Travel Stories

Seeing the world is a constant education about life and the people around us. Travel can open up so much about the world. So much history, so much pain and so many stories that we never hear about, all which co-exist as we go about our daily, lucky lives.

Many of these stories remain unknown to us. One of my first big experiences of being so moved by people and their lesser-known past was my trip to Cambodia in 2015. Excited by the incredible Angkor Wat, I had no idea about the history, the obvious trauma felt by the country still and how much of that I’d take away with me. Millions of lives affected by the Khmer Rouge and a country still recovering. Education, medical and landmines safety are all areas that still require help and assistance with today. It’s not on our news, we don’t learn it in schools and we generally don’t know much about the recent genocide. I especially knew nothing. So, I read books, watched documentaries and continued to learn about the lives beyond the skulls that we saw in the ground that day at the killing fields.

The Freedom Bridge in DMZ

Similarly, I was completely clueless about Korea too. The war, their current situation and their history is just something that I never learnt about or really came across (minus the odd headline in the news that honestly, never really held much importance because the background was so unknown to me). Until a couple of summers ago when I read a memoir by a girl called Yeonmi Park. Yeonmi tells her brave story of a life in North Korea, of her escape, her families abuse and how she was sex-trafficked through China, living to tell the horrors. Yeonmi was one of the lucky ones, now working for the UN and sharing her stories to raise awareness and promoting assistance for the people stuck inside.

On my visit to the demilitarised zone (DMZ) that lies between the two Korea’s, all I thought about was her. The only safe land between two countries who are still technically at war, is now a tourist spot for people to come, see and (apparently) learn about the history and future hopes for the unification of Korea. It’s dangerous and important stuff. Now, I was probably being a bit naive but I genuinely thought I’d learn more from this tour. Instead, I found myself in a rant about mindless travellers, companies who profit from pain and plain ignorance.

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I’m disappointed because Yoenmi’s story is just one of many, but you don’t learn about the people or the humanitarian crisis on the tour; only the politics, money and photo opportunities. You visit Freedom Bridge which was made to safely bring prisoners over the landmines that still surround the land and is also a memorial, a place to leave ribbons for missing loved ones. It’s a beautiful place with deep meaning and sadness and a tonne of people taking photos with their thumbs up in front of the ribbon wall who seem to have no idea why or what the point of it is because we were never really told properly. And it’s not completely their fault when the rest of the tour takes you to a new train station built for joining South Korea through the North and to the rest of the world, photos of Trump’s recent visit (what a doofus) and the ongoing excitement about the abundance of wildlife that grows in the DMZ next to the fake propaganda village that you can see from the Dorasan Observatory. Which makes an interesting story for sure, but what about the real people and their stories?

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I thought about Yeonmi and the millions of stories still untold, the people living in one of the world’s most dangerous countries, whilst our tour guide (who was genuinely very lovely) was telling us funny stories about a flag competition between the countries…

And I guess that brings me back to travel. We’re constantly in someone else’s home, neighbourhoods, lands, eating their food and making friends with the locals. We should never forget that. When we visit these places, do further research, read books, talk to the people and learn their lives. It’s up to us to ask questions, think ethically and consider those whose countries we’re guests in. Seeing the world should expand our understanding when given the right knowledge and tools to see through the people’s eyes. When we know their stories, we form deeper connections with the world and life. We grow in empathy.

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Travelling isn’t always easy and it’s so much more than taking quirky Instagram pictures and island hopping. It’s important to move through the world with thought, understanding and responsibility, never forgetting how lucky we are because our lives are filled with connections, stories, a constant learning, feelings and people like Yeonmi who help us to understand it all.

 

Peace, love and happy conscious travelling people!

V

x

 

 

Below is a list of books, documentaries and links to learn more, get involved and raise awareness about stories that matter from people in crisis’s that have stuck with me;

Korea

https://www.ted.com/talks/yeonmi_park_what_i_learned_about_freedom_after_escaping_north_korea

https://www.ted.com/talks/hyeonseo_lee_my_escape_from_north_korea

https://www.amazon.com/Order-Live-Korean-Journey-Freedom/dp/014310974X/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=yeonmi+park&qid=1570171873&s=books&sr=1-1

China

https://www.ted.com/talks/sheryl_wudunn_our_century_s_greatest_injustice

https://www.amazon.com/Half-Sky-Oppression-Opportunity-Worldwide/dp/0307387097/ref=as_li_tf_tl?tag=teco06-20&ie=UTF8

Cambodia

https://www.ted.com/talks/sophal_ear_escaping_the_khmer_rouge

https://www.netflix.com/title/80067522

https://www.amazon.com/First-They-Killed-Father-Remembers/dp/0060856262/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=First+They+Killed+My+Father&qid=1570171859&s=books&sr=1-1

https://www.history.com/topics/cold-war/the-khmer-rouge

Mexico

https://www.facebook.com/MisionMexicoChildren

https://www.usnews.com/news/best-countries/articles/2018-07-10/mexico-faces-its-own-surge-of-refugees-entering-the-country

https://asylumaccess.org/program/mexico/

Indonesia

http://www.dofeve.org

http://28toomany.org/

https://plan-uk.org/about/our-work/fsgm

India

https://www.netflix.com/title/81076756

http://www.nirbhayajyotitrust.org/

Europe and the Middle East’s Refugee Crisis

https://www.ted.com/talks/melissa_fleming_a_boat_carrying_500_refugees_sunk_at_sea_the_story_of_two_survivors

https://helprefugees.org

https://www.rescue.org/

https://www.amazon.com/Hope-More-Powerful-Than-Sea/dp/1250105994/ref=as_li_tf_tl?tag=teco06-20&ie=UTF8

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

Five steps on how to be single…

Oh you’re still single?

Don’t worry, you’ll meet someone soon!

But you’re so nice!

You’re so old.

There must be something wrong with you.

How do you do it all alone!?

 

The big question.. “But are you happy?!”

Like you can’t possibly be single AND happy. And I won’t lie, there’s obviously times where I’d love to see this world with someone who loves me romantically by my side, but after almost 7 glorious years of being single, I can honestly say that I am happy and that’s all life is really about, right?

 

It’s funny the pressures that the world and your own self put on relationship statuses (read my thoughts on being single gal from three years ago here). You genuinely do have days where you think there MUST be something wrong with you, like finding real love might NEVER happen.

 

But after much thought, many frog kissing and many, many (pretty funny and story worthy) mistakes I am proud to say that I am now a master of being single.

 

So, for all you guys and gals who are sitting at home, questioning whether you’re the problem and fretting way too much about when that big ‘life changing’ love will walk through your door (and for myself in times like this), here’s how ‘people like us’ can be our own life changing loves;

 

1. Find out what you want and what you NEED.

Dating and spending time alone are the two best ways to learn about your expectations and needs when it comes to love, sex and relationships. The majority of dates will be fun filled moments with tonnes of life lessons and the more you date, the more you’ll learn! And as you spend other days truly by yourself, reflecting on your past experiences and learning about who you are, you’ll realise the difference between what you want and what you need, and how to recognise the things that are honestly good for you. This is the luxury of being single. Go out and date people, go out and date yourself, explore everything and try it all.

 

2. Be honest.

I’ve learnt to start saying exactly what I want. No longer do I go on dates and say phrases like “yeah, I don’t want anything serious either”, “No, it’s fine I don’t mind!”, “Sure, let’s keep this on the down-low!” what a load of poo. When you like someone a lot, or when you’re feeling these relationship pressures, it’s SO easy to push yourself aside and just go along anything. But going into anything that starts with lies or dishonesty always ends badly. Obviously. Once you know what you want, be honest with that and with yourself. Respect yourself enough to tell someone when they’ve upset you, when things are not okay and when you’re just not on the same page.

 

3. Focus on yourself. Invest in yourself. Love yourself.

Realise that living life by your own terms is not selfish. People are spending longer being single and taking the time to do what they want in life now. And you deserve everything good and possible in this world! Pamper yourself, treat yo’self and learn to love yourself. I’m currently sitting by the water with Hong Kong in the background, I’ve just ordered my second coffee and I just ate amazing pasta. All alone. And it feels. so. good. It’s hard to remember to actively love yourself, to give yourself attention and kind words like you would to others, but it sure does feel good when you have it figured out. You’ll always deserve that.

 

4. Be patient and don’t chase. What’s meant to be will find its way.

I spent so many years chasing after people who loved the idea of me and the person they thought I was, but it was never enough for them to actually invest in anything serious. After travelling a lot and only having brief encounters, my ideas of love and commitment were altered to lust, settling for less and chasing unhealthy connections. Man, did I learn the hard way. If he’s not texting you, take it as a sign. If he’s not seeing you, move on. Take all of these signs and excuses and be brutal with it. If the other person isn’t like f*ck yes, then let it go. Make boundaries, respect yourself (and them) and know that there will be someone who is better for you.

 

5. Make glorious mistakes and live wildly.

One day, someone will come along and change your life as you know it. So enjoy it all now!! Be fearless, do things alone and travel. Ask a guy out first, see the world with your best friends and take your own damn self out for dates. Life is for living and being single means you’ll probably have less responsibilities and can do whatever the f you want, when you want and with who you want! And once you start, you won’t know any different. I love my time alone and NEED it to keep myself inspired, sane and productive. Chase your curiosity, do things that scare you and live your best life.

  

My life is filled with endless love and as I grow older, my life of freedom just gets better and better. I learn more and more that happiness is something that I create for myself, and that actually, it’s going to take someone pretty amazing to sweep me off my feet. I appreciate me and my life SO much. No-one knows you better than you do, learn about yourself, love yourself and make your own incredible life until someone comes along and fits with all that you’ve created.

 

Peace and love people! Go live yo best single lives 🖤

Vanisha

X

Follow my adventures on Instagram at @vanishamay

 

Read some more of my lurrrve and relationships blogs here;

https://vanishamay.com/2018/08/10/a-lonely-girls-guide-to-being-alone/

https://vanishamay.com/2017/02/19/physically-turned-on-emotionally-switched-off-2/

https://vanishamay.com/2018/07/03/dating-in-china/

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!

 

A lonely girls guide to being alone

“I like drinking coffee alone and reading alone. I like riding the bus alone and walking home alone. It gives me time to think and set my mind free. I like eating alone and listening to music alone. But when I see a mother with her child, a girl with her lover, or a friend laughing with their best friend, I realize that even though I like being alone, I don’t fancy being lonely.

You see, there’s a BIG difference between being alone and being lonely.

Being alone is power. A power that not everyone is capable of. It’s a state of being. Being alone is something you can enjoy, it’s something you own, it’s something you choose. You can be by yourself and find ways to make yourself smile. You connect with yourself hard. Being alone can bring you so much happiness.

Being lonely is the opposite. It’s an emotion. It’s not positive, it’s silence that hurts and the thought of all the things that you’re missing out from hovers like a black cloud. It’s not enjoyable at all. You can be in a room full of people but feel completely alone. You feel disconnected, and it’s not something you always choose. Being lonely brings you anything but happiness.

I know people that are terrified of being alone, they jump from relationship to relationship and would never imagine going to the movies, or travelling, or eating dinner alone. And I know people that have spent most of their lives in different states of loneliness, being with the wrong partner, spending years of their life alone or even people who travel, moving from city to city with no real roots.

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Sometimes, I am both. I’ve travelled the world, I’ve lived away from home, I’ve been single for a long time and I’m fiercely independent. Most days, I look back at the life I’ve had so far and I’m so proud of everything that I’ve achieved, mostly by myself. I’ll come home from work, back to my little flat in China and close the door behind me. I’ll come home to silence and I look around my room, everything I own is mine and everything I do is for me. Most days I cherish this and am SO grateful for it all. But some days it feels empty and I wonder when I’ll close the door behind me and someone will be so happy to have me home, someone who’ll stick around to share it all with me (read about why travel is ruining my dating life here).

But my point is, I’m not alone, am I? Surveys are finding that more and more people are feeling lonely. And in a time where we’re more ‘connected’ than ever, loneliness is not something we talk about enough, especially if you’re male, a mother, a boss, or anything that might ‘weaken’ your image. But it’s okay to feel like this, I think most of us will at some point of our lives, and I hope you’ll find someone to talk to or a way to get out of it before it drags you down deeper. It’s a dangerous road but there are paths to overcome it all.

“I enjoy controlled loneliness. I like wandering around the city alone. I’m not afraid of coming back to an empty flat and lying down in an empty bed. I’m afraid of having no one to miss, of having no one to love.”

6 ways to conquer being alone and the feelings of loneliness:

  1. Firstly, it’s a basic tool but I’ve recently fell in love with this chatroom. Of course, I meet people from all around the world and I have a great support system back at home, but this thing is fab! It’s a safe space with controlled and positive communications. Use it regardless of how you’re feeling, send it to your loved ones and share the hell out of it… https://chat.itskoko.com/
  2. Make plans and find new connections/relationships. Be brave and embrace the good people around you. Human connection is meant to be the key to a happy and long life! Be kinder, love harder and smile bigger. Make plans so you stick to something and so you have something to look forward to. It really is the little things that can make a big difference.
  3. Find positives out of your situation. Like, yeah, I might be single AF (and therefore sometimes lonely) but I get to travel the world, do what I want every day AND starfish every night with no one judging my Netflix choices… just an example. And also, remove anything that triggers your feelings of loneliness like songs from your ex, old photos, you get me, just until you’re stronger.
  4. Find things you enjoy doing, whether it be alone or to meet new people. You have all this freedom, so use it! Discover new hobbies, do things you love and make your life about you. Join classes, the gym, venture out of the house and go for walks alone! It’ll all make you feel better, especially a bit of exercise (this is me convincing myself too)….
  5. Self-love. I’m not sure how many times I’ve used that word in my blogs, but I don’t give myself enough of it and I’m sure if you’re still reading this then you need a reminder too! You are not unwanted, unloved or unworthy. You deserve everything good in this life and this feeling won’t last forever. Remember this. You are your longest relationship, and you have to spend the rest of your life with you! Forgive yourself, love yourself and promise to do better for yourself.
  6. I also recommend reading Dr. Seuss’ ‘Oh, the places you’ll go!’. It’s my favourite book in the world. If you’re still reading, you’ll need it. Read it, share it and remember it. He’s a genius.

So, embrace being alone and seek for something different if you’re feeling lonely. And one more thing, be kind, to each other and to yourself. You never know what battle people are fighting, what they must go home to every day or how hard their life has been. Call your mum more often, take your Nanna out for lunch and tell your best friend you love them. You’ll never regret being kinder.

Sending lots of love,

V

x

For more reads check out my My 8 steps for healing.Mental health and me: bringing back my power.Mental health and me., and Thoughts of a single gal

Who made your clothes?

So, I’m starting this blog with an exercise. I want you to look down your body. Run your hands over every item of clothing that you’re wearing, every layer and feel right down to your shoes. Feel that material and look close at the stitches. Now, think about all the other hands that have touched your clothes too. Do you know how many? Now, check the labels. Made in where? Vietnam? China? Bangladesh? And made by who?

Did you know that, if you’re reading this, you have 4x the amount of clothes in your wardrobe than your parents did? Did you know that 1 in 4 people around the world work in the fashion industry as we know it, with 98% of those people living below the poverty line, and 80% of those people being women? And is any of this making any of us happier? Hell to the no. Far from it.

I want you to meet Nazma, who at 13 years old, started work in a Bangladeshi garment factory; earning a wage equivalent to £2 a month. Nazma’s life has been extremely difficult, because not only has she worked in conditions, that some consider as modern-day slavery since she was 13 years old, but she’s also seen the hardships and inequalities of hundreds just like her.

I saw Nazma last year. She was angry with the world and asking for change.

“Women are earning £50 a month. They make your t-shirts, your dresses, your leggings. The multi-national and retailers come to where the labour markets are cheap. And when clothes are cheap, women are cheap. Nothing comes for free in this world, nothing is discount, women pay with their blood and their sweat… Women are not respected. Women should be safe in all workplaces, everywhere.” – Nazma Akter, London, 2017

And above is Laboni and her husband, who moved to Bangladesh to find work and a new life. Laboni, alongside 1,137 others died when her factory collapsed five years ago.  The Rana Plaza story still hits me hard because it’s a story so common and a story that is never taken seriously enough. A story where workers rights and concerns were ignored, and the clothes that now fill our wardrobes were made at a human cost, just like so many others.

Most of my wardrobe, and yours, would have started in the hands of girls like Laboni and Nazma. They then end up in shops worth billions of pounds. Worth enough money to pay these women and men fair living wages. Worth enough money for their CEO’s and management to actually make time and visit the hands that are making their goods. Worth enough money to ensure that no human is working in these unsafe and inhumane conditions, yet alone a 13-year-old child. Worth enough money to make a change.

You cannot exploit women in one country to empower them in another. It shouldn’t work like that. That’s not empowerment. That’s not freedom, or love, or anything positive in fact.

But we’re greedy, right? And at least they’ve got jobs, right?

Yeah in deathly conditions. You know in the UK when it hits over 25 degrees, and everyone starts banging on about ‘safe working conditions’ and workers’ rights in that godforsaken heat? Well imagine that, plus another 10 degrees, plus 10-hour working days, plus seeing your family twice a year, plus dirty living conditions, plus gruelling work environments that are unsafe and the air is filled with chemicals, plus very little choice so you’re trapped and taken advantage of. Workers in Cambodia faint daily from the heat, starvation and pure exhaustion. Who do they work for? Suppliers to Nike and Puma. For how much? £120 a month.

And that’s just a snippet of the effect it has on the people of our planet, but the fashion industry is harming our planet in extraordinary ways too.

As the consumers, we are the cause of this. We are the cause of a 500% increase in consumption. Because of us, the consumers, the factory industry is now the world’s biggest plastic polluter, the second biggest energy consumer and the biggest producer of the non-bio gradable material that is polyester. Click here for my last blog to read more about the effects that fashion has on our planet. 

 

What are the solutions?

The solutions are in our hands, and there are so many of them! As a consumer (and human being!), I love to shop, I like my clothes, and I love getting dressed up. And I’m not saying we should stop, that we should boycott and throw tomatoes at the doors of Zara, but we can shop with a conscience, with more care and with more heart. This is easier said than done, when every time you flick on to Instagram you see girls earning big bucks for promoting these labels hard. I get the pressures of society. But think, is it worth it? What’s going to really matter 10 years from now?

  • Repair, re-wear and reuse your clothes

Don’t buy anything with the thought of chucking it away. Buy things that you love and wear them with love, repeatedly. Repair them, learn to sew things up and customise!

  • Engage with and challenge current suppliers

Shop ethically and challenge the fashion industry. If a company doesn’t have transparency regarding their suppliers and production makers, then the likelihood that they either have no idea who is making their clothes or that they’re in unsuitable, unethical conditions is highly likely. Do your research, ask questions and don’t be afraid to stand up for what’s right.

  • Stop sending all your old sh*t to charity shops

Use Depop, eBay, car boot sales and sell them on! You’ll make some money and your clothes will go to a new home, instead of a landfill like the ones damaging Haiti. Who’s winning now?!

  • Realise change starts with you

Nazma is now a human rights activist who spends her days fighting for justice, safe working conditions and fair pay for factory workers. We can do the same. Follow ethical brands on Instagram, shop from ethical brands and support these people hard! Move away from the stereotype that ethical fashion is expensive and exclusive. Imagine if every brand was ethical? It would all be affordable and sustainable.

 

In fact, only 1-3% of the final cost goes to the hands that actually made them, so realistically speaking, we just need to shift the money from the hands of the super rich CEO’s and into the hands of these women. This way, costs wouldn’t even go up for us…

The makers of our clothing, those who are so often invisible and marginalised, are worth celebrating and given safety and quality of life too. No-one’s life, and the future of our planet is worth losing over the latest material trends. Let’s call on the UK fashion brands to protect the women who make our clothes and the planet that we live on.

And next time you change your outfit or purchase a new item of clothing, I dare you to look at the label and ask; Who made my clothes? Is she getting paid? Is she safe? Who is she?

Thanks for reading you lovely lot!

Vanisha

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Follow my twitter and instagram @vanishamay

 

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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

V

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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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