Phobias – Overcoming fear for freedom!

For as long as I can remember I’ve had a phobia of water. Well large expanses of water that is. I mean I can drink the stuff and have a shower without freaking out, but anything bigger than that and I’m scared shitless.

Having just looked up the word for fear of water, aquaphobia, I’m actually a little disappointed that it isn’t more difficult to say and is not as interesting as I’d hoped. Due to this phobia I had never learnt to swim, which actually just made the fear worse. I thought that if  I did get in water I was just going to sink and die.

Kel near water

This is about as close as I could venture to water without becoming terror stricken

I call it a phobia as opposed to a fear because it’s more than a simple fear. I’d organise my life around avoiding water. Even the thought of coming into contact with water made me anxious and caused me to break out into a big sweaty panic. On one occasion I was riding a bike and the route took us past a canal. Instead of cycling on like any normal person would, I had to get off and walk because I thought the wind might blow me in.

In Khoa Sok National Park, Thailand, we could use kayaks to go off and explore the beautiful calm lake we were staying next to. Just for me to actually get in the kayak Rob had to use his entire body as a bridge for me to climb over! I finally managed this after about an hour of panicking and trying to hold back the tears. Thankfully Rob is a patient person, but to save on the trauma of getting me back out of the kayak he dragged me about 10 metres onto land just to be sure there was no repeat when I disembarked.

Kel Kayak

Finally in the kayak after an hour of fear and tears!

I hated what the phobia had caused me to become and detested how it prevented me from doing so many fun, simple things.

Through my work as a psychologist I have met many people with phobias, so I know they can be successfully treated and cured with desensitisation and exposure to the fear. Which basically meant I had to man up and face it head on! But knowing this is one thing, overcoming it is another.

Scary bridge

Health and safety? To me this is scarier than anything Indiana Jones faced…

The kayak incident in Thailand was the last straw. I missed out on so much during that holiday I decided something had to be done. When I got back to Scotland I booked myself some 1:1 swimming lessons with Mandian Swimming School. Within a week I had the time and date of my first lesson.

The first trauma to face was buying a swimming costume. I soon came to the conclusion that none of them were flattering and perhaps buying a costume was what I had been avoiding all along???!

No words have been invented to describe how anxious I was driving to the lesson. When I arrived at the swimming pool everything about it scared me; the noise, the smell and all that water. But I’d come this far and I’m not a quitter.

At the start of my lesson Ian, my teacher, asked me to get in the pool, to which I politely declined his offer. So we sat on the side looking at the water. My whole body was shaking and tears welled in my eyes. I didn’t even get in the pool on that first day, I was almost paralysed with fear. The poor guy must have wondered what he’d left himself in for. But the next week I went back, and the week after that and soon the weeks became months.

This was 17 months ago and in that time progress has been slow, sometimes even going in reverse but I’ve stuck with it. Then 6 weeks ago I had a breakthrough! I finally let go, trusting myself in the water and for the first time in my life I swam! ON MY OWN!!

I am now a swimmer! I’m still learning the technique and strokes, but I know that when I get to Mexico I’ll be able to swim in the sea for the very first time in my life. I can’t wait!

Khao Sok

I can now appreciate the scenery rather than thinking I’m going to drown and die…

From my ordeal I have realised that being scared is ok, but ultimately facing your fears or phobias makes you a stronger person. I’m proud to know that I have conquered my aquaphobia. It took a long time and lot of hard work but I’ve done it.

I think it’s the same determination that makes travelling possible for me and confirms that you can do anything when you put your mind to it. Even quitting your job, selling everything you own and disappearing into a life unknown. Life may be scary sometimes but at least it’s exciting! Don’t let fear hold you back.

New York In Photos

I know this is a little off subject, but we visited New York 2 years ago. It was an unbelievable surprise 30th birthday gift from Kellie. I had wanted to go for years and it didn’t disappoint. Here is our New York story in photos…

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Exploring Scotland

Scotland is amazing! I tell no lies! Before I moved to this bonnie land my knowledge of the place was shamefully almost none existent.

I did know it was home to the Proclaimers, Iron Bru and deep-fried Mars bars. These are all brilliant things, which Scotland should be extremely proud of. But I have discovered there is much more to this country than bespectacled pop stars and heart attack inducing snacks. There are the Krankies for a start!

I would happily end the blog post there, feeling I had done an excellent job in promoting the wonders of Scotland, but I probably should go on for all of you Krankie haters out there. Shame on you. (Sorry if you have never heard of the Krankies… You should really stop reading this blog and find out more about this slightly disturbing comedy duo from the 80s).

I feel privileged to live in such a beautiful country with its breath-taking scenery and friendly people. There are so many places to explore. You can be from mountain to seashore within an hour and the scenery change is dramatic.

Sunset

So here are my reasons why Scotland is the dog’s knick knacks:

Time travel

Ok, this probably sounds a bit more dramatic than it should. I don’t own a Delorean or a hot tub time machine…

It’s more of a feeling that we have stepped back in time. The pace of life is a lot slower and the community spirit is much stronger. You still feel safe leaving your door unlocked.  It’s like the good old days that your dear nana fondly talks of.

Egg honesty boxes are a common sight in Scotland. Freshly laid free range eggs are left out in boxes by the side of country roads, people take the eggs they need and leave the required money.  There is no fear of houses being egged or the money being stolen by unruly youths. It’s a simple system, but a heart warming one. It shows trust in people and complete strangers…

Undiscovered places

You can walk for miles in the stunning hills of the west coast and never encounter another human being. You can have an entire sandy beach to yourself with clear blue seas to dip your toes in. Granted your toes may quickly freeze and drop off but that’s not the point.  It’s almost like you are the first one to discover the area. There is a real wilderness to the experience and you feel like a true explorer.

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Sandend

The right to roam rule in Scotland allows you to camp pretty much anywhere, as long as you do so responsibly. We have taken advantage of this on many occasions, waking up at the side of a magnificent loch or camping at the foot of a spectacular mountain.

When Kellie first visited me in Scotland she was a city girl through and through (See – Our big travel plan). But I think one experience changed that…

We decided to wild camp on Sunnyside beach. The name says it all. It’s a beautiful sandy beach cove cut into the jagged rocky shore of Scotland’s North coast.

We had the beach to ourselves. The campfire was keeping us toasty warm and the sun was setting in the amber sky.  Just as the sun was about to disappear over the horizon, 6 dolphins leaped high out of the sea! It was a perfect moment. Then we settled down for the evening in our tent, with our MacBook and watched Jack Bauer kick the shit out of evil terrorists in ‘24’. Again, perfect evening!

Camp fire

The local lingo

Another thing I love about the part Scotland we live in is the local ‘Doric’ dialect. I’ve had many moments of utter confusion in conversations. My favourite was ‘Ken’s furry boots’. Whilst chatting to a local man about the weather he randomly mentioned Ken’s furry boots mid flow. I was bemused! Who was this chap Ken? Why did I need to know about his choice of footwear?! Maybe he wore them in cold weather.

I asked him why he mentioned ‘Ken’s furry boots’. He looked at me like a simpleton and quickly ended the conversation.

Much later I discovered what the man had actually said. Here’s a translation:

Ken = know

Furry boots = whereabouts

Ken furry boots = Do you know whereabouts?

Other great words/phrases I’ve discovered:

‘Blowin a hoolie’ – it’s really windy

‘Fit like?’ – Are you ok?

‘Dreich’ – a mixture of rain, wind, cold miserable weather.

‘It’s awful dreich today’

The words just seem so much more descriptive here!

The Wildlife

The reason I am working here in Scotland is the incredible wildlife. There are dolphins, whales, eagles, pine martins, wild cats, ospreys…  and erm badgers…

I work at the Scottish Dolphin Centre, which is based right at the mouth of the River Spey next to a nature reserve. I am very lucky that each day I come to work I get to see many incredible sights.

In the spring and summer dolphins are seen almost everyday leaping high out of the sea whilst chasing fish; along with seals, otters, ospreys and much more. Then in the winter huge skeins (flocks) of geese fly noisily overhead.  Plus we get to look out into the North Sea, which one minute is flat calm and mirror like, and the next is a raging boiling torrent. It’s constantly changing and always an incredible view.

On a slightly sicker note there is also a huge amount of dead animals along the roadside.  We use this to enhance any long car journey by playing ‘first to spot the dead mushy stuff’. Be the first to shout ‘DEAD!’ when you spot it. I am aware we might be alone in this game.


Sunnyside Beach

Ok, so Eddie the chocolate labrador isn’t technically wildlife, but he is cool!

Why are we off then?

As I keep harping on about how amazing Scotland is you may be wondering why we are buggering off to the other side of the world…

I really admire how proud the Scottish are of their language, culture and heritage. But moving here and setting up home has made us realise how easy it can be to uproot your life and start again somewhere else. There are so many places to explore we just don’t want to miss out. Scotland has given us the confidence to follow our dreams and the passion to keep on exploring.

Who knows maybe one day we will return to this beautiful and welcoming place.

Leith Hall woodland walk

Our big travel plan! (So far…)

I honestly can’t remember when we hatched our big travel plan. What I do know is that Rob and I have a huge desire to travel. This desire has been fuelled by our previous adventures, when we travelled separately around Australia, New Zealand and Thailand. (See – The Moment That Changed My Life)

When I first met Rob back in 2010 he had not long since returned from his travels and was still full of excitement from the experience. I on the other hand had just finished a 3 year doctorate and had barely left the house for a year, let alone thought about travelling again.

However, meeting Rob changed my life in many ways. On only our second date Rob revealed that he was moving to Scotland in 4 weeks to help save dolphins. To be honest at the time I didn’t even know there were dolphins in Scotland! Plus this was far from ideal as I was living 7 hours away in Manchester. One friend suggested that this nice bloke who I had just met was probably leading a double life with a wife and kids already in Scotland.

Thankfully my friend was wrong, Scottish dolphins do exist and Rob was single. To cut a long story short 15 months later I was packing my bags, and a huge van, with all my belongings ready for a new life in Scotland.

Dolphin

Dolphin evidence

I moved up at the beginning of July 2011. This is supposed to be summer time, but in Scotland it appeared to be monsoon season. So come October we had booked a holiday to sunny Thailand. Now I can’t be sure, but I think it was on this trip that we realised we both missed travelling and the freedom it offered.  It was pure bliss. We spent 3 weeks seeing new places, meeting new people and most importantly eating vast amounts of tasty Thai food! (Lets ignore the fact I spent a couple of days of the holiday in bed with food poisoning and looked like a ghost…)

Thai Flag

Relaxing and taking in the stunning view

Thailand rain

The Thai food made up for a spot of rain

Itchy feet

Itchy travelling feet (sorry, that wasn’t meant to sound that disgusting)

When we got back home we were all consumed by talk of travel. We quickly decided it was the dream life for us and needed to make it a reality. The travel baby had been born! We chose the rather vague destination of Central and South America. Now all we have to do is raise the funds. Luckily Rob is a dab hand with a spreadsheet after his unsuited former career as an accountant, and we have started putting the plan into action…

The plan involves 3 simple steps:

1) pay off all our debts.

2) sell everything we own.

3) save enough money to travel Central and South America.

In 8 months time we will be leaving our jobs, friends and family, all to travel for as long as we possibly can. It could be a year it could be two, who knows it could be the rest of our lives. This may sound scary or crazy, but for us it’s neither of these. It just seems natural and exciting. We are ready to leave the safety of our jobs and home to experience new challenges and adventures. Travelling is not an option it’s a necessity. We actually find the thought of buying a house and living in one place unbelievably frightening. Facing the unknown in South America seems far easier. We will miss our friends and family, but we know they support us in our dream, which is hugely important to both of us.

Although our plans are a bit sketchy, we aren’t going to sit on a beach for a year drinking mojitos. We would quickly become bored out of our tiny little minds if we did this. We are going to do our best to learn Spanish to help enhance our trip. This will hopefully be more useful than my high school German, which basically consists of me being able to announce that I play table tennis (I don’t by the way, so this is completely useless). Volunteering in a worthy project is also high on our agenda, as is house sitting. The most important thing for us is to travel slowly and have loose plans so we can take up any unexpected opportunities.

When we started planning our trip we discovered we were far from alone in our decision to disappear with nothing more than the contents of our backpacks. We’ve been inspired by a whole world of travel bloggers who are doing exactly that right now, including; So Many Places and Bridges and Balloons.

So much so we have decided to start Hungry Escapades, a blog to share our passion for travelling, photography and food with anyone who cares to listen. If you enjoy it, please feel free to share it to help spread the word of Hungry Escapades.

It will be a way for our friends and family to keep in touch, sharing the good times and the bad, and hopefully a place for fellow travels to pick up tips and exchange stories just as we have.

It’s also a great personal way to record our adventure. This will be particularly useful for Rob who has a self-confessed memory of a fish, either forgetting things ever happened or connecting two different events to come up with a whole new reality. The film ‘Memento’ is a good comparison.

We are extremely excited and hope you will join us on our journey and share your thoughts, experiences and advice as we go.

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The moment that changed my life

It all began for me 6 years ago. Wait a minute, that makes me sound like a small child who has someone how managed to raise enough funds to travel the world whilst simultaneously building a blog.  In actual fact life began 26 years earlier when mother said that I popped out with very little fuss whilst she was reading the latest copy of ‘My Weekly’. This image is far too disturbing to linger on so I shall fast-forward 26 years to when my travel journey began and life as I knew it completely changed course.

I was a bored, rubbish trainee accountant with a very stable and safe life, a safe car, a safe  house, and a safe girlfriend. Yes indeed, it was all very safe but painfully dull. I was stuck in a rut with no idea how to get out. In stepped my best friend Ted…

ted

 Ted, who looks like a big cuddly bear (hence his name) and is a 6ft 4 bumbling machine, unwittingly changed my life. He bought me a book called “Yes Man” for my 26th birthday. In short, the book is about Danny Wallace, a man who is also stuck in a rut, but after a chance encounter with a stranger on a bus he decides to say yes to every single offer and opportunity he comes across.

It’s a truly inspiring, funny and heart warming journey, as a world of opportunity and adventure opens up in font of him, all because of one simple word… YES! The book made me realise that even the smallest moments can change your life and it was up me to make the most of every single second. I started saying yes to all those things that I had previously ignored or been scared to do in my safe little accountant life.

So I took on the Yes Man mantra, I said yes to change. I sold my house, quit the job that was making me miserable, said farewell to my nice but incompatible girlfriend and grew a beard! Now I do realise that just makes me sound like a homeless bearded person, which on the whole isn’t very inspiring and is a fairly frequent sight in the UK.

My story didn’t end there though, with the funds I raised from my house sale I booked a one-way ticket to New Zealand, via Thailand, Australia, and India, and so my first travelling adventure began! I realised that once you started saying yes to things, it became easier. I was no longer scared of the unknown, I felt free!

Me beach

Rob Fraser IslandTaj Mahal Balck and White

Go to India - lose weight!

 Whilst on my big adventure I experienced a life I had never known before, meeting new people and seeing new places all of which shaped my future and helped to broadened my mind.

There are many stand out moments, but one elderly gentleman I met whilst working on a fruit and veg stall on a beach in New Zealand sticks in my memory. I spoke to him briefly of my travels as he chose his fresh fruit; he too had travelled the world and shared a few of his stories. Just as he left he summed up the whole of my experience in a few words, “travelling is the finishing school of life”.

 

fruity business

For me never a truer word had been said; in 18 months of travelling I had learned more about others and myself than I did in my previous 26 years. Ranging from major life changing experiences to smaller realisations such as, if I don’t eat regularly I turn into the incredible hulk.

As I save for the next escapade I know all the hard work will be worth it. When I step on that big plane to Mexico the adventure will begin again. One moment it will be fun, the next it will challenge me more then I ever imagined possible. I will keep on learning as I go, embracing every opportunity I come across, knowing that it’s all thanks to the small moment when my best friend bought me a book which changed my life.

I love hearing other people’s life changing moments. What inspired you to travel?