A blog about travel, books and navigating your twenties in one piece

Sunday, 25 June 2017

The 52 Lists Project // Week 25

Happy Sunday! I'm up bright and early because I'm now working at the Wimbledon Championships for the second year in a row which means that I'll be working almost every day until 16th July so I'm going to be a very busy bee indeed for a while.

I can't believe it's been a whole year since I last worked there and, I feel like I'm saying this about everything lately, but time is going way too fast and I'm on the brink of an existential crisis every time I think about it! Existential crises aside, it's lovely to be back and I love the routine of going into work almost every day and working with so many amazing people.

Anyway, today's list is: "List the things that make you feel powerful." which at first I thought was a bit of a strange one because I'm not sure I ever really feel fully powerful or that that's something I want to feel. But, when I changed my association with the word powerful to things like independence, it was much easier to come up with a list and so these are the things that make me feel powerful...

  • Writing - Writing definitely makes me feel empowered. Sitting down and taking the time to get out my thoughts, especially if I'm writing about something I feel very strongly about, makes me feel very powerful afterwards. I don't know if that's a weird thing to say because I'm not sure writing would be the first thing that would spring to mind for most people but it did for me and so it's on the list!
  • Pushing myself when exercising - It's rare but when I'm in the exercising zone I feel amazing. They're really not lying when they say that exercise releases endorphins and it's something that makes me feel on top of the world when I feel like I've pushed myself.
  • Educating myself - I fully believe that knowledge is power. And being able to talk about a range of things having been privileged enough to receive (and to still be receiving) a wonderful education definitely makes me feel powerful. In my opinion education is the most important tool with which people can feel empowered.
  • Engaging politically - Along a similar line, in recent months if I've felt passionately about a political issue I've written to my MP about it. I always vote when given the opportunity and sign petitions on causes I believe in. I know how lucky I am to live in a country with a democracy where I have the right to vote and voice my opinion and, although I think the past couple of years have been incredibly depressing politically, being able to participate even in these small ways in politics makes me feel powerful. 
  • Earning money and choosing how to spend it - While I perhaps optimistically think that education is the most powerful tool through which people can feel empowered, I have no doubt that many would say this is in fact money. It's sad but our world really does revolve around money and those who have it typically have far more power than those who do not. And I have definitely felt powerful when I've earned my own money and chosen how to spend it. Obviously, being a student, I'm not exactly rolling in it but having had a part-time job all year has really empowered me in having a bit of money that I've worked for myself.
  • Starting conversations with strangers - Not that I do this very often, but it can be very daunting to start a conversation with someone you don't know well if at all but I get a genuine buzz from it when I do. I love people and so being able to strike up a conversation with someone new makes me feel great and, knowing that it's a bit of a daunting thing to do, does make me feel kinda powerful when I do it!
So there you have it, the things that make me feel powerful. Let me know what would be on your list - I'd be very curious to know how it varies from person to person!

Sunday, 18 June 2017

Thoughts On Finishing My Second Year of University

I wasn't really feeling writing a list this week (I know, I don't know who I am either!) but I was in the mood to write and so instead I thought I'd give you a mini essay of my thoughts on finishing my second year of uni since I'm driving home this afternoon (at the time of writing) and I'm an incredibly nostalgic person.

A year ago I wasn't all that fussed about uni. Sure, I'd mostly enjoyed my first year and had met some of my closest friends now but I found a lot of it unsettling and difficult and a lot to get used to. I think underlying it all was a pressure that I had put on myself to be having the best time ever at all times. Because that's what everyone says uni's like, right? A three year long party where you have no worries and no responsibilities.

I hate to burst that bubble but it's just not true. Yes, uni is great and fun and you don't have many responsibilities in the grand scheme of things. But it's also really, really tough at times. You're living away from home (probably for the first time) with a bunch of strangers and it comes with a lot of expectations. I have no doubt that I put those expectations on myself but I think that if there wasn't such a stereotype of uni as being the best thing ever then I wouldn't have put them on myself so harshly.

Anyway, all of this is to say that at the end of last year I really thought that uni would pass me by and that I'd think of it as a pretty good experience but be very much looking forward to starting the next chapter of my life and hopefully having a great career. And then second year happened.

I have absolutely loved this year. Living in a house has, for me, been so much more fun than living in halls as I did in first year (although I think I'll now always remember halls fondly); I've enjoyed my course so much more and I've met and spent time with people who make me laugh and smile every single day. It definitely hasn't all been sunshine and rainbows but, overall, I've had the best time this year and it's made me emotional to think that in a year's time uni will be over for me.

This year I've been able to actually get to know Exeter when last year I didn't really make the most of the chance to get to know a completely new-to-me city. And I've really fallen in love with the place. It's very small compared to London (where I'm from) but I think that's its charm and it's full of cute and cool cafes, great shops and beautiful architecture.

I've put myself out there a lot more over the past few months for sure. In first year I was probably the lowest in self-esteem I've been in a long time. Which was unexpected because I wasn't shy or afraid to talk to the new people I was meeting but perhaps it was a by-product of feeling like I had to be confident all the time. Whatever the cause, this year I've regained my confidence and haven't been so afraid of trying new things and talking to new people. And I've learnt a lot from that. I'm still far from the most outgoing person you'll ever meet but I've felt a lot more 'me' this year and it's felt really nice.

I've got into a good routine with uni work, friends and everything else in second year. Last year I was unsurprisingly a bit lost and lacking a proper routine because I spent a long time getting used to everything that's involved with moving to a new place, studying in a completely new way and spending time with new people. And, as someone who thrives on routine for the most part, that wasn't the best thing for me at all. This last year I feel like I've got it down a lot more. I know that I like to do uni work like a job i.e. working on campus rather than at home and having set working hours so that when I get home I can just relax and try to not think about my impending deadlines. I know that I do like to go out (which by the end of first year I felt like I'd never be keen to do) but that it's not more than two times a week generally so that when I do I genuinely enjoy it. I know that I need to look after my body and eat what I want (within reason) because generally my body will tell me what it needs and that's the most important thing and far more important than being skinny. (Maybe more on that another time but my body image in first year was appalling and as someone who's never struggled with that it was a huge shock to me.)

Basically, this year I had the best time and I think the main reason for that is that I finally let go of the idea that uni is supposed to be one big party at all times and realised that, like anything in life, there'll be ups and downs and that's really ok. No one is having as much fun as they seem to be and the idea that they are is unhealthy and ultimately irrelevant to your own happiness. The ironic thing, of course, is that only once I'd let go of that did I start to fully enjoy and appreciate uni but that's always the way isn't it!

So I can't believe I'm already writing this but, second year, you've been a dream and I'm so grateful for all the experiences I've had and people I've spent time with. I've been so lucky to have met and spent time with the people I have this year and they're the ones who have really made it for me. Third year, here we come!

Sunday, 11 June 2017

The 52 Lists Project // Week 23

What a week it's been! I had a flying visit to Paris to spend my sister's birthday with her and my Dad mid-week (which was lovely) and since getting back have been watching all of the election chaos unfold. At the time of writing this it looks like Theresa May will be forming a minority government with the informal support of the DUP which I am not best pleased about but nevertheless I am incredibly delighted at the estimated 72% turnout among 18-24 year olds in this election. Young people are so often overlooked by politicians despite the fact that the majority of decisions made by the government affect our future the most and finally we've shown them what we can do when we put our minds to it!

Anyway, that's enough rambling about that! Today's list was a lovely topic to think about and is: "List the things that make you laugh." 

They say that laughter is the best medicine and I have to say I fully agree with that. There's nothing better than laughing so much that you have tears streaming down your face and your stomach physically aches in my opinion and I'm very lucky to be surrounded by a lot that makes me laugh. Call it an awful sense of humour or whatever you like, I'm not ashamed in the slightest because laughing is one of the greatest joys in life so here's what makes me giggle the most...

  • My friends - Being able to make me laugh (not that it's a very difficult task) is something that's absolutely essential to me in a friendship or relationship and all of my friends make me laugh whenever I'm with them. My personal favourite thing is when myself and another friend both crack up for seemingly no reason and proceed to laugh for a good two minutes uncontrollably to the point where we're just laughing at the fact that we're laughing so much. Please tell me I'm not alone in finding those moments absolutely hilarious!
  • TV shows - Sitting down and watching a funny TV show is one of the best ways to get me (and I'm sure many of you too!) laughing. There's so much out there that I could mention but my personal favourites guaranteed to have me howling are New Girl, Blackadder, Mock the Week and Fawlty Towers. Some older and some very current, they all get me cracking up!
  • Films - The scene in Just Go With It where Nick Swardson's character has to give the heimlich to a sheep kills me every single time I watch it. I'm sure that makes no sense if you haven't seen the film but if you haven't it's worth it just for that scene! The other two films that sprang to mind which always make me giggle are The Hangover and We're the Millers.
  • Comedians - Of course, it would be impossible to make a list of things that make me laugh without including some people whose job is literally to make people laugh. My absolute favourite comedians have to be Sara Pascoe, Richard Ayoade, Josh Widdicombe, Romesh Ranganathan, David Mitchell and Jack Whitehall. I saw Jack Whitehall live in February and I genuinely spent most of the show crying with laughter it was so good. I know he's not everyone's cup of tea but I find him absolutely hilarious. 
  • Political memes - Especially in this general election campaign as well as Donald Trump memes, these just kill me they're so funny. 
  • Awful jokes - As I've said above, I don't exactly have the most sophisticated sense of humour shall we say and, while not every awful joke gets me, some very simple and probably unfunny to most people jokes really have me laughing on many occasions. 
  • Myself - Along the same lines, I find myself absolutely hilarious. Guaranteed I'll be caught multiple times a week just giggling to myself and probably nine times out of ten it will be because I've made myself laugh. Guilty as charged.
  • Buni - My Grandma (I call her Buni because in Romanian Grandma is Bunica and apparently that was too long for me when I was little!) is one of the funniest people I know. You might not expect it looking at her but she majorly cracks me up on a regular basis. I think that's partly why she's so funny; when you look at her you'd never expect her to come out with some of the things that she does but from her Boris Johnson impression to her Victoria Beckham impression, she never fails to make me laugh and I love her for it so much. 

I could go on but I'll leave it there! Writing this post has left me with a big grin on my face so please do let me know what makes you laugh and whether you too have watched Just Go With It multiple times just for that scene... 

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

The 52 Lists Project // Week 22

Good morning everyone! This post was supposed to go up on Sunday but I was just sitting down to write it when I heard the awful news of the attack on London on Saturday evening and it just felt so trivial in that moment to write a list about the favourite places I've been to, although we must always carry on after these atrocities lest terrorists win.

So I'm here today feeling absolutely heartbroken about the whole thing but writing this anyway because I love blogging and I feel incredibly lucky to have had some amazing experiences and to have travelled to some amazing places during my short lifetime so I wanted to share this today.

This week's list is, you guessed it, "List your favourite places you have been." and there are so many, but I've managed to narrow it down to just a few so here they are...

  • Barcelona - My trip to Barcelona with my nine best friends was one of the best weeks of my life and it really is a city that has everything; great shopping, a wonderful beach, amazing nightlife and beautiful architecture. It was the perfect week away and I'm desperate to go back.
  • Genoa - Genoa is the first place I ever went in Italy and I absolutely adored it! It might not be the most obvious Italian destination but it's a great city and so close to the stunning Cinque Terre and I had such a wonderful time there.
  • Liverpool - My sister has lived in Liverpool for a good few years now and going to visit her is such a treat not only to spend time with her but also to explore Liverpool. I never would have thought it but it's such a cool city and fun place to be with so much to do. If you're looking for a UK weekend away definitely consider it.
  • Sighisoara - This Romanian city is one of my favourite places. We stopped there a couple of years ago when my Mum and I were travelling around a bit and it's such a cute little city, especially in the Summer!
  • London - Oh London. There aren't words for how much I adore my home city. It's true what they say - London is one of the most special cities and I don't think I'd rather live anywhere else in the world.
  • Exeter - I have to include my uni city on this list because I am having the time of my life living here. I feel like I'm discovering new cafes and cute little places all the time even though Exeter isn't the largest city and it's just the loveliest place to live.
  • Lapland - You might remember me writing about my trip to Lapland back in January but, if not, let me fill you in. It's the most magical place I've ever been and I want to go back every winter from now on. You must add it to your list if you haven't thought of it!

So those are my favourite places I've been so far. Please let me know if there's anywhere you'd really recommend adding to my travel bucket list. It's already far too long but a bit of wanderlust never hurt anyone, right?

I hope you all have wonderful weeks and please let's remember to always love rather than hate. In times like this we need the kindness of strangers more than ever.

Friday, 2 June 2017

Poltimore Festival 2017

On Sunday myself and my housemates went to Exeter's Poltimore Festival and I had the best day. The website describes it as "a music festival, a secret cinema, and a cutting edge theatre venue", and it really is a festival that has a bit of everything you could possibly want. With yoga and meditation sessions in the forest, slacklining, theatre and spoken word performances, a bouncy castle and far more, there's so much to see and explore aside from the music. 

Poltimore takes place at, you guessed it, Poltimore House and Grounds. Before going last weekend, I had no idea it even existed but both the house and land surrounding it are incredible and it makes the perfect place for a small festival venue! Now that I've done my homework I know that Poltimore was originally built as an aristocratic house but has been a girls' school, a wartime home and hospital and was sold by the NHS in 1975. Sadly it was essentially being left to ruin until the Poltimore House Trust bought it in the 2000s and have been restoring it ever since. 

It's really the most amazing piece of architecture and so, after having a quick look around the grounds once we'd arrived, we headed straight to the house to see what was on offer.

The house was a great place to start the day since it was filled with theatrical performances, a cinema and both art and photography exhibitions. My personal highlight in the house was a display showcasing all of the various things people have used as bookmarks found left in books. It included old cinema tickets, doodles on paper and a number of postcards. Being the history buff that I am, I was in heaven reading a number of old messages dating as far back (if my memory serves me rightly) as the 1930s and imagining what might have happened to both the writer and the person they were sending their postcard to! 

Inside the house there was also a stage where a number of music acts performed. The first photo above is the backdrop of the stage and it made such an ethereal location to hear music performed. We spent the day mostly meandering between the stage here and the main stage in the grounds and the contrast between the two was great. 

I really enjoyed listening to both of the acts we watched in the house, Delmer Darion and Psychopomp. Delmer Darion are an alternative electronic band who just use computers to make their music and although that sounds crazy (or it did to me) and I was at first worried that it would just sound like Ross' 'sound' (please tell me you get that Friends reference!), it was really cool to listen to and unlike anything I've ever heard! 

When we weren't at the House or laying on the grass watching the acts on the main stage, we were looking at the lovely stalls around the periphery of the grounds and wandering around the surrounding forest. Ellie bought a super cute t-shirt from a local and independent clothes company and I was very happy with my purchase of what has to be one of the best burgers I've ever had. 

It might sound a bit hippyish and cringey but it makes me so happy to be able to buy things from local shops and to support independent businesses even though it's unlikely that my one purchase of a burger will have made the biggest difference to that business! But the whole charm of Poltimore is that you can really see how much the organisers work to make it the loveliest day out. They must have reached out to so many different local businesses and artists to put together the whole day and it definitely paid off because the whole feel of the day was amazing. 

Before we knew it it was starting to get dark and the final band, Matthew and the Atlas, were performing on the main stage. We actually saw them live supporting Bear's Den in November and I really enjoyed it so it was fun to be able to see them again at Poltimore Festival. 

One of the nicest thing about how chilled Poltimore is as a festival is that you can just sit on the grass and enjoy the music or get up and dance to it at the front, whatever you're feeling. I have to say though, laying on the grass and looking up at the sky for a while was definitely the first time I'd felt really at peace in what must have been quite a while.

If it isn't already blindingly obvious, I absolutely adored Poltimore Festival and am definitely going back next year! I have to say thank you to Ellie for recommending that we go after she'd already gone last year because otherwise it probably would have passed me by. At only £12 a ticket (this year anyway), if you're in the south west next year you'd really be silly not to go - it's the most wonderful day out and everyone involved in the organising of it clearly put their all into it, which is very much appreciated by people like me!
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