How to stay healthy while travelling

How to stay healthy while travelling

Originally published by me on BeautyNews.com.au.

We’ve saved the money, packed our bags and planned ourselves an awesome trip. Everything has finally fallen into place and things are looking great. However, great times often lead to some not so great results; think discovering that our once beloved skinny jeans no longer fit, or that we’ve reached a number on the scales we’ve only ever seen on calculators. That giant Italian pizza and Nutella crepe seemed like a good idea at the time, but now we think it’s worse than any of the decisions we ever made in high school. To make sure it doesn’t happen again, here are the best ways to stay healthy while travelling:

Drink plenty of water

Yes, we sound like our mums, but water is actually one of the best things for us. It keeps us hydrated, energised and best of all; it has no calories. It’s extremely important to stay hydrated while travelling because we do so much walking, exploring and general touristy things that drain us of our natural supplements. Water can also replace snacks when we’re feeling hungry, as a lot of the time we’re not actually hungry; we’re just thirsty and our bodies confuse the two feelings. Replacing fattening snacks is a great thing because it stops us from gaining excess weight and adopting pimply skin. What more could we want?

Exercise

Exercising to keep healthy isn’t rocket science, but it’s surprising how many people are hesitant about exercising while overseas. We make countless excuses, such as ‘we don’t know where the local gyms are,’ ‘we have no idea who will be at the gym,’ and ‘we don’t know what the instructor will be like.’ But even if we don’t go to an actual gym, there are many other ways to get some much needed exercise under our belts. Why not set an hour of exercise aside every day or two to ensure it gets done? We can go for a run on the streets, jog along the beach or even go for a nice power walk around the local area. It doesn’t have to be an intense workout; it just needs to get done and we need to understand thatWhether we send ourselves a calendar notification, leave ourselves a note or get someone to remind us – just effing do it.

Commit to at least one healthy meal a day

Yes, this is hard. We know one of the best things about being in a foreign city or country is the yummy food we can’t find back home. But don’t worry; the good thing about this one is that we can still stuff our faces with awesome food twice a day (instead of three times). Similar to setting aside time to exercise, we should afford the same courtesy to food. Whether the chosen meal is breakfast, lunch or dinner – we just need to make it happen. We can even mix it up every few days by changing a healthy breakfast to a healthy lunch, or even a healthy dinner. There are nutritious restaurants all over the world, and contrary to popular belief, googling does more than tell us the best places to find chocolate, alcohol and milkshakes. If that doesn’t suit, we can head to the grocery store and bag some great ingredients that showcase those superb cooking skills.

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Keep healthy snacks handy

Let’s face it; snacks is where it goes wrong. Those devilish little things don’t look fattening at all. In fact, they’re so small and insignificant that we find it hard to believe they contribute to weight gain. But the thing is, they add up. They add up a lot. Quickly devouring a Mars Bar before hitting the shops and then thinking, ‘hey, why don’t I get a quick ice cream while I’m here?’ and then ‘one more Mars Bar won’t hurt’ is what gets us good. They slowly but surely cause pimples and then suddenly, our stomachs resemble our dads’ Christmas beer bellies. While this can be very concerning, there are ways to prevent it. We should carry healthy snacks that are low in calories at all times. According to experts, some of these snacks include bananas, almonds, strawberries, muesli bars, nuts, crackers and other foods high in protein. We should eat them whenever we feel hungry and refrain from indulging on those fattening, sugary foods.

Stick to routines

Holidays are exciting, and it’s extremely hard to maintain our everyday routines. We know that. Most of the time we just want to jump out of bed and head straight to the beach or something as equally exciting. However, before doing so we need to make sure we’ve washed our faces and applied our usual toners and moisturisers. It might not seem that important, but our bodies are thrown out of proportion when change occurs. As weird as it sounds, our bodies know when we’re messing with their routines and they’re not happy about it. Cue the intense breakouts, frizzy hair and weird shape changes. It’s a good idea to shower just as much as we usually would, exercise the same (if not more) and maintain our health eating habits.

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How to survive a long haul flight

How to survive a long haul flight

Originally published by me on BeautyNews.com.au.

We all love travelling, but the idea of being trapped in a metal can for hours on end can deter even the most frequent flyers. For us Australians it’s especially difficult, as we live so far away from most of the world. But if we want to visit somewhere exciting like Europe, we have to suck up our pride and make the most of a not-so-great situation. Here are some of the best ways to do just that:

1. Wear comfortable clothing

This goes without saying, but comfortable clothes are a godsend when it comes to long flights. You will be sitting down for several hours, and perhaps even transiting through various airports, so dress comfortably. Trudging around with heavy luggage is already bad enough, but it’s even worse when you’re wearing heels and jeans that cut off your circulation. Opt for something loose, light and layer up. Planes usually range from freezing cold to scorching hot, so bring a jacket and wear something lighter underneath.

2. Bring a neck pillow, earplugs and an eye mask

Neck pillows are an absolute must for long flights. Most airlines provide you with these, but they’re not always the best quality. Invest in a proper neck pillow, which you can easily buy from your local airport. It will help you sleep, support your head and make your journey a thousand times better. Make sure you also bring earplugs and an eye mask if you want that quality shut eye. Again, some airlines will give you these, so it’s a good idea to check beforehand.

3. Don’t go overboard with food and drinks

We know free food and drinks is never a bad thing, but there’s no need to over do it. There’s nothing worse than getting indigestion when you’re thousands of feet in the air. It’s already uncomfortable enough – don’t make it worse! The same goes for alcohol. While it’s fine to have a sneaky wine or two, don’t drink too much. It can act as a stimulant and keep you up for hours.

4. Drink plenty of water

There’s a lack of humidity in air cabins, which makes flying incredibly dehydrating. Experts usually recommend quadrupling your water intake on flights to avoid dehydration. Keep this up the entire flight, and don’t wait until you’re thirsty to ask for more water. Experts also advise drinking other liquids, such as gatorade because they’re full of energy, and maintaining balance is very important.

5. Bring your own entertainment

Most long-haul flights have in-flight entertainment, but you should check this just in case. Either way, pack a few things to keep yourself entertained. Load your phone up with some music, bring a good old fashioned book, download some movies on your iPad, or even take this opportunity to tackle that work you’ve been putting off!

6. Pack light, but be prepared

We know this is going to be hard for you fashion-savvy gals, but don’t pack too much stuff. Carrying heavy luggage around for hours on end can be exhausting, and it’s guaranteed to put you in a bad mood. Having said that, make sure you pack the essentials. Remember to pack a toothbrush, toothpaste, face wash, baby wipes and deodorant. They sound like simple things but can be easily forgotten and you’ll definitely regret it if you don’t. However, make sure you don’t pack anything over 100ml, and that you don’t bring aerosol deodorant. Airport security is very strict with these rules, and they’ll probably be confiscated.

7. Sit back, relax and enjoy

Finally, just enjoy your flight. We know it’s long and tiring, but it’s not every day we get to sit down for hours and do absolutely nothing but eat and watch TV. Enjoy it while it lasts because it will be over before you know it!

Week 2 in Belfast – Field trips, lectures and endless activities

Week 2 in Belfast – Field trips, lectures and endless activities

None of us here in Belfast can quite believe that another week studying “Conflict Transformation in Northern Ireland” has come to an end. A few days ago, everyone realised our course had reached its halfway mark, and there were definitely some long faces around. However, I think we’ve all done a pretty good job picking ourselves up because there’s never a dull moment around here.

Me at Giant's Causeway

The weekend kicked off with another field trip – a drive to the Antrim Coast, Glens of Antrim and Giant’s Causeway. We drove north along the River Bann, and then stopped east for a tour of the Giant’s Causeway, which many say is one of the United Kingdom’s greatest natural wonders. It has over 40,000 basalt columns that were formed by a volcanic eruption over 50 to 60 million years ago. It was absolutely breathtaking, and the views were spectacular.

Giant's Causeway

When we asked the tour guide why it was called the “Giant’s Causeway”, we were told that according to legend, these columns were the remains of a causeway (a raised road or track) built by an Irish giant so he could meet his giant Scottish enemy for battle across the channel. One theory was that one of the giants destroyed the causeway so that others couldn’t follow him back. In the 17th century, this was the only explanation for the causeway’s existence.

Another highlight of my day was driving down 96 kilometres of the most beautiful coast you could imagine. I’ve never seen such a blue ocean, or such bright grass in my life. Even though it was impossible to capture the coast’s beauty on camera, I couldn’t help but take more photos than most people would probably take of the entire trip.

Before the Euro cup

The rest of that weekend was spent at one of the local pubs watching the Euro Cup football grand final – Portugal vs. France. Admittedly, I’m not a huge fan of watching sport, but as you can imagine, this time brought an electrically contagious atmosphere. After the game ended, I even saw a few men wiping tears from their eyes. I’m still not sure whether they were tears of anguish or joy, but it was an interesting experience nevertheless. Some of us even stayed back to continue the celebrations well into the night.

On Monday, we learnt about how parades are an important part of Northern Ireland culture. The 12th of July is the biggest day of the year in Northern Ireland, and for half of the population (protestants) it’s a huge celebration because it signifies unity. The other half (Catholics) generally avoid the entire occasion because it celebrates the day their king was overthrown by protestants.

Bonfire being built

In class, we were informed that bonfires would be ignited that night around Belfast. Apparently this happens every night before the 12th of July celebrations, and protestant street parties often accompany them. We had a look at the bonfires being built during the day, and found they were mostly made of wooden pallets and tires, with many of them being over 30 metres tall. During the night, my friends watched the events unfold, but unfortunately I fell asleep in my room (in sheer exhaustion after having too many good times) and missed out. Not to worry though – more good times were on the way!

The following day, we set out to watch the parades. We witnessed countless men, women and children march through the streets of Belfast banging their drums, while locals cheered them on from the sidelines. It was great being able to immerse ourselves in the local culture, particularly as we learnt all about the parades in class and therefore knew the origins behind them.

Because of the parades, most of the shops in Belfast were closed on the 12th of July, so we had limited dining and shopping options after the parades ended. However, I went for a leisurely walk that night and discovered the entire city was still celebrating. I hadn’t really seen anything like it before – people of all ages were roaming the streets partying, eating and drinking. There were policemen everywhere, but I wasn’t worried about violence because despite past conflict, Belfast is now one of the safest cities in the UK.

Pub crawl

My favourite night so far was probably our pub-crawl on Wednesday night, as many people in our course gathered to experience some of the region’s best pubs. Our program helpers organised the night, and they didn’t disappoint. We all tried a number of different beverages, and some of us even danced the night away to live music. Belfast pubs are much more lively than most pubs I’ve been to, so I had a great time. The locals are very friendly, and they don’t seem to mind that I can’t understand their lovely accents 99% of the time.

There was, however, one unexpected occurrence that night – I somehow ended up Irish dancing (again) with a bunch of my friends and strangers in an upstairs area of a pub. If you read my last blog post, you’ll know that I wasn’t very good at Irish dancing last time I tried it. Well, I’m afraid that things haven’t changed– I’m still terrible at it. I’m a tiny bit more confident in my abilities, but I spent most of my time mimicking the people who looked like they had a clue.

Derry (Londonderry) sign 2

The rest of the week flew by. We attended lectures and learnt more about the history of conflict in Northern Ireland. On Friday, we put some recently learnt theory into perspective by visiting the city of Londonderry, or Derry, as many people tend to call it. We had a look at its murals, the city walls and visited some local museums where we saw the history of the city’s past conflict. It was a very eye-opening experience, and I’ll never forget the violent stories I read, or the confronting images I saw.

Derry (Londonderry) sign

This weekend is our first free weekend, so I’m jetting off to London to visit my close friend. It was a pretty last minute decision, but Northern Ireland is so close to other European countries, and I’m not sure if I’ll ever have the option of ‘just going to London for the weekend’ any time soon.

Coast

I love Belfast and I’m having such a good time. I love the food, the atmosphere and the people. I am feeling quite sad that next week is our last week, but I’m so excited to see what the final week brings (let’s be honest – it’s probably more Irish dancing…)

Week 1 – Luggage, Learning and Laughter in Northern Ireland

Week 1 – Luggage, Learning and Laughter in Northern Ireland

This week, I travelled to Belfast in Northern Ireland to complete a three-week intensive course at Queen’s University. I was been beyond excited about this trip for months, and so far I’m having an amazing time.

I’m having so much fun, in fact, that I’m finding it hard to believe our first week studying ‘Conflict Transformation in Northern Ireland’ is almost complete. Let’s just say it’s been a busy (but fantastic) week full of luggage, learning and lots of laughter. The journey to Belfast was long, with a total of 30 hours spent flying and transiting through various airports, but in the end it was definitely worth it.

When I arrived at Belfast airport, I was fortunate enough to locate another girl from my program. We decided to brave the foreign city of Belfast together by sharing a taxi to our accommodation. Once we arrived at Elm’s Village, we found and introduced ourselves to other students from the course. With rumbling stomachs and curious minds, we all stored our luggage and set ourselves the mission of locating Belfast’s best lunch cuisine. We soon discovered this was impossible, as although we enjoyed hearty meals and delicious smoothies from our chosen restaurant, Belfast doesn’t disappoint when it comes to its abundance of food.

Lost at Queen's Uni

The first official day of the program was definitely a memorable one. The conflict resolution students and the Irish studies students all met at Queen’s University, which is one of the most impressive buildings I have ever seen. We then learnt a bit more about the program and did a series of quizzes to help us learn the basics. I was pleasantly surprised to discover there were students from all over the world participating in the course, and the atmosphere was alive with culture. Australian, American, African, German, Israeli and Irish accents could be heard throughout the room as we all excitedly got to know each other.

After we undertook a brief walking tour of the beautiful (and extremely large) Queen’s University, we all piled on buses to complete a guided tour of Belfast. Our program coordinator, Dominic, was a very knowledgeable tour guide. He took us to some of Belfast’s famous murals, which are well-known symbols of Northern Ireland. These murals tell the stories of the region’s present and past political and religious divisions, which we are learning about in class.

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To wrap up a perfect first day, we all gathered at the night’s introductory wine reception to mingle with other students. After the reception, a few of us decided to test out the local pubs. We purchased Irish Guinness beers, which I admittedly didn’t quite enjoy, but my friends shared their appreciation for the acquired taste. With that ticked off the bucket list, we succumbed to retirement for the night.

Pub - drinking Guiness beers

Over the following days, we had more classes and learnt a lot of information in a short period of time. The lectures were interesting, interactive and we had the opportunity to ask questions and contribute our opinions. It was particularly fascinating to learn about Northern Ireland’s past, as many people, including myself, had limited knowledge of this prior to arriving in Belfast.

On the third night of the course, we all met and had plenty of fun trying traditional Irish dancing. Our instructor was incredibly helpful, but unfortunately I have two left feet and never quite got the hang of the “toe throw” dance manoeuvres. My first attempt resulted in a laughing fit, and not many improvements were made following that. Nevertheless, I had a lot of fun. Some of the other students were quite good, which I’m still jealous about.

On Thursday, we visited the Irish Centre for Migration Studies. This was a valuable learning experience, as we had the opportunity to explore the outside museum, which consisted of the Irish migrants’ 1700s and 1800s homes. It was interactive, and we were encouraged to enter these homes and learn about their origins from the site’s tour guides.

Students going to Migration Centre

This program has been a great experience so far, and I’m glad I decided to take part in it. Although the first week may be drawing to a close, my friends and I have a lot planned for the weekend. We’re going to explore Belfast as much as possible and then engage in some serious retail therapy. To top that off, we’ll probably end our nights with pub-crawls and dancing (hopefully not Irish dancing, though!)

Stay tuned for more updates!

Rome – The City of Love, Leather and Language

Rome – The City of Love, Leather and Language

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Photo taken by me in Rome.

If you’re looking to experience something that you won’t soon forget, the capital city of Italy is probably the answer. With its cobble-stoned streets, ancient buildings and magnificent landmarks, Rome is one of the most historical cities in the world. It’s a beautiful place, but like all areas, it also has its share of both positives and negative aspects. This review will explore some of my experiences in Rome, so that you can be prepared for the good, the bad and everything in between.

Before I go into detail about how amazing Rome is, I should advise you to be careful of pickpockets and gypsies. These types of people are abundant in Rome, and they have absolutely no shame in trying to steal your belongings. You should travel with a bag that has a secure zipper and a short strap so that you can keep it close to your body at all times. You shouldn’t leave your bag open, nor should you let it out of your sight.

You may think that citizens are being friendly when offering their assistance (don’t get me wrong — sometimes they are), but you need to be wary. Often, people will help you with things, such as giving directions and carrying your luggage, but they might expect to be paid for their help. A lot of them do this for a living, and if you refuse to pay them, they probably won’t take it well. This was a new experience for me, as Australian culture is very different.

In my opinion, Rome is home to some of the best food in the world. If you enjoy pizza, pasta and sauce, you can’t go wrong when dining out in Rome. Most restaurant staff have basic English speaking skills, so it’s quite easy to communicate with them. Admittedly, there were a few restaurants that gave me the incorrect meal due to my poor grasp of the Italian language, but fortunately, I enjoyed the meal anyway. Even though it’s always best to learn the native language, you can easily get by without knowing how to speak Italian.

Me pizza
Me. I ate the entire pizza (it was THAT good!)

When it comes to sightseeing, the Colosseum is an absolute must. It has stunning ancient architecture, and it carries so much history that it’s impossible not to be impressed. The Vatican, which is the home of the Pope, is also an extremely worthy destination. It has breathtaking art, which you’re free to observe at your leisure. There’s a lot of walking involved, and these destinations are always crowded, so make sure that you’re prepared for an array of different circumstances. Other popular tourist destinations include the Trevi Fountain, the Pantheon and more. You should do some research about what attractions you’re likely to find enjoyable before booking anything.

For those who enjoy a bit of shopping, Rome is definitely for you. Rome is known for providing excellent qualities of fashion, and most shopping facilities are reputable. Rome boasts all kinds of shopping resources, and it caters towards people of all different tastes, so there’s something for everyone. You can visit quaint markets, wander around designer stores, shop for luxurious handbags and perfume, or even try your luck bartering at local shopping areas. It’s a good idea to make sure that you have an understanding of Euros, which is the Italian currency, in comparison to your own country’s currency. Some shopkeepers in Rome have been known to take advantage of tourists’ vulnerability.

Nana Italia
My grandmother: burning a hole in her wallet.

Rome is one of the most historical cities in the world. It has a lot of public transport available, including trains, buses and taxis, so you should find it relatively easy to navigate around. You can even explore outside the city, as it’s quite close to several other popular cities and towns.

If you’re adequately prepared for all of the above circumstances, you should have a once in a lifetime experience. Don’t let the negative aspects deter you, but learn from them so that you don’t repeat them.

Happy exploring!