Tap Dance – Mallorca
My feet first found happy back in 2008, following my first heartbreak (the first South African). I was 19, working in a law firm as a secretary in Lancashire – the place where it’s forever cold and rainy. I knew back then I wasn’t a home girl, I knew I wasn’t in this world to be in one place and had this overwhelming urge to just get on a plane and see where life takes me. Well, low and behold, being 19 and all, I ended up in the place known as Shagaluff, or Megamuff, and however many other names it’s been given over the years! For those that don’t have a clue where I am talking about, Magaluf is a town on the island of Mallorca off the coast of mainland Spain and pretty close to Ibiza (that you must have heard of), and every year thousands of holiday makers head to the town, mainly for a massive sesh! So the usual – stag does, hen do’s large groups of rowdy guys and gals! Maga does not smell great, just FYI. I can, however, recommend some great bars and places to get on the sesh! How I ended up in Maga was actually a complete accident. I will go into detail about that in my Shagaluff Memoir – yet to come! Bet you can’t wait for that ey! Definitely an experience anyway, I can tell you that! Anyhow, so this 19 year old shy young girl that I was, with no confidence whatsoever and barely experienced any overseas holidays (the Welsh countryside and a tent was the annual family destination) went on the internet one day and got a random job in Palma (this was before the randomness of Magaluf happened) and the stories from this part of my life, well, Maga is entertaining let’s say. Cockroaches, Germans, jelly shots, laughing gas and hotel balconies all spring to mind… oh and I can’t forget the DJ Tiesto fiasco! And so be it, the start of my years of wandering! My adventures!
Pantsula – South Africa
So Mallorca lasted until the September of that year, the 2008 summer season. I then moved to Skipton in Yorkshire UK, lovely historic town in the countryside! Some great little British country pubs, some of which I worked in, lovely walks and treks and an annual sheep festival! It was there (not at the sheep festival!) where I met South African number two – yes, apparently I like South Africans! And, it didn’t take long for this big softy to fall head over heels in love! And, of course, when it was time for him to leave the UK, I followed closely behind. So, when people ask me how on earth I ended up in South Africa, the answer is love! The things we do eh?! Well, there we have it and that is when, how and why I moved to South Africa and it was absolutely fantastic. There is no doubt in my mind that I would not be who I am today if I hadn’t experienced life in SA. I learnt to cook, which I didn’t actually realise until a little later in life, learnt to appreciate life and appreciate what I have and to be determined, learnt not to trust so easily, to stand up for myself, learnt that there are beautiful places and beautiful people on this planet and I also learnt that you can eat raw meat, cows tongue and chicken feet! SA is 100% a must see country and I tell you more why in the relevant memoir.
The Ballet – Saudi Arabia & Bahrain
South Africa was from 2009 to 2013 and by 2013 everything had changed and a new path was laid out in front of me. This period of my life, 2013, was probably the toughest of my life so far. Big decisions, heart breaks, big moves and the total unknown. I was offered a job in Saudi Arabia and for reasons which probably majorly involve the male species, again, and a South African, again, I accepted the offer and off I went to the Middle East, the sandpit as it’s known as amongst the expats out there. This move was by far the most emotional. I was scared – I mean who wouldn’t be somewhat scared right?! However, as scared as I was, this urge I have for adventure thrived inside me once again and I wasn’t only scared, upset about leaving what had become my home in SA, but I was also excited for the future and what might come my way from this experience. The emotions were so very overwhelming and so intense during this time that I had no words of how to describe it at the time. Every emotion that’s possible to feel was felt at that time and all at once. So I landed in the desert, alone. Completely alone.
My first impressions of the Middle East began with the luxury of a business class flight, two actually, the only ever time I have had the privilege! I realised I was going to need some practice at that in the future when I managed to break the remote because it was all too advanced for me! Can take the country girl out of the country but you can’t take the country out of the girl, right?! Arriving in Dammam in the Eastern Province of the country was terribly daunting. Wearing my newly purchased abaya! Despite the bad press that Saudi receives, it is a friendly and interesting place and the locals are very hospitable. Again guys, check out the Saudi section for an interesting read.
As I’m such a sociable person, I struggled to stay in Saudi over the weekends and so I enjoyed a weekend apartment in Bahrain, across the causeway stretching out over the gulf! So the 18 months I spent working in Saudi I lived in a compound in Khobar during the week, with the random week night trip every so often across to sin city, as I call it, and at weekends I enjoyed the craziness and busyness of Bahrain and so travelled between the two countries. Bahrain is my definitely my favourite gulf country and even more so than Dubai. It’s more cultural, free, less of a bubble and the locals and expats alike are great fun and if you meet the right ones, like I did, they stick together like family! Look out for my Bahrain memoir to read about my favourite gulf country.
Jazz – Dubai
In May 2015 I left the sandpit of Saudi Arabia for the concrete jungle of Dubai, the UAE (United Arab Emirates for any person reading who wasn’t aware of that). Over the years I have come across quite a lot of people who call Saudi Arabia – Dubai and vice versa as they think it’s the same place. I just want to throw a little fact out there for those that might not be familiar with the Middle East…they are two very different countries. So, Dubai was fabulous! The lifestyle that Dubai offers is just like nowhere else in the world! Where seeing (and sometimes experiencing) sports cars and super yachts become the regular for a normal human like myself, then you know it’s a pretty luxurious place to be. I spent weekends in spa’s, brunching on the beach with a cocktail in hand, pool parties at 10 bedroom villa’s on The Palm, house parties in the Burj Khalifa with a hired DJ and private chef. Sounds pretty awesome right?! However, as much as this does sound awesome, it sounds more like an ad for “Carlsberg don’t do holidays, but if they did…”, not somewhere to live.
Aaaand so, after being and feeling like a bit of a nomad for 9 years and feeling like I needed some stability in my life for once I decided to head back to the UK. This decision was made rather abruptly and so one day I walked in to work and decided on the spot to hand in my notice. I can tell you, when I make my up about something and get something in my head, I just do it! At the end of August 2017 I packed up my life again (all 30kg of it!) and headed back to the UK, feeling positive and excited about another new adventure!
Latin – London
I arrived back in Manchester on the 1st September 2017 and stayed between my mums and friends for two weeks. I felt like I was on holiday! It was totally bizarre. Bearing in mind I had probably only visited the UK 3 times since I left all those years ago. I also knew my mind and body would not let myself sit still for too long. Well, I didn’t – within 3 days of arriving back in the UK I had booked a flight to Cyprus for the next day! Which, of course, will feature in its own blog section still to come. It was only a short trip out to Cyprus but absolutely fab! One of the girls from back in the day (the days of being on a dance floor in the middle of a club doing the shopping trolley dance, the cardboard box dance and, of course, the go fishing dance!!) was getting married and the whole gang were back together after years, minus the tragic dancing skills! **Stop giggling Lauren and get on with the life story!** Yes, so after arriving back in Manchester, again, I literally ventured out with mumsy, bought myself a car and I think it must have been a week later, said my goodbyes again and off I went in my little red Renault Clio, called Chloeez, to London city both jobless and homeless and ready for a new challenge and a new adventure in the big city. Aaand well, here I am, currently sat tapping away at the keyboard (at work…shhhh), with the Gherkin outside one window (funny shaped glass building in London in case you didn’t know), and Tower Bridge outside the other and it’s now been two weeks in not my first, but second home in this amazing city! I also recently found out that I have hoarded quite a bit more than the old 20-30kg suitcase I am used to moving with! 14 months on and I can honestly say that London living is just absolutely fab and everything I hoped it would be and more! The city has so much to offer in so many ways and I will be exploring the city more and more and writing my stories for you guys as and when I can!
So, there we have it folks – the story so far (well a fraction of it – the base of it – the who, the where and the why!). As well as living in the these incredible places, I travelled often as much as possible and am currently on, I think, 23 countries. There has also been a marriage, job changes, law degree attempts (which I am determined to complete!), motorbike crashes, “adopted” families, amazing friends and people along the way and many entertaining stories! Keep checking back for regular blogs, stories, memoirs and randomness of My Happy Feet!! Just had to do that 😉