Wandering The Streets of Prague

One of my greatest annoyances about life in Europe is that if you ever try to make a generalisation about Europe even one that is positive, you will  be met with cries of ” but Europe is a huge place and all the countries are so diverse and cultured” as if that is not true for every continent and even country. Once I got into an online debate with someone about racism in Europe. I made it clear that I had travelled and lived in different European countries and witnessed racism in all of them. I wasn’t saying all Europeans are racist just that there are racist people everywhere. The reply I got was “but Europe is very diverse”.  Since no one has ever changed their mind about anything on the internet that is where I gave up. But I digress. The point is that even though that is my pet peeve it’s true that European countries vary drastically from each other, which is why I was excited to visit a new country, the Czech Republic, specifically Prague.

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We landed on a rainy Wednesday afternoon and after a taxi ride where I envisioned us in the next instalment of Taken (this happens in every taxi I take, I’m not singling out our very lovely taxi driver) we arrived at our hotel BoHo Prague, a small boutique hotel. If you’re staying in Prague, especially for first timers like us, I would highly recommend it. It was so comfortable and, perhaps better, it was right in the centre of the old town so it was perfect for getting to all the tourist spots, which we did all of.  Our first afternoon we drank a Radler and got a delicious sandwich from a street vendor before falling asleep with the intention (not really) of getting back up. However, the next day we awoke refreshed and ready to go to Prague castle.  The castle is one of the most expansive castles in Europe and as such it was fairly busy, but the views and architecture were impressive. After walking down we headed to the beer garden to enjoy some famous Czech beer and also another famous tourist tradition of charging you for random things. Again, not singling out Prague this happens in every tourist place but c’est la vie! We were touristing and enjoying it.

The next day we went to the Communism Museum after I made a pit stop at the capitalist museum, ie: the shopping mall, ie: mainly Sephora.  A few weeks ago I was talking with one of my husbands friends about privacy, something that I believe my generation needs to be worried about even though personally I find it hard to do the necessary work to protect my privacy. Walking through the communism museum reinforced my view that we need to be concerned about privacy as it is essential to democracy. Here were terrible stories of what happens when privacy  is taken away, and it is a recent part of history as well. That had a big impact on me and I left thinking about how forgetful we are as a human race. The museum is well presented, it feels increasingly claustrophobic as you go through it and the writing is excellent, as are the photos and displays.

Later we went for some traditional Czech food. Full disclosure, we went to one of those touristy places that was off of a  main square BUT the food was delicious.  I had the wild boar goulash and my husband had a platter of sorts which was a variety of meats, a lot of meat…so much meat. Where was I? After dinner we rolled home, very full. I would also like to add that sometimes those touristy places aren’t the horrible clichés we think they are. For example, in Valencia there are lots of paella restaurants on the beach, which obviously lend themselves to tourists but mixed in with the over-priced cocktail bars and a place where once my patatas bravas were totally covered in shrimp hairs, are the good restaurants where local families go to eat their Sunday paella. Anyway I can’t guarantee the place we ate wasn’t a shrimp-hair-on-potatoes kind of place but our food was good.

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Revived from our food coma we went on the boat tour the next morning. It was bright and crisp and the views from the river were spectacular. Later we went to a quiet Irish bar to watch football. I mean, I think we know it wasn’t me watching the football. But I enjoyed a few drinks and a lot of chicken wings. Many European cities (that I’ve been to) have these types of places, the atmosphere of an Irish pub but that has American football one night and soccer the next, that has pub quizzes and American style food but done well. And usually there’s a blend of locals, expats and tourists and I find these places charming.

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prague river view

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For our last day, we headed to the Café Louvre, a café famous for entertaining famous guests like Einstein and being a big part of café society. I am intrigued by the Lost Generation and A Moveable Feast is a book that I enjoyed immensely despite reminding myself frequently of what a, let’s say, not-good, person Ernest Hemingway was. Anyway, my point is, sitting in the café Louvre drinking a café au lait and eating my brunch with other tourists and locals, someone writing, what I imagined to be their travel memoirs, well, it felt cool and it reminded me of A Moveable Feast.   For brunch I had smoked salmon on pancakes (for fellow North Americans, they weren’t exactly pancakes but fluffy, savoury delights) with sour cream and it was delicious. Apparently there can be long waits on the weekends but we got in easily on a Sunday morning.

cafe louvre prague

This was our first time in Prague and it was a truly lovely time. I always think you need to go somewhere twice. The first time to be a tourist and the second to, well, do the non-touristy things. Which means, Prague, we’ll be back.

 

 

 

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Let’s Talk About Saving Money For Travel

A quick browse of the blogs I read, pinterest and instagram tells me all the ways I can make money. They range from the glamourous (start a “side hustle”, manifest more money just by thinking about it, positive affirmations) to the downright torturous (make pack lunches  for the rest of your life and never enjoy any of the finer things in life like take out or a can of coke from the refrigerator section of the shop or Netflix). I would be lying if I said I don’t fall into the temptation of trying these various things. Sometimes I put on my finest silk robe, light some candles and swan around the house reciting my horoscope and telling my husband we need to manifest 500 Euros. He asks me  why I don’t aim a bit higher but I think that we should be reasonable in our requests to the Universe or God. I mean, really. Other times I am scrooge, chronicling every cent and feeling guilty for having 2 pints instead of one or taking a taxi when we could have walked. I get it. Here we are with housing prices becoming nearly unreachable and there is the ever present threat of a robot taking our job. Many people my age are going back to school for a second or third time. The world seems on the brink of calamity and social media makes us feel constantly inferior. If we sort out our finances, it seems, maybe we can have a perfect apartment and travel constantly and in general escape that existential dread (too far? Maybe).

So I wanted to write this because I want to share what my finances are like after 10 years of travelling every year for long periods of time and living abroad. I’m not here to tell you to skip your take away coffee, or to live like your poor, or to just GET YOUR PRIORPTIES STRAIGHT because, pardon my French, I think that’s all horseshit. You won’t get rich by skipping your coffee and travel isn’t a priority for everyone. Furthermore telling people to punish themselves for not being rich by not ever having any small luxuries is cruel and judgmental. I’m not here to tell you how you can travel Europe for 7 years with $500 because a.) how? and b.) this sounds terrible to me.I used to feel frustrated when people would tell me I was lucky to travel because it didn’t seem like luck to me, I worked hard to get everything I have. But in another sense I am lucky, lucky to have a stable financial background, to have been able to live at home and find good jobs and to have been born when and where I was. So the goal of this isn’t to tell anyone to save for travel or how to do it. I find that finances and travel aren’t often talked about in a honest way and I wanted to do that.

First of all the negatives. I have debt and have been working hard to get it paid off, it’s not easy. Second of all, because I wanted to travel I did a lot of my degree online so I could work more and while I don’t say I regret it there are certain aspects I now see the negatives too. Had I done my degree in a class room I could have met other people in my field, made friends, networked and  probably seen a more clear career path.  I have borrowed money from my parents (which I paid back years ago). I have lived in some not great places and eaten a lot of rice and beans (the metaphorical rice and beans).  I once stayed in a fifty person dorm.

When it comes to saving money, I worked in restaurants and always made good tips which I saved. I made a chart and tracked everything I spent and made. I bought conditioner in Dollarama (oh, how I miss you Dollarama. Not the conditioner, that was rubbish and I only did that once) and have always used mainly drugstore make up. I lived at home for little or no rent, got a lift or a taxi to work ( I don’t drive so a car would be a bit of a strange investment). I picked up every shift I could and went to work even when I was sick. Ultimately, for me travel was the thing I wanted most so I worked to get it. There’s no secret to saving money for travel, except for just doing it and for the average person that means giving up other things. That’s it. It’s also important to remember that not every can afford to, or even wants to travel and we should stop telling them “but I travelled all of  Norway with 25 cents!”. Let’s just stop that nonsense. I would also like to add that I travelled for 1-5 months at a time, not including the nearly two years in Spain and two here in Ireland. Yes, that’s a long time to travel and I enjoyed it, I’m not going to dispute that! But it also means that for 11 to 7 months I was at home working and that’s a long time to not have new clothes or a seasonal beverage, still those are things that can be done without. What shouldn’t be done without is nights out with friends, after work drinks and functions with family and friends. Whether you’re at home or abroad human connection requires money and time and those things shouldn’t be sacrificed for a trip.

Lastly, this year I turned the much maligned thirty. And when you turn thirty, at least for me, things start happening to you. By things I mean that I now prefer designer make up, and the thought of staying in a hostel makes me want to run screaming in the other direction. I spend more money on things for my house. I want to eat good food and when I travel I want to eat the local food not hide out in the hostel eating the free dinners. I am not at all criticising those things, I had a good time doing them all through my twenties but priorities change and that’s okay. That is to say, I better up my manifestation goals. Maybe 550 euro?

For many Christmas pictures and pictures of our trip to Prague check on my Instagram @stephanierosetravels

 

 

Why I Won’t Volunteer Abroad Again

A few years ago I wanted to gain some experience as an TEFL/ESL teacher and was looking for a volunteer project in Europe. I found what was ostensibly an English teaching job and applied for it. I researched it to the best of my ability even emailing companies that monitor volunteer organisations. I was wary back then of volunteering abroad, as it always seemed like a way for people to raise money for what ended up being a holiday for them. What’s more it seemed to treat the suffering of others as something they could use to make themselves better. But, I thought, young people around the world need to learn English, however unfair it may be and I was a qualified English teacher. Well, the project was a farce. It wasn’t an English teaching job at all, it was working in a care home for a group of girls who’s parents weren’t able to take care of them, or that was the claim. In an English teaching classroom, the teacher doesn’t always speak the language of the students and there are teaching methods that work around this obstacle. However, I wasn’t in a classroom and I didn’t speak the language. There were no clear instructions about what I was supposed to do and I had never been in such a situation before. I tried to communicate as best I could and attempted some English teaching games but I’m afraid I was wholly useless to them. The volunteer co-ordinator seemed entirely uninterested in helping the girls in any meaningful way. One of the other women who was on the same project as  me, but in a different town mentioned that someone had left her project because of the racism that they had experienced. For a project to not warn a person that they might experience racism in a rural town seems irresponsible and cruel. Since then I’ve read quite a bit about the ways that voluntourism harms people and communities. Few organisations have any kind of rigorous checks on people which means anyone can sign up for a project that works with vulnerable people. In some countries orphanages that attract volunteers are actively harming the communities by  encouraging trafficking and abuse. J.K. Rowling wrote about this recently and explains it far better than I can.

Like those that (wrongly, I believe) buy a sandwich for a homeless person rather than giving them money we feel that if we volunteer we are doing the morally superior thing. We aren’t giving money away for someone to use foolishly, we feel. But the reality is that reputable charities, NGO’s and other organisations that help people do need money. They need well paid and supported staff, they have bills to pay just like the rest of us. It offends us to think that we are paying someone else’s salary instead of helping people. But in fact, we are helping people when we donate to good charities. Of course there have been instances where charities misused funds and it is important that we don’t give to those organisations but in order for a charity to function properly it needs funding.

Worse is when we go to volunteer for an experience. Now I truly believe that most people who volunteer do so out of the goodness of their heart, they mean well and want to help. But the suffering of others shouldn’t be something we gawk at or use to better ourselves or our resumes/CV’s. It shouldn’t be something we pop into for a week or month. If there’s an issue we feel truly passionate about we should educate ourselves and commit to it as a career. If that’s not feasible to find out how to truly help, which governments and policies will positively effect other countries, where to donate money and how to educate ourselves and others on the issues. It may sound counterintuitive but sometimes the best thing we can do when we want to travel and improve the world is donate to a reputable charity and then just take a vacation in said country. Personally I’m of the mind that if we truly help people it doesn’t matter why we do it. If we donate generously and that helps people then it doesn’t matter if some part of us wanted to feel better about ourselves or we did it from some ideologically pure reason. We are fallible humans and we have a multitude of emotions and reasons for doing anything, some of those less good than others. That said, I do think we need to accept that sometimes doing good is boring. Doing something profound and impactful isn’t instagrammable or exciting. Most of the time it’s quiet and hard and ongoing. We should seek to become involved in our own communities, with organisations that are respectful and well researched. We need to commit to doing good all the time, even when it isn’t exciting or glamorous. And most importantly we need to view those in need as complete human beings who are no different from ourselves. If we don’t want a raggedy old t-shirt why would someone else? We wouldn’t appreciate if our bosses said “I don’t know what you’ll do with the money that I pay you so I’ll buy your groceries instead” would we?

After my experience I can say Romania is one of the most unique and beautiful countries I’ve ever been to and I would encourage anyone to visit it, as a tourist. I personally won’t volunteer abroad again. I’m not an expert and I can only talk about what I’ve read and experienced so I can’t say 100% that there are no good volunteer opportunities and that there is never a place for it. But I do believe that we are better off volunteering (long term, ideally) and helping in our own communities and donating  and supporting organisations that are qualified to do the work. Sending unqualified people to do work that requires qualified people isn’t helpful and short term volunteering can do more harm then good. We need to think carefully about the way our actions impact the world.

Some useful articles:
Slate-Charities need your money, not your random old food
The Guardian-Which would you rather have, time or money
The Guardian-Before you pay to volunteer abroad, think of the harm you might do

 

Go Ahead, Be a Tourist

If you’ve gone on 0 trips or 7000 you know that you don’t want to be a “tourist” you want to be a “traveller” and you want to seek out “authentic experiences” you want to see “the real ____________”. I’ve heard that everywhere I’ve lived and travelled too. “Dublin’s not really Ireland” or “Rome is a typical destination for a North American” (still don’t know what that means, it’s the capital and a historic city so probably lots of people go there not just North Americans??). I am here to say bullshit. Look the truth is, yes if you live somewhere for a while it will feel different then stopping by for a week or two, and the longer you live there the more your perspective will change. Yes if you learn the language you will have a deeper experience. These things are true. But if you’re travelling somewhere, even if you’re living there, stop looking for authentic experiences. You are having an authentic experience right now. Even if you eschew all the traditional tourist things, you’re still a tourist. At least that’s how I see it. In my years of trying to be an “authentic traveller”  I have yet to have someone come up to me and say “wow Stephanie, good job, you’re a traveller and not a tourist”. What’s more I’ve spent a lot of time trying to please other travellers and impress them with the tales of m authentic travels and you know what? That certain type of person is never happy because there’s always someone who’s been somewhere more “interesting” or done something more adventurous, or been too more countries or whatever the case may be. And you know what that’s true. Because whatever you do there will someone who has done something different.

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Seeking so-called “authentic” experiences often means that one, particularly a Westerner, is attempting to be an arbitrator of another culture and what defines their culture. If  Spain, for instance, and I’m just using this as an example, decides to ban bull fighting or the running of the bulls in the near future it is not the job of  me, or anyone else to say that they should keep the tradition because it’s, well, a tradition. What’s more, what’s often described as the “real __________” is the countryside, the rural places that have remained more homogeneous (or have been seen to remain homogeneous, in reality these places are disappearing fast as well) . It implies that the more multi-cultural cities, the thriving multi-ethnic places don’t really represent a certain country. That things should stay a certain way or else lose their charm. It treats people and cultures as museum pieces that can be preserved for you and your entertainment. It doesn’t allow countries or communities to change as they see fit. Many times on my travels I’ve hear ” oh there’s a Starbucks/McDonalds/ other American corporation that can be used to describe everything that’s wrong with the world in every city” and that’s more or less true. I’m not here to say Starbucks or McDonalds are good or should be everywhere but I mean, I like Starbucks festive drinks and sometimes you just need a Big Mac but I digress. I would argue, and will readily admit if I’m wrong, that cultures are strong enough to survive a McDonalds popping up on the corner. I’m not here defending McDonalds and there are real conversations to be had about gentrification and the harm it does, just to say that maybe a lot of handwringing when we see someone from another country enjoying a 6 euro coffee is out of place. Look, I’m not immune. There was a little cafe in Valencia that was what I would describe as a typical Valencian old man bar/cafe. The kind where everything is kind of orange and brown, there’s probably a fan in the corner and a cigarette machine from the 18th century or so, they give you a coffee for a euro and they seem angry when they do it. If you’ve been to Spain you know what I’m talking about. Last time I went to Valencia it had turned into a brightly coloured, stylish looking place. I felt kind of sad. But guess what? I don’t live there anymore and I don’t own that business. If that makes them more money, or makes them happier or caters to tourists then hey, that’s their choice.

All of this is a long winded way to say, let’s get rid of this elusive idea of a “traveller” because who even knows what that means?When I’m travelling from now on I’m going to be a tourist.  So let’s embrace it (respectfully of course), enjoy the Eiffel Tower it’s iconic and pretty damn cool. See Big Ben or the many churches around Europe. Take some cheesy pictures, stop worrying what everyone thinks of you.  You have the privilege of being able to travel to a new place, enjoy it, without wondering if it’s good enough, real enough, true enough. Readers will know that I’m concerned with travelling ethically and that stands, I think we need to be informed about where we go and what we do when we’re there. But if you’ve done that then just enjoy yourself, do your trip your way and enjoy yourself. You get to travel!

Disagree? Let me know in the comments.

and if you want to see pictures of dog and cake and sometimes even travel follow me on instagram

Overwhelmed by Travel Culture

I belong to many travel groups on social media that, like anything, are sometimes inspirational, sometimes helpful and sometimes annoying. And often posts will appear by people who quit their job to travel the world and now hate it, or have gone on a long backpacking trip and want to go home or who are just otherwise burned out. Before I go any further I want to say that I don’t mean that we should give up on anything that becomes difficult or that things that are hard aren’t worth doing. Getting an education is hard but worth doing, work is hard but necessary even relationships can be work but we don’t give up on them. Even travel can fall into that category. When I first moved abroad I found the first few weeks very difficult but I wouldn’t be where I am in life or the person I am now without that trip and the subsequent ones. But when I see articles talking about how to deal with travel burn out I want to scream into the void. Because travel was and remains a luxury item. Even if you’re eating beans and rice (or a weird onion soup I tried to make one time when I was broke) you have the luxury of taking time off of work, the ability to afford travel to another country and the assurance that you can go home and resume your life. This isn’t a moral judgement. I’ve spent most of my twenties travelling and have enjoyed it greatly. But travelling is a product and I’m a consumer.Travel can be a valuable experience but it has no inherent goodness. You don’t become a better person just by travelling. Sure it can open your eyes and broaden your horizons if that’s what you want to happen and are already open minded but it doesn’t magically turn a bigoted person into a understanding and compassionate one. The adage that seems to be a sort of Millenial chant that we are and should be “buying experiences and not things” is used to explain why we should travel. But what is an experience and what is a thing? A flight is certainly a thing you’ve bought, as is a hotel or hostel and music festivals and luggage and clothes and miniature beauty products and so on. Inherent in this way of thinking is a judgement and one that is just plain wrong.

When I started travelling I liked and related to every post or story about choosing “freedom” instead of a house, car, family etc. I am still the same person, I’m not ready to settle down, I still don’t own or desire to own a car or house but now these same posts make me bristle. They make me bristle because I am not more free than the people who do have those things but a different kind of free (if any of us are free at all but this isn’t a philosophy blog so we’ll leave it at that) . Sure I could pack my suitcase this minute and go somewhere but financial stability, serious friendships (whatever anyone says, long term travel will strain or break friendships) those are another kind of freedom. And, even if they weren’t there’s another problem. The language around Millenials is that we are “choosing” to free ourselves from the burdens of a stable life, the “American dream” if you will that was sold to our parents. But if we are constantly bombarded with messages that say we should travel, we should spend all this money on experiences and even go into debt to pursue them, that then we will be truly free, we are just being told a different lie. And it’s insidious because the message is, if you don’t travel you are closed minded, you aren’t motivated enough, you just need to work harder and save more money and stop drinking that coffee on the way to work. The message is that you should travel even to places that are hostile towards you and yes, there are places that are more dangerous than others. And you know what that is? Convincing people to go into debt and to endanger their lives in the pursuit of something that is not a necessity? That’s consumerism my friends.

I don’t write this to poo-poo travel or those who travel. I write it because I am feeling exhausted. I’m exhausted by article after article criticising people who don’t travel. Exhausted by “don’t date a girl who travels” or “travelling solo is best”  and other posts that seem to think getting into a relationship or even making friends-God forbid- will ruin all your fun. I’m really tired of the particular safety concerns women, trans men and women, people of colour and others, face being brushed over with “oh well travelling alone is still the best way what can you do”. I’m tired of the idea that we should pursue travel at all costs, even when it’s damaging the communities we are travelling to. When we’d rather stay in an Airbnb that  is pricing people in Barcelona (and other cities) out of their homes than pay for a hotel. When people do volunteer projects that could actively harm the people it purports to help and we say “oh well they have good intentions”. I write this because I love to travel and hope to keep doing so. But I want to do it in such a way that people who don’t want to can say “no, this isn’t for me.  That we can have actual, honest conversations about travel that don’t get derailed by “but travelling is good we can never criticise it”. More importantly I want to do it in a way that doesn’t harm others, that’s sustainable and accessible to all.

 

Glamping and Caving in Doolin, Ireland

Nature is a wonderful and surprising thing. I try my best to care for the environment by bullying everyone I know into recycling and composting.  Once I even got deeply emotionally invested in a nature program about a bird’s mating dance, you guys this bird did a dance and then made himself look like a leaf to attract a girlfriend. That’s amazing! Still, I believe, that no one loved nature as much as our tour guide when we went to the Doolin caves to see, what will henceforth be known as THE GREAT STALACTITE, because that is what it called on the Doolin Caves website. It is the largest stalactite in the Northern Hemisphere.

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Upon arriving at the entrance to the caves the tour guide informed us with great severity that he had bad news. The bad news was that there was a fee to the caves. Honestly, he was probably a marketing genius because after the way he told us that it wasn’t free to see THE GREAT STALACTITE  he could have probably told us it was 100 euro per person and we would have paid it because it was less than we were imagining. After paying the, actually nominal, fee we descended down about 8 million stairs, donned a hard hat and went into the caves. I wouldn’t say that I’m a particularly claustrophobic person but I felt a deep discomfort being underground, especially as our tour guide told us about the two Englishmen in ye olden times (the 50’s) who had discovered THE GREAT STALACTITE. They crawled through a tunnel only large enough for themselves in a crawl they described as miserable, because they were curious. CURIOUS. Men, y’all. I’m curious about a lot of things, for example how did that bird turn it’s butt into a leaf looking thing? Why do they always choose the cheesiest and most insincere people on the Bachelor and Bachelorette? Will I really make $150,000 dollars per week working from home if I click on the link in the Facebook comments (no)? But if I saw said bird going down into a tiny tunnel, I wouldn’t take it upon myself follow it and ask it it’s technique.  If it had been me telling this story it would have been with a undertone of “hahah but why” but not our tour guide, he spoke with reverence. Due to some bad timing on my part I arrived at the head of the group and had to make faces of appreciation when my heart was saying “hell no to these two explorers”  “where is THE GREAT STALACTITE” “maybe I do have claustrophobia”  and other variations on that theme. Anyway. After much dramatic flair, we saw the stalactite. The thing that is both wonderful and horrible about the human brain is that we can fathom things but only to a certain extent. The stalactite is tens of thousands of years old. Try imagine how much has happened in 10 000 years, for example. It’s impossible. Still to see something that has formed over that amount of time, that is still growing and will probably keep growing after we’re all gone, is impressive. It really puts into perspective how small and insignificant our times on this earth are and you know what? I don’t like feeling small and insignificant. Some people channel that feeling into not worrying about the future and to making the most of everyday but I prefer, due to being A NEGATIVE PERSON, to fall into a pit malaise and start smoking again because we’re all going to die and THE GREAT STALACTITE will still be there hanging out and being shown to tourists by over enthusiastic guides. Where was I? Oh yes, it’s an impressive sight. After we had thoroughly examined the stalactite from all angles, including trying to see it’s reflection in a puddle in the dark (I don’t know why either) we ascended back up the stairs. There weremany helpful signs telling people to rest if they need to and I really did want to stop, rest, have a beer, take a nap, go to the beach at many of them but it would only postpone the inevitable climb up 60 trillion more stairs so we ploughed through. But there’s more! There was a short nature walk you could take to really appreciate the landscape. Generally I really enjoy walking but I will begrudgingly admit that I wasn’t in tip top form and was a bit cranky. I tried that trick of when you say “oh will we go to the pub, we’ve seen a lot of nature” and then start walking in direction of said pub hoping everyone will follow. They did not. So after the nature walk we finally made it to the pub, my preferred holiday destination and then to our glamping tent.

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doolin donkey

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Glamping gets a bad rap as being a bit novelty, a passing trend, kind of cheesy and all those things that people like to say whenever something comes along that people seem to be enjoying too much.I, however, am a fan after our experience at Doolin Glamping. We had a lovely tent in the scenic countryside. Doolin is a small, touristy town on the west coast of Ireland and the caves are about a five minute drive from the town and the Cliffs of Moher are about fifteen to twenty minutes away.  In fact we got a bit lost trying to find it, with me, ever the helpful navigator shouting from the passenger side “are we the red dot????” as if I have never used Google maps before ( I have, many times) and my sister chewing anti-nausea pills like they were candy. She generally doesn’t get motion sick but I would argue that the roads in Ireland are enough to bring the strongest stomached person to the state of sticking your head out of the window as far as possible and only making grunts when someone asks you a question, lest you spew something other than words.  Sometimes touristy places get disparaged as being inauthentic but I would recommend a stay in Doolin if you want to see some of the surrounding sites. We saw the caves, of the Cliffs of Moher, the pub,  a lot of friendly people (we did not see a shop, so be prepared if you’re camping there) and beautiful countryside, which is all I ask for from any place.

Fin

 

A Weekend At Body & Soul Festival

Ah music festivals! The time to don your sheerest, most floral, most fishnety outfits. To liberally cover your face in glitter and bright colours. To eschew the personal hygiene rules that have been instilled in you since childbirth. To survive off of beer and chips. To pretend you are at Coachella or Glastonbury even though you are sat in a puddle in Ireland!  Last month we attended Body & Soul festival, which bills itself as a sumptuous feast for the senses with delicious food, a scenic venue in the forest and a selection of art, dance and reggae music (among other genres) wood fire heated hot-tubs in the forest and even a masquerade ball hosted by Veuve Clicquot.  On our way into town to get a carpool to the festival my boyfriend’s sister-in-law said to us “you’re going to Body and Soul? The only people who go to that are real hippies”. I was delighted.  Delighted I say. As someone who has worked hard at cultivating this hippy image for years it was my moment of truth. I had arrived at peak hippy. Still, I asked myself why she had that tone of surprise in her voice. Most people would describe my style as bohemian. I am unemployed and have an arts degree. I make avocado toast. I wear a lot of flowing flowery things and do yoga. I take my horoscope seriously. The other day I found a small plant pot and showed it to my sister to see what she thought. She said “you might want to paint that” and I said “don’t you think it has a 70’s Hippy in Hollywood vibe?” and we both agreed it did. That is my style. In my mind at least, I am a well established hippy.

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As I write this I’m sure someone (and come on, we can all picture this person) is saying that “it was way better a few years ago and it’s too big now, etc. etc. etc” but ahaha to you miserable person who can’t enjoy anything unless they “discovered it” because it was packed and everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves immensely. There was a variety of ages and the food and atmosphere were excellent (and music of course!). I even found a poutine stand that had a Canadian flag (for authenticity). I ate two. The music we enjoyed most were the afternoon/evening acts where we sat on a hill and chilled out.  Look I’m not gonna lie, we are in our early thirties. We get tired and sometimes have a little lie down from which we don’t get back up until the next morning. That is, we didn’t make it to too many of the late night acts because we were asleep. The people in the tent beside us also didn’t make it to the late night acts but for an entirely different reason. They had consumed such copious amounts of drugs that I wouldn’t be surprised if they are still awake.


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I’ve written a lot about how travel and consumerism are closely linked and festivals are no exception. Besides the cost there’s camping gear, drinks, food and a new “festival wardrobe”. I mean I guess that’s more important if you’re going to a warm weather festival or something because Ireland has a great climate of “cold and raining every damn day” so my “festival wardrobe” mainly stayed in my suitcase, although I did get great use out of my three euro flower crown from Tiger. I guess what I’m saying is going to festivals can be great but there are things that can be improved. When we were packing up on the last day there were people leaving behind brand new tents and clothes and leaving litter everywhere. Someone left a full tub of butter! Who brings  a tub of butter to a music festival?! Did they have a toaster in there too? Enquiring minds want to know. I think those are things we need to change. Dancing, partying and drinking breakfast beers is great, but we still need to be conscientious.


To do: Take a walk into the woods in the late afternoon, sip on the Stockholm Mules from the Absolut tent, wear bright lipstick colours, soak in the hot tubs (these are about 60 euro for two people for about half an hour but it’s a magical setting if that’s your kind of thing) and try as many of the food stalls as possible, our favourite was a place that did rice bowls with miso paste, kimchi, peas and a fried egg ( I can’t remember the name of the stall so if anyone knows, let me know!) and of course listen to some music!

To not do:  Please guys, don’t wear a Native headdress as part of a costume. On a lighter note the queue to charge your phone in the vodafone tent was massive and since they ask for your IMEI number it took ages for everyone to disassemble their phones, likewise for the queue for the ATM (minus the taking apart of phones, obvs), also do not forget to pack a substantial amount of baby/ face wipes, you can never have too many.

Bottom line: if music festivals are your thing, this is a good one. Wear what you like, listen to the bands you like and don’t worry about doing things a certain way. Also, please, let’s clean up after ourselves and consume substances responsibly. And of course, enjoy ourselves!

If you liked this check out A Weekend In Banff  or A Weekend Camping in Northern Ireland,

Or you can follow me in Instagram for cute pupper pictures and selfies!