I kicked off October with a cancer scare and ended it with buckets of mezcal.
As always, it’s been a rollercoaster of a month with plenty of highs and lows. It was also the last month of the year that I’ll be spending entirely in Bristol, so I threw myself into life in this wonderful city to make the most of my time here.
Here’s what I got up to.
A huge amount of October was spent in my local rock climbing gym.
For years, I have been talking about trying climbing, but never managed to find the time or the courage to do so. I’m someone who loves scrambling over rocks whenever I’m outside, so climbing felt like something I’d enjoy.
Well, not as instantly as I’d hoped.
In fact, during my first climb, I made it three metres off the ground, looked down, spontaneously developed a fear of heights, and had to be brought down because my legs were trembling so violently. Yes, I had Elvis Legs.
That should’ve been my one and only attempt at scaling a wall.
Something I’ve learned over the years, though, is that you have to do the things that scare you in order to grow. And while rock climbing was surprisingly terrifying, I wanted to get over the fear.
I promptly signed up for a beginners course and began to spend my days belaying, scrambling up the walls, and slowly finding my confidence. The key? Falling! Once I practiced falling, I learned to trust the ropes and my equipment and no longer feared jumping for new holds or taking risks.
And I love it! Climbing is so much fun and I can’t get enough of it. My forearms, however, could definitely do with a rest.
When I wasn’t climbing, I was heading out on adventures.
It had been far too long since I’d taken a trip — too long being like, a month — so I decided to spend a weekend in Cardiff with Dave.
And it just so happened that Alice Cooper was in town, who I have a deep, inexplicable love for. I dragged Dave along with me and spent an evening bopping around to some of my favourite songs. It was such a great show!
Unfortunately, the weather didn’t cooperate while we were in Cardiff, so I had to skip out on a couple of activities I had planned, but I still had a blast. I spent most of my time exploring new neighbourhoods, checking out the street art, and eating some delicious meals.
I threw myself into all kinds of other activities this month, checking out some stand up comedy shows (oh my god, I went to one on a Sunday night and like, 12 people showed up at a venue that seats 150. It was so awkward!), adventure travel talks (I loved hearing the story of a guy who cycled from London to New Zealand), and heading out for drinks with newfound friends.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: it is so, so, so hard to move to a new city where you don’t know anybody. It’s even harder when you and your partner both work from home. And it’s even, even harder when you’ve spent the past seven years travelling full-time, because it makes you the least relatable people on the planet.
The key, though, is putting yourself out there. And after a lonely 18 months in Bristol, I’m finally starting to feel as though I’m making friends and building a lovely community here.
Of course, I’m just about to start travelling for 3+ months, so I can’t wait to start from square one again in March!
One of the reasons why we chose Bristol as home base, though, is its accessibility to nature. I always say that Bristol has all of the good aspects of London, but none of the bad, and something it has over London is its proximity to the countryside. Getting to head out on a 15-minute drive or train ride into the hills is something I’ll never tire of.
One day, a group of us set out for Bath and spent a sunny afternoon wandering through the nearby fields. We stopped off at five different pubs[!] over the day, sampled a delicious roast, and generally marvelled at the beauty in this part of the world.
Fun fact: Midford Castle in the photo above used to be owned by Nicolas Cage! He bought it for £5 million, then sold it for £3 million two years later when he found himself facing an unexpected tax bill.
Another highlight of my month was hitting up a tequila and mezcal tasting! Mezcal is my favourite spirit in the world, and a mezcalerita my favourite cocktail, so this was totally up my alley. And it was incredible value for money.
For just £10, we got to try four different tequilas, two mezcals, three cocktails, and even snack on some treats. It was held at the Clockwork Rose, a steampunk-themed bar in Bristol that I had yet to check out, and it was such a cool spot!
I’m all about the new experiences and one thing neither Dave nor I had tried before was pumpkin carving! I grabbed a couple of pumpkins and set about slicing through them.
You should have seen my face when I sat down with my butter knife, found an instructional video, and realised I should have bought all of these saws and tools to help me carve.
Still, Dave and I spent a solid hour listening to spooky music while we attempted to carve our pumpkins. I couldn’t resist carving a Gene Simmons into mine because I really am that embarrassing.
And how can I sign off during spooky season without sharing my Halloween makeup look? I love having an excuse to spend a full day sitting in front of the mirror playing with colours.
And that was October!
Highlights of the Month
Falling in love with rock climbing: I love it so, so much! I love the puzzle of it and I love how euphoric it feels to successfully send a climb. It’s so much fun! I highly recommend checking it out if you’ve been considering trying it.
New business plans: I have so many exciting goals to hit before the end of the year. I’m going to be relaunching my Youtube video in full-force early next month. I’m going to be kicking off a blogger mentorship program for a limited number of people. And I’m most likely going to be launching a Patreon with a whole host of wonderful rewards.
Lowlights of the Month
A cancer scare: Days after returning from the Camino, I developed some concerning symptoms.
First, I noted a weird rash all over one of my legs. I pushed on the red dots with a glass and they didn’t disappear — the hallmark sign of meningitis or septicaemia — and an indication that I was bleeding under my skin. Still, I felt fine in myself, so despite the NHS website urging me to go to A&E, I dismissed my fears and got on with my day.
Days later, I had a nosebleed for the first time in my life. I silently connected it to the weird rash but convinced myself it was just a coincidence.
That’s the problem with being an ex-hypochondriac — you skyrocket to the other end of the spectrum and become blasé about your health. I’ve never had a life-threatening disease before, so I was certain I was fine.
Days later, I scratched absent-mindedly at my leg, then looked down in horror. There were these huge red lines trailing up my leg. Lines of blood, but I hadn’t broken the skin — it was all under the surface. My blood vessels were breaking apart and I’d barely even touched my skin.
I took that as a sign that I could start panicking.
I jumped on Google and combined the bleeding with the weird bouts of nausea I’d been suffering from, my sudden inability to sleep well, and my equally sudden loss of appetite. Eeek. That sounded like a textbook case of leukemia.
I called the NHS and they sent me to the nearest hospital, urging me to get there within an hour. Panic, panic, panic, panic.
And… nothing showed up.
Doctors couldn’t explain it but every test showed that I was totally fine. No cancer, no autoimmune disease, no nothing. Maybe it’s just something random that’s happening in your body, they suggested.
Maybe it was.
I have to tell you that the week I spent sitting at home, waiting for a phone call to tell me if I have leukemia or not was one of the scariest moments of my life. I’d drafted out the blog post about it in my head, planned out how I would tell my parents, made a note of which flights I’d need to cancel, come up with a plan for how I’d keep my site running.
And I was fine.
I guess this lowlight turned out to be a highlight in the end.
My host screwed something up with my site. Again: Ugh. Somehow my host managed to block Google from seeing certain parts of my code. When Google couldn’t then correctly render my site, they decided it wasn’t mobile-friendly, and my search traffic plummeted overnight.
I managed to get the issue fixed within a couple of days, but it took several weeks for my traffic to climb back up to its previous levels.
Taxes, taxes, taxes: Always fun! I decided to file my personal and corporation tax returns this month, and it always takes weeks of non-stop work to get my books in order for my accountant. I hated having to pull some seriously long days but not having any content to show at the end of it. It’s always the case with the behind-the-scenes stuff as a blogger — I hate working on anything that isn’t writing blog posts!
My Next Steps
There’s a running joke around these parts that every time I book a trip to India, I cancel it.
In 2011, I planned to travel to Mathura to celebrate Holi, but backed out at the last minute, found cheaper flights to Bali, and pounced on those instead.
In 2014, I bought flights to Kerala, but couldn’t get my Indian visa on time. It came with a 15-business-days processing window back then and I wasn’t going to be spending more than a week in a single place before I was meant to fly out. I cancelled my plans and flew to the Maldives instead.
In 2015, I had huge plans to explore India. For those of you who have read my book, you’ll know that it ends with me preparing for a trip to India. And that really was my plan. My book would launch, I’d jump on a plane to Goa, and I’d start gathering material for the sequel to How Not to Travel the World.
In reality, I had a mental breakdown from the stress of writing my book and decided to recover from that before heading to India.
How Not to Travel India, it turned out, was by not travelling to India at all.
In 2017, I bought a flight to New Delhi, but cancelled at the last minute when I decided to uproot my life in Portugal and move to the U.K. I only had a month left in Portugal and wanted to spend that time saying goodbye to Lisbon, rather than travelling through India.
Six months ago, I bought another flight to New Delhi, but had to cancel when an overgrowth of mould in my house made me very unwell. I travelled to the airport, but was too sick to get on the plane.
And so, when I bought flights to India this month and promptly had a cancer scare, part of me was like of course. Of course I have leukemia because I just booked a trip to India and now I must immediately cancel the trip.
Let’s see what happens in November.
Because it’s not until I step foot on the plane to New Delhi that I’ll actually believe I’m going.
But if I do finally make it, I’m thrilled to have almost a month to explore the country.
I’ll kick off my travels in New Delhi and have a few days in this chaotic city. I’m intrigued to see what I think of Delhi. On one hand, I think I’ll hate it. I think it’ll be noisy and polluted and I’ll want to leave immediately after arriving. And yet, it’s always the places I think I’ll hate that I end up loving.
And that will be the end of November! As we come into December, I’ll be hitting up an additional nine destinations across the country, but I’ll save that news for next month’s summary.
I’m so excited to finally, finally, finally make it to India.
(She says every single year)
And now, a fun request for you guys! As I mentioned, I’m going to be kicking my Youtube channel back into life next week and I’ll be getting the ball rolling with a Q&A! So, feel free to ask me questions in the comments below! Ask me questions about anything you want! It doesn’t have to be about travel! I’ll share my answers via video in a few days :-)
What do you have planned for November?