Coping with COVID

“Waking up this morning, I smile. Twenty-four brand new hours are before me. I vow to live fully in each moment and to look at all beings with eyes of compassion.”
― Thich Nhat Hanh

 

It’s my eleventh week in a lock-down life, which means that I’ve spent most of 2020 in a weird limbo situation and my experiences and thoughts on the world, on you and I and COVID-19 have honestly, been through a lot. My eleventh week means that I’m pretty experienced. I’ve seen it all. From my last blog in China to today in the UK, I have a lot to compare and talk about, but actually, I’ve mostly pretty over it all. Our information is SO toxic and so many people around me are struggling to deal with the situation, so I just want to share and help using what I know and what I’ve been doing. For eleven weeks. ELEVEN WEEKS. You’ll go through stages, a buzz and hope, maybe anger, boredom and grief, then more of a content stage, which is where I’m at! I hope this brings you all some positivity and hope.

THE MEDIA IS POOP

I’m gonna start a little rough but I can’t even begin to tell you how much I’ve learned and how much I hate about western media and our toxic relationship with it all. Stop watching the news, stop sharing stuff over WhatsApp and your IG stories, and don’t take in too much of the ‘well my sister knows someone who lives next to someone who saw 5G and bat soup walk into a bar together….’, it will not make you or anyone else feel better. Every day is different and changing and no-one knows it all right now, not even the experts. And it’s on steroids. Don’t believe it, don’t share it and don’t spread it.

From me to you:

  1. If you want to keep updated, try WHO and the government websites, both of which will change and can’t fully predict it all either, but they’re the important ones.
  2. Remove news channels and apps so you’re controlling the amount you see and share yourself. I don’t even recommend watching the BBC news but that’s me.
  3. If you are curious and feel passionate enough to share something to the hundreds on your social media world, then check the facts of it first. Is it reliable? Is it in context? Is it real? Is it important?
  4. Find other things happening in the world today. There’s lots going on that we’re not hearing about anymore (links below), and there’s lots of ways to make a positive difference and positive news even with COVID. 

Do your best

Since the virus has reached the western world, I’ve seen so much more pressure and shame on how to live through this. Super toxic and annoying. Every day, every person and every country are different and there’s no right or wrong way when dealing with something unexpected and inexperienced. Start a new project and be happy one day, spend the day in bed and cry into your chocolate bar the next. Who bloody cares? Do what you need to do to feel good and to manage.

From me to you:

  1. Try to have some balance. I need days where I switch off and binge Netflix in my pjs alone but if I did that every day, then I’d be super depressed. Try to be proactive and do something you love away from the screen to kill time, bring some happiness and a sense of achievement. Balance bbz.
  2. Don’t compare your time to others and remove anything that makes you feel bad. Social media is just a snippet, it’s not all real. And it can be a source of inspiration, but when your fave travel girl from Bali is posting her lock-down pics in her bikini and her villa, it doesn’t hit the same. Life is different and limited right now, say ‘see you soon’ and mute that.
  3. Do try new things. You don’t need to fill every minute with tasks and hobbies, but this time is rare. Some of us have never had so long at home to ourselves so don’t be scared to try new things, no matter who you are or what you’re used to. Links for inspo at the bottom and will be on my IG.

 

Stay healthy

It’s so easy to fall into bad habits when you’re out of routine and stuck at home. And I’m no angel, but I think it’s about balance and making small additions to be good to your body and mind, especially right now. I honestly hate exercise, but it always makes me feel better and after so long at home, you do notice the bad side effects like neck and back pain… trust me. Even your food intake will affect your mood. I balance the below with things I love. A coffee to wake me up, wine some evenings, naughty food at the weekend and some chocolate every day.

From me to you:

  1. Every day I try to have apple cider vinegar mixed with honey and warm water, a vitamin C, garlic extract and zinc tablet, a heap of natural yoghurt with live bio cultures, plenty of water, sometimes turmeric and warm coconut milk then usually a load of veggies. I don’t enjoy it all but I’m sure my body loves me for it.
  2. Do a workout on YouTube, walk around your garden or do some yoga. I usually like dancing, martial arts and Pilates. And every now and then, stick on some loud music and dance around the room. Immediate happiness and health. Links at the bottom.
  3. Have a bit of a routine. Doing things like showering, putting on make up and doing your nails seems silly when you’re not leaving the house, but it’ll make you feel better most days. Self-care my people, practice that shizz.
  4. Remember that everything you take in, mentally and physically will influence you. A few weeks ago, I read ‘The tattooist of Auschwitz’ and the sequel book, which I loved but maaaan were they dark. Read, watch, do and listen to things that will give you a lift, not a downer. Links at the bottom but please bring me suggestions too!

GO WITH THE FLOW

Lives will change, jobs will change, things will change and lots of it sucks, but it’s happening. To think about the future for some people is scary and uncertain, but it’s not helpful to anyone right now, including yourself. It’s hard but we’re literally all in this together. You’re not alone. And out of all the conspiracies and nonsense, my favourite theory is that this time has come to teach us all what’s really important in life, to take a pause away from our destructiveness and let the world and its people heal, together. Nothing is forever, we can’t control it all and having a ‘whatever happens happens’ attitude doesn’t mean you don’t care, just that you have hope and trust life.

From me to you:

  1. Have hope amongst the uncertainty that new information, happiness and support will come as life goes on. It’s okay to grieve and feel sad but we must have more hope. Live in the present with patience and do what you can today. Imagine how good life and all those little things will feel again soon!
  2. I make a rough plan to try and stay productive, but it changes all the time. Take each day as it comes and don’t try to control anything but make a no pressure plan to keep you excited about things and to give purpose.
  3. Meditate and breathe. I use a tonne of apps (links below) to help me sleep and be calm. My sleep is super messed up right now but again, I try not to feel bad about it. Go easy on yourself.

Count your blessings and be kind always.

Like I said earlier, so many of us have never and might never experience such a time like this again, and though it’s hard, we’re so lucky still. Please don’t feel guilty, just take in with full gratitude and realise how amazingly blessed most of us are. These are the worst of our times, yet the sun is shining, most of us are safe in our nice homes, we have an abundance of food, clean and safe water, electricity, WIFI, working from home or government security, home entertainment, the amazing NHS in the UK and most of us are loved by someone, boy I could go on.

From me to you;

  1. Sadly, many people’s time on earth will come to an end, and the whole world will hurt together. Show more love to those around you today and every day, make phone calls, text people, and give love to yourself. Each day we wake is a blessing.
  2. This awful time has connected us all, yet I still see so much hurt and racism. Call out or report abuse or anyone trying to incite hate and harm. We’re all fighting the same battle, and so many have it unimaginably worse, so practice and create more kindness for all. Fight for the good and lift those hurting.
  3. Now is the time to be better for humanity, to create a better world for us all to go back to and to appreciate all that we have. Let’s practice kindness, patience, gratitude, community, hope, strength and positivity. Let’s create change and learn something from this.
  4. Donate to local food banks, get involved with online quizzes, shop locally, have online mate dates, check in on your neighbours, help charities suffering and all the rest of it. There are so many ways to give back (you don’t have to do them all!) and it will bring you and many others joy. I’ve listed some charities below and causes that I know are especially suffering now.

Wear a mask if you can. Clean your hands regularly and properly. Contact the recommended if you’re feeling the symptoms. Please get in touch with me if you need any tutorials, links, advice , if you can send more recommendations for things or if you just need a little chat.

Stay indoors. Stay sane. Have hope. Look after each other and be kind always.

 

Sending peace and love to you,

Vanisha

X

Follow my Instagram at @vanishamay

Art

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCcR1TUaD8Zn6P6O8hOA-xYA

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCPRuDp5qn2_Q41sE-bfP4uA/videos

https://www.instagram.com/koketit/

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCMJyHCbGKnUhpuPP0jsZV-w

https://www.instagram.com/kristythepainter/

https://www.instagram.com/gisellefenig/

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UChtwlKDPqmumk_J0tGUVu7A

Mind, Body and Soul

https://breethe.com/

https://apps.apple.com/gb/app/sleep/id1447478883

https://www.calm.com/

https://apps.apple.com/us/app/slumber-fall-asleep-insomnia/id1109543953

https://www.youtube.com/user/popsugartvfit

https://www.todaysthebestday.com/50-things-to-do-for-yourself-during-a-quarantine-coronavirus/

Watch, Read, Listen and Do

https://www.netflix.com/title/80017537

https://www.netflix.com/title/81115994

https://www.netflix.com/title/80160037

https://healthyhappyimpactful.com/how-start-journal/

https://www.happify.com/hd/8-podcasts-that-will-give-you-a-happiness-boost/

https://www.happify.com/public/happify-daily/

https://relaxily.tumblr.com/post/614939036671492096/things-to-do-during-quarantine

Community

https://www.trusselltrust.org/what-we-do/

https://www.facebook.com/MisionMexicoChildren/

https://helprefugees.org/

https://www.crisis.org.uk/

https://www.shelter.org.uk/

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/mental-health-helplines/

The freephone, 24-hour National Domestic Abuse Helpline is 0808 2000 247

The Respect phone line 0808 8024040 is open Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm

 

Travelling my new favourite country; Myanmar

Myanmar is the biggest country in South East Asia yet remains pretty mysterious. And I always do research before I travel, you know, what to see, where to visit etc., but Myanmar’s travel tips were either super outdated or scarce, zzz…

… which is why I had no idea what to expect for my 10-day trip.

However, Myanmar is now one of my most favourite countries and the trip was incredible! I loved every single day. Travelling around is cheap and relatively safe, the food was amazing, and the people were genuinely the nicest I’ve ever met. They’re truly beautiful inside and out.

Explore the city of Yangon

My trip started on a Monday when most of the museums and markets are closed in the country’s biggest city, not so cool. So, I spent a few hours just riding the Yangon Circular Railroad and it was really cool. Hanging off the side, surrounded by locals, being in the middle of their daily routines and seeing the slums built around the railway, really gave a look into life for many in Myanmar. Though, there are museums and things to do, I’d definitely recommend a few hours on the train.

For food, I wondered around and found the Muslim Quarters and “Little India”. The streets are filled with people sitting outside and cables hang high above your heads. I ate some amazing indian fusion food and walked to the nearby Shwedagon Pagoda.

  • Start from Yangon Central Railroad with a ticket for just 300kyats (£0.15) super cheap! At the top of the line, you can visit the market and Insein Prison.

Beautiful Inle Lake

Inle lake is surrounded by the mountain and home to thousands of people who have built their lives around the lake. It’s unbelievably peaceful and full of natural beauty.

Take a boat for the day with a local. I spent the day on a boat with a local man where we skipped some of the more known places and he took me to all the places I wanted. We spent the whole day on his boat, chatting, sitting on the lake, watching the other locals, we had a traditional dinner together and it was a brilliant day. Visit Red Mountain winery or explore the ancient town of Sagar. Cycle, boat or tuk tuk to the other sites around the lake, like the pagodas of In Dein, the bridge and water village at Mine Thauk, and learn about the floating gardens.

Ancient Bagan

Ride around the North and see the 2,000 temples. Bagan is a dream land filled with dirt dust roads and temples from the 9th and 13th century. It’s really beautiful and super peaceful. Although many of the temples are now closed off for climbing due to conservation and safety regulations, you can find a local and they’ll show you to the few good spots. It’s the best way to see the hot air balloons at sunrise. I rented a bike for £2.50 a day and felt super safe on it because it was electric, and the roads are small and quiet. End each day with the sunset, try Nyaung Letpet Hill, open temple by Hitlominlo  or the field of Buledi Pagoda.

  • Eat at The Moon (Be Kind to Animals). There are two spots, one in New Bagan and one in Old Bagan. They’re both real cute with low prices and a mix of traditional Burmese and vegetarian foods.
  • Check out Sanon, a Non-profit restaurant that trains underprivileged kids to work in the hospitality industry. Good food and a good cause!

Beach at Ngapali

Ok, so reviews said that Ngapali had some of the best beaches in Asia which shook me because I’ve seen some incredible beaches before. Taking a flight is the easiest option and completely worth it. Not only were the beaches beautiful, but the place is untouched too. Locals spend their days fishing and the vibes are natural and sincere. I visited some local markets where I was the only foreigner and sat with some of the women there. Super, super chill and stunning scenery. Happy days.

Things to consider;

Buy from the locals, eat in the smaller restaurants and dress appropriately around the temples. Bagan is a great place for souvenirs, clothes and gifts. Most of the websites that I read expressed concerns with money and ATM machines. I had no issues getting money, with ATM’s now available in most tourist-y areas. In Myanmar, you can use USD and the local Kyat, I used mostly Kyat. Minus the visa, which was £50, everything is very cheap, food, drink, travel and places to stay.

How to get around:

I took a mix of overnight buses and flights, but I’d recommend the buses if you have time or want to save on a night’s stay. I’ve heard they’re the best and safest way to travel and they’re the main mode of transport. Myanmar’s trains and air travel are basic and more costly.  Use JJ Express Buses – you can book these in most places and online too; https://jjexpress.net/

Here is a list of the hostels and hotels I’ve stayed at,

I stayed in a mixture of budget hostels and pricey resorts (all were soo nice, especially the Serenity Inle Resort which was on the lake at Inle):

  • Bodhi Nava Boutique Hostel & Café, Yangon
  • The Serenity Inle Resort, Ywama
  • Ostello Bello, Bagan
  • Jasmine Ngapali Resort, Ngapali

Use the link below to receive £10 off when booking any of my hotels and more!

https://www.booking.com/s/vanish15

Lastly, I want to start this by saying that Myanmar was one of my favourite countries in Asia, the trip was incredible, and the people were the nicest and most welcoming that I’ve ever come across. Before visiting any country, I do feel that it’s important to understand, research and know about any political and current situations that may cause concerns regarding ethics, safety and culture. Myanmar (what used to be known as Burma) is currently in a crisis with many fleeing from genocide, persecution and rape. It’s a serious conflict that many don’t know about. As a humanitarian, charity worker and traveller, I was obviously conflicted about visiting, but I’m SO glad that I did and would encourage others to do so too. Not only did I learn and grow in understanding, but I also saw the importance of “the people are not the government”, spreading stories and causing more good than harm. You can read my deeper post about why I’d encourage travelling to Myanmar here (it’s in progress still, patience people patience)…

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Thanks for reading guys!

Keep up with my adventures on Instagram @vanishamay and

have a good day wherever you are

Vanisha

X

Travelling Thailand

My first trip to Thailand was three years ago, when my best friend and I backpacked around Asia. Assuming the country was just one big tourist trap, steaming with hen parties and lads on the sesh, my expectations weren’t very high and I was just happy to flitter through and use it as a starting point. Never assume though eh? After a short weekend back this month, I was reminded of all the reasons why I love Asia. Thailand is back in my good books and I realize how much more the country has to offer. So, what’s good and where is best to go?

 

Explore the islands down South

Hike Ko Phi Phi. The island itself isn’t too big, but it’s got plenty of trails and walkways for you to hike around and enjoy the viewpoints from up high. It’s so pretty to see the two colours of the sea where the bay separates them.

Visit the beaches because Thailand is pretty well known for its beautiful bays and movie landscapes. It’s a great place to island hop and see which one suits you best! Koh Tao for diving, Koh Phangan for partying and around 8,000 others for everything else!

Surround yourself in the culture, amazing food and people

Visit the markets which are all around the country and the best places to buy all your clothes, food and gifts from. The food in Thailand is soooo good! I’ll recommend some places down below. Remember to haggle down in the markets too!

Never have I ever had a massage or watched a famous ‘show’…

Bangkok is full of weird and wonderful things, including their famous shows, markets and massages. Personally, I’m not a fan of massages wherever I am, but everyone I know who has been to Thailand has had a massage so, if I was you, I’d do some research and stick it on my list of things to try. Along with the rest of it…

Meet the tribes.

It wasn’t until after my visit that I read some mixed reviews about this experience. People said how visiting the tribe felt like a ‘zoo’ where the women had been put on display just for tourists to come and take photos. The tribe are a group of Burmese refugees who came to Thailand and weren’t originally able to work, be educated or live outside certain areas due to their status. Like many refugees around the world.

However, now they’re given choice. To go to school, to work outside or to carry on the tradition and earn a living through tourism. Like many in Thailand. And I think the most crucial part to the debate of them being in a ‘zoo’ is connection. There’s a difference between literally turning up, without conversation, without interest, without asking questions about the tourism and their welfare, taking photos without permission and not helping their tourism to doing the opposite to that. To making a connection, building understanding and appreciating their lifestyle, choice and culture. To treat and talk to them like humans.

This gally is 4 years old and liked being tickled. She is THE cutest. She laughed when my hair got tied to my hairband. Another lady laughed at me because she’s 23 and I’m 26 and she’s already married with children and I don’t even have a boyfriend…..

Little connections. That’s how we all benefit. 

Ride around the North and hit the temples

Learn about The Golden Triangle, the history and the global drug trade. And do it in a day trip! Thailand is home to thousands of beautiful temples. After a while of exploring them, you might feel like it’s the last thing you want to see, but make Wat Rung Khun an exception and visit the amazing white temple! Go earlier or late evening to avoid the crowds and be sure to wear respectable clothing or cover ups.

Meet the elephants! Do your research and visit the amazing Asian elephants at the numerous parks and sanctuaries around Thailand.

Things to consider; Thailand is a tourist hotspot for full moon parties, animal visits, cheap sex and cheap booze. The country is trying to recover from the tourist damage but it’s still so apparent in the ruined corals, the littered beaches and the high amount of trafficking that occurs. I’m also pretty wary about riding my own motorcycle, literally everyone I know has had an accident and I just don’t see the point when transport is so cheap. However, do whatever you need to do! Before visiting places, do your research, be respectful and do your bit to make life easier for the locals who live there.

Here is a list of the hostels, hotels and places to eat I’ve stayed at:

Lanna Oriental Hotel, Chiang Mai

Freedom Hostels @ Phi Phi, Ko Phi Phi

Good Souls Kitchen, Chiang Mai

Fern Forest Cafe, Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai Night Bazaar

Use the link below to receive £10 off when booking any of my hotels and more!

https://www.booking.com/s/vanish15

Thanks for reading guys!

Keep up with my adventures on Instagram @vanishamay and have a good day wherever you are!

Vanisha

X

Life in China

So, I’m officially more than 6 months in to my latest adventure of living back in China and life is flying by. Some days it feels like I’ve just stepped off the plane, and others it feels like I’ve never left. China can be a crazy country, that’s for sure, and I still see things that make me mutter ‘wtf’ under my breath, but let’s be real, coming from a small town in the countryside of England, most places around the world will seem daunting and strange!

 

          People ask me, “Why China?”, and to most people back at home, it seems like a ridiculous choice where everyone eats dog and the government watches your every move. But actually, China is a fairly easy country to live in (once you get the hang of chopsticks and you get past the visa process all you brits). And for the first time in a while, I feel pretty settled.

 

 

But what’s life really like? Here she goes…

  1. I’m surrounded by cheeky little monkeys

Chinese babies and the children in general are of course, the first things that come to mind when I think of China. THEY SO CUTE. The kids are potty trained by the special pants that they wear, so you’ll see lots of little chubby children walking around with their saggy baby butts out, and it’s SO CUTE. The kids I work with are cheeky, funny and pretty darn clever. Their lives as Chinese children aren’t always easy and there’s lots of societal and family pressures, which is why I admire them every day for learning a second language that’s so different to their own. Something I can’t manage to do….

 

  1. I’ve fallen back in love with my hobbies!

China is full of surprises and life in the mega city of Shenzhen is completely different to my village life when I was here 4 years ago. There’s a huge art area, as well as a huge mix of cultures and different events, which has meant painting classes, salsa and dance lessons and meeting people from all around the world who all have similar interests as me. Having the time to do the things I love and being around like-minded people makes me happy and is so good for ma creative soul.

  1. It’s super safe

There’s not many places that I can walk around at 4am, home from the club with my headphones in, phone out and not be looking over my shoulder, but here in China. It’s one of the safest places I have ever been. Overall, crime levels are quite low as repercussions are so severe. Which great news for us girl travellers where safety is always a concern! The Chinese sense of community and culture has meant that I’ve never felt threatened or even uneasy around pretty much anyone.

  1. I ❤ people

Culturally (and in many other ways), the Chinese are quite different to us Brits, and people still do things on a daily basis to shock/annoy me. BUT when you get to know each other, they’re some of the most hospitable and welcoming people who just want to help you, feed you and make you happy. I even have my regulars! Regular dumpling man, regular bread guy, regular BBQ couple, friends behind the bar, you get the jist, it’s the little comforts that make you feel at home! Shenzhen also has a big international community, which has meant that I’ve made some great friends from all over the world, including here in China. And they all love KTV. They’re not a bad bunch.

 

 

  1. My diet of dog…

Not gonna lie, I miss Chinese takeaway and lots of other food because, believe it or not, Chinese food in actual China is so different to Chinese food back at home. The things I’d do for a chicken ball…. It’s not all bad though, they do eat some bizarre things here, but overall it’s generally healthy, there’s an abundance of fresh fruit and veg, and in my city, there’s a tonne of Mexicans, Italians, Indians and delivery places to eat from. And I found good cheese and chocolate! What more could you need?

  1. Learning Chinese is hard but it’s okay

It’s not a language you pick up quickly, actually, it takes a lot of practice and learning, especially when you don’t really need to use it so often. I get by with the use of hand gestures, minimal language and all my fab apps like translator, maps and translator. HURRAH TO 21st CENTURY LAZY LIVIN. But I love living in a country where no one understands you and where you don’t always understand them either.

  1. Shenzhen is fab

The city itself is only around 30 years old, and home to over 10 million people already. It’s super green, clean and modern, and just across the border from Hong Kong! Travel is super cheap, you can ride the metro for like 30p and the buses for 20p. Amazing. You can buy dinner for £1 and there’s mountains here, the sea, huge skyscrapers, you can bike everywhere and there’s so much to see and do. It’s a nice place to live fo sho.

 

 

  1. China has it all

They have cheap buses, high speed rails and cheap flights which means travelling is so easy and you can see and do so much around the country. From huge modern cities like Shanghai and Hong Kong, to rural rice terraces in Guilin, pandas in Chengdu, fishing villages, the Avatar mountains and Inner Mongolia, you literally can get sun, snow, mountains and beaches, and everything in between! The country is pretty impressive.

  1. Life is sweet

The Western media and outside views on China are as usual, mostly skewed. It’s not all bad air, over-populated spaces and scary harsh laws. In fact, I live really comfortably here, the skies are blue most days (with the exception of typhoons lol) and although there are many rules, people here make their own, and you know what? It works. China, thanks to modern day technology and apps, is one of the easiest and most comfortable places I’ve ever lived and been in. Sure, it’s a culture shock if you’ve never been to Asia, but generally speaking, life here is pretty sweet.

 

       Of course, it’s not all smooth sailing, but nothing worthwhile ever is, right? It’s far from home and always a risky decision to just up and leave. It’s not where I want to spend the rest of my life but I’m definitely happy here at the moment and that’s worth something. If you’re thinking of packing your bags, I’d say, GO. What’s the worst that could happen? That you hate it and decide to head back home? Be brave and live wildly wherever you may be my huns. And if I still haven’t persuaded you, then at least come and visit me here in China!

 

Get in touch if you have any questions about travelling, living abroad or China!

And catch my adventures on IG @vanishamay

祝你有美好的一天

Vanisha

X

 

Tips for living in China:

  • Download A VPN before you arrive. China’s Government blocks most things that we use (IG, Facebook, Google), so be sure to unlock your phone and get a VPN. I use ExpressVPN 🙂
  • Do your research and don’t get scammed whether it’s with your visa, housing or shopping.
  • Use WeChat for everything. It’s the Chinese version of WhatsApp but 10x better. I pay my rent, find out about events and talk to my friends all in the same app. They’re one step ahead of us.
  • Salaries can be higher and cost of living is lower which means China is a good place to save money if you’re smart about it.
  • Make use of the places around you within China and visit the countries around too! Flights and transport is pretty cheap, and you have to try a sleeper train!
  • Have fun, eat the street food, prepare for squat toilets and don’t drink from the tap huns.

 

For more travel related blogs, check out what it’s like dating in china, my top 10 fave countries ever and many many more in that travel section up the top! Enjoy!

 

Everything you need to know about volunteering abroad

Yesterday marked what would have been Nelson Mandela’s 100th birthday, a day to celebrate a man that dedicated his life to global peace-making and a day to inspire others to continue the fight for what is right. He once said, “What counts in life is not the mere fact that we lived. It is the difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead” and I couldn’t agree more! The big legend.

And, I get asked a lot about my volunteer and charity work. How do I do it? Where do you even start? There’s different prices, locations, different work involved, different lengths of time required, etc etc etc. There’s a lot to think about and consider when it comes to changing the world! Drum roll please….

  1. Start with the basics

Find your passions and think about what you’d like to do (or what you’d NOT like to do). There’s literally something for everyone from the usual teaching English and childcare to the unusual like turtle conservation and building with the Maasai Mara. Focus on organisations that resonate with your morals and passions. Research them, make sure they’re legit, follow them on insta and drop them an email, even if it’s just to say, ‘hey great work you’re doing!’, you’ll get to see the response, ask more questions and review their requirements and application details. You can do it!

  1. My first solo trip

When I was 19, all I knew was that something bigger was waiting for me, but like you guys, I had no bloody idea where to start! So, I took to the internet, searched for well-known organisations and booked my flight to Morocco. Volunteering with a well-knoen, global organisation like Original Volunteers, VSO or GVI are great for first timers and pretty straight-forward, but usually come at a high cost. You’ll usually pay for your meals, airport pick-up, in-land help and accommodation, which means that all you have to do is turn up! I went to Marrakesh where there were daily placements for us to choose from such as visiting nurseries, village schools and an orphanage. There was a huge group of us and the organisation ran fun sightseeing trips too. If you’re looking for cheaper options then this isn’t the best way to start, but it’s easy and fun, especially if you’re a beginner, and organisations like OV are worldwide!

Where? Morocco.

What? Mostly working with children.

Who? Original Volunteers

Visit them here: https://www.originalvolunteers.co.uk/

  1. Exchanges

Help X is an incredible website filled with individuals and smaller organisations that are seeking volunteers and help. Again, the work ranges from anything you can imagine and you can find work in the biggest cities of the world to the highest mountains (probably)! And the great thing about Help X is that there’s no middle man asking for big bucks for your help. Some places ask for donations which you’ll feel like you’ll want to by the end of your trip, but basically, they’ll offer accommodation and meals in exchange for your work. It’s pretty simple and a real great way to travel whilst volunteering. You really get a feel of people’s lives and get involved on a deeper level that you wouldn’t always experience with a bigger organisation.

Where? It’s worldwide but I’ve used Help X in Indonesia and my best gal has used it in Chile and Italy!

What? You can do all sorts! I stayed with a family and helped promote a fathers English School in South Sulawesi. One of the most interesting experiences of my life!

Who? Literally anyone and everyone.

Go have a goosey-gander: https://www.helpx.net/

  1. The internet

I swear by google. It’s thanks to me simply typing in ‘volunteer in Kuala Lumpur’ and ‘volunteer in Mexico’ that I found two incredible causes and had the opportunity to visit both. Just type in ‘volunteering in (insert country)’ then email away! Read the websites, follow them and check their values, then just go ahead and message them! I’ll also make a list at the bottom of great people and organisations to follow and check out. Social media is great for this, you can see what organisations are about from your computer screen! Instagram is great too, people will tag and post things of their own experiences. It’s a great tool, use it.

The refugee school that I found in Malaysia is always seeking volunteers. They’re a marginalised group of wonderful teachers and children who are all just hoping for better lives. They don’t get much funding or help in general so travel friends, go drop by and say hey!

Where? Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

What? Teaching

Who? School for refugees

They don’t have official pages so feel free to ask me for contact details and addresses!

  1. Mexico

Thanks to google. I also found this inspiring group of people! Mision Mexico has been a blessing for me and if you follow my social media, you’ll definitely know these guys! I volunteered with them last year and have continued my work with them ever since! They’re a small refuge for children in the border town of Tapachula, and they depend wholly on donations, volunteers and sponsors. The kids learn to swim, surf and all sorts, so the work needed is pretty varied and they’re always in need of extra hands! It’s a great cause and they’re a fab bunch of people. Read more about life as a Misión México volunteer here.

Where? Tapachula, Mexico

What? Working with children

Who? About 40 incredible kids and teens!

Visit and follow us here: https://www.facebook.com/MisionMexicoChildren/

https://www.instagram.com/misionmexico/

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And there you have it! Volunteering isn’t easy. The process can be long, expensive and the work itself can be tough, demanding and sometimes emotionally hard to deal with. You work with people who have been through the unimaginable and still manage to smile more times a day than you. And you work alongside people who commit their lives just like Mandela, to making the world a better place for all. It makes you question the world and life and what really matters. And that’s why it’s all worth it! You’ll be forever changed, and the world will be too 😊

I hope you feel inspired and I hope you go do some good today!

Feel free to message me if you have any questions about anything still!

Have a lovely day folks

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I’ve tagged a load of people to follow on my latest post on IG too! https://www.instagram.com/vanishamay

Below is a list of sites and people to follow;

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Finding home.

 

This year, I’ve found it challenging to define the word ‘home’. After travelling year upon year, with endless amounts of moves, I couldn’t be further from finding ‘my place in the world’.

The last five months, I’ve been living back in my hometown. And most people in the small town that I grew up in have lived in the same four walls for all their lives. I’ve had a total of 6 addresses just in that town alone. On top of that, I’ve spent a year of my life from my backpack travelling Asia, South America and unpacking my bag for a few months in China and Mexico. And more recently, I made my move to London where I stayed for 3 years under 3 more different addresses. And now I’m back ‘home’ but I’ve never felt so unsettled. *update I’m now back in China where I’ve semi-settled, found a new place, have a daily route to work and now have another home address. Deep breath*

So, in my head (and to you), I’ve been trying to work out what and where ‘home’ is. What does home really mean? Have I come home? Do I have to build a home in just one place? Is home even a building? Is it a place? Is it a feeling? Or a person? (I know, cliché). Where is my place in the world and why am I struggling so hard to find it?

And you’re probably thinking why it’s so important. What on earth is she talking about now?! But seriously (when I was writing this over the Christmas period when families are supposedly all gathering in their ‘homes’ to spread joy and festive love) I couldn’t help but wonder that this word that people find so much comfort in, this word that’s meant to mean everything, the word we go to when we’re lost or run to for safety. What if someone doesn’t have this word? What do they have? Where do we go? I’m doing all the running, in fact I constantly have one foot out the door, why can I not just bloody settle? *and these thoughts caused me so much anxiety at the time I started this blog but it’s always in the back of my mind as I travel and try to find new places to be. The idea of being ‘lost’ and the pressures to ‘find your place’ can be overwhelming ok. Hence my brain going into overdrive*

Perhaps it’s because in my hometown I feel surrounded by ghosts of people that I left in my past, and memories that I don’t want to revisit, and versions of me that I don’t want to remember. My hometown will never feel like a home for me. And I think that’s the same for lots of people. You never know what people have to go home to. Home isn’t always a happy place. It’s not always safety or comforting. Home can be something we run from.

Or perhaps it’s because I’ve travelled and moved too much. Maybe settling will never be an option for me and that might be okay. I can’t think of one place that I’d want to spend even 5 years yet alone my life. Maybe I just haven’t found the right ‘home’ yet.

Or maybe it’s because home is a feeling. A few months after I started writing this and I’m in a strange place of between. But I’ve come to more of a conclusion now and feel a lot less anxiety lol. Home is a feeling. A feeling of familiarity, comfort and safety. A few months ago, I thought my childhood and choices in life meant I’d always have the feeling of instability and lack of safety, but, it might not be so bad. Maybe I’m still hunting for my ‘home’, someone to share this beautiful life with and he’ll remind me it’s not the about destination “it’s about the journey Vin”, he’ll say as he commits to a lifetime of journey-ing around the world with me…

Right now, for me, I feel at home in many countries, with many people. I walk around my new city in China and feel familiarity and warmth in people, like the last time I was here was four days ago and not four years. Every day I look forward to the day I’ll fly back to Mexico, the home of Mision Mexico and the people whose lives are still joined with mine. It’s the feeling after a Skype session with my loved ones then seeing them and hugging them after months of being apart. I’ve been on the run around the world leaving parts of myself everywhere. And now, my place in the world is all over the world and that is such a blessing. My home is in me and in my people.

Some food for thought and it’s a good watch!

Ever felt lost or need a chat? Give me a shout!

Have a fab day and follow my IG adventures @vanishamay

V

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p.s miss you kiss you huns and fam ♥️

My Top 10 Favourite Countries Ever

“To land in foreign worlds, where everything is new and exciting and scary, where you communicate through smiles and hand gestures, where you taste amazing foods and discover new smells, where you make the most life-changing experiences and learn the biggest life lessons.”

As many of you know, I LOVE to travel. And by travelling, I mean backpacking, exploring, fully immersing yourself into new cultures, countries and experiences. Reminiscing through these adventures for this blog has made me feel super lucky and grateful for my life of travel. I’ve worked hard and am super proud of my travel accomplishments and experiences. This world is incredible. And people always ask, “what’s your favourite place?!” which is the most impossible question to answer ever! So, in no particular order, I have managed to roughly give you guys my top 10 favourite places (so far) in the world!

1. Philippines

The Philippines was a dream. The islands were some of the most beautiful that I’ve ever seen and there are hundreds of them! The people were super friendly and there was so much to see and do. I’d definitely consider going back soon as it’s probably in my top 5 and I feel like there’s much more to explore! One thing in particular that I loved was the lack of tourism and tourists, and because of this the Philippines had so much beauty and authenticity still. It was also pretty cheap!

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2. Mexico

Mexico holds some of my most personal and best memories. It’s full of beauty, colour and great food. People seem hesitant to visit certain areas but I would encourage everyone to visit the country. Every place has it’s dodgy areas but as long as you’re reasonably cautious and vigilant, you’ll probably be fine! Cancun was great if you like resorts and package holidays but because of this and the over-westernisation, it was my least favourite. Tulum was a gem but slightly overpriced, Playa Del Carmen was full of fun, Mexico City was incredible and I loved the city but of course, my favourite was Tapachula; the home to some of my favourite people and Misión México. If you’d like to volunteer, donate or have any enquiries about the refuge then please don’t hesitate to message me 🙂

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3. Italy

Italy will always remain one of my favourite European countries and I’ve loved every city and town that I’ve visited. The food and wine is obviously a winner in itself, but it’s the romantic vibes that make the country a winner. Some of my silliest memories with my fave gal are here, like the time we stayed in an old monk’s monastery, the time we nearly died because we accidentally hiked onto a ski slope, when we bought items rhyming with Pisa for our photo-shoot at the famous tower… I won’t go on.

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4. India

Obviously on my list because of my heritage but also because it’s an incredible and insane country. It has absolute manic and diverse city scopes along with some of the most extreme poverty that I’ve ever seen, alongside absolute beauty, beaches and tropical landscapes. The culture and religion here is deep and adds to all of the beauty. Plus the food is obvs amazing too, which seems to be a running theme here in my top ten!

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4. Malaysia

Malaysia had it all! Beautiful islands, clear waters, culture, great foods, jungles and big cities. It had an incredible vibe and mix of cultures which was just beautiful. I’d definitely recommend visiting Penang, trekking in the Taman Negara jungle, volunteering a couple of your days with these munchkins and visiting some of the islands too.

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6. Peru

Peru was a country like no other. One of the worst bus journeys I’d ever experienced but some of the most incredible adventures. Trekking Machu Picchu, the salt mines, alpacas, the colourful culture and the mega cities, me and B both fell in love with the place. And Cusco was just magical! Literally, it felt like there was just magic in the air at times. We also felt pretty safe here which I know is an important factor if you’re travelling as a girl or alone. You can read more about this trip here.

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7. Brazil

Full of colour, happiness and beauty, Brazil was fun from the get go. Me and B visited a good mixture of places and loved them all. The cities, the islands, it all just got better and better. And there are black beans on every corner! My fave. We went to Rio, Sao Paolo and the heavenly island of Ilha Grande. Safety here is obviously a slight issue, be sure to stay in the touristy areas and don’t just wander accidentally into a favela. Common sense really people…!

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8. Indonesia

Indonesia was a right little adventure. Me and the girls did the usual Bali, Gili T islands, got our diving certificates and did yoga in Ubud, but we also visited some of the non-tourist islands like Sulawesi. Me and Ana did a work exchange there for two weeks, where we stayed with a Muslim family in their traditional home and were really immersed into their ways of life. I learnt so much on this trip. There’s also a place nearby called Tana Toraja which still remains to be one of the most incredible experiences of my life. It felt like I was an extra in a movie, it was so surreal. You can read more about that trip here!

 

9. Vietnam and Cambodia

Okay, I know technically these are two countries but I feel very similar for both so I’ve grouped them. I also visited both very briefly and at the same time, we managed to get a cheap coach across the border and back! Both countries are beautiful with fascinating and very recent dark histories. The countries are both re-building themselves but you can feel the pain of the past like no other countries that I’ve been to. They both really moved me. And they’re both really beautiful! Cambodia has Angkor Wat and Vietnam is full of beaches, beautiful mountain scenes and pretty little towns. The culture and religion is deep and that’s one of my favourite things to see and feel.

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10. China

China holds a big place in my heart because it was my first solo adventure, and my first working/living experience abroad. As a travel destination, it compares to no other. It’s full of variety, full of unusual sights and a one-of-a-kind culture (which will always surprise you and also make you think wtf on a daily basis!).  There’s so much to see and do, with the North being completely different to the South, plus everything in between. The country is so huge, you could spend a while visiting even the main sights, and that’s on their sleeper/fast trains! Also, you know what else bangs? The food. And of course, I’m back here again, because it’s a great country to live and work too.

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Pretty tricky to come up with just 10 because there’s been so many places that I’ve loved and every place leaves you with a different feeling for different reasons. Travel is one of the only things that I’ve ever been truly sure about and there’s not one moment that I regret. It brings you highs, lows, the biggest life lessons, the best experiences and all sorts of people. Think you aren’t lucky enough to travel? Think again (read more here… ). I encourage anyone to jump on that plane, do not be afraid to leave your hotel room and truly travel and immerse yourself as much as you can! It’ll always be worth it. The world is incredible.

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Special thanks to every single person who has made every single moment in my journeys so special. You da best for crossing ma path.

 

Thanks for reading guys! Give me a shout if you have any questions! Go book that ticket, live ya life to the bestest.

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And follow me and my adventures here on instagram! https://www.instagram.com/vanishamay/

8 Steps to healing by Vanisha May

My 8 steps for healing.

It’s funny, when I think about the person that I was one year ago, it’s as if I’m thinking about someone that I used to know very well. And six months ago, I had never felt so lost and far away from everything that I thought I was. But today, when I look in the mirror I see someone going through growth and change, and I’m really grateful and excited to know that I’m becoming someone different. But the change and growth can be super scary, extremely personal and uncomfortable too. Piecing together the parts of your life that have caused pain and hurt whilst trying to understand how to make peace with it all can be overwhelming and messy. It’s easy to bury it all under a rock, but I’ll tell you now that it will come back to haunt you one day. Embracing the vulnerability and finding ways to overcome all the heaviness in your heart is brave, and the most honest thing you can do for yourself and your life. And trust me, it will all be worth it.

 

So, in classic Vin style, I’ve been doing lots of research, reading and self-therapy, and here are my 8 steps for healing;

  1. Conversation

This sounds simple but talking about what you’re going through is really difficult and brave. You’re probably thinking that people don’t care or won’t understand, but it’s usually quite the opposite and extremely crucial for you. You have to talk about what you’re going through because it helps bring understanding, different views and even answers for you and those around you It’s definitely the first and biggest step. Talk to a friend, family member, counsellor or even braver, the person who might be involved in your hurt. “Those who keep silence hurt more” – C.S. Lewis. Be honest with yourself. You got this.

  1. Be open to change and necessary pain

Sometimes things hurt and it feels like you’re stuck in a black hole that you’ll never get out of. To heal and grow, you have to get to the root of the problem and you might dig deep into things that you thought you’d got rid of and buried. But this is great. Those who experience pain more, experience growth more and love more. Be open to feelings of sadness and hurt for that means you can see it and understand it, and know that you’ll get through it. Life never gives us anything we can’t handle.

  1. Welcome your ghosts then wave them goodbye

Understand that without darkness, there’d be no light. I truly believe that everything happens for a reason. People and experiences can cause both pain and happiness. And understand that just like you, things grow and change and nothing ever stays the same. So, make a note on paper or in your head of the things causing you pain and the lessons you think you learnt. That ghost that is ruining your present should be left in your past. You experienced it, you learnt from it and now make peace with it. Let it all go.

  1. Surround yourself with love and joy

Basically stop engaging in negativity and remove yourself from anything that threatens to disrupt your peace. Humans need other humans so, find your people and love them hard. Do things that you love, with the good people that you love and choose positivity and happiness every goddamn day. Because you deserve it and you can have it.

  1. Mindfulness

Live completely in the now and practise mindfulness. If you’re not sure what that even means then do some research in google! But basically pay attention to every single thought and feeling you may have, and just accept it all with no bad or good judgements. There are exercises you can practise that help get rid of anxieties and help balance your mind. Meditation, breathing exercises and appreciation all help. Check out this little list here and try it https://www.developgoodhabits.com/mindfulness-exercises/

  1. Invent and invest

You are the main character in your life ALWAYS. Take a second away from all that energy you give to other people and focus on you. What do you want from life? Who are you? And what do you love? Be creative, explore every option and find your meaning in life. Then bloody go for it! You can be whoever you want to be right now. Invent yourself and invest in yourself.

  1. Do good to feel good

This is a straight forward step and really helps you move away from your comfort zone as well as literally helping yourself and others. Doing good really does make you feel good. So do something good today, for someone else, without reason or agenda. Not only will you feel of use and happier, but karma will love you and bring you more good.

  1. Healthy body = healthy mind

This is so important! Everyone’s on their vegan or veggie tings, and the “hey let’s juice all our foods and lift weights with joe wicks” stages, but there is some sense in it all and it’s great to see so many people eating clean and binning society’s disgusting habits of fast food and dangerous health risks. Eating well and exercising really does lead to a healthier life and mind. I personally love Pilates and have really enjoyed HIIT too, try new classes and see what works for you. Aim for ya 5-a-day too, it’s not a myth, but will genuinely make a difference. There’s so much online – ideas, recipes, weekly routines. Just go for it all.

 

And, that’s it lovers! Below is a little reading list that I’ve put together, check them out. And of course, everyone is different and you’ll find your own ways through whatever it is you might be feeling. But growth is great! It means that you’re changing, developing and not stuck in the same person that you have been. You’re learning and accepting things don’t stay the same, including yourself. Love the flow of life and embrace every growth you experience. This will be the first of many! Enjoy it.

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  • The Art of Happiness, The Dalai Lama
  • Everything I know about love, Dolly Alderton
  • You can heal your life, Louise Hay
  • Becoming: Sex, second chances and figuring out who the hell I am, Laura Jane Williams

The Aziz Ansari Case: Sex, consent and common misbehaviour.

CONSENT.

What does that mean to you?

The Aziz Ansari case is why I’m up late writing today. Moving away from the poorly written exposé (click for the original here) and whether the account was true or not, I want to focus on why this story really matters. I want to focus on the root of the problem and how our society is failing women and men, all of which is evident in the reactions of this story. I am so sick of people missing the root of the problem. The whole bloody point is CONSENT (or lack of!) along with the normality and ignorance of common misbehaviour.

And it’s funny because so many people are reading her side of the story and wondering what all the fuss about. People cannot believe that he might be losing shows over something so bloody trivial like a ‘date gone wrong’. So, what if he seemed a bit eager, a bit too aggressive? They’d had a few drinks at his house, she stuck around, she coulda called a cab earlier? A scenario so common that it’s almost too easy to brush it aside because behaviour that is so common, a scenario that so many of us can relate to, is the whole reason that this story highlights how big of an issue consent, sexual assault and the misuse of power is. Something so serious should not be so common.

Life is not a porno. There is no situation where you can sneak into someone’s room, insert yourself in their body while they sleep, and not be violating their human rights. There is no situation where it would be okay if a girl starts by saying ‘no’, but you brush that aside, cos she might not be serious right? and tempt her into sex anyway. There is no situation where if you slide your hand up a girl’s skirt on the dancefloor and assume she’s gonna love it. Why are we still going so wrong in society? Where our behaviour is mirroring what we see on the TV and there are people who think it’s acceptable to be treated like that in 2018 without a full, clear, enthusiastic, big fat given consent?

The New York Times have just released an article headlined “Aziz Ansari is guilty. Of not being a mind reader”. Because when you’re in a situation where someone is forcing themselves on you, celebrity status or not, it’s kinda hard to scream out NO. Because we live in culture where men use sex as their power while women are still not fully heard in life, yet alone in the bedroom. Because the obvious, foundation and bottom line of consensual and therefore enjoyable sex, like asking “you sure you cool with this?” and hearing an enthusiastic “YES give it to me”, is non-existent in this scenario and many others.

I’m actually appalled at Bari Weiss and The New York Times for releasing the shameful article (which you can read here). Let me share one of Weiss’s thoughts that she had whilst reading the story, so you can understand why we still have a disgustingly huge problem in 2018…

“If he pressures you to do something you don’t want to do, use a four-letter word, stand up on your two legs and walk out his door” – Bari Weiss, letting down humanity at The New York Times

Thanks for that tip hun. I’ll take that into consideration for next time…

  1. “If he pressures you to do something you don’t want to do?!” WHY is he pressuring me into doing something that I don’t want to do?! What is going wrong in his and her way of thinking that we’re even starting the sentence off with that scenario?
  2. That if played back on CCTV, we could see more clearly where the lines may be crossed but, men are so apparently unaware of their actions that they’re unable to read basic body language and use their own ears?? Should men be excused from reading social cues or do we need to work on their ability to be able to read another human beings body?
  3. Bari Weiss, have you ever been in a situation where you are not in control? When your whole body shuts down because you can’t believe this could be happening, so you physically can’t walk out his front door? Where your ideas of this person being someone that you liked, someone that is respected, someone who you thought liked and respected you too, were completely wrong and now he’s violating that trust with your own body? Where you are not strong and confident enough to shut a man down? When it’s 4am and dark outside, and you feel obligated and under more pressure to stay. Not because you want to, but because you’re there now, and it’s 4 am and it’s dark outside and society tells you not to be “one of them girls” and you’ll be leading him on, giving him mixed messages, when actually, an invitation to his house does not mean an invitation to my body.

Another one that made my whole soul ache was ‘The humiliation of Aziz Ansari” by Caitlin Flanagan in The Atlantic. She writes…

“Eventually, overcome by her emotions at the way the night was going, she told him, “You guys are all the fucking same,” and left crying. I thought it was the most significant line in the story: This has happened to her many times before. What led her to believe that this time would be different?

  1. Haha well Flanagan obviously has no hope in mankind, the one thing we have in common. Because we should just expect men to treat us like that? Because it’s happened to her before, so she should behave better? Because we should give up all hope now and assume that every story will lead to an ending where we are not in control of our own bodies and rights? Because he’s not to blame and she should have known? And that makes it all okay?

Flanagan ends her article with…

“I thought it would take a little longer for the hit squad of privileged young white women to open fire on brown-skinned men.”

  1. I’m not a privileged young white woman hun.
  2. And you’re a fool to turn this important conversation around to race. This is not about race. The colour of your skin does not define whether you can mistreat, abuse or assault another human being. It’s not his skin colour that is problematic in this situation and he is not being called up on it because he is brown-skinned. He’s being called upon his actions because he supposedly forced her hand on his dick 5-7 times, whilst she expressed her discomfort and cried all the way home as a result of her whole experience.

Women should not carry the burden of getting ourselves out of dangerous situations. There should not be any dangerous situations in the first place. Men need to start taking full responsibility for their actions. And questioning whether their partner said ‘YES’, and whether she is in a fit and able situation where she feels comfortable or bloody conscious enough to say ‘YES’. There should be no ‘if he pressures you’ or ‘if you’re in a situation like this’ because otherwise we are failing to address the safety of women and the bottom line of his actions and CONSENT. And I’m fully aware that I’m talking as a female and that men do suffer sometimes too, but the reality is that women suffer so much more. Whether you want to hear it or not, women are usually the victims and men are usually the perpetrators. And this needs to change.

Even if Ansari’s alleged actions are not criminally wrong, the story suggest that our society is a mess when it comes to sex. Thanks to porn, clubbing culture, music videos, college culture and machismo culture, boys are taught to treat girls with disrespect, like toys to play with, like objects where a ‘no’ is taken as a challenge. Whilst girls are still unsure whether they can speak up, we sit and take it, wondering if it’s the right time to say no, scared of feeling frigid, and concerned about whether he’ll call you back otherwise. This is not normal or okay behaviour on both parts. We must break these damaging and heartbreaking social norms.

When will it end? Do we need paper consent forms before we have sex? Do we need to challenge our every thoughts and actions? This story, the #metoo movement and all our other smaller stories are so important and a great start, but it is 2018 and it is still not enough. We need conversation, we need justice, we need support and we need change more than ever.

What are your thoughts? As someone who has experienced loving, consensual sex, one-night stands and an experience worse than Grace’s alleged story, it’s the reactions and words of others that have come as a result of hearing her side that have hit hardest with me. It’s a tough subject with many grey areas but there’s something seriously wrong with the fact that so many women can raise their hands and say #metoo

You can check out my related blogs about sex and the hook-up culture here:-

Physically turned on, emotionally switched off. A little look at hook-ups…

Man Up? Man Down

Vanisha

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Instagram and twitter: @vanishamay

Mexico: Día De Los Muertos. Spooky or spectacular? 

Dia De Los Meurtos (or Day of the Dead) is known worldwide as the one of the biggest celebrations of the dead. Festivals, food, flowers and a tonne of skulls and make-up turn the taboo subject of death as we know it in the West into a fun, colourful and completely opposite method of dealing with loss. But is the traditional celebration spectacular or just plain spooky? This year with the children at Mision Mexico, we’ll find out!

 

Four fun facts that you didn’t know about Día de los Muertos:

  1. Día de los Muertos is celebrated on the 1st and 2nd November, not on 31st October! Although the theme is death and it’s closely celebrated near Halloween, the traditions and customs are extremely different. Mexicans create altars (la ofrenda) in their homes and cemeteries to invite their lost ones back down to earth for a huge celebration of their lives! There’s no mourning, fear or sadness, just love, joy and laughter! This is incredibly important for our children also and a lovely way to help with trauma and loss.
  2. Who knows what the food is like in Heaven? Just in case the departed might be missing out on their favourite meals, families make sure to provide heaps of food, drinks and all their loved ones’ favourite things as an offering. It’s also believed that the food will help with the tiredness of travelling from the heavens and back. Pan de meurto and pan dulce (bread of the dead and sweet bread) is usually offered along with atole (sweet porridge) and sugar skulls.
  3. Cemeteries are filled with families, flowers and candles which sounds similar to ours in the west, but you’ll find the atmosphere and behaviour to be in extreme contrast. Children run around playing and families laugh as they share fond memories together. People are at one with death. Life and death come together in the most colourful and uplifting way.
  4. As well as being a fun activity for the day (for the kids and us!), the popular sugar skull face painting has real meaning behind it. Calaveras and Careinas were originally worn and painted on to warn off death. And the holiday itself is an indigenous tradition and recognised by UNESCO.

 

At Mision Mexico, we encourage and celebrate these important traditions and celebrations. “Our altar is still up, and every morning the kids light the candles and have a moment to think about those who have passed. They also spend the day trying to set fire to sticks and paper, but I’m pretty sure that’s not a countrywide tradition!” – Melissa, Fundraising and Events Manager

 

So, spooky or spectacular? I think… Spectacular! How incredible and beautiful to be so at peace with one of the most natural things on the planet. It’s perfect for family time and bringing each other closer to celebrate and remember those we once walked the earth with. And also, a magical time to visit the spectacular country of Mexico!

 

Interested in the dead like I am?

Read my blog about living with the dead in Indonesia. Another fascinating but amazing way of coping with loss and celebrating loved ones along with being one of my most unforgettable travel experiences! https://vanishamay.com/2017/04/28/living-with-the-dead-could-you-do-it/

 

Interested in volunteering at Mision Mexico?

You can apply at volunteers@lovelifehope.com! We’d love to hear from you! Must be over 21 and willing to commit for 6 weeks minimum.

 

Thanks for reading!

Vanisha

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Instagram: @vanishamay and @misionmexicovolunteers

Twitter: @misionmexico

Follow us on Facebook too! https://www.facebook.com/MisionMexicoChildren/

 

 

Photograph credits to previous volunteers at Mision Mexico**