Get To Know Me – 14 Random Questions Tag

Get To Know Me – 14 Random Questions Tag

Me in Wuerzburg

 

So this tag was started, yesterday, by the beautiful and inspiring Queen Of Jet Lags, known to some as Noor, and I thought I’d just love to (kind of be honoured to) respond to her tag. I’d love for anyone reading this to post it too or write your answers in the comments. They’re fun questions to let you into snippets of my life. It’s a bundle of fun, so if you want to know a little more about moi, hop right in and see what answers I have for the questions of a jet-setting beauty.

1. If you could change your name to anything, what would it be and why?

I came back at the end and answered this last because…damn this is hard. I like Marion/Marian because I really love Robin Hood legends and feel like I’d love to be Maid Marian, I’ve always been very enthralled by every incarnation of Robin I’ve read. Along the same vein I’ve always loved the name Guinevere for its mythical, romantic connotations. There’s something so delicious and rich about those names. I also love girls names that could also be a guy’s name, I adore that androgynous ability; Thomasine (Tommi) and Robyn are my favourites.

2. If you could go back in time and give your younger self advice, what would it be and why?

Jess, you don’t suit black lipstick – at all!

3. What did you want to be when you were little?

First a vet, because I loved animals (especially my Beenie Babies) and then I realised I would need to be good at science. Then the first time I flew I decided I wanted to be an airport baggage handler… I must say, the appeal hasn’t actually waned much.

4. What do you order at Starbucks?

I don’t really go to Starbucks unless I need wifi, however if I do happen to need wifi then their Earl Grey tea is divine.

5. What’s the hardest you ever laughed?

I couldn’t even pick one moment. My friends make me laugh, my Ultimate Frisbee team (who are my friends too, I add) make me roar hysterically. My boyfriend brings out the worst damn giggles ever. There have been many good laughs. I remember being about 12 having a sleepover with my best friend at the time and she recorded me laughing full-out for eight minutes straight but I have no idea what set me off.

6. If you could play any instrument, which would it be and why?

I used to be able to play the clarinet reasonably – I’d have liked to have been able to actually play that well, I love jazz.

7. What’s your favourite thing to do when you’re upset?

There’s nothing I really like about being upset to be honest. I like if I can exercise it out of me but that doesn’t always work.

8. What’s your favourite movie?

S.W.A.T is so damn cool, it takes the biscuit.

And the Christopher Nolan Batman-s. And Marvel films. V for Vendetta.

My favourite German film is Das Leben ist Nichts fuer die Feiglinge; it was heart wrenchingly beautiful and honest.
9. What’s one food you cannot live without?

CHEESE

10.  What’s your favourite dessert?

Erm…cheese? Well okay, if not cheese then stewed blackberries and fruits of the forest, the mere thought of the taste makes my mouth water. Heaven.

11.  Favourite pizza topping?

Quattro Staggioni (Stagioni?), because you get all the bests on there, I calculate which flavour I want the most and leave that slice till last; that is bliss. Close second is anything involving spinach.

12. Would you rather have the superpower to read minds or the superpower to be invisible?

I am not a person that would cope well with either of those powers. It’s best they are both kept away from me because they would undo me. However I feel I could be distracted enough by the sheer cool-factor of being invisible that I wouldn’t use it too selfishly, so that one may turn out better in the long run.

13. What did you do for your last birthday?

I went to work (yay) and then had a beer in the sunshine in the park before sitting with my lovely German buddies in my favourite Italian restaurant in Erlangen, Tios, where we had much beer, pizza and frivolity.

14. If you had one personal “selfish” wish, what would it be and why?

To travel forever, keep travelling. But my totally selfish condition would be that no one at home ever got bored of waiting for me or became less close to me. Life doesn’t work that way though.

 

J x

Malaria, Mosquitoes and Medication – Off on an Adventure Part #5

Malaria, Mosquitoes and Medication – Off on an Adventure Part #5

The Big Three…

So the time has come to talk Ms… Malaria, Mosquitoes and Medication. Here’s what I’m taking and what precautions I’m using, I mean, I’m no expert but here are a few things I’ve picked up. I’ll review some things when I get back and I’m sure in a few travel’s time I will be much more savvy. If you have any tips or suggestions for me, they’d be welcomed, just post them below.

Malaria

My first misconception was that you can’t cure malaria and that there is only one ‘malaria’ (The malaria to end all malarias mwhahaha…), well, nope. There are lots of different strains and some can be cured by killing the parasite that the mosquito has deposited in you. There is, as we all know, still plenty of risk of death/life-time illness from malaria though. I also thought that India and Africa just ‘had’ malaria, full stop. Nope again. I found a lot of advice online (like on fitfortravel) and from doctors, and I was introduced to the ‘Malaria Map’; this basically showed me that the area I’m staying in is malaria free, which is amazing, but when I travel further north into Hyderabad and Goa I will be in malaria risk areas. This will help you work out exactly how many malaria tablets you need to pay for – the exact amount of days you’re planning on being in the risk zone, plus whatever clearance your chosen tablets need either side. As for which tablets to take…I’m no doctor. The best thing, of course, is to go and talk to a nurse or a specialised travel nurse and they can help you chose the best tablets for your trip and fill you in on the cost etc. There are multiple ways in which you can react badly to the tablets you’re on too – hopefully you won’t – so it’s best if you read the instructions about which tablets you’re allowed to switch to, if yours don’t work. (I know, it’s a tad confusing.)

Mosquitoes

Okay so for me the best idea seems to be prevention rather than cure and it’s not just malaria you can contract from mosquitoes. Oh no. These nasty little critters can also get you with Dengue Fever, Japanese Encephalitis and other bugs. So here come the usual tips:

  1. Cover up – although long clothing doesn’t prevent mosquitoes it might make them slightly less likely to go for you than if all your yummy flesh is flailing around in the air. You can also find now some ‘smart’ clothing, like walking trousers, that claims to be mosquito repellent before you’ve even added your own stuff on top. That seems like a good thing to add to the list.
  2. Stagnant water – stay away from it. Any still or stagnant water, especially in the evenings and after sun down is more likely to be surrounded by mosquitoes or to be a breeding ground.
  3.  Nets – either sleep under an impregnated mosquito net or in a building that is fully netted-up. If you don’t have nets, just shut your doors and windows for sure! You can get plug in mosquito repellents too, but they can be heavy to carry around if you’re on mission Travel Light.

And then there are repellents. The key ingredient – and I’ve mentioned that I’m not sure if it’s entirely environmentally friendly, but it is effective – is DEET. It has a chemical name but most bottles will label it as DEET. I have used the Jungle Formula products for as long as I can remember and this time I’ve gone for the highest Protection Rating, which is 4, which contains at least 50% DEET and comes in a spray or cream form. I’ve gone for spray because, well, I just hate having too much cream all over my body. The highest percentage DEET I’ve managed to find in supermarkets is 50% but if you go into a walking or camping shop you can find a much wider range. I got one bottle of 96% DEET which I shouldn’t think I’ll need to be honest, but hey, mosquitoes for miles around will be flying for cover when I step out of a building.

The Secret Weapon in the fight against mosquitoes, which is relatively well known now I think, is the Avon Skin So Soft spray. I know people in the Armed Forces who use this, sometimes get issued this, people who’ve been to some seriously bug-y jungles have recommended it. Apparently it’s to do with the citronella content, and the mixture of other things, but mosquitoes absolutely hate it. People swear by it – I’ll see what happens. Of course the only pain is that you have to find an Avon catalogue to order from but maybe I’m seriously uncool in that I didn’t already have one.

Medication

I babble a lot in the video but it’s really personal and everyone will want to take something different. For me the key ingredients are the Anthisan and the Imodium (these are just the two brands I happen to know) to ease irritation from bites, stings and rashes and then to ease diarrhoea. Diarrhoea isn’t something we really like to talk about (or spell) but it’s something that happens to everyone, especially in a foreign country with new food, so we may as well get over it, be honest about it and carry something to stop it ruining our day. I don’t know why it’s such an ‘embarrassing’ topic anyway. As well as the cream for if I do get stings or rashes, I also like to take Piriteze tablets (or Piriton medicine) which are the allergy tablets I’m used to. I’m only taking them because I have no idea if my hay fever/cat allergy/dust allergy (I haven’t quite figured out the trigger yet) will be bad over there or not. I could also be allergic to food or a plant I suppose, so it’s handy to travel with.

Most of you will utter a derisive snort when you see I’ve packed travel sickness tablets. Yes…I get travel sick. Yes I have a very inappropriate collection of ailments and fears to be a traveller – but who cares, I love it! I love Stugeron because it’s very effective and sends me on a pleasant snooze if I’m already a little tired but it’s not strong enough to literally knock me out if I have some adrenaline going through me; don’t just take my word for it though, check with your doctor etc.

What do you take in your medical kit when you travel? If you could only take one thing what would it be? And… do you have any DEET alternatives that are planet friendlier?

 

Off On An Adventure #update – A Friendly Money Warning

Today I learnt something new…Rupees are, according to the lady at the post office, a ‘closed currency’. Damn.

What this means is, you can’t collect/buy your currency in another country, in my case the UK, you have to collect it when you arrive. I was thinking I was going to sort out my money before I left but now I’m going to have to take £s over and exchange them once I get there. In a way this gives me a bit more flexibility, because I can take out how many pounds I think I will need but if it turns out I need less, then I can bring the pounds right back without losing out on the double exchange. 

I had NO IDEA that India’s currency was of this kind – I didn’t even know there were currencies like this. I know, probably rather naive. But now I’m a tad wiser and I hope it’s going to be pretty easy to find somewhere to exchange once I arrive. Wherever you’re heading, if it’s outside of Europe, you might want to check whether it operates like this (I’ve asked a few people and apparently some African countries and China, definitely operate in this way). 

p.s. I’m getting really excited now!

What Can I Tell You About Visas? – Off On An Adventure Part #4

What Can I Tell You About Visas? – Off On An Adventure Part #4

What can I say about Visas apart from that they are stressful?

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It’s meticulous, and you can’t screw it up, or you’ll be out – that is, you won’t even be in. It’s also a question of timing, because you can’t do it too early, a 6 month Visa is only valid for six months and this has to cover the duration of your stay plus entry and exit. I was, of course, facing more logistical problems in trying to time sending my visa off, and getting it back, in my short stay in the UK – since I needed my passport to get back across on the ferry from Germany and 19 days later I’d need it again, plus visa, to get to India. I would start about 4 weeks before travel if you’re going for a month or less, that should be plenty, to get your passport to them and back.

The first port of call is the Indian Visa Application Centre, vfsglobal.co.uk, and the Indian High Commission, for all the information you need to start. All Visa applications go through the Indian Commission eventually, but there are several ways to get them there: one is to apply directly through them, which can be slow and tedious; they warn you to leave ‘at least’ two weeks in working days. The other way, if you’re pushed for time is to pay an agency; it’s painful but effective.

So the application is now online (but if you’re reading this you definitely have internet connection – well done! Half way there). You need your passport to complete and the details of the venue you are staying living in, in India. Apart from that you need any extra details – some you can’t even imagine why they need – I had to provide my father’s previous occupations and my parents’ birth places, you kind of think, why? But there must be several checks they have to run on you, or maybe they’re just trying to scare you. If you’re not a student I suspect all the information will be just about you though. Oh and then there’s photos, don’t make the mistake of sending them passport photos that would be far too simple. What you need is a 5cmx5cm photos (double check that!), I know that it’s definitely a square one, which meant I wasted my first €5 getting the wrong shots from a machine. You can get square photos from passport-style machines though, so just make sure you save your money and adjust the settings. If you’re sending to a Visa agency some will resize for you, but I didn’t risk it. Make sure you send two too.

You’re going to need a printer too, for the online forms once you’ve finished: the application, signed twice, the declaration, signed once and, if you’re sending with an agency, you’ll need a declaration to say you allow them to handle your visa for you. It’s a pretty nerve wracking thing to do, send your passport off in the post with a bunch of documents containing personal details and trust that they will get there. All I did was pay for first class special delivery (cost me about £14 for both ways but I’m pretty sure that will vary) and, I must say, everything came back just fine and very quickly. Check whether you live near an application centre, because that would be cheaper although more tedious and possibly still slow (if you’re in a city there’s a good chance, if you’re in a small town like me you will have no luck, use the post!).

As for my agency; as usual I don’t want to recommend especially because I haven’t exactly shopped around, I went with the first one I found . But I will say they were tres efficient. They call you prior to sending, and as many times as you need to answer all your questions. The guy dealing with me even scattered my emails with smiley faces to make me feel relaxed… it didn’t work when I was entrusting him with my passport. But he was very nice and patient and I’m sure he’s pleased to see the back of me. Then you send them your belongings, three forms, one passport and two photos (but no payment), and they will email you to let you know they have it. Then they will call you again when it’s done to discuss return. I had sent a pre-stamped pre-paid envelope with mine so they could wing it back asap, but at this point if you haven’t they will just add postage onto your bill. I paid for a super-quick 7 day turn around, which only took 3 days in the end, but it did cost me £146. Ouch. Yeah. That’s the catch and I would say if you have the option, avoid this and just let it take its sweet old time. However if you don’t have time to kill, you have to pay about £90 for your visa anyway, it’s only another £56 to get them to push it through quickly. You weigh it up, I didn’t really feel like I had a choice. Although, who knows? The Indian Commission may have just been covering their backs, they might have got it done much more quickly!

Impromptu Sculptures at Ringstead Bay

Impromptu Sculptures at Ringstead Bay

On Sunday I went for a lovely relaxing walk to one of our favourite local family spots. It’s relatively well known but still so quite; ideal for dogs and walkers and families who want peace, quiet and the countryside as well as the seaside.

One Happy Dog

One Happy Dog

Meet The Parents

Meet The Parents

Ringstead Beach – I’ve been here so many times that sometimes I barely see it at all. Other times I see it very clearly, usually when I’m showing other people around, for the beautiful, secluded, nature-steeped hideaway that it is. Here I feel like I’m in another world, the rich green countryside spills right down to the pebbly beach and the quiet is unrivalled. The water is clear too because the bottom isn’t too sandy and it’s great to swim in, with the dog (if, unlike me, you can brace yourself for the British water).

Ringstead over the Hills

Ringstead over the Hills

 

It’s one of my favourite local treasures but this time someone else had been there too… an impromptu mini-sculpture display has popped up at the back of the beach where people are piling rocks, which has been thrown up in the stormy weather, into obscure alien-esque towers. People add to it as they walk by; I love how it looks, I hope people keep adding.

 

Rock Sculptures

Rock Sculptures

More Photos on Flickr Jessie Benson(jessiebenson93)

More Photos on Flickr Jessie Benson(jessiebenson93)

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More photos on Flickr

 

Feeling Ready… Off On An Adventure #update

I am so very pleased to let you all know that I had my final pre-travel injection today. But oh my something god did that hurt! Apparently this is my fault, since I was so tense she could ‘barely get it in’ (ooer I say!), when I had actually been actively trying to relax my arm – so much for that technique, I’ll go back to singing nursery rhymes in my head next time.

And yes, there is a next time. With my course of Hep B I’ve had three doses, once a month since May. However because this is really too quick it doesn’t give me complete coverage unless I get another booster jab in a year. Yay! I am really looking forward to feeling that liquid ooze its way down the inside of my arm again. I also have another Hep A jab to get in August to complete my coverage for 3 years.

Tomorrow’s India Mission: Find out how to prove I don’t have yellow fever.

Off On An Adventure Part #3 – Insure Yourself, A Lot!

Off On An Adventure Part #3 – Insure Yourself, A Lot!

Actually insurance is the simplest part of going away, although I know plenty of students or young people, like myself, just kind of shudder and go ‘insurance? Dunno, dad does that for me’. Or the other popular response ‘I don’t really need it, it’s not likely to happen and I haven’t got anything worth very much’. Maybe true, but you should still insure it, and yourself!

Until now I’ve been lazy with insurance while I’ve been at university and until now I’ve been lucky too. But assuming I’m taking my laptop abroad that’s already enough reason to get some insurance, before I even consider that this is a trip where  I might need, you know, bodily insurance. I was a bit clueless and so I went for a comparison website to see where I could get the best deal.

That was the BEST idea ever. I don’t recommend a specific comparison website because I just went to the first one I found but it just broke everything down into a simple set of figures I could understand. I attacked the comparison website with a budget of £50 in mind, which suited me (in theory purely in my head) since my whole luggage will still come to well under the value of £1000 and I’m not planning any extreme sports while I’m there. Give yourself a rough budget, if you find you can’t keep under it even using a comparison website, you might be calculating too low – go away, ask a few more people for advice and input, and have a rethink about whether you can spend more on your insurance. My insurance came to £23 in the end.

Okay, to de-confuse you all a bit. There are several categories that will appear on any insurance or comparison website.

The actual price; you can work this one out yourselves.

The ‘medical’ cover; this seemed like it was always a huge number to me, but think about it, if they’re offering you £10million medical cover, it’s probably because you might need £10million. Medical cover could/should/is expected to probably cover things like flying you home if your very ill, possibly evacuation/rescue (some insurers have separate amounts for this though), your hospital bills (which may be very high in your country), any medication, which you mostly pay a lot for outside of UK etc. I would just get as high as they offer within your budget.

Then there may also be a separate section for in case of abduction – not a pleasant thought I know – if that’s offered then aim on the higher side, although this is hopefully a lot less likely to be needed than, say, you getting some extra injections and an overnight stay at the hospital.

There should also be ‘cancellation’ protection, and for this it’s worth reading any small print that may be lying around. Other than that, head for something that is over the cost of your trip (obvious huh?), it doesn’t need to be a million pounds over though.

The same with ‘baggage’ insurance, this is for if everything in your bag, including the bag went missing. I think this covers you if your baggage items get stolen during your stay, for some companies, for others there is sometimes a separate ‘theft’ clause, which is pretty self-explanatory. To calculate how much mine was worth I counted the big expensive things, chucked in the cost of my passport and visa just in case, then made a guess-timate for things like clothes and extras. Then I would head for a couple of hundred pounds over your estimate value. If someone knifes into your bag in transit and only takes the laptop, then that’s fine, you’re laptop should cost less than what you’ve calculated.

And now we hit the only bit that might confuse or intimidate you – but trust me, it’s not that hard at all. This is ‘excess’. Go for a ratio of as low an excess value, to as high other values, as is available in your budget. Excess is what you pay – if it’s £300 and your camera is worth £300, then you pay to replace your own camera (shoot me down if I have a flawed understanding of life, there’s every possibility ;) let me know below…). But if the excess is only £150, you pay half and the insurers (should) pay half for your camera. I have never had to claim to try any of this out though so…

 

Good to remember; the word UNLIMITED is great when looking at insurance, but somewhere, hidden there may be a clause. I looked for the maximum amount of boxes with unlimited that I could find, and then double checked the policy in detail once I was 90% sure I’d chosen a good one. Also worth knowing is, I really don’t think you can do this too early. As soon as you start booking injections you can start comparing insurance. It’s something so many people put off because you’ve got to commit to sitting and trawling through a website for a few hours – but it doesn’t really take that long at all, one evening (certainly not a full one) and you can have this ticked off the list and out of the way. It was such a relief when I got mine. I’m not sure if there’s a cut off for how early you can book (there isn’t really one for late, since there are special sites for last minute insurance) but I would say you’re safe anything less than a year in advance. From what I’ve seen, the prices haven’t changed as I’ve got closer to my holiday date.

Happy Searching! If you’ve got any insurers you particularly recommend (or particularly don’t!) let me know down below!