Paper Airplanes: Plastic Free Travel on a Budget

In honour of Earth Day/Week recently, I thought I would do my part and talk about something I tried to actively practice earlier in the year. For 2 and a half months I travelled around Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia and one of my missions upon embarking on this trip, was to try and live and travel as sustainably as I could on a backpacker budget.

Now, here comes a massive disclaimer – I am very aware that it would have been more sustainable full-stop if I just didn’t go on this trip. The carbon-footprint I accumulated alone, I am sure, makes this post seem incredibly hypocritical. However, in a world where nothing any of us does is 100% right, I will accept the fault in taking a 14-hour trip across the world. It was a trip I had been longing to do after finally graduating. Nobody is perfect, and I try to do small and big things in my day-to-day life to offset things like taking flights – hence this post. So, I guess that disclaimer is a bit of a ‘I accept the criticism, I am fully aware of the problematic nature of taking flights, but give me some credit, I am trying to do the right thing, please don’t hate on me too much’.

Disclaimer aside, here I have listed out some of the things I did and invested in out on my travels in order to either reduce my single-use plastic consumption or travel sustainably. Hopefully, if anyone is planning a trip or just trying to make some differences at home, it might provide a little inspiration.

 

  1. Take a reusable water bottle and reuse/fill up bottles
    Out in Asia, tap water is a total no-go, so it is no surprise that single-use plastic bottles were the standard, and for me that was pretty heart-breaking. At home, I pride myself on having a stainless-steel water bottle which I try and take wherever I go, including on my travels. I kept this bottle with me at all times and at any opportunity I could find a fountain at an airport, in a restaurant or at a hostel I was first in line to fill it up to save me from buying a bottle. Not only this, but my stainless-steel bottle actually keeps the water cool, which is a massive bonus. Sadly, sometimes buying water bottles were inevitable, and when I did have to do this I made sure I bought as big a bottle as I could carry so I was only buying one, and I reused it wherever I could along-side my own bottle, ie. filling it up any day I could at hostels.

My stainless steel bottle is from Chillys – for sure worth the investment…  

Top tip: Sometimes hostels specify if they have water stations so you can tailor your trip to staying at those, or equally if a hostel provides breakfast, cash in on filling up your bottle/ several bottles at breakfast so you are stocked up for the day.

2. Packing cubes not plastic bags
I wouldn’t just advise packing cubes because they’re more sustainable, but also just because they changed my packing game, FOREVER. Essentially just fabric zip-up cubes you can pack all your clothes in, it kept my backpack organised and stopped me putting everything in plastic bags etc. I made sure I even had one dedicated to dirty or wet clothes, they cost next to nothing and can be used trip after trip, or even at home to keep underwear or socks organised.

3. Safety razor
One of the biggest things I felt guilty about at home fell to the fact I had been using handful after handful of plastic disposable razors. It’s all very well having a reusable water bottle, but the bathroom and beauty cabinet is where a lot of plastic hides. Not only would travelling with 2.5 months’ worth of razors be a rubbish thing to lug around, but it’s also just horrendous for the environment. After doing a bit of research and watching a lot of YouTube review videos I took the plunge and switched to a metal safety razor. I can’t lie, it terrified me, and still to this day the look of it is a little intimidating as I felt like I was for sure going to end up a bloody mess. However, this was one of the best sustainable swaps I made. Not only does investing in this razor and the blades cost a fraction of the price of buying disposables in the long run, but it means no more throwing out plastic razors and the bonus, it gives a super close shave (no major blood disasters yet). It takes a little getting used to, but I am so here for it.

A safety razor kept my pins looking pretty smooth round the pool 

4. Refuse straws/ take own metal straws
In places like Indonesia I was pleasantly surprised to find I was not once given a plastic straw. All were either paper, metal, bamboo, glass or biodegradable which was so wonderful. Even a couple of places in Thailand did offer biodegradable straws, however, on the whole places like Vietnam or Thailand are a little slower to jump on the hype. To counter this, the best thing you can do is simply to refuse the straw. You don’t really need one, and if you need to give your drink a stir, ask for a (metal) spoon or use the end of your own cutlery. Otherwise, think about investing in some metal straws, I always have one in my bag and at home, simple and easy.

5. Switching to monthly contact lenses
Admittedly I did this just before I left for Asia and so had a lot of daily ones to use up on my trip. However, I have now made the switch from daily to monthly contact lenses. Not only is it more cost effective and for me personally, has made my vision better, but it also stops you throwing away the plastic casing and the lenses every day, much better for the planet.

6. Refuse plastic bags
Pretty simple, but I’ll say it anyway, you can carry that keyring souvenir or that bottle of vodka without a bag just fine, don’t accept a plastic bag and if you need a bag, bring your own!

Drinks at hostels were metal straws and cans of mixer, not plastic!

7. Solid shave/shampoo/shower bars
Along with my safety razor I also took a solid shave cream bar out with me. This saved me taking a can or plastic bottle or tube, and actually worked incredibly well and lasted my entire trip. Bit of a mess and a faff to store, but if you invest in a metal case or just wrap it in something waterproof you are pretty good to go. One thing I wish I had also taken with me were some solid shampoo and shower bars, but sadly classic me didn’t get around to ordering in time before I left. However, I have used the Lush solid shampoo bar before and highly recommend you invest, you need barely any to get a lather and means you don’t have to buy the plastic bottles all the time.

8. Do a little beach clean wherever you go
Pick a couple of things off the beach as you leave, not too much effort and makes the beach nicer for you and for the next person, easy.

It’s a mad plastic world out there, but the tides are changing. We can all do a little bit that collectively will make a huge difference, so I hope this provides some inspiration! 

What they don’t tell you about graduate life

Since graduating from university in July this year, life for me has been a bit of a confusing rollercoaster. Filled with relief I finally finished uni, joy I never had to write another History essay again, and terrified that now I was no longer under the academic safety blanket with no job, and no clue what on earth I was going to do with my life. I can’t speak for all, but I know for a fact that no-one quite prepared me for how weird this time would be. So, I suppose this post is my small attempt at saying I think a conversation should start about how, while life as a graduate has its undoubted perks, it also holds a lot of struggles that I wasn’t quite expecting and that we need to talk more honestly about it. This isn’t all light-hearted, but I do hope at the very least this makes some of my fellow graduates feel less alone.

  1. Whatever decision or path you take, it’ll always feel like the wrong one
    Whether it be jumping straight into a grad-job, picking up a panic, (or not so panic), masters or taking the year out, what no one tells you is that whatever you do, it always feels like you picked the wrong path. I decided to take a year out to relax, do some travelling, get some experience, and work out what the hell I want to do with my life. But almost none of my friends have done that; most have gone straight into jobs, gone back to uni for their final year, or started a masters. I have never doubted myself so much as to whether I should have taken a different route. I know many of my friends who have chosen different paths to me have waves of feeling the same. Ultimately, no one told me that I just have to take a step back and realise no choice is the right choice, and that’s totally fine too.
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  2. Being at home has major plus points
    Washing day at uni was always a drag, and coming home from a day on campus to remember you have no food in the house was the worst thing in the world. Being at uni has made me totally appreciate how good I have it at home. My washing is always done, food is always in the fridge, I’m not wearing 50 layers of clothing to save the heating bill, and for the time being, I am living rent free. It won’t be much more time before that all ends, so I am fully on team parent-appreciation-society in the meantime. I don’t think I say it often enough, but my parents are the best.

 

  1. Life is a lot lonelier than you realise
    Suddenly moving out from living around the corner from your best friends, seeing course mates on campus every day, or even having relatable experiences, like essays to discuss, just seem to disappear. Since moving back home I felt like I didn’t have anyone in the same position who seemed to be going through the same feelings that I could talk to, and that was super isolating. As much as my parents are amazing and supportive, they didn’t quite understand why I just felt like crying a lot of the time even though I have a part-time job and plans to go travel. There was genuinely no real rhyme or reason to any of it. This period of life is super confusing to go from high stress and deadlines to suddenly nothing at all. For whatever reason, it just meant that if anyone asked what I was doing with my life, if I watched an episode of Bake Off, or just couldn’t find my glasses, I’d cry. Not ideal.

 

  1. The world is completely your oyster
    You’ve got a degree, no one can take that away from you now. So even though every decision you make may not feel like the right one, the beauty is you HAVE the decision. If I want to get a job I can hustle and apply to loads. If I want to take time out, I can book a flight. Although I may not be able to snap my fingers and have my dream job, or have the money to go travel, the only thing that matters is I have all this time and all these opportunities in front of me which is part of the whole reason why I worked so hard at uni in the first place.

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  1. You cannot rely on Instagram to give you the full story
    With our generation, it is so easy to open Facebook or Instagram and feel like everyone is #livingtheirbestlife, totally happy, and doing exactly what they want. But honestly, I am never going to post a photo of me crying mid-dissertation, or of me pouring my 100th pint of the day behind the bar, or even when I get my 3rd rejection of the month from an internship that would have barely paid my travel expenses. My point being, we only post the highlights, and so while everyone might appear to be living like life is peachy, remember it’s only for a moment, and often reality is a little more complicated than a perfectly filtered square photo.

 

The left is an actual image of me post-20 minute breakdown in the toilet close to my dissertation deadline, the right image is what I posted on Instagram instead. 

  1. You’ll be even more careful with your money
    Gone are the days of that juicy student loan, and now those Friday night beers are totally self-funded. If you’re like me and trying to save for travels, then suddenly happy-hours are a lot more important, birthday cards start to look a lot more ‘homemade’ and a night in with Netflix seems a lot more tempting than a night on the town. Every penny counts in the grad world as you’re either saving for travelling, saving to move out, or just straight-up trying to stay afloat in this new scary adult world.

 

  1. Everything is, and will be OK
    I’m fairly sure people do tell you this about grad-life, but it’s worth hammering in anyway. Everything is, and will be OK, even when it feels like it’s not. Things work themselves out, you will find the money, you will find a job, you will finish that masters, you will have an amazing time traveling, and you will see your friends.

Travel Tips: Best of Berlin

Still reeling from the most gorgeous holiday we had in Berlin last month, I thought I would do a little write up of all the places and ‘attractions’ we visited (in-between all of the eating and drinking we did). So here is your rough guide to the places we went, a little bit about them, and some tips about the best times to visit or if you need to book. The best part about all of these places is that most of them were totally free and within relative walking distance of each other, I can’t recommend you visit this city enough.

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Brandenburg Gate
Located in the district of Mitte, the Brandenburg Gate is a hugely impressive 18th century monument which has become the site of major historical events throughout its existence. As you will find with many of Berlin’s much loved tourist spots, it’s totally free and is located within walking distance of the Reichstag and the Memorial to the Murdered Jews, so if you plan your trip right, you can do all three in a morning/ afternoon. There are bits of information dotted around the gate, but if you are really keen to learn more about its history, there are plenty of tour-guides walking around the gate offering free tours in many different languages, so hop on one if you have the time.

Reichstag Building
The meeting place for German parliament, this impressive building has a lot of history, and now boasts an impressive glass dome which offers a 360-degree view of the surrounding cityscape. Great news for students and those trying to travel on the cheap, it is totally free to go and visit. But a word of warning, to visit requires prior registration on their website and I would really recommend booking a slot way in advance. We tried booking on a couple of days before and there seemed to be little-to-no slots available. After reading online that it is possible to sneak onto some slots on the day, we took a chance and arrived in the morning, but were sent over to a huge queue of people who had obviously thought the same. In the end we gave up on the idea of waiting and so only saw the outside, however I know it is definitely worth the visit and worth the effort of registering a few weeks prior.
You can register to visit and book a time slot here – just make sure you read all the terms about what you need to bring on the day 

Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe
The 200,000 square ft site is covered with 2,711 concrete ‘stelae’ at different heights across the sloping ground. Just around the corner from the Brandenburg Gate this was by far the best thing we saw on the trip. The uneven blocks are supposed to create an atmosphere of confusion and unease. The memorial is completely free to get lost in for a while, and whilst at first I couldn’t think of how a load of blocks could be that interesting or impressive, once walking around you really get a sense and a feeling quite unlike anything else. It’s hard to describe, but it is a really effective memorial and can’t recommend you visit it enough.

Topographies of Terror
Based on the site of buildings used as the SS Reich Main Security Office, and the headquarters of the Gestapo, Topographies of Terror is an outdoor exhibition and indoor museum, which also runs alongside an old part of the Berlin Wall. The permanent exhibitions tell you all about the institutions of the Gestapo, SS and Reich Security Main Office and the crimes they organised. Documents and photographs display how the Nazis rose to power and evocative personal accounts of those involved. It’s a really interesting exhibition, and once again totally free – but it is quite lengthy and requires a lot of reading, so I’d recommend visiting when you’re fresh and ready in the morning rather than when you’re a bit tired from all the exploring later on.

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Check Point Charlie
The best-known Berlin Wall crossing point between East and West Germany, Checkpoint Charlie pulls thousands of tourists every year, which is exactly why I wouldn’t recommend you put this stop as a priority on your list. As many of the guidebooks say, Checkpoint Charlie is now a total tourist trap and so the best advice I could give you is to walk past in en route to other attractions. It is swamped by so many people you can barely see the checkpoint, surrounded by built up modern buildings such as a huge McDonalds right behind it, and a pricey cheap looking ‘museum’ across the road made us sure we didn’t want to hang around. A quick rubbish picture and we made our way elsewhere, you’re probably much better off reading up about it than wasting much time here.

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East Side Gallery
One of the most famous galleries in Berlin, open-air, and totally free, is the 1316m long East Side Gallery. Murals painted directly on the remnants of the Berlin Wall by artists from all over the world pulls millions of tourists every year and it’s easy to see why. The paintings document the feelings of many after the Wall was finally brought down, expressing hope for the future. They’re super impressive, but I’d recommend you go later in the evening or super early in the morning to have a better chance of taking some uninterrupted pictures.

Jewish Museum
The largest Jewish Museum in Europe, the Jewish Museum was one of the first places people told me to go and visit when I told them I was taking a trip to Berlin. If anything, the building itself is beautifully designed and visually stunning. You first make your way through the ‘Axes’ exhibition, divided into three different areas to symbolize three paths of Jewish life in Germany. The most impressive features of the building have to be the Garden of Exile and the Fallen Leaves installation, both extremely powerful and well thought-out. Our only disappointment was that the real pull of the museum, the reason we were told to visit, was the permanent exhibition, which happened to be closed for reconstruction and won’t open again until 2019. Whilst the museum was impressive, I feel we definitely missed the main attraction. That being said, if you’re visiting on a sunny day, the gardens and courtyard at the back of the building are a lovely spot to grab some lunch and bask in the sun as you mull over what you have just walked around.
It’s only €8 for a standard ticket or if you’re a lucky student, then you can get in for a mere €3 

TV Tower
Situated in Alexanderplatz, the TV Tower standing at 368m is the tallest structure in Germany. It serves as a home to several radio and TV stations, but its main pull for tourists is its floor at 203m, offering a view across the whole of Berlin. Take a trip up here to admire the breath-taking views whilst sipping on a beer or a cocktail from their rotating sky-bar and restaurant. Best advice I can give you is to book a visit to the tower in advance. In a bid to save money, we found out that getting tickets on the day are cheaper, and we could also apply a student discount. However, after arriving and seeing the queue to even get to the ticket office was over and hour and we had a flight to catch, we decided to settle for having a wander around outside. For the sake of spending an extra €7 we could have arrived, skipped the queue, and been up there enjoying a pint without any hassle, so bare it in mind when planning.
Fast track tickets are €19.50, or its €15.50 on the day, with an offer of 20% student discount, all prices can be found here

Markthalle Neun
As already mentioned in my previous post about budget food in Berlin, if you find yourself in Berlin on a Thursday night, head over to Markthalle Neun in the heart of Kreuzberg for their famous food market. In a beautiful hall covered in fairy lights and a buzz of people, the market is filled with a huge variety of food and drink stalls, where your only problem will be deciding between them all. There is something for everyone, where the vegan, vegetarian and meat-filled options are endless. One minute you may find yourself tucking into some tasty tapas, the next a decadent cheesecake, or tempting tacos and sugar soaked churros. We opted for some octopus dumplings, a fresh calzone and a naan wrap filled with marinated cheese and pork. Wash this all down with a large glass, (or bottle), of wine from one of the many bars and soak up the atmosphere.

Try Here: Rabbit Vegan Café

Singing proud as Exeter’s first 100% vegan café, Rabbit is a dream come true for the city’s meat-free lovers. However, this cute little hangout on Well Street is far from being vegan-exclusive, attracting even the most hard-core carnivores to give it a try.

Rabbit aims to show that ditching meat doesn’t have to be boring, and it certainly doesn’t have to be healthy salads all the time! With their menu split between ‘vice’ and ‘virtue’, vice lets you indulge in a quarter pounder ‘cheezeburger’, tofu dogs, or a bowl of mac and ‘cheese’. Whereas virtue offers burrito bowls, tofu toasties and a Moroccan chickpea pie. Whether you want comfort food or delicious and inventive ‘virtuous’ options, this café has you covered.

If that doesn’t excite you, look no further than their Instagram, which posts daily pictures of their incredible home-made cakes and desserts. My mouth is always watering at the sight of their famous tortes in flavours such as chocolate and raspberry, peanut butter and cookie dough, chocolate orange or salted caramel (just to name a few!). If those don’t whet your appetite they also produce cakes and ‘cheezecakes’ with just as many flavour varieties. These 100% vegan desserts taste like the real deal, so indulgent I don’t feel like I am missing out on anything, and I certainly don’t feel like I am being a ‘healthy boring vegan’!

Rabbit is also really good value for money. For instance, we went for their ‘lunch-time meal deal’ priced as £6.95. For the equivalent of an expensive pret lunch, the meal-deal was a large bowl of their soup of the day; (in our case, curried sweet potato and red onion), accompanied by a huge side salad with a dressing of our choice, followed by a slice of any of their delicious cakes, tortes or cheezecakes!

 

Lunch isn’t their only option either, as on Fridays and Saturdays Rabbit now open from 6-9pm as a ‘vegan diner’. Seeing how well the ‘vice’ side of their menu does during their lunchtime service, Rabbit have now opened up for weekend nights filled with indulgent burgers, mouth-watering hotdogs and loaded fries to compete with the real American deal.

So, whether you are a vegan, or a sceptic, go and check this cute little café out, it might just surprise you.

Try This: Super-Easy Sweet Potato Falafels

Falafels. Loved by vegans and meat eaters alike, super versatile, super healthy, and all-round delicious (in my humble, opinion).

Homemade falafels are always that little bit healthier than the shop bought versions. First of all, I’m an advocate of baking rather than frying falafels, it’s healthier, and I think they are easier to add to sandwiches, as they won’t fall apart as much from being too crispy. Other than that, inevitably, homemade falafels means you know exactly what is going in your food and you get the satisfaction that you made your own.

This quick and simple recipe can be easily adapted, sometimes I use roasted butternut squash or roasted peppers instead of sweet potato, or add some fresh chilli for a kick.

Sweet Potato Falafels
Vegan, Gluten-Free

Makes 12

Ingredients:
1 can of chickpeas (drained)
400g of sweet potato (2 ish large ones)
2 garlic cloves (crushed)
1tsp of ground coriander
1tsp of ground cumin
1 tsp of paprika
Salt and pepper

Optional extras 
Plain flour (Sometimes helpful to bind the mixture together).
Chopped coriander, lemon zest, tahini paste or my favourite, some crushed chilli (for extra flavour).

Method:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 200
  2. Place the sweet potato in the microwave, on high, for around 8 minutes, flipping half way through or until it is cooked through – you can roast it if you have more time.
  3. Once cooked, remove the flesh.
  4. If you have a food processor, whack the sweet potato and all other ingredients in the food processor and blend until combined. If not, its time for a work out. Place all the ingredients in a bowl and use a potato masher to combine. (If you’re also lacking a potato masher, my boyfriend’s technique of using a good old fork to mash works fine, but as he quickly realised its much easier to pick up one for a £1 in the supermarket!)
  5.  Shape the mixture into balls slightly bigger than a golf ball and place on a baking tray, I sometimes use a muffin tin to keep them in place. Equally you can shape them to look like burger patties if you prefer them to be flatter for wraps, buns and sandwiches.
  6. Place in the oven for 15 minutes, flip and cook for another 15 minutes, or until they have started crisping and turning brown.

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And there you have it, place in sandwiches, wraps, salads, on their own as part of a mezze board or dipped in some hummus as a delicious healthy snack.

 

Beer, Burgers and More: Budget Berlin Food

With a budget even tighter since graduating, a lust to travel and a love of food and wine is hard to satisfy sometimes. But early this month I took a trip to Berlin in search of an adventure. Expecting to see some amazing sights, the biggest surprise turned out to be the Berlin food scene. So much choice, all incredibly delicious, and the best part, stupidly cheap. If you are heading out there I highly recommend making the time and effort to search out some good food, here are just a few suggestions we tried out to wet your appetite!

Burgermeister

Previously a literal toilet, Burgermeister is the perfect joint to pick up a cheap, greasy and totally delicious burger. Their takeaway-style restaurant has a simple menu, from a classic cheeseburger, to those who want to up their game and tackle a burger filled with double meat, double cheese, bacon, BBQ sauce and jalapeños. A selection of fries, cheese fries or chilli cheese fries are also the perfect accompaniment, all washed down with a beer costing no more than €2.20, what’s not to love? Their most expensive burger is a mere €7.30, but the rest weigh in around the €4/5 mark this the perfect cheap and cheerful meal. We went there for dinner on our first night after arriving early evening and one burger and a beer each left us feeling pretty stuffed!

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Curry at the Wall

Whilst spending a few days in Berlin, it seemed almost wrong to not have at least one currywurst experience, but of course, we were searching for the best. After seeing a few sights, hungry for some lunch, we set to googling for the best place in the Mitte area, which led us to Curry at the Wall. At first glance, it looks like any other fast food place (and to be perfectly honest this was the only place we had currywurst, so it might have been just that). However, Curry at the Wall quite uniquely has a view of part of the old Berlin Wall from just across the road, and once you’re done eating there, you can walk across and wander round the Topographies of Terror exhibition, right in front of the wall. Tourist attractions aside, for €7.90 you could get a plate of their traditional currywurst, chips, and a beer, and despite my scepticism it genuinely tasted really nice and filled us up for the rest of the afternoon for sightseeing.

Sushi Cube

I was always under the impression that good sushi would always be expensive, until we found Sushi Cube after a morning of sightseeing. With a huge amount of choice, (usually red flag for me) it took us a while to narrow our options down, luckily they provide their own set ‘menus’ to help you decide. Labelled 1-10, each menu was a plate which had a selection of different sushi dishes and a side of a spicy miso soup, with prices ranging from €4-6. We opted for one of these plates, and then picked two other smaller dishes, but with 8 California rolls costing no more than €3, you could easily create your own cheap feast, and we were stuffed by the end. Not to mention you could pick up half a litre of wine for a very reasonable €7, (and cheap decent wine is pretty much the way to my heart).

Rissani

This was our absolute goldmine find for delicious food on a tight budget. Tucked away around the corner from a strip of amazing, good value restaurants is Rissani, the falafel and kebab restaurant of dreams. Having read that you could pick up a falafel for a mere €2, we headed down with the expectation that if we weren’t full after this, we would head to another place we liked the look of further up the street, but how mistaken we were! Ample choice on the menu, our eye was caught by their special ‘sharing plate’, boasting that it featured all its most popular dishes on the menu and for only €9, we took a gamble which paid off massively. Within 5 minutes we were handed a huge plate stacked with falafels, hummus, kebab meat, chips, salad, halloumi, wicked hot spicy sauce, tangy garlic sauce and some soft warm pittas on the side. Needless to say, we were totally stuffed by the end, and at €9 for our entire dinner, it meant we had some money to go grab a couple of drinks up the road, total bargain.

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Santa Maria 

Lunchtime meal deals, a total saviour for anyone on a budget and Santa Maria provided just that. Colourful and inviting, they offer a variety of Mexican delights with meat, fish and veggie fillings. Their lunchtime meal deal boasts either tacos, burritos or quesadillas with a beer for between €7-9, but you can also swap your beer for one of their traditional margaritas for an extra €3. Come on a Tuesday and all their tacos are €1.50, and happy hour means margaritas are a mere €5. Perfect lunch stop, although I’d recommend a burrito over the tacos, I opted for the chicken tacos and as flavoursome as they were, I would have liked some salad/cheese or sauces to go with, whereas the burrito was full to the brim and totally delicious.

Markthalle Neun

If you find yourself in Berlin on a Thursday night, make sure you clear your dinner plans to head to Kreuzberg for their famous food market. Kicking off at around 5pm, this beautiful hall hosts a huge variety of food and drink stalls, your only problem will be deciding what to have. Playing the tactical game, we scoped out all the options before deciding we would order one thing at a time and share so we could try as many things as possible. We opted for a weird but wonderful spicy pork and marinated cheese wrapped in a naan, octopus dumplings and some fresh calzone/ pasty mashup (which only cost €4!). All washed down with a glass of wine (in a real glass might I add) from one of the many bars dotted around the venue. There is something for everyone with endless vegan, veggie and meat filled options from tapas to cheesecake, or pasta to tacos.

Zola’s Pizzeria

Our last meal was spent at Zola’s, a busy restaurant tucked in a cute courtyard serving up the freshest and most delicious pizzas around. Every pizza is made fresh and cooked for no more than 90 seconds in their wicked hot traditional pizza oven, and if that doesn’t entice you enough, Zola’s actually made my boyfriend claim that was the best pizza he had ever had. A small menu means quality is kept, with just enough options to make you double think before you order.

Try This: Fuss-Free Overnight Oats

For the last year or so I have been OBSESSED with overnight oats. Super quick and easy to prepare, this delicious twist on your morning bowl is basically porridge, but soaked over night to create a creamy, cake-like texture and means when you are in a rush in to get to lectures or work, your breakfast is already sat in the fridge waiting for you to enjoy.

Just like porridge, overnight oats are also super versatile, with a simple base you can adapt and add different flavours and toppings to mix up your mornings and satisfy your tastebuds.

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Overnight Oats – The Base
Serves 5ish – Depends how big you like your portions!

Ingredients  
1 cup/ 100g Porridge oats
1 heaped tbsp Nut butter (Almond, peanut, cashew etc.)
1.5-2 cups / 375-500ml Milk of choice (Almond, coconut, soya, rice etc.)
2-3 tbsp Chia seeds
2 tbsp Honey/maple syrup
1/2 cup / 125ml Any thick yoghurt- (Optional, it makes it thicker and creamier but if you’re on a budget its not an issue to skip!)
1 tbsp Vanilla extract (also optional, I literally never have this at uni but it’s nice if you do)
Pinch of salt

Method:
1. Place all ingredients in a bowl and whisk until combined
2. Add more milk depending on how thick you want your oats
3. Place in any sort of jar/container/tupperware and whack it in the fridge. Its best left over night but if you can’t wait that long and fancy it for dessert after dinner, around 2 hours should give it time to set enough!

 

 

At uni I put mine in a big tupperware container and take out as much as I fancy in the morning, but alternatively to give yourself even more time you can portion them out into individual pots. That way you can also make lots of different flavours or add your toppings before so you don’t even have to think!

Variations:
You can do SO much with overnight oats to tailor to your individual tastes.

Toppings:
First off, you can change your toppings every day, my choice is normally a banana, or a handful of raspberries and blueberries. But you can also add granola for some crunch, seeds, nuts, coconut flakes and literally any fruit that you can get your hands on.
Top tip: I can’t afford too much fresh fruit at uni so I buy bags of frozen raspberries and then defrost a handful in the microwave for 30 seconds.

 

 

Flavouring:
The easiest way to mix it up is to use a different nut butter or different kind of milk to give you that variation in your life so you don’t get bored, but the ‘world is your porridge-oat’ in terms of stepping up your flavour game. My all time favourite is adding a spoonful of cacao powder (or just regular chocolate powder), and tadahh you have chocolate overnight oats! Add banana and you’re looking at banana, chocolate and peanut butter oats, the perfect combo. Add grated carrot, cinnamon and chopped nuts to get a carrot cake flavour for a morning ‘treat’, or go one step further by having cheesecake for breakfast by adding cream cheese, some lemon zest and then your choice of fruit! For any protein fiends out there, you can also get your fix, add a scoop full of your favourite protein powder and you have super-charged your morning oats with minimal effort.

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So fill your boots, (or your fridge), with delicious, fuss free overnight oats to get you going faster in the morning and see you through till lunchtime!

 

Try Here: No. 1 Polsloe

Tucked away on the corner of Polsloe Road, No. 1 Polsloe is a hidden gem where locals and students alike can’t get enough. If you aren’t in the know, it’s probably because most have been keeping this tiny café a secret from you so we can grab the Instagrammer’s dream window spot, or any spot for that matter, it’s always packed with hungry brunch loving exonians!

And it comes as no surprise that No. 1 Polsloe is always as full to the brim as their artisan coffees, this café is calm, cool and cost-friendly. Their food is seriously top-notch, with delicious options for meat-eaters, veggies and vegans a-like, you are spoilt for choice, and there is something for everyone. From American-style pancakes, to eggs royale, hearty soups and health bowls to the classic avo-on-toast, all the food is made with high-quality ingredients and a lot of love.

 

But your options don’t just stop at food, No. 1 Polsloe offer an amazing range of locally sourced, fresh barista coffees, delightful milk alternatives, decadent milkshakes and fresh juices. This is not forgetting their interior of beautiful flowers, fairly lights, local art and funky furniture is a sight to behold, (and will make your Instagram feed look incredible).

It’s hard to believe with its well-established fan base, slick service and affordable food my hangover dreams are made of, that this café is only just over 2 years old, and thriving every day. They have also already hosted a number of exciting sell-out evening events such as creative workshops for silver rings and festive wreaths, and the ‘world’s smallest Christmas market’!

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No. 1 Polsloe has well and truly won my hungover heart, to the point I’m not sure I want to spread this worst kept secret of a gem anymore, I’ll never get a table! Having moved just around the corner from the café for my final year at uni, I am sure I shall frequently be there hiding away to forget my dissertation meltdowns and indulge in some of the best brunch around.

 

 

Try This: 2-Minute Vegan Pancakes

So, pancake day is literally almost over and I’ve decided to add to the noise a little too late and give you my recipe, why? Because part of being an adult is realising that you can make pancakes any day of the year!

This recipe is completely fuss free, takes two minutes, vegan friendly, and tastes like heaven on a plate. Now I maintain the real heroes and make-or-break parts of the humble pancake are the toppings, so really, a pancake is what you make it. But it helps to have a good base.

A lot of vegan recipes for pancakes use banana instead of egg, which I personally really like, but I know it’s not for everyone, so I’ve gone for banana-free ones to satisfy all – but if you want, feel free to change the nut butter for banana, or chia seeds etc.

Go crazy and add some broken up dark chocolate or blueberries like I did to pimp-up your pancake, and marvel at how easy and stress free it can be!

2-minute vegan pancakes
(Serves: Literally depends on how greedy you’re feeling, I ate it all, but I went into a food coma, it made about 6 ish pancakes!)

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Ingredients:

150g (1 cup) plain flour
2 tbsp caster sugar
2tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
1 heaped tbsp nut butter of choice
1 tsp oil (vegetable, melted coconut, whichever you prefer) – plus extra for frying!
300ml almond milk (or milk alternative of choice)
Toppings/ additions of choice (go crazy)

Method:

  1. Sift (or don’t, I didn’t because 1) I don’t own a sieve at uni 2) who really has time for that) all of the dry ingredients together in a bowl
  2. Mix the nut butter and oil together and then add to the dry ingredients
  3. Add the almond milk and whisk until combined
  4. Add in any additional flavours (I’ve chosen some dark chocolate and blueberries)
  5. On a medium/high heat add a little oil, enough to lightly cover the pan, once hot, pour in your batter to whatever size you want
  6. Once the pancake is coming away at the sides, is producing some bubbles and looks brown on the bottom, flip and cook on the other side (or try your best pancake-tossing tricks!)
  7. Remove from heat, get your pancake decorating on and enjoy!

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From the pictures you can also tell I went a bit ott… to the point you can’t really see the pancakes! So, feel free to indulge as little or as much (as much is encouraged) as you want!

Top-tips for: Making your work-day productive

We all know the feeling, student or 9-5-er, you have an essay is due at the end of the week, a major presentation to do tomorrow and probably a mega to-do list which is just staring you in the face and all you can think is ‘where has my motivation gone?’, ‘how am I going to get this all done?’. So, I am by no means an expert in the field of productivity, right now alone I am writing a blog post when I should be planning an essay, and my Instagram feed gets more attention in a day than my emails do. However, I am getting better, and it’s all thanks to a few life hacks I have discovered along the way.

  1. Pomodoro technique

A more recent discovery, the Pomodoro technique is perfect for anyone who can’t leave their phone alone, or struggles to stay focused for long periods of time. In essence, it works as a ‘work for a bit, break for a bit’ system, I have an app that times 25 minutes, after 25 minutes it alarms and times 5 minutes. The idea being you work solidly for those 25, and then take 5 minutes to get up and walk, look at your phone or go to the loo. After 4, solid, 25 minute sessions, it then gives you a 25-minute break to properly stretch your legs and refresh. This technique really made me learn just how much time I spend on my phone, and how easy it is to work if you are just giving yourself small manageable chunks.

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  1. Prioritise your to-do list

Dad taught me this one a while ago. It’s really easy to make a long list of things to do, stare at it and the freak out and try and frantically tick things off as soon as possible. But, as hard as it is to accept, it isn’t effective and means all the big important things or things you don’t want to do, get shoved to the bottom of the list until its almost too late. The aim instead, should be to make a list of what you need to get done, and then rank them first by importance and then by urgency. Then order your to-do list by placing the most urgent and most important tasks at the top of your list, and the things you have more time for or aren’t as important further down. This forces you to be more effective and stops you from ignoring the things you don’t want to do.

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  1. Break it up with achievable goals

Along with your to-do list, make sure you set yourself achievable goals for the day. Rather than setting yourself broad tasks to ‘write an entire essay’, or ‘research for a presentation’ in just one day, break up whatever you have to do into manageable goals. Having unrealistic goals will stress you out and drain your motivation if you don’t get it done. If you have an essay due, each day set a minimum amount of words you need to have written by the time you go home, if you meet it, you are on track, if you exceed it then not only do you feel great, but it takes the pressure off tomorrow. The same with anything else you do, instead of ‘researching for a presentation’ tell yourself that by the end of the day you need to read 15 articles, or by 2pm you need a plan for a meeting, or 10am you need to reply to 10 emails; that way you have a tangible goal which gives yourself a sense of achievement.

  1. Eat away from your desk

I can’t stress enough how much better it is for your mental wellbeing and productivity to take regular breaks away from your computer screen. As I have already explained, the Pomodoro technique really helps you stick to taking regular moments away from your desk to stretch your legs or check your phone. The same should be said for lunch time. It’s so easy when you have so much to do to just eat your lunch as you read emails or proof an essay but in the long run it just tires you out. Set a time with a friend to grab lunch and go somewhere else to eat it, even if you just take 30 minutes, you can even plan it so it fits with your 25 minute Pomodoro break. That 25/30 minutes away from the screen, mixed with some human interaction, calms your mind, brings you back to work refreshed so you focus better and means you enjoy your food rather than shovelling it down as an after-thought.

Extra top tip – Bring a packed/ prepped lunch to campus or work – that way you don’t waste time waiting in queues, and bonus, you’ll probably eat something healthier.

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(Full disclosure: This was not healthy, this was a reduced melt in the middle salted caramel muffin and it 100% made my day!)

  1. Know when to move on

So, you have set yourself a task, but you’ve been working on it for hours, you feel tired, everything you do is taking much longer, and you aren’t really focusing properly anymore. Know when to stop what you’re doing and move on. So many times, I have sat and proof-read an essay over and over again, changing things left, right and centre to the point where I just don’t read it through properly and miss obvious mistakes. Once I notice it is taking me what seems like hours to read one document, I know I need to switch it up. So, I might be proofing at 5pm and I’ve lost the will to keep reading but, I still want to be productive, this is the time I close down the essay and do something mindless like write up my bibliography, reply to some emails, or write tomorrow’s to-do list. There is no shame in leaving a task till later that day or the next morning so that you can come back to it with fresh eyes and produce something better. Doing something quick and easy in the last hour or half hour of your day instead of packing it in, means you’re still productive and you save yourself a job for tomorrow by prepping your to-do’s the day before or replying to one or two emails.

So these tips might not be revolutionary, but I hope at least they serve as a reminder to some of you who are stuck in a rut of deadlines and to-do lists!