There are a number of blog posts online that say the best way to motivate yourself into travelling more, is to attempt #take12trips challenge. It’s pretty simple, you just organise a trip away (nationally or internationally) or do something new every month for a year.

When I first read a blog post on it, I knew it would be something I would aim towards from that point onwards. And it will from now remain on my yearly to-do lists.

As March has just flown past (like flown), I thought I’d take a quick look back on how my quarter has gone:

 

January:

So January was a bit of a slow month. Not one where we visited a new destination, but we embarked on a Younus family trip to London for a weekend.

Maybe not a new place, but I did see a lot of new things, such as The British Museum and watching ‘Stomp’ in Covent Garden (amazing show!!).

 

February:

Shortest month of the year but the pace started to pick up. Started off in Yorkshire to witness my lovely cousin getting married and Mo and I spent the rest of the month catching up with friends and excitedly planning our trip to Abu Dhabi which was amazing!

New place, family holiday and lots of quality time with niece and nephew.  We also popped into Dubai, its only down the road after all.

 

March:

Ok March has been pretty busy. After Abu Dhabi we flew back to Jeddah and the second half of our trip was a spiritual one. It was my first time back to the two holy cities – Makkah and Madinah (Saudi Arabia). My first visit back in over 16 years and first visit with my husband and his family. All in all a very beautiful, emotional experience.

After an exhausting two weeks, we only had one weekend of rest before we were off again – this time to Rotterdam with my fantastic four group. My first visit to the Netherlands and I think it’s safe to say I definitely plan on returning again, we had an absolute blast! Can’t wait to blog all about it, but here’s a few cheeky snaps for now:

 

That’s it so far 🙂

 

As I write this I’m already starting April having just returned from another new place – Cardiff with #Traverse16 which was fab and May is looking super busy too.

I do have a challenge for June though, as Ramadhan falls within this month – so it’s going to be a toughie finding a place to go that won’t be too tiring.

Any suggestions of places to check out that aren’t too far away from Manchester? Open to all kinds of ideas! 

 

Thinking of taking on the #take12trips challenge? Well as always Monica from the Travel Hack has you covered with some great advice – click here to read her tips on making it happen

Clare from ‘Need another holiday’ was the lady who inspired me in the first place if you fancy checking her post out too – click here to read her update

If you’re already attempting it, I’d love to hear how it’s going?

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theres a fine line between love and hate - travel linkup - jetsetchick

 

When Emma sent me an email saying her and the girls loved my topic suggestion for this months travel linkup, I was ecstatic! Since marrying a perfume fanatic, ‘scents’ have become a pretty big part of my life.

I’ve mentioned before that the sense of smell is so powerful, it can take you back to a moment in time. A place, a memory.

I associate a lot of my scent-memories with travel experiences. So when I had to sit down and think of one I wanted to write about, choose a best, worst or most missed?

I thought what the heck,  I’ll go for all three!

The one smell that sticks with me more than any, is one that resonates most with the Eastern side of the world. The deep, woody smells of ‘oud.’

I can’t stand it.

It gives me a headache. When it’s burning I always feel like I can taste it – and I can’t imagine it tastes nice. The smoke makes me feel like my eyes are going fuzzy. It’s way too intense for me, to the point where I won’t even allow Mo to have it in the house.

But at the same time… I love it.

I love it because it reminds me of home. Or where home used to be. I was fortunate to spend my childhood in Saudi Arabia. A country at the heart of the Middle East. A place that specialises in the creation of oud fragrances.

 

For those of you that don’t know much about it, a quick education:

Oud is said to have originated in Assam, India. It’s derived from the Aquilaria trees and comes in 15 distinct species. The tree is infected by a mould which reacts to produce a fragrant resin (also known as liquid gold) that is specifically designed to protect itself – a process called tylosis. This resin-embedded heartwood is the source of oud.

It’s known as one of the most expensive natural raw ingredients. Kilo for kilo, oud can actually be worth more than gold. The scent varies depending on the wood, where its grown, how old the tree is and whether it has been naturally infected or cultivated artificially.

In the perfume world, oud envokes a real olfactory nostalgia – one of purity and affluence, a miracle gifted from nature. I remember reading an article by Lawrence Osborne where he said ‘it permeates Arab life in a way no other fragrance does. It has no equivalent in the Western world.’

I should point out, its not solely a middle eastern thing. For anyone who has travelled to the Far East, you’ll probably have noticed the smell of agarbatti. Long incense sticks, left to burn and create a lingering odour.

I encountered it all over Thailand, most commonly in temples and other religious shrines. I also remember it from our time in Ubud, the thick aroma following us as we passed the streets early in morning.

Its use stretches to the times of ancient Egypt, where it was applied to bodies in preparation for the mummification process. The Chinese reported it being worn back in the third century, imported from Vietnam, it rose to fame as a pure oil and personal perfume.

 

How would I describe this scent?

If you walk into a room where the wood has been freshly sparked, the smell can be intoxicating. The pungent aroma can be quite off-putting to most, it’s been likened to the unpleasant smells that can be found on farms (if you get what I mean).

But if you wait long enough you’ll start to feel the subtle sweetness weave through. It’s a fragrance you can see, the smoke is grey, thick and snakes through the air slowly, clinging to your clothes and engulfing the entire room, giving oud its mysterious trait.

 

Most importantly, what does oud mean to me?

If I was to close my eyes, the smell of oud conjures all sorts of nostalgic images.

I think of souks. Of women clothed top to toe in black abayas, gliding from stall to stall. Of men dressed quite the opposite, in white, some sporting keffiyeh, shielding their heads from the blazing sun.

I think of the numerous perfume shops I’ve visited across the Arabian peninsula, the shelves lined with tall glass vials filled with deep oils, their names scrawled across in what I would see as beautiful calligraphy. I remember leaning on glass counters, filled with pieces of bark (albeit very expensive pieces of bark) of all shapes, sizes, variations on colour. A traditional mabkhara (incense burner) would be set up with the latest release on show, a sight not exclusive to perfume shops.

I can hear the rich drawl of the Arabic language, its tone embodies the characteristics of the fragrance. It can be sharp, harsh, with heavily emphasised vowels and letters but when spoken softly or in prayer, can be described as silky, seductive and utterly mesmerising.

A potent scent that makes me scrunch my nose in distaste, but at the same time each single sniff fills my heart with the most affectionate travel memories.

 

Have you got a favourite scent story? Join this months travel-linkup!


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I’m off on my first International trip for 2016 this Saturday, back to a part of the world which for many years I called home.

I moved back to England in the summer of 1999 after having lived my whole life (up to that point obviously) in Saudi Arabia. My primary years spent living in the coastal town Jeddah, my secondary school years in the capital, Riyadh.

This trip will be my first time back to the Middle East since coming here all those years ago. I’m not intentionally travelling for a nostalgic trip, but just being back in that part of the world will I’m sure bring back many happy memories.

We start in the UAE – staying in Abu Dhabi, allowing ourselves some time to check out Dubai, another place I visited in my younger years, way before the rapid development and expansion of this super city started.

After that, it’s off to Saudi Arabia for a spiritual holiday. We’ll be headed to the holiest sites in the world for Muslims, situated in the regions of Makkah and Madinah. Living in Riyadh I was fortunate enough to have both these cities practically on my doorstep, and I have visited them many times with my family throughout my childhood.

Like the UAE, the Saudi government are constantly expanding and regenerating the two holy sites (mosques) and the surrounding areas so I can imagine a lot of changes must have occurred in the last 16 years.

Although I’m having quite a hectic week trying to work, catch up with people and of course pack I thought I’d share a few old snaps I found. I’m quite looking forward to seeing how much has changed! (and to form my own opinion on whether its for better or for worse).

As much as I’d love to sit and spend the night reminiscing, I have some serious packing to take care of.

 

Anyone visited the places I’ve photographed above? Jumeirah beach seems to be the go to place for most people in Dubai these days… wonder if I’ll recognise it 😉

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