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Creating a Home Away From Home

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This article was originally published on TiplrMag.com by Laura Baldwin. Download Tiplr here.

The Lessons I Learned When Beginning a New Life on a Working Holiday Visa

Nervous, excited and eager to go; the very emotions I felt when receiving confirmation on my working holiday visa to Australia. I did plan on well, planning, but my list of things to do became suitcase items as I prepared to fly away with my best friend to begin our next adventure at the other side of the world. I almost forgot about the the almighty travel insurance which is vital if you’re planning on going on crazy road trips or participating in water sports over the next year! A few hours after landing I realised I wasn’t ready for the harsh realities that came with starting a life in another country, and the obstacles you face when creating a brand new home away from home.

Firstly, and quite obviously, there was the issue of money. Always save enough moola to keep you going without work for at least a couple of months. Most countries won’t let you in without enough money in your bank for rent and a flight home and although I haven’t been there yet, I know Canada won’t let you in without travel insurance. Research your destination, look up the cost of food, rent and travel expenses. As a naive twenty one year old who was fresh out of uni, I was a little scared and unprepared once I’d arrived in the land down under, especially when I grasped that purchasing groceries could result in asking the bank for a small loan to help you get by.

Finding your feet somewhere completely new often means beginning the uphill battle of trying to find work. Unless your parents are funding your trip or you saved enough to relax and travel for a wee while then work should really be your number one priority. I signed up to a recruitment agency and that pretty much set me up for my time in both Australia and New Zealand. You don’t have to stay with them but they’ll most likely find you decent work straight away and at least you know you’re working for a legitimate company. If you have zero admin experience, or you’ve yet to try your luck at creating the world’s prettiest double espresso soy vanilla latte, then get yourself some volunteer work at home to gain experience. That way you have both the knowledge and reference before you get there.

As nice as it is to settle, one thing is for certain, TRAVEL. Yes it’s great when you make a new group of friends and you’re having fun living together, but it can become a little too safe and comforting. There’s a reason you’ve decided to go to the country for a year and I highly doubt it involves staying in the same place the whole time you’re there. Take a walk on the wild side, rent a car or book and trip and just go for it. There’s nothing more gratifying than the feeling of taking in the beauty and culture a country has to offer.

Being from the UK I’m used to jumping in the passenger seat of a car and arriving to any destination in less than six hours. Call me moronic but I thought things would be the same in Australia, especially places in the same state. After realising a road trip to Sydney would involve sitting in a car for 12 hours I made sure to look up all destinations from thence forth. I would advise anyone to do the same if you’re not familiar with the place you’ve moved to, especially if you’re planning a weekend trip!

Entering a hostel or new flat full of people you’ve never met before can be pretty terrifying if it’s your first time traveling. Unless you’re a natural extrovert it will mean completely stepping out of your comfort zone and talking to a bunch of complete strangers. Hibernating in your bed and watching Game of Thrones back to back can seem like the easier option but don’t. Take the plunge and sit with people, they’ve been in the same situation as you before so they’ll most likely welcome you and make you feel at ease in no time. It’s crazy how this one simple step with boost your confidence in the future. I even find I’m far more confident in job interviews as I’ve mastered taking control of the initial anxiety I feel in an uncomfortable situation.

You may have made the first move and met people but if you’re not happy, don’t stay. Social media can be the pinnacle for masking your reality, and saying yes can be great unless you know deep down your gut is telling you something completely different. Don’t be afraid to be honest with yourself; if you’re unhappy in a place or hostel then leave! An Instagram filter may make your life look idilic, and with people telling you ‘ah you look like you’re having the best time’ it can be easy to pretend your overall feeling to a place, person or situation is one of pure delight when really it’s not. There will be another place in the amazing country you’ve moved to that will make you feel far more content and honestly, you get one chance at this so don’t waste it.

Be prepared for the unprepared! If only life was like being handed a big bowl of melted chocolate, well eventually you’d feel sick and the novelty would wear off. That’s why you’re going to have to go through difficult times and often they’ll come at the moments you’re least prepared for them. I lost my passport when I first arrived in New Zealand. I had yet to open a bank account, apply for my tax number and find a job. The latter required me to have the previous three items. I’d saved enough to live for a month but that’s how long it took me to apply for and receive a new passport, then set up the bank account and send off for my IRD number. I cried, I slept and I probably refreshed my emails 100 times a day for confirmation that my passport was on it’s way back to me from the UK. That hasn’t been the only time things haven’t gone my way but I’ve learnt from the past that as long as you face it, you have to get through it. The month I spent sitting around at the hostel meant a month of meeting new people and from that I’ve made some of by closest friends here. When things become overwhelming, sit down, take a deep breath and let it go. It will always sort itself out.

I’ve often been told how lucky I am to be able to do this, and yes I know I am but the reality is anyone can. There are so many countries offering the working holiday visa that it really is as simple as saving up some money and getting on the flight. I’ve met every kind of person and although it isn’t for everyone, it’s always been a motto of mine to regret doing than spending my life thinking what if. With a positive mind, the right preparation and a sprinkle of get up and go you have the ground work to have the best year of your life. Or years, because traveling the world is a profession if you allow it to be.

Originally posted 2017-06-18 10:45:14.


Also published on Medium.

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Relationships and Monogamy: Does Sexuality Play a Role in Monogamous Practices?

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Whatever your sexual orientation or gender may be, there’s one thing we can all collectively agree on: Monogamy seems a difficult practice for many people.

That is not to say there are not monogamous partners out there. There are, in fact, plenty of happily practicing monogamous partners who are satisfied with their current relationship situation.

According to the Journal of Sexuality and Social Psychology, men, considered the “fast sex,” tend to “maximize their mating opportunities” by increasing the number of sexual partners in their life. For women, a large number of partners holds no physiological benefits, and “would risk producing offspring of low quality if mated indiscriminately,” making it much more likely for men to cheat than women.

However, as we watch the world progress, we observe a greater tolerance of gender and sexual fluidity. With simplicity comes complexity, and, to state the very obvious: Relationships can be rather messy.

It’s been proven that men show, “a greater interest in uncommitted sex.” It’s also been proven that out of all couples, gay men are by far the least committed to staying faithful in a long term relationship (numbers change based on national averages.)

And while lesbian affairs are the least likely of all, let’s not forget emotional cheating, and how damaging the effects can be on a relationship. More importantly, over the past couple of decades, the percentage of women who have admitted to cheating has risen 40%, while the percentage of men has stayed the same.

We know these numbers also depend on different factors, such as socioeconomic conditions, lack of self-satisfaction, and poor emotional validation,   

Gender norms may have you believe that men are more likely to cheat, but in a 2016 study, statics show that while 57% of men are likely to cheat, this is just a small incline from the 54% of women who have admitted to some type of affair.

In a Psychology Today study, Dr. Elizabeth Sheff finds a common theme among cheating in monogamous relationships over two-decade study, “Some people become polyamorous, starting swinging, or attempt other forms of CNM after they have tried – sometimes for many years – to maintain monogamous relationships and found themselves cheating repeatedly.”

Thus, a question remains: Does your gender and sexual orientation play any type of role in your participation of monogamous relationships?

In short: The answer is no.

Your sexuality does not play a role in whether or not you are more inclined to monogamous practices, but a New York Times article explains that the answers may be found in your genes.

The culprit seems to be “vasopressin,” a “hormone that has powerful effects on social behaviors like trust, empathy and sexual bonding in humans and other animals,” which strongly affects your inclination to cheat.

In a study using prairie and montane voles, sexually monogamous and sexually promiscuous creatures, Dr. Thomas R. Insel, director of the National Institute of Mental Health, noticed a change in the animal’s behavior when vasopressin receptors were induced and when they were blocked.

When blocked, the animals were disposed to monogamous sexual behaviors. When injected, “pair bonding,” the scientific term for infidelity, was promoted.

It seems vasopressin is the key to “social bonding” between animals and can be speculated that this is the reason such a large number of people are naturally against monogamy.

Although this research is not 100% proven and is still debatable, it seems that human’s polygamous nature comes naturally from within.

Of course, we are not set to one standard or one type of relationship with our partner(s). Relationships, much like sexuality, comes in all different shapes and sizes. Everyone should have the freedom to explore whatever they should so choose, but bear in mind that respect, honesty and mutual happiness are the most important factors of any relationship between partners.

Originally posted 2017-07-29 15:01:00.

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One Step Forward, Two Steps Back: Trump’s Trans Military Ban

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The LGBTQ community has made significant progress in terms of equality. A person was not allowed to be openly gay in the US military until former president Obama repealed the “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy in September of 2011. Gay men and women are now allowed to be out, proud, and active members of the military. Unfortunately, this is not the case for transgender individuals. On Wednesday, July 26, 2017, president Donald Trump tweeted that transgender people are not allowed to serve in the armed forces “in any capacity.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Images via goo.gl/mSw8hr

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How alarming! This is a clear violation of human rights and extremely detrimental to the fight for equality for the LGBTQ community. (We also have to appreciate the irony of the tweets considering that on July 26, 1948, former president Truman desegregated the military).

What Trump is basically saying is that allowing transgender people in the military would be a financial detriment. I’m assuming that he is referring to the cost of hormones for transgender people. What he doesn’t realize that the cost of hormones is significantly less than what the military is paying for medications such as Viagra. According to the United Press International, the US military spends ten times more on erectile dysfunction medication than transgender care. 

So, what does this mean? Well, it may mean any number of things:

  1. Trump has no idea what he’s talking about
  2. He’s pandering to the conservative right
  3. He’s transphobic

Who really knows? Whatever the reason, it is definitely a step back for equality. However, hope is not lost as many people are taking a stand against Trump’s ban. Celebrities such as Lady Gaga had some things to say about this ban.

 

 

 

Images via goo.gl/JmdNo2

 

Lady Gaga is not the only person fighting against Trump’s un-American ban. The Human Rights Campaign, or HRC, is fighting for the rights of transgender people, saying that the ban is an “all-out assault on service members” and that the ban would affect approximately 15,000 currently serving troops. This will clearly have a negative impact on the US military as it consists of millions of brave men and women who fight for the freedom of the American citizens and losing even one soldier due to bigotry can cause the military to weaken.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The American Civil Liberties Union, or UCLA, is also fighting against Trump’s ban.

Image via goo.gl/RxN1n9

 

 

 

 

 

Don’t give up hope! This ban is definitely a step in the wrong direction and it hopefully won’t spiral into something even more horrible which is why it is very important that we speak out against this hateful action. Voice your outrage anywhere where your voice can be heard and stand with the transgender community during this trying time, use the hashtag #protecttranstroops on Twitter, repeat the maxim “trans people are not a burden,” and fight for what is right. It may not be easy but as long as we fight, the rights of transgender individuals can and will be protected.

 

 

 

 

 

Originally posted 2017-07-28 21:19:21.


Also published on Medium.

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48 Hours In...

48 Hours in Mexico City

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Mexico City is a sprawling metropolis full of color and culture. You could easily spend a month there and still not get to see and experience everything the city has to offer. If you only have a weekend, you can get a taste of Mexico City’s delights, but be warned – you will probably be booking your next trip as soon as you arrive home.

With more museums than any other city in the world, amazing architecture, a scintillating LGBTQ scene, delicious street food and many other attractions, Mexico City is one of the most exciting cities on the planet.

Getting There

Juarez International Airport is located eight miles from Mexico City. If you arrive late at night, it is advisable to take an official taxi to the downtown area. During the day, the metro is a good alternative.

Getting Around

Mexico City’s metro system is extensive and one of the cheapest underground systems in the world. Having said that, it isn’t the most comfortable of transport options during rush hour. Taxis are cheap, but make sure you take one from the official sitio taxi stands or use Uber.

Day One

Start the day with Huevos Rancheros, a classic Mexican breakfast – tortillas, fried eggs, salsa and refried beans. Try Café El Popular (5 de Mayo esq Palmas, just off the Zocalo). It’s a popular spot for both locals and tourists and has a diner-style ambiance.

After a hearty breakfast, head to the charming neighbourhood of Coyoacan. The number one attraction here is La Casa Azul, Frida Kahlo’s house, which has now been turned into a museum. It provides a fascinating insight into the life of artist Frida and her husband Diego Rivera. www.museofridakahlo.org.mx

The garden in La Casa Azul

Afterwards, you could head around the corner to the house where the exiled Leon Trotsky lived the last year of his life. It was there that he was murdered by an assassin in his study. In contrast to Frida’s colorful abode, it is an austere house which has been changed little since Trotsky lived there, but is an intriguing slice of political history.

Coyoacan Plaza is a great place to sample some tasty street food. At weekends, it is particularly lively with food and handicraft stalls. There is often live music, adding to the festive atmosphere. It feels like small town Mexico in the heart of the big city.

Back in Centro Historico, take a stroll around the huge main plaza, the Zocalo, the second largest public square in the world after Russia’s Red Square. There are plenty of museums, shops and cool street art to explore in the surrounding areas.

La Catrina, the iconic skeleton lady

El Balcon del Zocalo is a perfect place for dinner. The restaurant has a rooftop terrace, bestowed with spectacular views of the cathedral and Zocalo. It has an international, Mexican and veggie friendly menu. www.balcondelzocalo.com

For a taste of Mexican style nightlife, head to Calle Amberes at Paseo de la Reforma in Zona Rosa. This area is the hub of the LGBTQ scene in Mexico City. Have a wander and take your pick of the many bars and clubs that line the street.

Day Two

Pasteleria Ideal (Calle 16 de Septiembre 18, Col. Centro) could be the largest and most heavenly bakery you have ever seen. The choice of baked goods, both sweet and savory, are a feast for the eyes and as the name suggests, is an ideal place to grab some pastries. With breakfast and coffee in hand, make tracks to Alameda Park and find a bench to sit to enjoy your first meal of the day and partake in a spot of people-watching. You can’t miss the opulent architecture of Palacio de Belles Artes, the grandest building in Mexico City.

Just across the road (Calle Revillagigedo 11, Cuauhtemoc), check out the Popular Art Museum. Housed in an ex-fire station, this contemporary museum is full of colorful Mexican folk art. It’s fun and quirky and the exhibits range from Day of the Dead skulls and skeletons to vibrant piñatas. www.map.cdmx.gob.mx

Museum of Popular Art – fun and quirky

La Ciudadela is an artisan market (Calle de Balderas, s/m Centro, 06040 Cuauhtemoc). It specializes in Mexican handicrafts from 0axacan fantasy animals to beautifully decorated skulls. Prices are reasonable and you are bound to find something that catches your eye.

Even if you have never considered attending a wrestling match before, lucha libre is a unique Mexican experience and not-to-be-missed. (Arena Mexico,189 Calle Dr. Lavista, Colonia Doctores).  Regular sessions are held on Tuesday and Friday evenings and Sunday afternoons. The atmosphere is electric and whole families attend shouting abuse at the bad guys and cheering for their heroes.  

Round off your time in Mexico City with some tequila shots and mariachi music at a bar on Plaza Garibaldi. The haunting sound of roving mariachi bands echo around the square, as you reflect on two action-packed days in this amazing city.

Tequila shots at the ready!

 

Originally posted 2017-07-29 11:22:36.

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