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When I climbed Mt Toubkal last year, I genuinely thought I was going to die. That third picture is me just after crying my eyes out in relief that I wasn't yet dead (little did I know that the way back down was also going to be horrible).
The climb was super difficult because it was scree slopes all the way up and down. I vowed not to climb anything that high again (Toubkal is 4167m high).
Now, it's 6 months later and here I am thinking: ohmygad, I want to climb! I need a challenge all over again. Am I crazy? Probably. Do you know this feeling!? 🗻
Where's your favourite beach town? Mine's Taghazout in Morocco because it's got great (beginner) surf, local tagine and a co-working space with fast wifi. 🌊
Updated! How expensive is a trip to Barcelona? We share our travel expenses 🌞🌊
Spring in Barcelona? 🌷 If you're planning a BCN trip, don't miss this amazing cooking class with locals.
Want to get off the beaten track with your travels? Our awesome friend Liezl who we met in Taiwan is on the blog revealing undiscovered spots in Northern Vietnam...
Wild elephants in Sri Lanka 🐘 This was the most incredible safari with wild elephant herds, baby elephants, wild peacocks, sneaky monkeys, buffalo, crocodiles and eagles!
Bank holiday Monday like...
My top travel destination for 2018? Sri Lanka!
Secluded tea fields, impressive National Parks home to wild elephants and leopards, sandy beaches and good surf spots, cheap and delicious curries, and friendly locals.
Would you like to travel to Sri Lanka?
Here's an important story:
On 24 April 2013, the Rana Plaza building in Bangladesh collapsed. 1138 people died and another 2,500 were injured, making it the fourth largest industrial disaster in history. There were five garment factories in Rana Plaza all manufacturing clothing for big global brands. The victims were mostly young women.
It took a disaster this big to get clothing brands to start regulating conditions their factory workers work in and they're still not held as accountable as they should be. Most consumers don't know the story nor realise that the clothes they're buying support an unsustainable industry.
What can you do? Ask #whomademyclothes to the shops you buy from, use the Good On You App to look up the brands you shop with before you buy, search out sustainable and ethical clothing brands to buy from, only buy what you need. 👕 🌱 🌍
In 2013, I was working as a teacher in Taiwan. For a school trip with my class of 3 and 4 year old kids, we visited the Tommy Hilfiger clothing factory.
Inside the factory, we walked into a large warehouse where there were rows and rows of women in cramped spaces behind sewing machines and irons. Each woman had only one task and repeated the same thing over and over - sew a button, stitch in the name label, iron the shirt. They had to do these tasks as fast as they could.
We saw women with their hands badly burned from irons and wrapped up, still ironing as painfully fast as they could. Women with sores on their hands from the work. Women using sewing machines so fast they risked their own hands to sew hems as quickly as possible. Read the news back in 2012 and you'll see reports of workers dying in Tommy Hilfiger factories.
Some of my children cried. 'Will I have to work here when I grow up?' one girl asked through her tears. Other children clung to my legs and buried their heads against my thighs so they didn't have to look around. My Taiwanese co-teacher who organised the trip hadn't realised what conditions were like inside the factories until we got there either and stood in shock.
In this photo are the students from the class who visited this factory. These are the lucky kids who learn English, are privately educated in ESL schools and who are unlikely to ever had to work in this kind of job. But there are many other children who are not this fortunate.
What you can do:
1. Before you buy from clothing stores like TH, ask: who made my clothes and in what conditions? Decide which kind of businesses you want to spend your money with.
2. Follow Fashion Revolution and be aware.
3. Download the Good On You app and read about the clothing brands you buy from.
Who made your clothes? Most of the time, we don't know.
Were your clothes made in sweatshops? Made by children? Made by underpaid women? Made in hazardous conditions? Does the material contain toxic chemicals?
Here are some stats:
- As a society we purchase 400% more clothing today than we did just 20 years ago
- Child labour is used to make clothes for some of the most popular UK high street shops
- Zara, H&M, Urban Outfitters, Topshop, Primark and many more do not pay the living wage to their factory workers
- It takes a garment worker 18 months to earn what a fashion brand CEO makes on their lunch break
- Toxic chemicals are used to dye clothing and these seep into groundwater and soil with hazardous health consequences
What can you do?
Knowing where our clothes come from and who made them is important. This week is Fashion Revolution week and here's how you can have a positive impact:
1. Ask #whomademyclothes. If you don't know, tag brands on social media and find out.
2. Download the Good On You app. This is my new favourite app that tells you how ethical clothing brands are. https://goodonyou.eco
3. Buy from ethical brands, local brands, recycle clothes, upcycle clothes, trade clothes, keep clothes longer, only buy clothing you really need.
Image from: @tulipsandheels
It's Earth Day 🌍 Here's how I reduce my plastic waste while travelling. I've still got a long way to go to cut plastic out of my lifestyle but this is my start. Share your #plasticfree tips and techniques with me too!
Here are some terrifying stats about plastic waste:
- Plastic waste is 100 million tonnes per year across the world
- Plastic can take 500 years to decompose
- UK supermarkets give out 4.5 billion plastic bags a year
- Tampons and sanitary pads generate 200,000 tonnes of plastic waste each year
- Sanitary pads are 90% plastic 😱 (so gross!)
- 40 species of fish now consume plastic
- By 2050 it's estimated there will be more plastic in the sea than fish
We have such a beautiful world out there, full of oceans, mountains, deserts, lakes, rivers, jungles and wildlife. We use plastic thoughtlessly (me included!), not realising how each plastic bag, razor, q tip, bottle, contributes to this crazy, horrific situation across the world.
Let's take some care 🌍 Individuals, businesses, corporations, supermarkets, governments, health organisations, charities, social enterprises, all have to be involved in cutting down plastic and finding better alternatives.
Dreaming of Sundays in Lisbon 🌞 Have you been to this beautiful city?
I visited a few weeks ago and ate a lot of egg tarts, went to the highest point on the city on this lift, wandered around the city and the castle, met some cool people, listened to amazing music and stayed out too late 🌃
Egg tarts! Hands up who else loves them?
Just back from Lisbon this week where it's all about eating egg tarts and drinking espressos at bakeries on every street corner. What's not to love about that? 😏
I can only fit so many egg tarts in my tummy at one time though, so taking this delicious pair away for later in my Elephant Box saves on all the bags and plastic wrap you get when you takeaway 🌿
It's my serious work face 😐 I'm hugely passionate about my work. It's not something I talk about too often here. Lots of people assume that travel blogging is my job. That's actually not the case. Blogging is a passion project for me, not my day job.
I work in digital marketing. I started out as a blog writer and worked my way up. My work is remote and flexible. I can be anywhere in the world as long as the WiFi is alright. I work full-time while I travel. It's one of the reasons that Luke and I travel so slowly 😉⏱️
When I meet new people and they ask me what I do, I'm often reluctant to wholeheartedly share how much I love my work. I often find myself listening to a group of people tell me they hate their job, their boss is a nightmare, they're stuck in an office, they're overworked, they don't have any passion for what they do, they don't know what they want to do, or variations of these. 😬
None of those are true for me. I'm lucky. I get to pursue two huge passions of mine − digital marketing and travel − at the same time 💕 I get to wake up anywhere in the world, switch my laptop on and work on something I love. It's difficult to share without feeling like I'm gloating − which I'm not. But I do have it good. 😊
Not sharing my passions with people is probably a mistake. I love to hear about other people's passions − the music and art they make, the sports they excel in, the food they cook, where they've travelled, what they do for a living. Why be modest when you can be passionate?
P.S. I don't usually work in bed 😝
So many of you have been following our journey in Sri Lanka and asking us about what to see and do. 🇱🇰
Our Sri Lanka travel guide covers the best beaches, temples, places to see wild elephants and more.
Sri Lanka, it's been so wonderful 🇱🇰 I can't believe it's over 😭
We didn't have any expectations for Sri Lanka - we came because flights from Bali to Sri Lanka were cheap and we thought, why not! So we took a flight and just went. It was the best decision we could have made.
Sri Lanka is incredible. Temples, tea fields, mountains, safari, wild elephants, beaches, surf, fort towns - our month in Sri Lanka has been a whirlwind of all of these amazing things.
The Sri Lankan people welcomed us into their homes, cooked us delicious curries and we're so grateful.
Tonight we're flying back to the UK ✈ trading sunny Sri Lankan beaches for rain and snow at home. Every journey has to end, but all that means is a new one is beginning.
Just one day left in Sri Lanka! :o The past month has gone so fast.
We're spending our final days in the beautiful Dutch fort of Galle. It's just a few hours south of the airport and is the gateway to the Sri Lankan beaches we've been exploring.
The fort is surrounded by the Indian ocean 🌊 and filled with cute cafes, local shops and tuk tuks of course.
"Never love anybody who treats you like you're ordinary."
I shook Luke awake at 6AM - 1️⃣ first to tell him he's handsome (start with a compliment), 2️⃣ second to tell him he needed to come with me to the beach right away (make the request).
"Okay, just 5 more minutes of sleeping though" and he tried to bat me back down onto the bed. "Noooo" I said. "Coffee though?" ☕ he said (fair question). I shook my head. He looked at me like I was totally nuts (also fair).
I pulled him out onto the sand to see the sunrise. Instead of being grumpy about the 6AM wake up call, he shook off his sleepy head, laughed and we ran around in the sand with these beach dogs dancing around. ☀️
Eat your <3 out!
The incredible food of Sri Lanka all in one feast of a blog post.
Which Sri Lanka food would you like to try most?
http://charlieontravel.com/sri-lankan-food-vegetarian #SriLanka #lka
My weekend face! Sri Lankan's southern coastline has lots of little beaches, bays and surf spots all the way along - so we're checking them all out.
It's a shame because there's a massive road running along the seafront the whole way up which is noisy AF, but oh my the beaches and the sunsets are lovely.
Right now we're in Midigama which is a tiny village. We surfed hard 🏄 (well, hard for beginners) in the next town along called Weligama and were pretty proud of ourselves until we realised we have sunburned, beetroot red faces 😕 We've retreated into our hotel to hide from the sun for now! Anyone else know this feeling!?
Wild elephants at Udawalawe National Park 🐘
Last week I shared a post about unethical elephant tourism. While these posts aren't nice to share, it's important to raise awareness and the support from everyone here was humbling. I'm so grateful to have such aware and forward-thinking readers.
While we were away from social media this past week, we went on a safari in Udawalawe National Park to see wild elephants in their natural habitat, without confines or chains, and in a responsible way.
I'm pleased to report that our experience there was responsible and aware. Our guide was very vocal about the importance of not getting too close / disturbing wildlife and of going slowly around the park - and if you visit Udawalawe and need a guide I'd be more than happy to recommend him.
Drivers stayed on designated roads, switched their engines off when watching animals and did not follow the animals. The jeeps did not stick together but separated so there was no encircling or overwhelming of animals.
A positive experience watching elephants roam in the wild from a distance - as it should be.
After an 8-day ban on social media in Sri Lanka, the government has just in past half an hour lifted the block on Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram. The bans were in place due to religious riots to prevent the spread of hate speech. 🚫
It's been interesting to see the responses of local Sri Lankans (on Twitter) about the ban. Some embracing it to ensure peace is restored, and others resenting the lack of 'freedom of speech'.
The news reports say the riots have ended. This photo was taken a few days before in Kandy, the town which was affected. During this time local life in Sri Lanka in the towns we visited continued as normal.
I'll be sharing lots about the experiences we've had travelling in Sri Lanka the past week, but for now I just want to say how generous, caring, kind-hearted and welcoming the Sri Lankans we've met have been. A beautiful country and a beautiful people. 🌴👨👩👧👦
When we were thinking about a trip to Sri Lanka, some of our friends said it was their dream to go to Sri Lanka to see elephants because they'd seen photos like this first one on Instagram 🐘
I thought the Instagram photos they shared with me looked incredible (who wouldn't!) When we began researching seeing wild elephants in the National Parks in Sri Lanka, I read more about the place where these Instagram elephant-in-the-river photos are taken and we decided not to visit.
If you scroll to the second photo and the third, you'll see that Instagram photos aren't always what they seem. Unfortunately the elephant orphanage here is crowded and chains elephants in the river to allow tourists to take these shots. The elephant orphanage likely has very limited funds and needs tourist money to take care of their elephants but a lack of education on both the part of the owners and the tourists means that situations like this happen.
Since we've come to Sri Lanka, I've seen photos from this river going up on Instagram accounts with massive followings but captions saying nothing about the conditions of the elephants and photos which ignore what's going on. Influencers have a responsibility to speak up.
Though we decided not to visit, I've borrowed photos from two excellent bloggers who did and want to share their accounts of their visit here. I would highly recommend reading these if this is an experience which had been on your itinerary or wish-list for Sri Lanka.
Account of a visit by Salt in our Hair - Travel - https://saltinourhair.com/sri-lanka/elephants-sri-lanka
Interview with the owner by Time Travel Turtle -
Research and make responsible travel decisions based on the facts you have and what feels right for you.
Friends & travel fam — Many of you asked us if we've been affected by the riots in Sri Lanka. We're fine. No longer in Kandy; now in a different town not close to the violence.
WhatsApp, Facebook and Instagram have been blocked but we still have access to Twitter and emails.
Thank you for your love and concern for us and this beautiful country <3 #SriLanka
Our adventure to see Komodo dragons, feat excited Luke and scared s*%$less me!
Little Adam's Peak, Sri Lanka. ⛰️ When we arrived to the expanse of green tea fields and incredible hiking routes in Ella, we realised we'd probably spent too long hanging around in Kandy!
We were planning to go to Adam's Peak but it's full moon 🌕 weekend which means thousands of Sri Lankans make the trek up the mountain on a pilgrimage to see Buddha's footprint (rock). Not wanting to get caught up in the thousands and join long queues to reach the top, we decided to do Little Adam's Peak instead.
A shorter walk but so beautiful, right? (and no crowds).
Ella, Sri Lanka. Hiking in the tea fields 🍃 While everyone was up on the bridge hoping the train would come (it didn't), I convinced Luke to come down into the tea fields with me to get a better view. He thought I was a bit crazy but how gorgeous is this bridge?
Sri Lankan breakfast 🍳 Our homestay in Kandy have been spoiling us rotten with home cooked breakfast feasts.
Every day we've had 10 dishes of Sri Lankan curries, spiced vegetables, chutneys, rotis, coconut pancakes, coconut sambal, coleslaw and fresh salads.
There's no such thing as a half-hearted meal in Sri Lanka. They put so much love and effort into preparing their food. Which dish would you like to try most?
Sri Lanka so far is dusty and busy, but also beautiful, serene and so special. We've seen incredible sunsets from the temples, manoeuvred our way through traffic and tuk-tuks and settled into a lovely homestay for the week. 🌴
The people are so friendly. Everyone asks how you are and welcomes you into their home. The food! Oh, the food is flavourful and will definitely make us fat! The mum at our homestay prepared us a 10-dish breakfast this morning! 👨👩👧👦
On the downside, it appears that making strong coffee is not high up on the Sri Lankan agenda - and Luke is now suggesting we go cold turkey and kick the habit for good 😨
Have you been to Sri Lanka? Would you like to explore this country?
Good morning from Labuan Bajo ⛵ We stayed in this weird little port town all week in between trips out to Komodo island and diving to see manta rays. It's a funny place with no access to the water, rotten fish and dust all over the streets and these incredible morning views if you can get up high enough.
Today we've leaving Labuan Bajo and Indonesia behind 👣 Next stop, Sri Lanka!
What's your plan for this weekend?
Searching for dragons on Komodo island 🐉 Luke's been overwhelmed with excitement about this trip since I can remember and we finally spotted some of these incredible beasts.
Komodos hunt all animals, including each other and their own young, and can devour a whole deer (or human). I stayed well back, hiding behind our guide who had a very long wooden stick which would apparently protect us... We made it out alive 😅
Would you like to see the Komodo dragons? (or would you be as freaked out as me!?)
Tucked up out of the rain here in Ubud at this beautiful bamboo villa. It's built from sustainable bamboo, has a salt water pool (no eye-stinging chlorine!) and breakfast is fresh, local fruit smoothie bowls 🌴 Want to come? 👣
Side note: We've still not made a decision what to do about our visas. Ugh. Just hide out here forever you think?
Help! Our travel plans have ended up all over the place this trip. Issues with visas, volcanoes and poor travel route planning meant we ending up ping-ponging around Asia.
We thought about Australia (I really want to go) but all the Australians we met told us its hurricane season and not to go.
We thought we'd settled on a route through Sri Lanka and India after Bali, but now we've found out Luke doesn't have enough blank pages in his passport to get an Indian visa.
So now we have a one-way ticket to Sri Lanka and no next destination - what should we do? 😫
Cooking class in Bali. We learned to make our favourite gado gado :D 🌱
The weather is so changeable right now ⛈ 🌞 One moment it's heavy thunderstorms and the next it's blazing sunshine!
More cherry blossoms in Chiang Mai 🌸 🌸 🌸