Over the last few weeks Mo and I have been taking it easy. I decided to switch off from my phone, get some distance from being constantly switched on, swapping small screen for the big screen and a bit of binge tv series watching (in between work of course). We watched a number of movies, one of the stand-outs being ‘Lion’, the Oscar nominated film based on the memoirs of Saroo Brierley.

If you’ve not seen the movie, it tells the tale of a five year old Indian boy who gets himself lost in Calcutta, thousands of miles away from his home after falling asleep on a train. After a series of potential life threatening events, he is adopted by an Australian couple and the second half of the movie addresses his plight to find his long lost family.

Watching the beginning is quite heart-wrenching, as it took us through the real life situations occurring every day on the streets of India. The dangers young innocent children face and the harsh reality of people being too busy to notice, or in this instance, care that a young child is fending for himself. The credits point out that nearly 80,000 children go missing in India every year, of course the reality is it’s probably far more as I’m sure many cases are undocumented.

 

 

Why am I telling you all this? There are so many great movies out at the minute (and by that I mean Star Wars of course) so why has this one become so etched in my mind…

I started a new job this year and I love it. It was made for me! And I can finally spend my working days using the creative side of my brain that has been bubbling away in the hope of one day being unleashed at full steam. I have my blog to thank for this shift in daily life too. If it wasn’t for the skills, the knowledge and the experience I have gained through writing and working on this online journal, I would not be in the position I am today.

Writing on here has never been an issue in the past I’ve always made the time, found the words shared the photos. But there have just been far too many instances in the last year where I’ve almost rejected putting up a blog because it’s felt, dare I say it, unnecessary. I travelled to Myanmar at the start of 2017 and it was a truly memorable experience.

I came back hopeful about their future (politically), knowing it wouldn’t change overnight but that in time the persecutions happening unnecessarily would be addressed and stopped… only to find that I was wrong and the situation for the Rohingya became much worse. Crushing any sense of hope I had for the country and stopping me from sharing the rest of my journey as the last thing I wanted was to inspire people to travel, and fuel money into the pockets of a country who’s government is quite simply, allowing a genocide.

It’s so hard to know what’s right and wrong anymore? Like the rich, high flying war lords on the planet of Canto Bight supplying weapons to both the First Order and the Resistance (yes, I’m talking Star Wars), how are we supposed to distinguish the good from the bad if they both use the same middle-man? How can I travel to America when there is a racist in charge? How can I comfortably visit countries in the Middle East when they are partnered with said American racist? How can we comfortably visit Eastern Europe when late last year there was the largest ever march of far right nationals in Poland?

2017 was definitely the year I accepted the world had well and truly gone mad. Sky News used one my images (well Mo’s image) on their news report a few weeks ago, but I couldn’t even enjoy seeing it on the front page because it sat right next to reports of protests and attacks in Palestine after the ridiculous US declaration about Jerusalem. I then realised that because of my new job and leaving behind the world of travel alerts, I was starting to lose awareness of world issues, I had become too busy to read what was happening away from the safety of my little bubble.

I was struggling with the writing because I was scared of putting something together that is somehow supporting a bad cause. A bad situation. Or even worse, neglecting an important situation for the sake of not wanting to write something bad or for my own personal gain… (can you tell I’m an over-thinker?)

Ok now what has all this got to do with my movie review?

The most beautiful component of ‘Lion,’ the part that really inspired me, was that it was the story of Saroo’s journey. His journey through life and the different stages that he went through. I loved that this movie, based on his book, told his story and he was able to trace back his steps through the memories and the feelings of his every day travels as a child.

And just like that, all the words started to float around. I spent the last week just going back and reading my own blog. I know damn well it’s not at all a sophisticated piece of literature but I love that it tells my story. I love that I have a place to share my journey. The good things, the bad things, whether I’m right or wrong, all of the pieces I share are my tales and experiences.

 

 

I recently found all my families old passports, my Dad’s in particular, pages and pages filled with stamps and dates and as I went through them with my parents they spoke of their travel memories… some of which I remember, some I have absolutely no recollection of, or they never shared up until now. Travel is like nothing else, it gives us these moments to share and it teaches us far more than we can ever learn staying put doing the same thing over and over again.

 

 

Now that we’re here on the first day of 2018 I have no real resolutions except to keep pushing myself and to not be scared to present my stories on here. For Mo and I to keep aiming for the top and more importantly, to encourage others to do the same. I pray that 2018 is a better year for some of our friends and family who have struggled through hard times. And I look forward to making much more use of my voice and not shying away from contributing my opinions.

 

 

Hope you had a good Christmas and enjoyed the celebrations last night and wishing you heaps of good luck and fortune for the year ahead…

Happy New Year 🙂

 

 

 

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As much as I love coming home after a trip away, like many others I’m always prone to a stroke of the holiday blues. It’s always a little bit sad to get back to the everyday comings and goings of normal life. But alas holidays can’t last forever!

Spending a week choosing and sharing photos on Instagram always helps me keep those memories fresh and alive, inspiring me to keep writing and remembering all the wonderful things we did. I’m really enjoying getting to grips with the photo sharing app actually and as I’m working on improving my photography it’s helping me focus on fine-tuning those skills. So IF for some crazy reason you are not following me on Instagram and missed all the photo fun, heres a round-up of some of my favourite snaps:

 

 

These are just a few of the many thousand, so I’m sure I’ll be posting the odd extra pic here and there when I find some hidden gems. So if you fancy following along you can find me on here – @jet.set.chick – or if you have any tips or know of any good blogs on photography do share, I’m always wanting to learn more!

Hope you’re having a good weekend, I’m back off to spend the day at the Saatchi Gallery in London, taking a break from looking behind the lens and instead enjoying my first love before the days of digital, the beautiful world of fine art.

Have a good Sunday!

 

 

Are you on instagram? Share your links! I need more accounts to explore 🙂

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There was so much going on in December, I didn’t even get a chance to write a gift guide. In fact, I hardly had any time to buy any gifts! Marvellous Mo took the reigns and managed to get all the bits and pieces we needed in time for birthdays, Christmas and other celebrations.

As great as it was to have him take care of it, it did make me sad that I wasn’t able to go out and see all the exciting novel products that appear when the holiday season is upon us. Although I’m not a big fan of shopping, I absolutely love buying gifts! So with a number of events coming up in the next few months, I decided to get myself all prepared from now. And during this preparation, I have had my eyes opened to a fabulous website that I’m excited to share with you, uncommongoods.com.

I’m a big fan of personalised, handmade gifts. I love sites like notonthehighstreet and etsy, and I’ve used them both for years, so when I was sent information on uncommon, I was excited to have some fresh ideas to choose from. Not just that, but as I was looking into the company itself, I discovered that uncommon goods have sustainability and care of the environment at the heart of their mission. They love working with artists and manufacturers that utilise recycled and organic products, oh and most importantly they do not sell products that cause harm to people or animals, no fur, no feathers!

I have a number of occasions coming up that require extra special gifts and thankfully there is plenty on offer to cover all of these occasions! There’s a section on gifts specifically for women, perfect for my MIL’s birthday, a section on anniversary gifts perfect for mine and Mo’s upcoming special day. Then there’s G’s birthday, Mo’s birthday and luckily the fab section on home décor will be perfect for finding gifts to suit new home celebrations (not mine).

But of course my favourite products are ALL travel related, I couldn’t help but share a few of the ones I’ve bookmarked:

 

1. Cork Globe

 

Cork Globe Uncommongoods.com

 

My last gift guide featured a pinboard wall map, which my dad ended up buying for me and I love it!! BUT now I also reeeeeeally love this cork globe!! It would be such a lovely accessory for an office, study, lounge.

 

 

 

2. Travel Stub Diary

 

travel stubs diary uncommongoods.com

 

This travel stub diary, may not be for everyone but I know I would certainly use it. Yes I don’t like to keep excess junk as it all builds up and creates clutter etc. But at the same time, I normally have a whole pile of things I do keep from travelling, perhaps because I haven’t had the chance to blog about it yet and I keep it to remind me. At the moment all that stuff lives piled up in a box. This diary would definitely be useful in helping me keep organised! (it’s so cute too!)

 

 

 

3. Anywhere Travel Guide

 

anywhere travel game cards uncommongoods.com

 

Mo and I travel a lot with friends and family. Fantastic four trips are a regular occurrence and these travel cards would be such a fun treat on our trip! Each card has an interactive prompt designed to get you to do something unusual, something you wouldn’t normally do on holiday, sounds like the perfect addition for a group trip away!

 

 

 

4. Wanderlust Cross stitch map

 

 

I know I know I’m choosing yet another map! I can’t help it, I love them so much, I look at a map and instantly want to travel, so you can never have too many right? And this one here, well it’s a cross stitch one!?!?! Crafty-travellers dream!! If my sister wasn’t also inundated with maps I would totally be buying this for her!!

 

 

 

5. Automatic Handbag Illuminator

 

handbag illuminator uncommongoods.com

 

A lot of people might look at this and think what a gimmick, who would buy this? ME. I would buy this. Because I must literally spend half my day rummaging through my handbag trying to find usb’s, camera storage cards, pens, tickets, money… my bag is a complete dumping ground and this seems like the perfect addition for my portable black hole.

 

 

What travel inspired gifts have you found recently? Are you a map hoarder too?

 

 

*** This post was kindly sponsored by uncommongoods, however as always all opinions are completely my own. Please note I only ever agree to sponsored content if I truly like and am inspired by the company, which I definitely was with uncommon! ***

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First trip of 2017_Myanmar image

 

If you read my travel linkup post earlier this month you’ll know that after many months of waiting, I am finally headed to Myanmar!!! And in less than three days!?! What’s more I’ll also get to spend a day in Hong Kong too, which is kind of a surprise addition to my original itinerary. There was a point where I felt like this trip would never come and now that it’s nearly here, I can’t believe it’s happened so quick! (yes people like me are just never satisfied).

On one of my Facebook blogger groups, the lovely Jane asked what blog posts everyone’s writing today and when I commented saying I was working on this one, Claire from @GoodEggFoodie rightly pointed out that surely I should be concentrating on packing rather than writing. Spot on Claire, I totally should be! but, luckily for me, over the last few weeks I have had a team of wonderful helpers who have been busy prepping in the background, without me having to boss them about 🙂

Mo and my dad have been busy creating an essential bag of goodies, with all the required toiletry and medical products. My sister, took charge of my clothes and magically made a two week wardrobe fit into two packing cubes (if in fact this turns out to be all I need, I shall be sitting her down to write a post with me on how the heck she managed this. I’m still in awe.) And my dear mum has done all the running around chores everyone requires pre-trip, getting me a good rate on my currency and making sure I actually have food in my fridge whilst I battle through the last week of work.

I know you’re reading this thinking wow what a lazy so and so (I was going to use the ‘B’ word but remembered my mums started reading this) – but the truth of the matter is working full time, writing a blog and trying my utmost to get back into graphic design, well its hard. Really hard. And if you watched one of the TED talks I recommended on Sunday, sometimes you just need to bite the bullet and ask for help. Luckily for me, I have the above network of people who pre-empt me asking and just get on with it anyway!!

After reading a number of great blog posts, today is the first time I have started to actually get excited. This is the first time I’m travelling solo without friends or family in seven years and it’s so strange packing and planning just for me and no one else. I’m actually going to have to map read, eat out, visit attractions all by myself… it’s going to be very odd.

What’s on my agenda for this long lonesome trip?

Well first of all, it’s not going to be too lonesome. Once I land in Yangon, I shall be joining a group and I’ll be travelling with them to all the various destinations in Myanmar. The tour has been booked through Intrepid travel, I’ve never been on one of their tours before but from what I’ve heard, they’re pretty great.

Why did I decide to join a guided tour you might ask? After all, I’m a travel blogger, surely being able to travel and explore on my own are things I should be able to do without guided instructions. I booked it for three reasons: timing, safety and ease.

With just over ten days to explore, the last thing I wanted was to come back not having ticked everything I want to see off my list. When Mo and I went to Spain a few months ago we had no time whatsoever to plan beforehand and I knew with the state of our affairs these days, I would never have had the time to sit down and pre-plan a solo trip. There are many travellers who can jet off and wing it. Totally not me. I’m a planner, and if I can’t plan it, then I expect somebody else too!

Safety was also a slight concern for me travelling solo, working in travel risk I’m fully aware of the problems that are occurring at the border, and even though we are nowhere near, I wanted to feel the security of a group.

And finally ease… I can’t explain how much of a relief it is right now to know that I am not having to worry about how I’m getting from A to B. I cannot wait to just sit back and enjoy the view.

Hopefully it’ll be like this…

 

burma-bagan_balloons.image taken from intrepidtravel.com

 

Whilst I’m away, I’ll be doing my utmost to share as much as I can, internet permitting, across social (perhaps a blog or two if I can manage it!) so please check them out 🙂 I’m on twitter, Facebook and Instagram – I’ll be posting on whichever works fastest! Hopefully Instagram as my mums got it downloaded on her phone, ready to see some pretty pics. Wouldn’t want to disappoint her now would I.

If you think of any tips or food suggestions (I really really love food suggestions!) then please drop me a line on any of my networks, or in the comments below. Better yet, if you’re out there right now let me know, cup of tea?

I also feel I need to warn you, in my absence there will be a couple of posts popping up by some of my Jet set chick crew, as they are attending a number of exciting events (WITHOUT ME!?!) over the next few weeks which I’d like them to share – ONLY if they think it’s something worth sharing though of course, they know the rules. Just try not to like their posts more than mine 😉

Right well I think that’s all for now, I’m going to get back to the important task of google searching new-travel-related-story-books-to-download-onto-kindle. I’ve got some long journeys ahead…

 

 

Any tips, tricks, advice for Myanmar? Or Hong Kong? Or how about a book recommendation? All advice welcome!! oh and thank you if you have already sent me stuff 🙂

 

 

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** I originally intended for this article to be written by one of my elves, the elf who actually took part in this experience. However my personal excitement got the better of me and I really wanted you to hear this from my point of view (you know me, love to get my own piece of mind across!) – If you have any in depth questions about this experience day please ask away in the comments or feel free to drop me a message/email and between me and my elf we will be sure to answer them openly and honestly. **

 

I’m sure most of you that read this blog know, that I am Muslim and as a Muslim I don’t really celebrate Christmas. I definitely get into the festive spirit though! I love the atmosphere, the songs, the pretty decorations… the general merriment and joy this season brings.

(there are also a few things I DON’T like i.e. the traffic, chaos, crowds… but this isn’t the time or place for that)

I also appreciate how much this means to those who do celebrate Christmas. Children especially, wait all year for December when they can bust out those advent calendars, start writing those wish lists and are constantly trying to be as good as they can be so they get an ‘elf on the shelf’ surprise in the morning.

Some time ago, I received an email about a so-called magical place called Lapland UK. Immediately I did what my dad always taught me not to do, I made an assumption. I assumed that this link I had been sent would be some tacky gimmick designed to empty the pockets of poor parents who have been guilted into treating the kids and fulfilling their Christmas dreams. But hey, ever the sucker for an email hyperlink, I clicked on it anyway.

And I could not have been more wrong.

The moment I laid eyes on the homepage, I knew this was no ordinary experience. From the beautiful graphics, the story telling, the complete focus on creating a fairy tale, I was stunned at the thought of such a place existing right here in the UK.

As I mentioned above, I don’t really celebrate Christmas. But I knew I wanted this. Not for me, but for a family I hold dear to my heart just a stones throw away from my front door. A family who individually and collectively have been through such hard times and struggles. This time last year was very emotional, even for Mo and I as friends to watch people we love burdened with such sadness during the holiday period. So I wanted nothing more then to give this family of four a happy Christmas memory to get them in the spirit, as this was going to be their very first Christmas together.

In the spirit of honesty, I’m pretty sure when I mentioned this day to said family, and explained that they would be visiting to review on my behalf… well I’m pretty sure they too had the same assumptions I originally had. Except with the added grief of actually having to drag their kids down to Ascot for the day and handle the situation, and I had just dropped this bomb and was going to leave them to it. Saying it out loud to them I did once again start to have doubts and I prayed that my concerns were just nerves and this would be everything I expected and I hadn’t just fallen for the pretty pictures on the website.

I waited anxiously to see them on their return last night. Knowing they had booked the whole weekend to drive down and reduce the stress of travelling for the kids (and themselves). Mo and I waited, for a text, a call, a picture knowing that they had a long drive home we sat wishing for any kind of sign that it all went ok.

Finally one came through!!! It simply said:

“That was AMAZING”

Then came the pictures. All we saw were smiling faces, pictures with elves, with Mrs Clause, snow, reindeers, the works!! Videos of them listening intently to the theatrical shows put on for them, concentrating in the workshops and of course the piece de resistance, spending time with the one and only Father Christmas.

Mo and I couldn’t wait to go over and hear all about it, so we did as soon as possible, and I’m not quite sure who was more excited to tell us – the adults or the kids!! The adults were definitely the first to teach us how to say hello like an elf, it involves a funny nose-wave thingy, aptly called an elf wave.

I should point out the whole experience starts before you even get there. It all starts with a letter… a beautifully written, quite lengthy, letter asking the children to come and help Father Christmas prepare for his big task, a letter sealed with his very own ‘FC’ wax stamp. A wonderfully cute touch and the perfect way to get them hyped up and excited, all part of making the whole thing feel as ‘real’ as possible. Parents are also asked to pre-register some information about the children on the website, so when they finally arrive at Father Christmas’ cabin, they can have a lovely personalised heart to heart.

 

 

From the moment they arrived, Lapland UK had created a spectacle that was flawlessly designed. They were given a departure time to set off on their journey through the magical forest, they worked their way through a variety of workshops in Elven village – encountered workshops that could only be reached by journeying through the twinkling lights and fluffy snow.

The village itself was beautifully designed, lots of wood, lots of trees… lots of roaming elves too – ready to mingle and get to know the children, of course greeting them all correctly with the standard elf hello. And the doors! well there was adult doors and kiddy doors! Kiddy doors specifically made for little ‘uns, reinforcing that all of this, well it’s all for them right?

 

 

The children made wooden toys, decorated gingerbread biscuits, helped make little reindeer teddies (which the parents secretly bought them for Christmas). They went ice skating with their parents (for the first time ever!) and most importantly believed every single part of it. They were given elf passports to guide them through each stage and were able to purchase items from the stalls using Elf jingles. Oh yes, Lapland UK even has its own currency.

Surprises could be found on every corner, reindeer waiting patiently to pull that sleigh at the end of the month and there were even huskies! Perfectly trained, well behaved husky dogs, the kind that make your hearts melt the minute your hand makes contact with their soft coat (fyi the jealousy from my side had started to set in at this point).

 

 

 

From an adult point of view, there was one element that both parents could not stop gushing about, and that was how extremely professional every single person they came across was. From the minute they arrived to the minute they left, every elf stayed completely in character and didn’t falter at any point. They were full of life, full of questions, full of random quips and sayings and above all absolutely full of Christmas cheer. Every member of staff was incredibly gifted in their ability to delight guests of all ages. If there were any difficulties or certain behaviours that parents were worried about when it came to dealing with their children, all the elves needed was a little clue and they were able to seamlessly handle the situation without any disruption.

We heard funny stories of all the little moments they had whilst they were there, such as when the kids asked if they could have pictures with two unusual looking staff they came across, one happened to be covered in baubles, the elves would look confused and ask them to explain what the camera was. That naivety and innocence that kids love and thrive on, they all had it and demonstrated it at every opportunity and it sounded like that played a crucial part in turning this village into a truly magical place to be.

The whole experience takes up around four hours in total, with free time for you to roam, eat, explore. Free parking is available on site and the price includes a gift from Father Christmas at the end, the kids got a husky puppy each (not a real one obviously). The price isn’t on the cheap side, but when you think about whats included in the day as a whole you can completely understand. Direct quote from Daddy:

“I know it seems like a lot of money when you price up a family ticket. BUT the whole day was phenomenal, not just for the kids but for us too. And I can honestly say for that level of service it was worth that and more.”

Can’t really argue with that. There’s also the pre and after care service to take into account. Not only did the children receive letters before their visit, but the adults were given notes and gifts to surprise the kids with on Christmas day.

 

 

When I sit here and look at the pictures I was sent, every smile I see tells me it was worth me giving up my ticket of a day of snow play and husky cuddles. This is exactly what I wanted for this family. I wanted them to start this Christmas period with a wonderful happy memory that will kick off the festivities leading up to the big day.

I might not believe in Father Christmas (I’m sorry please don’t hate me for saying that!) but I can’t think of anything more wonderful than watching your own children see something they believe in brought to life.

And I’ve realised way over there in Lapland UK, that is exactly the kind of fairy tale dream-like magic they specialise in.

 

 

 

*** Entrance tickets to Lapland UK for a family of four were complimentary, all other expenses were paid for by the parents. This post has not been sponsored and all opinions I share as always are my own. As I mentioned at the start, if you would like to know more in depth information on Lapland UK please feel free to ask away in the comments, on social media or if you’re feeling shy drop me an email. Click here to visit the website for the nitty gritty details and to book tickets ***

 

Have you visited Lapland UK? What did you think? Are there any other Christmas experience days you could recommend for families??

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