Testing Out Hiking Boots

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I surprised myself at my level of fitness after completing a jaw droppingly beautiful hike round the Himalayas last year where my ugly but practical hiking shoes were tested to the limits. After wiping off goat and donkey poo I decided to try out some new boots with ankle support, which I didn’t have last time. You can see more backpacker style here but lets all agree that finding nice looking walking boots is a mission impossible? Mmm sexy.

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As it was the European Patrimoine weekend where loads of museums, art galleries and tourist attractions were free (even the main attractions in Paris are free, which is a perfect time to visit if you are travelling on a budget just expect a whole lotta queues!) it was a great excuse to check out the World War Two barracks at the top of the cliffs in my French town and test these boot babies out with a windswept walk.

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When the town was occupied by the German troops during the war they built barracks, a hospital and hidden concrete shelters that acted as vantage points over the sea. We joined a tour and were led through sturdy structures in the near dark with just the sound of crashing waves and howling wind ringing in our ears. It was pretty eerie!

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After the history lesson and wanting to stretch our legs as well as take in the view we ambled across fields, dodged cows and got slightly lost to see how the grip of the hiking boots held up. Breathing in good old sea air was the perfect hangover cure that soon woke us up and cleared our heads so we could make it back home safely!

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I definitely didn’t wear the right socks for the heavy boots as afterwards the back of my ankles were red raw! I still haven’t decided if I will stick with my old faithful shoes or take my clodhopping boots when we go to South America. Have you done much hiking? If so which type of shoe or boots would you recommend?

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Pre-Trip Panic!

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With the countdown to our South America trip already chiming away I am starting to get that anxious feeling of Pre-Trip Panic! You know the one where you are scrambling around trying to get everything ticked off your to-do list, staring at the mountain of things you NEED to pack and knowing that you will have to make some tough choices on what (i.e. most of it) will get left behind. It’s like Sophie’s Choice of the suitcase world, even though you have procrastinated watching Zoella and Lift Prank videos putting it off. Does anyone else do this?

So to calm myself down what better way than to make a good ‘ol list and try to make sure everything gets done that needs to get done:

Pack – I think I have everything I need and am desperate to try and keep my bag as light as physically possible. Wish me luck. But I already know I have too much stuff so am preparing myself to pack and repack about 10,000 times with much crying and clinging on to clothes in the process.

Travel Insurance – It is a minefield of policies, deals, information and stress inducing crap out there in regards to spending money that will save your ass. But if you saw my post yesterday where I questioned just how important is this pricy piece of paper you may understand the essentials a little better. I am spending waaaay to long on this task so am determined to get this sorted today.

Accommodation- I have booked the flights but so far not began the search of where we will sleep the first night we arrive. My go-to websites for this are Hostel World and Booking.com but I really should get this sorted soonish otherwise I wonder how comfy the sand on Copacabana beach is?

Sort Money Out – I wrote a post here about how to be a savvy spender but I haven’t decided how much we will take as cash or sorted this out yet. I don’t like travelling with wads of cash but we will need enough so at least when we arrive we can get food and to wherever it is that we will be sleeping. My bestie told me about these travel cash passport cards which I may peruse. Have you used them before?

Choons – My iPod is desperate for a good overhaul as all the songs that currently sit on the small grey thing are either really old, heard a million and one times or too embarrassing to be seen singing along to in public. I like to have new music for each trip/country I go for the happy memories. I still get shivers when I hear One Day Baby as this was on repeat when I got my tattoo. Speaking of which I am very much tempted to be adding to my small collection whilst we are away…

Technology – I am taking a small teeny tiny laptop to allow me to keep writing and blogging thankfully my lovely mummy has lent me hers but I need to remove all her files to make space for ALL of the photos I will be taking. Seriously snap happy!

The other things I need to sort are cancelling contracts, telling the bank I will be away so hopefully they don’t put a stop on my card and boring bits like that really. Now I have written this all down it doesn’t look like too much actually. Maybe I can go and faff around on You Tube for a little longer after all.

How Important Is Travel Insurance?

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When I went backpacking last time I spent a small fortune on travel insurance as I was overly anxious about all the bad things that could/would happen to me especially as I was going solo. Turns out I surprised myself and didn’t lose anything/ break anything or die. Go me.

So therefore that money could have been better spent on the trip itself surely? But as the saying goes it is better to be safe than sorry. As if anything had happened I would be in a whole heap of crap/bankrupt/in jail. I read somewhere that coming home having not made a claim is the best case scenario. Just irritating you can’t reclaim it back after!

Depending on where you go and how long for travel insurance can seem quite costly but if you break it down by how much this will cost you each day you are away it doesn’t actually amount to much but it will save you loads of hassle and cash if you don’t have it. Some say it is the single most important thing you can buy for your trip. So with that in mind I have been scanning the interweb for the best deals and the greatest coverage on travel insurance for our next trip to South America but as there are so many companies out there all with differencing plans and rules it can be a minefield.

A backpackers faveourite is World Nomads who have excellent reviews for their customer care but it is also handy to check out some of the price checking comparison websites such as TravelSupermarket or GoCompare to see who ticks all of the below boxes for you!

What to look for:

Medical Expenses – The most important feature on your travel insurance policy is for your health. Covering your stay in a hospital, repatriation and emergency evacuation (ie. getting you out of a dangerous place and bringing you back home but make sure they include the flight not just the medical set up), ambulance costs, medication etc as these can all add up depending on where in the world you are. Look for a policy that covers at least £100,000 but most are in the region of £3million.

Be Honest - If you have a medical condition it’s worth making sure you explain this clearly to your insurers before you take out the claim. These guys can be quite sneaky so if they can find a way to get out on a loophole like this they most likely will.

Cancellation – If you have to cancel your trip for whatever legit reason it’s worth having this on your travel insurance policy so you will receive what you have already paid out depending on how much you have paid already.

Bags- It needs to cover if your bags get are stolen, damaged or destroyed as well as delayed. But how about making sure your passport is covered as it’s more than likely you will be out and about with this deep red friend than your huge bag. Some companies include passport/travel documents in with their baggage coverage others keep this separate either way make sure it is covered.

Gadgets – With more and more people travelling with pricy electricals such as ipads, ipods, iphones, laptops, DSLR’s, GoPros and other techno chic appliances it is worth checking you have enough coverage for these things on top of your normal bag coverage.

Personal Liability – If you accidentally do something that causes harm to another human being then any legal fees will be covered by this.

Financial Failure – If your hotel/airline/tour company/car hire goes bust then you will receive the money you paid out before they went into liquidation. Make sure your policy covers non ATOL protected trips too.

Crazy Sports – Always check that those insane activities are covered in your travel insurance as not all extreme sports are covered such as paragliding or bungee jumping unless you pay extra to add it in.

Check Ts & Cs - It is worth reading all the small print as then you will know what you aren’t covered for too. Most insurers spell out quite clearly that if you are under the influence of alcohol, drugs or reckless behaviour then you can kiss bye bye to that claim.

Paper Trail -Make sure you keep a copy of all your receipts if you do need to claim and before you go have the emergency hotline phone number saved in a safe place. Hopefully you will never have to call them but just in case.

Right I’m off to get mine booked – wish me luck!

Why YOU Should Look More Like A Backpacker

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Is it possible to be stylish on the go? Let’s think of this for a moment….Huge bulky backpack, grubby money wallet, clomping great hiking boots, orthopaedic type travel flip flops and that’s just the start of it.

Not a scrap of makeup, hair that needs a good wash which is tied up in a rough bun or pony tail, wearing the same bikini for four days running or longer (the sea washes it right?!) needing to attack the rainforest sprouting on your legs and cellulite on show. Mmm.

If I told you I fitted the above description back home you would think I was a bit of a scrubber. But truth is when you’re backpacking everyone is in a pretty similar skanky (by normal standards) state. I met this one guy who said he wasn’t going to cut his hair or beard for the whole year he was away. I saw photos when he returned home and let’s just say he made Tom Hanks in Castaway look clean cut.

The travellers you do meet who are on a budget but still have a flawless face of slap and trendy clothes are obviously not enjoying themselves enough! As after a while you realise that comfort comes way above looking like you have stepped off the pages of a glossy magazine. Unless said magazine is hiking weekly – that look you may just about pull off.

Planning our upcoming backpacking trip has got me thinking how I may need to prepare my boyfriend for the sight he will see…. and I don’t mean the scenery. Since I returned from my travels I’m not really high maintenance in normal life so I shouldn’t be stressing that my boyfriend will be turned off by this ahem very relaxed Katy, well he has seen me in enough hung-over states and still not run a mile yay! I’m hoping that instead of wondering where his cleaner shinier girlfriend is that he will embrace this chilled out attitude together. Please don’t mistake us for the Twits – we won’t take it that far I promise – ish.

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But I have a confession to make …. this state of unkemptness while backpacking was one of the happiest times of my life. I look at photos on a beach in Goa or after trekking the Himalayas and I don’t see my spots, hot sweaty red face or unwashed greasy hair I see a bare faced girl who is clearly having the time of her freakin’ life.

I think we can all learn something from the look of a backpacker as when you are stripped back literally to your swim wear for all to see there is nothing to hide behind. If you stress over tiny spots on your chin, if haven’t got matching underwear on and if your nails and toes aren’t perfectly polished – IT DOESN’T MATTER. In a world full of body confidence issues we could all do with stop fretting over trying to achieve perfection. The older and hopefully wiser I get I’ve learnt that I like me. I like me. I dare you to tell yourself that especially out loud. I double dare you. And do you know what – it feels bloody great!

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A Couple of Backpackers

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The last time I donned a backpack I was a nervous but determined solo traveller. In just over a month myself and my Frenchie (I’m talking about my boyf not that awful stripper on CBB recently – although that would be an experience!) will be geeking it up with our sexy backpacks, money wallets and headful of dreams when we tour around South America.

I’m not a total idiot, when you take a foreign place, mix in a new language, turn up the heat and sprinkle in getting lost it could be a recipe for disaster. I think we wouldn’t be human if we didn’t have a few minor disputes especially spending 24/7 together. But let’s not be so neg about what could go wrong and instead focus on what I am certain will go right! And as well as getting to spend so much time with one of my fave peeps on the planet I have got all this to look forward to….

Someone to watch over your bags – It is drummed into you that you should never leave your bags unattended. Anwhere. Ok fair enough. But when mother nature calls and you gotta go then the whole please ‘don’t rob my stuff’ can be slightly tricky. I remember trying to get into a tiny smelly toilet cubicle whilst in a Bangkok bus station with my mahoosive backpack on and my smaller rucksack on my front. Somehow I made it but only just. But on this trip it means I can leave my bags safely with him so I can use the lav like a normal person! Small things.

Extra eyes and ears – Not just to be a bag watcher but also handy to have two of you to fight off attackers as you synchronise your WWE moves to take down the petty thief together. Huzzah. Or more likely to keep those peepers peeled for road signs or listen out for your names being barked out the airport tannoy as the final call for your flight.

Increased instincts – Being by yourself it can be hard to think you are just overreacting when you have a feeling something just isn’t quite right. Of course safety first kids, but there are times when you may be slightly hyped up for no reason and run away screaming like a banshee with your rape alarm wailing just because the kind and harmless gentleman selling you his handcrafted wares looked at you funny. Two brains are better than one. If you BOTH feel something is up then run, run away now!

Splitting the bill – By sharing food, accommodation and drinks on nights out it works out cheaper than stumping up the cost for all these things solo. Also a great excuse to try new food, even if you each choose a different dish that you can’t pronounce and are not completely confident it wont include dog meat inside.

Free pillow – On a bus, train or plane having someone to snuggle up to and get comfy with your head on their shoulder is much better and more socially acceptable than laying your weary head on a stranger. Or so I imagine.

Shared memories - I have huge photo frame of some of the best photos of my trip and I have this blog to try and share my journeys with you. But a few amazing photographs and words still don’t do it justice to being there in the moment with someone who is as giddy as you are!

Photographer – No more do I l need to look a bit strange taking my own photo as now I will have a personal paparazzi!

Doctor – Luckily I didn’t get sick the last time I was away, if you ignore the hangovers, but I had been worried that if I was to get ill there would be no one to help. This time if we start to feel dodgy we have each other to act as a doctor helping with medicine, clean water and sympathy. May be a bit of a passion killer though!

Sun cream putter on-er – This should be a real job title imagine the perks! No more straining and pulling a muscle to reach that part of your back neither of your hands can quite stretch to.

Have you ever backpacked in a relationship?