Travel without a plan

I had a little plan…that covered me for a month in the USA, after that I was going to wing it. 
I’ve now come to decision time and it’s kind of a case of throwing a dart at a map/where can I go that’s super cheap and I can recoup my loses from the ever expensive States…
In my mind I know where I would like to go (my bucket list is endless, it really could be anywhere) but I’d like to give something back at this juncture of my travel life.
I’ve volunteered abroad before, 10 years ago in fact, my first solo travel experience!
Happy travel anniversary to me! 
That was Ecuador, I spent 3 months in the Amazon rainforest thinking I was doing my bit to help save the trees and animals. 
Oh man was I wrong! 
Not only did I have to pay a rather large amount of money for the privilege of working for free, but it turned out that money went to some wealthy American guy who had bought a portion of the rainforest, ‘hired’ the local tribes and paid them pennies to act as tour guides for other wealthy Americans to have the ‘jungle experience’. He rented the land to the charity organisation I had volunteered for, and not cheaply apparently. 
Needless to say, this disillusioned my belief in volunteering, charity work and any hope in saving the rainforest! 
I have, since then, learned that there is a way to genuinely give your time in return for accommodation and sometimes food for a couple of hours work with up-and-coming hostels, small holdings or sometimes just families who want to learn English and teach you their culture. 
So right now I am in the process of sending out applications to dozens of potential hosts in a few different countries, and I will go where the wind takes me! 
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Transiberian Train journey

Lots of bucket list ticks going on right now. Transiberian Train!!! I’m so excited! 4 days on a train, eventually arriving in Baikal.

I boarded in Moscow, and as soon as I saw the room, I kinda thought ‘oh dear god, what have I done’. Me in a room with three strangers for four days! Eek!

I boarded after midnight so climbed straight into my bunk and passed out.

I always thought I was a light sleeper, turns out, I’m not. I slept right through two people leaving the room and the beds being re-made!

First day was mainly me exploring the limited space, I didn’t want to sit in the room for 4 days, I would go crazy, so i ventured out and found the restaurant cart.

Trying to be frugal after spending money like a millionaire at a strip bar in Saint Petersburg, I only ordered green tea just so I could sit there, read and enjoy the scenery.

That didn’t last long.

As soon as the Russians who can speak a bit of English find out there’s an English speaker on board, they crowd round to practice their skills!

I watched as they downed shots of vodka, chasing it with either beer or fruit juice and slowly ate a meal of potato and fish.

Spring is springing!

Once the snow melts and the sun starts to show its face, the Russians arrange a picnic and BBQ to celebrate.

This was a lot of fun, and something you wouldn’t get from staying in a hotel or hostel!

Met up with Oksana’s friends, and head into the woods for the best spot to picnic.

The boys hard at work doing man-fire-cooking. While we enjoy the sun!

The boys had done a good job! So much food! They made shashlik

This was a great send off as it was my last day in Saint Petersburg, I was off to Moscow that night on the sleeper train!

When I woke up, I was in Moscow. Convenient, although not the best sleep as you can imagine!

Alexandra, who was going to host me, met me straight off the train.

It was still early in the day so once I’d freshened up and unpacked we went on a whirlwind tour of the city.

Unfortunately, it was a Sunday, which meant the whole world and it’s dog was out, but that didn’t stop the thrill as we approached St Basils!

I was so excited to see this church, ever since I can remember, and have a picture of it in my bucket list book! So that can now be ticked off!

Look at that smile!

I may have got a little carried away and taken photos from every angle!

And sketched it…

Reluctantly moving on, we walked past a film set, for a film we will probably never get to see in the uk.

Over the bridge to the ‘island’.

I can’t get over how hot it is here. I packed layers of clothes and bobble hats and it’s like 18 degrees out!

Saw the Kremlin from the outside.

Alexandra and her husband Andrej took me to a Russian Soviet restaurant. Which was basically like stepping back in time to the 80’s.

I’m getting a bit obsessed with Piroshki, filled buns, the meat ones taste like corned beef pasties!

After the attempted sleep on the train and a day of sight seeing, I was ready for bed!

Walking Tour

Armed with very little Russian, my guide book and the directions Oksana had given me, I ventured out to explore more of Saint Petersburg.

Starting with getting a decent view of the city from the top of St.Isaac’s Cathedral.

Next stop, one of my favourites, the Church of the Spilled Blood!

This was enough walking for me (they are spaced pretty far apart and takes me an hour to walk there!)

Met Oksana once she had finished work and we went all girly and had our nails done!

Sparkles and Russian flag.

Time for alcohol. You would think vodka would be the choice seeing as I’m in Russia, but I’m not the biggest fan since drinking too much of it in my younger days, and now I can’t even look at it.

Belgian bar for some cherry beer instead!

Beer was good, food wasn’t brilliant.

I may have got addicted to the cherry beer.

Great Wall

So, apart from the heating being stuck on full blast in our room, beetles crawling all over Will’s bed and someone with the noisiest flip flops ever walking up and down the corridor outside the room repeatedly, we slept ok. 

Breakfast of a questionable chicken sandwich which we had to choose last night (I think the sandwiches had been in the fridge for a few days before we got there).


All aboard the bus to Jinshanling. Little did we know what was in store…



A brisk walk to actually get to the wall followed closely by Mongolian ladies trying to sell their wares. 
There was snow in the shade of the mountains.

I’m so not good at walking up stuff. Straight and down is fine, up is another story. So I was pretty breathless…and then I got to the top…

Even more breathless from the views.







Literally bursting with excitement that I was actually on the Great Wall of China! 


On one side, China. On the other Mongolia. Once we were on the wall I realized we had walked up from the Mongolian side. So technically, we’ve also been to Mongolia too now!











We chose Jinshangling as it was noted to be the least touristy. It was slightly more expensive but definitely worth it. Our group was the only group on the wall and Will and I raced ahead (more Will setting the pace and me desperately trying to keep up!)




Will tried impressng the female tour guide by showing her pictures of his building skills.


I think she was suitably impressed. 




Some of the stairs we had to walk up were incredibly steep. 





Will got all contemplative.





Will lived his dream of pretending to build the wall! 


We walked 10km from Shalingkou Pass to the Five Window Tower where we then followed a path back into Mongolia.




After 10km of walking I was ready for a comfort break, I was shown the facilities by a guy playing snooker. 
The ‘restroom’ consisted of a container over a hole in the ground. 


After that experience we were taken to a nearby restaurant (still in Mongolia) and enjoyed some Chinese food and a beer.


All tired and full we piled back onto the bus, and everyone promptly fell asleep, a situation I took advantage of.