15 Sep 2017

When Home just isn't Home any more.

I'm probably isolating half of the world when I speak about subjects like this but I always try my best to put into words exactly how it feels if you haven't experienced it yourself.
Imagine landing in a country you've never been to before, you don't know what time it is, you don't speak the same language and you don't know where you need to go to get to your hotel. That's how I feel when i'm in Cleethorpes. Uncomfortable, lost and overwhelmed.
If I knew in 2012 when I left for university that home would never feel the same to me again, I'd have taken in so much more. When I was able to love my hometown and the people in it. Now I just honestly feel so foreign. My mind set feels different to my friends, my idea of a good Thai or Japanese meal can't be found anywhere and well, if you want to do something on a week night, tough luck my friend, there's the cinema, pub or bed.
When I returned in 2017 from a year in Australia I experienced the travel blues, big time.
I didn't want to be seen around my town, I didn't want to have conversations with people who knew me 5 years ago. I just truly felt alien. My anxiety went from 0-100 in a matter of weeks and it was the saddest time of my life. Most nights I felt as though I wouldn't care if I just didn't wake up. 
As much as I was homesick at times when I was travelling, it just didn't feel the same here anymore. I couldn't speak to anyone around me who felt the same and so I would spend hours on end on Facetime and Skype with people I've met away who have experienced the same thing.
The worst part of it all, is I feel selfish. I try not to talk about where i've been and how i'm unhappy in this town, yet it kills me inside. I pretend i'm ok with being here and for who? My friends? My family? The family business? But not for me.
I had made a plan to head back out to America in June 2018 and that thought alone kept me sane. I booked mini breaks to Dublin, Budapest and Spain but I just wanted more.
It was only when I visited Manchester Arena for the re-
opening concert in September, where I used to work during university, that it suddenly occurred to me. Why not move back here? I love it in Manchester. It's busy. It's multi-cultured. I'm not a globe away from home. And so that's what i've decided to do. 
I'm not really sure how to advise people on dealing with being home again, because I obviously can't deal with it myself. I'm just running away from it again. But I found that seeing a counsellor did help me overcome my anxiety and my lowest points and I am forever grateful for that. 
You really just have to think, if it's not where you want to be and where you feel happiest, then you should just do something about it and leave.
It's not that I won't miss being around here. I've loved being around to be an Auntie, a God Mother and being around for my best friends again like we used to but that doesn't have to end when I leave. Social media nowadays means that we can be anywhere we want in the world, and we can always be on one end of the phone if need be. 
I just know I have to do this for me. Nothing really changes yet everyone becomes so involved with their own lives that they get used to not having you around, which of course naturally happens, life goes on. That's exactly why I need to be around people who are ok with being single, don't want to have kids and be married before I have even learnt how to tell the time on an analogue clock. I need to be back in a city.
My dreams in life are to be successful and see as much of this planet as I possibly and realistically can, and well, those opportunities just aren't going to present themselves to me in a small seaside resort in Lincolnshire.
Have you ever felt like this?
Hit me up!

Just Write About It.
Raven Twigg

30 Jul 2017

Indie Campers; the Highway to Hell.

Entrance to the festival.
So I decided 3 years is far too long since I'd been to my favourite music festival, Festival Internacional de Benicàssim. I have been here twice before, once in 2013, and once in 2014. Both times I have booked hotel accommodation and just endured the trek to and from the festival site each evening. To me it was an easy option to skip the dreaded camp site. Camping in a tent in the middle of Spanish heat isn't something I'd like to check off my bucket list. So this year, we decided to book it all quite late on, meaning all the nearby hotels and apartments were either sold out, or extremely pricey. Weighing up our options and desperately avoiding the tent scenario, we discovered a company named Indie Campers. Their vans looked pretty impressive and we thought, g'won then, let's give it a crack. We purchased a caravan pass alongside our 4 day festival ticket + camping and was ready to go.
Our interior looking a lot like it's supposed to...
Flying from East Midlands to Alicante where we would start our 3 hour drive along the Spanish highway to Benicàssim. When we arrived a woman named Mafalda was waiting for us to exchange the keys and talk us through the van. Showing us our mobile home for the next 5 days. We expected it to look like the swarve photographs we'd bought online, but actually we were faced with this big f*ck off yellow submarine Fiat Transit Van which on the inside looked similar to your average garden shed. I wish I was exaggerating, but I'm actually not on this occasion. 
What we expected to see...
So we had the keys, was shown the pot we had to piss in (which cost us an extra 40 Euros and looked similar to a toddler's training potty), and were given a third of a tank of fuel. And so we began along the highway where we found a service station to fill up the tank. Some of you may know, in Spain, they have service attendants at gas stations where their job is to fill your car up for you and you just go to pay. So that's what the female service attendant did. Filled our Fiat Transit Diesel Van, with unleaded fuel. As stated on the fuel cap. See photograph.
A devil in disguise.
See where this is going?

Yeah, the van had an unleaded fuel cap on it, even though it's diesel. And so as you'd have guessed by now, less than 5 minutes back onto the highway, the engine light shone like Blackpool at Christmas. We continued for 15 minutes before being informed by Mafalda that this was really serious and we were to pull over and find a mechanic immediately. This was around 12pm. Now stuck in the middle of nowhere, in 38 degree heat with no food or drink, we started panicking. 
Indie Campers staff were nothing but useless. Assuring me every two or so hours that in 30 minutes time I'd hear from them and that they had 2 teams on the case and the poor gent had even skipped his lunch for his efforts. After being awake since 2.30AM without food I found it difficult to imagine HAVING A LUNCH TO SKIP, prick. Anyway.
We took matters into our own hands and by 5pm, WE GOT A MECHANIC. Miguel, we will love you for eternity, you don't even realise. Poor old Miguel didn't speak a word of English nor did we speak a word of Spanish and so with lots of toing and froing with help from Spanish friends translating for us, Miguel and his Mr. Man mate cleared out the tank and guided us to a service station where we could put DIESEL in the van. Wahey! And we were off.
Lucy had the balls to take the Fiat back on the road and guide us up the coast where the festival was taking place. I completely whimped out of driving and so kudo's to Luce for getting us there in one piece.
When we arrived at the site (after a few wrong turns and a U-turn only Van Diesel would be proud of), a lovely man guided us through the masses of pop up tents and drunken Brits where we would find our caravan spot. Waving like Queen Lizzie, we were feeling pretty pumped in our yellow sub for the festival.

My claustrophobic top bunk.
I have to mention as well, despite having multiple different delinquents on the phone representing Indie Campers, one in particular, who blamed us and showed no sympathy at all for the fault on their van. They have since called me and refunded us for our day missed at the festival, the repairs and have even provided me with a 5 day voucher to use one of their brand new models. The ones we thought we were getting according to the photographs on their website.
I appreciate that they have done what they can to try and improve the situation, it's just a shame they didn't know how to deal with it at the time.

Looking back on it all now, it is one of THE funniest experiences of my entire life. You truly could not have written what happened to us that day. From the beginning to the end it was one huge emotional rollercoaster.

Have a similar story or any questions about the festival?
Lemme know: ravenebonytwigg@gmail.com

Just Write About It.
Raven Twigg


10 Jul 2017

I deleted Facebook, and the world didn't end.

My work is evolved around social media.
One day, I was in one of my low moods, more common since I've returned back home from my travels, and I just couldn't deal with seeing half of my news feed still travelling. It made me so depressed and jealous that I just deleted Facebook to see if it might affect my moods and restless nights in any way at all. I'd lived without constant access to social media when I spent a summer working in Connecticut, USA and so I was convinced I wouldn't struggle going without.

DAY ONE - I woke up the morning after my slumber and realised what I'd done. Only because I went to click the App on my iPhone home screen and noticed it wasn't there anymore. I then scrolled through Instagram, and Snapchat... even Twitter and to be honest it wasn't the same. For a split second I actually considered just reactivating my account until I thought, why? I don't even NEED Facebook in my life. And so I'm left pondering, what do people do without Facebook in their lives? What a truly sad reality.

DAY TWO - By the second day I had realised that I was actually able to get to sleep much earlier than usual. Usually I'm tossing and turning and picking up my phone until around 2am, I was fast off by 11pm. I will admit, on day two I did struggle without Facebook because I was back to work which is hugely involved with social media. I had to log onto my mum's Facebook in order to manage the business' Facebook page. 

DAY THREE - I had quickly gotten used to just scrolling through Instagram and it ending there. I'm able to sleep much easier and am feeling much better about not travelling at the moment because I can't see friends of mine still exploring the world. The sense of jealousy and longing to be elsewhere had died down and I actually couldn't believe the difference in just 3 days.

DAY FOUR - By the fourth day, I was completely over it really. The only thing I found difficult is wanting to speak to my friends in different countries and I'm not able to because I've also deleted Facebook messenger too. Whats App tends to not be an international thing and so I found myself using Instagram messenger. You'd think I'd replaced my Facebook obsession with Instagram, but actually, I wasn't as interested in social media at all by this stage.

DAY FIVE - My experiment was cut short when the devastating Manchester Arena terror attack occurred. Watching the harrowing event through Twitter narratives, I was desperate to see whether my old colleagues who still work there were OK and I couldn't fight the urge and re-activated my Facebook account.

SUMMARY - Deactivating Facebook definitely 100% aided me with my sleeping patterns. I was able to sleep undisturbed and much earlier than I would normally. I wasn't envious of all of my friends still travelling and so I was able to concentrate on where I am rather than where I am not. However I did have this huge yearning to know what was going on. After a while it didn't bother me, yet socially I felt as though I would have suffered in the long term. I'm convinced that Facebook's negatives are definitely counter-acted with the positives. I'm able to stay in touch with people all over the world, take an interest in their lives and organise group events in one place. When in small doses, Facebook is a good thing. I just need to learn when to lock my phone in a draw on a night time.

Try it yourself! I was pleasantly surprised.

Just Write About It.
Raven Twigg

6 Jul 2017

What happened when I came off the pill.

For 8 years my entire adult life has been controlled by the contraceptive pill. When I was 15 years old  I went on the pill to control the regularity of my monthly cycles. Before using 'Loestrin 20', my periods were here, there and everywhere. There was no way of telling when I was going to start ovulating, and for how long. The pains were excruciating and in a long-term relationship at the time, it made sense for me to start taking it. Since then I have taken it every day for 8 years, controlling my cycle, moods and generally my life. It was only when I began having anxiety attacks and very depressive episodes that I began looking into what can cause such symptoms in a 22 year old. The contraceptive pill kept arising as a cause, and that's when I came across a blog post which grabbed the attention of BBC Three and it really did make me think. Everything the writer had said, matched my situation too. 
I was angry at everything, very sad most nights and generally couldn't be arsed to do anything. When I was 15 I was active, I went to weekly Zumba classes, walks every day and generally just had a lot more energy. Yes, of course you'd feel more life at 15 than you would at 23, but really?  I couldn't even bring myself to go for a walk around the block most days. And so I decided, without consulting a doctor, that I would stop chucking these unnecessary hormones into my body. I have been single 5 years and so I was really just using the pill as a convenience for myself, which really isn't a good enough excuse. 
Almost immediately I had noticed the difference in my moods. I felt more positive and less snappy. My mum even said "See, this is more like the normal Raven". Which brought a lump to my throat. Since coming home from my travels around Australia and Indonesia, I knew I wasn't ok. I had started sessions with a therapist to try and deal with how to fit in back at home and they are mostly spent by me crying for an hour whilst the poor counsellor listens. I just knew I had to do something, I knew this wasn't me. And yet now, although it is still early days, I feel myself feeling much happier and much more accepting that I am going to be home for a while and although I would much rather be exploring somewhere sunny with a backpack. I have a new outlook on making the most out of my situation. 
I'm able to build friendships lost, bond with family who I had missed dearly, and just re-energise and fill the piggy bank before leaving again. Since coming off the pill I have booked 2 trips for myself to Budapest and Dublin, to accompany my short trip to Benicassim too. 
My decision has not only affected me, but also those around me. I'm easier to be around and it's less like you're standing on egg shells around me. 
I haven't yet replaced the contraception, I'm not sure I'm even going to. There are apps you can use to prevent pregnancy, I've only seen one which is certified but unless you're in a relationship, it's unecessary for me.
One HUGE change I feel coming off the pill has also contributed to? I'M BLOGGING AGAIN! Seriously, I have about 50 drafted posts from the past year which need sorting out and I'm feeling positive about getting back into it. I've missed it so much!

Have a similar story or any questions?
Lemme know! I'd love to hear from you.

Just Write About It.
Raven Twigg.

20 Apr 2017


Living in Australia teaches you...

After living in Australia for 10 months I've learned..
Indian Head, Fraser Island.
  1. Everything is shortened with an 'o' e.g. Arvo = afternoon. Avo = avocado. Smoko = a break. Bottleo = bottle shop.
  2. Australian men (from my experience) are very strange. They're very full-on and mostly rude in conversation.
  3. I'd rather come across a snake than a spider.
  4. Huntsman spiders can jump the length of a football pitch (slight exaggeration but it's scary).
  5. Goon is the devil.
  6. Running over a Kangaroo corpse IS NOT YOUR FAULT.
  7. It's very rare to see a Koala in the wild.
  8. It's so hard to get a pint of anything from anywhere. A schooner or a midi just doesn't compensate.
  9. Australia actually gets cold in the winter, I was shocked that I had to invest in a coat.
  10. Australia actually gets SCORCHING HOT in the summer. Seriously, at 8pm it was 31 degrees in January.  It's bloody hot.
  11. Because of the heat, nobody lives in the middle of the country but instead everyone settled along the coasts.
  12. This also explains why the whole of Australia has under half of the population of England alone. 
  13. They like to say things how they see it for example one of the most dangerous snakes is called 'the brown snake' because it's brown and a snake. 
  14. And there's a strange obsession with making large things and creating a tourist stop (The Big Banana, The Big Shrimp, The Big Pineapple...) 
  15. There are as many Brit's as Australian's, or so it seems.
  16. A 3 hour drive to the next big town is actually not far at all.
  17. Sydney is very uphill.
  18. Lock-out laws are no joke and we should be very grateful they don't exist in the UK.
  19. If you haven't bought your alcohol before 9/10pm chances are you're missing out that night.
  20. Backpacker hostels are absolute gold mines and will take you for every dollar you have.
  21. Bush turkeys are also the devil.
  22. The pay-rate is soooo much higher than it is in England, to accommodate the cost of living of course.
  23. Australia still tends to have a lot of rather sexist and racist attitudes.
  24. People are very blasé about substance abuse, like its ok for kids to be on "ice". 
  25. There are birds which sound like laughing monkeys, they're called the Kookaburra. 
    Emerald Beach, NSW.
  26. Magpies can and will attack you.
  27. Everything is "too easy" or "no drama".
  28. Clothes are a third of the price of clothes here in England.
  29. Australia has very few Starbucks stores, unlike cities in the UK where you find them on every other corner.
  30. Every pub has a breathalyzer machine to see whether you can drive home or not, and generally has a seperate gambling room for arcade games and "slotties" which we find in the UK by the seaside.

Australia and Australians seem to have this laid back vibe about them which is extremely attractive in a country. It never feels as though you're putting anyone out of their way and everyone's happy to help. 
England, we can learn from this for sure.

Just Write About It.
Raven Twigg

8 Mar 2017

Monkeying around in Ubud.

In our hotel, The Ramada Encore Seminyak they offered a show of traditional Balinese dancing, accompanied by these terrifying masks which were suited for what they coined as "the old man dance". We're told that this is how they celebrate the spirits surrounding them and aim to rid of any bad energy potentially lurking around. 
This is a similar idea with the offerings which you will often see on the streets, outside shops, and in gorgeous-looking stone pillars matched with the burning of incense sticks and a gentle circular movement with the hand to offer food in return for good luck and energy each day.
We'd decided to book into a posh hotel in Seminyak for 6 nights and had originally planned on being the laziest people in Bali for our first week, but it wasn't long until our urge to explore kicked in and our first stop would be a day trip to Ubud.
Although the night before gave us a tropical storm, with lightening filling the entire room, and the crack thunder waking me every hour or so, it was not at all a foreshadow of the amazing day we were going to embark on.  
Rain had flooded the way in and out of the hotel, but don't fear, Donut is here! We had a 9.30AM pick up directly from the hotel in Seminyak to Ubud and to see all of the sights. His name is Donut.
Donut starts to tells us all about the silver and gold trade in Batik and how the country heavily depends on this alongside tourism to keep afloat. He seemed quite proud and keen to show us around the production factories however we protested and wanted to head straight to the temple.
He then took us to Batang Temple. It was 10,000IDR (around $1 Australian dollar) to rent a sarong to enter the temple grounds. It was a strange location, a temple so sacred just on a random busy street. It was filled with Chinese people taking selfies, yet the place was so beautiful even that couldn't ruin it.
After taking it all in, we head to the Tegenungan Waterfall, this was also 10,000IDR to enter. To reach the waterfall it was a very steep climb down and back up again. Unfortunately as we were visiting in February it was the end of the rain season for Bali and this meant that the water was brown due to the heavy rainfall. Regardless of this, Tegenungan was extremely picturesque. It has a rapid river at the bottom where you can hire floats if you would like to. There were lots of little market stalls around the entrance up to the waterfall. It looked a lot more how I had imagined Bali to look like.
The traffic to get to places was unreal. There were more scooters than people. There were c
hildren on scooters. Women and babies on scooters. Families of 4 on scooters. And the petrol refills for the scooters were in Absolut vodka bottles. It really is a sight to see.
The streets are littered with open shop fronts and locals making beautiful wood carvings. They appear to be for the temples.
There are pottery army's of Buddhist heads and faces which looked like something from the movie A Night at the Museum.
Next Donut drove us to the famous Tegalang Rice Terrace which was another 10,000IDR to drive up to it. As we arrive the heavens open and it absolutely downpours. It's thunder and lightening and the torrential rain floods the streets instantly. Yet the view was oh so worth it. The rice fields we passed on the way to Tegalang were now looking a lot like swimming pools. There were workers bent over with machete-looking tools in the fields working when it's been torrential rain, this place is hardcore. Donut then drove us to a restaurant with rice fields and traditional Balinese food. It was a beautiful setting.
Afterwards we went to the monkey forest. It was 40,000IDR for 1 adult entry and 20,000IDR for a small bunch of bananas to feed to the monkeys. The monkeys literally smell them from a mile away and will not let go of you until you give them a banana. There's no hiding them honestly.
We quickly learnt how to get the monkeys eating from your shoulder. We also saw a bit of a domestic going on between monkeys and all of the pack came to one to watch (one using my head as an obstacle to jump off to get in on the action). It was amazing to be in such a setting. The monkeys aren't kept there, they can easily leave the sight if they desire, many to spread out onto the streets however they seem rather content being fed all day in their forest.
Ubud has much more going on than Seminyak. I would recommend visiting Seminyak if you're looking to relax and wine & dine in fancy restraurants, and Ubud for sight-seeing and getting a more authentic Balinese experience.

Just Write About It.
Raven Twigg

1 Mar 2017

Bugger it! Let's go to Bali.

After living and working in Coffs Harbour, Australia for 5 months we decided that we were way overdue a holiday. I know this may sound strange to those currently living amongst the -14 degrees frostbite in certain parts of England, but raspberry picking is exhausting and we were well overdue some VIP treatment.
We had to wait around until we sold our 15 year old Ford Falcon Forte until we could book our flights. Because of the last minute booking, I was well aware that our flights would cost more than the average Joe, yet I was more than happy to pay the price if it meant getting away from the farm life for a while. 
We took a 9 hour train from Coffs Harbour to Sydney Central costing $66 each. This genuinely isn't as bad as it sounds. There's a bar and cafe style food, and the seats are as spacious as economy on an Ethiad flight. Although it is bloody freezing so do take a jumper on board...
We stayed over at a friend's in Mascot overnight and were up bright and breezy for our 10AM flight with Garuda Indonesia Airlines the following morning.
The check-in and security checks were rather smooth. I was obviously told to stand aside for an extra check, as usual, and other than that we had no further delays. In fact, we were boarded and seated by 9.40AM.
When entering the aircraft we had a brief walk through how the other half live in first class. Reclining seats so that you were practically lying down, yeah that looked like a pretty good deal in comparison to our upright seats, but it's ok. Picking raspberries just simply doesn't pay THAT much.
Greeted with a traditional Anjali Mudra (the Union of the hands in a pray-like stance and a brief nod) by all of the Indonesian flight attendants. It was a pleasant change from "how you going?" A traditional Australian greeting... 
Handed a pillow and blanket for our 6 hour flight. This was a bloody delight because the air con was not something we were used to in the past 5 months in a working hostel, despite the 40 degree heat. 
Entertainment was also provided, but this was not the usual brand spanking new movies you're familiar with on a plane. But rather an assortment of random films from the past and reasonably present. I mean, they had The BFG and the animated Anastasia which  I could not contain my excitement for. I absolutely LOVE Anastasia and had no shame in watching that.
As we were seated we were handed a bottle of water and then just 30 minutes into the flight we are brought flight socks, ear plus and an eye mask. 3 ingredients I immediately indulged in before my 2 hour nap.
Shortly afterwards we are brought a food and drinks menu and offered a drink and a bag of nuts. 
Winning the lottery with a window seat, it becomes clear to see how England has a higher population of people than Australia despite it's vast size. As we fly over the middle of  the country there is masses and masses of red land and nothingness. Literally, not even a road. Just desert. 
Of course there's no vegetarian option (later discovered on our return flight that this is simply something which isn't available on non-domestic flights)... so we're given an extra bread bun to compensate... Surprisingly I didn't complain. I must have emptied out my complaints department in my 5 months in a shitty hostel in Aus.
3 hours passed, and I suddenly became very aware of an overly drunk Australian fella who had a little bit too much 'fun'. His voice became louder and louder and it was no longer funny to see him play musical chairs on the plane. Now he had become emotional and aggressive with his friend. He was in a group of 12 yet only one of his friends would admit to being with him and attempted to calm him down, but even after his efforts he was very unsuccessful. In fact it wasn't long until 5 men had to restrain him with 6 human cable ties around his arms  and a further 3 around his legs to stop him from strangling his apparent "friend".
Amongst many other things, his favourite was to repeat "I'm gonna kill all of you c*nts, don't worry about it, you're all dead men walking". It was so embarrassing that we were paying to enter a country who had chosen representatives to greet us with calmness and yet this hurricane was demolishing the excitement of the entire plane. Just two rows behind the drama, lots of people became unnerved and I must admit I found it rather terrifying that this huge guy was threatening to murder everyone on the plane. Luckily for us, after being kept longer than other passengers as we weren't allowed to walk passed him, Indonesian police were there to welcome him into their country and carried him off the plane like a piece of Australian meat. He was heading somewhere I certainly would not pay for.
Despite the drama, the tone was heightened when the border control at Denpasar gave me the passport stamp I had been oh so desperate for since missing out on every single place I've travelled to, ever.
Once we had collected our luggage (my backpack now black in colour rather than red from the dirt of the plane), we entered a field I can only imagine a celeb encounters during a red carpet event. Dozens and dozens of badly printed A4 sheets of paper with people's names on waiting to collect them and take them to their accommodations of choice. 
After all of the drama and chaos, we were greeted by our Mr Man and headed to our hotel, finally.
We were excited to finally start our Indonesian adventure. 

-Just Write About It.
Raven Twigg.

13 Oct 2016

Exploitation of the Modern Backpacker

Since leaving the UK in May 2016 to commence my Australian journey, I've noticed how many times we, as backpackers, are completely taken advantage of. Hostels will charge you $10 to wash and dry your clothes, $5 for 500MB of Internet to contact your nearest and dearest (which by the way doesn't even last one song on YouTube before it runs out). People who are seemingly doing you a favour will offer lifts from Sydney to the Blue Mountains for $70 (which is a $2.50 train ride on a Sunday). Employers will pay you $25 an hour, lecture you about loyalty but how overall you're worthless because you are just a backpacker at the end of the day. Then they'll hire you regardless because you're cheaper than an Aussie citizen & then turn you into their office bitch. Yes, I'm bitter that people think of you as a lesser human for wanting to see the world before we carry on destroying it and there's bugger all left. This all happens even though you have a degree under your belt and are intelligent enough and brave enough to get yourself from one side of the globe to the other (something the average adult will never do in their entire lives).
And as for regional/farm work? Australia, hello? Why you clinging onto Slavery like it's ok? Literally, you get paid $5 per bucket of blueberries which you get to pick around 3-10 buckets a day in blistering heat. Then they'll charge half of that to accommodate you in some mankey hostel for 3 whole months in exchange for one more year in Aus. As if that isn't appetising enough. We all bloody do it anyway!
And as for roofing yourself in somewhere nice, renting apartments in Sydney is like every other city; overpriced and rooms are shared like you see on all of those American "college" movies. Yet here it seems that there is a huge illegal game going on with subletting. People who come to Australia on a sponsorship visa rent the lease on an apartment directly with an estate agency and then add a few single beds and bunk beds to each of the rooms, find some desperate backpackers looking to avoid hostels and have a knicker draw for a short while and BOOM! You're onto a money making machine. They take unreal amounts of bonds from each person (a deposit) and then make up ridiculous bills which you never actually see and rather they are made up magical numbers and quite frankly, there's nothing you can do about it. These people always prefer cash (obviously). Being the menace I am, I always just make a bank transfer and title it "Raven's Rent" if for some reason I was ever kicked to the curb then at least there's some form of evidence. It's scary actually. You have to trust so many people that they would never take advantage of your keen need to explore and see the world but unfortunately there are plenty-a-d**khead worldwide.
I'd also like to take advantage and say that this isn't ALWAYS the case. The company I worked for now after my first position went down the drain is an incredible workplace and would never take advantage of me the way I was in the office previous. Another positive note that all this annoyance means there are now people who, like me, were sick of being ripped off as a traveler and set up their own travel company like, Georgie's Getaway and Coden at Budget Backpacker Bus who can offer you so much more for your money. You just need to be wise, shop around. And definitely, don't stand for any bulls***.

Go and get 'em!

Just Write About It.
Raven Twigg

12 Oct 2016

Diary of a Raspberry Picker

It's a funny thing. It's so much more than the Instagram photos, the amazing snap chat story and the envy you can up stir. It can be hard, very hard. 
This time last week I was in tears at my hostel reception here at the Hoey Moey Backpackers in Coffs Harbour, somewhere I have called "home" for the past month, Nothing was going right. I'd given up a job I enjoyed in Sydney where I was being paid $30 an hour, to replace it with the life of a bum. Literally. While 20 odd people in the hostel where already established working tenants, the other 50+ of us were waiting around in the hope of finding some farm work in exchange for another year on our visas here in Australia. For those of you who don't know, as British citizens we are entitled to a one year Working Holiday Visa in Australia under the terms that you can work for any one company for a maximum of 6 months at a time. A lot of people get lucky and earn sponsorship, others like me, work in offices, call centres and receptionist positions in Sydney or Melbourne where the salary is higher and there is a lot of work to go around for the thousands of backpackers fighting for them. There comes a day when you start to panic, and think that you may actually want another year to explore this vast commonwealth country. At this point, you have to complete 88 days of regional work in Australia in certain postcodes deemed "regional" via the Australian Government website. The general idea is sort of a 'giving back to the country'. Others may call it 'slave labour'. If you're lucky (or a boy) you can end up doing construction work which is a much better pay. Here in Coffs, you either pick blueberries or raspberries. Raspberries tend to be more in favour as you can work all the time whether it's rain or shine. They're underneath dome-like tunnels and so they don't get wet and are still OK to pick. The blueberries become wet and crumbly meaning you're more than likely to get called off work. 
With our job, we work for a huge farming company named Costa. As a raspberry picker I'm paid per punnet. So we have to pick and fill 5 half buckets of raspberries and then we have to pack them into the punnets you would see in a supermarket ready for distribution. Every day, the rate varies. In the first few days I picked 53, 30, 35, and 75 punnets. Depending on which rows you are assigned and how fast you are depends how much you are able to make. On the days where you have picked less the rate tends to be much higher ($1.30) and on other days it can be anywhere from 75c. This is so that you are able to make an equal amount of money each week.

So last week at the exact time I had decided to give up and book a flight back to the UK, we had a phone call from Costa and our lives were suddenly looking rather peachy. We bought a car that same day, sharing the cost between 4 of us who would be driving to the same place each morning, we had our induction at Costa on the Friday and by the Sunday we were working. We start earlier than any of the other farms people work at in the hostel, leaving each morning at 5.30AM in order to start at 6.30AM. We had to set up our trolleys and packing punnets for the day and off we go. We haven't finished at the farm any later than 12.30PM so far which means we're able to come back, get lotionend up and nap on the beach all day. Honestly, I know they say everything happens for a reason but it truly does. I went from an unemployed, minor alcoholic bum to an employed minor alcoholic bum with the freedom to drive anywhere I want again and actually enjoy my time in Australia instead of constantly worrying about it.
4 days down, 84 to go!

Just Write About It.
Raven Twigg.

10 Aug 2016

Why Fraser Island Will Change Your Life

So, all the way up the East Coast of Australia people always rave about Fraser Island. There actually came a point when I thought "I hope it really is as good as people are making it out to be." And well, it bloody was.
I booked my trip with Peter Pans, Sydney (this is the one excursion they did get right and not at all a company I would recommend to anyone). The trip went from Rainbow Beach at Dingos Hostel. There's very little to do in Rainbow Beach other than eat, drink and leave for Fraser Island. It's basically a tag-a-long tour of 4x4 trucks in which you take it in turns in your group to drive.
This scared the hell out of me. Having only had my license for 1 month prior to leaving the UK I didn't feel confident enough to drive 7 fellow backpackers around an island off-road and across the masses of beach land. Yet I'm SO glad I gave it a try. Turns out I'm an OK driver (I mean we all survived any).
We started the day at 7AM with free pancakes from the hostel (any backpacker knows what an absolute treat this is) and left for our trip at 9AM. We were put in the third out of four cars, and ours definitely looked like the best. There were eight people per car, and in our car there were only four drivers. This made me even more nervous because I was now more of a dependent so that the driving was shared out equally. It's only a short 20 minute drive from Dingos Hostel to the ferry ride and only a 10 minute ferry ride to reach Fraser Island. There's the potential to see dolphins on the trip over too, yet it was too windy for us that day. Just 30 minutes into our beach ride and our car broke down.
We had to hot wire the car and have to stall it in 4th gear in order to stop the car. Yes, it's as dodgy as it sounds.

The people you meet and are with for a short 3 days turn out to be the people you have basically have the same itinerary with up the rest of the coast and they almost become like your little East Coast family.
Camping on an Aboriginal-owned camp site, sharing litres and litres of dirty goon and trusting that if you walk anywhere together you can fight off dingos together. Turns out you only need a goon bag to learn the ins and outs of a person.
No but seriously, you feel as though you've known these people for so much longer than just 3 days. We saw Champagne Pools, Lake McKenzie, Indian Head, Eli Creek, Lake Garawoncara which was a lake filled with tea-tree (yes I bathed in it while everyone else complained it was too cold to get in, and yes my black heads are still there) and a shipwreck. Each of these places we drove to together.
At night time you all cook for one another and sit and have a meal as a family (a very dysfunctional family I might add) would. As people get more and more drunk it's always a great idea to leave the safety of your dingo-free fenced area and head on down to the beach, dingo-stick in hand to see the stars. It sounds sad, but until you've seen the stars from a place where there is 100% no light pollution, you really cannot appreciate their true beauty. I never knew you can actually see the Milky Way from Earth, turns out you can. (Through one eye of course as the goon deterred my focus slightly...). But it was truly incredible.
There will never be an opportunity again in my life where I will be away from social media, phone signal, and electricity and i'm instead completely focused on the views in front of you, the people around you and the genuine experience.

Honestly, it's amazing and I 100% recommend that everyone planning on visiting Australia goes and does it. Don't rent a car and do it yourself to save money, do it with a group of like-minded people who are probably the best people you will ever meet. It's worth every cent.

Just Write About It.
Raven Twigg

1 Aug 2016

Submerged in Travel Limbo

Watsons Bay

We all know that stage when you've had the absolute time of your life, you've spent ALL of your hard-earned cash quicker than you had anticipated and you need to get money quick so you can carry on being the 2016 Jack Kerouac.
Now, I was extremely lucky. When my East Coast Australia trip was drawing to an end, I spent one solid day in Peter Pans in Cairns applying to every job I thought suited my abilities, as a human being and not as a backpacker, I found this way, companies immediately respected your choice to apply for a job a backpacker wouldn't usually. (You know the kind, the whole bar tending scene, cold-calling call centres etc...).
Within less than 24 hours back of flying back to Sydney, I'd landed a trial as an Office Assistant/newsletter writer in the CBD. Six weeks later, I haven't left. However, it's extremely easy to get caught up in the working scene again. Six weeks later, I haven't managed to save a cent towards my travels as I am living my life as I would at home. I work 9-5 Monday - Friday, I go for happy hour drinks on a Friday and don't leave until I'm already $100 down.
The only thing I can recommend, in order to not make the silly mistakes I have, is to remind yourself every now and then why you're where you are. I took a trip to North Byron to a music festival called Splendour in the Grass. Camping, using shit showers and living out of a backpack reminded me of all the good things about a raw experience.
A week after being back in Sydney I decided it was time to see all that Sydney has to offer and took a ferry trip to Watsons Bay and explored a little. Subtle moments where you have to take it all in, pinch yourself and so "Fuck, I'm actually here. This is actually my life." Are the moments you need to carry on, push through and forget how exhausted you are after a week at the office.

Just Write About It.
Raven Twigg

31 May 2016

Be ready for Aus!

When preparing for your move to Australia, it's tempting to be sucked in by one of hundreds of companies who promise to find you work, accommodation and set things up for you. But really, everyone I've spoken to who used these companies and paid a lot of money for them, regret it or would never advise them. In some ways they're handy, but it truly is easy enough to just wait until you are here and can sort things for yourself.

Things to arrange before your arrival:

  • VISA! Use ONLY the Australian Government Website to achieve this. It's an online form which you really should take your time with, it will ask for payment and then depending on your application information, it will take a matter of seconds to discover whether you're allowed in or not.
  • A hostel. Use Hostel World, Booking.com and TripAdvisor to carefully decide where you want to set up camp to begin with. Read reviews, lots of them. They're mostly truthful (so I've come to find). Look for things such as free breakfast, lots of weekly events to get you all together and more than one plug outlet in one room.
  • Pack your backpack/suitcase BEFORE it's leaving day. This is my biggest regret. Now I know I could have fitted more by utilising the little space you carry on your back./
  • A bank account. It's super easy to set up. Use the address of your first hostel to register online. I personally used CommonWealth bank. From this point on you will have full access online to your account until you're able to prove your identity and pick the card up in person.
  • I personally chose to use Thomas Cook's Cash Passport service. This is an easy way to have money in Australia and avoid all of the fees generated through transfers and withdrawals you may receive from using your English account.
  • Get your phone unlocked if it isn't already. This way you'll be able to pick up a SIM card so easily and you're ready to go. Avoid all of those roaming charges too when you're tempted to check Facebook for just a second...
On arrival:

  • With CommonWealth you will receive an email with a cover letter explaining which branch your bank card will be ready to collect upon your arrival in the UK. Take your passport and this letter and it will take no longer than 30 mins.
  • Sign up for Medicare. For this you will have to find out which branch has the facilities to start up new Medicare accounts. Take your visa grant notice, your passport, sometimes they ask for proof of arrival. (A boarding pass or a stamp in your passport). The form is pretty long and then afterwards you will be seated with an employee who will go through your application and then you just have to wait for your card.
  • Visit Optus or Telstra for an Australian SIM card. Most hostels have these at reception. I pay $40 for unlimited calls to the UK, Australia and texts to Australia. Free Spotify streaming and 6GB or data to use in 30 days, that's with Optus.
  • Apply for a Tax File Number (TFN). This is essential if you plan on working in Australia. It's an online form which doesn't take up much time at all.
Raven Twigg
Just Write About It.

22 May 2016

Blue Mountains, Three Sisters and Hungry Kookaburra's.

Whilst scrolling through the Sydney Backpackers Facebook Page I came across a guy offering lifts to and from the Blue Mountains and Three Sisters for just $15. After watching Wolf Creek the week before you can imagine how sceptical we were when it came to the morning we were leaving.
It was a struggling 6AM start to catch the train from Sydney Central to Hornsby to meet the rest of the group for 8AM. It's only a 45 minute journey costing $3.66, the one thing which is reasonably priced in Australia is their public transport.
Arriving early, we anxiously waited and checked in on Facebook in case anything was to go wrong. But it turns out we were actually being very silly and the whole trip was so worth it. The guy who organised the trip is named Coden. He too has been a traveller and was sick of backpackers being ripped off by overpriced tour companies and so Coden's Bus was born. Genuinely doing it for the passion of each trip, at a small cost Coden usually organises overnight trips along the Gold Coast & Byron Bay. It was just by chance that he was in Sydney for the weekend.

We met the other guys at the minibus outside of the train station and began to drive to the Blue Mountains, it took around 1 hour and a half. We shared travel stories, was educated on prime Australian knowledge, and prepared for the trek ahead.
Once we arrived we soon realised how high it truly was... technically 4,469ft height and 1,362m.
We then began our 2 hour descent towards the bottom, seeing some incredible sights with plenty of amazing photo opportunities (if you're daring enough to hang over a cliff). Getting down is easy, it's getting back up. I was, of course, the last. For some reason I really struggle with my breathing at high altitudes, I almost feel panick-attacky. But I did it with few complaints, partly because I couldn't breathe but hey ho. Maybe I'll lay off the crisps, hey? I'll warn you, it's hard. Don't be hungover, hungry or thirsty. You need to be in a fit-fresh shape before starting the hike. If I can do it with torn ligaments in my foot then anyone can.

After the 4-5 hour trek, we were back at the top of the mountain on flat ground, and got the blankets out whilst we prepared a bbq. I have veggie patties whilst the others had beef burgers and sausages. We were surrounded by the local habitants, Kookaburra's and Magpies. So the guys decided to show us how they like to swoop down and take your food, this kept us occupied for a while before the cold temperature became overwhelming and we decided to head back to the bus. We wrapped up in sleeping bags in a desperate attempt to warm up quickly before our short drive to Three Sisters. Only 10 minutes away from the Blue Mountains, Three Sisters was much busier. It was full of tourists (like us) and it's basically just one huge look out onto the incredible view before you.

Our next stop once getting back to the bus was to a bottle shop, where Coden bought a crate of beer and treated us to one each.
So for $15 there and back, inclusive of a bbq which accommodated for Vegetarians, even Etihad Airways don't do that... And a beer each for the hazy drive back to Hornsby.

The Blue Mountains are a must-see but you really need to be prepared for the hike. It turns out there are different fitness levels of tracks you can take, and of course ours was considered hard. There were moments when I thought "I wonder what would happen if I just layed here... Would they find me?" But anyway, I didn't give up! And I have some amazing photographs which will last a life time.

Raven Twigg
Just Write About It.