Welcome back, boys and girls!
As my 5 months of actually attempting to earn money so that I can lead the lavish lifestyle I’m accustomed to (20-bed dorms and economy seats) draws to a close, I thought I’d give you all the update I’m sure you’ve been dying for. So strap up and buckle in, because you’re all in for a wild ride…
My holiday blues weren’t as bad as expected as a certain someone we met in Siem Reap… a Mr. Lewis Thom, was waiting dutifully for me at Edinburgh airport after my 36-hour trip home from Vientiane. The fact that I didn’t have to haul my bag on the tram and then down Hanover street was enough in itself to lift my spirits.
I spent the next almost 2 weeks doing not very much in Edinburgh and it was fantastic. I cleaned my clothes (and myself), I did things like getting my eyebrows done and day drank. In the fleeting moments when I thought I should actually do something productive, I started working out again and applied for jobs. By nothing less than a miracle I had managed to get through to interviews for 2 jobs in London for the last week in September; one as a PR intern for a drinks company and one as an operations associate for a prescription-delivery and medication-management startup, Echo.
I said my good-byes to Lewis and flew down to London, staying in my sisters flat in Waterloo, life was pretty chilled. Before I actually got a job I was just swanning about in the sun and seeing people I hadn’t in ages, I was loving life! Lewis even came down to visit for a weekend (all starting to sound very serious isn’t it? You just wait!). This all came to an abrupt end when I actually ended up being offered both the jobs… (I know right, go me). I stupidly took the one I was more interested in – Echo.
The next 4 months involved me working nearly 10 hour days and eating my lunch at my desk as I was shouted down the phone at by moody NHS receptionists. I gained about 10kg in the process as by the time I was home from work I barely had enough energy to put the kettle on, let alone get started on some intense HIIT workout involving burpees and jump squats.
I complain, but I did also have a great time in London. I went out most weekends, tried lots of new places and saw loads of people I hadn’t seen since school. I also moved in with two great guys, George and Adam. Although my room had no windows and I’ve probably lost a grand in deposit, the 5-minute-walk from Clapham Junction and making some great friends was probably worth it. I traveled up to Edinburgh for a weekend each month and Lewis traveled down – even during what was supposed to be my ‘period of rest’, I still managed to spend a considerable amount of time traveling
My fabulous flat mates
Livin’ for the weekend
My time in London ended with my 23rd Birthday which involved a load of my favorite people joining me for a truly gluttonous meal at ‘Made in Italy’ on Northcote road and then some great garage classics at the ‘Big Chill’ in Kings Cross. I had a fantastic night, although mildly bittersweet as it was the last time I’d be seeing so many people until I returned to the UK September 2018.
On the 23rd December, I flew out to Houston to be with my family for Christmas. It was a great Christmas and I was completely and utterly spoilt. To top off my holiday season, Lewis was flying out to spend New Years with me and my family (told you it was getting serious!!) – a brave move from someone who’s never met my family before and instead of a casual dinner whereby you can actually leave at the end of it, he decided to spend 10 relentless days in the deep, dark depths of the Bradie clan.
Once Lewis had arrived, we spent a lot of time doing not very much in Houston apart from walking, working out and drinking. During his 10 days, I forced Lewis to come to this fitness class they have here called Orange Theory twice. It’s my new favorite thing and if they had them in Edinburgh or central London I would give them all my money. Essentially, the way it works is that you wear a heart rate monitor band and your name and heart rate is then displayed on a screen in the middle of the class. You can follow your heart rate throughout and the goal is to get 12+ ‘splats’ during the 60-minute session. To get a splat you must have your heart rate at 85% or over your maximum for a consecutive minute, with the theory being that if you get your splats, you’ll be benefitted with the afterburn effect – essentially you should keep burning calories up to 36 hours’ post-workout. It’s not cheap but I love it and ended up buying a block of 10 to complete before I left Houston. Even Lewis who ‘hates gym classes’ admitted that he quite enjoyed it.
Anyways, moving on. As a lovely Christmas present, my parents had got us a night away in San Antonio. On the 30th December, we drove the 2-hour drive to the nearby town and checked into the Menger Hotel. We did discover that the Menger is in fact one of the most haunted hotels in the US – thanks mum!! Although disappointing that we didn’t see any ghosts, San Antonio has a lovely river walk which is saturated in bars and restaurants. We decided that the only way to do it properly was to try and have a margarita in as many bars as possible, a ‘Margarita Crawl’ as it were. We grabbed a map and circled every margarita-serving place and planned out our route. There were around 50 places in total along the river, 20 of which were Mexican and I think we made it to 3. We finished the night with a beer and tequila shot in the hotel bar – the bar where Teddy Roosevelt recruited his ‘Rough Riders’ back in the late 1800s to fight in the Spanish-American war (#culture).
All the ‘Ritas in San Antonio
The following day was New Years Eve and because I genuinely have no friends in Houston, we were left to follow my parents and Aunt (who was over visiting from Sydney) around to their parties. As they are so popular (lol) my parents had been invited to 2 parties, one which sounded as dull as dishwater and one which sounded mildly more entertaining. So off we went in the uber to the boring party first and it didn’t disappoint – I don’t think a single person talked to us. The kids were 19 and under and the adults just right out ignored us. After an hour max we said our goodbyes and as a whole family, got the fuck out of there.
Now, the next party we went to, this was interesting. This house was just down the road from us and belonged to a family of mental Iranians. When we got there, around 11pm, the party was thumping. There was a DJ, an open bar and 50-60 middle aged people dancing like they were in Freshers week. The wife of the household (who actually holds a very senior position in a well-known finance company) was honestly slipping over everywhere but made us feel so welcome – she did actually end up on A&E that night with a broken wrist but didn’t really seem to mind. The specialty in this house is to drink tequila straight. They put a bit of lime and jalapeno in premium tequila (Don Julio 1942) and then you’re supposed to sip it like a normal drink!!?? – not for me but Lewis and my mum got stuck in. Although my sister, Emma, did not appreciate seeing her parents dancing, or me for that matter, and quickly ducked out after the bells rang, Lewis and I had a great night which finished with a dip in the hot-tub when we got home.
You know you have no friends when you spend NYE with the parents
For Lewis’s Christmas present I had got him a Sky Dive, and then my parents had got me and my siblings one as well so that we could all do it together. Typical enough, Lewis seemed to bring the weather with him from Scotland, with Houston seeing some of its coldest and cloudiest days in years. Because of the shit weather, we weren’t all able to jump, with the first clear day being the day I started work – queue the eye roll.
So while Emma and Lewis headed off to go skydive one lovely sunny morning, I drove out to the Johnson Space Centre, in the dark, at 7am, to start my internship at NASA. That weekend was Lewis’ final in Houston. We spent the Friday night drinking margaritas, on the Saturday we went out to the Space Centre and then went for the final romantic meal at an Italian in town. I drove Lewis to the airport on the Sunday and we said our goodbyes – we are still together though, so, unlucky boys!
The next day I started work for real. The job itself was pretty boring, I was interning in the Immunology lab. Saying that, NASA is a cool place to work and the money is great – I learned a lot in the 3 weeks I was there. I got to see the space analog called HERA, this is basically a mock-up module where people go in for weeks/months and they can perform experiments e.g. test their vitals, test new foods or exercise regimes. I also got to go to the annual Human Research Program Investigators Workshop in Galveston for a day, where I got to learn about the wider research going on in or funded by NASA e.g. neurological research and the gateway to Mars. The one thing I will mention is that my name will officially be in the acknowledgments of a review paper that is due to be published in the coming months – now that is pretty cool.
I did also manage to do my skydive the following weekend. Honestly, it was cold and I couldn’t breathe and I don’t actually think I enjoyed it at all. This was my second tandem and I just remember loving the first one so much more!
So, my time of being a normal person who goes to the work and gym is ending as I leave for New Zealand tonight. I seriously cannot wait. The current (rough) plan is to do a month in New Zealand, I’m meeting some friends from Uni in Auckland and then we are going on the Kiwi bus tour around both the islands. This is a hop-on-hop-off sort of thing but they literally take you everywhere worth going, give you itinerates of what to do and where to stay etc. After that, we fly to Melbourne. The plan is to stay there for a couple of months and earn some money – no doubt I’ll be out by then already, can’t say the saving has gone very well. We already have a festival booked for our second weekend in Melbourne and a lush flat to stay in during April, we’re currently homeless for March but these things always seem to sort themselves out. After Melbourne, the plan is Sydney for a month and then maybe hire/buy a car and travel north from there.
I do have a vague plan for coming home – I’ve been accepted into Edinburgh for a masters in Science communication and should hear back from Imperial in March. So, for now, I’m still a nomad as usual but I just cannot wait to get on that plane, real life is just not for me.
P.s. I’ve been upgraded to business class for my flight to New Zealand so probably looking forward to the flight more than the trip itself.