Why We Haven't Started Travelling Long Term, Yet

I've got a confession to make. I lied to you. When I started this blog, I told you that we would be leaving to travel the world this summer. The summer is here and, judging by the weather we've had lately, it's nearly over. Yet we're still here at home. No backpacks have been bought, no flights have been booked, no firm plans or leaving dates have been announced.

I didn't mean to lie. I genuinely thought that we'd be leaving the country by now. But sometimes things don't always go to plan. So what's been going on?

I got an awesome new job.

I despised my old job with every ounce of my being. Even though I knew it was just a means to an end and was funding my travel dreams, I could not take it a second longer. The plan was to find a slightly more bearable job to keep me going for a few months while we got the money together to start travelling. But I somehow ended up landing something very close to my dream job.

I now work in the travel industry, for a small but rapidly growing wholesale tour operator. I work in a beautiful little office with a great bunch of people. I even get to go on work trips. Remember that time I went to Holland, exploring the countryside, discovering beautiful gardens and visiting royal palaces? That was a work trip, or a familiarisation trip as they're known in the industry.

The new job is even better that I initially thought.

Even when I realised how amazing this new position is, I still planned to just stick it out for six months before leaving to travel the world. But then they had an announcement to make. This tiny company with just one office in York was growing so rapidly that they'd decided to open their first international office. And anybody that wanted to move to the new office was more than welcome to!

The plan has always been to fund our travels with our savings for the first few months, then find whatever jobs we can while we are on the road to keep us going. Basically to work our way around the world. Now here I was being offered a guaranteed job, with a good salary, in a different country. I could hardly turn that down, could I?

The company offers mini sabbaticals too. As it's much quieter in the winter months, members of staff can take up to six weeks off unpaid, to fit in a little travelling or whatever else they fancy. So we get to fit in some of the travelling we're so desperate to start, then come back and earn a little more money before we start the permanent travels.  Could this job get any better?

So we've got a new plan.

Life is going to continue how it is at the moment for the next few months. At the beginning of next year I'll be taking a six week break from work and we want to use this time to visit a few places on the border of Europe and Asia, like Turkey, Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan. From there we'll be moving to the international office, the location of which I'll be keeping a secret for now. After six months or so working there, we'll finally be following our dreams and heading to Southeast Asia!

What do you think of the new plans?

5 Airbnb Houses To Rent When You Win The Lottery

Airbnb has taken the world by storm, offering accommodation around the globe which travellers can book directly with the property owners. It has changed the way thousands of people travel, offering the opportunity to stay in a stranger's home and often at much better rates than local hotels can provide.

In some parts of the world rooms can be rented for as little as £6 a night, but at the other end of the scale are whole mansions that could set you back thousands. While I'm much more than likely to be sticking with the lower end of the scale, there is no harm in dreaming. With that in mind, here are five houses to rent when you win the lottery.

1. Grand Manor, Australia

If you want to enjoy the sun down under, this is the place to do it. At £1,105 a night this six-bedded property has a beautiful swimming pool ready for you to enjoy a dip right on the doorstep. If you want to get a bit more active while you're catching some rays, the property owners can arrange surfing lessons for you too.

2. Castle, Italy

This is your chance to turn that childhood fantasy of being a prince or princess into reality. For just £1,476 a night you can stay in a real castle on the outskirts of Perugia and enjoy the views of the Italian countryside from a building fit for royalty.

3. Private Island, Maldives

If you want to get away from civilisation and have a little time and space all to yourself, this is the place for you. Only accessible by a twenty minute sea plane followed by a two hour speed boat ride, this private island is actually the cheapest option on the list, at £736 a night.

For £1,500 a night this beautiful manor house comes with a total of nine bedrooms and seven bathrooms as well as a kitchen, dining room, wine cellar, library, study and billiards room. If that doesn't leave you tempted, perhaps the maid service and option to have your stay fully catered will. 

5. Ski House, USA

Set on the slopes of a popular ski resort, this modern mountain house is perfect for a week in the snow. Unfortunately it is the most expensive of them all at £3,068 a night, but you can always split the bill between a few friends as this property sleeps a total of seventeen.

If money was no object, which house would you choose?

PS. I recently entered a photography competition that is being run by Millenium Hotels for the chance to win a two night stay in one of their hotels. One of the prizes is for the most shared image. Please check out my entry here and if you think it's pretty hit retweet!

The One Where They Watch Friends

A month or so ago as I was checking my emails I found a pleasant little surprise waiting for me - an invite to a Friends Movie Night in Leeds hosted by Simplyhealth. An opportunity to watch the hit TV show in a luxury cinema, meet other bloggers, and get some freebies - I was more than a little excited about what was to be my first ever blogger event!

Cut forward to this week and the day had arrived. I jumped on the train after work and headed straight for the Everyman Cinema. As we headed to Screen 5 ½ I instantly fell in love with with the movie theatre. Not only did I love the fact the screen was number five and a half, but it was full of comfy sofas and armchairs, had a little private bar area, and there was even an outdoor balcony where you could sit and enjoy a drink before the show started.

To celebrate the 10th anniversary since the final season of Friends was aired, we were treated to a screening of the first four episodes. I still can't believe it has been ten years since the show ended - it made me realise I was only four years old when it started!

The whole idea behind the evening was to get everyone laughing, and it certainly did this. The company are promoting the idea that laughter has huge health and psychological benefits, so in the spirit of this I wanted to share my favourite joke with everyone and hopefully get you all laughing too!

A man and a giraffe walked into a bar. They both had a few drinks, but the giraffe had one too many and ended up collapsing on the floor. The man pretty much ignored him lying there and had a few more drinks before getting up to leave. As he headed to the door, the barman stopped him and said, "You can't leave that lying there", to which the man responded "It's not a lion, it's a giraffe!".

What's your favourite joke?

A Beginner's Guide To Kidnapping Leprechauns

It’s one of the best ways to get to know a place, but it isn’t in your guidebook. Cathedral tours and galleries can only tell you so much. If you really want to get under the skin of a foreign land you need to meet the local dragon. 

I’m not talking about that unfriendly barmaid. I’m talking about creatures of folklore. These are the beings that dwell somewhere between modern cities and ancient beliefs. Their stories are tangled with the history of their homelands.

Track down trolls, swim with mermaids and catch a little green man. Here are a few magical places, selected by Holidaylettings.co.uk, to get you started.

Leprechauns, Ireland

These little people are synonymous with the green isle.

Today they are so much a part of the Irish stereotype that on St Paddy’s Day, in most English towns, you can spot several inebriated 'leprechauns' stumbling down the high-street.

But these drunken pretenders are giving leprechauns a bad name. Kidnap them and you’re likely to get a black eye rather than the three wishes of legend. Real leprechauns are always male, as female leprechauns are technically fairies. They hide pots of gold at the end of the rainbow, enjoy playing tricks on humans, and make shoes for a living.

In Dublin you can visit the National Leprechaun Museum to hear the tales that have been told for over 1,000 years. But perhaps the best way to locate these elusive creatures is to venture beyond the capital and explore some of the lush green countryside that leprechauns call home.

The Minotaur, Crete

Like all good Greek myths, the story of how the Minotaur came into being involves angry gods, bestiality and a badly-behaved king.

He lived on the sun-drenched Mediterranean island of Crete, but the poor old Minotaur never got to don his bikini on the island’s famous beaches. This mythical creature lived at the centre of an enormous labyrinth and feasted on young men and virgin girls.

Described by Ovid as 'part man and part bull', he was the son of the queen of Crete and a white bull. He was eventually slain by Theseus, who escaped the maze by following thread that he’d unravelled on his way in.

Some 600,000 people a year visit the so-called ruins of the labyrinth at Knossos. However, the true location is still hotly debated. Some scholars believe that the real haunt of the Minotaur was the Labyrinthos Caves, in southern Crete. This dark network of caves and tunnels provides some welcome respite from the Cretan sun, but before you visit make sure you invest in a very large ball of string.

The Golem, Prague

Just like the castle’s bejewelled treasures, the tale of the golem belongs to Prague.

Many 100s of years ago, this colossal creature was created by Rabbi Loew to protect the Jews from anti-Semitic attacks. Walk through the city’s now silent Jewish quarter and you begin to understand why the rabbi’s people needed such a monster.

The golem was, quite literally, made of the city – constructed from mud from the sides of the river Vltava. Impossibly strong, he only obeyed the man who brought him to life. This could be done by placing a magic talisman in the monster’s forehead. Without the talisman the golem turned back into lifeless clay.

Legend has it that the golem was hidden by his master, somewhere in Prague, waiting for a lucky tourist to breathe life into him once more. Even if you can’t find the golem, you can meet his creator (or a statue of him) in the new town hall. The rabbi’s grave, along with 12,000 others, can be seen in the Old Jewish Cemetery.

What strange creatures have you met through your travels?

Discovering Derry's Murals & Northern Ireland's Troubles

Since 1968 over 3,500 people have have died in Northern Ireland's Troubles.

The centuries old dispute, which primarily resolves around religion and land ownership, can be traced back to the 1700s when Northern Ireland was colonised by Scottish and English Protestants. There have been clashes at various intervals since, with what is commonly referred to at 'The Troubles' stretching from the riots of 1968 to the Good Friday Agreement of 1998.

On our recent trip to Ireland we visited Derry to learn about these troubles and, after a trip to the Tower Museum to learn about the city's history, we went to see the world famous murals.

Tom Kelly, William Kelly and Kevin Hasson, known collectively as The Bogside Artists, have created a series of 12 murals, each representing the area's troubled past. These paintings, dubbed The People's Gallery, can be seen across the Bogside area to the west of Derry city centre. 

The paint is starting to peel, the colour is fading, and some of the murals have even been vandalised, but these powerful images still stand tall and ensure that the past is not forgotten
Below you can see each of the twelve murals. Please click on the images to find out more about the events and people depicted in each painting.

Petrol Bomber


Bloody Sunday Mural

Bloody Sunday Commemoration

Death Of Innocence

Hunger Strike

Operation Motorman

The Saturday Matinee

The Civil Rights Mural

The Peace Mural

The Runner

A Tribute To John Hume

Painting: A Random Story

Welcome to the latest post in the A Random Story feature, where I ask readers to share some of their favourite and most random memories.

Nick is currently wandering and blogging his way around India and South-East Asia and through his writing hopes to inspire others to do the same.  His travels are primarily focused around adventure, exploration and nature and you’re much more likely to find him amongst the jungles and mountains than at temples or man-made monuments. You can follow his adventures over at The Boy Wander.

I asked Nick to tell me about his favourite memory involving a painting and his story can be found below.

Help by Graham Gillmore
It was Vancouver Art Gallery early in 2011 that I had to hand in my long-sported badge of ‘art-narcissist’. I had long been of the mindset that art was over-priced, over-hyped and generally just a huge self-congratulatory echo chamber, but let’s back up a little bit.

My earliest memory of art galleries and perhaps the catalyst for my lengthy boycott of such places was a school excursion we took to the Art Gallery of NSW at nine years old. The sticking point from this visit was one painting in particular. It was a large square canvas about 1.5m x 1.5m square painted solid blue. Okay I thought, a blue square, I don’t ‘get’ it. No big deal maybe I didn’t have enough artistic intellect to understand it but what made it more absurd to my nine year old brain was the $40,000 price tag. I was banking like $5 a week maximum, IF I kept my room clean, so $40,000 for a blue square was enough to make my head spin. Besides, I had made finer pieces of art on Microsoft Paint (also available for the bargain bin price of $20k).

Fast forward 11 years and I had barely been back to an Art Gallery, but after 4 months of snowboarding in Canada I found myself with a friend in Vancouver. Exploring cities was new to me then and we figured we should go get ‘cultured’, that’s what you do right? 

Vancouver Art Gallery biggest drawcard for me was the Mirror Maze installation by Ken Lum; a huge maze of mirrors with the 12 signs of depression spread throughout. It was enough to get me in the door and once inside I found myself strangely interested in many of the pieces. 

There was one piece in particular that really grabbed me though. It was Help by Graham Gillmore. The piece itself had thought provoking questions and statements written vertically and horizontally in coloured marker on old railway employee pay sheets (If I remember correctly). Simple but brilliant. I stood in front of it reading and thinking about the questions for over an hour before turning to my friend and saying ‘Dude, I think I ‘get’ art now’. 

The questions that seem to stand out in my memory are 'How to recognise compatibility time bombs?’, 'Are you still doing time in that emotional prison?’ and 'Are you treating the symptoms and not the causes?’. 

Although the questions were a straight-forward way to elicit an emotional response from me, it opened my eyes to how I responded to other pieces of art and I left Vancouver Art Gallery with not only an acceptance for art but a new-found passion for it. Art galleries have become one of my favourite experiences in new cities and I feel that the more I explore them the more I start to truly appreciate them. 

Thank you so much to Nick from The Boy Wander for sharing his story with us. Be sure to check out his blog for more great reads.

If you want to get involved and share your random story on Ever Changing Scenery, please get in touch and I will send you a topic.

What is your favourite memory involving a painting?

Leap Into The Land Of The Loughs

I've said it before and I'll no doubt say it again; whenever my family goes to Ireland, we always end up doing the same things.

But this year, we decided to rebel.

We were on the ferry crossing with two hours to waste and very little to entertain us when the idea was formed. The parents has just bought a new road map from the little onboard gift shop. We were looking at all the places we always go, when it came to us. We were going to hijack a day and take everyone to somewhere we'd never been before.

After scouring the map for a little while, we discovered one area that had three loughs in close vicinity; that had to be good right? Flipping back and forth between the map's key and the chosen destination we could identify castles, viewing points, boating activities. A plan was formed.

All that was needed now was a name. We toyed with Magical Mystery Tour, but thought it was a little generic. We tried to make it rhyme, but that didn't get us anywhere. Eventually alliteration got thrown into the mix, and Leap Into The Land Of The Loughs was born.

The day soon arrived and despite our good intentions we still didn't really have a clue what we were going to do. Between us we had a gang of eight family members with high hopes for the day. The pressure was really on after we'd complained so much about the 'family heritage trail' my mum had dragged us on the day before, which basically involved visiting a lot of graveyards.

After a hushed conversation in the back of the car we declared the first stop, the Lough Earne Exhibition Centre. This would be the perfect place to pick up a few leaflets about other attractions in the area and finalise the details for the rest of the day. Only problem is, it doesn't seem to exist anymore, if it ever did. We went to the exact point it appeared on the map and there was not a single sign it had ever been there. I made a mental note to complain to the map company (this was a brand new map after all) and moved on.

With a quick reference back to the map, we declared Castle Caldwell Forest the first stop. The name should have given it away, but this was more about the forest than the castle. There were lots of paths signposted for a forest walk, one of which we did follow for a short while, but we're not really a walking family.

The castle itself was a little unusual, as it was covered from head to toe in ivy. Other than a few bits sticking out here and there, if the sign hadn't told us there was a castle, we could have missed it altogether, hidden amongst the green of the surrounding forest.

We were heading back to the car when we spotted an abandoned building opposite the car park. This in itself is nothing too unusual in Ireland; with so much empty land it's fairly common for people to just build new houses wherever they like and leave the old ones to go to ruin. The unusual thing is that you could get straight into this one.

Call me strange, but I've always had a little bit of an obsession with exploring abandoned buildings; my ultimate dream is to explore an old theme park. While this building had nothing on the abandoned mental institutes and high rise buildings I've read stories about, it quickly became the highlight of my day. As we tip-toed across the creaking floorboards littered with broken glass, it was rather eery, but I couldn't help but smile as I imagined myself being a brave explorer.

The outside of the building was just as intriguing, with the same ivy that had taken over the castle staking it's claim on this much newer building.

It was soon back to the car and with another quick look at the map we established that the best place to stop next would be Castle Archdale. This castle had a little more going for it, by which I mean you could actually see the walls. But after reading the brief information sign and snapping a couple of photos we'd pretty much done it all.

Luckily we know how to make our fun and before long we were climbing on the walls and scaling up the surrounding trees. I would say there was a competition to see who could climb the highest, but there was no competition; the boys were the clear winners.

Remember those 'boating activities' that were dotted all over the map? Well, it was now time to find them. I had visions of hiring a rowing boat for a little paddle or jumping on a tour boat for an hour and hearing about the sights around the edge of the lake. But apparently it was not meant to be...

We arrived at the first place the map indicated, only to find it was just a place to moor your own boat. Without our own boat this was not much good. Never fear, there were plenty more boating areas dotted across the map and we still had high hopes. But another hour or so later we had established they were all for private boat owners.

It was getting late in the day but there was time for one more stop; Enniskillen Castle. This was the sort of castle we had been looking for all day. Nestled in the small town of Enniskillen, for a small fee you could enter the well maintained castle, walk through the rooms the high and mighty had once lived in and learn all about the history. But, as you might have guessed, things did not go to plan. The castle was closed.

Once again we managed to have our own fun though, this time sitting on the banks of the castle and making daisy chains.

Was the day a roaring success? Not exactly. But did we have more fun than on the previous day's 'family heritage trail'? Without a doubt.

We did something different and had lots of fun along the way, so it doesn't really matter that nothing went the way we envisioned!

Have you ever planned an adventure only to find nothing goes as expected?

6 Awesome New Travel Blogs

Exactly six months ago today I published my very first blog post. Six months! I cannot believe it has been that long already. Time flies when you're having fun!

I am not the only one that has been having an amazing six months though, and to celebrate my anniversary (if you can really call it that), I'd like to share six awesome new travel blogs with you - all of which started in the last six months!

1. One World One Year

Britnee and Mark, a couple from Utah, recently quit their jobs to travel the world for a year. They might have only started their travels four months ago, but they've already got some great stories to tell! So far they have been to Japan, China and Mongolia, but I'm looking forward to reading about their upcoming travels in Europe, South East Asia and South America too.

Charlie is a fellow Brit who has recently started her 'indefinite travel adventure' in South America. While most of the blogs listed here I discovered while searching specifically for new travel blogs, I have been following Charlie's blog for a while and was actually stunned to discover how new it is. The blog looks so professional and the writing is impeccable, with a great mix of stories and plenty of advice for fellow travellers. 

3. Small-Town Girls, Midnight Trains

They say first impressions count, and this blog has certainly got that covered - I just love the name and the cute logo you can see there above. The writing lives up to expectations too! As well as more personal posts, this blog is great for really in-depth destination guides, covering all the the attractions in a given area and everything you might need to know to prepare for a visit.

4. Olivia Explores

Olivia always wanted to be an explorer, and she is making that dream a reality by squeezing in as much travel as she can between university assignments. I love her insider's tip on London as well as the posts on places further afield. Olivia has managed to fit in a good amount of Western and Eastern Europe as well as a bit of India so far, which is very impressive considering she hasn't started travelling full time yet.

5. Kristina Meets World

Kristina started her blog the day she arrived in Melbourne five months ago, and has been sharing the stories from her day to day adventures in Australia ever since. Here you can see the world through her eyes as she explores national parks, visits local attractions and discovers native animals and plants. 

6. Hannah On The Map

Hannah has been teaching English in Brazil for the past year and sharing her experiences with the world via Hannah On The Map. As well as advice on things to do in Brazil and tips for teaching English as a foreign language, here you can find stories from Hannah's adventures in other countries, including Argentina, Chile, Peru and Uruguay.

What are your favourite new travel blogs?

Why I Love Family Holidays

Every time we go on holiday with the family, we always end up doing the same things.

Let's take Ireland for example.

We always end up going to a famine museum or folk village.

We always stop for a pint at Biddy O'Barnes and admire the surrounding countryside.

We always throw rocks into the river and laugh at the dog as he tries to 'rescue' them.

We always make some attempt at building a sandcastle and flying a kite.

We always stop at every viewpoint we pass, only to get battered by the wind and end up freezing cold.

But while it might get a little repetitive, I still love our family holidays!

Like many teenage girls, I went through a phrase where I wasn't the greatest fan of my family. But times have changed.

I now think I have one of the greatest families in the world. So it goes without saying that the family holiday is always one of my favourite times of the year.

Going to the same places and doing the same things is just part of the fun.

We always plan to get up early and seize the day. Ready to leave at 9am! Shoes and coats on, by the door! 

If I have a penny for every time I've heard this phrase, I'd be a millionaire. On the other hand, if I had a penny for every time we'd actually been ready for that time, well, I wouldn't have any pennies at all!

It's normally more like midday. But I wouldn't have it any other way.

There's always squablles about who'll sit where in the car and whether we should go to a museum or a beach, but we almost always have fun anyway.

I say almost, because we've never quite forgotten about the seashell museum that mum dragged us to when we were younger - but that's a different story.

After a (half) day of exploring local attractions or lazing on the beach comes the best part. The drinking.

Out comes a pack of playing cards and a stack of board games. After a few too many we sometimes move on to the kind of games that are normally reserved exclusively for fresher's parties.

I'll never forget the look on my mum's face when my sister, who couldn't have been older than fourteen at the time, had to down the 'dirty pint' in a game of Ring Of Fire.

I guess it shouldn't come as a surprise that we never make it out of the door for 9am.

We might have a lot of fun, but let's be honest, the main reason that I love family holidays is because the parents are always there to pick up the bill!

What are your favourite things about family holidays?