Cocktail in hand – 2017, a year in review

I’ve been so busy lately I’ve been slacking on the blogging, but hopefully you’ve been following on Instagram!  This week, Facebook did it’s year in review video for me and reminded me of a few things which happened this year, but here’s a highlight for the blog.

NYE eve fireworks at Magic Kingdom
NYE dance party at Italy, Epcot

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I started off January 2017 partying at Epcot, Disney World in Florida, USA.  We arrived a few days earlier and saw the NYE fireworks the night before New Years Eve, this was a great tip so to see NYE fireworks in both parks.  Epcot celebrated when it turned midnight in each country and I would definitely do it again, of course the speciality glow cocktails and Grey Goose slush cocktails in France certainly got the party started!

Enjoying the speciality glow cocktail in France, Epcot, NYE
NYE fireworks at Epcot

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We’d took a trip to Disney World to carry our wedding planning and menu tasting sessions and whilst there enjoyed our favourite theme parks.  After Florida, we flew back to the UK to see friends and family, we’d flew in from Australia via Kuala Lumpur, Thailand and then Germany, so although the flights were getting a bit much, it was lovely to see them for a little longer after being away over a year.  Of course we enjoyed plenty of cocktails with them!

Sydney Harbour Bridge
The Three Sisters in the Blue Mountains

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Later in January, we headed back to Australia.  We spent most of the year in Sydney whilst saving up for our wedding.  Although we managed a few trips such as the Blue Mountains and Jervis Bay.  We enjoyed going to Vivid, tourist attractions, some trance nights and bunny sitting, plus getting a city centre apartment.  For my birthday weekend we enjoyed various cocktails including at the top of the Sydney Eye Tower at 360 Dining and the dry ice skull cocktails at Assembly Bar.  Many more cocktails were of course consumed at the various happy hours I managed to find!!

Birthday cocktails at 360 Dining above Sydney
Working my way through the various skull dry ice cocktails at Assembly Bar, Sydney

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Purple Martini photo at the Tower of Terror Courtyard in Hollywood Studios, courtesy of Misty Miotto Photography 

In October, we headed back to the UK to catch up with family for a quick trip prior to the wedding.  We enjoyed the rest of October and early November in Florida celebrating our Disney World wedding.  Our favourite wedding cocktail was a Bramble for the early evening, and at the after party we had a Purple Martini, a sweet and sour twist on a Cosmopolitan, complete with glow cubes.  Later in the trip we enjoyed various visits to the Epcot Food and Wine Festival, a firm must do for my year!  This year it was super fun with our family and friends

 

November also saw us take a trip to New Orleans, were I sampled the famous Grenade cocktail and drank Love Potion No.9 shots in a Vampire Speakeasy.  They helped ease the fact that my unbacked up iPhone broke and I lost all my photos from the last few months.

 

We followed that by a trip to New York, of course many cocktails were consumed there, and I loved checking out the small bars.  Following that we headed back to the UK, were I tested out a few new places.

Today’s view of the Sydney city skyline

 

December sees us just arrive back in Sydney, writing this I have a perfect view of the city skyline complete with the Harbour Bridge.

 

Who knows what 2018 will bring, my life has most definitely become less organised!  But one thing’s for sure, it will certainly involve more cocktails and travel!

 

Darling Harbour happy hour cocktails
Working our way through the Hard Rock happy hour cocktails!

Guest post: Do debt and travel go together in the same sentence?

This guest post is written by a blogger under the alias Erin Reki, here is her story:

How I got into debt

Back in 2006, when I first went to university I had store cards and credit cards thrown at me like confetti.  My bank was also more than happy to provide me with a ridiculously large overdraft.  I’d never seen this amount of cash before.  Coupled with student loans and bursaries I felt like I’d just won the lottery!  And I know I’m not alone.

Many other people I know had the same experience.  We were young, influential and wanted to be cool.  We spent ridiculous amounts on club nights and clothes, not to mention books and trips.  Tattoos and macbooks.  Lattes and student housing.  The list goes on.

Some of us were frugal, some were sensible having been taught a little about money.  I had been taught very little about money.  I moved out when I was 16 years old and struggled with what little money I had to pay rent.  I’ll be honest and say I never really considered university an option, I wanted to travel the world.  But when a college tutor encouraged me to apply, I ended up going.

When I got handed my “free money” and credit cards my wanderlust had not waivered.  I used it to go on my first solo trip to the Canary Islands.  Then another holiday (also to the Canary islands) and then another.  You get the idea.

Would I recommend it?  No.  Not at all.

Do I regret it?  Not really, no.

I did have a fantastic time and in the end I learnt a few valuable lessons.

 

When I realised enough was enough

After a couple of years of spending money I didn’t have, I realised I was at my limits.  The bank wouldn’t lend me anymore.  I already owed them £6,000 on two overdrafts.  My credit card debt was scattered everywhere.  I cannot remember how many cards I had, but I had more than four.  All maxed out.  With a few thousands here and there.  I couldn’t tell you how much I owed at my worst.  I think I’ve erased that memory, it was that bad.

I was in ridiculous debt and still suffering from the travel bug.  I finally did what people should do when faced with debt.  Got my head out of the sand and faced it head on.

Instead of pushing my bank letters and statement summaries under the rug, I made the difficult phone calls and arranged manageable repayments.  I wanted to go traveling again but this time on my own money.

The repayments were less than minimum and it looked like I’d be in debt forever, but in reality it gave me a chance to improve my situation and increase my income with a better paying job or buy selling a few things off.  Minimalism is where its at!

 

The next step in my travel with my debt plan

I strongly recommend asking for financial help, even if you’re just asking google.  Read and apply what you learn.  I did whatever I could to increase my income and limit my spending and outgoing.  I even stopped drinking for a short while and I can’t remember the last time I went to the cinema.  It’s all about priorities.

I understand that for some people they may want to travel but have other financial obligations.  Like if they are carers for other people.  That is their priority and is obviously going to be more important.  For me though I have nobody relying on me.  It was time for my escape.

I saved up some cash from limiting my spending and taking on an extra part time job.  Instead of giving it all to the credit cards though, what I did was work out how many months it would cover my minimum payments for.  For example £1,000 of savings covered four months of minimum payments of £200 a month with £200 left over to live on.

I had been looking at STA Travel brochures for quite a while and needed out.  If you can’t find a three month holiday for under £200, do what I did.  Volunteer or apply for a job!  I applied for a few things and eventually got accepted into a three month government funded programme to Nepal!  My accommodation and food was payed for and my £200 lasted me the full three months!  Yes, I had to work but I met some amazing people (my partner!).  Also I had some amazing experiences and met lifelong friends.  All whilst my debts were still ticking over in the background.

 

Round two

When I got back to the UK it was back to work and I did the same again.  Saved up enough to cover a certain amount of minimum payments and some more to go on the next adventure!

After a year in South East Asia, I thought my wanderlust would be quenched.  Nope.  My debt wasn’t going down as considerably or as quickly as one would like.  But when your partying with loads of lovely people on a beach island off of Cambodia you don’t seem to care as much.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Back to the UK again and playing the same game.  This time round I’d finished university and was in full time work with another part time job on the side.  Don’t be afraid of hard work and remember no job is beneath anyone.  We stayed away from the travel plans for a while – two years this time!  I got out of most of my debt.  Then we decided to run away to Australia.  I saved up enough to cover some minimum repayments again and some money to travel with and we were off!

 

Third times a charm

Only this time we went on a Working Holiday Visa.  We were worried we wouldn’t find work, spend all our cash and have to come home to the UK, but after three days we found farm work.  After three months we had earnt so much I payed off the remainder of my debt.  DEBT FREE FINALLY!!  This was December 2015.  Since then we’ve been working in Australian farms and will do this until December 2017, when we move to New Zealand (again on a Working Holiday Visa).  We’ve both managed to save up more than the average UK mortgage deposit for a house.  Not that we want one.

We’re in a better financial situation now than we’ve ever been.  We had a three month holiday last year, two months traveling Australia and one in Bali.  Then we had a three month holiday this year, where we visited friends and family in England, Northern Ireland, Spain, Italy and the Netherlands!

The Australian Dollar is superior to the Great British Pound.  So is the minimum wage.  If you’re willing to put yourself out there, rewards are waiting!

Our next plans are to move to New Zealand and then Canada.  Whilst we’ll both be working traditional jobs whilst we’re there, I’ll be working on creating an online income (also known as digital nomadism).  Just because apparently I can’t sit still!  Even when I’m in debt!  Itchy feet don’t care what your bank account says.

 

So do debt and travel go together in the same sentence?

I guess it depends if your head and your heart can work together to get what you really want.

My approach is just one of many and I wouldn’t say any one way is the right or wrong way.  There are many approaches to debt and travel.  Each one requires different tactics.

All I know is that when my heart lead the way, my finances suffered in a way that affected me in the future.  Whenever my head leads the way my savings go up, but I suddenly realise I’m miserable and incredibly bored and restless.  When they are working together I feel like I have control of my finances and my wanderlust is being satisfied!

 

Could you come up with a plan to travel and pay off your debt at the same time?

 

Loved this guest post and want to read more?  Check out https://erinreki.com

My Story – My situation and how I started my travels

So if I’m interviewing other travellers, I guess I better give you my story. I’ll split it up into sections for different blog posts to come, so I don’t information overload you.  It’s gritty and gory, but here goes:

 

Saddled with debt you could say I had a harder decision than most to quit my steady job, so what had happened to get me there?

At the age of 28 I living in the UK, stuck in a unhappy marriage, my mortgage like a noose around my neck, over £20,000 of credit card debt (with mostly

My beautiful kitchen – one of the sources of my woes

nothing to show but a heap of clothes and a wedding certificate), negative equity of the house from a previous Northern Rock mortgage (you know, those dreadful ones where they gave you 125% mortgage that started the UK economic crisis).  In addition, paying for a new kitchen and ensuite for the family home I was trying to renovate, it too much extra debt just to even consider a holiday.  Both of us stuck in debt because of our overspending, my marriage was falling apart – constant arguing, I felt overworked and stressed out, between my job and furthering my studies.  I dreamt about running off, escaping and exploring the world, but other than going bankrupt and/or committing credit card fraud it was never going to happen, but I dreamt often enough.

 

But it got even worse?

Our 2.4 family – he took custody of our beautiful apricot labradoodle, Bella

Early 2012, my marriage finally collapsed, which saw my ex-husband bailing on the financial commitments we had made together, left me to pay for mortgage and the bills while he skipped off to another country. I was lost, in a deepward downward spiral of debt, IVA and bankruptcy was suggested.  I’d started a new relationship and his stories of travel inspired me, wishing I had travelled myself, wondering why I hadn’t when I was young.  But 10 years of being in debt, since my bank had thrown me my first overdraft and credit card at the age of 18, I’d been trying and failing to get out of debt ever since.  Alongside there were other friends who had quit their jobs and run off to explore the unknown.  I was jealous of their adventures, how I deeply longed to do the same, their photos willing me so.  2012 was full of my darkest days, whilst my ex-husband refused contact to reason with, prolonging signing the divorce papers and making it difficult to sell the house, I stood by as my new boyfriend’s ex persisted with relentless contact, despite her instigating their split.

To my relief, after two solicitors who’d said they couldn’t help me, I found a solicitor who said she could help me, of course for a cost.  Late 2012 saw me faced

Getting divorced meant trying to sell our house, with my kitchen I’d spent so much money on

with a legal battle, my ex-husband shirking all financial responsibility and trying leaving me with an additional £10,000 plus of debt we had took on together but was stupidly in my sole name due to his poor credit rating.  Majorly pissed off at my exs lies about how the money had been spent, the anger inside me drove me – I was prepared to lose it all in a court battle rather let him have ill gotten gains at my expense.  I still left the relationship with an additional £6,000 of debt – left with full responsibility of costs of the divorce and negative equity, and forever indebted to my parents who had saved me from bankruptcy and using their savings to assist me to help pay the mortgage, until I could finally sell the house at a fraction of what we paid for it, despite to renovations.

 

Want to find out what happened next?  Stay tuned for the next instalment.

Bizarre travel experiences!

Look out for our short series on our travel experiences, here is the first, the most bizarre:

  • Who’s going to get the chicken head? Really you eat chicken head?! Certainly one of the most bizarre meals I’ve ever been served up, nope don’t fancy that one much!
Anyone for chicken feet?!
  • Anyone for chicken feet?!
    Tasty huh, the helpx host we were staying with said they were like crisps to Chinese people, not sure that planet she was living on! Whilst she gobbled them down like they were the tastiest morsels on the planet, I cringed at the curled talon nails on the end of the feet. Gingerly I tasted them, sure the sauce she had cooked with them was tasty, but I just could not get past trying to pull off the muscle like tendons with my teeth! John on the other hand was a bit more adventurous, but we giggled to ourselves afterwards why on earth you would want to eat them!
  • Nail clippings and locks of hair for Loi Krathrong – Loi Krathong is celebrated annually in Thailand on the evening of the full moon of the twelfth month in the traditional Thai lunar calendar, where it’s traditional to decorate and float a basket on the river. Traditional krathong are made from a slice of the trunk of a banana tree or a spider lily plant, however modern krathongs can be made of bread, which can disintegrate and be eaten by fish.
    Our rose and orchid krathrong

    Our rose and orchid krathrong
    The krathong is decorated with elaborately-folded banana leaves, incense sticks, and a candle. The candle venerates the Buddha with light, while the krathong’s floating symbolises letting go of all one’s hatred, anger, and defilements. People sometime cut their fingernails or hair and place the clippings on the krathong as a symbol of letting go of past transgressions and negative thoughts. A small coin is sometimes included as an offering to the river spirits. Legend says if a couple releases their krathong together, they will meet and fall in love again in the next life.

    Sticking to tradition, earlier in the day I’d snipped some of John’s hair and my fingernails (gross huh! I figured they were better than toenails to carry around!) and put them in a tissue in my bag. We searched the stalls for a pretty krathrong and chose a medium sized one decorated with roses and orchids. We headed down to the river and added our nails, hair and a gold coin, lit the candle and the incense and John took it down to the river bank to float off. Not sure if that technically means we’ll be together in the next life, but I wasn’t tempting falling in!

    Thousands of krathrongs being floated in Chiang Mai

    Between the river full of the floating krathrongs and the sky awash with floating lanterns it was so pretty! I’m not sure I’ve got rid of all my anger, but a few months after I did manage to get a job that has benefitted us financially. As for together forever, well we’ve since got engaged six months after, but I’m happy to just live in the now than worry about the next life!!

  • Finding glass in your foot years later! – Gross, not technically travelling, but John managed to find a chunk of glass in his foot from when he’d stood on glass in the sea in Thailand years before. How he hadn’t noticed it before I’ll never know, pretty gross huh!
  • Living with a porn star wannabe in Sydney – My first introduction to the attention seeking bimbos of Sydney. Living in a share house this nightmare crawled in with her boyfriend at 3am in the morning, woke the house puking, singing (badly) at the top of the voice til 4 or 5am, listening to the same song on repeat (I’m still drove insane to hear it to this day!), screaming match with a boyfriend whilst she was falling over and sounded like an elephant and then proceed to let the whole street know she was having a shag. Really, how your boyfriend didn’t know you were faking your moaning and screaming for 20 minutes I do not know (or maybe it just made him feel like a superstar?!), someone put a sock in her gob! The noise, I’ve never heard anything like it and (please) hopefully won’t ever again!
  • Tubing in Laos – John’s adventure, pretty fun, alcohol combined with tubing down a river, health and safety, erm let’s not go there!
  • Picking a restaurant in Ashfield, Sydney – lamb spine, duck feet, curdled cold blood soup, me thinks I prefer Westernised Chinese food!