5 City Breaks That are Just a Train Ride Away from London

Sometimes you just need a break from the big smoke. Or perhaps you’ve come to London and are thinking… Where can I get to, in double quick time, to make the most of my stay in the British Isles? Here are five ideas to help you do just that!

  1. Brighton

The Travel

Just an hour train ride from London Victoria, or a little further from St Pancras International, Brighton is nestled beneath the South Downs National Park on the Sussex coastline.

Why Brighton?

I’ve written about Brighton before. I called it England’s City of Soul and that opinion hasn’t changed!

Brighton’s my hometown, and so I am a little biased in its favour; however, I have no doubt that, for a quick city break away from London, it should top your list!

Brighton is a quirky city. The Lanes are a treasure trove, with second-hand shops and quaint independent restaurants around every corner. Should you get bored of spending your hard-earned money on trinkets, clothes, and bites to eat, take in a show at Komedia or the Theatre Royal! Alternatively, you might choose to shoot down to the pier, or even take a tour around the wonderful Royal Pavilion and its Gardens!

Brighton, and the surrounding area, truly has something for everyone. Whether you are on a visitor to our country, or looking to see a little more of it as a British Citizen, Brighton definitely deserves your attention!

On the Down Low

From a guy who knows the area, don’t miss the chance to walk up on the South Downs. You get stunning views of Brighton to the South, and Sussex in the North! It’s well worth a gander.

  1. Bath

The Travel

Starting out from Paddington Station, you can shoot South West of London and, in under 2 hours, you’ll be slap bang in the center of the old Roman city of Bath.

Why Bath?

Bath, as a city, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and is the only whole city to be designated as such in the UK.

The Roman Baths are a huge part of that. The opulent architectural design, and beautiful surroundings to the baths, make them one of the best places in England to take a dip. Moreover, should you require a more modern option, Thermae Day Spa offers a rooftop pool with views across the city… Not bad at all!

The appeal of Bath is also it’s West Country Locale. It doesn’t feel like London, unless perhaps you go in the height of Summer when it’s wedged chock a block with tourists. Whatever time of year you go though, don’t forget that locally brewed cider is one of the perks of the region so grab a glass of Pilton, Perry, or Taunton’s best, if you’re so inclined!

  1. Durham

The Travel

A three-hour journey by train will take you from the heart of London, and Kings Cross Station, and into the sleepy northern city of Durham.

Why Durham?

Durham isn’t to be missed. Granted, it is the smallest place on this list; however, it also oozes character and there are a huge number of opportunities for exploring in the region, just ask Dominic Cummings!

The Cathedral looks down on Durham from atop the bailey. It is beautiful inside, with stone pillars which made a cameo in the most recent Avengers movie! Beyond its relevance in pop culture though, the cathedral is a deeply spiritual place and a must see for anyone visiting Durham.

There are also plenty of independent eateries in the area to grab a bite eat. Burger joints, Tango and Fat Hippo, divide popular opinion amongst the student body in the city as to which is better, and La Spaghettata, an authentic Italian restaurant, offers a value for money eat at the heart of the city!

Beyond Durham itself, but only a reasonable drive away, Beamish open air museum tells the story of North East England’s history with an immersive experience perfect for a family visit, and Hadrian’s wall, an indelible mark left on Britain by the Romans, is equally accessible for a day-trip.

On the Down Low

It is well worth visiting a student college and bar if you can get in. Cheap pints and great atmospheres are to be had if you can get yourselves in!

  1. Edinburgh

The Travel

A little further from London Kings Cross than Durham, but on the same line, Edinburgh is just 5 hours away by train. You may even choose to fly the journey in just an hour, for a not too dissimilar price. It can, in fact, be even cheaper to fly to Edinburgh than take the train.

Why Edinburgh?

Edinburgh is the Scottish capital and (arguably) the crown jewel of the northern-most country of the United Kingdom.

It is also the city of the world’s largest art’s festival! Fancy yourself as well cultured? If so, twenty-five days of August are dedicated to the performing arts! It’s the perfect time to go, but for the freezing cold temperatures.

All year round, Edinburgh castle is a treat ! It’s been a royal residence since at least the 12th century and still houses a number of treasures including the Scottish Crown Jewels. Have a look around and then head up Arthur’s Seat for the best view of the city. Arthur’s seat is an extinct volcano, and popular ‘short hike’, the top of which provides a fantastic panorama of Edinburgh. Well within walking distance of Edinburgh castle, it is a must visit for any tourist.

Don’t forget to try your share of Scottish delicacies whilst you’re in town too. From whiskey to haggis, and even battered mars bars, Scotland has some weird and wonderful things for you to try if you’re brave enough!

  1. Paris

The Travel

Is it strange that it is actually quicker to get a train from London to Paris than to Edinburgh? In under 3 hours, in fact as few as 2 hours and 20 minutes, you could be exiting your carriage in the City of Light. Again, a flight is a tad quicker, and that may be your preferred option, but don’t write off a train under the Channel.

Why Paris?

Paris. Do I even need to give you reasons? Well I will run a few of them by you anyway.

The Louvre, the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe, the Notre-Dame Cathedral, the Sacre-Coeur, and myriad other buildings. Paris is every artist’s eye candy. The Louvre contains everything from Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa to the Winged Victory of Samothrace, and thousands of other exhibits as well.

If the art and architecture doesn’t tickle your fancy, perhaps the food and drink will. Escargot, macarons, foie gras, crepes, croissants, Kir Royals, and fantastic wine… Of course, Paris is not a cheap city; however, even one night of fine dining is a reason in itself to visit Paris, and an experience that will live long in the memory.

Paris is a city of ambiance, of romance, and of beauty. Yes, it has it’s less aesthetic parts, and’s taken a knock in recent times for excessive pricing and an arguably deteriorating social fabric; however, nonetheless, it will forever be a city worthy of your attention and your visit.


Madagascar? Where even is that? 5 Reasons to go to a country nobody else does!

This is one of my pictures from Madagascar! Not of a sportive lemur, but this guy is pretty cool!

When I told my friends I was going to Madagascar for two months, most of them did a double take. “Not South-East Asia or South America?” They asked inquisitively. “Why would you even want to go there?”

It’s a fair question. Everybody I know who did a gap year, pre or post uni, did the same blocks of countries. They all enthusiastically and collectively told me that they had the best times of their lives! If the gap year experience ain’t broke, don’t fix it. That was the basic message. So, why should you go to a country that nobody else does? Here are my 2 cents on that issue, and 5 reasons to do exactly that!

  1. You’ll learn something about yourself

In my humble opinion, this is just about one of the best reasons to do anything difficult or radical in your life. Of course, ‘learning something about yourself’ is a little vague, so let me just clarify what I mean.

Going to a country that nobody else does will prove to yourself that you have spirit! The courage to step into the unknown and challenge yourself. If you haven’t ever done that before, you won’t know just how important to your personal growth such an experience can be.

Moreover, everybody I knew kept saying that they respected me for travelling alone to Madagascar and that gave me a sense of pride that I was doing something a lot of other people wouldn’t. For a kid who grew up with below average self-respect, that was invaluable to me.

All in all, I believe this is a worthy reason in itself to travel into the unknown!

  1. Have experiences that set you apart

I really don’t want to get anyone down on going to places everybody goes to, and having experiences that everybody wants to have. I can’t overstate that enough. These places and experiences are popular for great reasons.

I’m certainly hoping to go to Thailand, Brazil, and everywhere else with heavy footfall. I’m just advocating another way to travel! I’m advocating experiencing that which everybody else you know hasn’t. I didn’t feel like a real traveler until I had a handful of experiences that I felt were totally and utterly unique to me, in places, and doing things, that nobody I knew had done.

Don’t you want to have the odd story you can tell, or write down, that makes your friends yearn to do the same? To follow the path you have blazed? Or maybe just to ask you question after question so that your adventures will live long in the memory?

Begin laying down the tracks instead of following them!

  1. Explore the unknown

Do you get that feeling, when you learn or discover something new, of unadulterated glee?

For me that feeling dawned on me in Madagascar when I saw my first sportive lemur, sat in the crook of a tree. Wide eyed and inquisitive, he stirred in the branches as we neared.

I had no idea exactly which unique and endemic species I was likely to see on the island, and I was utterly taken aback by the little ball of fluff staring down at me. In that moment, as I saw a species that was completely new to me, and one which nobody I knew had ever seen in the wild, I was overcome by pure joy!

That feeling of discovery, of revelation, is wonderful. Going to a country to which nobody else travels will offer you that in spades!

  1. The price

I just can’t get away from being a thrifty traveler, so here comes a money saving tip! The country nobody goes to is just that, the country nobody else goes to.

More often than not, that means that prices on goods and experiences haven’t been inflated to drain the pockets of wealthy tourists. Not to be too crude but you can take advantage of that. If the local economy is going to offer you great affordable prices, then you can travel for longer and do more than the people who are flocking to tourist traps!

Particularly when you are young, and perhaps a student as I am, that is a really important consideration to take into account. I know I certainly do!

  1. All travel is great

Okay so this last point is going to do away with trying to convince you to travel into the unknown. Instead, it’s just going to try and convince you to travel, because travel is undeniably awesome.

Meeting new friends, trying new foods, experiencing new cultures, discovering new animals, discovering new places, learning new lessons, about yourself and the world, and generally becoming a better-rounded person are all fantastic reasons to travel.

If you need another one reason though, just one, it’s because you’ve read this far into my post, almost nine hundred words into it. That means you’re considering travelling and, if you’re on the fence, you need to take that plunge!

The 5 Reasons I want to go to British Columbia in Canada!

This post is number 10 on West’s Bucket List. Enjoy!

Set between the towering Rockies and the royal blue Pacific Ocean, British Columbia is arguably the jewel in Canada’s crown.

I have wanted to go to British Columbia ever since, as a child, I watched documentaries in which bears would hunt salmon in the rapidly flowing rivers and waterfalls of the region. I was probably only about ten when I first became aware of British Columbia and it has subsequently gathered a mystical reputation in my mind, which will become evident via my use of near endless superlatives in this post.

There are 101 reasons to visit British Columbia, but here are the top 5 that intrigue me!

  1. Banff and Yoho National Parks.

Is it cheating to put Banff on this list? Maybe so, as technically it is located in Alberta; however, Yoho, which borders it to the West, is in British Columbia and I would very much like to see both. Thus, I don’t feel guilty!

There’s a lot of Banff to see as the National park is 6 and a half thousand kilometers of pristine Canadian wilderness! Moreover, Yoho is another 1300 kilometers large and is arguably just as eye catching!

Road trip through Icefields Parkway for a true perspective on the sheer enormity and breadth of these unbelievable National Parks. Over 100 glaciers, relics of a bygone ice age, split apart huge rock mountains, electric blue lakes, and dark dense pine forests.

The whole scene is thoroughly primeval and must be unspeakably beautiful to behold. Couple that with a hike up to Moraine Lake, and/or the Cave and Basin Hot Springs, and you have a fantastic trip through perhaps the most beautiful region of Canada.

  1. Kayak with orcas!

Orcas have always been one of my favourite animals. They are absolutely stunning creatures and, although I have seen whales in the wild before, I’ll never be satisfied until I’ve seen a pod of orcas up close and personal.

Orcas are the custodians of the sea, with an intellect perhaps unmatched by any species other than humans. Their language is thought to be so sophisticated that they have dialects depending on which pod they are members of. That, to me, is fascinating.

Several companies in Canada offer encounters with Orcas by way of kayaking tours. Provided this doesn’t harm the animals, and I will of course make sure of that before I go on any trip, I can think of very few experiences I would rather have on this planet than kayaking alongside an orca!

  1. See bears hunting salmon!

I’m sticking with the wildlife theme for this one!

I have seen a bear once in my life, at Yosemite National park in the USA a few years ago. Ambling through a meadow high amongst the rocky outcrops of the area, she was the highlight of my entire trip to the states.

Now, I’m hungry to see one again! The spike of adrenaline I felt at seeing the brown bear has not been replicated many times in my life. On a visit to the great white north, I one day hope to see a grizzly bear hunting salmon in the rivers of Western Canada. We’ve all seen the videos, or perhaps pictures, of shaggy grizzlies plucking salmon from waterfalls. It’s an iconic image and one that I would be ecstatic to see!

If there are two things I really want to do on this list, it is to see a hunting bear, and kayak with orcas. Whilst seeing a bear would be a close second to kayaking alongside an orca, that is saying something because I am desperate beyond comprehension to see an orca!

  1. Wild Pacific Trail

In Ucluelet, on the west coast of the Island of Vancouver, the Wild Pacific Trail weaves its way through pristine nature. Across numerous content outlets I have perused, the trail is considered to be one of the best tourist attractions to visit in all of Canada.

Ancient-cedar forests, the violent Pacific ocean, and the Amphitrite Lighthouse, are all reasons to sit down and take stock of the scenery around you. Like every different hike in the world, it’s completely unique; however, few hikes are quite as special as the Wild Pacific Trail.

Take a look at this one because I can’t do it justice with my limited repertoire of words. I promise, if you are a hiker or a lover of nature, you’ll be desperate to go.

  1. Vancouver

If the wildlife and scenery isn’t quite enough to convince you that a visit to British Columbia is worthwhile, perhaps the city of Vancouver will!

The Museum of Anthropology is world renowned for its collection of art and exhibitions from across the globe. With a strong emphasis also placed upon Canada’s own indigenous cultures, the museum is not to be missed if you are wanting to learn more about the history of this great country.

In addition, Vancouver is also touted for its fabulous markets!

Richmond Night Market is one of the biggest in North American, with hundreds of stalls selling a variety of foods and other organic products. Some even invite punters to take their shots at various challenges! If that doesn’t whet your appetite though, perhaps Eastside flea market, selling wares which include vintage clothes, antiques, and other local produce, will!

Lastly, is there anything perceived to be more wonderfully Canadian, at least to an outsider like me, than ice hockey? Outside of the Toronto Maple Leafs and Raptors, there may be no less prominent Canadian franchise than the Vancouver Canucks! Try and catch a game, even if you aren’t a fan, for the atmosphere and a staple of the Canadian lifestyle!


I hope this gave you a little taste of what British Columbia has to offer! When I visit, I will be sure to write up how the reality aligned with my expectations and get back to you guys with another post. Stay safe out there!

Thrifty Travel Tips 3: 6 Ways to Work and Earn Abroad

A few of my friends have a slight problem going travelling with me. They want to shell out big money at fancy restaurants and on expensive experiences. I don’t share that desire. Personally, I find that when I am in a country, city, or region, for a period of time, there is always plenty to keep me busy without breaking the bank. Besides, keeping a little thrifty ensures that I can spend longer in these places and enjoy them that much more!

Working abroad is my favourite option for ensuring that travel doesn’t decimate my student budget and is, in my opinion, the best way to stretch out your travel over the long term. Get yourself an employer and a working visa in whichever place you want to travel to. Earn some cold hard cash and earn the right to stay in your country of choice beyond the period a tourist visa would normally allow!

There are a number of fantastic options for employment abroad. Here are some ideas:

  1. Teaching

Personally, I have taught English in Kenya and Madagascar, and I am now applying for teaching jobs in Bali and South Korea. Teaching English, if you are a fluent, is a relatively easy and well-paid way to capitalise on the skills you may already have.

Teaching requires planning, poise, and passion for helping others to improve their abilities (as well as a Bachelor’s Degree more often than not). You may also need a TEFL degree to teach through some schemes and these do cost money; however, some organisations, like English First, will provide you with certification if you agree to complete a contract with them.

Teaching opportunities are available worldwide because of the prominence of the English language. If you can afford a TEFL course to begin with, or sign a contract with a company who will provide you with the opportunities to get one, then you’ll be able to get a job in almost any country you want to visit!

I am also a tutor with MyTutor. I teach 11+ English and, provided I have a decent Wi-Fi connection and, provided I am able to make my schedule with my clients match up across time zones, can earn money remotely from anywhere in the world.

I highly recommend this as a way to supplement any teaching income because it’s easy to schedule on your terms and pays really well!

  1. Au Pair

There are countless opportunities to become an au pair abroad. If you have strong references, and don’t mind spending a lot of time around children, then this could be the one for you.

It definitely helps, when attempting to gain such an opportunity, if you have certain skills. Past experience of teaching and tutoring will prove that you can educate somebody’s children, if that comes under your remit, and culinary experience, being able to cook for the children or even the whole family, will definitely appeal to most parents. It is, however, very possible that neither of those skills will be required of you so just ask your potential employer at interview.

You will earn yourself a room, board, and modest salary, to do with what you will, although being an au pair generally doesn’t give you a lot of free time. Beware that this is a role which can take over your life so just make sure you know exactly what you’re signing up for.

  1. Wwoofing

Wwoofing is not as unsavoury as it sounds. Worldwide opportunities on Organic farms. That’s a fancy way of saying, you will work as a farm hand abroad. Now a disclaimer; most Wwoofing opportunities through regular channels won’t offer you monetary remuneration. Instead, they will likely give you full board as compensation.

There are similar options which will pay you good money but Wwoofing is particularly popular. You will likely end up working with lots of fellow travellers, in a beautiful part of world, and doing hard but honest work. Living with locals will also further your understanding of their culture and bring you that much closer to the people with whom you are sharing your new stomping ground.

Personally, Wwoofing isn’t for me. I like to continually top up my income whilst abroad and Wwoofing just doesn’t do that, but everyone I know who has done it was a strong advocate so, if you’re interested, why not try it?

  1. Work as a an in-country volunteer coordinator

I know a lot of people who have done this one. Attaching yourself to a charitable organisation does pay a bit of money and gets you involved in valuable work abroad.

This kind of work is, in some ways, a little bit less hands on than being an Au Pair or teacher. This is mainly because you’re responsible in some way for a group of adults. In other ways, young adults seem capable of doing way more stupid things than any child and, if you think taking this route will get you a nice easy run, I very much doubt it.

Even so, the work you do will have value, the volunteers you spend time with will likely become your friends, and the pay is tangible at the very least. Again, the work may become something of a full-time job but don’t be discouraged, it’s worthwhile!

  1. Hostel worker

Hostel work is a more laid-back option. You can either work as a volunteer for a free room, and potentially board, or as a paid employee. The latter obviously has more stringent visa requirements like all the other paid work on the list.

Hostel workers move around a lot so are there are plenty of opportunities to take advantage of. Moreover, working at a hostel will give you the opportunity to meet plenty of fellow travelers and the work is mainly menial tasks which you shouldn’t find too difficult.

Finally, hostels are often placed in convenient locations for effective travel and so, this job is perfect for the explorer in you!

  1. Ski season

Earn yourself a decent salary, a ski pass, and your room and board? Live in the South of France? Switzerland? Canada? Japan? Does that sound good? Of course, it does. I can’t even ski and I see no negatives. Enough said. This is a great option!

Thanks for reading. I hope this has given you some good ideas for potential work abroad! If anybody has any other ideas I would love to hear them in the comments! I will more than likely write more articles on this topic so if you have some good advice, hit me up down below!

How To Travel Iceland Cheap (From A Guy Who Couldn’t Afford To Go But Did Anyway).

I love Iceland. It’s one of those places you could visit one hundred times and still be awestruck.

It’s a country full of truly wonderful and personable people with a laidback culture to boot. Moreover, the land itself is marked by roaring waterfalls, expansive ice blue glaciers, black sand beaches, and jagged volcanos. On the right night, this is all framed against the backdrop of a glowing and dancing sky.

If that sounds appealing, and I can’t imagine why it wouldn’t, then here’s some advice I’ve learnt from my trips to the Nordic Isle which will hopefully help you keep your trip in your budget.

1. When to go:

Go to Iceland in the ‘off season’. My recommendation would be around January time but anywhere between late September and mid-March will work. Almost everything is cheaper, from flights to excursions. Companies lower the prices in a desperate search for business and you shouldn’t feel bad about taking advantage! Moreover, the allure of the wintry landscape and the added increased likelihood of seeing the Northern Lights in these months arguably makes the off-season more desirable than the on!

2. Travel cheap:

Instead of going straight onto your favourite or usual airline’s website, why don’t you hop across to Skyscanner or KAYAK and use their services to sort through the prices for you? They take flights, both direct and indirect, and sort through them to find you the best possible prices for your journey. Looking right now there is a £200 differential between the most expensive and least expensive flight. Even travelling one day earlier or later than you had originally intended can save you hundreds of pounds so don’t make a stupid error!

3. Eat cheaper:

In a country where I’ve heard horror stories about people paying £50 for a burger and a drink, be smart. Eating one or two meals out at restaurants to try local dishes and experience Icelandic culture might fit within the budget but use Bonus where you can. Bonus is my favourite Icelandic supermarket. It’s affordable by British standards and, at the very least, not horrifically expensive by most other standards. As a point for reference, bread will only set you back around £2 and milk only around £1. These are prices that you shouldn’t turn your nose up at.

Moreover, there are Bonus stores all over Reykjavik so stock up whilst you’re in town. This is especially relevant if you’re camping because grocers across the rest of Iceland are few and far between! Using Bonus was the way I afforded to eat the second time I visited Iceland. Admittedly, the first time I came back home to England a little hungry and you really don’t want to go hungry in Iceland’s often inhospitable climate.

4. Accommodation:

If possible, try and camp! If you plan on renting a car to get around, then this might be a little more convenient. Prices vary depending on when you book, how far in advance you book, and what type of vehicle you want; however, you can get good value on a rental. Just make sure you look for one well before you go. You can try sleeping in the back of your car or bring a tent over with you and pop it up at a campsite. Just bear in mind that Icelandic weather is notoriously unpredictable and having a backup plan if camping becomes undesirable, or virtually impossible, is a must.

Legislation on wild camping in Iceland is regularly updated so keep an eye on it. It is possible to hike to areas out of towns and then pitch up. Just beware that this isn’t allowed everywhere. For my two cents on the issue, I’d rather shell out for a cheap camping pitch or sleep in the car than risk wild camping most of the time. That’s not to say I wouldn’t do it here and there though, particularly if you want to see the northern lights!

Check out www.rent.is for details on where to find campsites and a little more detailed advice on camping. I’ve used it in the past and wouldn’t put it here if it wasn’t useful.

5. Do the free stuff:

If you have rented a car then this is really easy. Go out into the wilderness and find great waterfalls like Gullfoss and Skogafoss, see the waves crashing down on the black sands of Reynisfjara Beach, or visit Glaciers and Lagoons like those at Jokulsarlon for an incredibly dramatic landscape! Moreover, on your travels into nature you might just get the added glimpse of the Northern Lights that every visitor to Iceland craves.

If you’re spending time in Reykjavik then you can’t miss the geothermal pools. Travelling to Blue Lagoon could set you back a pretty penny but the geothermal pools in the city are free and iconic. Enjoy an activity that the locals love and don’t spend a thing.

Also try signing up for Citywalk Reykjavik. It’s a free tour around the city with rave reviews and will get you more advice than I can possibly give on where to go. Book it for your first day and build yourself a plan of everything you want to experience. Then get cracking!

6. Travel together:

You can split just about any costs with friends or loved ones. From travel expenses to food from the shops, split the cost with your mates and share your experience. Just be careful though. People who won’t pay their share or who aren’t just as excited as you about the things you want to see, and do, might kill your buzz!

5 Things to Complete your Experience of the Great Barrier Reef!

This thread of posts is on my bucket list, both the parts of it I have done and those I am yet to do. It has been written to provide consistent content for your perusal (particularly with lockdown at the moment). I hope West’s Bucket Lists will provide some inspiration, perhaps for your future travels, and even a little escapism in these uncertain times. This post is number 6 on West’s Bucket List. Enjoy!

The Great Barrier Reef covers around 350 000km of Australian waters and is the world’s largest living structure. Unfortunately, it is dying, and that is why I fear if I wait much longer, I may not have the opportunity to see it. Rising sea temperatures are changing far too fast for the coral polyps to adapt their ways.

One of the seven natural wonders of the world, the reef is supposed to be a place of unspeakable beauty. In the hope that I may one day get to see it, still thriving, I’ve written this bucket list post a little differently. I’m going to provide you with a short list of possible ways to further your enjoyment if you ever happen to get to see The Great Barrier Reef.

Without further ado, here’s what my friends and family have recommended!

  1. Whitehaven Beach

The best beach in Australia? I think few would disagree. If you like sand, sea, and sky, there is just about nowhere better to spend a few days of your time.

On Whitsunday Island, at the heart of the reef, white pristine sand stretches for miles, bordering the electric blue Pacific Ocean. Oceanside restaurants, like the Marina Tavern, can provide you with food and drink to supplement the experience, but no where’s cheap so maybe consider packing a picnic to bring with you.

As you lie on the silica sand, you may be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of turtles or dolphins in the water but, if not, take a trip out into the surf by boat and seek them out! There’s no shortage of tour possibilities to enhance your day at the beach.

  1. Snorkelling

If you don’t want to strap on a dive tank and dive into the depths of the reef, snorkeling can still provide you with a way to immerse yourself in the subaquatic world.

I actually prefer snorkeling to diving. Don’t get me wrong, diving definitely provides you with a more comprehensive underwater experience. You come far more up close and personal with the reef and its various inhabitants; however, I like to take my time looking at the wildlife and exploring. Snorkeling can give you hours and hours of continuous entertainment where you would have to return to the surface if diving. Moreover, snorkeling gives you added freedom to move in the water, without the hindrance of cumbersome equipment. There is something discernibly natural about that.

Perhaps the most significant reason why you should choose to go snorkeling is that it is considerably cheaper than diving. A mask, snorkel, and perhaps a pair of fins, should set you back less than £50 (unless you plan to buy professional gear) and can provide years of waterborne fun. For the thrifty traveller in me, that is partly why it is one of my absolute favourite activities when I am abroad.

  1. Scuba Diving

Having made a case for snorkeling the reef; scuba diving, to many, will be a preferable choice. It will set you back an absolute minimum of 100 AUD per dive around the reef, but if that doesn’t put you off, there are plenty of reasons to get yourself down towards the sea floor.

From small, striped, and colourful clownfish in their sea anemone huts, to great grey groupers hunting over the sand, there is every type of fish before your very eyes down in this portion of the deep blue. Moreover, corals as far as they eye can see and turtles, reptilian sentinels watching over the reef, complete a composite image of the thriving ecosystem. Apparently, according to the people who have visited, there is no place quite like it.

For an utterly immersive experience down and personal with the reef, get diving.

  1. Mon Repos

Mon Repos is the home of the turtle center. The center itself is a hub dedicated to turtle research and protection, as well as the education of the public.

If you have kids, Mon Repos is a great place to teach them about marine life and conservation. Get yourself out on a night tour to see turtles laying, or hatching, depending upon when you arrive. I’ve seen both phenomena, in Florida and Oman respectively, and its an experience that will truly live long in the memory.

Pricing isn’t too bad but check the Mon Repos website for updates because I can’t guarantee they will stay stable when we get out of lockdown.

  1. Take to the skies

There are lots of different options for tour operates who provide flights over the reef, be it by plane or by helicopter.

If you thought diving under the water offered you a unique perspective, a low flying tour over the reef will offer you one which even fewer people are blessed with. It is an experience that few people consider but, by all accounts, one that is magnificent.

If expense, or your carbon footprint, are on the brain then you might not be inclined to take a flight. For those reasons, it would not be under consideration for me; however, but for both factors, I have heard nothing but good things about such trips.


I hope that I have given you a little inspiration for your trip to Australia, whether you were considering taking one or not. I am positively buzzing about the prospect of lockdown ending in the near future and writing these posts to learn that bit more about the world is just about the only thing keeping me going. I hope they are providing something to you all as well! Happy Lockdown!

Thrifty Travel Tips 1: Sleeper Trains

A few of my friends have a slight problem going travelling with me. They want to shell out big money at fancy restaurants and on expensive experiences. I don’t share that desire. Personally, I find that when I am in a country, city, or region, for a period of time, there is always plenty to keep me busy without breaking the bank. Besides, keeping a little thrifty ensures that I can spend longer in these places and enjoy them that much more!

Admittedly, I find road tripping to be the cheapest way to travel, should you have a car at your disposal. Sure, petrol and insurance do cost a pretty penny, but having the ability to sleep on your back seat or go to a campsite certainly keeps costs low. When I was younger though, I didn’t have the luxury of owning a car. That’s why I took a lot of night trains.

Particularly across Europe, although there are sleeper trains elsewhere, a number of routes allow you to roll accommodation and travel costs into one healthy bundle. I have personally taken routes from Budapest to Prague, Paris to Venice, and London to Fortwilliam. Of course, London to Fortwilliam is a relatively expensive route and you would definitely want to book well in advance; however, a route such as Budapest to Prague can cost as little as £25 and that’s not to be sniffed at.

So, my Fortwilliam example does show that cost is not my only consideration. In fact, most of these journeys were more costly than taking a coach; however, time is money. Taking the train is much quicker and, if you reserve a bed, infinitely more comfortable than coach travel. Knowing that you can lock the door to your sleeper carriage, stash your bags under the bed, and travel reasonably comfortably on rails, can make your night’s sleep fairly pleasant.

When you’re wandering around a European city feeling well rested and with an extra day on your hands, you will be grateful for having compromised on price a tad and taken the train. I am, of course, not doing away with coach travel, and I will write on its benefits in upcoming posts; however, sleeper trains can be a fantastic option for the thrifty traveller!

The Fallout of Dirty Monopoly Tactics

The crew; Andy, Caitlin, Rachel, and I, organised a get together back before Christmas. It was to meet Rach’s new boyfriend. Now I’m not a big one for meeting the new boyfriends in the group. Apparently, I come off a tad protective and I’ve made one or two enemies in the past. Fortunately, Rach promised a home cooked dinner and I had a fair amount of fear I’d miss out, so I went along.

Andy and I rode round to the house, in Forest Row in Sussex. Forest Row is quaint and pretty, but I’d only ever go there to see Rach. It’s not exactly Brighton town on a student night. So, I met Nyasha, Rachel’s new guy, and he was a quality bloke. We got chatting about rugby and mutual acquaintances from Southampton. All in all, dinner went past and the whole group got on like a house on fire.

Then Caitlin and Rachel, seemingly in unison, uttered four words that would put group friendships on ice for a few weeks, “shall we play monopoly?”

I was a tad reticent, unwilling to commit to what I knew would be a disaster. I’m incredibly competitive and board games do not show off my good side. Caitlin, however, was totally insistent and we ended up pulling out the board.

Rachel, Caitlin, and Nyasha all decided to stand alone as players. The scotty dog, the iron, and the top hat. Andy and I though; we’re team players. We took the battleship. The game was going pretty well, and team battleship had accrued a fair amount of property, but we weren’t cash rich. On the other hand, Nyasha, Mr Top Hat himself, didn’t have much property but did have a lot of dough.

Somehow, the battleship managed to land on just about his only property and drained our remaining cash reserves. Rach decided to make a deal with us. She’d cover our bill in exchange for a property. Fortunately, Andy was the banker and, whilst Rachel and I deliberated over terms, he sneakily mortgaged the property in question. Rachel bought the property and realised she’d have to bankrupt herself to use it.

Rachel blew a gasket when she realised and went into a huge sulk. It was only made that much worse when Andy and I landed on one of her properties, but she didn’t notice until we moved off it and burst out laughing. Rach, with a face like thunder, decided to buy a property off Caitlin she thought we needed and, paying over the odds to stop us completing a set, made the deal. Upon the realisation she had confused orange with red, and thus brought the wrong property, Rachel went up another notch.

Andy and I finally compounded her rage when we made a deal with Nyasha. We teamed up our capital with his property and cleared up the board after that. Caitlin was obliterated near instantly on Oxford Street and then Rach, a business magnate until fairly recently, was finally toppled. Her last stand on Mayfair was the final nail in the coffin.

Rach didn’t text us back for a few weeks and I think Andy, Nyasha, and I would all tell you that Monopoly is the perfect way to get the cold shoulder if you’re that way inclined.

4 Things Helping Me Live Life in Lockdown

I understand that lockdown is the bane of just about everyone’s lives at the moment. I have to say though, perhaps counter intuitively, that for me it has been something of a blessing.

Of course, lockdown has not been without its negatives. I am worried about my at risk loved ones. I also worry about my friends who are key workers, particularly one of my closest friends who fears she has contracted the virus as a doctor. All of that is a given; however, I can’t help but find some positives in the situation. There are some distinct glimmers of hope in amongst the madness for me right now.

I read an article by Joe Lycett about a week ago in which he stated that the symptoms of his anxiety have somewhat lessened during lockdown. I feel the same way. Doing my graduate diploma in law this year has been particularly stressful and, coupled with a number of other, slightly graver issues I have been worried about, my mental health has been shaky at best throughout this academic year.

Right now, though, my mental health is the best it’s been since my first year at Durham. I’m finding being at home has taken a weight of my chest. Removing three hours of commuting out of my day has freed up time for me to do some of the activities which help me to pacify a lot of the anxieties I suffer from. Here are the four things that have made lockdown not only bearable, but actually genuinely enjoyable for me.

  1. Spending time with family.

I’ll be the first person to say that this isn’t necessarily a positive for everyone. For me right now though, the past few weeks have been a great opportunity to reconnect with my grandparents.

I now pick up food for my grandparents regularly because they just can’t risk it themselves. This gets me out of the house and gives me the pleasure of spending time chatting to them when I drop off the food, from a fair distance away of course. I have to say, to my shame, that I neglected to visit my grandparents as much as I should have before lockdown and, right now, I’m relishing the chance to spend a little time doing something for them. Helping out my grandparents also intersects with another slither of advice which everyone is embracing at the moment; help out those in your community who are most in need. I’m not a Christian personally but, at the moment, I truly believe ‘love thy neighbour’ has never been more important than it is right now.

If you have an opportunity to reconnect or spend a little more time with the people you care about, without breaking the rules that protect everyone, I can’t recommend it enough!

  1. Getting in the exercise.

I came out of Christmas carrying a little bit of weight and, with exams and work giving me little time to myself, I found that there was no easy way to get my body and fitness levels to where I wanted to be.

Lockdown has given me just that opportunity. I bought a cheap exercise bike, pull up bar, and weights online, and have now gone absolutely fitness crazy. As Joe Rogan has said in his podcasts with Jocko Willink, nothing puts your mind at ease like getting over some struggle. Challenging myself physically again gives me my daily dopamine hit and makes home feel less like a prison, and more like my personal gym. Its a bear pit where I come out of every day that little bit tougher than the last.

My target of 1000 pushups every other day might seem a little absurd to some people, but now that I can do it, I really feel like the time at home has made me that much fitter and healthier. That’s something that, going forward, I want to keep improving upon because keeping fit always gives my mental health a little shot of positivity that I can do what I put my mind to!

  1. Doing something creative.

In my free time I had been pondering writing a novel for a while. Of course, with my still having to do university work, I don’t have all day to exercise and do the creative stuff, but sometimes I do manage both.

So, I’ve started writing a fictional novel; experimenting with it in just about every way I can twist my frankly limited literary skills. Simultaneously, my sister has continued to produce her fantastic drawings. We both believe strongly that there is something inherently therapeutic about letting your mind run wild with creativity. I suppose there’s nothing revolutionary about that sentiment at all but, right now, I truly understand why.

Getting lost in my thoughts and creating chapter after chapter I am genuinely proud of, is a great way to spend an hour here and there. I can’t recommend doing something creative enough, whether its writing, painting, sewing, or something else entirely. 

  1. Planning something for the future.

Get you some hope! I have to say, when I don’t have something to look forward to, I often get bogged down in an underwhelming routine I inevitably create for myself.

Think of something fun to do tomorrow, next week, next month, or even next year, to give you a little bit of excitement today. Right now, I am very strapped for cash; a situation which furlough hasn’t helped at all. That’s why I’ve been applying for jobs abroad and also planning some road trips for that second Boris Johnson tells us lockdown and social distancing are over. Applying for jobs abroad will give me the opportunity to travel whilst hopefully replenishing the overdraft a tad. Moreover, road trips are just about the cheapest way I know how to travel. The thought of getting back on the road with a few mates, come the end of Summer, is just about the best way I know to get myself hyped for next month I’ll likely spend looking sullenly out of my bedroom window.