Packing list for a 4 day trip to London

I love packing lists.

When I first started planning my trips abroad I pored over packing lists trying to refine what I was bringing along with me on my journey. Now, I’ve become addicted to the concept of packing as lightly as possible. When I travelled to Poland and Ukraine a few months ago the majority of the belongings I brought with me fitted into a 20l backpack, and this habit of packing light is one I want to continue.

I’m going to London for 4 days and this is what I’m bringing with me

  1. 4 pairs of underwear
  2. 1 bra
  3. 4 pairs of socks
  4. 2 long sleeved tops
  5. 2 jumpers
  6. 1 pair of jeans
  7. Pyjamas
  8. Charger
  9. Phone
  10. Kindle
  11. Toiletries (deodorant, bar shampoo/soap, toothpaste,perfume, lip balm)
  12. Toothbrush
  13. Hairbrush
  14. Foldable rucksack
  15. Foldable water bottle
  16. Small crossbody handbag
  17. Coat, scarf, hat, and gloves
  18. Ankle boots

I’d normally add a towel to this list, but towels will be provided at the hostel where my friend and I will be staying.

Experiencing reverse culture shock

I felt a little strange when I arrived in the UK a few months ago after my trip to Ukraine. I had a bit of a cold, so went into Boots to buy some medicines. I was a little bit shocked to see that they were selling Christmas gifts; to me it seemed very over the top (in contrast to other years when I’d been excited by the arrival of the Christmas gift guides in the shops, eagerly perusing them to decide what I’d buy for my family and friends).

I know now that I was experiencing a very mild version of reverse culture shock when a person feels out of place in their home environment. Even though I was only away for a month, I’d got used to the pace of life in Ukraine, the Ukrainian culture, and even the language and alphabet to some extent.

A couple of months has passed and I’m settling back into my home country, but I’ve realised my travels have changed me and I don’t have some of the same attitudes that I used to.

Massolit books and Cafe, Krakow

I’ve discovered some things about myself during the year – one of them is that I love finding nice places to have coffee, no matter where I travel. So before travelling to Krakow I had a look online for some recommendations, and read about Massolit Books, an English language bookshop which also has a cafe.

It takes around ten minutes to walk from Krakow’s Old Town to the Massolit bookshop. The bookshop itself is very inviting, and the addition of a cafe made it even more appealing for me to visit.

Even though I had limited room in my luggage, I wanted to buy something as a memento of my visit to the city. I spent some time browsing after I’d had my coffee, and decided to buy a second-hand Eastern European phrasebook, which I hope will help with my efforts to travel more in this part of the world.


I spent a few months in the Canary Islands earlier this year, and during that period I drank a fair bit of coffee (in fact ‘coffee’ seems to be a bit of a recurring theme on my travels this year). I hadn’t heard of a barraquito before travelling there, and the first few times I saw it on a menu I had no idea what it was. One day I decided to try it, and fell in love with the taste.

Barraquitos can be served con licor or sin licor, depending on your preference. I prefer sin licor since I’m not a drinker, but I have tried both versions. The drink is layered coffee and condensed milk (plus the licor if you’re having it). One cafe I went to also added cinnamon and lemon peel.

The barraquito probably isn’t to everyone’s taste (the addition of condensed milk makes it quite sweet) but it’s a drink that’s unique to the Canary Islands and is worth trying if you like coffee and have got a sweet tooth.

Short story

I wrote this story a couple of months ago on my phone when I was sitting in a park in Lviv, Ukraine. It’s partly inspired by the Yard of Lost Toys, which I’ve previously written about visiting.

I’d never been lost in my own city before. I guess there’s a first time for everything.

Before you point out that it’s totally implausible for someone to lose themselves in the city they’ve lived in their whole lives, let me provide a bit of context. I hadn’t been feeling well for several days. Feverish and a little nauseated, I’d forced myself out of the house for my best friend Polly’s birthday dinner. I know it wasn’t the best idea I’d ever had, but she’d always made an effort for me so I didn’t want to let her down. 

I’d felt fine at the restaurant until the main course arrived, then I excused myself and went to the bathroom. I’d locked myself in a cubicle, waiting for the nausea to pass. After sitting there for a couple of minutes, I heard Polly’s voice.

“Sophie, are you okay?” she asked.

I opened the door. “I’m not feeling well,” I admitted. “I probably shouldn’t have come, but I didn’t want to let you down.”

She insisted that I go home and get some rest. “I’ll call you a taxi,” she said.

“No, it’s okay, I’ll do it,” I said. “You should get back to your guests.”

She hugged me. “Text me when you get home.”

I didn’t call a taxi. I’d given Polly some money to cover my share of the food we’d already eaten, and didn’t have enough left to pay for a taxi fare. The bus stop was only a few streets away, so I decided that I’d take the bus home.

There was one problem; everything looked different in the dark. I couldn’t find the bus stop, not even the street it was on. I couldn’t find anything. 

I walked past an old apartment building, the yard looked creepy in the streetlight.  As I looked closer I realised why. There were soft toys strewn around everywhere. I could see a toy panda propped against a plant pot, some lions, and a large toy fox that had seen better days. I started to shiver. It was like something out of a horror film.

I realised the chances of these stuffed toys attacking me were very slim, but I was lost and alone in the dark, and didn’t feel safe. I turned on my 4G and connected to Google Maps, wondering why I hadn’t thought of that before.  After a few minutes, I found the bus stop and was soon on my way home.

Once I arrived I texted Polly.

“Arrived home safely. Hope you’ve had a good evening x”

I made myself some tea with honey, then climbed into bed.  I didn’t tell anyone I’d got lost on the way home; it’s kind of embarrassing. Thankfully, it hasn’t happened again.




Self-care ideas for November

Halloween is over, the shops are full of Christmas decorations and Christmas gifts, and it’s getting colder and darker outside. It can be very overwhelming, so here are some ideas that we can all use to get us through the month ahead.

1. Dig out your cosy jumpers, hats, coats, and socks in preparation for the months ahead

2. Make a Christmas/winter reading list

3. Get some plants for your home

4. Let go of something

5. Declutter your social media accounts

6. Make a Christmas/winter play list

7. Set a budget for Christmas gifts/decorations

8. Wrap up warm and go for a walk

9. Make soup or stew

10. Spend time with a friend

11. Have a digital detox

12. Spend 10 minutes journaling

13. Start a gratitude practice

14. Spend an evening working on a small craft project

15. Do something you’ve been putting off

10 things I’ve done in my forties

  1. Spent my birthday in Spain. I celebrated turning 41 with a stay at the Winederful Hostel and Cafe in the city of Logrono. It was the first time I’ve spent my birthday abroad, and it was really nice experience. I would definitely do it again.
  2. Went to London for the Queen’s Birthday Parade. This was something I’d wanted to do for a while, kind of a bucket list item, so it was a great feeling. I initially didn’t plan my trip to London to coincide with the Parade, so it felt like me being there was meant to be. It was lovely to see all the Royals going past in their carriages, and the atmosphere was great.
  3. Got my passport stamped. I got my first stamps when I visited Ukraine.
  4. Visited a cat cafe. I had wanted to visit one of these for a while, and found out about the Lviv cat cafe through a tour guide when I was there. It was a relaxing experience, and I’d recommend going to a cat cafe if you like cats, cafes, and don’t mind having feline company while eating.20190925_151111
  5. Travelled on an overnight train.
  6. Climbed a hill. The hill I climbed was High Castle, in Lviv. I actually climbed it twice – once at night-time and once during the day. 20190923_134427
  7. Made a friend from another country.
  8. Saw a red squirrel. It’s more common to see grey squirrels in the UK because the red squirrels are endangered, so I was excited to see this little guy in Stryiskyi Park, Lviv. 20190925_142027
  9. Visited a country with a different language and alphabet (Ukraine).
  10. Tried Turkish coffee.