How To Move To The UK

“Adventurer Stacey’s in the London, that’s awesome for her! How do I do that?” is what I hear behind every question I’m asked about my recent re-location. I used to ask those questions too before I took on a life of travel and adventure, now that things have gone full-circle I’m smiling to myself. I’ve created a list to break down the steps for a move to the UK (or any country for that matter) which I hope you can find useful:

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#1 Draw up a plan

Preparations for relocation can start up to six months before you move. For me this time, it was only three months however, many people take less time. It’s up to you and your personal needs.

#2 Passport check!

Do you have one? Is it valid for much longer? If you need a new one start going through the process of passport application ASAP as you need a passport to apply for visas. For some people who’re eligible for a UK or EU passport, they won’t need to worry about the next steps (and the rest of us are jealous of you, by the way!)

#3 Get the correct work visa

Most Aussie’s, Kiwi’s and Canadian’s under 31 will opt for a Working Holiday visa. These are easy to get and can take as little as two weeks however, if you’re highly skilled you may want to apply for the highly skilled migrant visas. Check with the British High Commission ASAP which visa type best applies to your situation.

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#4 Book Flights

I’ve written a bit about how to find cheap flights in the past but as a general rule, booking in off season or shoulder season to the UK is usually cheaper, you may also want to see if there is a big difference between business class seats and economy as sometimes the price is very close and being such a long flight for some, you may want that luxury.

#5 Purchase travel insurance

I’m with World Nomads who I strongly recommend because their coverage is so good – they even offer coverage for work-related injuries (lets hope that’s never a problem!) and cover you for more than just the UK. You can also renew your cover as you travel which is great for those of us who need it (like myself!)

#6 Sort out your home

If you own your place, you might want to consider renting it out to help with those mortgage repayments. If you are renting, you’ll want to find someone who can keep your stuff at their place or work out a storage option. Make sure you have this sorted well in advance to moving as you don’t need the stress.

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#7 Mail: what are you doing with it?

You might want to consider getting a friend or family member to open your mail at home and relay anything important to you. Or alternately you can get everything sent to you electronically through a service or from the companies themselves.

#8 Consider power of attorney

This is not a must-do however, many long-term travellers or expats give their power of attorney to a trusted friend of family member back home. This is an extension of someone just reading your mail for you however, you might want to look into it and see if it’s an option for you considering you do plan to be away for a while.

#9 Health checks

You will want to ensure any vaccinations are up-to-date, your dental checks out and your doctor has had a good look at you before you go. You’ll also want to ensure any medications you are on are also available in the UK and take a note from your doctor about any medications you’ll be taking with you on the plane. It’s also important if you have contact lenses or glasses that you take an optical prescription with you as well.

Apparently the horse had a hole drilled in him to drain water... hole is in his penis so he looks like he is weeing when it rains. Cannot verify this story, but thought you'd like to know...

Apparently the horse had a hole drilled in him to drain water… hole is in his penis so he looks like he is weeing when it rains. Cannot verify this story, but thought you’d like to know…

#10 Pack properly and on time

I am an experienced backpacker but for sure, there were packing mistakes I made the first time I moved here. I left some things at home that I sort of needed and had to buy there. I would prefer to go that way than the other way though. You should start packing no more than a month before you leave (in order not to over-pack) and no less than a week before you leave (because you don’t need to stress about packing last moment). I have a general packing list for backpacking too that is a good starting point.

#11 Photocopy important documents

Make copies of important documents before you go: passport, travel insurance, visas, credit cards, hotel/hostel reservations and tickets. You’ll want to leave these at home however, some people make several copies and carry some with them, leave one copy at home and email another copy to themselves so if something goes wrong they can deal with it then and there rather than having to call that person at home and ask for their credit card numbers when they need to cancel them.

#12 Get some spare passport photo’s taken

Generally with travel this is a good idea – I’ve had to use spare passport photo’s a number of times for things like visas. I’ve never been unlucky enough however, I’ve heard some police in some countries want them for police reports if you have to report theft.

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#13 Get your CV sorted

I’ve previously mentioned this on the blog however, UK employers prefer two-page CV’s with dates of each job (starting and leaving). Make sure yours is UK ready before you go as this will save plenty of time and hassle once you arrive.

#14 Contact your UK-based mates

This is super important! Sure, a whole lot of Aussie’s, Kiwi’s and Canadian’s move to the UK every single year and it won’t take much for you to make new friends but it’s much, much easier to have those familiar friends around you when you arrive and it’s never been easier to do this. Shortly before you leave (I left mine to a month before I left) you can change your city on facebook to the one you will be moving to in the UK and then search for other people in your friends’ list who’re in the same city. Surprisingly, you will find people who you didn’t know had moved. I found some old university friends which was great because they already knew what professional jobs were like here, employers expectations, etc. and could help me out. Also, joining facebook groups is a great way to hit the ground running. There’s a bunch of more formal ways to do this too like university alumni organisations, clubs and groups you’re a member of back home, etc. however, this is becoming the more popular way to connect so why not?

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I hope that break down has helped you guys’ who’re thinking of making the big move and I sincerely hope this method of breaking things down encourages some of you to chase those travel dreams. I’d love to hear about others’ experiences with moving to the UK and any advice they would have for people considering it in the comments below. Keep adventuring guys’!

Apps For Moving To London

Lost in London I was asking people in the street for directions. Everyone I asked must have been a local as they kept walking. I managed to stop one girl, an Eastern European who helped me with my map. Thank god for immigration!

But you dear reader, you don’t need to have this experience. Through careful research I’ve found the best apps for moving to London (or visiting, if you’re going there with a smart phone) so you don’t have to be asking directions of local’s who’re busy pretending they didn’t hear you, paying too much for a black cab, missing out on great travel deals, lonely in the big city, hungry and unable to find decent take-away or one thousand other problems you face when new to such a huge city!

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Uber

This seemed to be at the top of all my friends’ lists and I was a little sad to see that as London has the best taxi’s in the world however, It’s a very popular app in London for a reason! When you sign up with Uber use the code uberAdventurerStaceyue to get a free ride (I get one too when you use the code)

City Mapper

Everyone has this! It’s a London must with its maps for walking, cycling and public transport you’ll be using it constantly when you’re new (or if you visit new areas, which feels like it’s always happening in London!)

Google Maps

I’ve previously mentioned this in my list of apps for independent travellers, here’s just one more place it’s useful.

Tube Tamer

The network can be confusing, especially when you’re new so this app has been great for me!

Whatsapp

This seems super popular in the London and if you don’t have it before your move, you’ll need it soon enough!

Meetup App

Meetups are quite popular in London as London is a super transient city with plenty of people coming here for work and losing their old communities. A great way to meet new people or just to connect with others’ who share your interest. Totally keen to jump into London photography groups as those seem the right ones to meet other people who love the city just as much as I do and who notice all those little things that I might miss!

Excuses2Meet

Kind of like the appy equivalent of going to a real-life meetup event, you can put things in you’re looking to do with your new friends like “someone to play videogames with” and find other’s who’ve said they’re looking for the same thing. I’ve downloaded it (along with all the others) however, it feels like it might take more time to meet people than just showing up at a MeetUp event. We’ll see what happens!

Fever

This is a great idea! An app that helps you find things to do in London this week. It tailors its suggestions to you based on preferences you put into the app really good for wanting to show your knowledge of what’s on without having to do much work. Also great for when you make those early friends everyone makes when moving to a new city who don’t really know what’s going on and aren’t very good tour guides at all.

YPlan

Similar concept to Fever, I’ve still not decided which I prefer so have listed both.

Groupon

This is quite popular in London for loads of stuff (as the high rent prices mean everyone is pretty skint and needs discounts). Also has great travel deals on it from time to time.

Spareroom

How everyone finds their flatmates – now in an app!

Just Eat

Want to know if that place on the corner is any good to eat at? Going out with friends all spur of the moment and don’t know anywhere good? (Of course you don’t! You’re new to London!) Here’s a simple solution.

Do you have any recommendations for apps that London Newbies should have that are not listed? Please leave those awesome recommendations in the comments below!

Four Of My Favorite Things About Dublin

I’m in Dublin this week for St. Patrick’s Day and am very excited to be here! It’s a great little city and very hard to get lost in (although, I do try!). The atmosphere this time of year though is what I came here for. Everyone’s Irish, even those who’re not and the city is full of revelers having a good time and spreading the Irish cheer.

My favorite things about Dublin though, are not the cliché one’s or the tourists, from my last trip here I had four favorites I wrote about in my travel journal. Actually, there were more but four seemed an appropriate number for an Irish story (like the four leaf clover, its lucky!) so I picked my favorite four and here they are:

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Pub Culture

Ireland has some of the best pub culture in the world. You can walk into a pub in the middle of the day and find local people drinking and shooting the breeze. Unlike in many other places in the world where a pub is a bar or a venue you go to dance, in Ireland they’re like public lounge rooms and people pop in for a drink and to catch up with their neighbors, the local gossip and politics.

At night though, pubs are full of great music, dancing and slightly awkward local boys’ trying to chat up local girls’. They’re fun places to be full of laughter and good cheer. Something I wish there was more of everywhere in the world.

Dublin Chippers

I was introduced to Dublin chippers by a local the first time I was in Ireland. Everywhere in the world seems to have its after-drinking food and a 2am trip to the Dublin chipper to pick up some fish and chips (or likely just chips) is as good as any after-drinking food in my book. Plus, you always seem to find someone you know in there, even if you have only been in town a few days’. Small place, very friendly.

Irish Directions

The first time I was in Ireland this happened to me and I thought it was just one weird guy but apparently it’s not uncommon (says Irish comedians, one shown below on youtube)

In my story, young pre-backpack Adventurer Stacey had over packed her suitcase and had broken it. She had to find a shopping mall to buy a new suitcase but got lost on the way (as always) and had to ask for directions. Most of the places in the world where I have asked directions I get something boring like, “Turn left at this set of lights and keep going, it’s on your left.” But not in Ireland. In Ireland the directions were more like, “Go left here and walk for ten minutes, then turn right and walk another five minutes, it’s on your left.” I laughed, surely he wasn’t serious. Did he know the pace of my walk? If I was likely to get distracted on the way and stop? Wind speed? Direction? I told him to stop taking the piss and tell me for real, how I get there. He laughed and told me he’d already told me before walking away. There was no-one else around so I decided to try it and you won’t believe, I got there. (the part about directions is at the two minute mark)

Irish Slang & Humor – You’ll Never Get It, Even When You Think You Do

I’ve had Irish friends and I think at this stage I mostly understand them (even though sometimes they do seem pretty alien) but when I was first in Ireland, often slang would go straight over my head and locals obviously didn’t want to tell me that they didn’t mean what they were saying.

One of my more vivid memories was when two older Irish men were at the pub, one asked the other what he wanted, “Oh, just a half Guinness” “Only a half?” asked his shocked friend before leaning closer to me and uttering, “He’s not well you know.” I thought he meant his friend was genuinely unwell, maybe he was about to go in for surgery and shouldn’t be drinking. As a result, I asked the first guy about his health and if he was okay, really. Did he need to go home? Some water? He just stared at me in confusion. Neither talked to me for the rest of the night. I later heard from someone that someone being “not well” was slang, a dismissive way of saying someone was crazy. I wonder if these guys’ thought I genuinely was crazy after the event.

Those are my four – now, if you excuse me I’m off to enjoy this wonderful little city!

Is It Hard To Find Work In London?

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Something I see often on travel and expat forums is people stressing out, the common concern is clear: “But what if I get to London and cannot find work!”

Although this worry is totally understandable, it’s unlikely to be a real issue for many people. As long as their savvy, able to find work in their own countries and are willing to be a bit creative when the chips are low, finding work in London shouldn’t be a real concern.

The last time I was in London I had three job offers in as many days (and I wasn’t even living there!) of course, these were not high paying jobs and I would have needed to find something else eventually had I of chosen to live in London but the point is that in London, “Survival jobs” are abound if one cannot find the job in the industry they wish to work in.

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The three jobs I was offered were one in a restaurant, one in a bar and one in retail. Of course, two of the jobs paid slightly above minimum wage and the third was below minimum wage however, if one was in debt when they moved to London (as many backpackers are by the time they reach the “London stop”) or needed to find a job quickly they could quite easily find work.

Now let’s talk about those coveted professional job’s most people would prefer to be working with their higher pay and more sociable hours. How does one get one with as little stress as possible? Here’s a short, four-point strategy to keep in mind:

#1: What work will you do? “Anything” is not an answer!

It’s okay to have a fall-back (aforementioned survival job) in case your professional ambitions take some time to take off in the new city (let’s be honest, employers seeking a professional workforce have turn-arounds of something like 4-6 weeks between sending your application in and your start date and not everyone can afford to spend that time in their new flat on the couch). However, having some direction is important for when those opportunities do come up. Going to London and knowing you want to use your marketing degree gives you something to aim for when you are applying online or through agencies for positions and when you are in your survival job in the pub when a marketing executive comes in for a pint, you can smile and ask questions that may bring up leads (just don’t do this in front of your boss, okay?)

One must have a direction, or no tree shall be climbed...

One must have a direction, or no tree shall be climbed…

#2 Get your resume London-ready before leaving home

I love writing but even I cannot stand resume writing and when you must have a copy of your resume for each job type (ie. Your survival job AND your professional job) it’s all the more annoying. Before I land in London I will have a science resume, a hospitality resume and a nanny/babysitting resume. Different countries have different resume templates and it’s best to make sure your resume matches that of the country you’re moving to.

#3 Have a pre-London-arrival and post-London-arrival strategy

So you know you’re amazing and any employer should be happy to have you but, maybe you’re a week away from flying out and too busy with preparations for the new city to keep applying for jobs? That’s okay because you have a bunch of number’s to call once you’ve arrived, a killer strategy for hiding the jet-lag induced bags under your eyes and are perfectly willing to ask anyone – even the owner of the curry house where you have your first London lunch – about work opportunities. Having some sort of plan for “if I don’t find work from home” is positive and will help you far more than if you never let yourself have one.

#4 Consider agencies

Employment agencies are a big deal in the UK. Many professionals, both local and expat’s find their work through them and often they will be working within forty-eight hours of arriving in London (crazy, right?). The best way I’ve found to register with UK employment agencies is through Agency Central

No idea what this building is, but know that no-one working minimum wage is living here, or driving that car...

No idea what this building is, but know that no-one working minimum wage is living here, or driving that car…

Moving to a new city will never be easy however, when one considers the transient nature of mega-cities like London’s population the well-worn path of people before you does make it appear easier to make this work than it sometimes feels like when you’re receiving rejection letters. Chin up, it’s all part of the experience and this is a great “coming of age” experience for many young Kiwi’s, Aussies and Canadian’s for a very long time.

Visiting Charles Darwin’s House While In London

Downe House, as viewed from the gardens

Downe House, as viewed from the gardens

After completing my training as a biologist at university one of the things I was most looking forward to while visiting London last year was Charles Darwin’s house! The grandfather of biology himself who studied everything living around him, even chronicling the growth of his own son was someone who I was sad I’d never had the opportunity to meet, this was an opportunity to get up close and personal with the great genius himself!

On the map it’s a simple hour-long journey to Downe House however, that’s boring. I’ll tell you how it really is on the ground: From London Waterloo station which you got to by some feat of genius through the rush hour chaos (note: don’t actually do this in ‘peak times’) you catch the South Eastern Line train to Orpington. You’ll notice how village-y this place is compared to London right away when a nearby bobby smiles at you. Chat to him, he’s friendly and has a funny non-London accent that you’ve never heard before. Ask him about the buses and you’ll find you need to catch the R8 bus (there is only one bus that goes to Downe House) ask the driver when you climb aboard if they can stop at Charles Darwin’s house for you, they will know where it is and will also smile at you which you will find unsettling after being in London. You’ll find a seat next to a teenager who’s been looking at you strangely due to your foreign accent (you think) and will ride out until the bus stops – not in front of a bus stop but just on the road and the driver calls to you, letting you know you’ve arrived. There you will be, in a small country lane as the tiny bus pulls away you’ll see a big house that you’ve come all this way to see right before your eyes. Feel the excitement but don’t run at it, you’re on the road remember. Look left, then right then left again before crossing.

The super-cute R8 bus, just stick out your arm!

The super-cute R8 bus, just stick out your arm!

I don’t want to give too much away because I want readers to go there themselves (genuinely I do! It’s such a positive experience after being cooped up in London!) but I’ll tell you some of my favourite things about my visit just to wet your appetite.

The gardens are beautiful! They’re where Darwin did plenty of experimenting and hypothesising. He took a walk in his gardens every day, even in the harsh English winter when he was an old man. They’ve been dutifully restored to an approximation of what they were thought to look like in the time Darwin there.

You've arrived (can you see those open times? Taking notes?)

You’ve arrived (can you see those open times? Taking notes?)

The museum itself holds some surprises even to those who’ve read plenty about Darwin and who’re familiar with his work – Darwin was ahead of his time in that he was an active father and a husband who saw his wife as an equal. Although followers of his work realise how much he love his wife that he almost didn’t release his Origin of Species for fear of hurting his wife with her deep religious sensibilities are surprised to see how he would find time after working to play board games with his wife and talk to her about things that were more intellectual, valuing her opinions. His relationship with his children was also more modern than his times. He actually spent time with them (outside of studying them as infants and measuring their growth and development for his work as a scientist). Apparently he was also very kind to his staff as well.

I was also surprised to see Darwin’s notes on his own health – I’d know he had battled with ill health throughout his adult life however, to see that he’d kept a diary made me smile. Something like that seems the type of thing I’d do!

A slide used by Darwin's children to slide down their stairs - what a fun childhood!

A slide used by Darwin’s children to slide down their stairs – what a fun childhood!

I came away from the experience feeling like I’d learned plenty about Darwin whose work had been a big part of my studies and was the basis for a discipline I have such respect for! I would recommend a visit to Dawne House for visitors to Kent and London as it’s a really beautiful place and getting there is a really nice adventure!

Darwin's finches hold a special place in the hearts of many biologists (and you can see them here, how exciting!)

Darwin’s finches hold a special place in the hearts of many biologists (and you can see them here, how exciting!)

Getting back too, was fun. I stood on the street and waved to a bus that stopped for me. After climbing aboard we were driving for a while and as the lane narrowed (these lanes were not consistent at all) we came face-to-face with a four wheel drive that had to back up so we could get past. It was a real adventure and so much fun laughing along with the local teenagers about how hopeless the other driver was!

Darwin's study where he did much of his work!

Darwin’s study where he did much of his work!

Arriving back in London that evening I felt newly refreshed and pretty wonderful! I’d spent a day in the country side, admiring a beautiful home, a wonderful garden and learning (I’m a life-long learner!)

Over to you! Have you ever visited Downe House? Would you recommend it to your friends? What other things would you recommend to the London visitor?

Travel Fails: How I Always Miss The Party

I recently booked a flight and while talking to the travel agent* I told him how much I was looking forward to this trip as I’d previously been to Dublin in March of 2012 and had left the city before the St. Patrick’s Day celebrations and now I was looking forward to a St. Patrick’s Day in Dublin 2016!

That’s right guys, I’m having a proper St. Patrick’s day this year!

But before you get all jealous and start telling me how unfair it is that you don’t get to be at the party, let me tell you a few of my own stories about how I’ve missed more than one big party because of poor travel planning. I’ve never been a great planner, but sometimes you really do have face-palm moments when you realise you could have, should have done something differently.

I loved how excited people were for the national day - Chilean flags EVERYWHERE!

I loved how excited people were for the national day – Chilean flags EVERYWHERE!

Missing Chile’s National Holiday

This was painful! Not only did I miss the great day, but I flew out of Santiago on Chile’s national day. Poor form by me not only because I missed this wonderful day but also because I missed it, almost didn’t make the airport because nothing was running for the national holiday and experienced an earthquake (perhaps unrelated, but I wanted to throw that in!). What was I doing!?

Missing A Genuine St. Patrick’s Day In Dublin

Okay, so I touched on this already. But it still hurts to know how much green beer and craic I missed out on. Especially when I consider I’d made some decent local friends when I backpacked Ireland who could have shown me all the awesome things about Dublin – and Ireland – on their national day that weirdly, seems to be the only national day of any one nation celebrated by everyone in the world. Perhaps this is a testament to the charm of the Irish that everyone wants to celebrate their national day or perhaps it’s their huge world-wide migration with something like 70 million people all over the world having Irish names or maybe just good marketing. Not sure, will tell you after March 17th.

Laos-Adventurer-Stacey

Missing The Boat And Other Asian Disasters

I didn’t plan my first trip to South East Asia very well at all as testament to the fact that I seemed to miss out on all the great backpacker experiences. Instead of being able to spend 30 days’ in Thailand and traveling the whole country in one go, I flew from Bangkok to Phnom Phen just four days’ after arriving which meant I had to keep leaving Thailand and going back in for two-week long visa sprints. I also missed the rocket festival in Laos by a few hours, missed taking the slow boat into Laos and flew (doh!) which meant I missed all those great ‘slow boat friends’ everyone else had and was travelling with not to mention the fact I spent stupid money flying about because I didn’t want to book with local airlines and would book last moment. Yeah, total fail.

I hope that perhaps in all my travel mistakes, my reader’s can learn from them and not repeat them themselves. They would easily save money and have a better time themselves. You’re welcome.

How about you? Do you have any great travel timing fails you’d like to share? Please comment below so the rest of us can learn from your mistakes, cheers for being awesome enough to do that in advance too!

 

*I don’t always use agents however, when I do I use STA Travel. They have great deals and are totally understanding when you tell them you only want to book a few things (like flights and insurance) through them and want to do the rest independent. I recommend them and plenty of other great travel brands to my readers.

Joining Protesters In London

Anti-Austerity-March-UK-Union-Jack-Adventurer-Stacey

A British friend of mine who happens to be a staunch Tory had suggested I spend my morning in London doing some sightseeing. I’d get to see Big Ben (again), go for a walk on the river, do all those touristic things while I was getting over jet lag.

After having my photo taken at platform nine and three quarters, I jumped on the tube and got off at Westminster, grabbed a sandwich for lunch and chilled out for a bit before going for a walk. Bored with the normal touristic stuff I started by walking away from the Thames and into all the beautiful, historic buildings. It was a grey, overcast London day and I was snapping photo’s of grey buildings. It wasn’t a whole lot of fun but then I saw something very interesting.

Loved this banner!

Loved this banner!

The police, all kitted out in riot gear were acting strangely. They’d obviously been waiting for a signal to move from this quite side street and they’d received it. They packed into a van and started moving quickly into the city of grey. I followed them but lost sight of the van. After this, Big Ben was on hold. This seemed way more interesting.

I was walking around a while before I saw them: old hippies walking towards me carrying signs with leftist slogans. All the excitement had me buzzing. What was going on? What was I missing?

They made the news (helicopter above)

They made the news (helicopter above)

One of the more vocal hippies had stopped, was chanting still but had taken a moment for himself. I moved closer to him, “what’s all this about?” I asked, motioning at the stream of now everyday British people walking past me. There were Brits as far as the eye could see and although the first I’d seen were hippies, they weren’t all hippies now. There were tones of young people, people around my age. This was big and I was curious why it had been such a big deal to the police that they were hiding in side streets in riot gear.

A few people stopped and chatted to me, they all encouraged me to join. I felt a little odd about joining a protest march against their government when I was a guest in their country but I figured this was as cultural as cultural experiences got.

This man had to work on his banner in front of Downing Street.

This man had to work on his banner in front of Downing Street.

Then one girl stopped next to me as I snapped my pictures, I asked her where the march was going (where it would end) and she told me parliament. I asked her where that was then it clicked – “Parliament’s the building under Big Ben isn’t it?” I said excitedly. Her uncle who was marching with her said it was, he even smiled and called me ‘dear’. I joined the march a moment later, I was ready to experience this huge march – there was over 100, 000 people there that day!

I’d recently attended a similar march back home, much of what people around me were saying – and chanting – was the same here as it was at home. There had been cuts to welfare, education and healthcare and these people knew in their bones that those cuts wouldn’t mean an over-spending government would reduce debt.

Big Ben from a whole new (non-touristic) perspective

Big Ben from a whole new (non-touristic) perspective

Unlike our peaceful protests at home, these guys’ were a whole lot more serious. There was police everywhere (and I knew already that there were plenty of police we couldn’t see). The procession passed Downing Street and everyone booed and yelled their feelings at politicians unseen. That’s when I saw the funny red clouds in front of me. Later I would hear on the news (as I often did after big events I’d been involved in like the Chilean earthquake and tsunami) that the red clouds were not flares let off by an excited crowd as I had assumed but were tear gas let off by trigger-happy police who were scared after former protests had turned into riots.

Something else I found strange while I was taking photo’s at Big Ben (this time with better angles as I could stand anywhere I liked – including the middle of the road with no cars coming down – there were plenty of young men there, angry guys’ who covered their faces and yelled about anarchy. They climbed on statues to have their photo’s taken by their mates for Instagram and to put their banners up high so all could see them.

On a tree nearby to the marches end point, I couldn't help but wonder who'd left it there...

On a tree nearby to the marches end point, I couldn’t help but wonder who’d left it there…

I left the march early, everyone had been dancing to the music and listening to speakers as they put their banners around the square and taking photo’s when I left. I learned plenty about the leftist movement in the UK that day and after. Apparently as those angry young lads had shown me, punk was not dead. Hippies were still in huge numbers in the UK as well. In Australia, although we have these subcultures, they’re not as prevalent or in some cases as authentic as the UK. Of course not every protester was a punk or a hippy, but there was enough to bring my imagination – and curiosity – to life.

Have you ever joined a protest abroad (or similar event) out of cultural curiosity? I’d love to hear your stories below!

Harry Potter Tour, Edinburgh

Tour meeting place: Make sure you rub Bobby's nose for luck!

Tour meeting place: Make sure you rub Bobby’s nose for luck!

The first time I saw him was when I was walking down the street looking for the café J. K. Rowling had written the first book in, my eyes wide, NO WAY I thought. I was suddenly transported to a different world I’d only read about and here was the famous Harry Potter.

I’d seen them walking around Edinburgh a few times since. Groups of muggles trailing a handsome wizard who looked like a grown-up version of the famous Harry Potter. I didn’t want to spoil everyone’s wand-waving fun so asked around at the hostel I was staying in. Did anyone know about this tour? Was it, like I thought a Harry Potter tour?

Our Tour Guide: Harry Potter(look-alike). He was great though!

Our Tour Guide: Harry Potter(look-alike). He was great though!

The next day I was standing under the famous statue of Grayfriars Bobby waiting for the famous Harry Potter to show me his Edinburgh.

I was quietly excited when Harry Potter gave me my first wand and couldn’t keep the smile from my face as he showed the group how to wave their wands and how to pronounce the magic words just right. We were to use this, our first spell to change traffic lights from red to green. This turned out to be a very important spell for road safety.

Diagon Alley (With my wand hand showing!)

Diagon Alley (With my wand hand showing!)

Harry showed us around Edinburgh, chatting to us about his world in his English accent and showing us all the hidden gems I’d missed while Potter hunting on my own.

I learned plenty about J. K. Rowling’s writing, inspiration and a few of the real-life inspirations she used. She had loved funny names and used many of the names she found in the Grayfriars Church yard, she changed the names of course as she didn’t want her characters to reflect on real people, especially the baddies.

Tom Riddle's Grave... or is it?

Tom Riddle’s Grave… or is it?

Tom Riddle’s name, for example is borrowed from someone buried in Grayfriars and every Halloween apparently there is a bunch of Potterfiles who head to the cemetery and duel with their wands in front of the grave every year. Although I would like to say I would enjoy watching this, I can’t see myself going into a cemetery, after dark, on Halloween.

We also saw the school that inspired Hogwarts and that later J. K. Rowling’s children attended. This very exclusive school is next to Grayfriars church yard and had four houses the same colours as the Hogwarts houses and that were also named after important people to the school. Interestingly enough, both of J. K. Rowling’s children were placed in the red house – Gryffindor.

The real life Hogwarts!

The real life Hogwarts!

As a Potter fan who loved the books as a child and grew up with Harry, I wasn’t happy to hear about J. K. Rowling’s treatment by the media. Apparently she had been sitting in one of her favourite café’s writing as she always had and the media were hounding this quiet writer. One photographer sat next to her and took pictures over her shoulder as she wrote. I enjoyed however, J. K. Rowling’s revenge. She wrote nosey, annoying reporter Rita Skeeter into her novels. This was satire of what she was dealing with as she tried to work.

And where exactly were all these great sites? Want to learn to wave your wand to change traffic lights? If you’re interested in taking the tour yourself, it’s a tour-for-tips arrangement (as in, you pay what you think the tour is worth). You can find more details on the tour company’s website.

The hand prints of the woman herself!

The hand prints of the woman herself!

Have you been on the tour? Suggest any other great tours in Edinburgh? Write about them below.

Don’t Let Anyone Mushroom You About Travel

A friend of mine in the UK was complaining about her manager, she said he was mushroom managing her and launched into a tirade about how much it sucked she wasn’t being told anything. At the time I patiently listened and didn’t interrupt – not even to ask what mushroom management was – after we spoke however, I did some googling.

According to Urban Dictionary:

mushroom management

A management philosophy prescribing to the theory that to best motivate your employees, you must at all times:

  1. Keep them in the dark.

  2. Feed them full of shit.

I thought this was such a great expression! Mushroom management! Being that I wasn’t working at the time – I was travelling – I couldn’t use it but then started thinking of how much it related to travel.

Entering into a lava tunnel on Isla Isabella, Galapagos Islands. I didn't know then how much my claustrophobia would be put to the test...

Entering into a lava tunnel on Isla Isabella, Galapagos Islands. I didn’t know then how much my claustrophobia would be put to the test…

When I was in the Galapagos Islands for example, I had the ferry ride from hell. I was so sick on the ride that I had to lean over the side several times, losing my lunch as well as my dignity. Later after finding a hotel I had a shower and washed my hair before catching a friend for dinner.

I said to her earnestly, “Everyone has these romantic ideas around travel, but today I threw up in my hair!” she thought this was the funniest statement and told me I should write it down (well here it is, I do hope she is reading!)

This is very true though – people are always mushrooming you about travel. At the time that people are travelling, it’s hard. They’re lost in a foreign land with no real idea where they’re going or what they’re doing, they have language barriers to contend with and often other things that crop up too, people taking advantage of their not knowing the city or country, being robbed, mugged or ripped off, weather extremes you wouldn’t believe, never having a decent nights sleep and having to function above how they would have to at home just to navigate this strange land.

A Galapagos Sea Lion moments before it attacked someone who was sitting nearby. Doesn't look aggressive, does it?

A Galapagos Sea Lion moments before it attacked someone who was sitting nearby. Doesn’t look aggressive, does it?

I love travel, but I’m under no illusions that it’s hard work.

Sure, we post pictures of nice beaches and cool animals to Instagram but the reality is that to get to that nice beach we had to walk through some pretty shady parts of a highly dangerous city to find the ferry terminal and to see that animal we had to pay an extra few thousand dollars in flights and learn enough of the local language to find a hotel, a restaurant, a taxi, whatever.

Travel is not easy, at all, ever.

But I still love it and I can’t see myself seeing the world any other way, even if I had a lot more money. I just feel so much richer from being forced to learn another language, from being forced into close quarters with such a variety of interesting people, from being forced to eat the local food and to find it’s absolutely amazing!

Horses warming down after informal street racing (where I almost got hit)

Horses warming down after informal street racing (where I almost got hit)

Travel isn’t romantic at all and it’s far from easy, but it makes me happy so I’m going to keep doing it.

Even though travel is hard, you still want more of it too right?

Goodbye Scotland, can’t say I miss ‘ye

Scots-Bagpipes-Edinburgh-Adventurer-Stacey

It’s not that I didn’t have a good time in Scotland: I learned plenty, saw some beautiful landscapes and castles (as anyone on my Instagram will tell you) and came into contact with a culture I’d been curious about for some time. Meeting a Scot abroad is not the same as meeting one in their homeland so I knew I would need to go to the place to get a real feeling for why the people are the way they are and also to meet more of these lovely people.

But then there were the other things. Edinburgh my chosen city was full of foreigners, although I love a good international city the rich Scottish culture I had been seeking wasn’t as strong as I’d hoped. The scots I met there (outside of service jobs which the Scots and indeed anyone no-one in the UK excels at) were generally nice people with a few exceptions as happens anywhere else in the world.

People chilling out in the grave yard at lunch time: Only a Scot wouldn't notice how depressing that is!

People chilling out in the grave yard at lunch time: Only a Scot wouldn’t notice how depressing that is!

 

I had my heart set on Scotland, and Edinburgh in particular so the idea of moving back down to London or to another UK city didn’t really appeal to me right in that moment. I tried Glasgow (a nightmare from the first), Belfast held little interest for more than a day trip, I had previously decided London was too big and crazy for me (still love you though London!). Generally nothing else really fit the bill for what I wanted – a small city with charm and great food and night life.

Although this feeling has changed after leaving the UK, I wonder how much of that is nostalgia or me not knowing I had a good thing when I had it.One needs to give herself some time to consider this as the obstacles for working in the UK as an Aussie are quite difficult.

 

I swear, Edinburgh has the biggest Sea Gulls! Pretty sure their dogs are smaller...

I swear, Edinburgh has the biggest Sea Gulls! Pretty sure their dogs are smaller…

 

One of the big barriers for me was the cost of living in the UK and the fact that as an Australian who was in the country legally it was near impossible for me to do basic things you need to do before I can work like getting a national insurance number (a tax requirement for anyone working in the UK) and setting up a bank account. I met plenty of Aussie’s who’d given up on working legally despite the hundreds of dollars they had spent on the visa and who were working illegally for cash and earning much less than the minimum wage (the UK minimum wage is not a living wage to start with). Some as low as four pounds an hour which is lunch money.

I never thought the move would be easy but it really was an uphill battle right from the start. Without the option for legal work, I would be stuck working illegally in industries outside my own (I’m a scientist) and would be living underneath the poverty line in foreign country. What about my dreams of international travel within Europe? About a wonderful resume when I return home with yet more international experience?

It got dark at around 11pm but was cold much, much sooner that far north.

It got dark at around 11pm but was cold much, much sooner that far north.

Taking a look around at this situation you can imagine what I did next. The next logical step after touring the UK and visiting all those castles and ruins I was so crazy about was to book a one-way ticket to Mexico! Didn’t see that coming? Not on my Instagram then?

If you’ve had similar issues with travel plans not going quite to plan, I’d love to hear them! Please share in the comments below. Or just commiserate with me. Poor girl, has her health but cannot live in cold, dreary Scotland! Must be so hard!