Who doesn't like staying in a fancy hotel? Everyone loves a bit of luxury, but when you're travelling far and often sometimes your choices have to be a little more down to earth.
Hostels are a great way to meet new people, but still there’s no guarantee that you’re going to meet great people. You could end up finding your new best friends, or get stuck with five of the most boring (or smelly) individuals on earth. The idea of sharing a bedroom with randoms seems crazy until you’ve actually tried it, but as long as you’re a person who can easily fall asleep anywhere when you’re tired (me!), you’ll be just fine.
Some hostels have single rooms which are still a lot cheaper than a hotel. It’s a nice little luxury to have your own private space, as long as the walls aren’t too thin. In the space of one week I spent nights listening to a man trying to repair his marriage over the phone, a couple planning a six month cycling tour and someone who sounded like he was running a late night cookery class via Skype.
For something a bit different, keep an eye out for a capsule hotel. These futuristic sleeping pods are not for the claustrophobic, but you get more privacy than at a hostel plus a choice of lighting colours and your own climate controls.
Honestly, I’m not a fan of camping. Why do you want to go on holiday and sleep in a tent? It’s cold. Until suddenly it’s hot and you wake up gasping for air, desperately trying to escape through layers of zips and nylon flaps. I once came scarily close to padlocking myself into a tent, but that’s a story for another day.
For a different point of view, I had a chat with my best friend Sandy, who thoroughly enjoys camping.
Over to Sandy now for her top reasons why she loves going camping:
1) You can get accommodation with a 5 star view for a 1 star price.
2) You go to the sleep to the sounds of nature, especially when you camp near the beach and you can hear the sounds of the ocean.
3) You can get creative with your cooking and see how many things you can make with only a campfire and a limited amount of cooking utensils.
4) For city people like me it's a great chance to actually see the stars properly, without any light pollution.
5) Most of the time you have no phone reception when camping. When you can't use your phone you are forced to make conversation with your friends and find activities to entertain yourself. You end up doing things like playing card games that you wouldn't usually think of doing at home.
6) You get to go to bed early which is one of my favourite things to do! (Editor note: Honestly, she’s not that boring, she just really enjoys sleep and I can totally relate to that!)
7) Camping is a perfect chance to really get away from the world and enjoy being alone with friends or with someone special. Or nearly always….
One time I went camping with a boyfriend at a deserted little spot up the coast. After parking the car found we had to walk about 1km to the campsite with all our stuff. We had to do several trips back and forth to the car. We’d just got everything sorted out, I’d set up my awesome reclining camping chair in a perfect spot and got an ice cold cider out of the esky.
Suddenly there was a rustle in the bushes and a sweaty man appeared, exhausted from a strenuous day of hiking. I assumed this random man would just say a polite hello and then continue on his way, but by complete unfortunate coincidence it turned out that he was some old acquaintance of my boyfriend. Next thing I know I’m kindly offering my awesome chair to this man and so I’m sitting on the ground while he’s getting comfy in my chair, drinking my cider and enjoying my hard earned ocean view!
You know, this is controversial but I’m still not sold on AirBnB. I’ve learnt that I value anonymity when I’m travelling. I just don’t feel comfortable in someone else’s house where they’ve made such an effort for everything to be perfect.
What happens if I accidentally break a plate? Or I have some kind of shower curtain related incident that ends in water dripping out of a downstairs light socket? I’m not even catastrophising, this actually happened to me. I have a track record of freak mechanical incidents in other people’s bathrooms.
Also sometimes I’m just a disgusting human. Like that time I went to Ibiza with newly dyed red hair and a spray tan. My hotel sheets and towels definitely knew all about it.
You can get away with stuff in hotels. AirBnB is personal. It’s someone’s house, they’ll personally be cleaning the room and they’re going to write a review of your guest behaviour. They’ll never forget your name.
Image: 123rf.com 98705707 Vadim Georgiev
Whether you're travelling with a suitcase, backpack, Hogwarts trunk or wicker panniers on the back of a donkey, packing for a trip always leads to some eternal dilemmas.
Will you be able to carry it?
I always over pack, especially for long distance trips. I've recently been travelling with, to quote the manager of a hostel in Adelaide, a suitcase the size of a small apartment. I made a similar mistake when I first arrived in Australia, bringing with me a backpack which I couldn't even carry on my back.
The other extreme is a Polish bloke I met on an Uluru tour. He had one small bag, smaller than my average work day handbag, for six months of travel. He explained that he had simply had two pairs of shorts, two t-shirts, two pairs of socks and two pairs of undies. One set to wear and one to wash. In a hot climate, he said, that’s all you need.
Do you really need it?
My theory is that I just never know what might be waiting for me on my journey. I might need dresses and shoes for fancy dinners. I could be overcome with a sudden urge to work out three times a day, for which I’ll need a range of active wear and a specific pair of trainers. What about when I need to rustle up a suit for my dream job interview? In Darwin?
I’m also guilty of packing clothes that I absolutely love but will probably never wear. My same few black t-shirts will be on constant rotation while that beautiful pale blue sundress will never get worn because I’m too scared of spilling my dinner down it.
Can you actually find anything in there?
When your bag is too full it will basically vomit its contents out across the room as soon as you try to find anything. How I ever lived without packing cubes I really can’t tell you. Those black mesh zip up bags in assorted sizes have revolutionised my life.
I’d always been taught that it's a great space saving idea to tuck small items into shoes inside your suitcase. But this always lead to the question of which pair of shoes did I actually put my extra-warm socks in?
During a winter trip overseas I took a pair of knee high boots to be reheeled, only for the shoe mender to point out that my entire sock collection was still stuffed inside. He and I can both be grateful that I'd packed my undies in my other pair of boots.
A few months ago I moved to Perth from Sydney. Most of my friends in Sydney think I've lost the plot. They're forever coming up with questions like "Isn't Perth just a small country town?", "Is there anywhere to go out?", and "Do they have Uber over there?".
Yes we do have Uber, but that's not even important compared to all these beautiful reasons to visit Perth and the West Coast of Australia.
1) Meet a quokka at Rottnest Island
Just off the coast of Perth, Rottnest Island is home to the cutest marsupial on earth, the quokka. These little guys were made to be social media stars, so if you want to snap a quokka selfie you'll have to come to Perth.
2) Relax at Cottesloe Beach
Characterised by its shady Norfolk Pine trees and chilled out vibes, Cottesloe is Perth's iconic beach destination. Cottesloe also levels up against east coast rival Bondi by having its own edition of Sculpture by the Sea every summer.
3) Be amazed at the Pinnacles Desert
It doesn't take long for the west to get wild. Drive just 2hrs 15mins north of Perth city centre and you'll find the Pinnacles Desert. No one really knows how the Pinnacles came to be here, set in bright yellow sand, while all surrounding areas are either white sand or red dust. The more you look at these curious limestone structures the more you see, with animal shapes, faces and more seeming to reveal themselves on the surface of the rocks.
4) Taste all of the wine at Margaret River
When it comes to wine, the Margaret River region is renowned for some of Australia's favourite drops. The area is also packed full of popular surf beaches like Injidup, Yallingup and Three Bears, and it's only 3hrs drive south of Perth.
5) Catch a game at Optus Stadium
Recently voted the most beautiful sports facility in the world at the Prix Versailles 2019 international architecture awards, Perth's 60,000 seat Optus Stadium is a whole new experience for sports fans.
6) Dance the night away in Northbridge
On a Friday and Saturday night, Perth's main party district has a huge choice of venues and streets packed full of party goers all the way through the night. There's also a big underground party scene in Perth, and without the lockout laws that have been imposed in some Australian cities a night out really can mean a whole night. Start your night with a beer and a pizza at the Northbridge Brewing Co.
7) Frolic among the flowers at Kings Park
Kings Park is Perth's largest inner city open space, with a multitude of gardens to explore and breathtaking views across the river to the CBD, South Perth and beyond.
8) Sip a fancy coffee in Fremantle
An entire destination city in itself, Fremantle's markets, cappuccino strip cafes and harbourside restaurants attract locals and tourists on every sunny day. Visit Fremantle Prison for a history lesson with the chance of a supernatural presence.
9) Catch some waves at Scarborough Beach
Scarborough's pristine white sand and excellent surf breaks are a big draw for beach lovers from all around the city. Spend your evenings drinking at the many bars along the beachfront, checking out the view from the perfectly located Sunset Hill or shopping at the Sunset Markets.
10) Swim, snorkel and dive in paradise at Ningaloo Reef
Australia's most beautiful marine life is right here on the West Coast. Walk just a few steps into the ocean from the virtually untouched beaches to swim amongst stunning corals, brightly coloured tropical fish, turtles and whale sharks.
Image: 123rf.com/macrovector 43210288
I know reading isn’t everyone’s idea of a good time. I find that hard to understand, but it’s true that even some of you reading this post have never known the pleasure of spending a whole day just getting lost in a good book.
Despite this, whenever I talk with non-bookish people about anything to do with reading or writing, we quickly find ourselves on common ground. Friends who have never read a book just for fun will start talking about one series, one author and one boy wizard who changed everything.
Not only did Harry Potter engage an entire generation of young readers, the series also sparked the phenomenon of adults reading books that were meant to be for children and young adults.
Harry Potter and friends got another year older in each book. As readers (or movie watchers) we engaged with the story of these young characters who were smart, brave and had everything to fight for.
I hope it’s not too much of a big jump from the wizarding world to the books that I’m going to write about today, all of which are set in the real world.
Adult fiction, especially when set in the real world, often comes from a place where the narrator has resigned themselves to the fucked up way in which their world works. By contrast, Young Adult (YA) fiction focuses on characters who are experiencing their world for the first time. Characters feel new emotions, ask questions, and are not afraid to challenge the way things are.
I’m often no longer interested in reading about gritty adult lives, scarred emotions, deaths, divorces and abandoned dreams. I want to read stories that have a sense of hope.
Emergency Contact – Mary H.K. Choi
Is it OK that I relate so much to Penny, the lead character in Emergency Contact? She’s an aspiring writer, perpetually feels like an outsider, and she wears a lot of black.
Penny is just starting college. Although her roommate Jude is nice they really have nothing in common and it certainly doesn’t help that Jude already has a rich and glamourous best friend in town.
Sam works in the coffee shop round the corner. He’s only a few years older than Penny and Jude, but he’s kind of Jude’s uncle. And his kind of girlfriend is kind of pregnant. Can things possibly get any more awkward?
Sam and Penny’s story is a friendship built over text message. In fact, Penny and Sam were really only ever meant to message each other in an emergency, but sometimes life can be a little bit nicer when you just have someone to chat to. Someone who just gets you, and accepts you, and maybe even also wears a lot of black.
Emergency Contact is packed full of those little moments, tiny observations, thoughts and feelings which we don’t always share but when we do, we realise that someone else was feeling just the same way too.
The Hate U Give and On The Come Up – Angie Thomas
The Hate U Give is the story of 16 year old Starr, who witnesses the shooting of her childhood best friend, Khalil, by a police officer. Starr desperately wants the world to know that Khalil was an unarmed, innocent victim, while antagonists on both sides of the law want her to keep quiet.
Set in the same neighbourhood, On The Come Up introduces us to aspiring rapper Bri, who soon has all eyes on her after stepping into the ring at a local freestyle rap battle. When her music starts going viral for all the wrong reasons, she finds herself in trouble both at school and on the streets.
Angie Thomas gives no sugar coating to the world in which her characters live. Garden Heights is a tough place to grow up. Gangs run the streets, drug addiction is common and many families live below the poverty line.
Yet Thomas doesn’t describe Garden Heights in a way that is intended to shock. Neither does she draw us in with any attempt to glamorise the underworld. We see Garden Heights through the eyes of teenage protagonists who know that life can be harsh, but who also have strong role models showing them that there is another way. Thomas’s characters show us that people are not one dimensional. We meet a loving father, running his own business and choosing the best school for his children. It’s hard to believe that he’s a former gang member who spent his daughter’s early childhood in jail.
In their respective stories, Starr and Bri are not only fighting battles of opinions. Both have moments where they are in physical danger and have to stand up to gang members. Their courage and determination to be the change in their communities make them inspirations to readers of all ages.
Last but not least, Starr and Bri are both Harry Potter fans.
This Beats Perfect, A Secret Beat and The Punk Factor – Rebecca Denton
This Beats Perfect, A Secret Beat and The Punk Factor are all set in the London music industry. While each story has completely different protagonists all three books exist in the same universe, with some familiar characters making appearances as each story unfolds.
This Beats Perfect hooked me in with a female lead, Amelie, who may one day become a star, but will never let herself be starstruck. As she battles with her own nerves about performing on stage, she starts getting to know a member of the world’s current favourite boyband, The Keep.
A Secret Beat follows two music industry interns, Alexia and Greta. Both girls are passionately chasing their dreams but they’ve each got a secret that could end their careers all too soon. When The Keep arrive in town their lives really start to heat up.
It’s fascinating to see how those who grew up around the music industry are so unfazed by everything that goes on backstage and hardly raise an eyebrow when they meet someone famous. Amelie and Alexia both have family connections in the business while Greta is a complete outsider. In fact, Greta is a fangirl and she knows it. But is that the only role she’s destined to play?
From disappointing sex through to domestic abuse, The Punk Factor is significantly grittier than its predecessors, as the series matures along with its audience. Frankie, with her friends Haruna and Aimee, wants to be in a band, but she has a few things to learn first. Like how to play the guitar. Meanwhile, Haruna is having a tough time even getting out of the house. That’s not even where her bad luck ends. Even as an adult reader, I found that some events in Haruna’s story affected me quite deeply.
All three books are packed with music references to geek out to and the use of song titles as chapter names is the icing on the cake. Each story see the characters growing and changing as people, while taking steps forward with their careers. As a reader you can’t help wanting to know where their paths will lead them next.
Nicki Ranger is a freelance writer currently based in Perth, Western Australia.
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