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Lent has now begun…

In previous years I have thought long and hard about what I could give up for Lent that might help me better myself in some way. I have come up with some truly bizarre ideas such as giving up procrastination, giving up the use of non-words (such as erm, err and ‘like’) and giving up being late for things.

I now know that it’s nearly impossible for me to give any of that up. A few years ago my sister once said to me, “Sarah, you are an ideas person; you are not a completer-finisher!” Liz is spot on. Therefore this year I plan to give up giving up and aggressively pursue some of my personal goals.

One of these goals is that I aim to be paid only by doing things that I truly enjoy. Obviously a big hobby of mine is travel – last week I completed my first On Board Courier mission to New York and I’m on standby for more. In the meantime I am working part time with a florist (I am learning loads already!) and I am propagating my own plants at home with a view to designing and creating some living art. I’m still running my little jewellery business (Darby London for anyone interested) however im currently in limbo what with waiting for my new online shop – very exciting!) My other official current income is via agencies for promotions and tv extra type roles.

So across all my very flexible jobs, I somehow seem to be winging it quite well, without being too tied down to anything (a desk in particular) and my fear of commitment is not being tested too greatly which is perfect for me right now. No two days are the same and I am currently really happy and excited for the endless possibilities that could come.

Fridge Magnet Collection so far Feb 2016
Fridge Magnet Collection so far Feb 2016

I know a lot of people who could not live the way I do, and there are days when things seem so tough, but the highs most certainly do justify the lows. This year I aim to make sure that The Darby Diaries will be mostly full of highs.

I would love to hear about anyone else’s ideas on Lent and whether you have decided to give anything up… or not?!

-TDD x

Treasure Island

Of course I have some fantastic shots of my short time in snowy Sofia and Manhattan. And I plan to reveal these later in the week! Although your current treat is in the header shot of Sofia’s modest and wonderful ‘Mount Vitosha’, which was my fun way of linking up my travels to the story that follows beneath.

But for now I want to share something that bothered me greatly while I was away and at the same time I feel like reaching out to anyone who has spent as much money and as many days of their life trying to paint a skin coloured balaclava on their face as I have.

When I was a little girl I quickly learned that going through Mum’s girly things while she was downstairs in the kitchen was one of the most exciting things I could do with my day. Everything looked super shiny and smelled like princesses and unicorns. One day I came across this boring-looking grey pot. I found this one pretty hard to open by myself so I caved and went down to ask her what it was. She didn’t even bother asking me how I found it (Mums already know everything) and she told me it was to put on boils and spots to make them better. I asked her what she meant and she pointed to a cut on her face. Ouch.

Even at 16 - my most angry age - I was blessed with clear skin
Even at 16 – my most angry age – I was blessed with clear skin

Until I reached 18 I had not a single zit on my face. I had escaped the curse. Until one day around this time, I suddenly grew a painful and unwanted second head right in the middle of my forehead. It was pretty much right between the eyebrows and the size of a crouton and I popped it and it went all over the mirror. I didn’t go out for a week.

Aged 18, bout 6 months before "my first unwanted little friend" I don't think I used anything other than water to wash my face back then!
Aged 18, about 6 months before my first unwanted little friend. I don’t think I used anything other than water to wash my face back then!

Luckily I didn’t suffer too much more until I turned 24 and out of nowhere developed a rash on my chin, which seemed to be getting worse and spreading up my jawline. When the doctor told me it was acne, I was pretty shocked. I was prescribed some Clyndamycin solution and it went away. A year later it came back (I had grown resistant to the lotion) and I was upgraded to antibiotics. I took these for a further four years until my stomach could no longer handle them. After this point it was a case of putting up with the problem. I must say, however, that in recent years I have often been told that I look much younger than my age. I attribute my youthful looks to my teenage skin. Every cloud… Funnily enough since I went all hardcore on travelling, the general problem seems to have significantly improved. My inner happiness did wonders for my health.

There have in fact been a couple of one-off hilarious incidents...
There have in fact been a couple of one-off hilarious incidents…

However during my trip to the Big Apple, my past came back to haunt me. This was a hard, bruising, under the skin devil which I shall name Treasure Island. You may find this name strange but a girl has simply got to believe that even their worst enemy can be a great source of richness, an inner power, a teaching, a test, a challenge. The things that make us fight back and kick arse are the very things that show the world what we are made of. OK so a couple of spots is no big deal but I’m just trying to do one of those cliché metaphors that everyone loves….

The 32 year old teenager in me picked away furiously and inevitably created a war zone, which was very hard to conceal that morning as the centre of the eruption was oozing it’s lava causing concealer to slide off to the sides, only accentuating my problem.

Now – that little grey pot that I found in Mums cupboard was the magic itself, Sudocrem. Thankyou Mother, for the gift of problem and solution. When we used to live together at Firbank (I have lots of great stories yet to come on that magical household), my good friend Sophie and I would sit in the living room for hours in the evenings with white faces. We were porcelain Goddesses. This is a completely normal thing for any girl to do every week, so get involved. This was usually our first port of call during a crisis. Unfortunately being on my travels last week and packing so light, I had no such remedy, or friend, to hand. So I had to ride this one out. I sent a selfie to my good friend Emma, who has also suffered a similar battle. She had no solution and only empathy to offer at this time, which was all that I could have asked for. I was in New York in Mid Town, alone, and needed confidence. Well that was pretty much what happened in the end, I grew a pair and wrapped a scarf round my face. It was snowing anyway.

I’ll now get to the bit you’re all waiting for, and so for one time only, I present to you Treasure Island. Please can I just mention that this photo does in NO WAY do Treasure Island any justice at all…

Happy Monday Y’all.

-TDD

My one-eyed nemesis... we meet again...
My one-eyed nemesis… we meet again…

 

 

Touchdown in Sofia, Bulgaria!

It always makes me smile when the plane glides back onto tarmac and everyone starts clapping the pilot for not killing us all!

And almost everybody here talks to me in Bulgarian, which further encourages me to fantasise about my mysterious heritage. Me, my mum, her mum, and her mum, were all slightly darker featured! I’ve felt like I blended in to quite a few European countries in the past though. If only I did actually know the language here…

Traveller of the Month: Amanda Mason on Earthquakes in Everest, Travelling solo in India, and the ‘Travel Bug’

Name: Amanda Mason

Age: 31

Nationality: British

Time on the Road (this trip or general outline): 1 year, currently 3 months into this trip

Funds (saving/working/’freegan’/mixed): Have been saving for a few years

What initially inspired you to travel?

I got the ‘travellers bug’ at 19 years old when I first took off on my own and travelled around the USA! Once you have had the opportunity to see more of the world it becomes almost an obsession to see it all! I’ve since been travelling many times around various countries. Any time I can visit somewhere new I do! After recently being made redundant at work I grabbed the opportunity with both hands to get away again. I had been working very hard over the last few years, sacrificing various travel opportunities and I had very much ‘missed the open road’ as they say!

How have your inspirations to explore the world changed since you began travelling?

At the moment they haven’t really, I still want to see everything! I plan to visit every country possible, and then I really can say I’ve been around the world!

What has been your most memorable experience abroad?

Climbing to base camp of Mount Everest! Reaching 5380M was a shattering, body exhausting experience, but totally worth it. The views you can see as you climb through the Himalayas really are indescribably beautiful! Pictures do not do them justice.

Everest Base Camp, Nepal
Amanda reached Everest Base Camp, Nepal, earlier this year

What would you say has been your most difficult or testing experience whilst travelling?

I would also have to say the Everest base camp trek, as I was in the Himalayas during the earthquake. I saw so much destruction and devastation, it really does give you a whole new perspective on your own life and how lucky I really am! I felt and saw some heartbreaking sites. Unfortunately it’s not the sort of experience that I could even begin to put into words.

Himalayas, Nepal
Himalayas, Nepal
“Pictures do not do them justice!”

Where are you right now?

Currently at Don Det – part of the 4000 islands, Laos

Stunning Views: Don Det, 4000 Islands, Laos
Stunning Views: Don Det, 4000 Islands, Laos

Do you have any survival advice for new travellers in this place? 

The currency is very hard to convert mentally! Get the free currency converter app on your phone, it really helps and you don’t need wifi to use it.

Hanging with locals in Pakse, Laos
Hanging with the locals in Pakse, Laos

If you had to recommend one place in the world to visit, where would it be?

India (West Coast – Goa and Kerala)

Let’s talk a bit about travelling solo in India as a female…

I travelled alone mostly in India, and it was amazing. It helps to have some basic self-defence knowledge as I took Krav Maga lessons before heading off on this journey. This gave me a bit more confidence in taking care of myself so I would definitely recommend taking a course if you are planning to travel alone! I found that in India it felt like being a minor celebrity; I got a lots of stares and many people wanted their photo taken with me, but if you can deal with that you’ll be okay!

If anyone does something that is not okay with you and you feel threatened, make a scene as a lot of the locals will look out for you. For example one day, some Indian men were taking my photo of me in my bikini and I felt very uncomfortable. I shouted at the men and they quickly left!  But all in all I had the best time in India and rarely had any problems as a solo female traveller.

It really is very beautiful in so many places in India, and it’s great if you are travelling on budget as it’s so cheap for accommodation and food!

Amanda visits the world famous Taj Mahal in Agra, India
Amanda visits the world famous Taj Mahal in Agra, India
Making friends on a hostel rooftop in Delhi, India
Making friends on a hostel rooftop in Delhi, India

Where do you plan to visit next?

Laos, Burma and Thailand will be the next few months of travel.

Ancient temples: Amanda visited the Angkor Wat Temple in Siem Riep, Cambodia.
Ancient temples: Amanda visited the Angkor Wat Temple in Siem Riep, Cambodia.
Having fun with fellow travellers in Thakhek, Laos
Having fun with fellow travellers in Thakhek, Laos
Many beautiful waterfalls are found across South East Asia, such as this one in Pakse, Laos
Many beautiful waterfalls are found across South East Asia, such as this one in Pakse, Laos

Thank you very much for your time Amanda and enjoy the rest of your adventures!

The Darby Diaries

Traveller of the Week: Helpful Locals, Labouring in Laos and Staying Young

Name: Berkan Öztürk (friends calls me ‘Turkish’)

Age: 28

Nationality: Turkish

Time on the Road (this trip or general outline): 11 years

Funds (saving/working/’freegan’/mixed): Working

Berkan and his favourite reptile
Baby Crocodile

What initially inspired you to travel?

Getting out of my comfort zone. Initially, I was travelling for a self-oriented growing experience, to raise my awareness of different aspects of life. It was a case of self-inspiration.

Before travelling, I used to do the same things, experience the same emotions, the same behaviours. Depending on the day, I might have done things in a slightly different order. I used to get those habits, emotions, movements, and thoughts which were growing into me and making me very comfortable.

The first time I took myself out of my comfort zone (in other words, the first time I travelled) I realized that I was doing new things and creating new connections – which felt to me like it was keeping me young.

They told me that I might be the first Turk in the Vltava River, Czech Republic
They told me that I might be the first Turk in the Vltava River, Czech Republic

How have your inspirations to explore the world changed since you began travelling?

The selfish beginning eventually evolved into a style where now I am constantly looking forward to contribute to the places which I visit (especially in poor and rural areas).

What has been your most memorable experience abroad?  

I will never forget the help I received in South Thailand. Thank you guys. You are awesome! I had to catch my flight which would bring me back to Europe. I arrived to the city where I was supposed to get a bus to the airport but the bus was not there. Local people told me that it would arrive in 2 hours. I asked them if it would be possible to catch my flight with that bus. They said no. The bus company people were very friendly to offer another solution. The lady working for the bus company bought me a minivan ticket, leaving from Surathani to Phuket. I asked if it is possible to get a ticket for the minivan which was leaving in 10 minutes. She said it was full. I thought I could try to ask people on the bus if maybe there would be one person who would be willing to exchange their ticket. Five minutes before the departure of the bus, I went to the minivan. I explained my situation. There was a Thai woman who looked about fifty years old. Spoke perfect English. She explained my situation to people in the minivan. Suddenly, three people wanted to leave the bus to make a space for me. I tried to tell them that only one space is enough. But those three left. I thanked them. Everybody was smiling. Had a very entertaining minivan trip where I was showing pictures from my trips.  Words are not enough to tell how much I appreciated what they did for me.

A capture from my seat in the minivan, Surathani, Thailand
A snapshot from my seat in the minivan, Surathani, Thailand

What would you say has been your most difficult or testing experience whilst travelling?

In Laos, I was labouring in an organic farm during the day and teaching English to the children in the evening. I am a knowledge worker and I realized that being a farmer is very difficult work!

It is incredible to see how many people have to care before they can bring food to our tables. My mother and father used to work in the tobacco fields for living until they were 18-20 years old. They were always telling me stories starting with something like “When I was at your age, I was picking this and that…”. To me, it was always some kind of story. I never actually tried to understand what it meant until my time in Laos. Now I understand how difficult can life be on some people. The good news is: this is the challenge of our generation. To make things better and fair for everybody!

Learning with young Lao people in Vang Vieng, Laos
Learning with young Lao people in Vang Vieng, Laos

Where are you right now?

I am working in Berlin, Germany.

Do you have any survival advice for new travellers in this country?

Germany is probably the most organized country ever. Not much can go wrong.

My favourite city, Berlin, Germany
My favourite city, Berlin, Germany

If you had to recommend one place in the world to visit, where would it be?

Goa, India. All you need there is: Tent, sleeping bag and a scooter to explore remote places…

Where do you plan to visit next?

I am planning to be in South India in December 2013.

Traveller of the Week: English Nanny in Kentucky, USA

KO koala

Name: Kirsty Owers

Age: 27

Nationality: British

Time on the Road (this trip or general outline): I first started travelling back in 2009, but have spent some time back in England between trips to recover savings.

Funds (saving/working/’freegan’/mixed): Currently working as a nanny.

What initially inspired you to travel?

Since a young age I had always wanted to travel so that I could challenge myself in completely new corners of the world. I had never really pushed myself out of my comfort zone before. When a long term relationship came to an end  I decided I should take the opportunity to get myself out there and see the world. I saved every penny I could and headed for Australia first, where I combined some travelling and exploring with a bit of work, which included fruit picking.

How have your inspirations to explore the world changed since you began travelling?

Travelling quickly proved a lot more fun than I had ever expected. My family seemed very proud of me for gaining this new independence which gave me a real confidence boost. Meeting so many inspiring people on my travels definitely opened my eyes to new things and I started to feel that I my life was becoming much richer in terms of my general ideas and attitudes. I wanted to inspire other people to travel too.

KO elephant

What has been your most memorable experience abroad?

There have been so many but I would say my most memorable would be travelling Route 66 across America with my best friend! On one day we were shopping in Chicago, the next we were watching a Baseball game in St Louis, then had fun writing on upside down Cadillacs in Amarillo. We drove through the wildlife parks of Arizona, rode horses in the Grand Canyon, gambled away in Vegas before relaxing LA and finally reaching our final destination: Santa Monica in California! Everyday was so different and we were able to see so many different American states in such a relatively short time.

KO route 66

What would you say has been your most difficult or testing experience whilst travelling?

When I was in Australia I worked on a fruit picking site. The first day was so hard; planting melon seeds all day in the blistering Australian heat was really tough and I was sure that I wouldn’t last until the end of the week! However, six months on and I was saying goodbye to the ranch. I had learnt so much and made some very good friends there. There are some situations you face while travelling that seem impossible, but if you try to stay positive and persevere, you will often find these the most rewarding experiences.

Where are you right now?

I am in Kentucky, USA. I’m working as a nanny; looking after two twin girls and a four year old boy.

Do you have any survival advice for new travellers in this country?

Don’t be afraid to ask the locals for help and advice on anything.  I am finding the local people here extremely friendly and helpful, much more so than I was expecting!

If you had to recommend one place in the world to visit, where would it be?

Monkey Mia in Australia.  It is a small resort 10 hours north of Perth, I worked in the restaurant there and it overlooked the beach. Dolphins would often swim to the shore and in the mornings they would be fed by the conservation staff, who would also invite members of the public to help feed them! It’s a  great opportunity to see some beautiful Australian landscape and get really close to wildlife.

Where do you plan to visit next?

There are so many places I want to visit including Asia, but right now I plan on applying for Camp America next year.

KO ayrs rock