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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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Ireland Travel Guide

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Ireland isn’t nicknamed the emerald isle without reason. Sprawling across the entirety of the country are woodland forests, wildflowers, and seacoast grasses. In the summer, heather blankets the mountainsides and a light dusting of snow covers the green grass in the winter. The entirety of the island, comprised of Ireland and Northern Ireland (UK) is only about the size of Indiana but it is certainly no day trip. With its rich history, natural beauty, and lively culture, there is something for everyone.

Skellig Michael

Whether it’s the first or last thing you do, take a slow drive around the Ring of Kerry. The route itself is one of Ireland’s most visited attractions and will take you through the staple scenery of the island. Tumbling waterfalls, crumbling castles, and picturesque seaside villages are all accessible from the road. Star Wars fans, history buffs, and lovers of the ocean won’t want to miss the rare chance to visit Skellig Michael. With only a few boats going out to the UNESCO World Heritage Site, you have to secure your spot well in advance but exploring the centuries-old honeycomb monastery huts, climbing the steep cliffs, and watching the nesting puffins will be worth the wait. Besides, the pilgrimage to the tiny island isn’t only about the destination but the journey too. The only way to get to Skellig Michael is by fishing boat early in the morning, when the sea is tumultuous. But the trip rewards those that take it with the chance to see whales and dolphins right alongside of them. The ships leave from Portmagee, a tiny town on the coast with tight streets, quaint shops, and cozy restaurants.

Make sure to pack your wellies for a trip to Killarney National Park. The first and one of the most diverse national parks in the country, Killarney offers spectacular experiences in nature. Dotted with lakes, the woodland environment is home to a variety of flora and fauna including Ireland’s only remaining herd of wild deer. Just outside of the park lies the lively village of Killarney. Almost as popular a destination as the park itself, Killarney offers music, culture, and history. Later, kiss the Blarney stone for the gift of eloquence like Winston Churchill and so many others have and tour the castle grounds.

Irish Sheep

Further north is the city of Cork and past that is Dublin . Whether you’re looking to have a wild night at the infamous Temple Bar, or just a quiet pub to sit down, you’ll find it in Ireland’s biggest city. Also the nation’s capital, Dublin is teaming with diverse experiences including castles, goals, and cathedrals. In the summer, the city hosts the Dublin LGBTQ Pride Festival, the biggest of its kind on the island.

Within driving distance of the city are the Hill of Tara and New Grange, archeological complexes that have brought awe and wonder to people for generations. There, you can see the ruins and inscriptions left behind by Neolithic people thousands of years ago. Due to conservation efforts, New Grange is difficult to visit because tickets need to be bought in advance for a guided tour, but if history is what you came to Ireland for, it will be worth the trouble. On the other hand, the Hill of Tara is an easy drive and walkable park.

Poulnabrone Dolmen

The northern third or so of the island is Northern Ireland, a part of the UK. Though religious tensions caused the two sides to incite violence, that is now well in the past. The border is open and you can cross without any bother, not even needing to stop to show your passport. Just don’t forget to reset your speedometer to miles per hour and convert your cash into pounds. Northern Ireland is also covered in locations to stop and experience. From the bustling city of Belfast, to the sleepy village of Cobh where the Titanic last docked, this country is teeming with reasons to get off the highway. Cross the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge, skip along hexagonal basalt columns at Giant’s Causeway, or drive along the scenic coast. Game of Thrones fans will also enjoy seeking out filming locations like The King’s Road (The Dark Hedges) and Dragonstone (The Mussenden Temple).

Musseden Temple

Of course, no trip to Ireland is complete without a stop at the Cliffs of Moher. The multiple hundred feet drop of sheer cliff is one of the most iconic locations in the country. Despite its size, Ireland has so much to discover. If you didn’t get a chance to see it all, it’s only a reason to come back again.

 

Originally posted 2017-10-27 19:25:29.

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LGBT History Month: Celebrating Sappho

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As some of you may know, I’m a huge fan of poetry. So are a lot of people, actually, and for good reason. Poetry is beautiful and allows us to say what the heart and soul can’t. Some of the greatest declarations of love and longing have been poetic, and there’s one poet who deserves a little attention for LGBT History Month. This month I’m documenting five of the most iconic and world-changing woman-loving women (WLW), and it would be careless of me not to mention the poet considered by many to be the ultimate WLW:

“Whoever he is who opposite you
sits and listens close
to your sweet speaking
and lovely laughing – oh it
puts the heart in my chest on wings
for when I look at you, even a moment, no speaking
is left in me
no: tongue breaks and thin
fire is racing under skin
and in eyes no sight and drumming
fills ears
and cold sweat holds me and shaking
grips me all, greener than grass”
Sappho

The above lines are exactly what they sound like: Sappho confessing joy and admiration for a woman. Doesn’t that make you feel so gay (pun absolutely intended)?? Known for writing about her yearning and love for women, Sappho is a well-known figure in the “L” part of the LGBT community. Born on the Greek island of Lesbos, Sappho was a prolific writer, composing line after line of beautiful poetry, much of it on subjects of love and women.

Unfortunately, most of Sappho’s writing has been lost, and only one complete poem, “Ode to Aphrodite,” has ever been found. As a poet, this makes me want to sit down and cry for all the lost lesbian poems we’ll probably never see. But just because we only have fragments of some of her work, Sappho remains an iconic figure in LGBT history, for a couple of reasons.

First, you’re probably familiar with the term “lesbian.” This word didn’t come from just anywhere, and you’ve probably already figured out that it’s no coincidence that Sappho was born on the island of Lesbos. See the connection?

And second, there’s the more obvious allusion in phrases like “sapphic vibes” or “sapphic tendencies.” The term “sapphic” stems from the name “Sappho” and the belief that she expressed open homo-eroticism not just in her poetry but in life as well. Unfortunately, we will probably never know for sure, as little is known about Sappho’s life. To add to her mystery, the meaning and subjects of her poems are hotly debated, and over the centuries many have been intentionally heterosexualized by scholars.

Whatever her original intentions were, it’s clear that Sappho certainly idolized women, even if it wasn’t explicitly romantically or sexually motivated. And in the lesbian community, Sappho is widely accepted as one of the first openly homosexual women in literature. As for this lesbian, I’d like to believe that Sappho was loving ladies her whole life, and openly expressing that love to the world. After all, that’s the dream, isn’t it? To be open about our sexuality and not be ashamed to show it? It’s what the LGBTQ community is still working towards today, and why we celebrate LGBT History Month.

Thanks to Sappho’s inspiring poetry we have a name for WLW and a historical figure to study and admire. Which women do you admire? What’s your favorite sapphic poem? Tell us in the comments, and go here if you want to learn about last week’s featured lesbian, Barbara Gittings, and her influence in LGBTQ visibility. Next week I’ll be talking about Gladys Bentley, continuing my coverage of iconic lesbians who changed the world.  

Originally posted 2017-10-27 15:09:19.

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Tell It Like A Lesbian

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My mother refuses to refer to my partner as anything other than a friend. We’ve been dating for three years and my mother still won’t acknowledge our relationship. Am I crazy for being angry about this and wanting to confront her? I feel insulted and it really upsets my partner. –Clarke

Dear Clarke, You’re not crazy for being upset at your mother. It sounds like you have every right to be angry, especially if after three years your mother can’t even acknowledge your relationship. If talking to her gently about it hasn’t worked after all this time, it may indeed be time to confront her more forcefully, as your partner’s feelings are also being hurt by this behavior. If you decide to confront her and her attitude remains unchanged, it may be time to cut ties. After all, your happiness is what matters most in this situation, regardless of whatever is causing such denial from your mother. You must put the health of you and your partner’s relationship first, and eventually, your mother may come to realize what she is losing because of her denial.

__________

Dear Tell It, Do you have any suggestions for handling depression? I’ve been really struggling with loneliness and I have no energy for anything, even stuff I usually enjoy. I feel like I have no one to turn to. –Otto

Dear Otto, Depression often causes the loneliness and sense of isolation that you are feeling. It’s important that you recognize this as a symptom of your depression and do your best not to isolate yourself as a result. Because depression can take a lot of energy, remember that your brain and body need time to recover. And remember that focusing on self-care is not selfish. Depression is an illness just like the flu and other diseases and should be treated with the same care.

On bad days, make a warm drink that you enjoy, read your favorite book or watch a show or movie you love. Spend some time by yourself to recharge, and then contact a friend or family member to let them know what you’ve been feeling. Make a plan to spend time with them, even if it’s only for an hour or two, preferably away from your house. Getting outside and into a new environment is an excellent way of resetting your brain. While I wish I could tell you otherwise, depression doesn’t just go away. You will likely go through phases of good and bad, and it’s important to learn the symptoms that are specific to you. If you have suicidal thoughts, don’t hesitate to ask for help. The suicide hotline number is 1-800-273-8255. Hang in there, and remember that there are people who care.

__________

Have questions for Tell It Like A Lesbian? Let me answer them! Submit your questions below (you don’t have to use your real name unless you want to), and see your question answered on our website!

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Originally posted 2017-10-26 14:10:06.


Also published on Medium.

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