Why I love the outback 

The outback is hot. It’s dusty. There’s nobody there. It’s boring. I hear it all the time from fellow backpackers. They bemoan long dull drives across the Nullarbor, and endless days spent on the Stuart highway. They talk about the incessant red dirt, the copious amount of flies, the flat barren landscape. And I understand their complaints. The outback isn’t for everybody. But in my opinion experiencing the outback is one of the best ways to truly understand the Australian spirit-the stubborn determination, the sense of humour, the camaraderie. 
We had only just begun our journey up the Oodnadatta track when the political activism of the area became clear. I’ve often heard it argued that the outback is a perfect place for nuclear testing and dumping of nuclear waste because “there’s no one there” (and it’s certainly been used that way in the past). But here we were in the outback seeing graffiti condemning uranium mining in Roxby Downs, protesting against the idea of nuclear power being introduced in Australia, and clearly crying out against the idea that there is no one in the outback who could be affected by nuclear activity. I have to be honest-I don’t know enough about nuclear energy to have a clear opinion on it. But I was immediately hit by the fact that central Australia is a place with a deep history-decades of revolting against mining, nuclear testing, and US military presence show an underlying love of the land and a sense of community even in a space so vast. 


The infrastructure of the outback never fails to amaze me. Things that we take for granted now-like being able to drive across the country-are only available to us because of the hard work of so many Australians. We met a couple who worked on bitumening the Nullarbor. They told us about living in their car with a small baby, carting all their things across the unforgiving landscape on the then unsealed bumpy highway. We marvelled at stories of the old Ghan railway, of the passengers disembarking in Oodnadatta and being carried the remaining 600 kilometres by camels. We learnt about the Birdsville mailman and the challenges presented by something as simple as delivering a letter. I was so impressed by these people who were so determined to make a life in the outback and who were so devoted to their country that they worked so hard to connect it. 


But to me the biggest icon of Australian determination is the Dog proof fence. At over five thousand kilometres long, the Dingo fence is the longest fence on earth! It was built all the way back in 1885 to stop Dingos from entering pastoral land and eating sheep, and it’s been maintained until today! Now, I don’t know about you but if I were a sheep farmer and I arrived in the outback and saw all the challenges-irrigation, infertile soil, native predators- I would have given up immediately and decided to eat kangaroo instead (which totally would have been more environmentally friendly, by the way) but no-the stubborn Australian spirit decided the best option would be to hand build the longest fence on earth. I can’t even explain to you how amazing I find this simple wire fence. We saw it all the way back on the Nullarbor, again in Coober Pedy, and we will one day see it again in Queensland. I don’t think anything can define white Australian culture quite the way the Dingo fence does. 


So with all of that said, I love the outback. I love it because it connects me to what it means to be an Australian. I don’t think I will ever consider myself fully Australian, but having experienced the outback I feel like I understand Australian patriotism, the sense of adventure and fearlessness, and the love of the land that drives people to live in the craziest of environments. 

Making the most of your Travels

There are so many travel experiences I look back on and wish I had appreciated more. Sometimes in the moment it can be difficult to look beyond whatever stress you’re under. In hindsight I can see how silly it is to not appreciate how cool it is for the most stressful thing in your life to be getting lost in a new city, or missing a bus back to your hostel, or not being able to read your menu.

Making the most of your travels

We loved Venice, but we didn’t always make the most of our time there


Sometimes when you travel for a long time (and a long time doesn’t have to be that long. It only takes a few weeks to forget about the responsibilities of every day life) you start to take things for granted. You see so many beautiful things every day that you start to compare them. To put them on a scale. You think’ “this beach is not as pretty as the beach we saw last week” and forget to appreciate that moment, that destination, that experience for how unique and exciting and beautiful it is.

You’re not necessarily going to fall in love with every place you visit. Not every destination is going to be at the top of your list. But that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy it and appreciate it and take a moment to be thankful for where you are. I didn’t like Vienna as much as Budapest, I didn’t like Sequoia and much as Death Valley, I didn’t like Vegas as much as San Francisco. But I’d choose any of those places in a heart beat over 9-5 days at the office.

Travel Vegas

Vegas wasn’t our favourite city but we still enjoyed it!


I always look back at the day we got lost in the back streets of Venice and wish I had taken a moment to step back and think about the situation I was in. Here we were wandering the beautiful cobble stoned streets of this historical city. We had wandered out of the tourist filled centre and now we were walking through empty, almost haunted laneways. It was pretty and peaceful and we should have savoured every minute of it. But we didn’t. Because instead of looking at how lucky we were we just felt hot and tired and we were lost. They aren’t really any signposts in Venice and they wasn’t anyone around to ask. We were fed up and worried that we wouldn’t find our way back in time to get the bus. We got angry at each other.

Making the most of your travels

It’s hard to believe we were grumpy somewhere so pretty!


When I look back now I wish we’d just relaxed, enjoyed the moment, appreciated how lovely it was. When you travel there are always going to be stressful moments. You’re always going to get lost or miss your bus. But sometimes those situations can turn into your best travel moments. They can become the crazy stories that you’ll tell forever. You just have to make the best of your circumstances first. And I’d certainly rather get lost in Venice then be sitting in an office!

How to Pick your Travel Destination 

Picking your travel destination can be really hard! The world is full of dream destinations and when you’ve only got a few weeks of travel time a year and when you spend all year saving for it, you definitely don’t want to regret your choice! Here are a few factors to consider when making that all important decision.

Budget

When it comes to budget travel not all countries are created equal. Work out what the budget for your trip will be and then ask yourself these questions.

How much will it cost to get there?

If your destination is on the other side of the world it will cost more to get there than it would to visit somewhere a train ride away. I could fly to Bali for a third of the cost of flying to Europe, or I could take a bus down South for even less. For most trips the cost of getting to your travel destination will be your biggest singular expense and it’s important to factor that in when researching destinations.

How much to stay there?

The cost of accommodation can vary greatly from country to country, and even from city to city. Switzerland and Germany border each other but it’s still infinitely cheaper to stay in Germany. Look at the available accommodation options in each location. Will you stay in a hostel? Are there highly rated hostels available? Will you have the option of staying in an Air BnB? If you’re the kind of traveler that leaves their accommodation first thing in the morning and doesn’t return until that night you don’t want to visit somewhere where expensive resorts are your only option.

What’s the cost of living?

If you’re on a budget you probably don’t want to visit somewhere where a glass of wine is going to make a dent in your retirement fund. Look at the cost of eating out, the cost of alcohol, the cost of attractions like museums and theme parks. You don’t want to arrive at your travel destination and find that you can’t afford to do anything!

Interests

Obviously you want to visit somewhere with activities that interest you!

What does your dream holiday involve?

Do you want a city break or would you rather explore the great outdoors? Do you like hiking mountains or would you rather relax on the beach? Does a day looking at old architecture sound fascinating or boring to you? The fact is my dream destination might be completely different to yours, and just because trip advisor highly recommends somewhere doesn’t mean you’ll enjoy it! Ask yourself what it is you want from a holiday, whether it’s a relaxing retreat or a challenging adventure trip.

Mobility

How will you get around?

This is another one that will affect your budget! Some areas have better public transport than others, in some hitchhiking is the norm, and in others it’s impossible to get around without your own vehicle. Check the minimum age for renting a car, look at rail pass options, and research the rules of the road in your potential holiday location. If you’re staying in a city check if parking will be an issue, or if you’re doing a road trip look at hiring a camper to combine the cost of travel and accommodation. You could even rent a bike and cycle around, particularly in European countries!

Safety

What are the risks?

We’ve mentioned our thoughts on the dangers of traveling before. We really believe that travelling is generally safe if you’re prepared, but be aware of safety conditions is your chosen destination. For example, I would probably avoid visiting somewhere like Syria for the time being. Even in “safer” countries it’s important to be aware of potential dangers. If you’re in a city known for being a pick pocketing area you need to prepare and be aware of your belongings always. Travel insurance is also an important factor here, make sure you’re adequately covered for whatever activities you’ll be participating in, particularly if it’s a more extreme sport like skiing.

 

If you consider these factors you’re sure to pick a travel destination that best suits you!

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Meelup Reserve Trail 

Recently we walked part of the Meelup reserve trail from Meelup beach in Dunsborough to Eagle bay. This is a beautiful coastal trail leading through bush and beach. The full trail goes from Dunsborough beach to Eagle bay and is 7.4 km one way, but we chose to bite off a 3 km portion. The trail is rugged in parts and occasionally we lost the trail signs, but as long as you follow the coastline you’re bound to end up in Eagle bay eventually! This walk would be wonderful in Summer as there are lots of secluded beaches along the way where you could stop for a swim and a picnic! There are toilets at Meelup and just before you reach eagle bay. Here are some photos from our hike!

Here the trail started to ascend into the bushy cliffs overlooking the ocean. The path was rocky at times but the views were beautiful!


We had this little beach all to ourselves! I never get tired of secluded south west beaches. We definitely recommend hiking the Meelup Reserve Trail!

A weekend in New York

Our plane landed in New York just as our stomachs were starting to crave lunch. Our first view of the city was from the air train and I found myself filled with an almost unbearable excitement. I never thought I’d be spending my twentieth birthday in New York City, but here we were. I felt proud that we’d worked hard enough to get here. We’d scrimped and saved, taken the worst shifts and made whatever sacrifice we needed to. Originally we thought we’d be getting a train and staying in a budget hostel, but now we were booking in to a queen room in a Long Island hotel. And we were so excited! By the time we got to the hotel our shoulders were heavy from the weight of our luggage but we had too busy an itinerary to even think about relaxing!

Two very excited travellers!

 Exiting the subway station in the middle of New York City is nothing short of surreal! You look up and the buildings seem to go for miles, as if they’re laneways reaching to the sky. Speaking of the sky-it was snowing. A lot. I saw more snow in New York than I’d ever seen in my life. In fact, the week before our visit all flights in New York had been cancelled due to the weather. Which makes me very glad that I wasn’t born any earlier! New York feels like a fairytail in Winter. As we entered Central Park I could imagine that a month earlier the place had been shrouded in Christmas lights and I thought how lovely it would be to witness that. Something about the contrast between nature and metropolis was magical as we witnessed the city skyline from the depths of the park. Looking around at the horse drawn carriages and stone bridges you could almost pretend you’d gone back in time, until you look up and see the skyscrapers reaching tall into the cloud brushed sky. 
 

The skyline from central park

We decided the quintessential New York lunch was street vendor hot dogs in Central Park. After filling our stomachs and playing in the snow we made our way to Times Square. The subway here is a really convenient way of getting around, but if you really want to see the city you should walk! As you walk between destinations you’ll find yourself recognising lots of places along the way. I have to admit I got distracted a few times by the five figure price tags in some of the designer clothing store windows! 

 

Our Central park snow man

It was still bright when we got to Times Square but the heavy winter skies set the perfect back drop for the lights of this famous square. I’ve heard people say you should skip Times Square. They say it’s a tourist trap, not worth visiting, inauthentic etc. I think those people are crazy! I don’t understand this idea that we should avoid the touristy areas when we travel. If some where’s popular it’s for a reason! Sure, the crowds can be annoying and it might not be the best spot in the city, but it’s worth going and seeing what all the fuss is about. I thought there was a great buzz here, between the lights and the music and the excited visitors. 

 

Times Square

After doing some shopping (how could we visit New York and not buy some new clothes?!) we decided it was dinner time. We had chosen a restaurant recommended by our New York travel guide. Usually we pick whatever place stands out to us, but I’m so glad we followed the guide this one time! We ate at Back Forty West, a funky little bar/restaurant with delicious food combinations and a great selection of drinks. It isn’t particularly cheap, but we thought it was worth it. We paid $130 for two mains, one dessert, two beers and two wines. 

  

The obvious chouce for our first New York meal

The next day we grabbed some bagels for breakfast (again, one of those quintessential New York foods!) and headed to ground zero. I knew it would be sad but I honestly didn’t expect it to be so hard hitting to see these massive holes where two of the tallest buildings in the world once stood. The contrast with the surrounding buildings was striking. I found the memorial to be really well designed and tasteful. What wasn’t so tasteful were the many tourists taking smiling selfies in front of the memorial. It really annoyed me that so many people thought it was appropriate to take these kinds of photos in such a somber place. For this reason we didn’t take any photos while we were here. It’s definitely possible to take respectful photos of the memorial but we just felt it wasn’t necessary, instead we opted to be present and experience the range of emotions that comes with being in such a confronting place.

  

The skyline looks very different to how it did before 9/11

Next on the day’s itinerary was visiting the Statue of Liberty! We booked our tickets online about a week before hand. If you want to go all the way up to the crown you need to book about a month in advance as there are limited spots. Be sure to book through libertycruises.com as other sites charge extra fees. It’s currently $18 for an adult ticket and $3 extra for to access the crown.

 Visiting the Statue of Liberty was another experience that hit me harder than I thought it would. As we pulled up to the island by ferry I thought about the many immigrants we would have arrived in New York by boat and seen the statue from the distance. It was a beacon of hope for so many people, a bittersweet symbol of the new life they were embarking on. Inside the statue’s pedestal the museum displays letters written by immigrants to the statue, and reading them was very touching. Especially as we are both immigrants ourselves, it was easy to relate to some of the things written in the letters; although of course in those times immigrating was much more dangerous and uncertain, with long treacherous boat rides and no real way to research your destination before arriving.

Hello liberty island!

 

After visiting Liberty Island the ferry takes you to Ellis Island, the old offshore processing centre for immigrants. The museum here is huge! Be sure you give yourself a few hours at least as there’s tonnes of information to take in and lots of great displays. We had to skip a lot of the exhibits as we simply didn’t have the time, but it’s definitely worth taking the time to read about the lives of people on this island. It’s also nice to walk around the grounds here too, it was particularly pretty in the snow!

Did I mention it was cold?
 We spent so much longer on the tour than I expected we would (that always seems to happen to us in museums!) and we found that it was already almost time for dinner! We had reserved a table at La Sirene, a highly rated French restaurant in the SoHo district of Manhattan. There are three things you need to know about La Sirene:

  1. The food is the kind of sophisticated yet simple deliciousness that can make grown men cry
  2. The tables are so close together that you may as well be eating with the people next to you
  3. They don’t take cards, except American Express.


 We really enjoyed our meal here but being so close to everyone else didn’t make for the most romantic atmosphere! Some people would call it cozy though, so it really depends on your own preferences.

 Day three began with a trip to the Chelsea markets. Honestly, of all the places we visited in New York this was one of my favourites! Its not somewhere that I’d really heard of before, but I’m always on the hunt for good markets so when I read about this one I knew we had to make a trip there. Located in the meat packing district of Manhattan in an old Nabisco factory, this huge indoor market maintains a funky exposed brick factory appearance. There are so many options here, from vegan sushi to gourmet hotdogs, book stores an jewelry stands, you will almost definitely spend more than you had planned to! It’s also where the oreo was invented, and it’s always cool to visit the birth place of good food.


 After we’d had our fill of the markets we went to the natural history museum. Wow is that place huge! It’s so much bigger than we were expecting it to be! We were there for about four hours and we only got to see a little over half of the museum. I definitely recommend setting aside the best part of a day to visit this museum. We particularly loved the Heilbrunn pathway and the Hayden Sphere. Tickets for the museum cost $22, but this is a suggested price and you can pay anything you wish at a service desk. If you do have the money I think it’s good to support this awesome museum.
 We took so long at the museum that we had to run across town to make it to our time slot at the Top of the Rock! We chose the top of the rock over the Empire State building as we wanted to be able to see the empire state building and have it in our skyline photographs. We picked our time slot to be able to catch the sun setting. The views across the city on one side and Central Park on the other were beautiful. Watching this buzzing city from a distance was an almost surreal experience, like taking a step back to observe the world while everyone else is rushing around. I will say that some people were selfish about the whole thing and hogged their space at the wall. Try and remember that everyone else wants to get a picture too!

The skyline sparkled in the sunset

For dinner that night we made our way back to the Chelsea markets for the New York Chilli Fest! We had seen the event advertised when we were there that morning and we got a great deal on last minute tickets. The NYChili fest is an amazing event where food establishments from all over the city produce their own version of the tex-mex favourite, chilli con carne. Our tickets included all you can eat chilli, plus all you can drink beer and cocktails from the New York distilling company all for $40 each! The festival was a great way to spend our last night in New York. We ate and drank with locals, tried more types of chilli than we knew existed (chilli with Fritos, chilli with tripe, chilli with noodles?) and sampled local beers. It doesn’t get much better than that!

Our weekend in New York flew by but I really think we put our limited time to good use. We definitely made every day of our visit an adventure! 

Bye New York, we’ll see you again soon

  

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Travel Apps to help you along the way!

Our favourite travel apps

Technology can make life so much easier when you’re travelling! We use lots of apps to help us plan, get around, and safe money while we’re on the road. Here are some of our favourites! 

Gas Buddy-find the cheapest fuel in your area-this is great for road trips and saved us lots of $$$s in California!

Hostel world-this apps got a huge database of hostels around the world. It’s a great tool for backpacking on a budget! 

Rome to Rio-this is a really handy tool for finding different options for getting from A to B! It tells you the time and cost for using plane, train or car!



Rail Planner
-this is the eurail timetable app. It is one of the most useful apps you can have while travelling in Europe and we relied on it heavily! It’s a collaboration of each country’s rail timetable put together in a really functional easy to use app. 

Booking.com– a great way to find the best value deals at your destination! What I love about this app is that they have tonnes of reviews for each hotel so you can find out what kind of place you’re booking!

Air BnB-everyone’s heard about Air BnB! This app has brought the traditional bed and breakfast into the contemporary travel world with great results. Living with locals is a great way to get to know your destination, and usually you can get some bargain prices too!

Trip Advisor– I am an unashamed trip advisor addict. I love to search my dream destinations and find out about all the activities there. Trip advisor allows you to see the highest rated accommodation, eateries and activities in your destination of choice! It doesn’t get much more comprehensive than that. 

Apple Maps– I know Apple maps has been the subject of some criticism,particularly when compared to the more well established Google maps. But I find that often when travelling Apple maps can be the better option. The main reason for this is that Apple maps has a better public transport feature, with detailed directions between stations. And I’m all for not getting lost on my way to the airport!



Pinterest
– I only found out recently that Pinterest is such a hub for travel bloggers. I’ve learned so many new travel tips and found lots of great travel blogs to read by perusing the travel sections of this useful app! It’s definitely worth checking out when planning your next trip. 

Exploring Yosemite

The last national park on our California itinerary was perhaps our most anticipated. Yosemite is one of those magically beautiful places that adorns travel websites. It’s been immortalised in famed photographs by the late Ansell Adams and hiking bloggers always sing the praises of its many nature trails. Right before we arrived the rare phenomenon of the fire falls occurred, further exciting us for the beautiful sights we would soon be experiencing.  

Tunnel View-a serious site to behold

As soon as we emerged on the other side of the tunnel we knew exactly what all the hype was about. You can look at as many pictures of tunnel view as you want, but there’s nothing quite like exiting the darkness of the tunnel and seeing all the wonders of Yosemite laid out before you. The snowy peaks of El Capitain and the Half Dome, the tumbling water of Yosemite falls, and the forest covered plains of the valley floor; all stretched out as far as the eye can see. It is a genuinely grand entrance. We stopped for a while and watched the sun melt behind the granite structures. There were lots of disappointed visitors who had been hoping to catch another fire falls, and I was amazed that anyone could feel disappointed when surrounded by such beauty. 
In comparison to some of the other parks we’d visited it was clear that Yosemite is quite well funded and a bit more commercialised. The park has a shuttle system that allows you to easily get around the valley. It’s especially useful for one way hikes-you can get dropped off at one end and picked up at the other. The visitor centre here is very large and has lots of impressive displays. And there are many accommodation options-the usual campsites, curry villiage,and a hotel-as well as several restaurants. 

The view of Half Dome from Upper Pines Campground

One of the bad things about travelling in the Winter month is that the shorter days mean that you really have to prioritise your time in the park. This is made easier by the other bad thing about travelling in Winter-lots of the hikes are closed. With this in mind we decided to pick three hikes to do. We chose

-The bridal veil falls hike

-The hike to the base of lower Yosemite falls 

-The Vernal falls hike/mist trail
The Bridal Veil falls hike is a short half mile (0.8 km) return walk. The trail is paved and takes you to the base of the falls. I found the walk to be disappointing as it ended quite far away from the waterfall. It is a good walk if you want to take some photos or if you have a low fitness level. It isn’t the most spectacular trail Yosemite has to offer but it did get us warmed up for the rest of the day.

Two happy hikers!

Next we hiked to the base of Yosemite falls. There is a shuttle bus to the trail head and from there it’s a one mike (1.6km) loop. We found this walk much more enjoyable. It took us through the forest and we got so close to the waterfall that we were being sprayed by it. There were lots of pretty views of the waterfalls and Yosemite creek, and exhibits along the way explaining the history of the area. I’d definitely recommend this hike!

The breathtaking Yosemite falls

The final hike was to the Vernal falls footbridge. This is part of the longer mist trail which brings you to the Nevada falls. While fairly short (1.6 miles/2.6 km round trip from the happy isles shuttle stop) this hike can be really steep! 

The Mist trail is steep! nps.gov

However the views are beautiful. There’s a bit of everything along this trail-you can see walls of granite towering above you, forest surrounding you and-of course-gushing waterfalls! It’s my favourite of the hikes we did in Yosemite. California was our first experience with hiking so we did find this trail to be a bit challenging, but it was so worth it! Reaching the footbridge was wonderful- vernal falls is so beautiful and majestic-and we found that we weren’t ready for this hike to end just yet! So we decided to continue to the top of Vernal falls and the Emerald Pool. We felt excited and reenergised and couldn’t wait to reach the top…but then within 0.3 miles of Vernal falls we were met with a sign saying the trail was closed in Winter due to risk of ice and rock falling. So I guess it was a little silly of us to not be more prepared. But we still really enjoyed the hike despite this disappointment! And hopefully you can learn from our mistakes. 

Vernal Falls from the footbridge

In conclusion, Yosemite in Winter is beautiful. It’s less busy, it’s easy to get a campsite in the valley, and there are pretty blankets of snow everywhere. It does have it downsides (Tioga pass is closed, you can’t climb the half dome, lots of trails are closed and you must carry snow chains), but you can always visit again in Spring! And then maybe Summer and Autumn Too 😉

 

One day we’ll hike the Half Dome!

Free camping on the Pacific Coast Highway 

The Pacific Coast Highway(also known as highway one, the Cabrillo highway, or Coast highway)is famous for its ocean views, its surfing opportunities, and its array of wildlife. It’s a road that attracts thousands of visitors, and we loved exploring it’s nooks and crannies. The hotels along this route can charge a premium for their location. But what if I told you you could stay along this road entirely for free? Yup, free camping is possible all over this beautiful stretch of road.

Imagine waking up to this view for free!

We loved our time along highway one. We got to watch elephant seals basking, hike beautiful coastal trails, and watch the sun set over the Pacific Ocean. But while this road stole our hearts, we didn’t let it steal our wallets! In fact, after leaving San Francisco, we didn’t spend anymore money on accommodation until we arrived in Los Angeles! And we even did it legally.

How did we camp for free?

The wonderful thing about the pacific coast highway is that a huge portion of it is within the bounds of Los Padres national forest. And if you want to camp cheaply in the US, the most important thing to know is that in most national forests you can camp anywhere for free! Nation Forests are free camping central. There are a few exceptions to this rule (look our for signs that say “no overnight parking”) but generally once you hit national forest you’re in free territory!

Just some of the many Elephant Seals relaxing on the beach

There are definitely some down sides to free camping. I can’t promise you even basic facilities like running water. But what you will get are amazing views, and some extra money in your bank account to enjoy your travels. Any roadside rest stop along forest roads is fair game to free camp in. You can park in the Big Sur visitor centre and hike into the forest to really camp in the wilderness (you need permits for some activities like lighting camp fires, and as always you should check in at the visitor centre and let them know when you’ll be returning). There are no bears around Big Sur so you won’t have that to worry about! The forest begins just south of Carmel and continues almost as far as San Simeon. And once you get passed San Luis Obispo it begins again, stretching passed Santa Barbara and almost as far as Los Angeles!

Point Lobos, one of our favourite spots along the road

If you like the idea of camping along the PCH but hate the idea of peeing behind a bush, there are still options for you! There are a few paid but still cheap campsites along the way. These include:

Andrew Molera State Park-$25 per night

Kirk Creek Campground-$25 per night

Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park-$30 per night

For more information and to reserve a spot at these campsites visit reserveamerica.com


Then all that’s left to do is enjoy the view!

Travelling in Times of Terror

“Don’t go to Belgium, it’s not safe in Belgium” a work colleague advises over lunch. Her advice is sincere and she has good intentions, but I can’t help but feel annoyed by it. Should we really avoid any destinations deemed unsafe by the media? 


With new terrorist attacks constantly occurring it’s easy to feel like the sections of the world which are safe to visit are quickly shrinking. Destinations once considered to be popular tourist destinations-Paris, Turkey, Brussels- are now tainted with fear and tragedy, associated in our minds with heartbreaking news articles and the thought “that could be us”. It’s natural to fear this looming unknown, this persistent idea of “what if”. But, in a way, if give in to this fear, if we cut ourselves off from other countries, from other cultures, aren’t we letting the terrorists win? 


I won’t lie, the world is brimming with countries I’m afraid to travel to-places with less rights for women, places with wildlife that could kill me, places on the edge of war. But equally I fear staying in one place for ever, I feel that by limiting ourselves to our own country, our own culture, our own food and language we are allowing our lives to be less brilliant. We are settling for less experience, less excitement, less understanding of the world around us. Yes, it is scary to visit somewhere when we know there is risk involved. But in all realism, isn’t there more risk involved in driving to work in the morning? No where is safe anymore. We saw this in Sydney, we saw it in Paris, we saw it in Boston. But if I’m going to die anywhere I’d rather die exploring the world and living my dreams than living in fear in my own home. 

Food of the South-fat, flavour, and full of surprises 

Before I went to America I was terrified of the food I would encounter there. I have to admit it;when Alex described the food of the South-breakfast sausage with white gravy, chicken and waffles, the ever elusive “grits”-I felt a tad queasy. I had visions of myself returning home having gained 20 kilos. My first visit to an American supermarket was an eye opener-so many flavours of coffee, an array of frozen TV dinners, and more types of soda than you could ever imagine. However, despite all of this I’m happy to say that my fears about fatty foods and weight gain were mostly unfounded. In fact, a lot of the Southern food we ate found the perfect balance between healthy and comforting. Some places perfected this with such deliciousness they deserve an honourable mention. 
Tupelo Honey in Asheville, North Carolina served us a Sunday brunch that I still find myself craving. These guys specialise in southern food with a fresh twist. I got a breakfast bowl filled with fresh veggies, goats cheese grits, salsa, chicken and eggs. Alex had a delicious plate of chicken and biscuits. The food we had here was fresh and wholesome and really felt good for you, while still being great comfort food. 


Twelve Bones is a little barbecue joint so famous that Obama has been there several times! It’s also located in Asheville and it’s definitely worth a visit. I had my very first ribs here and they were divine. They offer lots of interesting flavour combinations such as blueberry chipotle and pineapple cranberry glaze. Their sides are delicious too, with all the usual suspects-fluffy corn bread, creamy macaroni and cheese, and chunky potato salad. Best of all, they offer a range of beers on tap from the many micro breweries in the funky town of Asheville.


Back in Charlotte our stand out Southern meal was brunch at Trio. I had the shrimp and grits, a classic Southern meal, and I was surprised by how different the grits tasted here-it seemed that almost every restaurant we visited had their own specific take on this breakfast dish. I also had my first and only plate of collard greens, which tastes like a tangier version of bacon and cabbage. And I have to say, the mimosas here were pretty good too 😉 


So, when it came down to it there was no reason to be so worried about Southern food. More often than not I found it to be delicious and hearty, but not necessarily unhealthy. Like everything else, it was fine in moderation-and, thankfully, all my clothes still fit me when I returned home!