Week 14: The luckiest girl in the world

There was a time, not so long ago when doing this would have been impossible. It doesn’t seem so long ago that I was stuck waiting for life to happen, waiting to see if I would get better, get my life back. Then, I would only plan a few weeks ahead, any more than that would have been pointless. There was no certainty, at times, there was hardly any hope.

To me then, traveling was a dream, something so good that it could never actually happen. But then I started getting better, and I started hoping that it would happen, that I would get to travel, and see the world and now I am.

There have been times when I have been tired when the comforts of home have seemed inviting, then the routine and ease of it all feels like it’s calling. But then I sleep and rest and met someone new and see something amazing and I don’t want to stop.

I have hiked in national parks, met people from all over the world. Heard stories that have reminded me how privileged I am to have been born in the UK to parents who always had enough of everything. I’ve seen the poverty in parts of eastern Europe. I’ve seen the wealth in other parts of the continent. I’ve traveled on trains fresh out of the ’70s with no aircon that run super slow and taken high-speed modern trains that don’t give you enough time to see the scenery you are rushing past.

Last week I sat on a rickety old chairlift in the Bulgarian mountains, laughing and talking about ‘the challenges’ of life on the road. Our problems are small ones, lack of good towels, the constant sense of running out of time, having to wait to use the toilet, things so insignificant they only come up when everything else is so good you have nothing to complain about.

Life on the road is simple, you have nothing but what you carry, you wear the same clothes on repeat without always getting a chance to wash them, you sleep in a different bed every few nights, have the same conversation with new people every day.

I enjoy the lack of routine, for me, at home, I need a strong routine to keep my head clear, on the road every day brings something new and I have relaxed into not always knowing what will come my way. I have learned to change my plans at short notice, to adapt and change to suit my environment. To me, there is less pressure living like this. I feel free to be myself and live how I want to. There are few expectations, even fewer rules and I have less rules for myself too.

And every time, I stop and think, I can’t help but feel that, at the moment, I’m the luckiest girl in the world.


I hope this has been an enjoyable episode,

With love,

The girl with the braid in her hair xxx

Week 12: A familiar face and a faraway place

Warning: this is a long one!

After 2 and a half months Sarah comes to visit. We started planning this so long ago, April to be exact. At that point, Budapest seemed a lifetime away. I had so much to do and so much to see and then suddenly I’m sitting in a cafe in Budapest seeing one of my oldest friends walking towards me.

Me and Sarah met when we are about 11 in a climbing competition, since we have done many stupid things together. It is her fault I dreamed up this trip, we are in a competition to see who can visit all the European countries first). When she said she wanted to come out it was when I thought I would be easily hopping from capital to capital. We settled on Budapest and Bratislava, I let her do the planning for this bit.

And now we are in Budapest and she is melting in the heat of mid-summer in central Europe and I find that I’m pretty used to 30 degrees now and we are joking and laughing about how I’m so excited about finding cheddar in a supermarket and everything feels so good.

We get to the apartment and she almost has a meltdown when she can’t get the key to work as it is hot and she is tired and I laugh and take it from her. We get the aircon working and she half climbs into the fridge to cool down. We laugh and I love the feeling of not having to do the introductions with someone new. I have loved everything I’ve done, I’ve met amazing people but 5 days with an old friend feels like a treat.

We get confused over Hungarian currency then cause a queue at the ticket machine for the tram as we can’t work out what tickets to buy. I force her to walk through the city to the supermarket in the heat to buy food and then we go back to the apartment and I cook us dinner and she does the washing up and everything flows.

The next day we do a free walking tour, the guide is obsessed with art nouveau which gets a bit much after a while. We eat lunch in a traditional Hungarian restaurant and find a water misster that sprays you to help you cool down. We sit by a fountain and then head to a bathhouse where we do walking races across the pools which Sarah wins and endurance competitions in the cold pool that I win.

That evening I manage to fuse the lights and the aircon in our room. We laugh and improvise. The next morning Sarah learns I will sleep through everything but my name being said. After breakfast, we head out into the city again and find our way to the musical fountain on Margaret Island and we sit getting splashed watching the water show.

The next day we take a very hot train to Bratislava. It’s 34 degrees outside and there is no aircon only an open window to keep us cool. She does her colouring in and I write my journal and knit. We reach the city and our accommodation and Sarah gets stressed out with a key again. We dump our stuff and then head into the old town for a walking tour. This one is better the guide is really good and we both enjoy it. We find dinner then head back to the apartment for a quiet evening.

The next day we do a city game (a bit like an escape room but running around the city). We enjoy it but there are a few bits that seem to have a got a little lost in translation and we way over complicate it at the start. By the time we finish we are both crazy hungry and so get pancakes followed by icecream and by the time we finish our ‘lunch’ its 5pm. We sit for a while in a square and then head home via the well air-conditioned supermarket where we spend ages hunting unsuccessfully for peanut butter.

We say we will get an early night but instead, I keep us up looking at trains and planning another part of my trip and getting overwhelmed by train timetables and then it’s almost midnight and we need to go to bed. I’m on a train to the High Tatra mountains and Sarah is going home and I can’t believe our time together is over already.

The journey is pretty easy, I each Poprad and take a risk by going to the supermarket before getting the bus but manage to time it perfectly and only have to wait 5 minutes before a bus to Zdiar comes. The driver doesn’t speak English and it’s a little hard to communicate but I manage. I overshoot the stop I want and have to walk 1.5km back to the village. I get an incredibly warm welcome when I reach the hostel and even though I don’t eat Pizza I go out with everyone that evening having cooked and eaten first.

After dinner, everyone sits out on the porch chatting. I plan with Megan and Rachel to go to the Polish lakes the next day. It’s a very relaxed atmosphere and I can’t remember how it comes up but I end up telling Rachel that I’m autistic. A few of us chat about it for a while. Rachel is a psychologist and is researching into autistic girls. There are some teachers there as well and it’s really interesting to talk to them about their experiences and share my own. It’s funny how things work out.

The next day I’m up early to get a bus that ends up not existing. Megan, Rachel and I stand at the bus stop for 45 minutes in the end but we do get to the Slovakian border and from there we walk to the national park on the polish side. It’s busy, it’s a Saturday and this is one of the most famous lakes in the area. The first bit is just on a road, my blood sugars try to go low a few times but I manage to avoid a proper Hypo.

The first lake we reach is so crowded. It’s nice but there are so many people. I find it harder to appreciate nature when it’s that busy. We sit a while and eat a little but then head off for the next part of the walk, this takes us away from the crowds and is much more interesting. It’s a long day but we all enjoy it. On the way back, we meet a Polish lady and her daughter, they have been coming to the area for years but haven’t met any English speakers before. We chat as we walk. We are all tired by this time and so it’s nice to have another conversation.

We say goodbye when we hit the main path back. The three of us try to figure out the best way to get back to the hostel, we have missed the bus we wanted and the next won’t be for a few hours. We walk the 2km back towards the border and try to hitchhike but to no luck. Then a car pulls up in front of us and a familiar face pokes out, it’s our Polish friends and they dive us all the way back to the hostel.

We all shower then head out again. There is a beer festival in the village and everyone else from the hostel is there. It’s not something I would normally go to but the hostel is such a nice place and the people so welcoming that I feel comfortable enough to go with them. I eat and drink tap water while everyone else tastes lots of beer. It’s a little noisy but I enjoy myself. As things start to wind down a band is playing outside and everyone is out there. I go outside too but the noise and vibrations from the music is too much and I return to the shelter of the building.

I see Rachel looking around for me but I can’t go outside to tell her why I disappeared. I feel embarrassed that I can’t be outside. I want to be with the others but I can’t be in that noise. Even though they know I’m autistic it’s still not fun to have to say I can’t join in because of something everyone else enjoys. I think about going home, but I don’t want to go. It’s a situation I have been in a hundred times before, the longing to join in fighting against the overwhelming stimulus that makes me so uncomfortable I have to flee from it.

But people come inside and when I explain Rachel and Megan stay inside with me until it finished and we all go home. I don’t like making people choose between being with me and being in the environment I can’t tolerate but they didn’t seem to mind and they choose me.

The next day I take it easy, sleeping in and eating nice food. I chat with Rachel about her research and manage to do some writing. It’s nice to just sit and relax. There is a thunderstorm in the evening and I sit out on the porch in the pouring rain watching in.

On my last full day in the Tatra’s, I join two Aussie sisters and we do the saddle hike, it’s the one everyone who goes to the (https://www.gingermonkey.eu) does. The scenery is amazing and I’m pretty pleased with myself once I’ve done it. After 4 years of not hiking my fitness isn’t as good as it once was but after my time in Lofoten it’s getting better and I enjoy the feeling of pushing myself.

That evening after dinner it’s movie night and so I settle down to watch slumdog millionaire in the living room. It’s been an amazing 4 days in a part of the world I hadn’t even heard about until it popped up on a Lonely Planet post on Facebook.

I’m sad to leave the next morning but I can’t help but look forward to what the final 2 months of the trip will bring.

And as a reward for getting thought all these words, have some lovely pictures!

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I hope you have enjoyed this episode!

With Love

The girl with the braid in her hair xxx

Week 8: Goodbye Scandinavia (Norway)

It’s hard to believe June has ended already. Time and distance have stopped meaning anything to me. Every day is something new and it’s getting hard to keep track of things. After the peace and quiet of the farm, city-hopping is another world.

My last full day in Norway was spent walking on a glacier. The whole experience was surreal and amazing but the main thing I took away from it all was how FAST climate change is affecting the planet. The Glacier I was on shrunk by 80m last year alone. It’s a terrifying thought to think that one day there might not be any left at all.

The next day I headed to Oslo, after the price of the bus to get to my hostel I decided not to bother and to try to hitchhike all the way. Now people who know me will know that I like plans and order. I’m habitually early for everything and hate not knowing what’s going on. Hitchhike small distances is one thing, this was the biggest leap into the unknown I’d taken.

Leaving the hostel I get a lift with a French couple to the local town, Sogndal. It’s raining and the wind is a little cold. Not the best weather to hang about by the side of the road. The thing about Norway is that even in the rain it is an easy place to wait for things, the constant changing of the scenery and the beauty that surrounds me is enough to make waiting for an hour by the side of the road is almost pleasant. An old Norweigan man picks me up and takes me over the ferry to about 20 minutes from the main road. I wait for over an hour by the ferry until I’m picked up again and dropped off on the main road between Bergan and Oslo.

I’m not there long when a van stops and the man driving offers me a lift… All the way to Oslo. It’s a 5-hour ride over the highest mountains in Norway. Kjell, my lift is one of those people who genuinely cares about people and we talk easily as we drive. At every turning point and stop, he tells me what the plan is so I always feel safe and enjoy the ride.

I basically skip Oslo and the next day take a train to Stockholm. I arrive at the hostel past midnight and sneak into the room.

I enjoy Stockholm as a city but find it hard to get to know anyone in the hostel. I meet a Ukrainian girl on a walking tour who I get along with and we spend an evening and a day together. The medieval and historical town is interesting. I enjoy walking around and seeing it in the sun. But I feel a bit isolated. After my time in Norway, it’s like the happy bubble I have lived in burst. Norway I felt totally free. Everything was easy and fun. Stockholm feels more limiting. It’s not so much because it’s a city but I don’t have the easy confidence I’m used to when traveling.

I miss Norway and the mountains, I find it easier to be alone when in nature. I wonder if I did the best bit first and the rest if my trip won’t be able to hold up to the experiences I’ve already had. I tell myself to remain positive, Sunday I board a ferry and head to Poland. I’m glad to be leaving and moving on. I’ll miss Norway but I’ve had enough of Stockholm. I just hope Gdansk will help me feel free again.

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Hope you enjoyed,

With love,

The girl with the braid in her hair xxx

Week 7: To the Fjords

When I was getting ready for this trip I indulged in many google maps and hostel world sessions trying to find places to go and stay. Normally I would get excited at about half 9 in the evening when I got home from work and then forget to go to bed as I was too busy looking up hostels and cities. When planning the Norwegian leg I knew I wanted to go to the Fjords after I left Lofoten, I didn’t really look into how to get from one to the other I simply set my heart on doing so and then stumbled across a perfect looking hostel, Eplet, in the village of Solvorn a mere 1300km away, 1700km by public transport.

I had given myself a few days to get from Lofoten to the Fjords. I left the farm on the 16th and hitchhiked to the town of Å, the end of the road in Lofoten. (Literally, the road doesn’t go any further.) I camp out overnight by the side of a lake and wake up to watch the clouds pour over the mountains at the other end. I spend a day exploring the town then hitchhike to the ferry terminal only to discover I got my timings wrong and have 5 hours to wait for the boat.

It’s cold and there’s nowhere inside to wait, just some picknick benches and a slowly growing line of cars and campervans. There is a woman with a bike waiting as well and we chat a bit but she leaves to get warm and see if she can find alternative accommodation, I pace up and down in an effort to keep warm, tiredness seeping into me. I want to sleep and be warm, I envy the campervans and the cars the ability to choose whether to be outside or in. It’s too cold to sit down and read or knit but pacing makes the time seem to drag by. Thankful kindness comes to my rescue in the form of a German lady in a camper van offering me coffee, it’s the kindness more than the coffee that makes the difference and the time seems to speed up.

I stay in a hostel overnight. creeping into my room at gone midnight and leaving the next day to board a train to Oslo. From Bodø it is an 18-hour train journey to Oslo. The scenery is amazing so the time moves quite well considering I’m cooped up on a train and I get a little break to stretch my legs at Trondheim where I change trains. I manage to sleep a bit on the overnight stint to Oslo and get into the city at about 7 in the morning.

Oslo doesn’t hold too much appeal for me so I skip it and head to the bus station after breakfast. I almost have a heart attack at the price of the bus ticket, I thought I had got used to Norweigain pricing but this one hit me. I enjoy the trip over the mountains and the bus is comfy enough. At the change point, I choose not to wait for the second bus and instead hitch a lift with a truck driver the rest of the way. By this point, hitchhiking has become my prefered way of getting about partly because it’s free but also it’s more interesting. The truck driver drops me at the end of the road the hostel is on and I got coffee and a chocolate biscuit during the ride.

My overnight stop is in the village of Flåm, the town itself looks like it was once a nice place. small wooden houses and a marina but it’s now a stopping point for cruise ships and as such is flooded with slow-moving tourists and souvenir shops. My hostel is quiet and out of the way, there is only two of us in the dorm and so it’s a perfectly good stopping off point. In the morning I walk to a local waterfall and then find a less busy spot on the marina to read my book and have lunch before getting a boat across the fjord.

The boat is really busy and it seems everyone wants to be out on the small deck to watch the mountains fly by. During the boat trip, I came to the important realization that I had fucked up my planning and had left myself with a night with nowhere to stay. The hostel I choose several months ago looks like paradise and I had wanted to stay longer anyway so I just hope they have room for me for another night.

I’m glad I’m only the boat for an hour before disembarking it’s too busy to enjoy it properly. At the small village, it stops at I debate taking the bus but it feels too expensive so opt to hitchhike instead. I get a left most of the way to the hostel I’m staying in easily and start to walk down the road to the village. I get part way down before getting another lift, this time with the ower of the hostel I’m staying in.

Eplet is a small paradise, there is a climbing wall in the kitchen and a slackline in the garden. The dorm room is small but comfortable and the whole place just feels friendly. After 4 days of traveling, I know the effort has been worthwhile. I’m able to get the extra night and so have 4 full days. On the first one, I sleep late then go to the shop 5km away and buy food for the week and cook. I enjoy having a slow day and I know my body needs it. While I’m stronger than I could have dreamed of being a few years ago I still need to be careful.

The next day I set out for a long bike ride down what is known as the dramatic road. The whole thing is 70km but I don’t go all the way. The road follows along the side of a lake, steep mountains rising up from the water. There are very few people about and for the most part, the only sounds are me and the crashing of water in the distance falling down the mountainside.

It’s a great way to spend the day. The weather is a bit unpredictable but I enjoy it and by the time I get back the sun is making a good effort to push away the clouds. I’m tired but in a way that makes me feel human and happy. For so long tiredness was a constant and now it comes after acceptable things, like 50km on a bike.

It’s hard to believe I’ve spent almost two months in Norway now, or that I will be leaving for Sweden on Wednesday. Time is moving so fast and things going so well it’s almost hard to make sense of. But time keeps marching on and by the end of next week, I will be on a ferry heading across the water to mainland Europe!thumbnail_file3-1thumbnail_file4-1thumbnail_file5thumbnail_file6thumbnail_file7thumbnail_file8thumbnail_file9thumbnail_file1064637992_2652570948087636_2420791645613064192_n64671082_2652570838087647_10914100309655552_n64774514_2652570398087691_515185016532107264_n64823121_2652570591421005_7875880761323159552_n64911465_2652570464754351_8852538796672024576_n65089188_2652570794754318_3015371327340019712_n65113140_2652570484754349_4503745402855489536_n65185414_2652570608087670_7988149239345577984_nthumbnail_file1-1thumbnail_file-2

Hope you enjoy the pictures!

With love,

The girl with the braid in her hair xxx

Week 6: Leaving Aalan Gard

I have settled into a comfortable routine, working, walking, hitchhiking wherever I want to go. Life on the farm is easy. I work from 9 till 3 with an hours break at 12. Everyone sits around the dinner table at 3pm for the main meal of the day chatting together. The goats wonder on the mountainside coming back each evening to be milked. The weather changes constantly, one-day brilliant sun, the next howling wind and freezing rain. It’s perfect.

I’ve enjoyed my work, being outside every day feels so good. I’ve mainly been working in the garden. It’s not something I would normally do at home but I’ve enjoyed it. When I first arrived in May the beds were covered in grass and the summer plants living in the greenhouse. Now the garden is full of new life. I dug up and re-planted a huge bed of peppermint plants single-handedly and I know I leave behind a much nicer space.

I’ve spent days picking birch leaves in the wood. It’s been one of my favorite jobs despite the bitter rain on the first day I did it. Being out there filling an old fashioned basket with leaves for tea was immensely satisfying and relaxing. On the last day, I was out in shorts and a t-shirt, the sun beating down on me, my hands covered in sticky sap and a smile on my face.

On rainy days when the wind has been blowing fiercely, I’ve worked inside packaging herbs and tea mixing. Everything is done by hand, from drawing flowers on the bags to pulling apart the paper ribbons to make them look more attractive. It’s not hard work but it’s so time-consuming it’s easy to understand why they have been having volunteers on the farm since the late ’80s.

I lived in an old, small house, built to accommodate the many children Knut’s (the guy who owns the farm) parents had. There is nothing modern about it at all but despite the flooding on rainy days, and spiders in every corner I like it.

If I’m honest there is little about life here that I don’t like, chasing Klara the pet pig, out of the garden is I think the most stressful thing I have had to do. The price of food is crazy but I haven’t had to buy much and it has reminded me how much I take for granted.

London has everything near at hand, you want chocolate you go out a buy it, run out of milk? no problem there’s a shop open till 11 round the corner. Here you see how simple life can be. It’s 8km to the shop too far to walk for me after work, to get there I have to get a ride with visitors to the farm. Vegetables are few and far between and my main foods become eggs from the chickens and goats cheese.

When I leave the valley to see a different part of the islands I’ve been hitchhiking. And I’ve often been asked why I choose to come to work on a farm here. My initial reasons were to do with how expensive Norway is and that it was the only way I could get to spend some proper time in Lofoten but it’s become more than that.

My hosts live in quite a traditional way, it’s a small farm and all of the family are involved with running it, even the young grandchildren show people around and work in the shop. I’ve tasted food that I would never have chosen if given the choice and enjoyed most of it.

The goat meat was from young goats slaughtered by Knut on the farm. The dried fish was difficult to eat but tasty (you have to de-bone it yourself, the family are all experts and after the 10mins of work ate without coming across a single bone, I had one every mouthful despite taking twice as long trying to get them out). The moose mince was nice and fish tounges a little gooey but tasty. I wasn’t a fan of milk dinner, which we had every Saturday, a tradition in the north of Norway. And whale meat was hard on my conscience but it was already cooked by this point so there is no point letting it go to waste.

I’ve spent 6 weeks submerged in Norwegian farm life and I loved it. In some ways, it’s hard to say goodbye to Aalan Gard, but I know in many ways the adventure is only just beginning.



I hope you have enjoyed this weeks post, next week everything will have changed!


The girl with the braid in her hair xxx

Week 5: A girl that I used to know

Being ill teaches you a lot. For me, one of the main lessons was to learn to define myself not by what I did but by the choices I made. It wasn’t an easy lesson. For years I saw myself as a climber, a mountain girl. That was where I was happiest. That’s where I felt most at home. But suddenly I couldn’t do these things I couldn’t be that girl and if I wasn’t her who was I?

But I learnt and I adjusted. I learnt to choose to be happy and make the best of the life that I had. I missed the mountains but I could be content without them. For 4 years I lived in London, with little outdoor space and crowded streets. I learnt to be myself away from the environment that I loved, but when I started planning this trip, mountains were a big part of the itinerary.

Arriving in Lofoten I was tired from 2 days of travelling. I sat in the car on the way to the farm trying to look in every direction at once to take in the scenery around me. Despite my exhuastion, I felt happy, I was back in the mountains.

4 and a half weeks later I decided that I need to sleep out on the hill. I prepare for the night by naping that afternoon and eating a good dinner. All day the weather has been perfect but as I start up the path, the clouds come in and it starts to rain. I keep going, I enjoy the feeling of being out in the elements and I have a tent with me. I enjoy the walk, the higher I get the heavier the rain becomes and the more the wind blows. I reach the top at about a quarter to 11 and find a good stop to pitch my tent. The rain is getting heavy and I’m looking forward to getting out the wind.

I don’t get very far before the only pole the tent has snapped, at this point, I give up. I’m getting cold and the tent will no longer stand up. I do my best to pack up but the pole won’t come out the tent so I roll it up and head back down the mountain.

The next evening I’m tired from my late night, I finish a phone call home and am heading to the house. The clouds are really low, so low that you are walking through them but they have this unearthly light to them. Everything seems bright but shrouded in cloud. I had been shown pictures by my housemates here of a night they went up the mountain a time the clouds where low.  The pictures are amazing and I know I have to go up and see if I get the same experience.

It’s half past 10 when I set off. I’ve had mountain safety drilled into my head since I was a kid and so going up on a day the clouds are this low feel a bit odd but it doesn’t take me long to get above the cloud line. Despite a late night the night before I feel awake. My feet seem to carry me effortlessly up the mountain and I can’t help but marvel at how much fitter I am now compared to when I came. The first time I walk the path the Vetten I had to stop every few meters to catch my breath and my heart was beating so loudly I could hear it in my chest.

I reach the top energized and feeling more alive then I have done in ages. The clouds sit low in the valley hiding the houses and lakes from view, as far as I can see it is clouds giving way to mountains.  I wait atop Vetten till midnight, messing about with my phone taking pictures and marveling at the beauty around me. I make my way down but I don’t want to go home. The night is too perfect to give it up now, I need to carry on. I reach the small gully between the mountains and follow the path up the other side, my legs carry me onwards full of a joy of their own.

I walk upwards, abandoning the part at times to get a better view or to clamber to a high point. The more I walk the more I am filled with a sense of complete happiness and peace. I feel like the girl I was before I got ill, the one who always had to walk at the front, who never seemed to get tired. I feel like the luckiest girl in the world as I walk those mountain tops alone.

It’s 3am when I finally reach home. I’m tired but happy. Being up in the mountains alone at midnight, walking above the clouds, seeing the world brilliantly lit by the sun at 2am and feeling a joy that can only be found in nature its something I will never forget and an experience only Norway could give me. I know I will pay for it in having a few tired days but it was so worth it!


I hope you have enjoyed this episode! and of course the pictures!

With love,

The girl with the braid in her hair xxx