Brighton in a Weekend

So as I keep yapping on about, I moved to Brighton at the beginning of the year. But due to lack of money and my general dislike of leaving the house, I haven’t explored as much as I like. I have like 3 friends here. Give me a break. But last weekend my honorary twin sister Orla came to visit from Ireland, so I had no choice but to go full tourist mode. And it was great.
So for your consideration, here is how to do Brighton in a weekend. It works better if you and/or your guest like vegan food and shopping. ‘Cause that’s kind of what Orla and I are all about.

As a side note: my blog photography is pretty dire in this post… it was more of an Instagram Story type weekend than a blog one. But then I realised it would make a great blogpost and I’m stuck with these wonky atrocities. Sorry, Blog Gods.

Friday


Oz came on Friday evening and after some screaming and carrying her suitcase up five flights of stairs, we were ready to EAT. We headed into Kemptown for drinks in what we thought was a typical old man bar, but turned out to be a drag bar. It was the perfect place to show Orla just how, well, Brighton Brighton can be. We then headed to Purezza for dinner. Purezza is a vegan pizzeria and it is AMAZING. Vegan cheese is hard to get right and it was my first time actually trying vegan pizza but I am in love. After demolishing our pizzas, we knew we couldn’t leave without trying more – so we split a vegan orange mocha cake. And guess what? Also delicious! Who said vegans only eat rabbit food?


We finished off the night with some drinks in the South Lanes, where I took Orla to two of my favourites: The Mesmerist and The Marwood. We then parted ways ready for a full day of FUN SIBLING EXPLORING AND BONDING TIMES WOO!
Saturday


On this day we had intended to meet at 10 or something… only to finally meet at like 12. Just another part of the family resemblance. For brunch we decided to hit up VBites, another tasty vegan establishment. I was sad we had missed the breakfast menu, but not for long after I saw they had a falafel wrap on the menu. I got said wrap and an iced green tea (my fave). Orla is more adventurous with her food and tried the vegan duck pancake – but she said it was great and judging by the quality of my falafel, I’m inclined to believe her. We also split some sweet potato fries with garlic mayo because FOOD. In fact, we loved this place so much we came back. More on that later.


We took a walk down the pier for some serious Instagramming (Orla) and Pokémon hunting (me). Then we both literally hunted Pokémon in the arcade. Please note the lack of pictures with any Jigglypuffs. We did not win. After the pier we explored the South Lanes by daylight and did a little window shopping, before heading into Churchill Square for some actual shopping. By this point, we were hungry again so wandered over to Glazed for vegan donuts. VEGAN DONUTS. We were exceedingly lucky because we got the last one and it was so good. But even better than the donut, was the doggy that worked there. His name was Donald and I love him. He wore a bandana. Sadly I didn’t take a picture of the dog as I was too busy being licked so here is Orla modelling our donut.

Suddenly, because BRITAIN, it begain to rain so we ducked into Black Mocha for some caffeine and shelter. I’d been meaning to try this place for a while but wasn’t impressed with my coffee. Other people have told me that it’s actually pretty good so I’m willing to give it another shot, but honestly, meh. Once the rain stopped we darted back to Oz’s hotel (via a quick detour for wine and crackers).

And this is the point I became an idiot. I didn’t book a table. When we did finally emerge from the room, we were starving. We asked about a table at The Curry Leaf and were told it would be an hour. We agreed and off we went to the nearest bar. An hour comes, still no call. After ninety minutes we go to ask. Basically we ended up standing by the door staring at them until we got a table. By this point I was so hungry that I would have eaten anything. Hence the lack of photo. There is no time for Instagram when you reach that level of hunger. I don’t even remember what I ordered, other than I decided “fuck vegan weekend” and ordered a naan bread out of pure starvation. I think it would be unfair to review The Curry Leaf when I probably  would have literally eaten my own shoe at this point, but it was good – just not a patch on my favourite Brighton Indian, Planet India. After this we decided on an early night to prepare ourselves (and our stomachs) for the next day.

Sunday


Sunday started off at my new love, Small Batch Coffee. I picked a vegetarian sausage roll as a snack and got an oat milk latte. I sat waiting patiently for my coffee arrive so I could take a picture of both together, but it took so long I got bored and ate my sausage. Turned out they forgot about me. Luckily they gave me a voucher for a free coffee so who cares? And honestly, that latte was so good I would have come back anyway. I’m just gonna go right ahead and say it, best coffee in Brighton. No, in Britain. NO. THE WORLD.

After a little while exploring the North Lanes and avoiding the rain, we met my friends for a meatless roast at The Prince George. I was so excited for this. And I wish I could say it lived up to its expectations but… THEY FORGOT ABOUT ME. Yes, mere hours after the coffee shop forgetting about me, a restaurant forgot to bring me my food. I think I’m actually cursed, but whatever. Considering my food came when my friends were halfway through with their own, I didn’t take a picture. I just tried to catch up. I think I ordered the wellington. It was good, I guess, but my Yorkshire Pudding was hard as a rock. I’ll definitely go back, but only because I drank the best gin of my life in there and I need to taste its sweet, sweet nectars again. They didn’t offer me a free drink though. Hmmmph.


After lunch we did some more shopping down the North Lanes, but as it was Sunday, things were closing. We headed back to The Mesmerist and had a few more drinks before we got sleepy. Although we swore we wouldn’t eat anything else, we got Subway before leaving because we are ravenous monsters. #NoRegrets

Monday


For our Last Supper (ahem… breakfast), of course we headed back to VBites. This time we were in time for breakfast, so I had the most delicious hummus, spinach, and mushrooms on toast. SO. GOOD. Orla had the same, she agrees. After that it was time to take Orla back to the station. But we did have a little bit of time… so we grabbed some more oat milk lattes from Small Batch before we said our final goodbyes.

I had such a good weekend and am so glad Orla came to visit. I probably never would have gotten around to trying half these places if she’d never come to see me. So thank you, Oz, and I’ll see you in Berlin this August for Round Two.


You can follow Orla’s Twitter and Instagram here because she is much cooler than I.

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The Great Expat Dilemma: Should I Stay Or Should I Go?

Let’s get real for second. When I first decided to start my expat adventure I was a naive little 21 year old, fresh out of university, with no life or work experience. I was feeling defeated and like I was running out of options, regretting all of my life choices that had led me to that moment.

To avoid spending another minute wasting away in my teenage bedroom whilst all my friends went on to bigger and better things, I thought maybe I’d move abroad and teach English. I wish I could remember my thought process for deciding this, but I imagine a lot of it had to do with just wanting to prove that I could do something other than receive job rejection emails. Thus, I set myself a task to work towards (so my days could be spent doing something more worthwhile than watching Catfish marathons) and for the first time since education, my life had purpose again.

I chose my destination (Madrid), worked out my plan (to begin with a four week TEFL course and then wing it), bought my plane tickets, and off I went. Soon I was a qualified English as a second language teacher living in a capital city and hanging out with a crazy diverse group of friends. And my initial plan to teach English for a year and then head home then turned into two years with no plans to leave yet. But yet, that expat dilemma remains: when is it time to go home?

By moving to Madrid, I definitely accomplished what I wanted to do. Before I left I was crippled by intense social anxiety and could barely function in situations I hadn’t rehearsed in my head before hand. I couldn’t talk to strangers or look people in the eye or make small talk in shops. But moving to a place where you don’t understand a single thing anyone says, or have your mum to do things for you, really forces you out of your comfort zone. And whilst I still don’t revel in talking to others, I no longer feel like my throat is closing up. I can navigate through life without that omnipresent sense of dread following me around – and let me tell ya, it feels super refreshing. I recently spent a few weeks in the UK and had multiple people comment on how different I was so. So life experience? Check.

Another thing I wanted was work experience. And whilst teaching is in no way what I want to do with my life, it pays the bills whilst I embark on multiple unpaid internships – something that definitely wasn’t available for me in a place like Hull. I’ve managed social media accounts, learnt CMS, written articles about things I knew nothing about before I started – aka I’ve basically become a digital media wizard. So whilst teaching isn’t exactly where I imagined I’d be at 24, I’m getting that much needed experience all those “entry level” jobs somehow expect you to have already. It just took me a little longer to get there and I’m talking about verbs whilst doing it. Work experience? Working on it but let me give it a preemptive check.

So after doing everything I set out to do (and spending double the expected time here), why am I still in Spain? The simple, gross, and horribly cliché version is that I fell in love. With the city, with a dude, with my entire existence here. And why ruin a good thing? I’ll stick with the cheap wine and sunny weather and good Mexican food, thanks.

But another major factor in my decision to stay in Madrid is that I don’t know what would happen otherwise. Here I know I can keep getting teaching gigs, keep living cheaply, keep enjoying this big city life I’ve grown accustomed to. Before I moved here my life was so uncertain – whether I’d get a job, be able to move out, the sensitive state of my mental health, etc etc. Shit was scary, but here I don’t have to worry. As I keep saying over and over again, this definitely isn’t where I expected to be, but as long as I’m paying the bills, having fun, and improving myself as a person, I don’t see what the problem is. I may not be as far along on the career ladder as my classmates but look at all that sexy life experience I’m racking up. And I’ve learnt more Spanish talking to supermarket cashiers here than I did in in four years of German in high school, so there’s that.

So although expat life has its flaws; friends leaving every year, language barriers, and cultural mishaps – and even though Spain is definitely not the utopia all those retired Brits make it out to be, it looks like for the moment I’m here to stay.

A misleading title? Mayhaps. ‘Cause I have no freaking idea what I’m doing with my life other than enjoying it. But at 24, I think maybe that’s okay.

Bumble BFF: Expat Adventures in Friend Dating

One of the biggest struggles of expat life, other than language barriers and cultural mishaps, is finding and maintaining friendships. Not every expat enters a country at the same, but most importantly, not every expat leaves at the same time. At any moment one of your closest friends can up and leave and you’re left with some major free time on your hands. Sure, the usual rules about making new friends can also apply as an expat: socialise with your colleagues, join a class, stalk out mutual friends. But with the need to seek out new friendships multiple times a year (particularly in the dreaded summer months), these leads can dry out pretty quickly. Enter Bumble BFF, a new app that is here to change the way we platonically meet other people.

The idea of choosing friends solely online might seem weird to some people, but most of the friends I made in my formative teenagers years came from the Internet, and I met my boyfriend of two years on Tinder. So an app where you essentially judge people on pictures and a short bio didn’t put me off too much. When I heard about Bumble, I knew I needed to try it. If I can handle Tinder in Spain, I can handle anything.

I’ve been using Bumble BFF for about two months now and I feel I’ve got a good idea of what it’s all about. Most importantly, how weird it is to market yourself for friends. I know you can say that your profile is just a natural reflection of you, but that is still marketing yourself. If all of someone’s pictures were taken in clubs, I know we probably wouldn’t get along. So no swipes for them. Not in a judging way, just that I know I’d probably never hang out with them if their weekends are spent in six storey nightclubs and mine are spent in bougie dive bars. So it’s a good way to weed out the people you probably couldn’t form a friendship with.

Over my time on Bumble, I had some good conversations. Some progressed onto WhatsApp and some progressed even further onto actual Platonic Friend Dates. I’ve been on three now and finally think I’ve figured out the best way to navigate the app, because each Friend Date has gone better than the last. I’ve bumped up the age category and said bye to the young’uns (whilst simultaneously accepting that oh god I might be in my mid twenties?) and I know when to tell if the conversation is just normal dull-but-polite pleasantries or a dead end.

Overall, I’m a big fan of Bumble BFF and cutting out the middle man when it comes to making new friends. Using the app pretty much screams ‘HELLO I’M HERE TO HANG OUT WITH NEW PEOPLE’ and I love how unashamed that is. Especially for expats, ’cause we need all the help we can get. Even if, like Tinder dates, some of your Friend Dates don’t go anywhere, you still get a nice time out of it. So far I’ve had ice lollies, after work drinks, and mojito bar hopping; when otherwise I’d be at home watching Degrassi on Netflix. Both are fun, but one is slightly more beneficial to my inner happiness. And it’s not the Canadian high schoolers.

But let’s be real, as someone in a long term relationship, I really just miss swiping people’s faces.

Pros of Bumble BFF:

  • Everyone is there for the same reason
  • Super convenient and not time consuming
  • You can scope people out before you meet (you’re given enough information to sufficiently Facebook stalk)
  • Swiping is fuuuuuuun

Cons of Bumble BFF:

  • You’re putting yourself out there to be judged
  • Not a lot of people are using the app yet (at least in Madrid)
  • There’s still a chance you can be murdered

Verdict: It’s great for expats and people moving cities, but also an easy and fun way for anyone to meet new people. I’m really looking forward to how this concept develops in the future. The Internet has already changed so much about our lives, it’s only time before it starts to influence our friendships too. Yaaaaay Platonic Dating!

Four Spots In Florence


It’s been a while since I was in Florence, and I’d almost given up on writing a post about it. But no matter how much time passes, I can’t get that damn city out of my head. It’s definitely one of my favourite cities in Europe and I can’t wait until I go back again. So although it’s been a while since I visited, I couldn’t let the opportunity to post a few of my favourite Florentine haunts. They’re touristy af, but whatever, finding the hidden gems is for subsequent visits.

1. Museum of Zoology


Although when people think of museums in Florence, they’re usually referring to Renaissance art, the first museum I visited was the Museum of Zoology. This place definitely isn’t what you’d expect. Full of taxidermy, wax models, and other wonderfully weird creations. The insect section was super cool… I had no idea bugs could grow that big and it makes me thankful that the cockroaches here in Spain aren’t as big as my face. The human section was pretty interesting too, mostly because it shows how little people knew about the human body only a few hundred years ago. I’ll save you the pictures I took of sliced in half boobs, even though I kinda loved it. My favourite part though, was an exhibition on rhinos and extinction, which made me cry a little bit. If you need a break from all the Reniassance art, the Museum of Zoology and it’s boob models is definitely an eye opener.

2. Giardino Boboli


Even though it was petty terrible weather, no museums were open, so I risked the rain and a took a trip to the Giardino Boboli. I’ve never really been one for royal gardens and the like, so it surprised me how much I enjoyed my visit. The views of Florence are incredible, and it’s a great way to kill a few hours because it’s so damn big! The whole thing has a very Studio Ghibli feel, it’s very whimsical and kind of eerie. But my favourite part of the trip has to be the museums included in your ticket entry price. In the costume gallery, I got to see a great exhibit of fashion through the ages, with information about the designers/owners that was super interesting to me, particularly because of the feminist twist. It wasn’t what I was expecting upon entering a garden, but I was very happy to spend my day there.

3. Galleria dell’Accademia 


Everyone goes to the Galleria dell’Accademia when they visit Florence, but I noticed that a lot of people take a picture with David, then leave, but there’s so much more to see! Admittedly the building was way smaller than I expected, but it does have some hidden gems. Definitely not the place for you if the Weeping Angels from Doctor Who creep you out, but if you’re a fan ofRenaissance  sculptures, you’re gonna love it. Just make sure you buy tickets in advance, because otherwise you’re looking at a two hour wait in line.

4. Volume, Piazza Santo Spirito


Although I nearly picked the whole piazza for this section, really my love is all for Volume. This is the type of place we need more of in Madrid. Laid back, dingy, with amazing coffee and food. Aka everything I love in a cafe bar. I think I came here three times over my four days in the city, and it was mainly for the amazing jam croissant I had my first day. If you need a good coffee/food/book reading spot inbetween all the architecture and art, head across the bridge and relax a bit away from the crowds. Seriously though, get the jam croissant.

Forget Rome, Florence has got to be the ultimate Italian city break.

Cheap Eats In Madrid


I love Madrid and I think the reason I love it so much is that it’s just Un-Spanish. That particularly applies to the food. There’s so much variety of food in this city so eating out is never boring. That been said, there are certain places I frequent more than others. Usually because they’re yummy, but also because they are super cheap! Here are my favourite budget restaurants, all different cuisines, so there’s something for everyone.


The Place: Baobab (Calle Cabestreros 1)

The Meal: thiebou (€7)

Senegalese food is not something I’d tried before moving to Madrid, but damn. Baobab is in Lavapies, right by Plaza Nelson Mandela, and you’ve probably noticed it if you’ve walked that way through the barrio. It doesn’t look much from the outside, but isn’t that how you find hidden gems? This place is particularly great in warmer weather, ’cause their outside terrace has such a great vibe. Service is fast, although do expect them to tell you that you can’t have whatever you try to order on your first attempt. It’s pretty hit and miss in that retrospect. But if you can, get the thiebou, an amazing rice dish with either fish, chicken, or vegetables. The portions are huge, I’m not sure I can even get halfway through the plate. If you’re looking for good food, and lots of it, with a chilled out vibe, then Baobab is for you. Just be sure to get there early, as otherwise you’ll be waiting in line a long time to get a table. Yeah, it’s that good.

The Place: Shapla (Calle de Lavapies 40)

The Meal: menú del dia vegetariana (€8)

Possibly my most visited restaurant in Madrid and for good reason. As both a vegetarian and a Brit, I love Indian food. And Shapla is my favourite place for it in Madrid so far. Their menú del dia is a steal (you can pay €9.50 for the meat version, but let’s be real, vegetarian is the way to go for Indian food), and once again, I can never finish the damn thing. For €8 you get a starter, main, side, dessert, and drink. My usual combination is onion bhaji, chana masala with pilau rice, and mango lassi. Also vino blanco, something they’re very liberal with. This is another place where eating on the terrace is the best way to do things, as something is always going down on Calle Lavapies. Admittedly this backfired once when some sort of drumming and dancing thing was happening, but one bad experience out of 500 doesn’t sway me. Shapla forever.


The Place: El Azul (Calle Fúcar 1)

The Meal: menú vegetariana (€7.90)

If Senegalese and Indian aren’t for you, definitely head to El Azul. There’s also no terrace here, so I was going all out with this one. El Azul is just a cute little cafe nestled in the labyrinth of Barrio las Letras and I love it. Not only do they have a great selection of vegetarian food, but they have hummus! Do you know how hard it is to find hummus in Madrid? I had almost given up. I love coming to this place for coffee, tea, or cake, but if I’m going all out I’ll get the menú de dia. I’m a fan of the hummus and pita bread, and either the veggie burger or the vegan sandwich. At this point I usually want to burst, so I’ll switch the dessert for coffee. It’s often pretty busy in here, but if you can grab a seat, take it. Cafe culture lives on.

My vegetarian tendencies make eating out in Madrid a little difficult, so I’d like to think I have a slightly more unique take on dining here. Maybe I’ll keep adding these little tidbits of my food tastes to the blog. I’m currently on a mission to eat all of Madrid’s veggie burgers, so maybe blogging it will make me feel less guilty. Let me know if you’ve tried any of these or have any other budget eats for me to try

A Day In The Life Of An Auxiliar de Conversación


For anyone keeping track, I’m currently what you call an Auxiliar de Conversación in Madrid. I’ve been doing this since February last year, and it’s a pretty sweet gig. I’m definitely not gonna complain about 16 hours a week for €1000 a month. That’s a lie. I am going to complain. Because it’s currently June, the end of the school year, which means I’m just about ready to nap forever now please. So to mark the end of my time at this year’s school, I thought I’d do a little day in the life style post, documenting what a typical day was like for me. Admittedly, if I’d written this earlier in the year this probably would have been a lot more positive, but that’s not my style. So instead, here’s a day in the life of a slightly frazzled language assistant approaching summer vacation.

If you’re currently applying for the programme, I’m sorry. If you’re currently in the programme, you get me.

6:00: Aaaaah I hate that noise. Even changing it to Taylor Swift doesn’t make waking up at this time any less painful for me.

6:15: Okay, so I should probably get up now or something.

6:40: I am leaving the house. Keys, phone, abono, money, okay. I hope the metros are running on time today. Also, what is breakfast? Who is awake enough to deal with that at this time in the morning?

6:52: Come on, metro. Go go go. We can do this. Do not make me miss my train dammit.

6:59: GET OUT OF MY WAY, PEOPLE OF ATOCHA. Maybe I should start leaving my house earlier or something? Nah.

7:01: Made it! Time to listen to the Hamilton soundtrack in preparation for my day. Revolution and teaching are practically the same thing anyway.

7:16: Everybody give it up for America’s favourite fighting Frenchman! LAFAYETTE!

7:44: Why is it colder here than in the city? Does all that smog keep me feeling toasty? Ewww, fresh air.

7:55: I feel I shouldn’t be expected to be at work yet if the bakeries don’t even have any napolitanas ready. This is just inhumane.

8:05: Time to say ‘buenas’ 82 times in a row whilst all the teachers appear. Why did I leave the UK again?

8:15: Game Face on. Let’s do this.

8:24: Aaaaaaand the teacher’s not here yet. How long do I wait before getting someone to help me control these monsters? How are children so loud at this time?

8:27: The sixteen year olds are revolting. Send help.

9:05: The first class is over and all I was asked was how to spell something by the teacher. I didn’t actually know, but can’t really admit that as I get paid to speak English, so I made it up.

9:10: About to give a presentation on popular books for teenagers. Let’s find out how out of date I am with the teenagers of today!

9:23: LIKE NONE OF THESE KIDS HAVE READ HARRY POTTER.

9:37: Teacher tries to tell the students that examples of genres are plays, poetry, and novels. Despite me just using the sentence “part of the fantasy genre”. I can’t tell if they just don’t listen to me or think I’m constantly wrong, but I’ve learnt to pick my battles.

10:15: I’m with the oldest kids in the school now. They keep forgetting I’m a ‘teacher’ and insult the real teachers in front of me. I try not to laugh but sometimes they’re just too hilarious with their insults.

10:34: Would it be unprofessional to eat a banana right now?

10:49: I am definitely not qualified to be teaching the suffragette movement and got all of this information from Wikipedia last night. Sorry not sorry.

11:00: BREAK TIME. Finally the banana is mine.

11:20: I have a free period but no one else does. I’m sure I’d be much more productive if the WiFi worked, but this is Spain.

11:51: Is this job really beneficial to my future? Let the existential dread sink in!

12:15: Now for the youngest kids in the school. Who speak literally zero English. We’re gonna listen to Justin Bieber.

12:20: Apparently 12 year olds in Spain do not like Justin Bieber.

12:31: “What are the Spanish lyrics?” That is definitely not the point of this exercise.

13:10: THE BELL HAS GONE. I AM HOME FREE. Oh wait, I’m not. Because I have to wait around an hour to then spend another hour in a ‘staff meeting’ that I won’t even speak in. Sixteen hours a week, suuuuure…

13:40: *sits*

14:17: Like only half of the actual proper teachers show up for this but you know if any assistants bailed there’d be CONSEQUENCES.

14:20: “We’ll make it a quick one” Sure you will.

15:10: WINE WINE WINE WINE.

17:00: Finally heading back home. Can I nap on this train?

18:30: Oh look, an email asking me to plan a lesson sent a day before said lesson. I love when this happens.

18:50: How does one sum up the British political system in a single powerpoint?

19:30: I just want to watch The Office until I morph into Netflix.

20:15: I guess I should eat something that didn’t come free with a glass of wine.

21:00: It’s hard to adult when your day job is so SOUL CRUSHING.

21:45: Gonna pack my bag for tomorrow and lay out all my clothes so I can stay in bed ’til the last possible moment.

22:00: I guess I should probably think about going to bed if I want a decent amount of sleep. This is what my life has become.

As much as I may complain about this job, I actually really enjoy it. The teaching part and the kids are great, it’s just a little hit and miss with the schools (I’ve experienced both). But overall, as someone whose own language education was pretty underwhelming, it’s a pretty rewarding job. And if you’re looking into the programme yourself, I hope I didn’t scare you off too much.

Traveling As An Introvert


Traveling with another person when you’re a self-confessed introvert is difficult. Even if you think you’ll be compatible travel companions, everything changes when you’re forced to spend your entire day and night together in a foreign country.

I’m writing this in a piazza in Florence. I’ve just gorged myself on pasta and have sent my travel partner off to explore whilst I chill for a bit. I did it under the guise of being too full to move, which is true, but mainly I just needed time alone to recharge before we’re forced together again. Unfortunately, I am the only one with a working phone and any sense of direction, so my much needed rest will be over shortly when my companion decides that they need Google Maps again.

I think my main problem here is not only that I’m an introvert, but I’m an introvert who is too nice for her own good. I don’t want to rock the boat. I just want things to run as smoothly as possible and if that means doing everything with another person to avoid upsetting them, then so be it. As an introvert, I‘ve always believed that I was the defective one. People are supposed to want to be with other people, right? We’re social creatures. Yet here I am, in an amazing city with someone I consider* a friend, yet all I want is to be alone on a bench rather than discovering the city together. I’d rather sit and stare at the same gelato store and listen to the same constant drilling noises than have to make any more polite attempts at conversation. And I feel like this is my fault. This shouldn’t be the option I choose. But it is, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it.

I see lots of solo travellers from my little stone bench, or maybe they are people like me escaping social interaction for a while. I have often wondered whether solo travel is for me, and this trip would seem to confirm these suspicions. However, I don’t necessarily think I should be confined to experiencing new places alone just because I need time to myself every once in a while. Instead, I’ve been thinking about the best way to go about such a trip in the future. A Guide To Traveling With The Overly Cautious Introvert, if you will. A way to do things differently, so both people on the trip have a good time.

1. Make it clear you are an introvert (and what that entails) before you agree to travel together

I thought it was pretty obvious that I was introverted, but you can never expect an extrovert to know the full extent of your mental psyche. But on the other side of the argument, I never fully anticipated just how much not having any alone time would affect me. You need to make this clear to your partner before you do anything else. Even just a simple “hey, I might need to just hang by myself for a while, is that okay with you?” should suffice. Before this trip, I genuinely didn’t think I would be expected to do e v e r y t h i n g with another human being, so that’s definitely something we both should have clarified with one other.

2. Don’t be a pushover about your needs and feelings

If you want your alone time, say so. There have been times on this trip where we’ve been stuck in a dance of “so what should we do now?” “I don’t care” “me either” repeat ad infinitum, when all I’ve wanted was to scream “I JUST WANNA GO TO X AND DO Y, MAN. WITHOUT YOU”. What ended up happening, however, was I would spend the next few hours doing something I didn’t want to do, thus putting a downer on the whole trip. Your extroverted pal doesn’t get a monopoly on your happiness whilst traveling. They’ll be fine going to explore by themselves for a bit whilst you grab a coffee.

3. You do you, boo

Like I said before, you aren’t the defective one. If your fellow traveler wants to get lost in a crowded market place and the idea of all those people makes you want to kill yourself, say something. Just because they’re the “normal one” it doesn’t mean that their idea of how to spend time in a new place is the right one. The idea is to enjoy yourself, and that means you too. If you want to find a cute cafe and people watch for an hour, then great, that’s just as right of a way to spend your vacation as an extrovert’s way is.

And if all else fails (or like me, you avoid confrontation at all costs)…

4. Go to a museum

You don’t have to talk to each other if you’re looking at art. It’s the best of both your interests.

* After this trip, it’s definitely become considered. I was waaaay too kind in this post. But I’m sure this advice will still work if you’re traveling with reasonable human beings.

Expat Friendships: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly


Making friends as an expat is a weird experience. On the one hand, everyone has a shared experience linking them together; on the other, you’re introduced to people who you might not otherwise choose to socialise with. As many of us as there are (even in a city as big as Madrid), it can be kind of slim pickings on the friend front. Such is the life of an expat.

When someone moves abroad and begins the transformation into an expat, they follow a specific pattern. This is something I call the We’re All In This Together Mindset. But honestly, that only really works in Disney Channel Original Movies, not when it comes to building a solid foundation to base your new little expatriate life on. Sure, this theory works great at first. You arrive in a new country, nervous and second guessing yourself, and then boom… a whole bunch of other people in exactly the same situation as you. Of course you’re going to latch on. And this can be useful in the beginning when it comes to exploring your new city and figuring out the basics. But is it enough to base a long-lasting friendship on? Nah. As people become more comfortable in their new life, they begin to gradually move on. And I’m not just talking about your new found friends, you’re included in this too, Hypothetic Baby Expat Reader. It’s like the advice you always get before moving away to university: “don’t settle with your first year flatmates, there’s more people out there!” It was true at university and it’s true as an expatriate.

Obviously it’s not the case all the time, and I still have friends who I met when I very first arrived in Madrid two years ago. But for the most part, after everything settles and people feel more confident, they move onto bigger and better things. And that includes new friends. Which brings me to my next point…

You’ll meet people in the weirdest places. I’ve already spoken about how to meet new people whilst abroad, but I never really touched on the completely bizare places I struck up conversations with strangers. Trying to find my way into a locked building, searching for a bank, on an Irish pub crawl. People are everywhere. Keep your eyes open and don’t write off a way of meeting someone just because you wouldn’t do it back at home.

In a slightly related note, don’t completely dismiss people either. I’m friends with a whole bunch of people I probably wouldn’t roll with at home. If anything, my time in the expat pool has made me a less judgemental person. Of course, there have been exceptions to the rule. Times where I’ve been proved right and people have been exactly who I thought they’d be, but than can happen anywhere. At least in Spain you can dull the pain with churros.

And of course, the most obvious and painful part of any expatriate friendship: you go into it knowing it has an expiration date. It might not seem like a big deal at first, but as the months draw on it gets a little distressing knowing that L Day is approaching. The dreaded Last Day. This is especially annoying with those pesky Americans and their even peskier visas. EU friends are in it for the long haul, so stick with us. But it’s also disconcerting to know that eventually, it’s going to be you leaving one day. Everything is temporary! Time is fleeting! Aaaaaaaah!

So… expat friendships. In my two years here, I’ve experienced:

THE GOOD: Meeting a diverse group of people who have helped me grow as a person and have understood all those #expatprobs better than any family members or friends back home.

THE BAD: Finding your platonic soul mate and having them leave a year later. Then repeating the process every year until your little heart can’t take it anymore and shrivels up to die.

THE UGLY: Befriending someone you usually wouldn’t because of how tiny the expat bubble is, until they one day just completely snap and call you a “c*nt-faced bitch” for no reason and then you’re stuck in their social circle FOREVER*.

*Note: forever is only a year for expats because lol visas.

24 Hours in Venice

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For as long as I can remember, the world has been all “Venice! Venice! Visit Venice!” And I’ve just taken it at face value. If everyone you meet tells you that you just haaaave to visit a place, you’re inclined to believe them. So at the ripe old age of 23, I finally got around to it. For a day at least. Admittedly I wasn’t there for very long, but I think I sussed out the place enough, and that is: I’m not really convinced that Venezia lives up to the hype.

Don’t hurt me! I can explain, I swear. After a jam-packed 26 hours on the island, walking its entire length and seeing the sights, this is what I took away from my visit. As unbiased as I can possibly make it… even if my travelling companion made me contemplate throwing myself into a canal on more than one occasion.

 

Let’s start with a pro, I at least owe it that, Venice is super beautiful! If you’re looking for an Instagram-worthy trip, Venice has you covered. I’m not sure anything can top the train pulling into the station, zooming over those crystal blue waters with the sun shining in the sky. Pictures could never do it justice. But once you’ve left the station, you’re right in the middle of the action. And in this instance, ‘the action’ is men screaming “DO YOU WANT A SELFIE STICK?” at you every three seconds. Which, despite living in a major touristy city myself, is not something I have to deal with to the extent it is in Venice.

Which brings me to my main con of the city, you really can’t imagine anyone actually living here. I may complain about tourists from time to time in Madrid, but damn Venice is something else. It’s just so damn touristy, I can’t comprehend how people can possibly go about their daily lives here. Flocks of slow moving crowds, your only form of public transportation being a boat, and the extortionate prices for even a can of Coke is enough to put me off for life. When I visit a city I want to truly get a feel of what local life is like there, but in Venice I just felt like I get was getting the same package deal as everyone else. Maybe if I had stayed there more than a day I could have discovered some of these types of places, but I don’t think I could have taken another day trapped in the tourist bubble. Maybe I should have bought one of those selfie sticks after all, if only to hit people with.

So if you’re looking for a place to experience living like a local, then Venice isn’t the one for you, but if you just want to take some pictures next to bridges, then go for it.

 

Speaking of the bridges, Venice is not an easily accessible city. Particularly if you have a wheelie suitcase. Stopping, pressing the handle down, picking it up, crossing the bridge, putting it down, and pulling out the handle again. About 600 times a day. KILL ME. And what’s more annoying is when people in front of you do this without moving to the side. Stop. Learn tourism etiquette, people. It’s also not really an accessible city in the sense that it totally fucks Google Maps up. I paid for an EU expansion on my sim for this trip, and it was pretty much made redundant in Venice. The city is so labyrinth-y that it can’t really tell what side of the canals you’re even stood on half the time. So my tip for Venice is to definitely invest in a good map or guide book before setting foot on the island. Because if you buy it in Venice, it will cost 3x times as much.

 

But however negative I’m being right now, I do still want to end on a pro, and in this case it’s the Venetian Ghetto, my absolute favourite part of the city. Historically, this was the area of Venice that Jewish people were compelled to live, but nowadays, its a quiet haven away from the bustle of the city. It’s genuinely like being in another world. You enter the neighbourhood by crossing a tiny bridge and walking through an archway before finding yourself in a little piazza. If you turn right here, you’ll discover cafés and gelato shops and eventually find the crowds again. But if you turn left and cross the river, you’ll see laundry hanging between buildings, people beating rugs out of windows, and families working on their boats. It was definitely an eyeopener for me, and I think the people who live here really lucked out with their location. If I can only recommend one spot to see in Venice, this is the one I’d pick.

Honestly, it’s been a month now and I still can’t decide if I enjoyed my time in Venice or not. I’m definitely glad I’ve visited, if only for the ability to tell those people I mentioned in the first paragraph that “actually, I’m not too fond of Venice!” I may go back in the future to give it another shot, but as of right now my heart only has room for one Italian city, and that’s Florence. Gushing blogpost coming sooner than you can say “mango gelato”.

One Day In Milan

Last Friday I got back from a week of traveling around Italy, and after seven days of recovering from the experience, I think I’m ready to talk about it. So I’ll start at the very beginning of the trip:Milano.

The very first thing I learnt on my trip is that Milan Bergamo Airport is a very liberal name, as it’ll take you over an hour to actually get into the city*. So if you’re a budget airline connoisseur like I am, plan accordingly. My flight to Milan got in at 23:20, and the busses aren’t as regular at that time of night, so I didn’t end up getting to Milan until 1:30. Which was great, as I only had one full day in the city and obviously wanted to experience it with sleep deprivation.I stayed at the Hotel Ambrosiana, which I would recommend if you’re only in the city for a short time like I was. I didn’t spend much time in the hostel other than sleeping, so I can’t really comment much on the place, but they have a 24 hour reception was useful for my awkward ass flight time and the staff were polite and accommodating. And most importantly, it was clean. My room had a private bathroom, which helped, and the prices were affordable. It was definitely a good base for my trip, as it’s 15 minutes walking distance from the train station (where the airport bus drops you off), although I did end up taking the metro to the city centre. Which, by the way, is very reminiscent of the New York Subway in its aesthetic. I’ll keep the Madrid metro thanks. Far less dingy.


The centre itself is very catered towards tourists. I’m sure if you wander off into the side streets you’ll eventually find some less extortionately priced cafés and restaurants, but I only had a few hours and was running on very little sleep, so I stuck to the main areas. The plus point of this was that everyone spoke English, which don’t get me wrong, is definitely the opposite of what I look for when travelling, but living in a major city with such poor English skills (and y’know, teaching it for a living), I’m always interested in a place’s use of the language when I visit.

Now, I know Milan is a major fashion capital, but I didn’t get a chance to check out the fashion district or any of the fancy expensive stores. I did, however, go to the highstreet because, hello, have you met me? If you’re a fan of shopping when travelling, then Milan is definitely the city for you. Gorgeous,mosaicked, pedestrianised walkways with stores at either side; I could definitely see the perks of living here as a young fashion lover.


On a more cultural note, I have to mention the Duomo. When I was obsessively googling ‘things to see in Milan’ and ‘Milan in 24 hours’, all signs pointed to one thing: this giant ass cathedral. And it was definitely the highlight of my time in the city. Essentially you pay money to climb up a tiny, winding, ancient staircase with people trying to squeeze past you coming the other way. And that’s it. Loljk, you’re climbing to the top of the cathedral. To walk around, talk to gargoyles, and marvel at the amazing views of the city you get. I can’t remember how much it cost me (#BestBloggerAward), but I can remember thinking ‘wow, this view was worth the money’. Mainly I just admired the architecture and sat on the roof overlooking the city. And thought intently about why the Duomo is guarded by army men in gnome hats. Conclusion: no idea but it’s pretty unnerving.

The ticket price also included entry to a religious relic museum. And if you like depictions of God surrounded by tiny, burning babies, it’s the place for you.


But I’m afraid that’s where my positive view of the city ends. Milan, for me, was underwhelming. It could be any European city, so if you’re looking for something Italian, it’s gonna disappoint you. You certainly don’t get a Mediterranean vibe from it.

Overall, if you’re looking to go to somewhere like Venice but want a cheaper flight, I definitely recommend flying into Milan and getting the short train ride to Venice… but only stay a few hours, or a day maximum. My two nights were pretty excessive. It’s a nice city, but to be honest I barely felt like I’d left Madrid.

* If you want to experience something cool, stay in one of the Zzzleepandgo pods at the airport. I did this before my 7am flight back to Madrid and thoroughly enjoyed how stress free the entire experience was. Sleep pods are great!