Just a day in Bali Paradise…

Just a day in Bali Paradise…

I checked out of the swanky Sanur hotel and I heard a voice shout my name. It was Made (pronounced Mah-day). He was sitting in the lobby and stubbed out his cigarette and smiled at me. Something about his smile was so comforting. He was the kind of character that within minutes of his company I felt like I had known him my whole life, very familiar with kind eyes. He dressed casually in a t-shirt and jeans but still had an air of being presentable. He appeared to be in his 40s but I later learned he is only in his early 30s – perhaps life had trodden him down a little. I had met him prior to today as he is the Nephew of an old Balinese friend and he offered reliable transport. Today was different; today Made’s eyes were full of concern. It turned out his Father had a stroke and he needed to get him to the hospital urgently. I asked him why he didn’t cancel picking me up as I would have been happy to get a taxi. He looked stunned and quickly responded, “Nooo!” I also asked him why his father could not get an ambulance. Made told me that ambulances are not sent for ‘trivial’ things like strokes! Being an ambulance clinician myself in England, this really stunned me. A stroke is serious and is treated as a time critical incident in England, yet here in this Balinese paradise, over-swarmed by western tourists to the point that you could be in Sydney, an ambulance was saved for something more serious!! This highlighted even more how the healthcare service in England is abused by so many!! But also, how in the developing world, the idea of turning down paid work to take your urgently sick parent to hospital is impossible. My heart broke a little for Made.

I arrived back to the cosy hotel in Kuta that I have stayed in many times before over the past 7 years. The local shop owners recognise me. One in particular, a young lady called Putu always recognised me, even when I return pasty and white some years later. “Lou!” She shouts as I walk past her shop. Putu was always smiling, come rain or shine. She invited me into the back of her shop where a small child was screaming on a small dirty mattress. I joined Putu on the mattress and she explained to me that Olivia (her daughter; one of four!) was upset because their family friend had left to return to Australia. Putu went on to tell me how blessed and happy she was. I looked around the small cramped room that she lived in with a small mattress to share with four small children and I felt a pang of guilt. Putu was grateful and happy to have her shop and a roof over their heads. I couldn’t help but retrace the thoughts I have had over the past 2 years and all the difficulties I have faced which one would consider ‘first world problems’ and yet here was Putu who had next to nothing but she was so happy and always smiling. It really put things into perspective for me.

Soon after, I left Putu’s shop feeling a little dazed and strolled through the humid heat around the buzzing lanes of Kuta. I found a tailor shop filled with hard working local men working on sewing machines. I am a keen sewist and asked if I could watch them for a while. Within no time they had me working on a machine, for fun of course. However, the thick humid heat swelled in the room with a small dusty fan which may as well have not been there. Whilst I struggled to concentrate and work in that heat with sweat pouring from my entire body, the employees mostly had their shirts off and a cigarette hanging loosely from their lips, casually working away, cutting fabric, ironing, overlocking. I admired them so much. Naturally being a western white woman, lots of tourists walked past and giggled at the sight of me working in this shop filled with Indonesian men, but I didn’t mind. I actually got a glimpse of an insight into what life is like working in poverty-stricken Asia and I noticed that they don’t take ‘days off’, they will work 80 hours a week without a complaint if it pays the bills. This again gave me perspective on my life. Yes, my job is challenging, but I DO have days off and down time to put my feet up. I doubt very many do in Indonesia and similar countries. I stayed in the shop for several hours and found a new sympathy for the local businesses “harassing” tourists for business. Seeing things from the other side softened my heart.

I had been reading a book about he Bali bombings (The Paradise Guesthouse, Ellen Sussman – highly recommended) and felt an overpowering need to visit the memorial site. The book had made the incident feel so real to me, all those who lost their lives. I was pulled to the location of the bombings and stood for a while, staring at the plaque listing the full names of all those who lost their lives on that tragic day. For some reason, I couldn’t walk away until I had read the full names of all 202 people who passed away and tried to imagine a little something about their lives, be it local Indonesians or Portuguese solo travellers.

The rain started beating down, harsher than a power shower and I slinked off into the shelter of a local pub for a beer. What a day it had been! A real eye opener. It’s days like these that keep my desire to travel burning forever.

I later found out that Made’s father was treated for his stroke and is on the road to recovery, much to my happiness and relief!

Cuddle Your Globe

Jan 2017

The stranger in a pub and his advice…

The stranger in a pub and his advice…

I love it when you meet a complete stranger and they say something to you…. A simple sentence that just falls from their lips like an old apple from a limp tree branch. But THAT sentence will stay with you forever. The stranger has no idea that their blaze alcohol fuelled babble with give you a piece of advice that will change your life forever.

I was sat in a bar one summers afternoon with a friend and we began chatting to a man who had flown back into the UK from Japan where he has been living for several years, teaching English. Due to our mutual love of exploring the other continents, the conversation drew in towards my favourite subject… ‘Travel’

At this point, I had never travelled alone before and was toying with the idea of booking a long haul solo trip to Asia and Australia for a few months. But! I was in a long term relationship. One that I thought was very happy at the time. I didn’t want to leave him for several months and I discussed this with the stranger.

What he said to me changed my life.

“In five years time, which will you regret more? Not going travelling or risking the relationship?”

Sure enough, five years have passed since that comment. I went travelling. The relationship didn’t last, and I can honestly look back with no regrets because I found my passion in life and I found myself. 

 

The Time I almost Died, White Water Rafting

‘Do one thing every day that scares you!!!’ They said.

I’ve spent my entire life being pretty tame. I once even cried the whole way down an abseiling wall. I’d always liked my feet safely on dry land… Until I travelled. Travel pushes you to your limits. So, whilst in Bali I decided to push the boat out and try white water rafting.

Our guide, a slim, young Indonesian man gave us a quick briefing and explained that when he shouts ‘boom’ we need to duck to avoid fallen trees etc. I recall him saying that if we fall in the water it was ‘bye-bye’, and then he laughed. This didn’t exactly fill me with confidence.

He helped me into the boat with my friend and two Australian teenage boys. They were half my age and lived on the opposite side of the world. In every-day life, we would have absolutely nothing in common. Yet in this hour, smashing through the speeding waters in the jungle, they would become my family.

The start of the rafting was gentle, our boat softly pondering through the waters. Giant, powerful cliffs surrounded us and there would be the occasional family sitting on the banks, farming or making clothes. I could hear rattle snakes and cheerful bird songs. Then things started to speed up…

We each had an oar to help row, but naturally were using it to splash as much water as possible at the passing tourists. The world passed by quickly, my eyes were struggling to keep focus on danger, whilst trying to spot potential water-fight warfare. The rocky, green cliffs were whizzing past me in a hot blur. I believe this is where the ‘fight or flight’ syndrome kicked in… Adrenaline started pulsating around my body. My clothes were soaking wet, my finger nail bent right back and I bumped my helmet-covered head on a rock-wall. All the while, I felt no pain.

A collection of boats had gathered, stuck at the top of a small waterfall in the direction we were headed. Our pathway was blocked except for a large rock protruding from the centre of the waters. We ricocheted from several boats and at high speed slid up the rock and became wedged. Before I even knew what was happening, I felt myself in mid-air, violently flung from my boat. I was face up, watching the sky distance itself from me, aware that beneath my body was a sheer drop into harsh, rocky waters. I wasn’t afraid or worried, I guess it all happened too quickly for anything resembling emotion to settle in me.

In that second, the guide (who was half my size) grabbed onto the shoulder of my life-vest and a large chunk of my hair and pulled me effortlessly back into the boat. He actually saved my life. I couldn’t stop laughing and hugging him.

On my next visit to Bali, what was the first thing I did? Booked myself onto a white water rafting session.

How To Arrange Your Holiday Visa to Anywhere

Many destinations now require a visa for entry, even as a tourist.

This blog will help you regardless of you nationality and destination.

I am not going to list every country and every nationality link that requires a visa because frankly, I don’t have the time or space on my blog. What I can share with you should save you a lot of time and money.

Whatever your nationality and wherever you are travelling to, you can quickly and easily check your visa requirements by looking on the embassy website.

NOW, bare in mind that there will be hundreds of companies posing as the official visa website, always click on the link to the website with the word ’embassy’ in it.

For example;

http://www.chinese-embassy.org.uk

There will be step by step instructions on how to apply for a visa and all the fees. Other companies will offer to process your visa for you, but you will often pay more than 100% mark up for the Priveledge. Yes it’s fiddly and time consuming to do it yourself, but it is straight forward and will save you lots of cash. If you are worried about making a mistake, either get a friend to help you, or most embassies themselves will charge a smaller fee to check it and allow and reapply if you have made an error.

To test the theory, I am a British Citizen and I looked at the cost of a tourist visa to China. It’s £85. The first of these so-called official visa companies I looked at that was not the official embassy website was charging £171 for exactly the same visa! I’m not trying to put these companies out of business because if you can afford to pay extra and don’t have the time or energy to do it yourself then I guess it’s worth paying the extra, but at least shop around a bit.

Some countries off the top of my head that will almost certainly require a visa for tourist entry are;

China

USA

Australia

Vietnam 

India

Again, this will all depend on what passport you are travelling on.

This doesn’t apply with ‘visa on arrival’ which is common in countries like Egypt and Indonesia which is basically just a tourist entry fee and is done, on arrival, like it says on the tin.

I hope this helps you and saves you from being ripped off.

You are ABLE to Travel, Disabled.

You are ABLE to Travel, Disabled.

*warning* material in this article may upset readers.

Did you realise that there are over 11 million people in the UK living with a severe dibilitating illness or disability (estimates of 6% of children, 16% of working age adults and 45% of 65+) that’s over 17% of our population.

In the UK, we are very fortunate that most medical conditions are recognised and we generally get the support we need. It’s not uncommon in developing countries for disabled or impaired individuals to be seen as having drawn the short straw and have no alternative but to resort to a desolate life of begging on the streets for food.

  
How does a disability affect travel? There are many factors to take into account.

  • Will I be able to get travel insurance?
  • Will there be amenities to suit my requirements?
  • Will the different climate affect me?
  • Will flying be stressful / possible?

Travel insurance can be tricky if you have extensive pre-existing medical conditions and will take a little time to research the best policy for yourself. Most policies will insure everybody but simply exclude cover for any existing illness. Other policies will allow you to add on cover for certain illnesses, for an additional premium. There are also companies that specialise in these areas and / or elderly travellers. Please do not be simply discouraged from travel altogether because of this, rest assured with a little research, you will get there in the end.

Any reputable UK tour operator will have a selection of wheelchair friendly properties. When you call with your requirements, please be patient! When I worked as a travel agent I recall a client becoming irate on the phone because I wasn’t able to produce an immediate selection of suitable hotels for him and his requirements and he accused our company of discrimination. The travel industry is very broad and it can take time to liaise with hotels / resorts to ensure that what is offered is definitely suitable. Villa companies usually will have ‘wheelchair friendly’ properties with wheel-in / walk-in wet rooms, wider doorways and handlebars.

In the UK, we are mostly graced with miserable, cold and wet weather. The good news here is that warmer climates can actually help certain medical conditions. Heat therapy (or thermotherapy) can improve muscle pain, chronic pain or stress, amongst others. So get your sun cream out and enjoy!

Flying long haul can be stressful for everybody. If you are elderly or have difficulty in walking long distances but are not in a wheelchair, the prospect of battling the airport alone can be terrifying. At the check in desk you can request a buggy to take you to the gate for your flight. If you are immobile, you should advise your airline or travel agent prior to departure and they can arrange boarding assistance for you. Wheelchair users normally receive priority boarding to ensure you are comfortable prior to the flocks of other passengers boarding. If you have a life threatening allergy, you should also advise your airline prior to travel. I have known instances in the past where the airline has banned all nut products from the entire aircraft because one passenger had a severe allergy.

I am one of the 11 million people to suffer with a disability. I have chronic fatigue syndrome and fibro myalgia and can empathise with others who find travel difficult but do not want to miss out on these fabulous joys in life. 

If you have any queries, please feel free to email me and I will try my very best to help you;

Info@cuddleyourglobe.com
References

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/disability-facts-and-figures/disability-facts-and-figures

https://www.painscience.com/articles/ice-heat-confusion.php

Can you spot what is wrong here?

Can you spot what is wrong here?

  
Have you ever wandered how a 14,000 pound rolls Royce engine gets transported to other countries?

Qantas demonstrates here in a recent flight from Sydney to Johannesburg where another aircraft suffered mechanical faults and required a replacement engine. This giant Boeing 747 saved the day…. By strapping an extra engine to its left wing!!!! 

The engine was non operational during flight and the flight nipped to Perth WA en route to refuel due to the extra weight and drag caused.

A passenger on the flight snapped this photo…

  
Still, I’m not sure how comfortable I would be with that much uneven weight! Would you get on that plane?

Does love exist when a plane ticket does…?

Does love exist when a plane ticket does…?

  
It can take a huge amount of courage to commit to going travelling, either alone or with a companion. There is usually a catalyst to boost somebody to swallow whatever has been holding them back from booking their ticket to just go, be it a relationship break up, loss of job or another big change to shake things up a bit.

It’s very normal to plan to go travelling in advance to give ourselves chance to “plan” and save up some pennies. People I know have booked their flights at least 6-9 months prior to departure. So why is it that every, single time, we always meet what seems to be our perfect partner within this waiting period?! It has happened to everybody I know who has gone off backpacking.

My friend Jess met a boy who she was totally smitten with. They were the perfect couple, always laughing and so in love with each other. From day one he had warned her that he was planning to emigrate to Australia in a year and even though she said it was fine, deep down she had always hoped he would change his mind and stay at home to be with her. He didn’t. In fact, when it came to him booking his flight ticket, he made it clear he wanted to go alone. Neither of them wanted to end the relationship so they tried long distance for a while. After two months of him leaving, the relationship began to die and they ended it.

A man I know called Christopher who is Australian spent months planning a detailed itinerary to travel around Europe for a year, visiting every town and city he could fit in. He had saved up for over a year for this trip! He had some relatives living in London and as it was his first port of call, he decided to email them before and stay with them for a couple of nights. They threw a huge party and one of his relatives invited a female friend who he clicked with so much so that he decided to stay in London and not travel to any of the places in Europe he was planning to visit. This was 7 years ago and they are now married with children. 

Then there was my friend Becky. She had been single for about a year when she decided to take the plunge and go travelling by herself in South America. She planned it all months beforehand and was so excited. About a month before she was due to depart… She fell in love. He was her perfect man and they decided to stay together in spite of her travels. They didn’t know each other very well and it was very testing to their relationship being so far apart when their love was so young. Months later, she returned home, they moved in together and to this day they are still in love. 

So… Maybe all I need to do to find my perfect man is book a plane ticket?!