Sunshine Blogger Award

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I would like to thank Sharon of the excellent Australian blog Gum Trees and Galaxies for the nomination. Gum Trees and Galaxies follows the adventures of a couple in a teardrop caravan – with dogs, books and random tangents thrown in. These are certainly a few of my favourite things. If they are yours, do wander over and say ‘Hi’!

The Sunshine Blogger award is given by bloggers to bloggers who inspire positivity and creativity in the blogging community.

The Rules

  1. Thank the blogger(s) who nominated you for a blog post and link back to their blog.
  2. Answer the 11 questions the blogger asked you.
  3. Nominate up to 11 new blogs to receive the award. Leave a comment on their blog to let them know they received the award and ask your nominees 11 new questions.
  4. List the rules and display the Sunshine Blogger Award logo in your post and/or on your blog.
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We have what some would consider a dream lifestyle – I want to show that it IS possible to have the life you want without winning the Lottery

1. Why did you start your blog?

I have always been a compulsive writer – diaries, letters, postcards, emails, newsletters, guest blogs, magazine articles… I write because I must, so blogging provides an excellent reason to write and an outlet.

In addition, I love to see people succeed and achieve more than they ever thought was possible. Mark and I are ordinary people who have grafted our way into what some might consider a dream lifestyle. I wanted to share how we got there and show that if you put your mind to it, it is possible to have the life you want without being independently wealthy or a Lottery winner. If my ramblings can help just one person to get out there and Live their Dream, I shall consider my blogging work to be done!

We both enjoy helping people and are ridiculously thorough in our research. So, for blogs offering advice, recommendations and product reviews, I compose what I would like to have read.

Check out the page How We Did It to see how we did it – and my Tips page for lots of practical travel advice.  

2. What is your favourite part about blogging?

The diverse and wonderful people that I have met in the blogosphere. As well as offering advice, my blog is a personal memoir of our travels and it is important to me that it is honest. Rather than simply report, “We gave up work and since then it has all been sunshine and rainbows,” I want to tell the truth. I bare my soul when I recount both the ups and downs of our life – so putting myself out there for the world to criticise is quite intimidating.

The internet is a dangerous and unregulated place. When I started blogging, my main worry was that I would be targeted by internet trolls and be inundated with negative comments, however I have found the blogging community to be 100% kind and supportive. Not only that, by following others I have gained inspiration, ideas and made some lovely new friends all over the world.

2. What is one of your goals for 2020?

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Meet The Beast. Our new home from the end of 2020

To convert a Volvo N10 ex-army truck into our new home.

As British nationals with a travel-centric lifestyle, Brexit will limit our ability to tour in the E.U. Once freedom of movement ends, we can only remain in the whole of the Schengen area for 90 days in a rolling 180-day period.

With the truck, we have planned a Brexit-Busting tour. We intend to travel through places like Turkey, Armenia, Georgia and Mongolia. Since there are ferry crossings from a variety of places, such as Singapore, China and Japan to the U.S.A or Canada, we might possibly carry on and circumnavigate the globe!

For more details, check out my blogs on The Beast – A Volvo N10 Truck.

4. If you could give advice to your younger self, what would it be?

I know you don’t really care about money, so long as you have enough, but don’t be so profligate with it. If you had saved harder, been less wasteful (sometimes less generous!) and bought less rubbish, you could have achieved your goal of FIRE (Financial Independence Retire Early) so much sooner.

5. What is the title of one book that really spoke to you and changed how you think?

The Innocent Anthropologist; Notes from a Mud Hut by Nigel Barley.

It is a wonderful book which combines humour with travel to an unusual destination and an insight into a completely alien culture. It made my feet itch even more, fired my desire to see the world and made me think “I wish I could write like that.”

6. Name three people you consider to be heroes and role models.

It’s hard to pick just three (even though I am sneaking in a three-for-one with the first…) but here goes. Although there are many men that I admire, and I am not a bra-burning feminist, I have chosen ladies simply because I think that women’s achievements are still grossly under-represented.

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My Dad and his three sisters. From the left, Lilian, June and Anne. Although also inspiring, I won’t mention Dad teaching me Einstein’s theories when I was 9!

My Three Aunts, June, Lilian and Anne – Many amazing women have blazed a trail through history for those of us who follow, but I would like to mention my paternal aunts. They are three, ordinary women whom I admire greatly and who have been incredible role models for me. Long before it was common to do so, they each defied the stereotypes of how girls were expected behave.

  • June was told that there was “no point in educating girls.” She took this on board as any good little girl should and fought with quiet determination to take up the free grammar school scholarship that she won. She studied science at Technical College, because it was not a subject that the school deemed suitable for young ladies and eventually gained her BSc (Hons) in Maths and Science from the University of London, while working full-time to fund her studies. Her steely resolve ensured that her sisters could not be denied their grammar-school education or careers.
  • Lilian ‘the skiing nurse’ climbed, skied and trekked her way around Europe. At the time, when most people took their holidays in Blackpool, these were unusual pursuits for anyone, but particularly a single lady armed with nothing more than determination and a thick skirt.
  • Anne a horse-loving, sailing and windsurfing instructor with a passion for travel and biology, who is responsible for initiating both Mark’s and my compulsive obsession with windsurfing on a family holiday. (How obsessed? Click here to read an article about Mark and I in ‘Boards’ magazine, entitled Mr and Mrs Windsurfing!)

I wonder if this gives you any insight into how I might have ended up as a skiing, windsurfing, horse-riding, mountaineering, travel-obsessed biochemist?

I am unbelievably grateful to all the courageous women, whose brave battles against the establishment mean that I have been fortunate to live in a time and place where I can take my rights to an education, career and almost limitless opportunities for granted.

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DNA, the key to life. Rosalind did much of the work, but the boys got all the credit!

Rosalind Franklin – the female scientist whose diligent, X-ray crystallographic studies were pivotal to several other (male) scientists winning the Nobel Prize; namely Watson, Crick and Wilkins for the structure of DNA and Aaron Klug for studies of nucleic acid and protein complexes.

As a female biochemist myself, I would like to remind the world of her incredible but almost unrecognised achievements. Although her work was critical in facilitating these ground-breaking discoveries, Franklin never received a Nobel prize.

Victoria Wood – writer, composer, singer and comedienne from Bury, near my home town of Blackburn in Lancashire. Humour is a huge part of my life, but I adore Victoria Wood as much for her style of observational comedy, acerbic wit and clever use of language as I do for her breaking into the male-dominated world of comedy during the 1970s. She showed that if you excel at what you do, it will be recognised. I shared my childhood world with many of the wonderful characters that she parodies so beautifully.

Everyone who worked with Victoria loved and praised her for her generosity. She often took a back seat as a performer and allowed others to deliver her best lines. She was loyal to her friends and repeatedly cast them in her sketches. I saw her perform live twice; once from a box in the Royal Albert Hall. Just 5’4″ tall, I could not believe the presence that she projected – or that she could keep an audience in stitches relentlessly for two full hours.

Victoria was not just a clown, however. Her drama Housewife, 49 about a Lancashire woman in WW2 earned her two BAFTA awards; both as a writer and actress. Quite an achievement.

Victoria Wood was a true, all-round talent yet seemed to be someone who remained generous and grounded. I feel privileged to have seen her perform live. If I had written even one of her songs or sketches, I would be eternally proud – and I would have loved to have had a beer with her (and Julie Walters!)

Here’s the Ballad of Barry and Freda and Step Aerobics, some classic Victoria Wood and an introduction to some real Lancashire folk. Trust me, I was in that exercise class. Enjoy!

7. What is one country that you would love to travel to?

I have been steadily knocking off destinations over the years and it’s hard to choose just one. There is a whole world out there and I haven’t seen it all yet.

We’re planning an overland trip to Mongolia, which is a country that has always fascinated me. I have been a keen horsewoman all my life and would really love to be a Mongolian horse archer. The Mongols were so skilled that, in order not to disrupt their aim, they timed their shot to coincide with the split second when all four hooves of their galloping mount had left the ground.

I also admire the incredible resilience, leadership and tactics of Genghis Khan (birth name, Temujin). When Temujin was 12-years-old, his father, the clan leader, was poisoned by a rival tribe. Temujin’s  mother was ostracised, along with her seven children, because the tribe did not want to be led by a child. In the harsh conditions of the Mongolian Steppe, this was effectively a death sentence. However, Temujin helped his family to survive through foraging, escaped from being abducted and enslaved and became Khan when he united the disparate Mongolian tribes and created one of the largest empires the world has ever seen. His armies might have encroached even further into Western Europe had they not been recalled to attend his funeral.

At the height of their power, the Mongols ruled one quarter of the world’s population and today, some estimate that one in 200 men carry Ghengis Khan’s DNA – putting him in the top 10 for the people with the most descendants!

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Genghis Khan at at Tsonjin Boldog, just east of Mongolia’s capital, Ulaanbaatar. He might be your dad!

I really enjoyed reading Conn Iggulden’s ‘Conqueror’ series, which follows the life story of Genghis Khan and his grandson, Kublai Khan. Wolf of the Plains is the first book in the series. The Last Disco in Outer Mongolia is Nick Middleton’s highly amusing and informative account of his two visits to Mongolia; one just before and one just after the fall of Communism.

8. If you were an animal what would you be?

A dolphin. Everyone loves dolphins. They are intelligent, surf all day, have sex for fun and jump for joy!

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I swam with these wild, dusky dolphins in Kaikoura, New Zealand

9. If you could do anything in the world what would it be?

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I haven’t tried Mongolian horse archery yet, but I’m a demon on the tilt!

Another thing that I find hard to narrow down to one single thing because I want to experience everything! From being a Mongolian horse archer, to an actress, stunt pilot, astronaut, circus performer, Bedouin, stand up comedienne or the lead vocalist of a heavy rock band. Or maybe some things that I haven’t thought of yet!

10. When does bread become toast?

As soon as it has pale yellow patches, although I prefer slightly golden. If it needs scraping or has turned to carbon, it’s gone too far!

11. What song do you want played at your funeral?

Old and Wise by The Alan Parsons Project.

It’s been in my life since it was released in 1982. For someone with such a love of language, lyrics are one of the most important aspects of a song to me. They are poetry and these words never fail to bring tears to my eyes.

I hope that someday, perhaps, a few people might smile and say they were a friend of mine.

My 11 Nominees

This is another really hard one, as I follow so many stupendous blogs. If I haven’t listed you, please feel free to accept my nomination. I feel that the spirit of the award is about spreading the love and I would’t follow your blog if it wasn’t awesome!

  1. The Little Mermaid I am a great believer in Random Acts of Kindness and Spreading the Love, since it is this that will change the world. Being kind to each other is a choice that we can make. The Little Mermaid is an inspiring site, hosted by a committed writer, who holds regular Bloggers’ Tea Parties to encourage sharing of ideas, blogs, forging online friendships and generally helping each other. If you are a blogger, why not head over to join in the fun of the March 2020 Tea Party?
  2. Against the Compass – Mark and I love to get away from the crowds and explore less well-known places. This is the best off-the-beaten-track travel blog that we have come across, packed with level and practical advice about ‘challenging’ countries and if you sign up, you even get a very helpful free book!
  3. Back On The Road Again ‘Frugal travellers with a blue campervan’ says the tagline, but the content is much deeper. Read these beautifully crafted articles and I guarantee that you will discover something profound.
  4. Cinzia and Holger’s Travel Blog  – travelling in an expedition truck and lots of information about Romania. My book Dogs ‘n’ Dracula – A Road Trip Through Romania is part of my One Woman Mission to help the world to realise that Romania is THE most incredible holiday destination. I dare you to look at just 10 of Cinzia and Holger’s pictures of Romania and not want to go there…
  5. Freedom Bird – A fellow doggy caravanner, Clare, who has set off to explore the beaches of Britain with her Springer Spaniel, Poppy. Expect beautiful photos, entrancing thoughts and a useful Beach Guide.
  6. Italophilia is a very useful and informative website about Italy written by Ishita from India, who is passionate about Italy and everything Italian. We have spent the last five winters in Italy, class ourselves as Born Again Italians and completely share Idhita’s love of Italy, which makes me proud to promote both this beautiful country and her blog!
  7. Itching for Hitching – another Australian caravan blog, whose short, wry and witty observations on life never fail to make me smile!
  8. Monkey’s Tale – C’mon, a proper adventure travel blog written by avid skiers and mountaineers who take the most WONDERFUL photos? If you want to get inspired or just see the some lesser-known parts of the world from your armchair, you’re gonna love this!
  9. SUP Chick for a showcase of Stand Up Paddle-boarding in Scotland which will really make you want to go there. I love the practical hints and always enjoy reading the ‘Wee Blether’ about each trip.
  10. Waggy Tales – a combination of dog blogs and book reviews. What not to like?
  11. Zero Waste Chef No Packaging. Nothing Processed. No Waste. And always practical and achievable – this is my favourite zero waste blog and I have adopted many of Mary’s excellent ideas.

My 11 Questions

  1. What is the inspiration behind your blog and who do you want to reach?
  2. Which is your favourite blog post and why?
  3. Tell us an interesting or unusual fact about yourself – do you have a hidden talent or claim to fame?
  4. Name your favourite song, book and movie.
  5. What’s on your bucket list?
  6. What piece of advice would you give to your younger self?
  7. Living or dead, which three people would you invite to your dinner party and why?
  8. Is your ideal holiday lying on a beach, climbing Mount Everest – or anything else?
  9. What would you do if you won the Lottery?
  10. How do you relax? Do you have a guilty pleasure?
  11. Dogs or cats?

Thank you all and happy Sunshine blogging!

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4 thoughts on “Sunshine Blogger Award

  1. Thank you for a lovely post and for nominating me, along with such esteemed company. I’ll certainly be checking out all the other winning blogs. I am so pleased you are a Victoria Wood fan, she bought so much joy and good choice for your funeral song!

    Liked by 1 person

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