How to create an international entourage, even when you’re a bit of a dick

You know the feeling you get when you meet someone for the first time and instantly you know you’re going to be friends? The feeling that you’ve known this person for ages, the excitement when you think about all the awful decisions you’re going to make together?  When you’re a child, this happens pretty regularly, especially if you’re an over-friendly loudmouthed little lunatic like I was. Your standards are much lower, granted, but you’re not a grumpy old bastard yet and therefore you’re more open to conversing with anything that stands still for long enough.

The older you get, the more difficult it becomes, however. They say that most adults can count the people they consider true friends on the fingers of one hand. These guys sound like losers to me to be fair, but you get what I’m saying. When you leave school and start doing grown up things like paying taxes and eating ice cream out of bowls instead of the container (or the floor, sorry mum), creating a new circle can become more difficult.

This is especially true if you’re someone who travels or moves around a lot. I tend to accumulate friends easily (Lord knows why) that doesn’t mean it’s not difficult for anyone travelling or moving to a new city. So here are some not remotely expert tips for creating an international entourage of friends if you’re the travelling type, because free accommodation on your future trips is more precious than gold:

If you’re travelling for an extended period, get on the volunteer hype

I did this when I first moved to Spain, mainly because I didn’t want to leave the awesome hostel I was staying in. I cannot recommend this enough; it’s fun, it’s great for travelling on a budget and you meet literally hundreds of wonderful interesting people from all over the world. The best thing is that most of them only stick around for a few days, long enough to create a friendship but not long enough for them to notice how weird you are, so they’ll always think you’re cool

Say yes to everything

Except incest and folk dancing. Go to everything you’re invited to, even if you’re exhausted. My first month in Salamanca I played ultimate frisbee (which incidentally, I was shit at), went out for so many dinners I lost the ability to walk, went to endless language exchange events and played horrible drinking games at various botellons. I aged about ten years in those weeks but it was worth it.

Don’t just hang with other people from your respective homeland(s)

The phrase ‘going to a brothel for a hug’ springs to mind. What’s the point in travelling or living elsewhere if you’re going to spend all your time with Brits abroad and roll around in large groups asking for ketchup at every eating establishment? NOPE. Diversity is key, not just for the aforementioned free accommodation. Broaden your horizons, people.

Talk to anyone and everyone

Break through the shyness barrier and introduce yourself to anyone who looks vaguely normal. Doing this in Barcelona introduced me to some wonderful people from all over the world, many of whom who I’m still in contact with today. Doing it drunk in Croatia gained me a very cool American friend who I’m still mates with two years later. I did it on a bus in Salamanca with carrot sticks (during my first week of attempted veganism) and met a group of excellent Irish people without whom my experience here wouldn’t have been half as good. Trust me, as stupid as you might feel approaching complete strangers, you’ll feel more stupid if you miss out on meeting some amazing people.

Get jiggy with someone local (OPTIONAL)

About a week after I split up with my most recent boyfriend, one of my housemates suggested I get myself what roughly translates to a ‘bed dictionary’. I’m not here to give y’all relationship advice but, you know, it might help you pick up more of the language wherever you are.

Be a good friend once you have established international entourage

Always do what you say you’re going to do. Show up to things you’ve committed to, be a good friend and keep feeding these friendships. Again, FREE ACCOMMODATION. But also yay, friendship.

Don’t change yourself (NOT OPTIONAL)

DON’T BE A TERRIBLE GAP YAH PERSON. Just be yourself and someone will probably be cool with you, even if you’re a bit of a dick.

Parties in Spain make parties in the UK look like a bloody Downton Abbey tea party

When I was growing up in the hood of East England *cough cough COUGH* it wasn’t easy to get on it on a regular basis. Mostly because everyone knew my parents so I couldn’t sneak into clubs without being recognised (thanks again, local celebrities). Before the people in my school with more apathetic parents started throwing Skins-esque house parties, wild nights out usually involved a bottle of White Lightning and a park bench.

It wasn’t until university that I was able to go completely nuts (which explains a lot for anyone who went to uni with me, shout outs) and even though I spent a large portion of my life in central and east London, various issues meant that nightlife in general there has been on the decline in recent years. Carnival, New Year’s and bank holidays aside, I feel we’re becoming a more chilled nation when it comes to celebrating life in general.

NOT HERE MATE. Last weekend, I experienced my first Spanish carnaval. Taking place all over Spain pre-Lent, it’s a slightly mental and absolutely brilliant mixture of parades, fancy dress, excessive drinking and general happiness, traditionally a giant all-out party before everyone got involved with Lent and gave up chocolate or swearing or whatever.

I was in Ciudad Rodrigo, a small city about one hour from Salamanca, where I currently live. Everything kicked off fairly early in the morning, starting off with the running of the bulls through the main square, continuing with a fairly monumental fancy dress parade through the city and culminating with me passing out upside down on my bed somewhere around 8am. It was NUTS. My friend went to the celebrations in Cadiz and honestly I’m not sure if she’s still alive.

Here’s a few pics (taken badly because I was hanging out with my good friend Don Simon at the time). Overly-descriptive captions above each photo:

Before the madness. Ciudad Rodrigo is usually pretty chill, located in the Castilla y Leon region about 80km from Salamanca. Check the weather tooCity

Lone shot of a cheeky astronaut (one of our party) on an expedition. We went for an aliens/space theme because there was no particular theme and when else do we get to wear blue glitter on a daily basis

More fancy dress

Running of the bulls in the main square. As you can see, I could see virtually nothing but wanted to show just how important this tradition still is despite the general beef (no pun intended) surrounding the treatment of the animals. I’m not entirely comfortable with it but it was something I wanted to experience and I’m glad it did (although to be fair one of the bulls was only jogging)


Couple of shots of the fancy dress parade. This was ENORMOUS and incorporated every possible theme you can imagine – superheroes, Vikings, traditional Spanish dress, there was even a family dressed as churros, which was honestly the best thing I’ve seen in 2018.

A worrying amount of people seemed to have forgotten that cultural appropriation is a thing – you wouldn’t believe how many people I saw in blackface which was a little confusing, not to mention upsetting. It seems like here it’s less of an issue to imitate another culture (I saw people dressed as Mexicans too) and I wasn’t sure how to take that, being incredibly white and all, but still…

(Special shout out to the dictator costumes though, they were incredible)

Parade 5Parade 4Parade 3Parade 2

Only vaguely appropriate photo of the author in alien costume, hanging with John Cena (because she’s in camo…you can’t see her…GEDDIT) from a party in a tent which lasted for five hours and know I know all the words to every reggaeton track ever


Aliens again (photo credit my fellow alien)



This isn’t the only time I’ve been surprised/impressed by the level of dedication to partying in Spain. Nights out here start at midnight and end when it’s time for (late) breakfast. Religious holidays and celebrations are taken seriously – all the shops shut, everyone gets involved and if you think you’re going home before the sun comes up you are sadly mistaken. All of this combined demonstrates a geniune lust for life that we could learn a lot from in the UK.

Also, fancy dress is good. Do it more.





Things I occasionally miss about London

Usually very little, to be fair. This past (almost) year I’ve been having way too much fun most of the time – creeping around a new country, speaking terrible Spanish and avoiding mirrors because excessive gin consumption has left me looking like Keith Richards. I miss the obvious things of course. Family, friends, Jaffa cakes. Other than that, 90% of the time I’m enjoying my new semi-nomadic life.

Today is one of those days where I’m missing London. It doesn’t happen very often but this week my city had one of its three annual days of rain. Instead of being moderately depressed I actually enjoyed it, because it reminded me of home. My other home, where Tesco plastic bags run wild in the streets, queues are a way of life and if your house doesn’t have a six month supply of tea bags, are you even really prepared for the apocalypse?

I didn’t grow up in London, but it was home for several years and I consider myself, for the most part, at least half a Cockney. So without further ado, here’s a mini love letter to some of the things I miss about the Big Smoke:

The Underground

Not even joking, I used to enjoy the Tube because, being a bike wanker who cycled everywhere, I only took it once or twice a week. I love the anonymity on the Tube, the way nobody wants to make eye contact. I love when, during rush hour, somebody gets stuck between the doors and pretends like nothing happened. I love targeting manspreaders by ‘accidentally’ putting my hand/bag on their leg. When I briefly lived in West London, I used to stay at friend’s houses in East and enjoy my hour-long, hungover journey back to Fulham with coffee and usually some terrible music to keep me company. Say what you want about the Underground – strikes and delays aside, it’s pretty cool.


Grumpy Londoners

It’s raining. Commutes are a bitch. Having to wear grey a lot of the time. House prices. Coffee prices. Cocaine prices (apparently). Nightlife coming to a screeching halt at 2am in lots of places. Tinder. Not having enough cash for your weekly cheeky Nandos. There’s a lot of reasons to be a grumpy old fart in London – I know this because I used to be one. There’s a great quote in Zadie Smith’s book NW, where one of the protagonists takes too long to make a decision in a corner shop and feels ‘the shame of having inconvenienced another Londoner’. Literally everyone is grumpy and in a hurry, but I feel like that’s part of the British charm in general.



My city in Spain is extremely white. I am an extremely white person myself, even I find this weird. One of the things I love about London is that it’s a total melting pot – like lots of parts of America but with less racism. You can walk down a street and hear multiple languages, see multiple continents represented in just a few steps. My area in East London had sizable communities from Bangladesh, West Africa, Turkey, the Caribbean and Poland to name just a few. Plus hipsters. This was pretty great because of the food options on offer, but also because I felt like I was part of a truly diverse, global community.


The parks

Victoria Park in the summer is one of the best things in existence. Hackney Downs comes a close second, followed by Allen Gardens just off Brick Lane, which was always a little bit dodgy. One time I was offered drugs three times in twenty minutes, by three different dudes. They were all very nice though.

The God awful weather

I actually like rain in small doses. Plus the weather gives you something to talk about – it’s a British tradition.

My people

I miss my London friends all the time. One of my crew recently relocated to Bermuda which has made it even more difficult for us to all get together more than once or twice a year. Weekends used to be sitting in coffee shops in East for several hours talking shit about work/people/life, drinking overpriced gin and blatantly ignoring the impressive London landmarks everywhere. The friends I’ve made on my travels in the past year are absolute legends, but I’ll always miss drunk brunches in E8 with a group of grumpy Cockneys.


For some reason I can’t find good bagels here.

There’s probably some other stuff too but I forgot. I’m not sure when I’ll be back next, but I’m keeping my Boris bike (or should it be Sadiq cycle) membership well and truly open.


Very late resolutions, or, how to live your best life in 2018 while still being a dirty nomadic type

It’s fair to say I made most of 2017 my bitch. I quit my job, ditched a tiresome commute and an overpriced (if wonderful) apartment and moved to a new country. It wasn’t without it’s ups and downs (as various whiny posts on here will attest to) but several months in, I’m having a whale of a time.

I fully intend to keep travelling, keep exploring and keep being ridiculous for the foreseeable future. The nomadic lifestyle suits me. It has, however, made it more difficult to come up with a concrete set of new year’s resolutions. Say what you want about will power and statistics, I’m a firm believer in taking advantage of the new year and setting new goals for yourself. Falling at the first hurdle? You bunch of quitters. Small, achievable steps? NOPE. I go all out every January and this year is no exception. So here, without further ado, or much ado about nothing, are my resolutions for 2018:*

Give less effs

This has been number one on my list every year since 2012 and each year, I’ve managed to care a little bit less about what people think, or about very much in general. Last year, I managed to give very few effs at all when I decided to leave the country and was met with resounding choruses of ‘OHMYGOD YOU’RE SOOOO BRAVE,’ and ‘Woooow I could NEVER give up my life like that,’. EXCUSE ME SHARON but I didn’t give up my life, I enhanced it. This year I vow to continue to give less effs and do me

Take more pictures

I may be a fairly nomadic human but I spend a lot of time wandering around with goblets of gin and not very much time documenting my travels. This year I’m going to do more of that – and also take advantage of my new home country and explore Spain outside of my usual haunts (Poble Sec, Barcelona, I’m looking at you…)

Improve my Spanish

Despite only having studied the language for about three months, I managed to give an entire parent-teacher conference in December without a translator. Thanks to an amazing teacher (shout out to S if you’re reading this!) I’m actually pretty good now, even if I do resort back to English after a few pints of gin, or when I’m with my English-speaking friends. Aiming for fluency by the end of the academic year, let’s get it

Do more music stuff

In the midst of post-breakup sadness last year I joined a band and it was the best thing I could have done. I also discovered I might be the only remotely female person in my current city who can DJ (apologies to any ladies I haven’t discovered yet). I’m using this to my advantage this year and hopefully will be able to make something out of this – stay tuned for poorly edited mixes to pop up on this blog in the near future


Accept the things I cannot change

Last year I struggled a lot with temporary expat depression, general anxiety about the direction my life was headed, other very millennial problems, etc. I tried very hard to pretend I was fine when what I should have done was face it head on. Three months later and 75-80% better, it’s time to be more accepting of things I can’t change and embracing them instead. Shit happens, after all



Or meditation. These are the things that keep me sane and happy, along with other self care (sorry, 2016 buzz word) methods. My other reliable favourites include: 90s hood movies, dancing, clips of Will Smith dancing on the Fresh Prince and Oreos

Stay single

It has come to my attention that I am about 60% happier without a serious partner creeping around. My life is already complete, thank you very much, I have no desire to go down the matrimony path and no sir, all my problems will not be solved by your penis. To paraphrase the late great Biggie Smalls, ‘Mo Peen, Mo Problems’.

*I am aware it’s January 14th and I probably should have posted this earlier. This is one of the effs I do not give

Let’s smash it.

Some stuff I have allegedly learned since I staged my own personal Brexit

I was putting my life in order the other day and I realised it’s been one year since I made the decision to leave the UK. It happened about twenty minutes after I arrived back from a trip to Barcelona – the first ever trip I took completely solo. I remember being back in London, sitting in the middle of Lincoln’s Inn Fields on my lunch break, getting unnecessarily tearful over a One Republic playlist (joking aside, Native remains one of my top twenty albums).

Eff this, I thought. I’m leaving, and I don’t know where I’m going to go.

That was my turning point, and since then, a lot of crazy stuff has happened, but I don’t regret it for a minute. This entire post exists because I’m coming off about three days of hangover/lack of sleep, but this is meant to be a deep, existential look at all the important life lessons I have acquired during my time travelling and living/working abroad. Or something like that.

Anyway, here’s some things which may or may not be useful to anyone:

Being by yourself actually isn’t terrible
I’ve always been one of those people who hates being on their own. Back in the UK I was constantly surrounded by people and on the rare day or evening where I found myself without plans, I would descend into a pit of existential despair, usually with chocolate.

Ditching your familiar surroundings to creep around the world means you’ll be by yourself a lot. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing when you live in a society based on constant connectivity. It will be difficult – you force yourself out of your comfort zone to make friends, speak in a new language, to do anything. But it’s so worth it in the end because not only do you become a master of self-sufficiency, you also end up liking yourself a whole lot more in general. Which is never a bad thing.

I never had it that bad before

I basically never had problems back in the UK. Worrying about being ten minutes late for work because my bike had fallen apart, occasionally misplacing my keys, wondering which type of gin to buy, etc. Having to navigate literally everything in a foreign language, getting horribly lost, strict budgets, having to leave my fantastic group of friends and going through a breakup, all at the same time, means I will literally never complain about anything again. Maybe.

Things are a lot more intense

See above point. Getting lost in a supermarket or accidentally buying something non-vegan (VEGAN HUMBLEBRAG IM SO HEALTHY) is so much more of an emotional experience. It gets easier, of course.

Things are also a lot more ridiculous

So many stupid things have happened to me in the last few months, probably more than happened in total during my time at university. I won’t disclose everything on here (some things even an oversharing Millennial should keep a mystery) but I did accidentally co-found a possible cult where everyone a got matching tattoos (six people and counting y’all). Personal highlight.

Fuckboys are the same in every language

Literally. I can now understand ‘U up?’ in about seven languages. Initially, the dating pool in a new country is exciting because it’s different, but don’t be fooled by the sexy accents. BE STRONG MY FRIENDS.

Genuine, wonderful people are everywhere

When people travel, sometimes they adopt weird white rasta dreads, take up the bongos and talk overly loudly about how the tourist trail in Southern India is SOOO MAINSTREAM YAH. These people are terrible. More often than not, however, people actually become better, more genuine versions of themselves and you make some truly wonderful friends.

When I was living and working in Barcelona, I was dropped into the middle of an apartment with about 12 other people, none of whom I had ever met before. Literally every single one of them was excellent and even though we came from comically different backgrounds, we became super close in a short space of time. Because everyone was just themselves. This whole experience restored my faith in humanity and also means I have lots of free places to stay when I’m travelling out of Spain (thanks mates!)

I’m a surprisingly good rapper

Unrelated but since moving to Salamanca I’ve had the opportunity to do a lot more musical activity, my favourite thing in the world. This has included numerous rap battles. I’m actually quite good.


In closing, I think what I’m trying to say is, if you’re thinking about it, even just a little bit, DO IT. This has been the most ridiculous, traumatic, confusing, stressful, but also happiest time of my life. GET ON IT




Staying healthy abroad, or, PUT DOWN THE AIOLI YOU’RE A DISGRACE

I’m an advocate of balance. For example, eat healthy most of the time, but have twenty burgers at the weekend. Drink lots of water, but also lots of gin. Work out consistently but also sit on your butt and watch terrible TV (MTV’s ‘Are You The One’ has gotten me through a lot of hangovers). Don’t smoke (crack). Look after yourself but also indulge where it’s appropriate. You get the idea.

Keeping the balance can be difficult when you relocate to a new country. In London, I was fairly good at keeping healthy. I ran (sometimes from the cops, but sometimes marathons), practiced yoga and meditation, ate various green items and kept my blowouts to the weekend most of the time. When I moved to Barcelona earlier this year, the balance tipped very much in favour of being a massive lad and drinking buckets of gin, eating buckets of aioli (a friend describes it as the younger, hot cousin of mayonnaise) and being a disgusting mess. I was only living in the city for three months, so all efforts to keep healthy went out of the window alarmingly quickly.

Now I’m a little more settled (for the next year anyway), I’m still working out the balance. So, for anyone who’s wondering why mid-travels, they’re starting to resemble a Christmas ham (*Peter Griffin voice* GUILTYYYYY) here are my tips for attempting not to die during your time abroad:

Don’t deny yourself the good stuff

Accept that every new destination comes with new local delicacies to try. Get involved and don’t beat yourself up for having a few extra treats, especially in the beginning. I tried doing this in my first month in Salamanca, when I decided to go vegan for a month, literally because someone bet me I couldn’t. Living in the jamon capital of Europe, I was utterly miserable. BE NICE TO YOURSELF YOU DICKS.

(NB the same rule goes for alcohol and/or recreational drugs. Do your thing, but recognise that your current situation might not be entirely in the ‘real world’ and practise moderation)

Don’t overcompensate

To make up for months of self-abuse (no, not that kind) in Barca, I started working out multiple times a day when I first arrived here. Unless you are a professional athlete, or training for a competition of some kind, you probably don’t need to be doing this. On a vegan diet which I hadn’t entirely figured out, I ran out of energy very rapidly and ended up making myself moderately ill. Small steps are key to keeping healthy and also much easier to fit around your travel schedule – nobody wants to miss one of the modern wonders of the world because they had to do sit ups.

Find a workout routine that works for you

When you’re abroad, especially if you’re backpacking, there’s no point in locating a gym in every new location, however exercise shouldn’t be neglected. Endorphins got me through my first difficult through weeks in my new city, plus my recent breakup. Find something that works for you that doesn’t involve a pricey membership. For me, it’s yoga – I cannot recommend enough the amazing Lesley Fightmaster, a US-based instructor who has several free programmes on her channel. Currently on day 59 of her 90 Day Yoga Fix and I love it!

Join a Zumba class

Seriously. I used to think Zumba was for trophy wives and old people. Now it’s my favourite Saturday morning activity. You haven’t truly experienced it, in my opinion, until you’ve been to a class entirely in Spanish. Minus the good old British reserve it’s about ten times more fun. If Zumba’s not your cup of tea, classes in general are great for meeting people and having a laugh while simultaneously practising self-care.

Balanced diet people!

I’m 27 and I’m only just starting to realise the impact food has on your overall health, both physical and mental. I’m lucky in that my metabolism is fairly unchanging – I don’t really lose weight, but I don’t really gain it either. That said, I’ve adopted a mainly plant-based diet, sticking to vegan food during the week. I feel more energetic, healthier, and actually, happier. It’s not easy to keep a specific diet going when you travel a lot but making small changes helps – for example, I sacked off cow’s milk in favour of soy milk and gradually phased out cheese. Much easier than going cold turkey (cold tofu?) and feeling super sad all the time because I can’t have cheese, my one true love.


My doctor back in the UK recommended meditation to help with my general anxiety issues during a particularly stressful time at work. I’m not very good at being consistent but I can honestly say that meditation helps with so many things. Particularly if you move around a lot, it’s a great mental exercise to keep you centred and balanced and help you to deal with things like big life changes. Headspace is my favourite app, with programmes for everything from depression to pain management, self esteem to gratitude. Calm is another good choice if you like to have soothing rainforest sounds in the background when you’re trying to switch off

Take time for yourself

Once a week (sometimes twice) I stay in, cook something usually a bit trashy, watch awful TV and do horribly stereotypical girly things like a manicure or putting weird pink colours in my hair. I’ve always done this and, while it can be tempting to go out and be a big lad every night if you’re in a hostel-type setting, or living in a notorious party city, PACE YOURSELF

Disclaimer: I AM NOT A DOCTOR. I’m not even friends with any doctors. These are just some ideas I’ve collected during my own travels which seem to work well for me – I pass my wise owl wisdom on to my fellow nomads. Be happy and be well (and have a few gins too).

Please, we both know I’m a phenomenal dancer, but this is ridiculous

It was approximately five AM and I’d lost everyone I came to the bar with. I’d managed to obtain a free gin from the barman by telling him an appalling joke, I was already a few gins down and I had inadvertently wandered into what appeared to be a Spanish stag do.

The aforementioned laddy lad collective was deep in conversation until suddenly the DJ dropped ‘Mi Gente’ (for possibly the third time that night). Without putting down their drinks or any form of preparation, the entire group burst into what appeared to be an elaborately choreographed dance. I’m not talking about a sloppy ‘YMCA’ rendition or a half-assed attempt at the Running Man. These guys were good.

‘Are they dancers?’ I asked one of my friends, who had appeared as if by magic from the smoking area.

‘No, they’re students,’ she said, bemused. ‘One’s in some of my classes,’.

Everyone who knows me is aware of my magical transformation into Chris Brown after a few drinks (minus the dark past and male appendage). But damn, everyone in Spain puts me to shame.

It’s a fact of my new life that I’ve yet to meet a Spanish person who can’t dance.

Go to a student bar and even the most plastered of individuals can still shake it. Dance with a boy and he’ll twirl you around the dancefloor without being too corny (most of the time). Regardless of the music genre on blast at any given time, it seems everyone here can bust a move, even old people.

In the UK, it’s a bit of a different story. Of course this is a massive generalisation but in my experience, it’s rooted in fact – people in the UK are, by and large, not great dancers. Fellow white people, I’m talking to several of you. We get by at weddings and formal events with an awkward offbeat shuffle. On nights out, we give it a couple of rave hands and we’re done. In my student days, most of us actually weren’t able to dance due to the amount of alcohol consumed. Dancing isn’t really a priority for us, we’re just trying to get through the day without offending anyone.

Once, years ago, I went dancing with a bloke I’d been on a couple of dates with and he actually HOPPED ON ONE LEG for the entire evening. He had another leg, he just didn’t use it for dancing purposes.

In my first week in Salamanca when a boy asked me to dance, we actually danced. I felt like I was in an episode of Strictly Come Dancing (Dancing With The Stars for my friends across the pond). The boy may have been a foot shorter than me and wearing questionable shoes but I temporarily fell in love with him.

Here, even the awkward dude in the corner still has rhythm. Even the Inbetweeners-looking guys, sneaking into the bar past their parents’ curfew, can smash out a few decent moves. As someone who loves to dance, it’s a revelation – I’ve never been anywhere else in the world where the ability to drop it like it’s moderately above room temperature is so universal. France, nope. America, forget it, they’re as bad as us. China, heeellll no.

I’m going to continue my study into why everyone in Spain can dance, to see if I can find any exceptions to the rule (haven’t yet). It’s becoming a bit of an obsession – I was teaching my class of five year olds numbers last week and I accidentally taught them to say “seVEENN” in a Len Goodman style. You can take the Brit out of London…