusian countryside.

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To walking tour, or not?

I have a thing for walking around cities, no planned destination or route in sight, more of a ‘let’s go this way and see where we end up’ mentality. And to be fair, it works more often than not. You get to see things that otherwise you may never have discovered if you caught the train or underground. You can come across landmarks, shops, monuments or even views you never would have spotted otherwise.

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No matter how hard you try though, you will always miss things, where ever you are. I’ve learnt over the years that the best way to find some of the best spots and sights, is to find someone who lives in the city. For they know places as if they’re the back of their hands.

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During my visit to Chicago, I did a walking tour around the Lincoln Park area through side streets and off the beaten track areas, learning all about the gang history and Al  Capone’s involvement. I did this through ‘Free Tours by Foot‘ where we spent two hours walking around the area and learning all about. The tour was free and then at the end, we tipped the guide with how much we thought it was worth. Without this tour, I don’t think I would have ventured into this part of Chicago, which made it extra special.

In Stockholm, I made the questionable decision to do two two-hour-long walking tours in one day. Let me tell you, my feet killed by the end of the day, I was over walking in the cold. The first tour was through the ‘main’ part of the city (Norrmalm and Ostermalm), taking in the important landmarks, like the Kings and Queens streets, Kungstradagarden and even the H&M head office. The guide for this tour was super enthusiastic and informative, which made the two-hour walk through slush so much more fun. Walk 2 was through Soldermalm, showing us some amazing views and outlooks over the city. The best part was finding the viewpoints that I could come back to later.

Walking tours have the added bonus as well that you actually get to see the city, rather than walking around on your phone trying to find the right way, or searching about random facts and the history about where you’re walking too or past. Although you are in sometimes a large group, you really do get to feel like a local, walking around and almost knowing where you’re going.

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A morning in Jerez

Just two weeks after arriving in Seville, I had itchy feet and knew I needed to get out and explore Andalucia. After a quick deliberation, I jumped on Renfe and booked a quick trip to Jerez de la Frontera, or Jerez as it’s usually shortened to. The journey from Seville to Jerez takes about an hour.

The beautiful cathedral of Jerez, surrounded by sherry distilleries

Jerez is a beautiful city, closer to the coast than Seville. And what it’s known for is in its name, Jerez – or sherry in English.  But it also has a second claim to fame, it’s dancing horses! Every Thursday at the Fundacíon Real Escuela Andaluza del Arte Ecuestre the horses put on a show and show off their best moves! (Tickets are from 13-27€ depending on where you’re sat).

But naturally, I missed out on this and visited on a Friday!

The Alzacar in Jerez - not quite as famous as Seville's

The train station is just outside the centre of the city but it’s only a short 15-minute walk before you’re in town. One of Jerez’s most famous sights is the Cathedral, built in the 17th century and looks out over the rest of the city. As well as the insane interior and museum pieces, there’s also a peaceful orange garden out the back. I took my notebook with me and ended up sitting there for about half an hour enjoying the peace. Next to the Cathedral, you’ll find the Alcazar, which was first built in the 11th century, and still maintains some of the original Moorish features. It’s full of history, and amazing views. My favourite part, despite how odd it sounds, was the roof of the Arab Baths!

Water fountains and flags in Jerez's city centre

My visit ended shortly after these two, but there’s plenty more to see;

  • Wherever you look, you’ll find a Bodega – or storehouse for maturing wines/sherries. Some of the more popular Bodegas are Bodega Fundador and Bodegas Faustino Gonzalez. If you’re not fussed on where you go to try some sherry, pop into any open doors as you wonder, they’re bound to be good!
  • Feria del Caballo – Every May (usually the week after Seville’s Feria, and the day after I went!) Jerez celebrates its own Feria, and unsurprisingly, horses have a big influence! It’s celebrated by locals opening up casetas on the streets, and serve food and drink to the visitors. There’s also usually a funfair, lit up with fairy lights!
  • Cartuja de Jerez- The Cartuja is an old monastery located outside the city of Jerez, approximately a fifteen-minute drive from the Cathedral. It was built in the 1400’s by the first Friars to visit the area. The gardens can be visited Tuesday- Saturday, and the inside is open during the hours of worship.

 

The Alcazar in Jerez

Seville in a summary

La catedral de Sevilla, catedral gótico mas grande del mundo

Seville was hot. Seville was beautiful. Seville was everything I needed at the right moment in time.

If a dream internship miraculously ends up being advertised on your facebook just hours before the closing date, you’ll be silly not to apply, right? Right! And just under a month later, I’d packed my bags and headed on a train to London, ready to complete a week-long course before I flew out to Seville.

The first few weeks were cool (both weather-wise and in general) filled with thunderstorms, the first days at work in a new job and lots of city explorations. Thankfully the storms died down, although so did our enthusiasm for Spanish lessons. Cañas of beers were drunk, tapas devoured and we soon settled into our Sevillano lifestyle.

It’s so easy to spend money here, however. One cheeky drink with a tapa, three/four/five times does start to add up, and with only a small stipend it was easy to panic. Although Seville has so much to offer, I found myself booking weekend after weekend away, seeing as much as Andalusia as possible, on the smallest budget. And this meant sacrifices. The end of June brought both Pride and a concert over the same weekend, with 13 hours on a coach over two days to experience it all.

The seafront of Cadiz, showing off why it's been compared to Havana, Cuba.

Work, of course, had to play a big part in what we did. Four days a week, I sat down and got to work for a tour company, working on their social media, and thanks to it being such a small business, learning about all the different aspects of running a bespoke tour company.

The whole experience was such a blur, time passed at a funny pace, and now I’m back home, it’s hard to believe that three months passed. It’s time to put all those new skills into practice, and on to the next adventure!

The beautiful cathedral of Jerez, surrounded by sherry distilleries

 

Solo in Stockholm

Earlier in the year, I found myself in a place where I just needed to get away – from work, from family, from everything. And that’s how I found myself on the RyanAir Fare Finder page, looking at the cheapest flights available – and booked a flight to the first city that stuck out – Stockholm, Sweden.

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It wasn’t my first foray into solo flying or travelling, but it was my first experience staying in a hostel solo. I found the cheapest hostel I could find in a great location and booked it, figured out my way to and from the airport (I flew into Vasteras rather than Stockholm’s main airport) and booked my train to Stanstead. And just a few days later, set out on an adventure!

Turns out, Stockholm is home to four airports, with only one of those airports close to the centre of the city. Chances are, you’ll be flying into one of the other three, with a bit more of a commute into the city. I flew into Västerås Airport and used the Flybussarna service – it took about an hour and a half, and they waited for the last passenger to make it through the airport before they left.  On the way back to the airport, I took the train to Västerås, and a bus to the airport, which meant I could spend the morning exploring Västerås.

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I stayed in the Birka Hostel in Norrmalm, which was actually an amazing location, compared to some of the other hostels I’d looked at. The hostel itself was great, it was nice and quiet, and tucked away from the main street.

Stockholm is packed full of museums, and a good chunk of them are free! I took advantage of the free museums – plus they’re a great escape from the cold! Day one I was just wandering around, crossed a random bridge, and stumbled across the Museet Moderna, which had an amazing exhibition called ‘NormForm’ – exploring the gender differences in modern day society, as well as some other amazing photography exhibitions. I paid for the Nobel Prize museum and was a bit disappointed. There was a heavy influence on the literary prize winners and not enough (for me) about the scientists. I stumbled across the Livrustkammaren (the Swedish Royal Armory) and the Historika Museet – which were both perfect escapes from the cold!

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The one museum ahead of time that I’d researched and new I’d visit was Fotografiska, located on Södermalm.  It was the one museum that I’d planned on heading too, and I was glad I did! There was an amazing Nick Veasey exhibition, where he’d used x-rays as a mode of imaging, there was an amazing photo diary of a visit to Moldova and an exhibition on hygiene in everyday life. It was such a crazy ranged, but they were all stunning and worked together somehow. As amazing as all the photography was, one of the highlights had to be the top floor, with a surprise cafe with amazing views over the city.

For one of the days, I headed out for something different, and joined a couple of walking tours through Free Tour Stockholm, joining their tours of Söldermalm and their city tours. They were both super informative, and the tours guides were so much fun! The other great experience I had with a boat tour through the Stockholm Archipelago – it was cold, but they provided blankets, and it was definitely worth it! It was two hours long, and it was full of history and fun facts of the city.

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It would have been rude to have gone all the way to Stockholm and to not try Kottbullar -or Swedish meatballs! I headed to Meatballs for the people’  – a restaurant over in Söldermalm. It was amazing! Despite the treck out to the restaurant, I’d definitely recommend it.  Stockholm – and the rest of Sweden is known for being expensive. My first morning, I headed to Snickarbacken 7 and got to experience first hand the cost of a Swedish Fika. The following mornings, I headed to the nearby grocery store and grabbed something from their bakery, before heading into the city and grabbing a coffee. I can’t really remember the rest of my meals – there were a lot of hot drinks in place of lunches!

My highlight of the whole trip had to be the experience of solo travel. I could go where ever I wanted, whenever I wanted, I could eat what I wanted, and I had all the time in the world to think and clear my head.

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