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Sunday, 11 August 2019

Back again!!!

Welcome back, friends!

I know it has been nearly a year since I wrote my last post with no indication that I was going to stop writing because really I had no idea that I was going to stop writing and take such a long break. I have no exact or dramatic reason why I stopped writing last November, except that I think I just needed a break and not dedicated myself to being online as much - but now I'm back with many new and exciting travel posts to catch you up on for 2019.

The biggest news in my life, after living in London for almost a year now, I have recently started a new job. In July I left The British Red Cross (BRC) after being there for a just over a year in my role as Technical Team Assistant in the International Directorate to join the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) as their new Programme Officer for the Human Mobility Initiative which is their migration programme. You can see my profile and what they are all about here. ODI is the biggest think tank in Europe and my boss is Marta Foresti, one of the leading experts in refugee and migration issues, which I think was one of the biggest draw points to leaving BRC, listening to her knowledge is incredible for anyone who is interested in migration like me. Anyway, it has been a month so far and I think I'm very slowly getting to grips with things, but I'll try to keep you all updated! It is only an 18-month contract at the moment, and while it might get extended, I think I am going to try and get my PhD in Eastern European Nationalism and Migration at the University of Reading, which I was planning to do this year before I took the job at ODI.

Travel-wise, since I last wrote about being in Edinburgh, I was in Sri Lanka in January, South Africa in March, Bologna in Italy in May, Iceland and Washington D.C. in June and I have booked trips to South Korea and Japan in October and Jamacia in December over New Year's Eve and I think there may be one trip with work to Geneva possibly. So it's not been too bad really haha! I will be writing more detailed posts on all of these trips over the coming weeks with photos included.

I am also planning to re-start the London series of posts that I promised last year, so let me know if there is anything you want me to write about or investigate in London!

Lastly, The Basic Traveller boutique travel service is open for business so if you need any travel advice or would like to book a holiday with me, do get in touch with your budget, destination and dates and I can provide you with student-friendly options as required.

See you next week for a post on Sri Lanka,

Have a good week my loves!

Lots of Love, Kate xxx

Monday, 5 November 2018

Edinburgh on the map

Right, last week I had my first whole week off since....since I can't actually remember the last time I had a full week off...maybe it was when I just moved back from Paris, I think it was. Anyway, I digress, as I was saying, last week I finally had a full week off, coinciding with a lot of half terms so my housemate and very good friend Emma could go away for a few days as cheaply as possible as we were both feeling painfully skint. So, after much haggling and lowering of expectations, we both realised that as much as we had travelled globally, we hadn't really explored our own backyard that much, and thus we settled on a 3 day trip to Edinburgh, Scotland.

The Royal Mile

Scotland is somewhere I've had on my bucket list for aaaaggessss, partly due to my obsession with Outlander, partly because I love the Scottish accent, and partly because everyone who goes there always comes back with tales about how great it was, and as it is so close, I knew I had to go and see it for myself.

We had it all booked, a cheap Ryanair (boo) early morning flight from Stanstead to Edinburgh, returning two days later and staying in a budget Airbnb room, all costing about £80 each...not bad for a city break. Unfortunately, it wasn't to be, no romantic reasoning except the fact that Emma seems to actually enjoy working with children who manage to make her ill at the most inconvenient times, so she actually didn't make it up to the highlands with me. In the end, I called on my mother who jumped on the train and came to join me.

Staying in our Airbnb on Albany Street meant that we were within walking distance to most of the sights of Edinburgh.

Wandering down the Royal Mile, past the sound of bagpipes and further into the heart of the city to the George IV bright, in true tourist fashion, we headed to The Elephant House Cafe for breakfast - this cafe was supposedly the place where JK Rowling first wrote Harry Potter - whether this tale is true or not is neither here nor there, but one thing about The Elephant House is its breathtaking view of Edinburgh Castle.

From here, we headed to the Dovecot Gallery, an old swimming baths-turned-gallery, which is currently housing an exhibition of Liberty fabrics - very niche for those who like fashion and textiles, but even a complete novice like me can appreciate the beautifully patterned fabrics and dresses from 1920/30s all the way through to modern day.

Following this, no touristy visit to Edinburgh could be complete without a trip to the castle, so braving the biting winds, up to the castle we went. Seeing the Scottish Crown jewels were cool enough, but the best part was definitely the Victoria sponge cake and royal tea in the tea rooms - 10/10 would eat again!

View from Edinburgh Castle

For those on a budget, a great place to go in Edinburgh that I ended up in twice was the Scottish National Gallery, free to enter, it has some pretty cool paintings, and for someone like me who struggles to enjoy galleries to say it, means it must be good.

Great restaurants to check out in Edinburgh that we tried were:

- Chaophraya: a Thai restaurant on George Street, averagely priced, good portions, busy so worth booking - even on a Wednesday night in October, but the selling point of this place is deffo the city views over Edinburgh, and on a good day you can see all the way to Fife!

 - The Magnum: serving traditional Scottish food with a modern uplift, located on Albany Street, I would recommend the Fish and Chips, and the Cullen Skink - classic Scottish creamy fish chowder.

 - The White Witch; an Italian/Scottish Bistro on Broughton Street, this place seems to be open all hours, the lunch and dinner menu looked mouthwatering, but I had the veggie breakfast, served with fresh tomatoes and classic Italian balsamic vinegar which was utterly delicious!

If you do decide to take a city break in Edinburgh, the Edinburgh Playhouse is worth checking out as they have some great off-London performances for half the price, especially for under-25s midweek. We saw a great rendition of Saturday Night Fever that had me siging all the way home!

What's your favourite part of Edinburgh? Let me know?!

Have a good week my loves!

Lots of Love, Kate xxx

Monday, 29 October 2018


Hello lovely people, 

There was no post last week because, well honestly I'm slightly useless and forgot. However, I'm back in the game now and I am currently in the process of writing a new post about my short but sweet trip to Edinburgh this past week which should hopefully be coming out soon. 
Anyway, to tide you over, I have asked one of my lovely regular readers, Franceska Azizi, to write a guest post about her European internship at Proymse, an EU initiative that she will explain all about - much better than I would do it justice. Although I am mainly travel-focused with content on this blog, as many of you know I also work for the British Red Cross in my day to day job and I am very interested in development and policy work so Franceska's post fits right in!
Please do share any lovely comments you have, otherwise sit back, relax, and enjoy my second guest post on The Basic Traveller!

Have a great week my loves, 

Lots of Love, Kate xxx

Franceska's Post:

Recently, I had the tremendous fortune of traveling to and attend the Promyse staff training event in Vilnius, Lithuania.
This took place as part of a short-term staff training event put on through IARS International institute among other representatives, including Diesis COOP based in Belgium, Diversity Development Group in Vilnius, ICSE & Co in Italy and finally, KMOP in London. All teams came together to discuss Promyse - a project that was founded by the European Commission, with the objective to promote social entrepreneurship in the health and social care sector.
The whole journey was an unreal experience and greatly expanded my own perspective on the world, youth engagement and of the increasing importance of social enterprise. My fellow colleague, Natalia and I met at Liverpool Street Station to get the train to Stansted Airport. Upon arriving at the hotel at 1am, we retired for the night and prepared ourselves for the busy week ahead.
On our first day, we all ushered into the meeting room where we would experience our first encounter with the rest of the team and prepared for the introduction and team building, along with the social networking. Towards the evening, we had a relaxed walk around the beautiful city of Vilnius. There is a variety of Soviet architecture in the city and remarkable buildings like the Seimas Palace which is a symbol of resistance of the Lithuanian nation against Soviet occupation. The Soviet era and its architecture have left indelible traces in the city and these resonate with its residents.
On the second day, meetings and presentation began at 9am. I was the first person to kick start the session by presenting “Young Carers and Employment in the United Kingdom” and during this half an hour of  presenting I covered the current projects Natwest Skill up and Promyse and how the UK is focusing on socioeconomic development in youth through social programs, education and various empowerment projects.
Afterwards, we would observe the second session which was titled “Thematic presentation of EU situation and good practice” carried out by Diesis COOP. Along with the thematic presentation of the country situation in Greece and Italy. Finally, Social entrepreneurship in Lithuania: development, current situation and future plans”. 
Throughout the week we were exposed to a variety of social enterprise businesses scattered around the city, including Senjoro and Social Taxi - an enterprise revolving around caring for elderly people. It was a heart-warming experience to be exposed to the people coming together to restore justice to the system and make the community as inclusive as possible.
The people I met on the trip, I found to be most gracious and helpful and bonds that I will forever cherish. In the evenings we planned social dinners and sightseeing, one of the visits being Trakai Castle, only before we slowly realised it was the wrong stop, we quickly jumped back in the train!
In the end, I returned from Vilnius as a changed young individual trying their best at life. While there my perspective became more enriched by truly dedicated team members and with a few meaningful relationships fostered with those I had spent time with. I will forever be grateful for the opportunity I had to take part in this trip. Initiatives such as Promyse and Eurodesk UK are ever so important in promoting opportunities for young people beyond the UK.
Now more than ever, I am committed to working towards a more inclusive, global and understanding society.

Monday, 8 October 2018

Working 9-5

While many of my recent posts have been focusing on all things travel, I am facing a little bit of a travel lull at the moment due to the fact I am now working for 'the man' and have limited time off and funds - but don't worry dear readers, you'll be seeing more of The Basic Traveller antics coming up in the next few months as I've got a few trips booked and some more in the pipeline.

Anyway, I thought I might let you into my (albeit quite dull) routine of London living at the moment. Okay, so that's a bit harsh, what I mean is that yes, I have a 9-5, and while some people might disparage that, for the large majority of us, it is needed, because while I am the biggest advocate for travelling, for jetting off to the other side of the world or just falling off the map, sometimes a bit of 9-5 is needed. Firstly, to be able to afford to go anywhere you do sometimes need to be able to bring in the big bucks, it just makes things a little bit easier, and also to be able to get what we want out of life, sometimes that sort of stability is needed.

Now I'm not saying a 9-5 is the only way to achieve this,  or to do it, and there are various other versions of a 9-5, and not all of them are great, believe me, I've had my fair share of brain-numbingly dull 9-5's. Yet, one thing they have taught me is that stability is needed for a lot of people, and for many, that stability is what is keeping their mental health in check, being able to be secure in the knowledge that they can control and know exactly what is going to happen in their day. Sometimes they bring a sense of security that you know what you are doing, they provide measurable progress in a career or work environment.

For many, they don't want this, they thrive off being out of control, and I get that, I love waking up in a different country and not know what the day is going to bring me, and while I've heard it so many times that your twenties is the time to be free with your career, to quit your job and go wherever the mood takes you, and don't get me wrong, I love this idea, I guess what I'm trying to say is that a 9-5 is not all bad if you are doing what you like, working towards an end goal, working for something bigger than yourself, or whatever reason you are working for you. Maybe it is to support a family, maybe it is to buy your dream house, perhaps you simply need that mental stability that routine brings, or simply just to be able to pay rent this month, whatever reason is you, then that's fine. I have seen so many things floating around on the internet on the moment talking about how travel is the only way to go, how those who haven't travelled haven't lived, how everyone needs to quit their job and go travel, and I've been thinking about, while this is aspirational for some, it is also detrimental for others that don't have this luxury, those with responsibilities, or for those who simply don't want to. Wherever your goal lies, whatever aspiration - that's you.

I've been properly working full time for the British Red Cross for 2 months now, and while I finally feel like I might be getting somewhere and actually know what I am doing, it is easy to get caught up with seeing how the other half live, Instagram pictures of sandy beaches and beautiful sunsets, I know what I am doing is making a difference to someone somewhere. I know that I am lucky to be able to work for a charity/auxiliary governmental organisation that can actually make a big difference, but nonetheless, it is still a 9-5 like everyone else.

I think what I am trying to say in all these mad ramblings is that, if you want to travel your life, that's fine, if you want a job, that's fine, if you need to have a job to fund your travel that's also fine too. Recently, I've been thinking that just because I have a 9-5 now that I've kinda 'sold out' or become boring, but I know that to be a load of bullshit, I just gotta do what I have to in order to be able to finally move out (which I've done) and support myself (which I can). So suck it world.

Have a good week my loves,

Lots of Love, Kate xx

Monday, 1 October 2018

Airbnb vs. Hotels

As I may have mentioned just a few times before, I have a love of Airbnb just a little bit. So it was suggested to me by my contact at STA for me to write a comparison piece, and while STA are getting something else, I thought it was a good idea anyway.

So, enough rambling!


Let’s start with Airbnb, a phenomenon that took off about 10 years ago now, Airbnb works on the premise of a kind of house sharing community vibe. You can rent whole apartments to yourself or just a room in someone’s house – and there are options to stay on boats, in castles, in yurts, up treehouses, etc. wherever you could sleep, Airbnb has it in some shape or form. They have also recently launched into providing Airbnb experiences in which local people or freelancers can advertise their services. While I haven’t yet tried the experiences side yet, I have used Airbnb for the last 2 years, staying in many different properties, from riads to city apartments to holiday villas, and I have never had a bad experience. Personally, I think Airbnbs are great because they give you the flexibility of cooking for yourself and most come with a kitchen or at least kitchen access, although I have only ever rented the whole apartment.

The down side to Airbnb, like a hotel, is that sometimes you can end up with some dodgy places that actually aren’t anything like the photos, so make sure you read the reviews and trawl through the options before you settle on your dream holiday accommodation. Another negative is that Airbnb is running the more independent hotels and B&Bs out of business which I don’t appreciate, although I see I am part of the problem and don’t profess to have the answer to this quite yet. Also, many places, like Barcelona, are imposing fines on Airbnb for setting up in their area.

As I’ve mentioned before Airbnb did save my ass in Calais once when I was left without accommodation so I would definitely rate it on that alone, within an hour of booking it we were in the apartment, couldn’t ask for any more than that!

Say what you will about Airbnb but it is defiantly changing the face of the way we travel.

Don't forget to sign up to Airbnb through my link here and save yourself some dolla on your first trip!


As much as I love Airbnb, I do love a good hotel. For me, this is the difference between a holiday (where I might go for a hotel) and travelling (more likely to use an Airbnb or hostel – apart from city breaks).

If I’m going to book a hotel it means one of two things for me – either I have cash to burn and want to be pampered in a luxurious hotel, or I’m going for the all-inclusive beach type holiday. I love that I can have dinner from my bed, that there’s a pool, a bar, a terrace, etc. all the things in life you would want to relax – this is my idea of a hotel and a holiday. 

Hotels are brilliant, all service venues, but I would say that their downside is the lack of ability to cook for yourself – but then if I am picking a hotel, I would know I would be eating out every day and account for that. Also, generally they are more expensive than Airbnbs, although obviously you usually get more provided for this. And finally, I wouldn’t book a hotel if I was going away as part of a big group due to the lack of private communal areas.

Verdict: As always, depends on your budget, for me, I truly can’t decide unhelpfully! Let me know what you prefer!!

Have a good week my loves,

Lots of Love, Kate xxx

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