Top 5 Reasons Why I love Camping!

Thinking of going camping? You should do it! I used to be a city girl through and through, but now I can’t get enough of packing up our tent, hitting the road and heading off to a beautiful destination. There are so many brilliant things I love about camping! Here are my top 5:

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Can’t beat a good cup of tea when camping!

1. It’s the simple life

Camping makes me realise the things I need to exist and be happy are actually very simple.

Shelter

In our case we have ‘Aggie’ the tent. We bought her last year for a camping holiday in France. She was given this name as no matter what how we put her up she is always a bit saggy. She provides us with adequate space for sleeping and storage and is even big enough for me to stand up in (sometimes being small has it’s advantages).

Food

We have a brilliant 2 ring camping stove with a grill, so we can pretty much cook anything we’d normally cook at home.

Bed

To be honest this is far from simple and usually consists of an air bed, double sleeping bag, duvet and pillows, but everyone is allowed a bit of comfort aren’t they?

I really enjoy just having the things I need around me. In some ways it’s similar to travelling, with all my belongings packed into one backpack. It feels so liberating!

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2. Peace

Camping is just so quiet and peaceful. As I sit here in our back garden typing this, I can hear birds tweeting but this is over powered by the noise of cars and lorries driving along the road adjacent to our house. When you’re camping it’s the sounds of nature that become the soundtrack to your day. (Well that is unless you spend a bank holiday weekend in the Lake District in an over crowded camp site where the tent next to you has a 3 hour domestic argument in the middle of the night, which is only really fit for the Jeremy Kyle Show or Jerry Springer – this did happen). In our most recent trip we were treated to a rather chatty owl to send us off to sleep each evening and awoken the following morning by a beautiful dawn chorus. Bliss!

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3. The day revolves around food

Rob and I are big foodies; even whilst we are in the middle of eating a meal we will often be planning the next one. When camping our day revolves around food even more than normal, which is great! It just takes a bit longer to do everything when your home is a tent, so food planning, preparing and eating takes up a larger proportion of the day. But, to be honest we’re at our happiest when we’re talking about, buying, preparing or eating food. Camping gives us licence to do this more than usual.

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4. Wherever we camp it’s a beautiful place

We’re really lucky to live in a beautiful part of Scotland, so we don’t have to go far to be surrounded by stunning scenery, dramatic mountains and crystal clear lakes. Our recent trip took us to Glen Affric, which ticks all the boxes above. The destination was more chance than planning, picked at random from a quick Google search. It’s one of Scotland 50 Nature Reserves, about 30 miles from Inverness (the nearest major city) and is a scenic paradise for hikers, campers and day trippers. We stayed in the nearby village of Cannich, which put us about 10 miles from the reserve, and we could explore to our hearts content. We have also camped our way across France; food, scenery and sun! Need I say more…

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Pretty Scotland

5. Disconnected

I quite like being disconnected from the outside world, no television, no phone, no Wi-Fi. Although on our last trip Rob somehow managed to find Wi-Fi in the middle of a field. There is something quite nice about being in the moment with your fellow camper and not being distracted by the outside world. Rob and I are both guilty of spending a day at work and then coming home and spending a few hours on the computer or just watching mind numbing television and passing a few words between us. Forced disconnection from the distractions of everyday life means we get time to reconnect with each other, talking, listening, laughing and planning for our future adventures together.

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Yes I love camping, but lets not mess around there are times when it’s near hell on earth.

 3 things I hate about camping

  1. Being hung-over

    In a hot tent this isn’t fun. A cool breeze would be good, but the slightest movement to open the flap to let some much needed air in could result in your head cracking open and also increases the likelihood of vomiting. Thankfully I seem to have left the partying festival days behind me

  2. Proximity to a toilet

    Too close and all you can smell is other people’s shit, too far and the convenience of a convenience is taken away. Last year whilst away for a friend’s birthday I discovered being too far away from the toilet block was somewhat of a disadvantage. Shortly after retiring to bed there was a rumble in the stomach and getting to the toilet became a priority. After my third trek to the toilet I gave up, grabbed my sleeping bag and slept in the car outside the toilet block. Somehow Rob managed to sleep through all of this

  3. Rain

    Camping in the rain isn’t fun. I do like the sound of light shower as it pitter patters on the tent whilst I float gently off to sleep; there is something so soothing about this. But when the pitter patter becomes a torrential two-day downpour, it’s just annoying. Cooking in the rain is difficult, there is nowhere to hang soggy clothes and keeping the inside of the tent dry is near impossible. Often you have to perform all sorts of weird yoga positions to make sure your bedding stays dry whilst you take your wet clothes and shoes off. Rain simply spoils what is otherwise a perfectly lovely time.

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Rob feeling free as we camp in Scotland

But for me, these are just minor setbacks and I can’t wait for the next sunny weekend so we can disappear off with ‘Saggy Aggie’ to another stunning part of Scotland!

So which camp (excuse the horrific pun) do you fall into? A camping lover or hater?

Fear – The boy who was scared of everything!

As I prepare myself for my next big escapade, an indefinite trip to Central and South America, I look back and remember how I wasn’t always so keen on adventure. Throughout my childhood I spent the entire time living in fear of absolutely everything. There were so many things that sent me into a big blubbering mess and left me searching for the safety of my mother arms. The world was just so big and scary!

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Me crying, with bro and big sis. Think the wallpaper scared me…

It’s not like I grew up in a danger filled neighbourhood filled with crack addicts and gangstas ready to pop a cap in my ass. I lived on a perfectly respectable street and had a caring family ready to protect me from the wrong doers of this world.  To be honest I didn’t really have any reason to live in fear on a daily basis, but that didn’t stop me.

I have so many anxious memories it’s beyond ridiculous. Obviously it goes without saying that I was scared of those unsettling clowns who lurk at children’s parties. They seem to have no other reason than to make small children cry… Who finds clowns funny by the way? Completely pointless. There is nothing more depressing then a clown.

Another of my many fearful memories involves me being stood at the top of a child’s slide at the age of 3. I was looking down at the comforting face of my mother. She was encouraging me to make my way down the slide as any normal child would and trying to convince me that this was all good fun. In my tiny child’s mind I believed, ‘this woman is clearly mad and wants me to plunge to an early death! No I will not do this! Instead I will do the sensible thing and cling onto the side of the slide crying my eyes out as an embarrassingly long queue forms behind me’.

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Yeah! Mum helped me overcome the slide fear.

School was inevitably a torrid time for me. From day one I felt like Indiana Jones facing a snake filled temple of doom or creaky ancient wooden bridge where I was sure to plunge to my death.  For many weeks I cried in vain as my mother dropped me off at nursery, hoping that she would realise she had made a massive mistake and this treacherous place was nowhere to leave her beloved son. When that failed I resorted to plan B, which pretty much involved me being extremely quiet with the sole aim of not being noticed by anyone so no harm would come my way. Plan B seemed extremely effective and lasted pretty much until I left school.

I think the fear also led me to live an incredibly dull life, where I became a rubbish accountant, got a mortgage and pretty much lived in a state where I was waiting for the weekend. Surely there had to be more to life than this?!

Then one day it clicked! Finally at the age of 26 I made a clear conscious decision, I needed to lose the fear. I was sick of the complete and utter boredom I faced on a daily basis in my soul destroying job. Suddenly I realised there are so many opportunities out there and the only scary thing was ignoring them. Life on this planet is extremely short and it’s down to us as individuals to make the most of every second.

The loss of fear was liberating and, for me in the safe little world I had created, completely extreme! I sold my house, quit my job and booked a one-way ticket to New Zealand, via Thailand and Australia. For the first time in my life I felt free and fearless. Since then I haven’t looked back or regretted a single decision. Life is exciting!

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Skydiving feet! I laugh in the face of children’s slides nowadays…

It was as I was doing this I realised something and that was how supportive my ever-patient family were in my decision. They didn’t ridicule my life change. Far from it in fact, they encouraged me and made me believe in my adventure and in myself. This was the family I had grown up with. A mother, who was there to comfort me when needed. A father, who would give me a kick up the bum when I was snivelling too much. Two sisters and a brother who were there to bicker and fight with, but would always look out for me.

I hesitated to include this because it’s so personal, but I guess that’s what blogging is all about. This is the poem by my tough old Dad who wrote it for me the day before I left on my travels in 2007. He handed it to me completely out of the blue and it never fails to choke me up:

So finally the day has come
an adventurous spirit drives
your feet to find rare new paths,
turns you away from routine lives.

You look now for bigger skies
a bolder landscape, deeper sea,
to stop in wonder for a distant sunrise,
pleasure now for a soul turned free.

Well, we gave you life so you could live it,
we’re quick to see the boy grown a man,
but carry our love, gratefully given
and think of us fondly if you can.

Now is the time for you to fly Rob,
though perhaps at check-in you can ignore damp eyes
if you know that we see a bright sunset
we’ll smile to think you watch the sunrise

– Dad 15/11/07

I feel I am incredibly lucky as I write this to have such a close family, including my girlfriend and travel partner Kellie Jones. They give me the confidence, strength and security to face the world and head off on another adventure to Mexico. On my travels I will be safe in the knowledge they will be there when I need them, to offer a wise word, comforting message or just for shits and giggles!

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Awesome family!

The world isn’t as scary as you think once you open up to it and life is a lot more exciting when you do. I guess my biggest fear now would be losing the support of my lovely family. Thankfully I can rest easy as I head off on my next adventure knowing this would never ever happen.

Thanks Wardies!


 

Love with a Chance of Drowning – A Memoir by Torre DeRocheThis post is part of the My Fearful Adventure series, which is celebrating the launch of Torre DeRoche’s debut book Love with a Chance of Drowning, a true adventure story about one girl’s leap into the deep end of her fears.

 

“Wow, what a book. Exciting. Dramatic. Honest. Torre DeRoche is an author to follow.” Australian Associated Press

 

“… a story about conquering the fears that keep you from living your dreams.” Nomadicmatt.com

 

“In her debut, DeRoche has penned such a beautiful, thrilling story you’ll have to remind yourself it’s not fiction.” Courier Mail

 

Find out more…

 

Saving tips – Raising £30,000 for our travel dream!

Saving has almost become an occupation for us, we are completely obsessed by it. It can be incredibly difficult sticking to a budget and involves a lot of sacrifices. We believe if you want something enough you have to be willing to work hard to achieve it, and we really, really, REALLY, want to travel!

It does feels slightly odd talking about money, especially when our friends and family will be reading this. But we feel it’s important to be completely honest in this blog. When researching our escapade we really appreciated other bloggers sharing their budgets. It helped us to make realistic plans.

Save travel

This is our basic plan:

Step one – Pay off debt

Step two – Save heaps of money

Step three –  Travel for as long as we possibly can!

Wow, ground breaking stuff I know, but you have to start somewhere. Here’s a bit more detail…

We had racked up £5000 ($7,680) of debt between the two us. This was mainly from holidays we couldn’t afford and a few other pointless purchases we can’t even remember (stupid credit cards). The turning point came after we got back from a holiday to Thailand in October 2011. On the trip we realised we needed to make our dream of long term travel a reality. Since then we have been extreme budgeters…

The Evil Budget:

After all our essential bills have come out we are left with:

– £60 ($92) a week on food

– £110 ($168) a week on petrol (Kellie has to travel a lot for her job)

– £30 ($46) a week on spends (fun/entertainment/gym/exercise classes etc)

– The rest is savings

Over the months we have gone from saving 27% of our income to 44%

So now we have two final targets:

Dream Target: £30,000 ($46,000)

Realistic Target: £25,000 ($38,400)

It all depends on how hard we save and few other factors out of our control, like selling our cars and internal organs… Kidney anyone?

From reading other very helpful blogs, we know it is possible to live in parts of Mexico for less than £900 ($1,380) a month for two people (Never Ending Voyage do a fantastic break down of all their costs in Playa Del Carmen). Plus we plan to volunteer and housesit throughout our South American adventure, which will bring our expenses down even further. Who knows how long we could be away for? It could be several years if we are lucky!

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Budget exploring – taking a packed lunch on a French cycling adventure

Here’s our top 9 savings tip to help you escape the 9-5 work ritual and live your dream travel life:

1) Set yourself a realistic savings target – work out all your monthly income and expenditure so you can work out your final travel target. Having a final and monthly savings goal is hugely important to us, each month we try and beat it.

2) Set a weekly budget – We used to have a monthly spends budget, but quickly realised we had no money at the end of the month and ended up living like hermits. A weekly budget solved this.

3) Make it visual – We’ve displayed our debt, income and outgoings on a whiteboard in the kitchen and also write down all our daily spends. Seeing our debts reducing and becoming savings is a huge motivator.

4) Plan around your lifestyle – We love walking and exploring Scotland. We used to finish every walk in a cafe stuffing our faces with sandwiches, cake and coffee. We now make our own cake and take a packed lunch.

5) Sell your stuff online – Amazon, eBay and Gumtree. Its time consuming, but its strangely therapeutic getting rid of all those needless possessions.  Plus we have used the money to buy cool travel stuff, like our ONE WAY TICKETS TO MEXICO!!!

6) Treat yourself in moderation – being honest we would go a little bit crazy if we stayed in all the time and counted the pennies. We still like to go away but in the UK, and when we do we go camping or use Air B&B, it’s a great cheap way to stay in different places with hosts who can give you local tips. We also set ourselves a budget for the trip.

7) Take free holidays – Honest!! In June we are going to house sit in a beautiful part of Scotland. We get to look after two cute dogs and stay in someone else’s house rent free for a week. Trustedhousesitters.com the only cost was the sign up fee of £40 ($61). Bargain!

8) Plan, plan, plan and erm plan – We plan practically every single item of expenditure, from working out our meals in our weekly food shop, to calculating how much petrol we need to use. At first it’s hard work and extremely dull, but it becomes part of life and stops those sneaky trips to the supermarket or the takeaway…

9) Money saving advice websites – We use Martin Lewis for tips on how to save money on everyday bills. Try telling your telephone broadband company you want to cancel the service; you would be amazed how much they will knock off the price, it all adds up! We are paying £5 ($7.60) a month to SKY instead of over £20 ($30) as we said we were going to leave.

Feeling free

Feeling free in Scotland

You are now probably thinking we are insane geeks, but as the weeks and months role by the more committed we become in our savings quest. It’s only 7 months until we fly to Mexico and we can see the finish line, which gives us even more incentive to reach and beat our final savings goal.

This is a quote a friend recently introduced us to which captures our feelings:

Discipline is just choosing between what you want now and what you want most.

– Unknown

All the sacrifices will be worth it come December when we’re on the plane headed to Mexico, not knowing how long we’ll be away for, who we’ll meet, and what experiences we’ll have on our big escapade! We can’t wait for that feeling of complete freedom.

Intense India – a photo story

India is a country of extremes! It’s a place of majestic beauty mixed with extreme poverty. One minute your high as a kite the next you are a jibbering wreck. It overwhelms your senses and leaves you exhausted. No other country has left me so emotionally battered. It’s a place I must visit again! Here’s my photo story of an intense journey through India…

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The Isle of Skye – Cheap travel and the best cake ever!

In March Rob and I visited the Isle of Skye to jointly celebrate our birthdays. With all the saving we have been doing for our travels we didn’t want to splash out our hard earned cash. We managed to find a bargain £20 a night caravan to stay in via Airbnb. Air B&B is great website for accommodation ranging from budget places to fancy pants boutique hotels. You can find some real gems with heaps of character (it probably sounds like we have been paid to plug them, but sadly not).

Cosy Caravan

Cosy caravan

The caravan was basic, comfortable, and a great base for exploring Skye. Plus it was an absolute steal at £20. Our host Sarah was welcoming, friendly and full of tips on where to head off exploring. She recommended a lovely little place called Talisker Bay.

The next morning, armed with a map, we headed off to find the Bay. Even with a map we managed to get ourselves very lost, which is a common habit for Rob and I. Never the less we found what we thought was a nice short walk and headed off to take in all the beautiful scenery that Skye has to offer. Unfortunately the nice little walk turned out to be a 2-hour 6.5mile hilly hike. By the time we finished we were gasping for a cup of tea and piece of cake to fuel our weary legs.

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The lost Skye-walkers and the search for cake!

So we got back in the car in search of a café in order to fill our rumbling bellies. Not long into our quest we stumbled upon a house with a sign advertising the ‘Wee Tea Room’. Initially this seemed to be the answer to our prayers. We then became a little panicked that this was actually someone’s house and could lead to a socially awkward situation, which we are only too keen to avoid. But desperate for cake we put our fears aside and went on in.

Fortunately the lovely couple that owned the place welcomed us warmly welcomed. They had recently opened up their home to create the ‘Wee Tea Room’, realising simply that people love tea and cake after a long walk. Their home was in a stunning location and full of their own beautiful photography, which was also available to buy.

Not only were they incredibly friendly they also served the best cake I have ever tasted in my entire life. Farmhouse orange cake and chocolate cake. It still brings a smile to my face and unattractive drool to my chin. It was almost heartbreaking finishing the last mouthful. We were so impressed by the farmhouse orange cake that we asked for the recipe. And we’d like to share it with you:

Cake Cake

Ingredients (makes one 7″ cake):

175g softened unsalted butter
175g light muscovado sugar
3 large eggs
175g self raising flour
1 1/2 level tspns baking powder
zest of an orange

Filling
40g softened unsalted butter
100g icing sugar, sifted
1-2 tbspn fine cut marmalade
icing sugar for dusting

1) Preheat the oven to 160 fan / 180 conventional / gas 4.

2) Grease and base line two 7″ (18 cm) sandwich tins.

3) Place all the sponge ingredients into a large bowl and beat well until smooth.

4) Divide the mixture between the tins and level the top.

5) Bake for 25 – 30 minutes until coming away from sides and springy to touch.

6) Turn out onto wire rack and allow to cool.

7) Make the filling by blending the ingredients together until smooth

8) Spread the filling on the base layer, place the top layer, and then decorate with a little sifted icing sugar

That’s it, best cake ever! Enjoy with a cup of tea 🙂

Whilst chatting to the owners we discovered our navigation skills were even more woeful than we originally thought. We had never even made it to Talisker Bay. They kindly gave us idiot-proof directions to help us on our way.

When we finally reached our destination we easily found the short walk to the Bay. It was well worth the wait. Not only was the bay spectacular, we were treated to two sea eagles hovering overhead.

Talisker Bay

Talisker Bay

It just goes to show getting lost is really just another chance to experience something new and you’re never sure what delights you might find.