Travel Regrets Part 2 (Because The Regrets Keep On Comin’)

On any given day, you will find yourself scrolling through Instagram, and judging the photos of your friends galavanting around Europe on a Summer extravaganza, whilst you stuff your face with Doritos under the covers of the pillow fort that used to be your bed. You’ll see them with their ripped, tanned abs, low cut bikinis, coloured doors, stray cats and sailing boats that they’ve called home for the past week and what have you been doing? Watching Friends re-runs, that’s what.

In July this year I was lucky enough to leave the comfort of my pillow fort and travel around Central America for a month; Guatemala, Belize and Mexico. To the untrained eye, I too was living the dream (not going to lie it was pretty damn awesome). But little did those people at home in their pillow forts know that my trip was filled with regrets, mistakes, sickness and an overwhelming longing to curl up into the fetal position.

I wrote an article about my travel regrets a few months ago, and at that stage I didn’t think there was much more to regret or fuck up. How wrong I was because here, dear friends, is part two…

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Bringing a suitcase

 Who the fuck brings a suitcase on a G Adventures ‘YOLO’ style adventure tour? I was the only one in my group who had a suitcase and each time I had to push it up ridiculously steep hills, through mud, across cobblestone streets, up stairs, on boats and buses… I was constantly reminded of my naïve choice. What was I thinking?

Booking the cheapest flight (despite the layovers)

 In the moment you think “sure, I can wait in Mexico City airport for 9 hours before catching my connecting flight to Guatemala City,” but when that 9 hours is from 1am…things start feeling a little bleak. I might have saved myself a whole $50, but I paid for it in breakfast, lunch and my sanity.

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Not bringing a rain jacket

 Listen to what your grandma says…. ‘take a rain coat.’ I dismissed this advice thinking only of all the sunshine and warmth I was about to immerse myself in. Ah, Central America in Summer! No! Do your fucking research and you’ll realise it’s their rainy season and that Mexico City has an altitude of 2500m in the fucking mountains where it fucking rains all the fucking time! If you couldn’t tell, this was a rather sore spot for me after confidently rejecting the thought to take a rain coat.

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Hooking up with a Guatemalan guy named Alejandro

Actually, is that a regret? Hell no, we salsa danced all night, went to a rave, made out and danced until morning! Oh, I remember… it was the hangover the next day that was the regret, not Alejandro. I mean really? His name was Alejandro!!!

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Not reading my briefing instructions properly

When I was in Mexico I was studying at a Catholic university, and in the brief (which I only skim-read) it specifically states that you can’t wear thongs or singlets to uni. As an Aussie girl abroad, that was basically the entirety of my suitcase (for someone that’s travelled a lot, I really fucked up on this whole weather/climate thing). So off I went to buy some respectable length skirts and modest shirts that covered my scandalous shoulders.

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Not having a polaroid camera

 This one’s a bit of a meaningful regret. When reflecting on my time abroad I wish I could have made a more meaningful contribution to the lives of some people I met; two specific times in particular:

1- When we did a homestay with a traditional Mayan family in Guatemala. They lived a very simple life, roosters for alarm clocks, no TV, cooking over a fire, no hot water or internet, with only several photos on their family room wall. I wish I could’ve been able to whip out a polaroid camera and take a family photo for them for their wall.

2 – During my course in Mexico City, we often met with refugees. For their protection, we could not take digital photos. However, I wish I could’ve had a polaroid camera to take photos of the kids and give it to their mothers and fathers as keepsakes.

The idea of taking photos is so skewed for us living in developed, technology saturated countries. It’s a touch of a button on our phones and we share it to the world online. For people who don’t have this privilege, photos are all they have of their family. They can put it in their pocket and hold onto it forever. It means so much more than a piece of paper. It means they’re able to capture, remember and bring their loved ones with them on their journey.

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Eating those street tacos

OK I don’t think it was the street tacos, but something I ate over there made me sick. Very sick. Let’s just say the next two weeks whatever I put in my mouth, did not come out of my body in a nice way. You can read my shameful tell all here.

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Picking up hitchhikers

No not people… parasites! After my rather shitty experience with getting sick in Mexico, I came back to Australia still experiencing horrendous cramps. After a rather confronting experience of having to poo in a cup, it’s confirmed that I have two little parasite friends living in my stomach. Rest assured, I’m on some pretty serious pro-biotics, but in the meantime I named my new friends Pablo and Renee. Lucky me!

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Dying on a public bus in Belize
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Luisa couldn’t quite make it to paradise

Don’t believe those beautifully crafted Instagram photos and witty captions, everyone has travel regrets, mistakes, fuck ups and maybe some parasites too. I just wanted to put mine on the internet to get down and real when talking about the joy of travelling. Oh and I guess I just wanted to brag about my hook up with Alejandro. No shame, he was hot.

[This article was originally written for TWENTY SOMETHING HUMANS]

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Talkin’ Shit

Important note: This post contains a huge amount of poo talk, shit loads of it actually. It’s not for the faint hearted. If you’re someone that dry retches at the thought of someone else taking a dump, or prefers to keep your poo stories between you and your loo, then now might be a good time to stop reading.  

When was the last time you had a good old chat about poo? Does the word ‘poo’ make you squirm? Does it make you giggle? Does it make your stomach churn? Or does it make you yearn for a nice long, peaceful poo? I’ve recently been in Mexico, so poo has been somewhat of a hot topic for me, as I’m sure you can imagine (don’t imagine too hard now). 

Getting gastro/food poisoning/a sombrero wearing, maraca shaking parasite in Mexico, sure helps you break down any reservations that you might have on the topic but it’s not always easy to, pardon the pun, talk shit, especially with new people that you’re meeting along your travels. 

As someone who’s lived to tell the tale (JUST), here’s my guide to talkin shit.   

Humour is essential   

Talking about shit is probably the most real and hilarious thing you could possibly talk about with another person (IMO), especially if you’ve had a bad experience with your bowels– ahem, Bali Belly anyone? Talkin’ shit shows that you’re the type of person that doesn’t take themselves too seriously, just make sure you pick you target wisely because there are a few humans out there that could be utterly offended by your potty humour.  

It’s an easy and fun way to get to know someone very quickly indeed. Get a load of this… 

I was sitting on the toilet in Mexico, my arse on fire, sweat rolling down my…everywhere, with knife stabbing stomach cramps twisting into my gut, thinking, ‘this is how I die.’ I don’t know why everyone doubted Elvis dying on the toilet because I definitely came within inches of my own death. I can confirm it would be the most horrific and smelly death possible. A combination of anti-diarrhoea pills, electrolytes, sleep, lemonade and plain white rice, and one week later I was finally strong enough to add veggies to that plain rice. 

What the doctor didn’t prescribe was a decent dose of laughter. At the end of the day, your body has been through unimaginable pain, all you really need is someone to talk to about your poo problems with and just laugh it out. At least it will cover the tears.   

See…after learning that about me we’re basically Hamish and Andy level best friends now. If you’re still in doubt, I present to you, exhibit B…  

 

   

Judgement Free Zone  

I had a conversation that changed my life. I met a girl, who had actually shit her pants and lived to tell the tale. I sat there mesmerized. I didn’t think that life after SYP (shitting your pants) existed. But there she was, in the flesh, alive and well to share her story with others desperately seeking hope. Now I wouldn’t go as far to say that she’s a saint, but she sure did save me from my toilet of despair.   

When discussing the deeply painful personal stories of poo tragedies, it’s important to understand that person is entrusting you with their deepest darkest shittiest secrets. So hold their hand, hold back that laugh and simply say ‘I’m sorry that happened to you.’ Then you can proceed to burst into laughter and write about them on the internet. 

 

Normalise it  

Have you ever woken up, hungover as hell and had the overwhelming need to take a good long shit? Of course you have, it’s called an after grog bog and we all know it’s an essential (and amazing) part of the hangover experience. But how many of you have endured this pain because you’ve got a stranger in the bed next to you, or your housemates are making brekky in the kitchen, devastatingly located next to the toilet, and the thought of the regrets echoing from the toilet bowel is just too cringe worthy to deal with?  

We know it’s in the natural order, so why do so many of us get scared shitless? Embrace it, announce it to the world! I’m hungover and I need to get rid of this grog bog! It’s all in the discussion, let it out, verbally and physically and we can free ourselves from this toilet shame.   

Now that I’ve overcome my ‘incident’, I feel that I’m a much stronger person, emotionally and physically. I may never be the same again, my stomach might and my butt is permanently haunted, but it’s something I’ve been able to overcome and grow from. I, and I hope you have too, have come to appreciate the fact that poo is a natural part of our lives that we should all be able to talk about. Not all the time, but just now and then. 

[This post was initially written for Twenty Something Humans]

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My New Favourite Country? Travelling Guatemala With G ADVENTURES

Ever since watching Fun For Louis’ ‘Best Coffee in Guatemala’ vlog, Guatemala has been on my radar. And it wasn’t just because of the amazing coffee (yet it was a very big part of my obsession), but the people, the culture and the landscapes seemed incredible. Plus – what did I actually even know about Guatemala? I didn’t even really know where it was! So when I heard my study program in Mexico City didn’t start until the 1st of July, and realising I had three weeks completely free, this was my time to finally go to Guatemala.

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I found an awesome G Adventures tour that spent a week in Guatemala before making it’s way up to Belize and then Mexico. And before I knew it I was landing in Guatemala City.

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ANTIGUA

The first stop was Antigua, where I met my awesome G Adventures Group. There were people from all over the world, Germany (Luisa, my amazing room mate for the trip), Ireland, another fellow Aussie and lots of people from England. Our tour guide was from Costa Rica, thankfully, because it’s quite essential to know some Spanish when travelling in Central America.

As you can tell from the photos below – Antigua is very colourful and extremely beautiful. It is a UNESCO world heritage site for its outstanding universal value and is a backpackers paradise. With an abundance of hotels, hostels, bars, clubs, restaurants, markets and plazas, Antigua will surely steal your heart, just like it did mine.

I must admit, I was completely unprepared for the weather we faced in Guatemala. In my mind I thought ‘ooh Central America… hot.’ But boy was I wrong. A lot of the time it was actually quite cold and it rained a lot, because guess what… it’s their rainy season. So, note to self, always research the weather of the place you’re going before you go there! Lucky for me, this meant I got to buy the coolest purple jacket which you’ll see shortly in some pictures below.

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Lake Atitlán – San Juan and Panajachel

From Antigua, we drove a few hours to Lake Atitlán, this time, prepared for the rain. We shuffled our bags around and packed an overnight bag for our adventures across the lake to San Juan. Here, we were introduced to some local Mayan families, and we were introduced to Marcos and Juana, the family that Luisa and I would stay with for the night. We caught a tuk tuk through the torrential rain to their house with a view that looked up at the giant mountains surrounding the lake.

In Guatemala, there are over 23 different Mayan languages spoken, and Mayan is completely different to Spanish. And nor Luisa or I spoke any Spanish. Yet we did manage to communicate, in very broken English, Spanish and way too many hand gestures, we learnt a lot about life in Guatemala, the Mayan culture and history, and my favourite part, how to make tortillas. Mayan recognition, acceptance and equality has been a struggle for a long time in many Central American countries. For instance, neither X or X went to school and therefore cannot read and write. They work in intense labour jobs to provide for their family. Yet because of their hard work and changing economic and social patterns in Guatemala, all three of their sons attended and completed high school, with one studying at university to become a teacher and the other, a local artist. I will never forget the kindness and generosity that this family showed to Luisa and I. This unique experience of a homestay is unique to G Adventures to their sustainability program ‘Planeterra.’ I was so overwhelmed by the whole experience that I had to leave the table for a minute to shed a tear. It really put my life, values and experiences into perspective and I felt so lucky to be able to learn from one of the worlds oldest civilisations.

After our homestay, we headed back to Panajachel where we spent our last night on the lake.

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Luisa and I enjoying the view
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That volcano!
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The view from San Juan over the lake
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Making Tortillas the traditional Mayan way
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Luisa, Juana and I

Rio Dulce

This was by far one of our longest travel days. It took us approximately 9-10hours by bus to reach Rio Dulce. The roads in Guatemala are windy, prone to landslides, narrow and honestly make no sense. So I chucked some music in and watched the beautiful countryside roll by. Our tour guide Brayan actually managed to buy some DVD’s from the side of the road (I tell you, these people have everything!) so that definitely helped pass the time.

When we finally made it to Rio Dulce, we were welcomed by a to die for pool. After shrivelling up into prunes we settled in for a quiet night.

The next day we did a day trip to the Caribbean seaside town of Livingston, about an hour away from Rio Dulce by boat. We stopped off at some thermal hot springs, lily pad fields and really just enjoyed the stunning view on the incredible Lake De Izabal. Livingston is a really interesting town full of wonderful history and a unique culture. It was actually founded by an escaped African slave, descendants of the Garifuna. Today, there are special programs in place to ensure the preservation of the Garifuna culture and language, which is still widely spoken in Livingston.

Our last morning we went kayaking around the lake to find Howler Monkeys. We unfortunately didn’t see any but we sure did hear them. We did however see a manatee in the river, plus a beautiful sunrise. It was definitely one of the best mornings I’ve ever had.

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Flores

After our kayak, we were off to Flores. But first, an amazing waterfall and thermal hot spring. Paying just 100 Quetzales, let us cross a farmers field and walk the 5 minutes to one of the most incredible waterfalls I’ve ever been to. The water is a nice temperature and very deep – meaning ultimate jumping time! We climbed the rocks to the top of the waterfall where the pools of water at the top are actually a thermal hot spring. The water was so hot it felt like a bath. Once we enjoyed our spa treatment, we took it in turns of jumping from the top. Like any kind of jump rock, it was awesome fun. The best part was you could swim up and under the waterfall and the water that fell on you was super warm – like you were taking a shower. Honestly one of the best waterfalls I’ve ever been to.

Once we arrived in Flores, we jumped straight onto our party boat to start our booze cruise. Considering we had a 5am start the next day, we partied way too hard. Flores looked like such a beautiful town. We cruised around the lake and went to a platform that we could jump off into the lake. There was also a rope swing – which I may have nearly died by using. We would be drinking on the boat, diving off the boat, floating on our backs under the nights sky. It truly was a fabulous night!

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Luisa and I partying on our sunset cruise in Flores

Tikal

After a big night of partying, we somehow managed to get up at 5am to arrive at Tikal by 7am to avoid tourists and the heat. Despite our efforts, we were dripping with sweat at 7:30 so sunscreen and hats were of the upmost importance. We had an extremely knowledgable guide who showed us around the ancient city of Tikal, which used to be one of the epicentres of Mayan culture and civilisations. The pictures really speak for itself!

 

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After being taken back in time to 200AD, were headed off to explore a new country and get some ink in our passport to go to Belize!

Looking back on my time in Guatemala, I really can’t believe all of the incredible places we managed to go in such a short period of time. The diversity of such a small country and the kindness of the people I met will never be forgotten.

This being said, I’m not ignorant of the deep seeded issues faced by this country and it was unfortunately something we saw and experienced.  Gangs and violence are still an extremely prevalent threat to the safety of Guatemalans, economic inequality sees the rich thrive off of the vulnerable and poor and Mayans often face discrimination informally and through formal institutions such as education and work rights.

Throughout travelling this magnificent country, I’ve been able to learn, question and challenge myself and the ideas that I had. Guatemala is a resilient country and through growing popularity in tourism, perhaps this new found income will be able to counter some of these issues. This experience has epitomised the concept that travel is the best form of education and I’m so incredibly grateful and privileged that I’ve been able to explore and learn from such a beautiful country.

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These Are A Few Of My Favourite Things: JUNE 2017

What a freakin whirlwind of a month! I started stressed out of my mind about submitting my final project for the semester at uni, and now I’m en route to Mexico City. And the craziest thing is that this time last year, June was the epic month where I jet setted across to Europe about to commence my French program in La Rochelle. I remember feeling super excited but equally nervous. And I think that’s how I’m feeling right about now, sitting in Cancun airport with an overpriced salad and burnt coffee. But before I get too ahead of myself, let’s throwback to the epic adventures had this month!

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💕 Friends

What’s a month without some epic memories with some amazing friends of mine. Everything from house parties, gigs, dinners, library study seshes, and even my friend Max visiting all the way from Montreal! I especially loved going to my friend Pete’s gig at Rad bar (plz don’t forget me when you’re famous) and going out in Sydney with my besties and family before jetting off. I’m so lucky to have such amazing friends who show me such kindness and support and I’m always grateful to have them in my life so huge shout out to y’all.

❤️Family

Mum you get a special shout out here because I’ll always be grateful that you come to the airport with me at 6am just to make sure I’m all checked in and to give me one last hug and kiss goodbye. It’s probably the sweetest thing ever and one of the many reasons I love you.

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🎆 VIVID

My favourite time of year in Sydney! Winter’s finally kicked in which means boots, coats, scarves and the need to galavant around Sydney Harbour. I actually didn’t take my camera so you’ll have to settle for this iPhone shot of the Opera House, but I had such an amazing time taking in all of the beautiful lights of this city.

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🇺🇸LA

Woo! Back in LA baby! Words really can’t describe how happy I was to be back in LA. Despite horrible jet lag and forgetting my PJ’s (how do I always forget my pyjamas!?), it was amazing to be back in some sunshine and back in Santa Monica. I went into full holiday mode – taking myself out to lunch, long walks on the beach, shopping at Brandy Melville (yay!) and catching up with friends, it’s easy to see how this place is loved by so many.

🇬🇹 🇧🇿 🇲🇽 Central America

Now this is where the whirlwind starts… 17 days of exploring, drinking, hiking, jumping off of waterfalls, 10 hour long travel days, going to a rave in an empty swimming pool, sailing in the Carribean sea, swimming with sharks, countless boats, eating so many tacos, getting sick, staying with a Mayan family, learning Spanish, meeting the most amazing people, swimming with turtles (I’m in love with those turtles), and getting the most sunburnt ass I’ve ever had….. doing the Mayan Sun tour with G Adventures from Guatemala, through Belize and to Mexico has definitely been one of the best experiences of my life. I felt challenged, inspired, motivated, educated and a little slimmer because of getting sick, but I honestly wouldn’t change a thing about it (except maybe the sickness part). Watch this space for more posts about the specifics of the trip!

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My amazing German roomie on the G Adventures trip! #iminlovewiththoseturtles
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Our awesome G Adventures crew in Antigua

🎥 Flicks

Moonlight. The best thing about long plane rides, is that you get to watch a fair few movies. And when I saw this on the list I couldn’t press play fast enough. After winning best picture, damn I was so intrigued. It’s an absolutely beautiful film with some honest, raw and incredible scenes that really stick.

Lion. Note to self – when watching this on the plane – prepare the tissues! Dev Patel is absolutely outstanding and this incredible true story will have you in tears and filled with love. Honestly can’t recommend enough!

What If. Daniel Radcliff is slowly stripping away his Harry Potter label and I’m loving it! This film literally had me laughing out loud, cringing and just really enjoying this cute, artistic and creative film.

🎶 Tunes

MØ – Nights With You. Ah I’ve literally had this on repeat and I’m addicted. It’s just so damn catchy and I can never get it out of my head!

Chronixx – Here Comes Trouble. This song just takes me right back to Belize…. enough said.

📷 Bloggers & Vloggers

I really haven’t been watching many vloggers lately! GASP! But the one guy that I keep going back to, and keep absolutely freakin loving… is my man, Logan Paul. So here’s a cute photo of him that I’m in love with…. ah.

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@LoganPaul

📝 Quote

Again, because this month has been so hectic and so fast paced, I haven’t exactly had a quote or motto to get me through. I was just taking it one day at a time and doing the best I could with it. When we were travelling around Central America, a lot of the time we didn’t have access to wifi, or functional wifi so I never took my phone out with me. And as ridiculous as it sounds, it was so refreshing turning off.

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So… that’s done. I can’t believe how quickly this month flew by. And I’m afraid July is going to do the exact same thing! I’m so incredibly grateful for the incredible experiences I’ve had, especially in Central America with the special memories created. This July, I’ll be spending 4 weeks in Mexico City studying Immigration, Human Rights and Mexican Society. It’s an AIM Overseas course (and if you remember correctly, I studied in La Rochelle with AIM – so you already know how amazing their programs are and you can certainly expect lots of blogs and posts from Cuidad de México!

Upcoming Travel Plans (3 NEW COUNTRIES)

You know me, a few months at home and my feet are already itching for a new adventure. But how, when, where? After returning from my epic trip to Europe and North America, I’m pretty broke and most people assume I’m going to quietly finish my degree and prepare for adult life. HELL NO! When have I ever done anything quietly, or done what is expected of me? OK, enough foreplay, let’s jump straight into the juicy details of my epic travel plans.

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Lake Atitlán, Guatemala

Where: USA, Guatemala, Belize & Mexico

Flying into Los Angeles, I’ll be spending a few nights adjusting to jetlag and just embracing being back in that fabulous city again. Then I’ll be flying to Antigua (Guatemela) to start a 16 day G Adventures tour called the Mayan Sun (click here for more tour info).

From Cancun, I’ll be flying to Mexico City where I’ll spend 3 weeks, before returning to LA and then back to Sydney for the start of Spring semester (and my last semester at university).

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What: G Adventures Tour & AIM Overseas Short Course

Mayan Sun: 16 days exploring the best of Central America! And it looks pretty freakin epic. Through Guatemala, Belize and ending up in Playa del Carmen in Mexico, it’s definitely going to be 2 and a half hectic, crazy and amazing weeks of adventure. Between Mayan ruins, pyramids, islands, rainforests, beaches and jungles…. I’m not sure if anything can really prepare me for this adventure. The map of the itinerary is below.

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Mayan Sun (Northbound)

AIM Overseas: If you’ve been following my journey for a while now, you would have known that last year I did an AIM Overseas short course in La Rochelle, France (if you missed it, you can catch up here). I’m back and doing another one. I’ll be studying Immigration, Human Rights & Mexican Society for 3 weeks in Mexico City. Over th course of 3 weeks, we’ll be exploring and learning about the history of migration patters and relations between USA and Mexico, different push and pull factors and looking at who are migrants (women, children, illegal immigrants, workers, care takers etc). I know this experience will be hugely confrontation, but I believe what I will learn and gain from this experience will shape and influence my career objectives and motivate me even more to change the world. Program info is here if you want to find out more.

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Mexico City. 

How: Government Funding and Graduation

I know that I’m super lucky to live and study in Australia, a country that supports my tertiary education and experience. I will receive an OS-Help Loan (a loan of $6500) that goes onto my HECS, along with the rest of my education fees and I only start paying off my student debt once I start earning over $50000 a year (freakin amazing system and I’m so grateful). This loan is designed to assist students with the costs of studying overseas (flights, program fees etc). If it wasn’t for this loan, I would not be able to afford to participate.

The degree I’m studying is International Studies/Communications, and as part of my degree, the university encourages us to travel and study abroad. Therefore, I’m able to receive credit towards my degree to help me graduate (pretty cool hey?!).

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Tikal, Guatemala

Over to you

So now I’ve told you my plans, now I need your advice, input and expertise. Have you been to any of these places? Do you have any tips, advice, words of wisdom? Any must see places? Must eat, drink, buy? Please let me know because I’d love to hear from you!

Well – there you go, my epic travel plans for July. I know it’s going to come around in the blink of an eye so watch this space!

Peace!