So if you’ve watched, read or heard the news in the past 12 hours, you’ll know about the missing Malaysian Airlines flight.

If you haven’t, the basic story is a flight with 239 people left Kuala Lumpur just after midnight and by 2:40 am, it had lost contact with air control and has been missing ever since. Scary stuff. We’re checking the Internet like crazy people to try and get updates on if anything has been found, but so far, nothing. Rescue ships have been dispatched into the China Sea – last known location – and search and rescue teams are working to locate the plane as well.

Malaysian Airlines’ Boeing 777

Malaysian Airlines haven’t had a major accident for almost twenty years, and if this flight has indeed gone down, it would be their worst disaster. The plane itself, a Boeing 777, is named as one of the world’s safest planes. They had their first fatal crash last year in July when three people died after a crash in San Francisco.

Since I’m a little jumpy about flights (I overcame my fear of flying but occasionally logic takes a holiday in my mind) and I’m especially jumpy now because we’re flying out of the same airport on a similar flight tonight, I decided I’d look up the statistics about flying, and the chances of actually being involved in a plane crash.

Turns out, the odds of being killed on an airline flight is 1 in 4.7 million out of 78 major world airlines. If you’re flying with the 39 airlines with the best accident rates, those odds go up to 1 in 19.8 million. But if you’re flying with the 39 airlines with the worst accident rates, then your chances are 1 in 2 million.

The number of fatalities per million flight hours is a tiny 12.25.

The highest survival rate of people who’s planes had crashed was in the 1990’s, when you had about 35% chance of surviving. That survival rate went down to 24% in the 2000’s but apparently these days you have a 95% chance of surviving a plane crash. I think that positive jump in statistics may be largely due to the amazing landing on the Hudson River by Capt. Sully.

Based on statistics, if you flew every day of your life, it would take 19 thousand years before you died in a plane crash. You’re also nineteen times safer on a plane than you are in a car. You’re also more likely to die from a bee sting than a commercial flight.

Another fact: 80% of crashes happen in the 3 minutes after takeoff, and the 8 minutes before landing, and in between those times the chances of being involved in a crash drop dramatically. So if you’re awake, and prepared for that total of 11 minutes of flight time, then you have a higher chance of survival.

So when you compare statistics and averages, your chances of dying in a plane crash are very very slim. If you’re an American, you should be more worried about heart disease, which kills a frightening 1 in 2 people. For the rest of you, you’re in more danger whilst driving to the airport than you are of anything happening while you’re on a plane. However if you do get into a plane crash and survive, you should probably buy a lottery ticket. I figure the odds are on your side.

All of this information soothes my soul immensely, and I feel like I can relax a little bit more. Hey, according to statistics, I can relax for my entire flight apart from those 3 minutes at the start and 8 minutes at the end. And hopefully, when we land, we’ll have some more information on the missing plane and the people aboard. Here’s hoping they’ve got good odds.

 

This is the first time that I’ve ever travelled as one half of a couple. I’ve travelled with family, with friends, and alone, but never with someone I was romantically involved with. And it’s a completely different experience to anything I’ve known before. 

I love Tim, don’t get me wrong. I’m madly in love with him, to be honest, and I hope that doesn’t change any time soon (or ever). But travelling with only him has put a whole new strain on our relationship that hasn’t existed before. I don’t mean to say that travelling is tearing us apart, or that we’re miserable being around each other 24/7. But it’s interesting to see what happens when you have zero exposure to people other than your partner on a regular basis.

We’ve become each other’s only form of physical companionship, and I’m finding myself relying on him more than I ever would at home. I’m normally extremely independent and am guilty of putting plans with friends over plans with Tim a lot of the time, because we lived together and I knew he’d always be there. But now, I find myself checking behind me on the motorbike every few minutes (five minutes if I force myself to wait) just to make sure he’s still behind me, still following. I’d prefer he go in front so he can keep an eye on me, but of course he wants to stay behind me so that he can still see me.

Story time: when we were looking for a hotel in Hue, in the rain with no petrol, Tim’s bike ran out of fuel and I went through a light. I waited on the side of the road for him to appear before I did a complicated u-turn and went back to find him standing at the petrol station, waiting for me. I dissolved into tears when he hugged me, and realised that losing him was a terrifying and very possible reality to me. Ew.

However, the pressure of being the only physical and familiar presence for each other is adding a level of stress I’ve personally never known in a relationship. I’ve always been a person who needs to talk about things, and Tim has always kept to himself when something is going on. I’ve always had my mum, my sister, my friends and workmates to talk to aside from Tim, but now there’s only him. Sure, there’s Facebook and phone calls and emails, but it’s not the same as a face-to-face ‘deep and meaningful’. Tim has become my main emotional outlet, but we both have vastly different coping mechanisms, and it’s hard sometimes to get on the same wavelength with each other.

We’re a bit snippy at times, arguing about stupid things, like if we have soap for our shower, whether we’ll leave the TV on when we get into bed, and even now, when I’m asking him when we last had an argument and he said yesterday, we’re almost about to argue about if we did argue yesterday. So silly and exhausting. I’ve had a few good cries to a mostly bewildered and exhausted Tim when things have gotten too much, and slowly, we’re starting to work it all out.

Turns out when you rely and be dependent on someone, you can also feel alone and abandoned if they withdraw from you. That’s a lesson I’ve had to learn properly for the first time, and a lesson Tim has been suffering through me learning as well. I’ve also learnt that there’s a fine line between comfortably relying on someone for companionship and romance, and being a clingy psychopath. Some days I feel like I’m crossing that line a bit – especially when I’m bawling my eyes out and saying “DO YOU EVEN LOVE ME??” to the guy who worked so hard to get me in the first place.*

So it turns out that all I needed to realise I’m able to rely on someone else without feeling like an utter failure in terms of emotional strength was a little bit of couple’s travel. It’s driving us a little bit crazy, and driving us a whole lot closer to each other. I know people say that travelling with your partner can be hard and exhausting, and they’re not wrong. We’ve shouted, and ignored each other, and slammed things, and slept as far from each other as possible.

But it’s also rewarding and character building, and shows you that good things are worth working for. We’ve held hands at dinner, and laughed while standing in the clouds on a mountain, and comforted each other after near misses on motorbikes, and taken selfies on the edge of a foreign country. Even when we want to kill each other, it’s so ridiculously comforting to know we still love each other.

There’s my sappy post for the month done. I tried to ask Tim how he felt about all this, and he just shrugged at me, and said “You know me, I show nothing.” So we semi-shouted at each other from separate beds, threw some pillows and giggled about it. He feels a lot on the inside, but would probably prefer I didn’t post it all on my mostly unread public blog. Seeing as I can’t read his mind and suck his thoughts out, guess I’m gonna have to respect that.

* Look, PMS makes you crazy, it’s really not (entirely) my fault.

It seems that many things are on the move in Laos lately! My Lonely Planet has once again left me unprepared for what happens at the end of my journey, so when Tim and I got off the boat, climbed up a mountain of dirt and found ourselves at an unknown road, we were stumped for a bit. There were (of course) tuk tuks everywhere, all of them telling us that it was 10 kilometres to town and we NEEDED to pay them all 20,000 Kip each and wait for our tuk tuk to be full so that we could leave. The lovely Tim, however, said “It’s only ten kms. We can walk.”Безопасные SEO эксперименты

It isn’t until we’ve been walking for five minutes and turning back and getting a tuk tuk would leave us scorned, that he decides to tell me 10 kms is the equivalent of his walk to work, to home, and back to work again. GREAT. So we plodded along in the dirt on the way to town, and after a while we passed a marker that said Luang Prabang was only 4 kilometres away. At this point we concluded that either the tuk tuk drivers were lying to us about the distance, or we walked way faster than we ever thought possible.

After about 45 minutes, fifteen tuk tuks crammed full of backpackers passed us, and we assumed it was the last of the people from the boat. We kept plodding along but when a smaller tuk tuk stopped and told us he would take us for 20,000 Kip for both of us, we basically fell into the back and let him take us instead. We were exhausted! And still a fair way out of town, because we came from the back, so I no doubt would’ve gotten us lost if we’d kept walking anyway.

So while I don’t think it actually is 10 kilometres, I wouldn’t recommend trying to walk the whole way into town unless you’ve got hardly any baggage or are really into walking. What I would recommend if trying to save even a little bit of cash is walking for twenty minutes, then getting into a smaller tuk tuk when they inevitably pull over to offer you a ride, and tell them you’ll pay 10,000 Kip each to the night market. They’ll probably offer it to you anyway.

Also, MAKE SURE YOU BOOK AHEAD if you’re going to be in Luang Prabang (or anywhere in SE Asia) during Chinese New Year. Because there is NOWHERE to stay, most guesthouses have little full signs out the front, and you’ll end up going way over budget for accommodation in what is normally a reasonably expensive town. Like we did, but not before we spent an hour and a half walking around town trying to find ourselves a bed.

And now, we get to play the game all over again because we could only book for one night. Joy!

“Getting into Laos will be easy. We go on this stupid little boat to Chiang Khong, then we walk down the hill, take a little canoe across the river and walk up the hill into Laos immigration! Done.”

Those, my friends, are the words of one very cocky traveller. You know, the one who has seen it all before, knows everything and gives other travellers advice on where to go and what to see. That one traveller that you think maybe knows too much, and maybe needs to see someplace new. You know the one? Yeah, that’s right, it’s me.

They’re also the words of one very misinformed and apparently out of date traveller, as I discovered last week. After prepping Tim on an easy and relaxed crossing into Laos from Chiang Khong in the north of Thailand, we had an entirely different experience. Turns out, they moved the border! WHO MOVES A BORDER?? Thai and Laos people, that’s who.

I thought I had the day sorted. We’d go on the stupid 500B minibus from Chiang Mai that makes you want to puke as it speeds round tight bends high in the mountains, and then we’d get some US dollars in Chiang Khong, find a place to stay and cross the border in the morning. Toooooo easy. Except that when we stopped at “Chiang Khong” today, it wasn’t the quiet riverside town I remembered. Instead, it was a large white border crossing in the middle of nowhere. NOT what I expected at all.

Cue a very confused, very cranky Britt arguing with her bus driver about how she wants to go to Chiang Khong, not this weird joint. Yes, Chiang Khong. The town, to cross into Laos. NO this isn’t the place! I want Chiang Khong. Yes, the town. The border. I want to go to Laos! Is this the place? No it’s not! It’s not the same! Oh, it is the place? It’s new? Oh. Okay.

(like a true pig-headed traveller, I didn’t even apologise to the poor guy who looked like he wanted to kill me. I just strolled off and looked confused)

I found out later that the new borders on the Thai and Laos side are only about one month old. So new there’s not even an ATM or clean water. Just toilets and a little Thai lady swapping 1000 Baht for $30 US. Because we were so unprepared we had to borrow some Baht from our new buddy and fellow Aussie Oliver, just so we had enough to pay for our visas on the other side.

So we stamped out of Thailand, paid 20 Baht for the shuttle bus across no man’s land (a five minute bus ride complete with a five minute screening of Iron Man 3) and across the new bridge to the Laos border and finally got into Laos after doing the immigration game. Which is basically filling out a form, throwing it at a guy in a hut with your passport and waiting around to pay the visa fee. And then we paid a 20 Baht “overtime fee” because of course we couldn’t get to the border before 4 pm.

Then, because we somehow ended up without a bus transfer, we took a 20,000 Kip tuk tuk to Huay Xai, the border town that I remembered. Here we finally found an ATM and were able to pay our driver, and go off to find a hostel.

I learnt today that relying completely on a 2012 Lonely Planet (whilst helpful in many other regards) and not checking dates on travel forums can really put a kink in some of the best laid plans. So if you’re headed to Laos from Chiang Mai or Chiang Rai and have done the trip before by canoe across the Mekong, be warned that this is no longer. Apparently a ferry still operates for motorbikes and little trucks but since I have neither of these I haven’t looked too far into it. Be prepared to cross the border, and make sure you have enough Baht or US dollars as there’s no ATM on the Thai side, and no promises of one coming any time soon.

Learn from my mistakes!

The day before Tim and I set off for Bangkok, I became aware that there were protests going on in the city. Big, big protests that involved thousands of people and shutting down busy intersections and government buildings.

Put plainly, Bangkok citizens are protesting because they want the current Prime Minister of Thailand, Yingluck Shinawatra, to step down from her position and let herself be replaced with a yet-to-be-elected people’s council, and they want the King to choose a new PM. They’re calling the movement “Shutdown Bangkok, Restart Thailand” and while protests have been happening since November 2013, things got heavier on January 13th of this year when anti-government protestors shut down busy intersections. Like those at the Victory Monument and Siam Square, where major tourist shopping centres like Siam Discovery and MBK Centre are situated.

I mentioned to my mum while we watched it on the news that I really wanted to do my university assignment (a hard-news story on a political issue) on the protests because it was interesting and would technically be allowed if I was residing in Thailand at the time. While it was kind of just a throwaway comment, when Tim and I got to Bangkok they had declared a state of emergency, and I decided to go for it.

MBK Centre - you can see the protestors down on the ground.

MBK Centre – you can see the protestors down on the ground.

We went to MBK to try and go to a movie, and chose motorbike taxis over the crowded BTS Skytrain (just in case of a bombing) and I chatted to my driver on the way about what he thought of the protests. Interview for uni done! When we got there, police were checking cars going into MBK for bombs, and the Centre was practically deserted compared to the other times I’ve visited. Stores were shut early and the tourist count was very low.

We went outside into the protests and I warned Tim to stay nonchalant and try not to take too many photos. A lot of the signs were in Thai (obviously) and we didn’t want to cause a stir because there were very few “farang” around. It seemed really peaceful when we were there, with about a million different stalls selling pro-Thailand gems like whistles, ribbons and t-shirts, and everyone was hanging out and listening to whoever was giving a speech on stage.

All of the Thai flag coloured ribbons with whistles attached - I bought a miniature version for my keychain.

All of the Thai flag coloured ribbons with whistles attached – I bought a miniature version for my keychain.

When we went to Siam Discovery a few days later to go ice skating (more on this later) there was a live band and someone even handed us a free lunch, just for attending the protests in support. The sun was out, people were out of the many tents that lined the gutters and the mood was very upbeat. I didn’t feel the slightest bit threatened at all while we were there, and I’m glad I got the opportunity to go to something that interesting and important. And I wish I spoke Thai so I could’ve understood the speeches!

The many many tents lining the city streets.

The many many tents lining the city streets.

I wrote about visiting the protests in my uni forum, and most of the other students said the same thing: so jealous, stay safe! Then my lecturer told me that I was absolutely not to go to any more protest sites or interview any more people as I could inadvertently put myself in harm’s way and end up shot or blown to bits. And while it made me laugh that he was finally replying to my posts now that he thought I might die, he does have a little bit of a point, as protests have now turned a little bit sour and the death toll is double digits, while the injury count sits at over 500 people.

But hey, what’s life without a little adventure? I’m glad we went and experienced it, and I’m also really thankful that nothing terrible happened because obviously that would really suck. But I’m safe in Laos now, and have A LOT of catching up to do with this blog!

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So now I guess I’d better tell you all why I was having such an awful time in Thailand recently. I’m trying to write this and stay as level headed as possible about it all, without really getting too personal. sports74.ru

Basically, my friend asked me to come overseas with him when his dad bailed on him. After asking my boss for time off on super short notice, I got approved and we booked tickets. This should’ve been my first indicator of stuff never going to go to plan. He agreed to pay for my flights, and I still ended up paying $50 towards the flights over and then had to cover the return flights myself. Something that I’m not incapable of doing, but in hindsight I should’ve saved that money for Malaysia.

As soon as I met up with him I could tell I wasn’t going to enjoy myself. His awkward silences, bad jokes and an wide array of thinly veiled sexual suggestions towards me just made it such an uncomfortable experience while it lasted. At first I laughed it off and tried to remember what his sense of humour was like back when we were in high school, but couldn’t recall it ever being like this. Nor could I remember him ever cracking onto me so severely and it surprised me more now due to the fact he’s well aware that Tim was at home waiting for me.

So I had one high school friend who was acting like a stranger, and his friend, who was older and acted as though everything that came out of my mouth was useless drivel, whether it be a food recommendation, directions to our hotel or a story. Classic “me man talk, you woman quiet” demeanour to the level of not looking at me ehen he spoke or i spoke, which really pissed me off. For anyone who knows me, treating me like a second-class citizen is not the way to make me happy.

In addition to this, I’d been feeling pretty horrific and the heat seemed to really compound that. As did the numerous cocktail buckets I consumed on the island. I had a couple of near sobs on Skype to Tim and eventually had a lovely embarrassing cry in an Internet cafe on Phi Phi island. Ahh, good times. I finally made the decision to confront my friend about what was going on (after he stormed in at one am the previous night and demanded that I let him sleep with me) and when I did, he cried and told he had trouble controlling himself when I wore a bikini, while he stood there in underwear, completely unobjectified by myself. If he was bigger and stronger I would’ve hightailed it out of there the second I heard that. After hearing that though, I made the decision to go back to the mainland alone and choose my path from there.

Here’s where the pathetic part comes in.

I actually wanted to go home and go to work. The reality of how much money I’d spent (I’d had to give some to my friend because he spent $1000 in four days – without even paying for accommodation and transport) had started to sink in. Being back in Thailand made me realise how desperately I want to move overseas, but spending and savings habits at home hadn’t reflected that so far. I wanted to go home and see my boyfriend, friends, family and workmates. I missed an environment where I was surrounded by entertaining and interesting people who could hold a conversation with me and didn’t want to lie down all day.

So I piked. I packed it in and with some encouragement from a close friend, made the decision to just come home early and book earlier flights. As I write this I’m sitting on my first new flight out to Singapore. Still following the same route, and system, and only paying $30 more than the flights I books weeks ago. But I’m so much happier than I was a few days ago, which is always a sign for me that I made the right decision.

What I’ve learnt from this little adventure is that making a last minute decision to go overseas with someone you barely know is probably not a good idea. I’ve felt safer meeting up with travellers whilst overseas and going along with them than I did with this guy. And now I know not to let the idea of friendship get in the way of my safety and mental wellbeing. Lesson learned, sucky as it may have been to learn.

It’s no real secret that there are a million “teaching English jobs” in Bangkok for people who are travelling and looking for work, and it shouldn’t be a huge secret that most of these “jobs” are total scams. Usually it’s pretty obvious that it’s all crap because there’s no real office, the people barely speak English themselves, etc. Which is where the company that calls itself FTC Educational Services comes in and changes the game.

I saw a flyer for FTC when I was wandering around Banglamphu in Bangkok, which is right near the tourist area of Khao San, if you’re not schooled in Thai geography (and who is?). It was just stuck to a phone box, and I saw a lot more stuck to walls, next to ATMs, outside 7/11’s – basically most of the places that tourists would be frequenting. It has an email and a number for a man who goes by the name of Arthur, Arthur Wood. So, being keen for some extra cash and adorable Thai kids, I shot Arthur an email and told him I would be willing to teach English until I left Bangkok in three weeks time. He emailed me back really quickly and had great English (first reason I thought it would be okay) and told me it would be around 300 Baht an hour and I could come in for an interview tomorrow, and get free accommodation there if I got the job.

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When I ditched the travel adventure and came home early, every person I talked to about it assumed it was because I hated travelling and it wasn’t my thing. I’ve lost count of the conversations where I’ve had to tell people “Don’t get me wrong, I looooove travelling!” And then they thought I was insane because if I love travelling so much, then why in the world was I home!?kahovka-service

Just the way we were going about it didn’t appeal to me hugely – I personally felt like we were moving far too fast and at times it seemed like I was missing more than I was seeing. Which definitely got me a little down in the dumps, and I didn’t want to see New York if I could only spend three days there. It just seemed like.. a waste. I know, lately I’ve been giving my opinion on subjects and it’s probably making people think I’m really insane. Doesn’t want to travel fast, doesn’t want even two days in NYC, doesn’t want a real job… Who is this hippie freak!? I just have a lot of unpopular opinions, alright?

So yeah, I bailed on the travel. And while I have shed no tears about America, even with my family going to New York soon and knowing I won’t be there, south-east Asia is a hugely different story.

I MISS ASIA! I miss everything about it, the food, the people, the transport and the adventures and everything being so so cheap… I spend an inordinate amount of time each day just thinking about all of the things I miss and where I would go as soon as I get the chance to go back again. Just a couple of days ago I wrote about how good it felt to turn down a job that wasn’t right and then today I got an email from an airline company telling me about a sale, which meant I spent a fair amount of time wondering if I took the job, and saved my pay, if I could be in Asia right now. I just miss it so hugely and would love the chance to be back. If I could go back tomorrow, just pack my bags and run, I would in a heartbeat.

It’s not that I regret leaving my family to come home. It’s not that I regret coming back to Australia. I just wish I could’ve found a cheap flight to Bangkok and spent some time there before I came home to try and settle into a normal, working, teenage life. I just want to be among the hustle and bustle, do a little more adventuring before I attempt to settle down and try not to go to a new city every other week. It’s kind of weird knowing that I’ve moved somewhere new and now I have to stay here. I guess it’s still pretty hard for me to shake the constant urge to just move to a new place when I want a new adventure. I need to get my license so I can just go for a drive on the weekend to somewhere new and shake off the travel urge that way.

The good thing about my desire to go to Asia is that I have an even bigger desire to save money and make travelling in the near future a realistic possibility. Maybe this time I’ll take Kelsey with me and we can go exploring together!