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Anniversary Post: Why We Write

Today marks one year since Anthem took to the internet, and began its journey to provide a platform for women. In a year, we’ve written about a lot; from bras and sex work to theatre and cooking. All that matters for us, is that women get the chance to talk about what they want to talk about and that they are heard.

We thought to celebrate our birthday that some of us would say a little bit about what we’re actually doing here, and why we choose to write for Anthem.

 

SIAN BRETT

sianabout

In Anthem, Briony has created a platform for women to have a voice, and talk about the things that might otherwise go unsaid. To vent frustrations, and question the things that affect us every day. We say ‘I’m right pissed off about this thing’ and she says ‘write it’ and before you know it, people are agreeing with you on Facebook, and Twitter, and saying they know what you mean, and yeah, me too.

That’s why I love it. It’s a sharing, a conversation, a dialogue. It’s a chance to properly lay out what’s going on inside your head, and strip back fucked up media representations of women. To have other women share your experiences with you, but also to have them share other, different experiences.

It’s women’s voices, rising in a chorus. Isn’t that just the best thing?

 

JESSICA YANG

A lot can change in a year. You can move house, you can start Brexit, and you could even become president of the United States (because apparently anyone can these days). But there are some things that take much longer than a year.

Feminism is recognised to have begun in the late 19th century – with the long and hard claim to the right to vote. Three waves and hundreds of variations later, we are here. We are still fighting. There is still gender inequality, and misogyny, and people telling children ‘boys don’t cry’. As feminists, we have evolved. We have succeeded in so much, but there is so much still to overcome. Whether it takes a year, or ten, or a hundred.

It’s not just about fair and equal treatment of men and women anymore. This fight is about mental health, the media, and, like all those years ago, politics. And so this is why I am a feminist. This is why I write for Anthem.

AMBER BERRY

I write for Anthem because feminism is, and has been a passion of mine for years.

I find writing cathartic, and it is key to my self-expression. It also has the awesome added bonus of raising the awareness of important topics!

 

ROWAN DUVAL-FRYER

Why Anthem? Because I see the gaps in the media, in the magazines, in the news, and I want to fill them.

I feel that Anthem is about more than feminism, it’s about challenging sexist norms, opening up about fears, and being honest about the fact that we all really hate exercise.

This inspirational group of young women are representing the people I wanted to see represented and that is something I want to be a part of!

LARA SCOTT

Lara SCOTT STA SAME PLS

I look forward to writing for Anthem because in these divisive and turbulent times it is a great source of hope to have online which is created and written by, for and about women.

Full of intelligence, inspiration and support.

Finally, from us all: 

Thank you again for you support, we can’t wait to see what the future has in store for Anthem.

I’m tired of fighting.

I’m a 20-year-old woman in her final semester of university, and in my spare time I write and edit for this website that I started almost a year ago. I haven’t posted much recently for two reasons: firstly, I’ve been working on a dissertation among a few other deadlines at university, and secondly, I’m exhausted.

My friends all like to wind me up for being a feminist. They like to tell me about stupid things people have said who claim to be feminist but aren’t (if you hate men, you’re not a feminist, so if you would kindly stop dragging the rest of us down, I’d be grateful). I have colleagues too, everyone enjoys telling me about stupid things ‘feminists’ have done, or how they enjoy taking them down online. Obviously, for them, it’s very funny, but for me, it’s wearing. I always clarify what feminism is and why I believe in it, but it doesn’t stop it. 

“Power to the Girls”

When I see girls, particularly younger girls and teens wearing t-shirts that say anything feminist, I smile. I’m so glad that the work of previous generations won’t end, and I’m hopeful that the future will be better. But I’m also not an idiot. I know full well that some minds won’t be changed. I know that Trump isn’t going to come out tomorrow and say ‘Gee those feminists are on to something’, nor are the Daily Mail going to cover female politicians saying ‘aren’t these women smart and powerful’ instead of talking about their legs (don’t get me started).

I know we aren’t equal. We don’t think equal. And I can’t help but agree with Emma Watson in thinking that we won’t be equal. I don’t see equality in my lifetime. I’d love to, but if it took a woman getting crushed by a horse to get us the bloody vote, I dare not ask what it would take to get where we want to be. 

I’m a feminist. I don’t really care about my personal equal pay because I’m paid the same as my male colleagues, but I care about the statistics suggesting black women lose out on almost 40% of white men’s wages1234. It’s not about me, but I still care about it. I raise an issue with men’s pressure to be manly and unemotional as it leads to dangerous numbers of suicides and mental health issues. I struggle with the international treatment of women such as FGM, truancy because of periods, rape, child marriage, and so on. It’s not something I will experience in this country, so should I just turn a blind eye? No, because I’m not an arsehole. This is deathly important and we’re all just making out like it’s not our problem.

The skirt in question…

I face issues in this country that anger me on a daily basis. It was the hottest weekend of the year so far recently so naturally, I wore a skirt, but with trainers and a long sleeve top. That didn’t matter though, legs were visible, so three different men in cars slowed to shout things or whistle. You can bet that made me feel horrible. I wanted to put my jeans back on and suffer in the heat because I felt so uncomfortable that 3 different cars of men felt perfectly comfortable to make comments on my appearance and sexualise me. It’s absolutely disgusting. It is not a compliment to make someone feel unsafe. I don’t need to excuse myself, that is not a compliment.  

I’m really sick of being called girly for liking pink, watching a lot of Julia Roberts films, and shopping excessively. These things make me happy (plus I walk double my normal steps a day when I shop so at least I’m exercising), but it’s stupid because I’m a girl and girls are stupid. I’m just so fed up. I could honestly just curse for hours and throw things because I’m so damn sick of all of it.

Why should I get stressed out because I care about something that is inherently right? It is moral, and just. It is not that we are asking a lot, we are asking for life as it should be. I should not be less than a man, nor treated less than, because I am not less than a man. I am equal. I am equal to a man. 

The necklace I now wear on a daily basis

I’m so tired of doing this. Sometimes I don’t want to do it anymore. Sometimes I think, like right now, that I don’t want to be a feminist anymore because it’s so much hard work and no one cares in the slightest what I think. I feel as though I’m wasting my time, and annoying my friends. It’s ridiculous. I shouldn’t have to fight in the first place, let alone be questioned for doing the right thing. I know I’ll post this and someone will either question a point I have made, or people will continue to joke about being a woman or a feminist and how I am lesser.

As someone who struggles to keep her head up a great deal of the time, I don’t really need the extra negative emotion that comes with pushing the way I do. I’m constantly down, or humiliated, or angered, or panicked, or uncomfortable and I could cry just thinking about how bad I am made to feel. I just want it to stop.

I’m doing the right thing. So either join me or leave me alone because I can’t leave this fight. I made a commitment, I started a platform to help, and I can’t quit. It’s so exhausting and even if I don’t want to do it anymore, I have to. If you have no support to offer, I’d kindly ask you to leave off, and save everyone the unnecessary negative emotion; there’s enough going around as it is. 

The Guardian: ‘Gender wage gap costs minority women more than $1m in some states
2 National Women’s Law Centre: ‘The Lifetime Wage Gap by State for Black Women
Bustle: ‘8 Startling Statistics That Show How The Pay Gap Affects Women Of Color Differently
4 American Association of University Women: ‘The Simple Truth about the Gender Pay Gap

Words and images by Briony Brake

Here’s to Michelle

As if it wasn’t bad enough that Donald Trump is becoming the second most powerful man in the world this month (second only to Vladimir Putin), the White House will simultaneously be losing potentially the most inspiring and captivating First Lady it has ever had. Michelle Obama has been the role model that America needs; inspiring women of all backgrounds and ethnicities that anything is possible if you put your mind to it, and not to let anyone hold you back.

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 If I’m ever feeling a bit down, or doubting myself,  or (especially) if I’m pulling an all-nighter, and need motivation to finish an essay, I tend to watch a bit of Michelle to get me back on track.  Not only does she have a law degree from Princeton and Harvard Law School, she’s also launched a campaign, ‘Let’s Move!’ in an attempt to combat childhood obesity, and she’s used her position as a way to encourage girls to pursue the careers they are interested in (‘Let Girls Learn’).

Michelle has also been extremely vocal about being a black woman in America, and the challenges those facing discrimination come up against. On top of all that, Michelle has never been afraid to be herself; she’s even been shopping with Ellen DeGeneres and on Carpool Karaoke with James Corden. Not to mention she’s also raised two kids…

Here are some of my favourite Michelle quotes that will hopefully get you through those exam/ January/ dissertation/ general blues:

1. “I wanted them to understand that the measure of any society is how it treats its women and girls. And I told them that they deserve to be treated with dignity and respect, and I told them that they should disregard anyone who demeans or devalues them, and that they should make their voices heard in the world”

Talking about meeting young girls in the US and around the world in her New Hampshire Speech Oct 2016.

2.There is no limit to what we, as women, can accomplish, whether that’s in politics or in other fields.”

Talking about what she tells her daughters in a 2012 speech about the US.

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3. “The women we honour today teach us three very important lessons. One, that as women, we must stand up for ourselves. The second, as women, we must stand up for each other. And finally, as women, we must stand up for justice for all.”

In a speech in 2009 at the Women of Courage Awards.

4. “If had worried about who liked me and who thought I was cute when I was your age, I wouldn’t be married to the president of the United States today… Compete with the boys…Beat the boys.

During a panel session hosted by Glamour in September 2015.

 

So there’s your inspiration and reminder that you can do this. Go slay x

 

Words by Sophy Edmunds
Photos and videos by NY Times, The Late Late Show with James Corden/YouTube, and Let Girls Learn/the White House.

 

Stop WINE-ing About Women Drinking

 I am fully and wholly aware that alcohol is bad for you. It’s bad for your physical and mental health. It is a drug.

But my god it’s fun, isn’t it? When you’ve had a few, and you dance your way back from the pub, eating some chips that taste like the best chips ever… and it is my god damn right to do that.

In the wake of New Years and Christmas festivities there have been a spate of ‘oh no binge drinking women how awful’ articles in the typically awful right-wing press. The narratives of these stories are often about how terrible it is for us young girls to go out in short skirts, or heels, and to get merry. They depict us as ‘messes’, as out of control, or loose.

If you’re decrying young women going out and acting disgracefully on nights out, you should probably stop putting photos of it in national newspapers.

I am sure that some of this notion of women going and getting drunk being a terrible thing stems from the fact that many of these women probably end up having one night stands, and that many people still have a problem with women being in charge of their own sexuality and sexual freedoms.

I wonder if there’s a rise in young women drinking because the pressure on us to be everything is so intense that we need something after a long day of the patriarchy to take the edge off.

Or if it’s because we are made to feel so constantly self-conscious and aware of our looks -as that is taught to be the only thing that defines us – that having a drink is sometimes the quickest way to feel good about ourselves.

In her article ‘Pictures Of Today’s Young Women That Make Me Weep’ (I’m not going to link you to it or even suggest that you look it up because any more hits on their website is exactly what The Mail wants, and I’m loathed to ever give them what they want, the absolute fucks), Sarah Vine writes “[e]ven more depressing, however, is the fact that these are not the usual suspects – thuggish male louts or football hooligans – we see brawling and barfing their way to destruction; but young women”.

OKAY. LET’S DELVE IN. Vine seems to be suggesting here that if it were ‘the usual suspsects’ that would somehow be okay, and that the fact that it’s not makes it worse. She even calls it ‘depressing’.  

I wonder why, Sarah Vine, wife of Michael Gove, young women would feel the need to go out and get rat-arsed these days. No idea? Me neither, Sarah Vine, wife of Michael Gove.

I’m not okaying binge drinking. It’s silly, and foolish, and is a strain on public services. People put themselves in dangerous positions and many die or are hurt. I’m just saying that being a woman doing it is not any worse than being a man doing it.

Also, being drunk is a right laugh. There is something intensely powerful about a group of girls on a night out. It is one of my favourite places to be. When you give up with glasses and swig from the bottle, and do each other’s eyeliner and cackle. When you hold back your mate’s hair as they’re sick in a bin. My two best friends from school and me would take it in turns to be the most drunk on a night out so no one was always the one doing the looking after. That’s not being a ‘mess’ that’s being considerate. Rae Earl put it best on Twitter when she said this:

Vine’s article also says this: “These girls have grown up in a post-feminist society that tells them anything a man can do, they can do better. And that includes getting monumentally, catastrophically bladdered.”

You know what?

Yeah. It does. Today’s young women can do whatever they bloody like. Have a drink mate. Mine’s a pint.

Words by Sian Brett (@sian_brett)
Tweet by Rae Earl (@RaeEarl)

#Cam4Art

Let’s just state the obvious here; we’re glued to our electronic devices. Even if you consider yourself someone who is not glued to an electronic product, you probably still use one to make life a bit easier. But this article is not about how you might ignore your Grandma to check on your Instagram likes, this article is about a new movement in the art world called #Cam4Art!

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#Cam4Art is a product of our time, an event responding to digital intimacy and our intense internet culture.

#Cam4Art is a live-streaming performance art event created by my home-dawg Kia Nicole Noakes and Nicholas Tee. #Cam4Art will be taking place between the 25th-30th of November 2016 and is possibly the most accessible piece of performance art you could ask for, and you should not miss out on this opportunity! Here are just a few of its benefits:

  •   #Cam4Art is completely free!
  •   Even if art is unlikely to gain a double tap from you, #Cam4Art includes over 30 artists from across the globe who produce different forms of performance art. So there’s a chance you’ll find someone you will enjoy!
  •   #Cam4Art is online! No matter where you are or what device you are using; you can watch and enjoy performance art without the hassle of leaving your house!
  •   If you miss the #Cam4Art event, it’s not a problem! The performances will be recorded for you to look back on!

Before you grab your diary and save the date, I’ve selected four female artists who I’ve taken an interest in and who will hopefully interest you also, and may even feed your feminist appetite!

Emily Roderick
“Microscope Performance II”
Friday, 25th Nov. 21:00 (GMT)

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Emily Roderick uses technology such as digital microscopes and screens to explore her body and surroundings during a live art performance, and you can see more of her work here: http://cargocollective.com/emilyroderick

Why did you choose performance art to express your work?
I find performance art one of the most interesting art forms for both the artist and the audience. With quite a strong interest in the senses, the body, and digital identity, performing my ideas felt like the most suited form. I am relatively new to performance but it already feels like a very valuable decision that I have made within my work.

What responses do you get from the feminist community?
The feminist community have been very supportive of the work that I make. I think what has been most intriguing is the interest and support of the technology that I am integrating into my performances and videos. It is great as a woman to be working with code and physical computing. Embracing a male-strong industry within my practice has brought me nothing but respect as an artist. Due to only recently getting my face into the art world, most of the support resonates on social media, which is great when I am referencing cyberfeminism and networked feminism. I hope that this support continues to build within the artists community.

Do you ever get any negative responses from people who claim to be feminists? If so, how do you respond?
I personally haven’t received any negative responses about my work or ideas. I’d like to think that people approve of my ideas and like to promote feminism, more recently cyberfeminism. If I were to receive anything negative, I would be interested in hearing their view and why they feel that way. I am not here to preach but would express the ideas of equality, and that art is a great platform to express these views to a wider audience.

Why have you chosen to participate to #Cam4Art?
I first saw mention of #Cam4Art through my university. I was attracted to the fact that the organisers were pitching their ideas to a wide range of artists and were keen to get students involved. The ideas seemed fresh, and looked to celebrate the online platforms that we have access to today, as well as suggesting new platforms for exhibiting work. Despite having a digital aspect to my work, I was yet to experiment with the online world to display my live performances. #Cam4Art seemed like the perfect way to explore the online community and give an alternative output of my current work.

Lindsay Dye
“Variety Show”

Friday, 25th Nov. 22:00 (GMT)

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Get ready for Lindsay Dye’s “Variety show”, where the clue’s in the name: webcam mutations, readings, and visuals. See more at: http://www.lindsaydye.com

Why did you decide to use your job as a Cam Girl in your art?
I was making art about internet relationships and Miami strip club culture while I was in graduate school in NYC. My research about sex work brought me to cam culture. I became a camgirl to analyze the community and to understand conceptual projects like the Camgirls Copyright Infringement Dress that cannot be worn in public, and the Buy Me Offline Shop, an e-store where you can purchase physical screenshot prints, originally used as blackmail from my chatroom clientele. Three years later, it’s my full-time job and continues to be a source of artistic fodder.

Do you ever get any negative responses from people who claim to be feminists? If so, how do you respond?
Disengagement is the most harmful response I receive from anyone. It’s painful when another human disregards your intellect because of your occupation. My long-term response has been the integration of my two jobs: camgirl and artist. This has made a smoother entrance to talk about sex work and feminism to both men and women through the art I make, and the chatrooms I inhabit. The response is that women and feminists are more than this one thing that supposedly defines us; we are complex and attach ourselves to many identifiers, by choice and by experience.

Why have you chosen to participate in #Cam4Art?
This show represents the exact space in which I’ve been working for the past few years, an autonomous one. Autonomy is the silver lining to camming and #Cam4Art’s fundamental concept, that is to exhibit work on the artist’s terms. The juiciest part is that performative work online becomes mutated immediately just by using the medium of the internet. The layering of audiences on multiple platforms becomes innumerable and lost. There’s a level to live-streaming that can’t be perceived.

Kate Durbin
“The Supreme Gentleman”
Saturday, 26th Nov. 20:00 (GMT)

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Kate Durbin will be streaming her pre-recorded work “The Supreme Gentleman”, which was created in response to the tragedy of the Isla Vista shooter, Elliot Roger. See more here: http://www.katedurbin.la

Why did you choose performance art to express your work?  
The Supreme Gentleman was initially commissioned for Yes All Women, an art benefit in Los Angeles created by Jessie Askinazi and emceed by Rose McGowan, with the proceeds going to the East Los Angeles Women’s Center. The Yes All Women benefit was inspired by the hashtag #YesAllWomen, which was created in response to Isla Vista shooter Elliot Rodger’s 2014 killing spree. Rodger espoused misogynist and racist beliefs on YouTube and gamer websites prior to his shooting rampage in my home state of California, and no-one did anything about it.

The Supreme Gentleman is a re-enactment of Rodger’s final YouTube address. It was important for me to physically embody Rodger’s words as the type of body he felt so entitled to: a white woman. I wore a long Lady Godiva wig and BMW panties because he objectified blonde women and cars (BMWs were his favourite). I spoke his horrible words out of my own mouth in order to diffuse their power; the change in tone of the voice reflects that these are not even Rodger’s words, but the words of a white supremacist patriarchy, a collective belief system larger than individuals.

What responses do you get from the feminist community?
A lot of people who consider themselves feminist like my work. The Supreme Gentleman was commissioned for a feminist project, the Yes All Women art auction benefiting the East Los Angeles Women’s Center.

Do you ever get any negative responses from people who claim to be feminists? If so, how do you respond?
I do, at times. I listen to critique but when it mischaracterizes my work
 or becomes hateful, I tune out. I don’t feel obligated to personally respond.

Why have you chosen to participate to #Cam4Art?
I want the work to continue to have an online viewership, especially now with a Trump presidency looming in my country. One of the things I was thinking about when I put the work back on YouTube, along with the addition of the karaoke sing-a-long text, is how we turn mass shooters into gods through the media. I was thinking of how we help that process along through clickbait. I am thinking about how we have done something similar with our current presidential election. As artists we can draw attention to this process, can try and interrupt it.

Seren Metcalfe
“Laying Within a Bed of Spring Greens”
Monday, 28th Nov. 22:00 (GMT)

seren

Seren Metcalfe’s performance focuses on the relationship between a person expressing emotion onto an inanimate item. Find out more here: http://www.serenmetcalfe.co.uk

Why did you choose performance art to express your work?
I wanted to convey a sense of intimacy and discomfort within my work as this just wasn’t being conveyed through the videos and photographs I was creating. I am a performer because I realised the only way for me to truly be intimate with the viewer is to be present. There is something amazing about a viewer being able to watch my body move,  hear the sound of my breath, and watch the emotions on my face in real time!

What responses do you get from the feminist community? Could you give an example?
I’m not sure about using the term ‘feminist community’ so exclusively but I guess my work is very self-empowering, and when I perform I put myself in a very vulnerable position. It’s strange when I get comments saying “you’re so brave for being able to do that”. I wonder if I would get the same reaction if I was a man performing? But then to flip that around, I think maybe the performance would be a greater success if I was a man portraying myself as vulnerable.

Do you ever get any negative responses from people who claim to be Feminist? If so, how do you respond?
I mean, I don’t think you have to be a feminist to understand my artwork. My artwork isn’t exclusively for a feminist audience, it’s for anyone.

Why have you chosen to participate to #Cam4Art?
I’ve done performances through webcam previously and they’ve been less successful so I’m really excited to develop something better than I have done previously. Its really great to be part of a network of so many unique performers. There’s a real sense of togetherness about it.

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If you are an artsy-fartsy individual like myself, it’s now time to consider: “Is live streaming the future for performance art?” (Huck Magazine). I believe that the #Cam4Art event will most definitely answer this question, so make sure to tune in between the 25th– 30th of November 2016 here: http://www.cam4art.com

 

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/cam4art/
Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/cam4art.cam4art/?fref=ts

Images courtesy of #Cam4Art, Emily Roderick, Lindsay Dye, Kate Durbin and Seren Metcalfe.
Words by Courtney McMahon and external opinions from Emily Roderick, Lindsay Dye, Kate Durbin, and Seren Metcalfe.

Q&A: Laura Pettitt’s Gap Year

Hi Laura! Thank you so much for speaking to Anthem about your gap year. I definitely feel like a gap year wasn’t seen as an option as I never found out anything about them, so I’m hoping speaking to you might help other people see it as one!

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BMP Farmhouse on Elephant Care Day

So to begin, you’ve been back home for a little while now, what’s it been like settling back in after a 3 month trip?

It was crazy how quickly I adapted to being back actually. I’ve been home for just over 2 months but within a few days of being home I’d settled back into old routines and full time work. I was really worried about getting proper post-travelling blues and even cried on the plane coming back, but as much as I loved travelling, there is something so comforting about being home that you can never properly replicate in a hostel, especially as I spent the last few weeks travelling on my own. I don’t think I’d realised how much I missed my friends, but the second I look back at my photos or someone mentions somewhere I went, the prospect of booking a flight for the next day becomes very tempting.

 

Is there anything you miss?

Ah so much! Probably the most prominent thing was how cheap travel is over there; we did a couple of internal flights in Malaysia for £8. I’d pay that for a 20 minute train journey here. Obviously living costs are cheaper in the parts of Asia I visited but even relative to that travel was seriously cheap, and it makes it so easy to do and see more. Asia especially was so chilled and laid back. You run to get a bus that’s due to leave and end up sitting on it stationary for 2 hours. In India we asked about paragliding and 2 hours and £25 later we’d been driven up a mountain in a Jeep to paraglide off the Himalayas. It’s weird because it felt like life was moving at a much faster pace while we were travelling but it was also like the calmest and most stress-free time of my life.

 

Is there anything you’re glad to have back?

It is so nice to not sweat all the time. Honestly between landing in Bangkok on March 2nd and flying to Singapore at the end of May I’m pretty sure there was just a constant layer of sweat on my skin (which resurfaced a month later when I returned to Asia). The heat was great when lounging around on the beach but it was borderline unbearable at times so I don’t miss that. Although there’s obviously poverty in England, it’s so much more blatant in parts of Asia that it’s almost nice not to see it. That’s the most awfully privileged sentence I know, but it becomes depressing seeing all these people living in unimaginable conditions who you just can’t help. Sure you can buy them some food or sponsor a child or whatever but it just becomes a bit depressing knowing you can’t sustainably change their lives. You kind of have to detach yourself from it after a while or you’d just spend the whole time deeply depressed over it

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Halong Bay, Vietnam

Could you walk us through the trip?

So I flew out to Bangkok with 2 of my best friends from school on March 1st, we spent a couple of days there looking around markets and temples, and then got a night train to Chiang Mai. We spent about a week there, did a 2 day jungle trek and an elephant care day (it was so great we got to feed them and swim with them), and then spent 20 hours on buses to Laos. We stayed in Luang Prabang for a few nights which we loved, right on the Mekong River where there was a really good night market and waterfalls. They also randomly did such good baguettes in Laos! Then we got a bus to Vang Vieng, also in Laos, the most bizarre place with loads of “happy bars” and everyone goes tubing (going down the river in a massive rubber ring). Just a really bizarre place! We then had a 32 hour adventure on buses (on my birthday so that was fun) to get to Hanoi in Vietnam. It was the craziest place which was just constantly loud and we almost got run over so many times.

We spent about a week there and then flew to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) for a week. There was so much to do and see and we went on a lot of day trips to places like the Cu Chi Tunnels, and Halong Bay. It was really cheap, and a nice mix between traditional and western, and the street food was incred. Then we got a night bus to Cambodia where we stayed in Pnomh Penh. We went to S-21 and the Killing Fields and learned about Cambodia’s horrible history (would definitely recommend a quick google or a watch of the film The Killing Fields to learn more) which were so shocking and sad but definitely worth learning about. Then we went to where there are loads of temples, the main one was Angkor Wat, and we went to them at sunrise. After Cambodia we headed back to Thailand, this time to the south islands. We went to Phuket, Krabi and Ko Phi Phi which were all idyllic honeymoon type places where I went scuba diving. Then we headed to Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia. We basically booked our main flights in England so we just knew we had to be in Singapore by the end of May, and so ended up with a couple of weeks in Malaysia. I knew nothing about it but ended up loving it! After a few nights in KL we got a bargain internal flight to a little island called Langkawi. We spent a few days lounging on the beach and then flew to Penang, which is described as Malaysia’s food capital. It was amazing and we ended up missing our return flight (it was only £12 to be fair) on purpose because we weren’t ready to leave.

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Monkey Island, Thailand

From there we got a coach to the Cameron Highlands which were so much cooler (in temperature) than everywhere we’d been previously, and we spent a couple of days doing a bit of walking and visiting the tea plantations. We got a coach back to KL and after a couple of nights got a coach to Singapore. We spent 3 or 4 nights here, looking at the quirky little shops, food halls and a trip to Universal Studios before an overnight flight to Melbourne. Here we had a week in a vile 16 bed dorm but spent the days looking round the city before being joined by my friend from work, Abi. We then picked up a camper van and set off on a 2 week adventure. We went to Great Ocean Road where we saw koalas up close (they’re so soft!) and then drove to Sydney. We made a spontaneous decision to go all the way to Byron Bay which made a couple of long days of driving and some nights parked at the side of the road (and one in a stranger’s back garden). We only stayed in Byron for 2 nights but all loved it and then headed to Sydney. Abi flew home and we went to spend a week with Lauren’s (one of the three original travellers) family friends in a place called WoyWoy. We had a really nice week living in a proper house eating home cooked meals exploring the little town and also spent a night in Sydney and one in the Blue Mountains before the others flew home.

Originally we were all due to fly back together on June 2nd but I wasn’t ready to leave so flew back to KL, spent 2 nights there, and then went to Delhi. I was met at the airport and spent 16 days volunteering, helping women learn English and helping slum children with their English and Maths, and the evenings and weekends visiting Delhi, the Taj Mahal, and an amazing place called Dharamshala. The whole thing was incredible and so surreal, we were followed round a water park like celebrities, asked for photographs by virtually everyone we met, and I went paragliding in the Himalayas. Sadly after 16 days it was time to leave, and I had 2 flights to get to Bali. This was my first proper extended solo travelling, and I spent a couple of nights in a place called Ubud. I saw lots of monkeys, did some yoga, and ate a lot of green vegan food. It was so chilled out there, but I spoke to virtually no one and it was all just a bit surreal. I then got a mini bus and a boat over to Gili T, possibly one of the nicest places on earth. It’s such a small island that the only public transport is horses and carriages. The sunsets are amazing (though I never witnessed them properly because I got lost). It’s beyond beautiful and I spent a couple of nights there, went out with people from the hostel I was staying in and also got practically adopted by a lovely Indonesian family I met on a snorkelling trip who kept taking me out for food and said I was welcome to stay with them any time. On June 25th I had to head to the airport which I was very sad about, and had my final 2 flights to get home. I finished off my 4 month adventure on a trusty national express coach driving through rainy England.

 

How did the idea to travel these places begin?

I’d always had a strange fixation with India and Vietnam (which ended up being among my favourite places). India became a bit of an obsession after a year 8 Geography project, but I remember discussing Thailand/Laos etc in the common room at school in year 12. A couple of my brother’s friends had travelled a similar route a couple of years before, and then we spoke to people at STA and came up with a route, but pretty much everyone does the same thing. Everyone you speak to out there has stayed in virtually the same places as you – it’s almost funny.

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Torquay, Victoria

 

Did everything go to plan?

Amazingly yes! I was constantly expecting to miss a bus or a flight, be scammed out of all my money and so on, but everything was fine! I feel very lucky because a few things could have ended in disaster; I left my card in an ATM in Bangkok and someone shouted after me and gave it back, I left my passport in a hostel in Singapore and managed to just hop on a bus to get it back. I even managed to get on the metro in Delhi and have the doors close before my friends could get on, but even during rush hour when it was packed, nothing bad happened to me.

 

What was it like travelling with friends?

Most of the time it was great, but I just think being with the same people all the time is always going to cause a few minor disagreements. We never really argue at home but obviously you’re not spending every moment together. I mean, we shared a room for 3 months, and sometimes you just won’t all agree on something, or someone will just be in a bad mood. I definitely argue a lot more with my family at home. It was really nice to be able to experience everything together, and laugh at funny stories both at the time and now. I did enjoy the little bit of travelling I did on my own, but I’m really glad I was with them for the bulk of my trip.

 

Could you tell us about the preparation for your trip?

So I told my family I wanted to take a gap year back in about year 11, no one took much notice and just kind of assumed I’d change my mind. When it came to UCAS and stuff suddenly they all got a bit like “is this a good idea, should you be doing it” but I’m very stubborn and I think they probably realised I was going to go regardless of what they thought. In August after year 13 we went to STA and booked our flights to Bangkok, from Singapore to Melbourne and Sydney to home (I ended up changing my last one) and started discussing stuff like budgeting. My summer job let me stay on and I worked until February with the goal of saving £4000 to spend out there plus the initial £1500 for flights and loads of other little costs. We had to start getting vaccinations about 4 months before. We needed Hep A (and a booster after we flew home), 3 Hep B ones (they’re meant to be around £100 but for some reason I wasn’t charged…), and a typhoid vaccination. We also had to get malaria tablets – you just book an appointment with a nurse, tell them where you’re going and they advise you on what to get. You can get other optional vaccinations like rabies but after a bit of research I opted against it. Also just a tip for anyone going travelling; malaria tablets are about half the price of high street pharmacies if you go to the ASDA pharmacy. Don’t pay double for the same drug!

I didn’t start packing until a couple of weeks before, and I basically bought loads of back up stuff for my phone and camera because I was so paranoid about not being able to take a million photos of everything. With packing it’s definitely a case of less is more, and I wish I’d taken less clothing, especially as a lot of what I packed was too warm to wear. You just need a couple of thin cotton tops, dresses, and shorts. We took a lot of medical stuff though you can buy everything out there. I would advise anti-sickness and Imodium just because you don’t want to find you don’t have any on a long bus journey, trust me. I also really recommend a portable phone charger for the same reason. Packing isn’t too difficult because everything is so cheap out there that if you’ve forgotten something it doesn’t matter.

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Taj Mahal, India

 

Were there any surprises?

I was surprised by how western everywhere is! Walking down the road in Cambodia and coming out of the airport in Delhi to see Costa Coffee or Domino’s is so surreal, and that took some getting used to. Also nearly everyone we encountered spoke such good English which I kind of expected but like crazy good! It was so impressive and made me feel a bit stupid!

 

What were the highlights? What wasn’t as good?

Oh God I can’t narrow it down! I did some crazy things like seeing the Taj Mahal, scuba diving in Thailand, paragliding in the Himalayas. All of those were so amazing, but just lying on a beach with friends and even just bus journeys through such interesting landscapes were fun too. Getting street food in Vietnam and the curries in India also just stand out in my mind. But it was just so good. Night buses are definitely not something I miss, though. They’re cheap and convenient but honestly after spending a couple of hours trying and failing to find a comfortable position, and the one time my friend was sick all over my stuff at the start of the journey… That I wouldn’t mind skipping. I also found the heat difficult to deal with, it made it hard to do things during the day and I was tired a lot as well. It was great again for beach days but that was about it.

 

Would you do it again? Where would you like to go next?

It’s practically all I think about! I would love to go back to where I volunteered in India to see the children again, and stay for a longer time, but I would also love to revisit Vietnam and Malaysia. I wouldn’t turn down a trip to anywhere I went though! Eventually I would like to travel around South America but I don’t feel like I’ve seen enough of Asia yet!

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Chiang Mai, Thailand

 

What’s next for you now that you’re home?

I’ve spent my summer working full time at my old job, now I’ve just got a couple of weeks left and then I’m off to Bath to study psychology.

 

Do you feel you learned anything from travelling that’s affected you or changed you?

I have definitely relaxed with money a lot. I used to kind of fuss over spending but I’ve just calmed down and realised that spending a bit more for something fun is worth it. And after you see the conditions some people are living in you realise how fortunate you are to be able to do stuff like go out to eat and plan holidays. I haven’t gotten crazy generous but definitely more so. I also feel more appreciative of pretty much everything. Even just appreciative or the place I live, and having a house, and healthcare system. It isn’t until you see first-hand what it’s like not to have those things that it hits you how lucky you are.

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Penang, Malaysia

Finally, do you think it was worth the money you spent?

I really do. I know we could have done things for cheaper and in future I would book flights myself, and skip the luxury Contiki holiday, but I still think we budgeted well. I was very fortunate to be in the position of living at home, not paying bills or having financial obligations which meant that almost everything I was earning could go towards travelling. Although the 12 hour shifts in the run up were a bit hellish, it was so so so worth it when we were out there. It’s easy to limit yourself, and not do expensive activities but I definitely think it’s important to find the balance between travelling on a budget and missing out.

 

You can read even more about Laura’s travels on her blog: http://the-perks-of-being-laura.blogspot.co.uk/ 

 

Words by Briony Brake and Laura Pettitt
Photos by Laura Pettitt