So as you may have noticed 2017 has been a little light on the blogging front. Sure, I've been working a lot which has meant less time for adventures, and I've been living somewhere that isn't really conducive to cooking projects or food photography, but I've also been trying to work out where on earth this life of mine is going. Back in January I told y'all I was taking a job at Lush in central London but I knew that that wasn't where I wanted to be long term. Nick and I came back from our travels with an idea in our heads, we learnt a lot of about ourselves whilst we were away and we decided that what we want to do with our lives is hang out together, spend more time in nature, work with animals, and promote a compassionate vegan lifestyle. Simple. Kinda. We had our hearts set on moving to Scotland with dreams of a farm sanctuary at the forefront of our minds but for a whole host of complicated reasons, most of which are totally beyond our control, now is just not the right time so we had a little rethink and have decided to re-pack our backpacks and head out into the world again.
With our #lifegoals in mind we've decided to spend the next year or so embracing our freedom (I have a sneaking suspicion that running our own farm sanctuary will put an end to travel for quite some time) and getting experience working with farmed animals. This seems like the perfect combo and I am pretty freaking excited to tell you all that we're heading to Australia!!
I actually bought my first Australia guide book in 1999 and now, almost 20 years later, I'm finally embarking on an adventure down under. Nick and I talked about Australia back when we first thought about our travel plans but we needed to find voluntary work there to make it financially feasible. Australia is expensive! We're going to be volunteering at Farm Animal Rescue in Dayboro, Queensland - that's near Brisbane for those of you unfamiliar with Aussie geography, and on the way there we'll be spending a month in China and around 10 days in Melbourne! Wowza!
To say that I'm excited about visiting China would be a massive understatement, I read Peter Hessler's River Town a while back when I went through a phase of being obsessed with the idea of visiting China and it was definitely an inspiration for my journey. It took me a little while to convince Nick that he wanted to join me but we're doing it. I've mapped out a route that takes in a lot of different aspects of China but that isn't trying to cram too much into a month - I like to travel slowly and I've learnt that I need downtime from intense travel experiences in the same way that I need a day off when I'm working so I've added in some extra days here and there for eating, reading, and chilling.
We only made a firm decision about "The Plan" a week ago and our flights have only been booked for a few days so we have a lot to do before we leave on March 21st. Visas are something we need to get on with ASAP and I was intrigued to learn that I need to remove all of my piercings for the visa photos. I'll be retaking them tomorrow! Our itinerary is mapped out and our trains and accommodation are booked because you need all of that in place to get your Chinese visa. We're going to start in Beijing where we plan to hit up all of the main cultural sights, explore the historic hutongs, eat a lot, and take a hike or two along the Great Wall, before moving on to Pingyao which is apparently China's best preserved ancient walled town. After that we take a night train to Xi'an where we'll use the city as a jumping off point to see the Terracotta Warriors before heading south to take a cruise along the Yangtze river. I've never been on a cruise and I'm a little apprehensive, it all seems very organised and I get super motion sick (even on those little piers waiting for the Thames Clipper!) but I'm pretty sure that this once in a lifetime opportunity will be worth stepping out of the box for. After our cruise we're heading further south to spend some time getting to know the countryside, we'll be visiting Guilin, taking an overnight trip to the dragon's backbone rice terraces, and spending time riding bikes alongside, and hopefully kayaking on, the Li River in Yangshuo. After that we'll end our adventure with another overnight train followed by a weekend in Shanghai before hopping onto a plane headed for Melbourne.
I would love to hear from anyone who's visited China, what were your favourite places and experiences? If you don't speak Mandarin were you able to get by - I'm trying, I really am, but those tones! Damn. I just can't get it! Is a chilli allergy going to make eating anything other than steamed white rice impossible? What were your favourite street foods or convenience store foods? How did you cope without social media?! So far I've been reading Alys' recent posts on her blog The Wild Life and refreshing my brain with Emil from Hasta La Vegan's adventures in Beijing from 2015 but any info on being vegan in China will be greatly appreciated.
As for Melbourne, my to-eat list is huge, off of the top of my head I know I need to eat at Matcha Mylkbar, Smith & Daughters, Smith & Deli, Doughnut Time, Lord of The Fries, Red Sparrow Pizza, Girls and Boys, and Mister Nice Guys. Whew! That seems like a lot and it's pretty dessert heavy but I can't afford to eat every meal out and the Air B&B we booked has a little kitchen so I'll be sure to swing by The Cruelty Free Shop to stock up on Aussie essentials. If you have any hot Melbourne (or even just Australia in general!) tips leave me a comment. Maybe we can even meet up whilst I'm there!
I'm not going to be able to blog whilst I'm in China but I'll be setting some posts to publish whilst I'm gone, what do you want to read about? Would anyone be interested in a Lush favourites post from an insider? Is there anywhere in Brighton or London that you'd like to see a review of before I go? I also have about 20 copies of my European Vegan zine left. I'd love to be able to make a donation to The Food Empowerment Project before I leave so if you have any European adventures on your horizons in the next year then grab a copy from my Big Cartel shop by the 19th.
I'm so excited to get back on the road - maybe this is exactly what I'm meant to be doing with my life?