A Cambodia Bound Wendy

Many of our volunteers want to continue to travel whilst doing their volunteering work. The best and easiest way to do this is to visit the beautiful and historical country of Cambodia. Most of our volunteers will spend the weekend in this amazing country, giving themselves just enough time to see, arguably, the most famous city, Siem Reap. A few days really doesn’t do this magical country justice though so I really do try to encourage volunteers to spend at least a week in Cambodia if they have time available at the end of their trip.

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Tonle Sap Lake which drains into the Mekong River that runs through Phnom Penh.

A lot of people don’t really know much about Cambodia and what there is to do apart from see temples so I have put together a week long travel plan that will let you experience Siem Reap to the fullest. I have also made one for the capital of Cambodia, Phnom Penh and then a combined week long plan that encompasses the very best of both of these places.

There are obviously several other places to go in Cambodia that are beautiful, but if you only have a short time then I think that these two locations will offer you beauty, history and also some of the most famous sights of natural and historical significance that the country has to offer.

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Ta Prohm Temple, home to the famous Banyan tree seen in the Lara Croft movie

If you are thinking of volunteering with Starfish Volunteers and you would like to have some time in Cambodia then mention this when you book your trip and our wonderful staff in Bangkok will arrange for you to have the travel week of your choice added onto the end of your trip. This not only ensures that you will be able to see the very best of what is on offer but will also take the hassle and worry out of you organising it yourself 😀

Win, Win, Situation!

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Independence Monument in the capital, Phnom Penh

Visit the Starfish Website and the Starfish – Volunteer Thailand Facebook page to take a look at the different projects we have on offer, don’t forget to mention the Cambodia Extension when you book as well 😀

Once you have done that take a look at my own TwitterTumblr and Instagram pages to see what else I am up to on a day to day basis as well as what you can expect on each of our incredible projects!

Build. Protect.Teach. Care. – The Starfish Motto

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A Fact Filled Wendy

After having so many ‘How To’ posts over the last few days I decided to do something different.

Thailand is a very beautiful country, parts of it are never seen by tourists or travelers and even now secrets are still discovered in abandoned temples. There is so much of this country that people just don’t know about so I thought that I would share a few of my favourite ‘little known’ titbits about Thailand.

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1. Thailand means ‘Land of the Free’ and is the only country in South East Asia that hasn’t been colonized by a European nation

2.It is considered uncultured to place your bag on the ground. This is because both the floor and your feet are considered filthy

3. It is illegal to leave your home if you’re not wearing any pants

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4. Thailand is one of the largest producers of pineapples in the world – good thing as well, as I LOVE me some pineapple!

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5. The Miss Universe pageant has been won twice by Thai contestants; once in 1965 and once in 1988

กรุงเทพมหานคร อมรรัตรโกสินทร์ มหินทรายุธยา มหาดิลกภพ นพรัตนราชธานีบูรีรมย์ อุดมราชนิเวศน์มหาสถาน อมรพิมานอวตารสถิต สักกะทัตติยวิษณุกรรมประสิทธิ์

6. Bangkok is the Western name for the country’s capital. It is in fact the longest country capital name in the world… Krungthepmahanakhon Amornrattanakosin Mahintharayutthaya Mahadilokphop Noppharat Ratchathaniburirom Udomratchaniwetmahasathan Amornphiman Awa-tarnsatthit Sakkathattiyawitsanukamprasit. The name itself is a story about Thailand, when translated into English can be read as;

The Capital City of Angels, The Residence of The Emerald Buddha, The Great City of Impregnable, The Gracefulness of the city is steadfast and thriving, The Grand Capital which is abundant with The Nine Noble Gems, it is a Pleasant Capital, The City is abounding with the enormous Royal Palaces that resembles as the heavenly abode where reigns the reincarnated God, Home of the Gods Incarnate, which was Erected by Vishnu at Indra’s Behest.

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7. Thailand has around 35,000 temples! Better get yourself some good walking shoes to see that all

8. One tenth of all animal species can be found in Thailand

That’t about 870,000 species!!!!!

9. It is forbidden to touch a Monk if you are a woman

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10. The Beach starring Leonardo di Caprio was filmed on Phi Phi Island

If you fancy discovering more of Thailand’s secrets then you should take a look at the Starfish Website and the Starfish – Volunteer Thailand Facebook page for projects that will allow you to experience this amazing country yourself.

Once you have done that then take a look at my own TwitterTumblr and Instagram pages to see some of the unknown sides of Thailand that I discover everyday 😀

Build. Protect.Teach. Care. – The Starfish Motto

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A Couple Of Wendys

I am always really touched when I see couples come to volunteer with us, to be able to share an experience as amazing as volunteering with someone that you love is an idea that makes me smile. I do know though that spending that amount of time with someone can become stressful and even cause issues. Even travelling with one or two close friends can present the same issues of always being with the same people and suddenly discovering several things they do that really irritate you; like nail biting, that’s a huge personal pet hate of mine.

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So as with the last few post I thought about things you can do to make sure that you and your partner or best friends don’t kill each other; killing isn’t good after all!

Laugh It Off

By laughing everything off, and making light of the bad situations you will drastically lower the chances of having arguments. Not only that but you will also find that things become less daunting when you make light of them.

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Me and two friends were attempting to walk home once in the middle of the night with pretty much no idea where we were or which direction we needed to go in, but as soon as we started to look at the funny side of everything it immediately made the whole experience a funny one.

Turn That Frown Upside Down

Everyone has annoying habits, whether it be nail biting (the bane of my life), knuckle cracking, picking your nose or chewing with your mouth open. The thing about habits is that they are always going to happen and you can’t do anything about it. You do tend to notice these habits in others when you spend a lot of time with them so when you discover that your boyfriend grinds his teeth or your best friend has a nasty habit of drumming their fingers on a table top, the best thing you can do is either let it go or make a joke about it.

Don’t let the small things people do irritate you to the point that it becomes unbearable. Not only will it make you upset and annoyed but chances are it will begin arguments as well. So just smile and make a joke out of it and you will soon find that it becomes funny as opposed to being annoying.

Have Your Own Time And Space

We all love our significant others and friends, that’s why we have them after all right haha But being in constant contact with them can become too much. Make time to do something on your own or with other people, whether it be going to different places for dinner, having an hour or two to read your favourite book or watching TV. This absence will give you time to enjoy your own company and not be constantly on each others toes.

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Absence makes the heart grow fonder and all that jazz right?

Work Together

When you’re in an unfamiliar environment doing something that requires you and your partner or friends to work together can enforce the bond that you already have. This can be anything from going hiking, undertaking something one of you is scared of or even just playing a simple but always competitive game of Pictionary. Working together will not only strengthen your bond but it will also give you someone who can push you to do something that you might not otherwise do.

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Being able to see this view was all down to the support from another

I went to New York with a boyfriend at the time and I had arranged for us to climb to the top of the Statue of Liberty, something which I had always wanted to do, little did I know that I am actually rather claustrophobic. If I had been on my own or with people I didn’t know then chances are I would have struggled a lot and might not have even been able to do it. Having someone who cared about me there, giving me the encouragement I needed, being patient and pushing me was the reason that I managed to make it to the top and see the incredible view.

As much as I dislike the guy now, if it weren’t for him I might not have ever done something I had dreamed of doing for a long time.

There Is No ‘I’ In Team

Sharing responsibilities and decisions can sometimes cause big problems for couples when they travel. One person is normally a natural leader in the relationship but when you travel the decisions you make are ones that you won’t normally face and can therefore be stressful.

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Sometimes they aren’t even big decisions but small ones like who gets to go in a hammock first or who has to go and buy the bus tickets this time. But no matter the size of the decision it is best to compromise and share the responsibility.

Many times when you are traveling you don’t want to make a decision in case it is not what the other person wants. Be clear on what you both want and remember that time when your other half gave up something they wanted to do so that you could enjoy something.

Don’t leave it to one half of the relationship to always make the decisions.

Remember Your Other Half’s Interests

When you travel you will probably already have an idea of a couple of the things that you want to do when you get there. Chances are you and your other half aren’t going to want to do exactly the same things, so there will be times where you might just need to suck it up and do something your aren’t interested in in order to make your other half happy.

I can remember booking tickets to see Wicked in the Gershwin Theater on Broadway knowing that my boyfriend at the time wasn’t that bothered about going, but agreed to as he knew it was something I wanted to do. The same goes for when me and some of the staff from our other location in Thailand were all in Bangkok and the boys wanted to go and see the newest Jackie Chan movie, something that I wasn’t fussed about but I still went as they wanted to.

You never know, you might end up enjoying yourself anyway!

Be On The Look Out For The Tired Face

Couples tend to fight more when one or both people are tired. Travelling is incredibly tiring at times and this makes you grouchy and not very much fun at all. We can all think back to times where we snapped at people we care about for no reason other than our being tired.

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Tiredness and frustration will bring the worst out of anyone so always keep an eye out for the ‘tired face’. When you see that your loved one is getting tired and frustrated make a note of it and try to be as sensitive as possible. Sometimes keeping your mouth shut can also be the best thing to do.

Alternatively you could just drink LOADS of Red Bull and not be a sour puss 😀

Don’t Be ‘The Couple’

Whilst traveling as a couple it is very easy to stay together. After all you already know each other and obviously enjoy each others company enough to be in a relationship haha The only thing is, when you stick together you begin to isolate yourself from other people. The couples we have had volunteer with us have managed a good balance of being together and being part of the group.

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Not always sitting together, going to bed at the same time or constantly being attached at the hip will make others feel more comfortable and socializing will become more fun as you won’t be ‘the couple’. Being able to spend time apart and with others will provide you with some amazing and beautiful friendships that you wouldn’t have if you had just constantly stuck together.

Don’t Forget To Have Time Together

Travelling is an incredible adventure that will give you some amazing memories, it can also be a tornado of getting caught up with meeting new people and discovering the unknown. So make sure to have some ‘couple time’ as well.

Go out for dinner, walk along the beach, get massages or even just have a movie night.

Having an hour or so to just enjoy the moment with the person you care about is something you should always make time for and enjoy, plus if you come to Thailand, it is a very beautiful country where it is hard not to find a romantic spot to sit down and remember all the things you love about your other half.

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If you and your other half are planning a trip away and want to make it something that will not only be an adventure but will also make a difference to others then you need to take a look at the Starfish Website and the Starfish – Volunteer Thailand Facebook page.

Once you have done that then take a look at my own TwitterTumblr and Instagram pages, I am always updating them will all the silly things I do and experience on a regular basis.

Build. Protect.Teach. Care. – The Starfish Motto

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A Solo Wendy

I realised after my post last week that all of our volunteers face different issues when they travel depending on whether they are single travelers, couples or even just weary females. So for the rest of the week I will be posting helpful advice for everyone else!! Hopefully they will be of some use to you and will make you less scared and more excited about traveling!!!

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Thinking lots about the places I want to travel when I get older haha

When I was younger I had dreams of travelling the world and visiting all the places in my history books, my fairy tale stories, and my fathers stories. As I grew up my body ached for travel. Coming from a military family, I never stayed in one place for very long and traveling gave me the remedy to the pain I felt from staying stuck in one place.

Many others feel this exact same thing but the thing is, they either don’t have anyone to travel with or they are terrified of travelling alone. Seeing nothing but monsters hiding down alleyways and long evenings staring into space with only your thoughts and perhaps a good book for company. These fears overpower dreams and comatose you into remaining stuck in the life that you don’t enjoy or feel fulfilled with.

These are valid fears.

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No one wants to be alone when they travel. No one wants to experience the time of their life without somebody to share it with. But just because you start out your journey alone doesn’t mean you will spend it or even finish it in the same way. You will meet people. You will be able to share your experience with others, even more amazing is that you will be able to experience them with people who have the same sort of attitude and ideals to you.

But, those who allow fears to prevent them from travelling, don’t understand this truth.

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In fact, I think solo travel is one of the friendliest and easiest way to make friends – friendships that have a lasting and meaningful impact upon your life. Friendships on the travel road will broaden your horizons in so many way. Even as I write this I am waiting for a call from a girl I met a few weeks ago in Cambodia who has come over to Surin to hang out for a few days. If I hadn’t traveled alone, I never would have met her and forged the great friendship we now have.

Just remember when you meet someone new that they are feeling the same way you are, they are nervous, weary, scared even so be the one to reach out a hand and a smile to make them feel more at ease and to know friends can be made anywhere.

It’s tough at first, but as with everything it gets easier and soon you’ll find yourself stopping to share your life story with every new person you meet and asking them to do the same. This is one of my favourite ways to discover the undiscovered. My own wandering had led me to find some amazing places that aren’t always in the guide books, so if I share my experiences, and have others do the same with me, then everyone’s lives are more enriched.

Another wonderful thing about traveling is that no one knows or really cares about who you are, where you are from, what you do for a living, how many cats you have. They really just want to know who are you right now. It’s easy to not have defensive walls in place because you can be whoever you choose, you can be the better person you want to be.

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Another friend I made during my last Cambodia trip 🙂

So if you are worried about meeting new people whilst travelling then just follow these simple tips.

Take small steps every day to meet new people. Start with small conversations with strangers, it doesn’t have to be anything deep or meaningful, ask if they know a good restaurant or something, you might learn some insider local knowledge.

Attend any parties or get togethers that your accommodation is offering or that you get offered an invitation to. It’s a perfect opportunity to take advantage of the atmosphere of fun and freedom to meet new people

Go out on your own to restaurants and bars. Obviously be careful and keep your wits about you but you will end up finding other who are on their own and you just go from there.

If you have already made friends then don’t forget to be open to welcoming new people in. What you give out will always return to you. Remember the times when you were alone and others invited you in.

My last piece of advice is for anyone travelling or not, Don’t be a douche! Be nice, use your manners, show respect, be open and friendly to hearing other people’s stories and memories as well as sharing your own. Also remember that others have a voice and their own stories as well!

Finally remember the most powerful words on the planet

Thank you!

Thank you for asking me to sit with you and chat.
Thank you for inviting me out to dinner with y’all.
Thank you for helping me when I was lost.
Thank you for sharing your story.
Thank you for listening to mine.

I have never been a shy person, I have been on stages from when I could walk so I was never able to be shy but I understand those that are. I have met so many people through my life who are shy, not because they want to be but because they just aren’t sure how to NOT be. I will always try to involve those who are a little quieter as I know the damage that can be done by being ignored by others, just because I am confident and loud doesn’t mean I haven’t had my fair share of being ignored and shunned for the way I am.

Just give it a go, meet new people and forge new friendships, plus if it all goes balls up then you don’t have to worry about ever seeing them again anyway!!!

Take a second to look at the  Starfish Website and the Starfish – Volunteer Thailand Facebook page for the most amazing volunteer opportunities in Thailand.

Then check out my own TwitterTumblr and Instagram pages for more of my silly face!!

Build. Protect.Teach. Care. – The Starfish Motto

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How To Be A Frugal Wendy

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Piggies love those pennies – make a penny jar!!

People constantly ask me about how I manage to have traveled as much as I have and how I manage to live in Thailand only being 22. There really are no special or fancy tricks to it, it’s all about common sense and desire that overcomes everything else.

As with anything in life, a lack of finances is what prevents people from beginning their travels in the first place. But if you really want it enough you can travel wherever you want for as long as you want. It may take time, but that moment when you realise that everything you have worked for is finally paying off is, for me, the most rewarding feeling in the world. Many people have often mistaken me for being very well off financially to have traveled the way I have. I wish!!! All I have done is make smart decisions with my spending and taken active steps to save up to do the things I so desperately want to in life.

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Sadly, most of us don’t have magic top hats full of money

Even though there aren’t any magical tricks, apart from winning the lottery, there are many tips I can give you that will help you save up for your incredible once in a lifetime trip to Thailand.

First of all you need to ask yourself the right financial questions

How can I create more money in my life?

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How can I cut back in order to save more money?

(Remember a dollar saved is a dollar earned. Or Pound. Or Euro. Or Yen) How Can I Create More Money in Order to Travel?

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How do I save money for travel?

For me I look at what I want from life and what I want to be able to look back on in years to come.

Will I really care about that pair of shoes, that one night out or that iPhone 71234234 when I am 75?

No is the answer to that question, I will look back at the adventures I have had and whilst sat in my rocking chair with my knitting, that is what will bring a smile to my aged face.

So what do you want in life? That once in a life time opportunity to swim with elephants or a night out?

Is buying ______________ worth giving up your dreams?
Could this ____________ be worth more to me than watching the sunrise over the Grand Canyon, teaching a child it’s first words in English or protecting an endangered species?

When I was in England I was working two full times jobs as well as putting myself through University as well. I wasn’t living at a parents house either so I had to pay for all my expenses; needless to say I wasn’t getting any sleep, but I knew it was all worth is for when I would be able to travel and do all the things I had dreamed of doing.

A couple of things you can always look at doing also include

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Lodgers/Renters

If you have space in your house or your flat and you want some extra cash then getting yourself a lodger is a great idea that will not only get you extra cash but will also mean that you might be in a position to have someone you trust looking after your property whilst you travel.

Which brings me on to renters. If you are a home owner or you are on a long term contract, I know that your home is often one of the biggest things stopping you from travelling. You can remedy this by having someone rent your house from you whilst you travel, if you are on a long term contract and you aren’t able to rent out then maybe ask a friend if they need somewhere to stay for a bit, get them to pay for a percentage of the expenses and you’re set!

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Ebay

Ebay and Craigslist, if you are in the States, are on the way to being your new BBFs.

Look at all of the things in the room you are in right now.

How much of that stuff do you actually need, use or even want? I can guarantee you that if you found the value of a lot of your items and how much of a financial difference that would make to your trip you would sell everything!!

Trade your materialistic things for memories.

It doesn’t even just have to be possessions it can be clothes as well, I know how many clothes I have bought from Ebay over the years and someone out there is making money off that so what’s to say you can’t be that person!

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Make it a Working Holiday

For many this is a very practical solution to traveling and staying employed. There are so many companies that already have overseas offices, ask around your own workplace and see if there are any oppertunities for moving to another office abroad. If this isn’t possible then just look for a new job abroad. As long as you get the right visa you can work pretty much anywhere and do everything from teaching to bar tending; these are actually the two easiest and most requested jobs for people traveling 🙂

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Save Your Tax Returns and Bonuses

Tax Returns, bonuses even Birthday money is all money that you don’t count on in life. You can only ever really count on your salary, so these unexpected lump sums of money can often provide you with enough money to pay for flights, a few more weeks of travel or even the sometimes pricey working visas.

I know that I used the interest I had gained off a large sum of money so that I could pay for my flights to and from New York.

Birthday money has gone towards accommodation costs.

Bonuses have gone to pay for volunteering.

This extra money should only ever be used for your dreams or your debts, I would probably go with debt first as you really don’t need that coming back and biting you in the ass later haha

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What You Need vs What You Want

This is something I still fall for on occasion. Do I NEED that night out in town or do I want it? I normally think I need it when I don’t – well, except my Birthday 😀

But you don’t need a lot in life to be happy, as long as you have somewhere to sleep, clothes on your back, food and probably the internet, you are fine.

Get rid of all those labels, the expensive price tags, the brand new cars and other goods, the fancy restaurants, and top shelf drinks. Start living on a needs basis not a want.

It will be hard at first but being frugal will pay off very quickly. Give it one month of living very strictly and you will see the financial and personal difference.

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Public Transport

Do you need a car?

Really?

I am pretty sure there will be public transport to that place you are trying to justify in your head isn’t there?

Yeah, I thought so haha

Cars are expensive.

Buses are not.

Walking or cycling are even FREE!

So save your money, help the environment, and ditch the car for the other forms of transport in the world.

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Eat at Home

You don’t need to be going out to fancy restaurants, or even a McDonald’s every night or even at all. Think of how much that Big Mac meal will set you back if you have 2 a week, then add it all up and that might pay for a hostel for a week, a visa or even part of your flights.

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Who wouldn’t want to cook at home with Nigella!

Cook at Home

One thing I never used to think about was how much money I was spending when I went out for lunch everyday between jobs. I might spend up to 5GBP in one day, buying a sandwich, a drink and a packet of crisps.

This adds up to WAY more money than I even want to think about.

Now if you take that money and use it to buy ingredients for simple meals you can make at home, which you can then take to work for lunch is much, much cheaper.

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Live Off One Wage

If you are travelling as a couple this is a GREAT way of saving money, really budget yourself so you only need to use one of your wages in order to pay for what you have to in life and then use the other as a savings wage. You will be amazed at how quickly you can save by doing this.

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Work Out a Travel Plan

I am all for flexible traveling but you really should have a basic idea of where you are going, and how much it is going to cost you in order to get there/live there/leave there.

How do you plan on getting around when you travel?
What sort of places are you willing to stay, where will you eat?
In other words how low budget do you plan to go?

You can make travel as expensive as you like, if you just HAVE to stay in the Ritz then you are going to have a bad time, if you don’t mind staying in a dorm or a less desirable location, then not only will you meet more people and see more of a place but you will also save yourself an incredible amount of money.

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Airline Credit Cards

Now I personally don’t own a credit card, I don’t agree with spending money that you don’t have, even if you have it in genuine money on another card. It just freaks me out as I know that I would rack up a huge debt by never paying for anything.

But there are specialist credit cards that are travel related or even from airline companies. Cards like these allow you to rack up airmiles and often other bonuses as well, for example if the company your credit card is from is in association with a hotel chain, you might be in line for cheaper accommodation.

Also make sure you utilize the initial sign up bonuses and all the monthly or weekly prize draws and competitions they do as well. Not only will this give you an opportunity to win a lump sum, it might even offer you the opportunity to get you an entire free travel experience.

Some U.S. carriers offer a branded card that gives you 30,000-50,000 bonus miles when you sign up and make one purchase. That’s a free round-trip economy ticket right there. By adding multiple users, you can multiply the bonus. Additionally, by signing up for non-branded cards such as Chase Ultimate Rewards, you can earn points offered by those cards and then transfer them to your favorite airline.

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Be Flexible

If you are flexible with your destination dates you will be surprised how much money you can spend. Flying mid week for example is ALWAYS cheaper than flying on a Friday or weekend, I don’t know why but that is just how it is. I use Skyscanner for all of my flight needs and they have a great section that allows you to check an entire month for departure and return flights that will work out the cheapest, they are normally only ever a few days different from your initial dates anyway.

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Travel Off-Season

Understandably off season is usually cheaper as the weather isn’t the greatest or it has the least amount of festivals or events BUT, traveling off season not only saves you money but also means that you can see places that would normally be full of tourists in a more natural way. There is nothing like going to a beach and being the only person there, this WON”T EVER happen if you travel in high season.

Before you embark on your travels research the off or shoulder seasons for the places you want to travel and tailor your trip around those times.

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Think Outside The Box

Why are the most popular destinations so expensive? Because everyone goes there!

Want to see a Thai beach but you don’t want to pay the prices of Koh Samui or see all the drunken teenage idiots on Koh Pangyan? Try Phi Phi or Krabi, they are equally as beautiful and much cheaper, granted they are more expensive than Northern Thailand, but it is the beach after all.

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Don’t Stay In A Hotel

Hotels are expensive, you are only sleeping there so do you really need to be paying $100 a night when you could stay in a hostel for a tenth of the price. I genuinely can’t even think of a time I have ever stayed in a proper hotel, I have been in them and experienced the marvel that is heated swimming pools, massage and room service but is that honestly better than swimming in the ocean, local massage and street food?

I don’t think so.

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Stay With Family/Friends

Do you happen to have any friends or family that live abroad? This is always a great excuse to travel, not only will you get to see family and friends but they might be able to put you up for a while which always cuts down costs.

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Shop Around

Chances are the easiest flights, hotels, tours or cruises are sponsored so won’t actually be as cheap as they appear. Make sure you dig around and look at as many websites, articles and comparison companies as possible. There is always a deal out there, they are just sometimes hard to find.

Don’t give up though!!

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Quit The Gym

You don’t need a gym in order to work out, the last time I checked running, jogging and cycling were all free to do in any city in the world. The gym just gives you a place to run on the spot and be sweaty with lots of other people. Join a running club. Cycle instead of using your car. Use the stairs instead of the lift. You will be getting the same amount of exercise but it will be free!!

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Cheapskate Socializing

You don’t need to get drunk to hang out with your friends. Drinking is incredibly expensive when you add up how much you spend in a week, so much so that you could probably buy flights with a months drinking money. Think of interesting ways to socialize with your friends that doesn’t cost anything, BBQ in the park, game of football, video game nights even a dinner party or movie night. There are more ways than you think to socialize for very little money.

Make sure you do go out and enjoy yourself every now and again as otherwise you will become very bitter about saving, not to mention, your mates will think you are really boring.

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Saving money is sort of like a financial diet, cut back on all the things you don’t need and that are bad for you but have those cheat days that keep you happy 🙂

To see the kinds of things you can be doing with the money you save up take a look at the Starfish Website and the Starfish – Volunteer Thailand Facebook page for our amazing and life changing volunteer opportunities.

After you have done that then take a look at my own TwitterTumblr and Instagram pages to see all the fun and normally very cheap adventures I get up to 😀

Build. Protect.Teach. Care. – The Starfish Motto

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A Very Happy, If Older, Wendy

So a couple of you may know that it was my birthday yesterday and I can honestly say that it made me realise how much I love traveling, and especially Thailand. My 21st last year was spent being Lara Croft in the temples of Cambodia and this year, having spent a week in Cambodia to arrange a new visa, I got to spend my birthday, this year, back in my adopted home town of Surin.

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Belated Birthday celebrations in Bangkok with two AMAZING girls, Caroline and Becki (2012)

I can honestly say it was one of the best birthdays I have had, although I may not of had all the people that matter to me celebrating with me, I know that they were there in spirit and luckily I had all my friends here to make up for it. I got to hang out with my two big brothers, have my favourite local band sing one of my favourite songs as well as sing me Happy Birthday and I got to do it all after having some great Skype calls with people who I cherish around the world.

But like I said, my birthday this year really did make me appreciate what I have in life and appreciate even more the wonderful place I get to live and work in. I have never really fitted in in England, I don’t so much like the culture, the way people treat each other and the lack of morals of many of the people that live there. Thailand on the other hand fits me very well and these are a few reason why I, and you, should love this, the beautiful ‘Land of Smiles’.

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When I step out of my house each day the heat wraps around me like an embrace and the familiar smells waft up my nose. This might be the smell of rotten fruit, previous evening’s garbage and left over food for the Soi dogs, but I a 2 minute walk to 7/11 conjurers the beautiful and mouth-watering aroma of roasted pork, noodles and petrol; most people won’t know that petrol is one of my favourite smells, and when you mix this with pork you are on to one of the most beautiful smells ever imaginable!!

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One of the cute Soi Dogs that lives near my house

Every place and every step in Thailand brings you something new to savour: tastes, smells, warmth, humility, friendliness and spiritual peace. I have never found anywhere else that has managed to always surprise and humble me at the same time, even on a journey I have done a thousand times, I can’t bring myself to close my eyes and sleep as this amazing environment still instills so much excitement in me.

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Cannot get enough of the food here

So here are some reasons why I love Thailand so much.

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A sunset in Khao Yai National Park

Freedom

England is a culture that is rigid with rules, fees, fines, taxes and expectations. Humans are meant to be free and able to enjoy this wonderful journey. Being ferried from one part of life to another, because that is ‘what you do’ just doesn’t fit me, or what I think life is about.

I love what seems to be almost an absence of rules in Thailand. Despite this people generally go about living their life making responsible decisions and being kind to one another; I think this is mostly down to their Buddhist upbringing but also Thais seem to just have a much greater level of respect for each other than Western society does.

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Tom Yam Soup

Food

Even though I only tend to eat once a day, I could honestly eat Thai food constantly, if I could create some kind of portable Thai food conveyor belt that was always stocked with my favourite foods then I would be a very happy rainbow 😀

The Thai create dishes with ingrediants that if you saw them on their own, you would think to be completely inedible, but as with most things in life, Thais find a way to make something beautiful from nothing. If you want to see a couple of beautiful Thai dishes you can experience whilst here, then take a look at my ‘Top Ten Thai Dishes’ post from a couple of weeks ago.

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Phi Phi Islands in South Thailand

Exoticness

(Unsure if this is a real word or not haha)

For me, Thailand is the height of exotic. There are countless different sides to this beautiful diamond of a country that, even in my 9 months here, I still stumble upon new and beautiful places and things that I wasn’t aware of.

I love the cultural celebrations, the religious ceremonies, the strange food, beautiful beaches and most of all the charming and welcoming people that no matter how stressful a day has been, will always make me smile.

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My two big brothers!!

People

I can’t explain how homely Thailand feels, if you are in the tourist hotspots you probably won’t experience this but if you are in ‘real’ Thailand then you will defintily know what I am talking about. When you come to Thailand, the people here make you feel as though you are part of their family, the people at my local 7/11 for example have included me in so many of their staff nights out, in jokes and general banter. This all comes from Thais being very open and kind people who accept everyone for who they are, no matter how silly or brightly coloured their hair is 😀

You instantly feel good around Thais and all your guards drop because you know all they bring to the table is acceptance, warmth and love. There have been a couple of times I have had a bad day, either from stresses at work, people giving me a hard time or just from getting out of bed on the wrong side and one kind word from a random Thai person on the street, in a passing truck or at Big C has completely lifted my spirit and made me smile again.

They want to laugh more than they want to argue, complain or be bitter. Life is all about being happy, so why waste time being anything other than that?

Buddhist monks participate in a procession to mark the anniversary of the enlightenment of Lord Buddha, on the outskirts of Bangkok

Monks presentation

Spirituality

Thai people are very much in tune with their religion, they live everyday in order to be a good person. Following the teachings of Buddha and accepting life as it is makes Thais very laid back and appreciative of the small things in life.

Their attitude is to be kind always.

Choose happiness, be respectful, consider others, laugh often.

I love how they stop to honour Buddha and the King at every photo and statue they see. They bend low to pass you something with two hands. They greet you with a Wai blessing. They are so reverent and believe that your actions have consequences, so choose the actions that bring about those happy, positive results for all people involved. More people need to learn from these peaceful and loving people.

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Language

I don’t know why I love Thai. I think it has a lot to do with how different it is from any other language and that it is still very mysterious to the vast population of the world. Hundreds of thousands of people learn Spanish or Japanese every year but nobody learns Thai. In the touristy locations the Thais speak English and for the places that Thais don’t learn English you can get around with hand signals and Google translate. For me though, I want to learn one of the lesser known languages in the world, not only to improve my own life experience, but also to show that even though my skin may be white, that I can put in as much effort to learn a language as the Thais do.

Thais are very humble and kind but they will happily laugh with you at all your silly mistakes and pathetic attempts to speak their language!

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A boy enjoy Songkran – Thai New Year

Living For The Moment

Thailand forces people to live in the moment. When you walk down the street you can’t do so whilst worrying about all the silly things in life as you are on an adventure of sorts with the countless tuk tuks, cars, mobile street carts, motorbikes, people, all moving amongst one another. You are forced to be present or die. And when you think about it, that is what life should be. Live for the now, not for the past that is gone or the future that will never be.

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There really is nothing like Thai traffic

Living With Chaos

When you first see Thailand, all you see is the hundreds of busy and bustling cars, tuk tuks, motorbikes, people, children running around barefoot, dogs chasing each other for territory, cats stalking their pray, vendors hollering about their wares and school children on the way to school.

Yet despite all this chaos their is a constant essence of calm in Thailand.

Take a second to stand and watch the chaos unfold and you will still see a beautiful moment of calm amongst the storm whether it is a stolen smile between to young Thais, a child’s beaming smile after being given a sweet snack or an old dog just observing the territory he has spent years protecting.

Seeing butterflies is my personal reminder to just take a second to appreciate the here and now.

When I am busy with things in my own mind, or worrying about things I really have no control over, I always see a pair of butterflies playfully chasing each other in the warm breeze and it makes me realise that I need to stop.

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Miss International Queen Pageant in Bangkok

Acceptance

One of my favourite things about Thailand is that you will be loved and accepted no matter who you are and what you believe in. You aren’t treated differently for anything, whether it be your skin, your hair, your gender, your sexual preference or taste in fashion.

I have always admired how gay/lesbian and ‘ladyboys’ are  treated with respect and love within society. They are teased in a friendly way that is not meant with any malice, much the same as people who aren’t stick thin are. There is absolutely no bullying at all, so snickering remarks about people you see on the street or in a club or bar. Everyone is a person and for that are honored.

Thinking about it, the only times I can think of any sort of derogatory comments or behaviour towards anyone seen as ‘different’, is from Westerners who can’t seem to accept that, just because a person doesn’t think the same as you that they should be ridiculed and made to feel worthless.

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All you need for 1 day in Thailand – around 2GBP

Cheap Living

I won’t lie, I have lived here for 9 months and haven’t once used the kitchen in my house, if it wasn’t where the cups and bin lived then I wouldn’t even know where it is. It is only 30-40B to eat out for any meal so I really have no reason to make my own food. Travel from Surin to Bangkok is 407B, around 8GBP or $12, I couldn’t even get from my house in York to Leeds on that much money!!!

You can live well in Thailand. And life is for living well.

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Beautiful Beaches

The beaches are stunning, the sand soft and white, crystal clear, blue or jade water, depending where you are. The water is calm and gentle and beckons you to come snorkelling and play with tropical fish up close.

Fresh fruit is available everywhere, with the added bonus of being locally sourced and organic. The catch of the day is cooked on an evening, the smell of roasting fish, crackling and spiting over hot coals, always makes me smile and my mouth water.

There are still many beaches that haven’t been taken over my 20 something Westerners so don’t loose hope when you see most of the beaches are advertised for the bars and pub crawls.

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The Famous Tuk Tuk

Transport

One of my favourite ways to travel in Bangkok, whenever I am there, is my motorbike taxi. I love being a part of the hustle and bustle of Bangkok traffic. Your driver will career around bends with oncoming traffic from every direction but does so with such control and experience you don’t bat an eyelid.

Having a tuk tuk drive on the way home after a night out is one of the best parts of my night. I love tumbling into a tuk tuk and knowing that all the local drivers know where my house is so there is no worry to getting lost. I haven’t found anywhere else that remembers where I live!!

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Enjoying a night out with my best friend Nangfa!

Night Life

In Thailand life begins at night time. This doesn’t just mean the bars or clubs but includes the night markets, the street stalls full of tasty and delicious food by the park and the generally more relaxed vibe on an evening. I have sat outside 7/11 with friends just people watching, trying the food of the various stalls and joking with the 7/11 staff; I really don’t miss my Playstation in times like that haha

So those are the things I really love about Thailand. I would to hear what you love about Thailand and what makes it a truly amazing travel destination.

If you haven’t made your way to this incredible country then you need to check out the Starfish Website and the Starfish – Volunteer Thailand Facebook page, where you can pick a project that will change your life as well as the lives of the Thais you will work with.

And as always have a look at my TwitterTumblr and Instagram pages for my own Thailand experience!

Build. Protect.Teach. Care. – The Starfish Motto

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A Very Speedy Wendy

I know this is super late but I have been crazy busy lately! Pretend it is New Years for me for a while and read this blog with that in mind 😀

Not only is today New Year’s Eve it is also my friend Kim’s birthday so it is looking as though tonight will be a rather splendid celebration indeed!!!

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One of my favourite couples ever!!

This morning Kim’s boyfriend Arm, who is also a coordinator with me, called me and asked for my help in organising her a surprise birthday cake, which I was more than happy to help with, even if the whole thing relied in part on me keeping a 6 year old quiet which was not an easy task!! Why is it that when they have to be quiet that they aren’t, but when they are doing something they shouldn’t then they are quiter than James Bond in a Russian Military Base??

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This cake was pretty amazing I won’t lie 😀

Me and Arm lit the candles on Kim’s cake and walked from my office to Arms house, which luckily is just around the corner, followed closely by Arms son Ing who was carrying Kim’s present. We got to the house and definitely surprised Kim with her beautiful cake and gift which Ing was more than happy to help open!

Later in the evening me, Arm and Kim met up with a friend of hers who lives near us and got a taxi, probably the only real taxi In Surin, to a very local Thai bar, where the staff and the customers were throwing cherry bombs and exploding sparklers everywhere; I do so love how much people are considerate of health and safety in Thailand 😀 One of the guys who worked there even got a slingshot from somewhere and decided that loading it with a lit cherry bomb and launching it in the air blindly was a marvellous idea with clearly no health and safety concerns!! Needless to say I had to be talked out of doing the exact same thing!

There is, at times, no health and safety in Thailand and luckily in my experience it has always led to some fantastic memories and meeting new friends that I otherwise might not have met; like the crazy cherry bomb guy.

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Look how amazing this straw is??? Who knew this was possible!

After crawling a few of the local bars me, Arm and Kim ended up in Speed 3, which I hope you all know by now, is my favourite night time haunt in Surin, and I can safely say that I have never seen any bar as full as it was on New Years; you could barely move for the amount of people that were there, I have two videos that I will post that show just how busy and mental it was for New Year. The manager of Speed 3 had put on a HUGE new show that my performer friends told me they had to practice 6 hours a day for two days to get ready for; and there is me who has complained about getting beaten up by a baby elephant!! It was certainly worth the 2 days practice as it was amazing and I even got to join in!! I wasn’t on the stage or anything (sadly) but my friend Beer who is the drummer with the house band, gave me his can of silly string and told me to let loose at midnight with the rest of the performers.

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The closest thing I could get to a full shot of the craziness that is Speed 3 at New Years

It is certainly a huge perk of my nightlife to be friends with the performers at Speed 3 as it means I get a lot of free drinks but also get to have them come and give me hugs whilst they are on stage, much to the distaste of the Thai crowd as they don’t get to huge the ridiculously attractive staff every night; at times is it the best to be the palest person in the room.

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Needless to say Kim had a wonderful birthday and I had an equally as wonderful New Year. We have already planned for a very big night out when I return from my trip to Cha Am for our Staff Meeting followed by my stay in Bangkok to pick up my first ever group of volunteers who I shall be taking to the elephant village. It should make for a very fun few days having my first ever group of volunteers who are properly relying on me to be their coordinator!! We shall see if it is as fun as I hope and if I manage to epically screw up this amazing job I have been so lucky to get.

Anywhom!!!

I am finally back in bed after my New Years night out and I am getting sleepy so shall post this and then get the videos up as soon as my Internet will allow me to; mobile Thai Internet is always amazing but sometimes my wifi decides that we aren’t friends anymore and refuses to let me so much as update my Facebook status; seems you just can’t keep everyone happy now a days!

I shall be getting the night bus to Bangkok tomorrow, well today actually I suppose, and it shall be a very long six to seven hour drive I can tell you, especially as I KNOW that Tuk and Al will have been celebrating New Years all day, and probably up until we get on the bus; many apologies to the poor Thai people who have to sit with us for the entire journey 😀

Sleepy time for Wendy!!!

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Here Comes Wendy Clause, Here Comes Wendy Clause, Right Down Wendy Clause Way!

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So these leggings are about as Christmassy as I will be getting over here in Thailand, becuase Thailand is obviously a Buddhist country so they don’t celebrate Christmas like we do in the Western world. At first I thought that this might be a bit weird as I come from a famiy that goes ALL out for Christmas, and I mean all out; real Christmas tree, same decorations every year, family traditions like having Christmas dinner on Christmas day and not being allowed to open any presents until breakfast was eaten and even then it had to be in turn with my sister so we could see what the other had gotten; but despite all of this I find myself not at all phased by the lack of baubles and turkey in my life.

Actually scratch that, I really want turkey and I would do several illicit things for a mince pie right now. Thailand has yet to experience mince pies and I don’t know how to make them, nor do I have the time either; turns out we are pretty busy in the Starfish HQ for Christmas. I still have one volunteer left who has two days left on the teaching project left to finish before she jets off to another fun destination, and for any of those that can count, that means I am working over Christmas Day, which again doesn’t really seem that strange as nobody here celebrates it. After that we have a few days off before heading out to our Annual Staff Meeting and then I have volunteers coming on the day we depart, so all in all I am pretty tied up 😀

A very easy way to tell if there is a farang (foreigner) living on your street is to see if they put up Christmas decorations or not; even though they have moved to a different country with a culture that is so far and beyond their own they still insist on decking out their houses with lights, tinsel and those freaky dancing angels and santas. My grandparents used to have one either side of their fireplace at Christmas and they used to scare the bejesus out of me and my sister, I remember them giving them to us one Christmas and I knew in that moment that after that Christmas they would never see the light of day again, forever living in my attic; that is unless my grandparents ever came over, at which time they would take pride of place in the living room 😀

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This does not instil Christmas joy of any kind in me what so ever

The one thing I am a little saddened by though is seeing how all of my friends on Facebook are all boasting about how lovely their Christmas jumpers are, how nice it is to come in from the cold winter air and have a hot chocolate with melted marshmallows, how beautiful their cities are with all the lights and how excited they are too see everyone they care about. As much as I can wear a Christmas jumper here in Thailand it isn’t really the same; especially as it is SO hot here that you can’t even put a jumper on without working up a sweat.
I don’t have to go outside and worry about slipping on ice or how much longer it will take me to get to work due to the snow though, all I have to worry about here is mosquitos and sunburn; neither of which I worry about that much anyway as ‘mosquitos gotta mosqeet’ and there is no sun strong enough in the universe in the real or video game world that can turn my milky white skin to anything darker than a grubby tone.
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Props for this photo go to Stuarts Photography, Leeds, if you don’t go to him for all of your photography needs then you are a fool 😀
I won’t lie and say I don’t care about Christmas becuase I do, I miss my friends back in England and I won’t get to see any of my family over the holidays like I have been so used to doing for the last 21 years. I saw a picture today of my niece, Pixie, standing infront of a bauble and just looking so amazed and happy and it makes me sad that I can only see wonderful moments like that in photos at the moment. If we had Christmas here it would be my face looking amazed and happy as I am all about Christmas and finding the perfect gift for someone and then seeing their face as they open it.
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 This is what happens if we are friends and you don’t agree that I am right 😀
I am especially sad about not being able to see my best friend Aron this year. We have known each other only a few months but are so far and beyond best friends that I can honestly say I can’t see life without his cheeky face in it. He was the reason I cried at the airport when I left!!! Like I have said before I am from a military family so I am very used to goodbyes but saying bye to Aron, after we had become so close, was honestly the only thing that nearly stopped me from coming out here in the first place. I speak to Aron pretty much everyday and as much as he does my head in sometimes with talking about FIFA or blabbering on about some ‘fit lass’, I can honestly say that he is someone I now couldn’t live without. So because of that I am going to be very sad on Christmas Day that I can’t give him a hug and tell him how much I miss him in person instead of over our 2 hour Skype calls every other night.
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Who couldn’t miss a face that steals your Star Wars Jedi dressing gown and sneaks into your mums room in order to have cuddles with your kitty after stealing your bed after work and spending the whole time snoring and stealing all of the duvet??
There are things I don’t miss though, like the idiotic people who feel the need to blame you and the rest of the world for their inability to plan Christmas shopping effectively and spend the last few days scurrying around town, barging everyone else out of the way in order to get to Sports Direct to buy a pair of ‘weeney good’ Nike Airs for their brother. I also don’t miss the stupid slush snow that you get after the beautiful snow has been trampled into the ground like a giant cockroach, you know the kind that seeps into your shoes and makes the 4 pairs of socks you are wearing cold and wet?? Yeah England can keep that 😀
Another thing I don’t miss is how superficial people become at Christmas, it isn’t about spending time with your loved ones or playing board games anymore, it is about getting drunk, wearing a teeny tiny santa outfit to a club and spending Christmas Eve necking off with a stranger and then opening presents that you probably don’t need or deserve. I just don’t like how much people put a value on objects. I can’t claim to be completely unsuperficial as I have an iPhone, an iPad, a MacBook Pro and countless clothes, but living in Thailand in a culture where your wealth is shown in the love you express and the family you keep, it makes you very quickly realise that you don’t need all of those things.
One of my BIGGEST pet hates for Christmas though is when people say it is all about Jesus’ birthday. If I see one more status on Facebook about how Christmas comes from it being Jesus’ birthday I might have to tear my eyeballs out! Christmas comes from the Pagan festival Yule which the Catholics felt the need to steal and make into something it isn’t; like with a lot of things they believe.
Anywhom, this is not going to turn into THAT debate!
It just makes me so mad that people are so simple minded that they don’t actually look into it all. If you only like Christmas on a non-religious basis then I have no issue if you don’t know it’s origins but if you claim that it ALL came from the Catholics then don’t expect to be my friend on Facebook for very much longer.
You know if I take you off Facebook that we really aren’t friends 😀
On another note though!!
I just want to wish everyone back in England, and anywhere else in the world, that I love, the very best in this holiday time, no matter what you celebrate. Know that I miss you all and that you had better be eating extra turkey and mince pies for me as finding mince pies here is harder than finding a unicorn; which is FAR harder than the Harry Potter books let on so don’t be fooled!!
Happy Holidays Everyone!!!
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My rather snow and ice covered face 😀

Build. Protect.Teach. Care. – The Starfish Motto

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