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

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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

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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Why travel ruins your love life….

**Noted that this really only applies if you’re single already. I’m fully aware that there are some couples out there who have found each other and have combined their love for travel and country-hopping whilst holding hands and producing banging pics all over insta. Not jealous at all. But these are my feels as a gal who is constantly coming and going, mostly going, and single AF.

Over the last 5 years, I’ve spent more than 17 months overseas. I’ve travelled over 30 different countries. The idea of finding romantic love seems almost impossible at the moment, especially as I’ve just left the country again, and this time for long-term. And every time I’ve become close to someone, no matter how right it seems in my head, I think there’s always my other love that pulls me back and tells me that it will never work. Travel.

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Looking out for all the good men…

And it scares other people too! As soon as you say you’re leaving, of course no one wants to invest their time or effort into you. And I haven’t found anyone willing enough to travel with me yet!

The idea of being a girl who is always on the move seems exciting at first but let’s be real, it’s not quite ideal is it. And I’m fully aware of that. Most of the time. Perhaps because I’ve never had enough time to build anything worthwhile. Or perhaps because they’ve just been plain wrong for me. Or a mixture.

And I’m always asked whether I meet people while I’m away. Of course I do.

But usually it’s the same with me leaving the country soon, or they’re travelling too, which means they’ve got their own plans and passions to follow. And although we keep in touch, long-distance just isn’t for me. Because long-distance can be hard and comes with its own sets of problems. And the likelihood of our paths crossing anytime soon is extremely unlikely. Unfortunately.

 

So, it’s all very difficult.

Travel is life-changing and amazing, and you meet so many wonderful people that you’re almost never physically alone! But at the same time, it can be incredibly lonely and you wonder when you’re next big life-changing person will come along. Someone to share all these incredible experiences with. Is it really too much to ask?!

“If you asked me, maybe the saddest part about travel love isn’t that it almost always comes to an end. Maybe the saddest part is that, often, the ones we are able to form the deepest, most emotional connections with, are the ones we know we are not destined to spend the rest of our lives knowing.” – unkown

Does this mean I’ll stay still for a while and consider settling? Hahahaha.
I’m joking. Perhaps if I met the right person, but right now, I’d be a fool to put my career and personal loves on hold for an idea that is always so far from something solid.

Which is probably what they’re all thinking too! Staying put for a year in China might open doors to new opportunities but it’s not as simple as dating back home. First there’s the language barrier, and the situation that most people are here for their gap year (whereas this is my whole life) or you realise that you’ve travelled every corner of the world and guys rarely differ…. Lol joking again. Kind of. Not really.

But maybe it’s not all bad, maybe it doesn’t completely ruin your love life.

Maybe it opens the window to a completely different kind of love life. Some of my most exciting, funniest and happiest love related stories (and lessons!) have come from these last few years. Skinny dipping in the Philippines. Fancy holidays in Cancun. Watching the sun rise on Copacabana beach. Running in torrential rain in Mexico. So. Many. Good. Times. And so much happiness still.

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Travel is exciting and you meet new people who are adventuring and experiencing life in the same ways that you are. You have so much in common and everything happens at max speed because you literally run on a different time scale.

As opposed to back home where you have all these stages and an infinite amount of time to slowly form that relationship, travel love and these deep connections can form within days and be over just as quickly.

I think my perception of love and need to form that excitement and passion from day one will always be there thanks to my travel life and experiences, I rush and dive deep into everything. With no regrets (98% of the time). It’s proved to me that time is not a measure of love, and because of that I’ve made great connections with people from all around the world. I have many lovely little love stories! My life is not filled with less love, just a different kind. And that’s pretty cool too.

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So, I’ll carry on being as patient as can be, carry on building my life and loving every single second of it with every hope that life is preparing something just as incredible for me. China, do you have him? The story continues…

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Have a fab day and follow me and my IG adventures at @vanishamay. 

Gracias! Xie xie! Thank youuuu for reading my ramblings as always

V

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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/

Three nights in Barcelona

Quick and cheap flights; the beauty of living in Europe! Before I jet off for my new job in China, I had to get one last holiday squeeze in! And I did think about volunteering on my week off however, the naughty devil on my shoulder told me to be selfish and just go wild for a few days instead. So, a quick call to my bestie (who is my naughty devil in real life!) and it was done! Three nights of fun in Barcelona with B. But how did we do it? People always ask me questions about my travels so here I am breaking it all down for you…

Before you do anything, SKYSCANNER.

Skyscanner is the only website you need when it comes to booking flights ever. It’s literally my best friend when I travel and has all the best prices and comparisons. We got our return flights to Barca and back for £40. Amazinggg.

Then if you’re not fussy, and you’re up for some fun and meeting new people, stay in a hostel. Our hostel was called HelloBCN and we paid £35 for 3 nights with breakfast included. I think hostels can be quite daunting if you’ve never done them before, but I absolutely love them now. They’re cheap, easy and fun, and our beds in this place were super comfy! They always have tours and activities going on which makes it so helpful when you’re in a new city.

DAY ONE

We had a daytime flight and went straight to our hostel by the metro which cost around $10 for us both. I heard a lot about safety and pickpockets on the metro, but it felt really safe and just like in any big city, you have to take care. We only had the evening, so we went to a nearby restaurant and filled up on all the Spanish foods! Tapas, paella and Sangria galore. The food is great, and Becca is a vegetarian, but we had no problems getting food at all. Try it all. It’s all fab.

DAY TWO

As I said before, hostels are great for budget-friendly and free tours and activities. We spent our first full day doing 2 free walking tours which were recommend by our hostel, but they’re open for everyone if you want to meet at 10:30am and 3pm outside the steps of the Barcelona Catedral. Free walking tours are amazing! You have a guide who knows all the info and history, you visit places that you might miss otherwise then you leave a tip of however much you think the tour was worth. We managed to see the Barcelona cathedral, the Sagrada Familia, the Gothic Quarters, Casa Battlo, Casa Mila, Palau Guell, and a load of other famous places and artworks along with stories and history.

For lunch, we ate 3 courses for £5 at a cute little place in the George Orwell Square. Then that night, in classic Becca and Vin style, we went out out! It was a Tuesday night and quite difficult to find a lively bar or two as most places died out around 12pm, but we stumbled upon a bar called Monkey (I think!) where they were offering 2 free shots, a free cocktail, club entrance and a party bus (which turned out to be just a regular bus LOL), but a really good deal! The club was called Shoko and the music was really good. Prices for drinks however didn’t vary much from London. And we couldn’t find a single McDonalds open at the end of the night, say whaaaat (?!) so we went Spanish style and ended our night with a baguette each. First time for everything!

DAY THREE

We obviously woke up late because we were hungover little rascals, so we got lunch at a little burger place then headed for Park Guell on the metro. The metro is super easy and cheap to use, don’t be afraid to try it. Park Guell was lovely too. We bought our tickets online to see the Gaudi art area of the park because they were cheaper, but you can walk around the main park for free which was lovely too. Our tickets were $6 and deffo worth it, the artwork and architecture is stunning, and it wasn’t too busy, and the skies were blue and sunny!

That evening we headed back to the Gothic Quarters where we ate $1 pinxos and drank wine to celebrate our new jobs woo. You can find this at a little bar called Craft. There’s also lots of vintage shops around here, and we found a huge charity shop where everything was $4, including this big pink coat which is now my fave. Then we ended the night by walking along the seafront and headed back to our hostel for pot noodles. Fab.

DAY FOUR

We literally just got the flight home but one big tip for you! Do not buy food at the airport, I know this seems obvious, but we thought they’d have more choice. It was super overpriced so just buy a sandwich before and save $2 for some water!

So, that’s it lovers! Barcelona was fab, there’s so much to see and do, it’s pretty, there’s sun, a beach, lovely people, great food. I’d definitely recommend it. Feel free to ask me questions. Go book a ticket. Live ya life to the maxxxx.

V

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Save yaself and me £10 by using my code on booking.com: https://www.booking.com/s/34_6/vasush68

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Volunteering at Mision Mexico - Bringing love, life and hope to our children

Mision Mexico’s Magic

A day in the life of a volunteer

One of the aims as a volunteer is to spread positivity and inspiration. I walk through doors in hope that at the most, I’ll change or improve somebody’s life, and at the very least, make their day a tiny bit brighter and their smile a tiny bit bigger. What you can never plan for is the impact that someone might make on you and the mark they may leave in your life. One of my biggest inspo’s from Mision Mexico is my girl, M. This is to you gal.

 

Like most of our children at Mision Mexico, M’s journey has a been a tough one. M was found at the age of 4, wandering the streets of Tapachula buying alcohol for her alcoholic parents. At 4 years-old, M was classed as a victim of abuse and neglect. She was bought to Mision Mexico by local social services and police, and has spent most of her life with Pam and Alan Skuse and the family they’ve created at the refuge. Through pictures and videos, you can see how far she’s come. From a sweet little girl to a confident, strong young woman, M is now 17 years old.

As one of the eldest in the house, it’s clear to see who’s boss when M is around, and she can definitely play up to the role when needed! She’s a leader who knows what she wants. And that’s one thing that I love about her. That throughout everything, through all the sadness and hardship, she’s a fearless go-getter who loves life. Plus, she’s completely lovable and has the most infectious and charming personality.

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Like most teens, M has discovered make up, boys and a hate for chores. Actually, I think she reminds me a lot of myself when I was her age! Sometimes loving and happy, sometimes stubborn and testing, and sometimes just misunderstood.

 

As a volunteer at Mision Mexico, it’s not always so easy to find one-on-one time, mainly because there’s 22 children all needing their own various kinds of attention and love! But when you find that time, you break down that barrier and you make that little bond, it can be magic.

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My first magic moment with M came on a trip into town one day. We walked and talked about school and bullying and she held my hand for the whole way home. Then our funniest moment was when she took me to get tortillas in the torrential rain. We were running (which is rare for me!) and as we were attempting to walk through a small river in the street, my flip-flop came off and I almost lost it…! She thought it was hilarious.

But my proudest moment and biggest wave of inspiration came when I took her to her first boxing class. As we walked together hand in hand, M told me stories about school and the girl who she didn’t get on well with. As we got closer to central, we had incidents with two separate cars of men stopping by us and cat-calling. Funnily enough, being one of the only few tourists in Tapachula, the attention wasn’t aimed at me, but instead, aimed at a 17-year old M. Feminist me, and human me was mortified and I was quick to wave them along in anger and hand gestures. Unfortunately, incidents like this are common in areas like this.

We turned up at the boxing class and M had a huge smile of excitement on her face. She got straight into it and barely stopped for the whole hour. While she was punching away at the boxing bag with a face full of determination, I couldn’t help but think about 4-year-old M being taken away from her sad family situation, and 7-year-old M growing up with her new family at Mision Mexico, and 12-year-old M getting cat called on the street, and 14-year-old M getting hit by the girl at school, and now 17-year-old M, strong, smart and beautiful and right by my side.

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It’s an amazing feeling to watch someone who is so remarkable in your eyes, keep looking over and checking to make sure you’re watching her in her newest passion, to  wanting to hold your hand whilst walking around the streets and asking advice about her problems in life.

And, although volunteering is all about giving out love and lifting others, you’re always left with that exceptional feeling that along with changing their lives, they’re also changing yours. Magic. Saying goodbye to M as I left Mision Mexico was one of the most difficult for sure. Kidnapping is not always the best idea but she’s amongst the bunch that I would have loved to have with me forever.

 

Unfortunately, life sometimes catches up with the children and M is currently going through some difficult life decisions. We all hope that she chooses the path that will bring her the most happiness and allows her to be the best version of herself. We love you M, and thank you for being such a big part of my life in Tapachula.

For all those interested in volunteering, please don’t hesitate to ask further. You can apply at volunteers@lovelifehope.com! We’re in need of volunteers especially for October-December 2017. 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! @misionmexico
http://www.lovelifehope.com

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

Photograph credits to previous volunteers at Mision Mexico**