Make 2017 the year that you change with this free draw

Make 2017 the year that you change with this free draw

How would you feel with greater self-esteem?

Would you like to believe in yourself and your own abilities again?

Would you like the confidence to travel the world or to stand up in the office and make that presentation or to go and see that show in the theatre on your own or …….basically to do anything that scares you?

To celebrate the start of a brand new year I am giving one lucky person a place on the Smash the Pumpkin Project which is worth £997 absolutely FREE!!

Make 2017 the year that you change

To be in with a chance of winning simply:

1 – Join our Smash the Pumpkin Facebook Tribe – this is where the live draw will take place!

2 – Enter your name and email into this link –

3 – Like and Share this post.

So, what will the lucky winner receive?

  • Free enrolment in the Smash the Pumpkin Project. You will receive challenges and activities all carefully designed to lead you out of your comfort zone and to build your self-confidence and self-esteem.
  • Regular contact and support throughout the length of the programme.
  • Motivation as you learn to trust in yourself whilst your self-esteem grows
  • Guidance along your journey without any toe-curling embarrassment

You will have EVERYTHING you need to achieve the results you long for in 2017 because we’ve got everything covered.

The winner will be drawn live on January 8th, so don’t forget to join the group so that I can tag you if you win! It’s as easy as 1 2 3!

This draw is limited to the first 1000 people who enter so don’t delay – and good luck.

I look forward to welcoming you to the group and I’ll see you there on the 8th January.

And me?  What stories am I planning to bring you in 2017?

I will tell you about my time in Cambodia, Singapore and Malaysia as well as my epic road trip around the south of Spain and I am hoping to visit Myanmar and Bali.  I would love it if this were the year that I could experience the Northern Lights and even Japan.

And to think, that before I set off on my own to Peru I had dreadfully low self confidence and self esteem.  If you want to boost yours, then don’t forget to sign up for this free draw – you just have a few days

Have a very happy and healthy 2017


Tuk tuk tour in Bangkok

Tuk tuk tour in Bangkok

Bangkok or to give it its full name: Krungthep mahanakhon amonratanakosin mahintara ayuthaya mahadilok, popnopharat ratchathani burirom ubonratchaniwet mahasathan amonpiman avatansathit sakkathattiya witsanukamprasit – also know as City of Angels in its shortened form, wins hands down the prize for the longest place name in the world.

It also wins in the culinary department with the food as diverse as you might expect in any capital city.  It’s tasty and of course spicy and you can eat in high-end restaurants or sit on plastic seats with the wok-wielding grannies who cook by the side of the street.

Tuk tuk tour in Bangkok

I took a tuk tuk tour in Bangkok by night and I was especially lucky because my tour coincided with the annual vegetarian festival.
tuk tuk tour in Bangkok

tuk tuk tour in Bangkok

Expique offer several different tuk tuk tours; and also walking and photography tours (you can read about their range here), but I was lucky because when I was in  Bangkok they ran an extra special tour which coincided with the annual vegetarian festival.

For 10 days each year, the Chinese community holds a vegetarian festival during which people who normally eat meat abstain. The idea is to  give something back to nature and to reflect upon your lifestyle.  You can buy little birds in cages in the markets or turtles or fish and release them back into the wild.  Many additional markets and street stalls pop up especially for the event and many places which usually serve meat will change to veggie options only during the festival.

Our convoy of tuk tuks buzzed around the bright neon-lit city streets with stops at a large Chinese temple where people were going all out with their celebrations, and the night time flower market, the Giant Swing and Wat Pho.

The vegetarian festival

At the temple festivities were in full swing and the air was filled with the sweet cloying smoke from giant incense sticks which gangs of men were hauling into position. These sticks were more like tree trunks and stood over 8 foot high. Drums, cymbols and chanting echoed around the giant hangar and everywhere were people with little carts cooking and serving all kinds of (veggie) delicacies.

giant incense sticks in a Chinese temple

giant incense sticks in a Chinese temple

There was a riot of Chinese red and gold and over on one side of the hall a side temple had been constructed and a religious ceremony was taking place and on a stage on another, some sort of musical play was being performed.  It was a peek into another world with organised chaos and all types of food that I had never seen before.

The night time flower market

The night time flower market is a surreal place with the peak time for sales being at around 2am and maybe because of the darkness the scents were potent and more concentrated than normal.

roses in the night time flower market

roses in the night time flower market

Ladies were sitting behind long wooden benches and stringing golden chrysanthemum blooms into garlands, massive bags of white waxy petals like giant pillows were ready to be strewn as confetti and armfuls of roses stood to attention, held upright by their wet newspaper collars in readiness for the rush that would come after midnight.

The Giant Swing 

Our tuk tuk drivers nimbly negotiated the crush of cars and took us to the Giant Swing which marks the centre point of the city. Constructed in 1784 the renovated swinging part was removed in 1935 for safety reasons.  The custom or game used to consist of lying on the swing high up in the air and removing a sweet or a biscuit from a bamboo spike while swinging past….with one’s teeth.

The Giant Swing and Expique tuk tuks

The Giant Swing and Expique tuk tuks

It’s hardly surprising that this practice was outlawed following several fatal accidents – so nowadays the citizens of Bangkok find their kicks by riding their scooters on the wrong side of the road into oncoming traffic.

Our vegetarian dinner 

We took another food break and stopped in a little backstreet cafe where we were served from their special vegetarian menu, all crammed into a sticky hot space fired by gas burners and some more of those wok wielding grandmothers.

Wat Pho by night

Our final stop of the evening was a surprise when we went to Wat Pho which is home to the Reclining Buddha. I has been there just the previous day courtesy of my Highlights of Bangkok tour that had been arranged through TBEX (the Travel Bloggers Conference) and the Tourism Authority of Thailand.  Then we had battled with the hordes of tourists and the searing temperatures but now at night we had the complex virtually to ourselves and it was magical.

Wat Pho on our Expique tour

Wat Pho on our Expique tour

The buddhas with their gold-leaf decorations and the mosaics on the chedis and wats sparkled under the floodlights and there was a powerful hush about the place. Few tourists realise that the complex is open at night and the Thais wouldn’t normally visit after dark.

Expique offer a range of scheduled and private tours and experiences. Our Bangkok day tours include walking tours, photography tours, cultural and culinary experiences, and of course the tuk tuk tours.

Mine – was the special vegetarian edition – the Bangkok Night Lights Tuk Tuk Tour – Vegetarian Edition, but you can check out their full range of tours here

I enjoyed the tuk tuk tour courtesy of Expique when I attended TBEX in association with the Tourism Authority of Thailand, although this has not influenced my opinion in any way.  




Does Travel Change You?  (Part 3)

Does Travel Change You?  (Part 3)

She left pieces of her life behind her, everywhere she went

                      It’s easier to feel the sunlight without them, she said

                                                                                        – Brian Andreas

I have covered the ‘what’ and the ‘how’ of travel in my last two articles but I often ask myself WHY?

I suspect that it may have something to do with our genes – a throwback to the days when we were hunter-gatherers, and it’s cultural too –  like the generations of Romanies who feel cooped up if they stay in one place for too long.

And there are also our personal stories which affect our urge to keep moving

Click on these links to read the two previous articles in this series if you missed them



In my own case, I know that I am throwing challenges at myself, proving to myself that I can cope and that I can face up to my fears; to counteract years of believing that I was a scardy-cat and that I would be unable to manage by myself.

Breakfasting alone

To that end I have designed an online course which will encourage others to boost their self-confidence and self-esteem; but I digress – let’s get back to why I travel.

When my maternal grandmother had to enter a nursing home after breaking her hip my uncle gave her a blank notebook and suggested that she write.  Anything; her memoirs, shopping lists; anything to keep her from going mad when all about her was ever so slightly crazy.

The furthest that my gran had travelled during her lifetime was from her home in South Wales to Cornwall and she did that only infrequently but she lit up when she talked about her adventures.  And then, after she had passed away I read her journal.  It was all higgledy piggledy but what shone through was her acceptance and contentment about her life and her situation.  She left school and went into service aged fourteen and later she married and raised a family.  She worked hard to put food on the table and often fed most of the neighbours’ kids as well.

In her notebook my Gran wrote, ‘but then I was getting on to fourteen and to the prospect of leaving school and having to earn a crust, but having no chance of a further education, hoped for wider horizons, always wanted to be a nurse like all my girl cousins on my father’s side but knew there was little hope of it coming to pass’  and in her book she also wrote how she had once had the opportunity to visit India as a teenager (imagine that in those days!) but it was vetoed by her mother.

Who would have ever guessed!  Gran never gave any indication that she wanted to see more of her little world, although she embraced others who were not from hers.

She was as pleased as punch when she was allocated a family doctor who was from India and my mum tells me how she would be mortified to arrive home from school as a child and find either a gypsy or a tramp sitting by the fire.  My grandmother certainly never judged and was always open minded – you can read more about how beneficial an attitude such as this can be in my article – No judgements and mindful travel

The gypsies went from house to house when they were in town selling clothes pegs or little sprigs of lucky heather.  The tramps were the gentlemen of the road with their numerous bags stuffed full of their belongings, often pushed on a bicycle (I guess the forerunners of us, the perpetual backpackers), but in those days there were no flights – they wandered on foot, following their seasonal pattern around the country and returning to places where they were welcomed.  One of the places where the Romanies and the tramps knew that they could always be sure of a cup of tea and a plate of food was at my gran’s home, much to my mum’s dismay.

And then when I was about seven years old some gypsies set up an encampment on some waste ground in my city.  They were there for several years before the space was redeveloped and as we drove past, I would peer fascinated out of the back window of the car, straining my neck to catch sight of the little raggle-taggle children or the puppies tumbling about in the yard.  If one of the caravan doors had been left open it was as if I had won the bonus prize because I could peep in on the tiny compact world where everything gleamed mirrors, chrome and glass.  I wondered why society deemed it to be wrong to live this way, and if I had been older or more daring I would have loved to have run away to join them.

It was about the same time in my life that my auntie, my dad’s sister, moved to Africa.  Knowing that I loved to read and that I wanted to be a journalist, we frequently exchanged letters on flimsy airmail paper which would tear if you pressed too hard with the pen.

I would take those pale blue pages covered with her handwriting and tuck myself away in a corner and transport myself away to another land.  To countries where the heat shimmered on dusty horizons, there were unimaginable fruits and flowers and market places were noisy alien places.  I loved to read about the staff that took care of the house, the maid and the house-boy and wished that I could have been allowed to visit and see and experience these wonders for myself. I wanted to play with the African children and run barefoot down red earth roads with them and to wake to the sound of strange birds.

Soooo excited to see a toucan in the wild

And now, my cousin, my auntie’s daughter, Lucinda Paxton is forging her own way in the world as a documentary photographer, travel writer and presenter.  I am totally in awe of her work and I greedily lap up every photograph and article that she posts on social media. Whether in the vibrant reds and ochres worn by the people of Ethiopia or the grainy black and white images of the gauchos in Patagonia, Lucinda captures the very essence of the people that she films and recently interviewed by The StepUp Club she gives her reasons for why she travels – and of course, her parents were a huge influence on her. Click here to read Lucinda’s interview

Only a few years ago I learnt that my own father, on finishing his stint in the army for his National Service, had applied to emigrate to New Zealand on a £10 passage.  This would have included a job and accommodation – the only stipulation was that you worked in whatever job they allocated to you for at least 2 years.  The forms were duly completed and posted off and the interview date arrived, but as so often, life got in the way and he never went.

I didn’t go abroad until I was 21 but I had been a voracious reader since childhood and the only classes that I didn’t skip in school were Geography and English.  I lapped up everything about other cultures and countries both factual and fiction.

And then came the tipping point in my life and here I am.


You can read the first of the articles in the series here:  Click here

You can read the second of the articles in the series here: Click here


Does Travel Change You? (part 2)

Change, like laughter lines can creep up slowly when we aren’t looking. One day you look in the mirror and things are different.

My previous article which asked ‘Does Travel Change you?’ (you can read it here if you missed it) showed WHAT some of the external influences are which you can encounter when travelling and how they can change you; but here I want to focus on HOW they changed me.

I am often asked whether I believe that I have changed as a result of travel and if so, in what way am I different. What has travel done to me? As is the norm when change happens very slowly and you are close to it, I didn’t think that I had changed at all; or at least I didn’t until I took a recent visit back to the city where I grew up and I met some people that I hadn’t seen since I left school.   And I realised that travel had changed me.

Or at least, how meeting all of the brilliant people that I had met since I set off, people who didn’t know me and who had no preconceived ideas about me had changed my perception about myself.

I can finally say that I like myself and I trust in myself.  I am at peace with myself.  Mostly. Oh of course I will never be happy with how I look, but I am getting to quite like ME.


Me – the girl who always felt second best – the girl who used to be nervous about dancing at the disco – the girl who got tied up in knots talking to the boys or having to speak out in the classroom.

There is a massive part of my life that is still sad but as somebody recently pointed out to me, at least I have done my grieving.   The sadness will always be there but I refuse to allow it to shape me.  Believe me, I have been as low as it is possible to go, but now I embrace life and I smile, smile, smile.  And while my story is sad, I wouldn’t want to swap if for some of those other stories that are out there.

I can now shrug off the occasional poisonous and very personal comments that some troll or other attempts to post on my blog because a) their comments are so wide of the mark I realise that they have absolutely no idea of the bigger picture or the truth, and b) I am writing this from a hammock by the sea.  One nil to me I think.

And I now know that I can cope if I drop my car keys down a filthy storm drain or if I miss my bus connection or if my hostel is fully booked.  Standing up and making a speech is a piece of cake compared to walking into a party hostel when happy hour is in full swing. Yes, my stomach still sinks down into my boots but I actually almost enjoy the challenges now and I know that they are just more things to add to my lifetime curriculum vitae (I just think I found the title for a future article)

If I like a guy I tell him.  What’s the point in pussy-footing about?  Life’s too short and it can change in a heartbeat.  And to those boys who used to tease me in school – well when you hook up – albeit for a brief two weeks with the hottest guy in town AND he just happens to be twenty one years your junior – two nil to me!

Personally, I prefer to travel relatively slowly and to get to know a place and some of its inhabitants and to learn what makes it tick.  I like to spend long lunches chatting over a cold beer, or evenings enjoying a fiesta or sharing a big pot of food in a hostel with other travellers. I like to volunteer and to give something back – often exchanging my work and my time for accommodation and food.

I like to learn new skills and have new experiences.  I like to stretch my mind and my abilities, push my boundaries and bury my fears. And now after two years of living like a nomad, a hippy, a traveller, a backpacker, a gypsy – call it what you will – I think that I can count on one hand the mornings when I have opened my eyes and had a day of boredom, routine or apathy to look forward to.

Contrary to popular belief, most of my days, like those of most of the long term travellers that I know, are very busy – in fact I am often more occupied than I ever was during my old life and when I had a standard working week; but I love my chosen lifestyle and I don’t consider my work now a hardship or a chore.

  • Collecting cow poo – smelly but it was only going to be for a couple of weeks at most. And I was surrounded by the most stunning mountain scenery and working alongside some fantastic people.
  • Lesson planning – probably the one thing that I enjoy the least, but the pay back when somebody ‘gets it’ is uplifting.
  • Hours spent writing articles – more often than not, sheer pleasure, unless up against a deadline – but at least I can find great surroundings and choose to write from a hammock, an historic town square or a little independent coffee shop whilst I slog away.

People often ask me when I am ready to stop travelling and when I will settle down.  Well for now, this is my life.  It suits me.

I am working, I am giving something back.  I believe that I am making a difference. I take each day as it comes, but I am not afraid to stop and change direction if it begins to become difficult or more importantly, I want to try something else.

In the third part of this series asking ‘Does travel change you’ I will focus on Why.

If you have enjoyed this article do let me know in the comments and feel free to share it with your friends Thank you for reading

You can read the first article in the series here: Article 1

The third article in the series is here; Article 3

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