Friday, September 26, 2014

Make a wish



It comes around once a year, the golden opportunity for all your hopes and dreams to come true. Your eyes blurred by glistening fire, your ears ringing at the sound of an un-tuned chorus and your tummy rumbling at the possibility of white, creamy icing. You piece together the intricate wording of what you most desire before leaning forward, lips pursed at the ready... then it's gone!

The chorus comes to an abrupt end, along with your wish as your cousin leant over and stole what you had been waiting for all year. Suddenly your eyes are blurred, not from the glistening fire but from the tears streaming down your face. Before long your mother is there with matches and your brother aids with a hug, but replaying the moment isn't quite the same.

Sadly this would be a recurring nightmare in young Hollie's life.

Moral of the story - protect your cake and never let anybody blow out your candles.

Saturday, September 06, 2014

Italy



I went travelling through Italy two months ago with Jake and two friends. We began in Milan and worked our way down to Rome, passing through Verona, Venice, Carpi and Florence. It was a long couple of weeks, with a strict schedule, long days and an insane amount of travelling, but the experience is one that I will never forget.

We did and saw so many wonderful things that I couldn’t possibly write about them all, instead I wish to focus on the achievements I made throughout our adventure and the lessons I learned along the way. I was only in Italy for a short period of time but I feel like I gained a lot more out of the trip than I ever would have expected.

My first lesson was not to listen to anybody, even yourself, about where to go and what to do. Everybody will experience a different journey, even if they all go to the same place. You will meet different people, eat different food, go to different events and have completely different experiences. Therefore, nobody can ever tell you that a city won’t be worth a visit. Even my own expectations failed me. Venice, the place I was least excited about, turned out to be the most surreal and magical place I have ever seen. Rome, the city I was most excited to see, turned out to be a run-down city with masses of tourists and no magic whatsoever. Give everywhere a chance; don’t turn down an opportunity because of preconceived ideas of what the place will be like. You’ll never know until you see everywhere with your own eyes.

You don’t need to spend a lot of money to appreciate where you are. Everybody is on a different budget and needs to plan accordingly. I don’t, however, feel that our budget limited our experience in any shape or form. Wander, explore, walk in the opposite direction to the tourists, talk to the locals, sit under a bridge and admire the thunderstorm. All these things are magical and they share one thing in common, they won’t cost you a penny. It would be lovely to have spare pennies in the bank to visit all the tourist attractions, but not only are they expensive; they’re also extremely packed and usually overrated. If anybody were to visit London, I would advise them to avoid the London Eye and head over to Shoreditch on the edge of London, where the atmosphere is relaxed and making friends is easy. All budgets are manageable when you’re travelling – especially if your campsite is opposite a Lidl.

Have a rest day, travelling is tiring and after a while, everything you see and experience can often blur into one and become underwhelming. After two weeks, we spent a day by the pool, messing around and relaxing in the sun. It was exactly what I needed and I could have carried on for another couple of weeks afterwards if we didn’t have a flight to London booked the next day. It’s important to charge your batteries, it would be much worse to keep going and end up hating everything you see because you’re tired and miserable.

Film the pointless moments. I’m a photography enthusiast but nothing beats living the moment of a film, particularly the moments that you may not have fully appreciated the first time round, like sitting in a tent listening to a rave taking place next door. At the time you’re tired and fed up, but watching back you can’t help but laugh. I have some incredible footage of our trip to Italy because I decided it was a good time to mess around with my camera and see how good it was under the pressure of film. They may not have been the most magical moments, but they were pretty great in their own way.

To truly experience another culture, you have to live like the locals. While in Carpi, we stayed with my friend from university, Ettore, and his lovely family. I should have known that they would be so welcoming, thoughtful and loving towards us – but nothing could have prepared me for the warmth and kindness that I felt during our stay. They made us feel like we were part of the family. Nothing was too much effort, whether it was creeping around the house all morning while we caught up on sleep in the living room, preparing us traditional Italian meals until we were full to the brim, or trying their very best to put together English words in an attempt to communicate with us. I am so grateful for how comfortable they made us feel in their home and cannot wait to go back and see them all again soon.

When I’m away doing what I love and exploring new places, everything is suddenly put into perspective. What I want to achieve is never clearer and I return home motivated to succeed. I want to spend the rest of my life travelling to new places, meeting new people and experiencing different cultures; Italy was no different.