Decoding Nutrition Labels

Are you following my Nutrition: Back to Basics but don’t know how to tell what is in your favourite snacks? Don’t worry, I was the same. I always found myself looking at the back of packets in the supermarket and nodding as though I knew what was going on, but really I didn’t have a clue what to be looking for. For anyone who can relate, this article is for you. Hopefully, I will be able to clear some things up and give you a basic understanding of what to look for.

I would recommend reading my article Nutrition: Back to Basics before reading this post. I will be referring to it a lot and will give you a good basis of what to do with the information in this post.

Screen Shot 2017-06-28 at 16.10.471) Size of the serving 

2) How many servings per container 

Many people believe that the nutritional information on the back of the packet represents the whole packet. In some cases it does, but not always. It is a crucial mistake to make. You could eat a full packet of crisps and think it was only 200 calories but really it was 200 calories for 7 crisps. Same goes for the nutrients listed. The information is all per serving. So be careful.

3) Calories: Can be related to ‘energy’ in my Nutrition: Back to Basics article. Remember, its calories per serving. Not always for the full packet!

4) Fat: In my basic nutrition article I talk about Precision Nutrition’s hand sized guide. They outline how per meal you should aim to have the ‘top of your thumb’ of fat.

5) Sodium: Try to keep to highly salted foods to a minimum. High sodium meals can in some cases cause the body to retain fluid in the form of a ‘bloat’.

According to the NHS:

  • A high amount of salt is 1.5g per 100g
  • A low amount of salt is 0.3g per 100g

6) Carbohydrates: In my basic nutrition article I talk about Precision Nutrition’s hand sized guide. They outline how per meal you should aim to have the size of a cupped hand of carbohydrates.

Sugars: A classified carbohydrate,  which can be found in foods in its natural form and in the form of artificial sweeteners.

According to Diabetes Ireland:

  • More than 15g per 100g is considered high
  • Less than 5g per 100g is considered low

7) Protein: In my basic nutrition article I talk about Precision Nutrition’s hand sized guide. They outline how you should aim to have the ‘size of your palm’ of protein per meal.

8) Bottom section and Percentages: I ignore these sections as like I mentioned in my other article everyone has different energy and macronutrient needs based on height, age, weight, and activity level. While the recommended daily intake can be somewhat useful I believe that when it comes to nutrition there isn’t a ‘one size fits all’. Everyone will have different needs. The guidelines given at the bottom of the nutrition label are the recommended daily amounts for all men and all women and the percentages are the percentages of each nutrient per single serving in terms of the daily recommended amount. I wouldn’t treat them as gospel but it is something to consider.

There are a lot of other things that can be considered when examining nutrition labels, but I am hoping that this article along with Nutrition: Back to Basics will be able to give you the basics on how to decode the label and what to do with the information you have decoded.

If you liked this article or found it helpful give it a like and don’t forget to subscribe to emails – if you have subscribed and aren’t receiving emails check your junk mail or you may have to confirm your subscription through this link.

The Girl on the Go xx

 

Tips for a Camping Virgin

This month I tried out camping thing for the first time. I have camped in my back garden but have never done the whole camp site thing so I had no idea what to expect. Based on my experience I don’t understand why it isn’t more popular. If you are considering trying something new, here are a few tips that might help you prepare for it.

  1. Pick a camp site – There are hundreds of campsite all over the States, try to pick one and book your spot. Yes, that is a thing. We made the mistake of not realising you had to book, but luckily we went on an off-peak time of year so they had some availability.
  1. Facilities – Look up the place you are going and see what facilities they have, this will give you a good indication what you will and won’t need to bring. Here is a rough list of what you might want to pack, but you will need different things for different sites.

Living

  • Tent
  • Sleeping bags
  • Torch
  • Towels and toiletries
  • Portable Charger
  • Chairs/ Rug
  • Baby Wipes
  • Insect repellent
  • Bin bag
  • Music Speaker

Cooking – Some campsites will have BBQs available to use. Check their website about what facilities they have before you arrive. You may need to bring a portable BBQ instead.

  • Food for BBQ
  • Plates, cups & cutlery
  • Spatula
  • Cooler box
  • Water

We had the best time and have camped a good few times on our trip because we loved it so much. It is something different and really allows you to totally disconnect from the outside world.

assa 2
Camping on Assateague Island, Maryland

I hope you have found this post helpful and maybe convinced you to try it out on your next trip away! Don’t forget to subscribe for emails.

The Girl on the Go xx

Nutrition: Back to Basics

A lot of people starting off dieting or changing their lifestyle are looking for a quick fix, and I was too. Google searching ‘7 Belly burning foods’ will do nothing to help your health and body recomposition efforts, in fact it will probably do the exact opposite. I hate to be the bearer of bad news but there are no quick fixes or magic weight loss foods. Losing weight and changing your body composition takes time, dedication and  a willingness to learn. In my opinion, one of the main factors driving the obesity epidemic is lack of education and the public being given misleading information from companies trying to sell you a product. In this post I want to lay out a few basic nutrition principles that I have come to learn over the years which I wish I knew when starting off my health and fitness journey that hopefully will be able to help you too.

  1. Energy in vs. Energy out

A very simple concept that a lot of people tend to over look is energy in vs. energy out. In simple terms think of food as energy. On days that you are doing a lot off activity your body will use more energy than on the days that you are doing less activity. To maintain body weight you must be expending the same amount of energy as you are consuming, to lose weight you must be expending more energy then you are consuming, and yes, you’ve guessed it, to put on weight you must be consuming more than you are expending.

It might seem obvious but being aware of this simple concept and trying to consider it on a day to day basis should make you a lot more mindful about how much you are, and need to consume.

Let’s look at a real example that might make this more clear. If you know you are going out for pizza and drinks tonight while trying to lose a bit of weight (need to expend more than consume), what do you have to do to achieve or come close to achieving your negative energy balance?

You have two options;

  • Get some extra exercise in to expend the energy you will be consuming later on in the day
  • or you can make better food choices, reducing the amount of energy you would usually take in earlier on in that day to account for the pizza and drinks (yes, alcohol contains energy/calories.

I personally like to do a bit of both. I will make sure that I get a good workout in that day, as well as making better food choices. For example, I try to eat more protein as it is keeps you fuller for longer. I will touch on protein a bit more in the next point.

2. Macro nutrients

There are three main nutrients. These are carbohydrates, fats and protein and they are known as macronutrients. Every food has a different macronutrient composition. Here are some examples to show you (these values may vary slightly due to a lot of factors):

Chicken Breast

Protein: 23g

Carbohydrates: 0g

Fat: 1.2g

Apple

Protein: 0.3g

Carbohydrates: 14.6g

Fat: 0.2g

Slice of bread

Protein: 2.7g

Carbohydrates: 10.6g

Fat: 0.4g

Tablespoon peanut butter 

Protein: 8g

Carbohydrates: 7g

Fat:  15g

1 slice of Large Pepperoni Dominoes Pizza

Protein: 12g

Carbohydrates: 34g

Fat: 12.5g

Everyone has different macro nutrient requirements based on their weight, height, age, body composition, goals and activity. Being aware of macronutrients and what the foods you are consuming are made of up of will help you to make better decisions when trying to eat ‘healthier’. I try to make sure that most of my meals include all of the macro nutrient food groups. I will talk about portion sizes and rough proportions in point number 4.

IMG_20170522_201838_762
Homemade protein shake

3. Micronutrients 

While most of the health and fitness industry are obsessed with macronutrients, micronutrients shouldn’t be overlooked. A lot of people forget that if they aren’t supplying their body with the correct micronutrients, all of the macronutrients you are working so hard to have on point won’t be able to be utilised effectively.

Screenshot_20170423-130400

Micronutrients are the nutrients that will help to keep your insides healthy, happy and your systems working at full capacity. Where do you get micronutrients from? Fruit and vegetables. Only recently have I realised the true importance of getting my micronutrients in. I am always sick and hate knowing that every few weeks I will have to drop everything and stay in bed. I have been making a very conscious effort to try and eat one big portion of veggies in with every meal, and honestly I think it has helped my immune system. I haven’t been getting sick as often and when I do, it doesn’t feel half as bad as before.

Portions

Now that you have an idea about energy balance, macronutrients and micronutrients, let’s talk about portions. Like I previously mentioned, everyone will have different needs based on age, height, weight and nutrition goal. One thing you can consider that will give you a rough estimate of how much you should be eating of each food group is splitting up your plate, seen in the below illustration. Disclaimer: this is just a rough idea and is what I personally try to follow.

19213095_1453059004737853_1585374509_o
Protein = Chicken. Carbs = Sweet Potatoes. Veggies = Peppers & Broccoli. Fat = Coconut Oil which the sweet potatoes were cooked in

 

Another good thing to consider is Precision Nutrition’s hand guides:

Your palm determines your protein portions

Your fist determines your veggie portions

Your (single) cupped hand determines your carb portions

Your thumb determines your fat portions

So a good example of a meal based on these principles would be:

Omelette

  • Veggies: Big portion of a range of veg
  • Protein: Egg whites
  • Carbs: Slice of toast
  • Fats: Butter on toast
19126271_1453058771404543_398356131_o
Well balanced meal for any time of the day

I don’t believe in cutting out full nutrient groups, eliminating or reducing carbs seems to be a popular trend among ‘dieters’. As you probably know if you are reading this, diets don’t last. This information is here to give you some tools that will hopefully help to change your habits and overall lifestyle. If you are looking for a 1 week diet to lose weight before your holiday that you are guaranteed to put straight back on you won’t get that information here. Sorry. I am interested in helping the people that want to change their life and who are willing to trust the process. I am no expert but if anyone has any questions feel free to get in contact and I will try to answer them to the best of my ability.

I hope you were able to take away at least one helpful point from this post. Thanks for reading and see you in the next one.

The Girl on the Go xx

 

 

 

 

 

Preparing for a Road Trip

Getting ready for a road trip can be stressful. What to bring?  Where to go? Where do you even begin to start organising? Here are a few easy tips that we decided were the most important after our first few days on the road. 

1) Pick your stops – Do some research and find out where you want to stop. If there are any places, restaurants or things you want to see, write them down on a list and use for point no. 2 below.

We used the website roadtrippers.com  where we had to enter our start and end point and the website generated suggested stops and things for us to see along the journey. I would totally recommend using this website, it gave us some great ideas that we would never have found out about.

IMG_20170602_091322_545
Wellfleet Bay, Cape Cod

2) Map out a rough route – Make a route on google maps. You are able to save maps including points of interest and share them on google docs with the people you are traveling with. This map can be downloaded and used when you are outside of wifi – which will avoid you racking up your phone bill by using data roaming on the road.

3) Accommodation – We decided not to book any accommodation in advance because we plan to decide how long we want to spend in each place when we arrive. We did this because we don’t want to be stuck in places we don’t like for longer than we want. So, we plan to use Hotwire.com and Airbnb for most of our accommodation on our trip. Hotwire.com is a website that sells last minute deals on hotel rooms. We have used it before and have booked 4 star hotels the day before for less than half the price everyone paying – cool right?

IMG_20170603_173457_938
The Masthead Resort Provincetown, Cape Cod @ only $70 per night

4) Music – Put some time into creating or finding a playlist you like or maybe try downloading some podcasts. If your car can take an AUX cable, lucky you. We are going to buy a small speaker and hopefully use that in the car, but if that fails we will have to find some CDs we like – Do shops even sell CDs anymore?

5) Car charger – If you are going to be spending hours in the car you will probably be spending hours on your phone, especially if you have downloaded maps for directions. Make sure that  you get a car charger, I think you can buy them in most gas stations.

6) Snacks – It is worth investing in a cooler box and filling it with water and some snacks. It can be annoying and time consuming having to stop every time you are feeling peckish, especially if you have a lot of ground to cover.

IMG_20170401_142219_520

See you in the next one and to keep up to date with everything that I am getting up to on the road trip by entering your email below and following the instructions to confirm your subscription as well as following me on Instagram.

The Girl on the Go xx

7 ways to Pack Smarter

I have been so lucky that I have been able to travel and visit so many cool places during my study exchange in Canada, check out New York in 4 daysBoston – Top 5 things to do in Boston and Ottawa in 1 day for more information on the places I visited. I can safely say that all the little trips in the back of others people cars and on budget airlines has forced me to become an expert bag packer and to make the most of my tiny suitcase. Here are my secrets.

Tip 1: By faaaar the most important tip – Roll dont fold. You won’t believe how much more you will be able to fit in a case when your clothes are rolled.

Tip 2: Plan !!! Look up the weather and roughly plan an outfit for every day of your trip – This will help you to avoid packing things you dont need.

18426632_1418459018197852_1844235701_o
Outfit planning

Tip 3: Fill any shoes you are putting in your case.

18406126_1418459138197840_1148733640_o
Stuffed shoes. Check.

Tip 4: Wear the bulkiest items you are bringing.

Tip 5: Get ‘mini’ toiletries.

Tip 6: Pack the essentials in your carry on backpack. I often carry a change of clothes in my backpack incase (god forbid) my suitcase goes missing.

18426876_1418459151531172_1900333562_o
Essentials. Check. (Back pack from Pennies 13 euro)

Tip 7: Carry a reusable bag for dirty laundry so don’t have to sort through them when your home

I hope these 7 simple tips will be able to help you make the most of your suitcase for your next trip away. Don’t forget to sign up for email updates on all things ‘The Girl on the Go’. See you in the next one.

The Girl on the Go xx

5 Ways to Make Getting Fit Easier

Are you deciding to take the plunge to start getting healthy and into shape? It can be intimidating as a newbie entering the gym. Unfortunately, intimidation and the fear of being judged are some of the main reasons why people take so long to get their asses into a gym. If you have decided to change your life or maybe you still need a little push hopefully these tips can help give you some guidance:

1) Don’t be intimidated – Easier said than done, but everyone (even the girl with the bubble bum and abs) started somewhere. Don’t be ashamed. One day the new girl/guy will be looking at you wishing they knew what you knew and were in as good shape as you. So keep going, each time you go you will get more confident and closer to your goal. 

2) Have a plan – Don’t just arrive at the gym and hope that you will magically know what to do and how to do it. Hiring a coach is a good idea. They can give you the confidence and help guide you while you try and achieve your goals. Whether you have a trainer or not, have a plan before you arrive at the gym. Youtube videos are great for mastering your technique. To this day after 2.5 years of serious lifting I still check out some videos before I go to workout to make sure that my form is in check.

IMG_20170406_134403_247

3) Don’t expect results overnight – I am the biggest culprit for lifting up my top looking for my non existent 6 pack after eating a salad. It takes time, so don’t be discouraged if you aren’t seeing the results right away. As they say, Rome wasn’t built in a day. This holds true for every successful athlete, bodybuilder and fitness model out there.

4) Find a gym buddy – Find someone who is looking to achieve a similar goal as you and kick ass together. You will be less intimidated in the gym at the start if you have a friend. Not to mention, you guys can push each other to go the the gym even when you don’t feel like it, or to eat that salad instead of that pizza. This will also hold you accountable.

IMG_20170406_141636_928

 

5) Girls, don’t be afraid of getting bulky –  It isn’t as easy as you think to get ‘bulky’.  As females, we don’t have the same hormone or body structure as men, this makes it extremely difficult to get ‘bulky’. So stop worrying about getting ‘big’ and embrace lifting weights and try to maintain a balanced diet. This way you will optimise your chances of achieving your goal. You will thank me later when your results are a lot better than your friend on the treadmill.

IMG_20170406_142826_463

These are only some of the tips that I think are important for beginners who are starting to go to the gym or who are starting to take exercise more seriously. They are centred around the gym, but maybe the gym isn’t for you. Maybe you want to start pilates, boxing or jogging. No matter what you are doing, taking the first step is always the hardest so hopefully these tips can help you no matter what type of physical activity you want to try.

The most important thing is to have fun and enjoy your journey to becoming a healthier and fitter version of yourself.

The Girl on the Go xx

 

How to Stay Healthy Whilst Traveling

I noticed this summer while backpacking around Europe that convenience stores (which are in every train station and airport) aren’t very ‘convenient’ for people who are trying to eat healthy. They are mainly filled with overly processed food, drink,  and very few fresh products.

I have come up with a few tips that might help you guys maintain a balanced diet on your next trip, or if you are just looking to start your journey you may also be interested in 6 Healthy Habits to aid Weight Loss.

1. Fail to prepare, prepare to fail – As cringy as this sounds, this is by far the most important thing no matter if you are traveling or just going to college or work. If you want to achieve your health goals you need to be prepared. Always carry a lunch box around or just some snacks that are healthy so you won’t be forced to try to find something in a ‘convenience’ store. Get your trip off to a good start by bringing some healthy snacks to munch on while waiting for your flight. Airports always have the worst selection of healthy food.

IMG_20170401_142219_520
Bring some healthy snacks. If you haven’t already tried Fulfil bars the white chocolate is the best!

2. Stay Hydrated – I know when I am traveling I always forget to drink water. Drinking enough water is a huge part of trying to stay healthy and it is usually forgotten when it isn’t readily available. Most places have water fountains, so if you want to save a bit of money and help the environment carry a reusable bottle around with you.

IMG_20170401_142138_588
I always try to bring my cute Victoria Secret glass water bottle with me when I leave the house

3. Try to avoid fast food joints – I know grabbing a burger or some fries can seem like the easiest and cheapest option sometimes, especially for students who are on a budget, but what I learnt from my trip this summer was that supermarkets become your best friend. I used to go and buy fruit and veg in big packets which I would carry around with me. Some super markets even have small salad and sandwich bars. This option is especially nice in a hot country. You can go and buy your food and go and sit on a beach or in a park and eat your food.

4. 5-a-day – Although this is far from essential, you should make sure you are getting 5 portions of fruit and vegetables in every day.  This will help you make smarter choices when choosing what to eat both out in restaurants or in the supermarket.

5. Walk – Ditch the Ubers, trains and buses. If possible try to walk to the places you want to go. Most of the time going away on holidays means that you will be missing out on your gym sessions. So make sure that you are trying to at least hit 10,000 steps every day.

IMG_20170301_130746_946
Walking around NYC

6. Don’t skip meals – If you have no choice but to eat in the fast food restaurant, do it! While a lot of people might avoid McDonald’s at all costs as they don’t want to be ‘bloated’ in their bikini the following day. The reality is you are on your holidays, and I know that when I get hungry I am really really grumpy! There is no point risking ruining your holiday to try and maintain the same level of leanness you arrived with.

I hope these tips have been of some use to you coming up to summer. Enjoy your holiday and hopefully see you back here soon!

The Girl on Go xx

10 Step Guide to #FitSpo Dining

Just because you are trying to eat healthier or trying to lose a few pounds doesn’t mean that you should have to pass up the opportunity to eat out, you just need to try to make smart choices.

img_20170213_131440_450
Salad as featured in my Toronto – JOEY restaurant review

Here are 10 tips to help you make smarter menu choices next time you are eating out without having to compromise on taste.

1) Look up the menu online before going, this allows me to plan ahead and hopefully means that I won’t give into my hungry tummy on the spot. If you track your macros this step is extremely important. It allows  you to plan the rest of your meals for the day, ensuring you hit all of your nutrient goals.

2) Drink water, Diet sodas can be useful,  especially if you have a sweet tooth like me. Try to avoid alcohol. At a hefty 7 kcal per gram, it can quickly put you in a caloric surplus for that day.

3) Avoid the bread basket, once you start you will never stop. It can also lead to you racking a huge amount of unnecessary calories before you even start the meal.

4) Salads are a great option, but for me, I don’t always choose salads if I am out for dinner as I find salads don’t always fill me up very much as I am used to at home having a big dinner and a smaller lunch. So, I tend to snack when I get home as a result. Everyone is different, you just need to find out what works best for you.

Tip 1: Sometimes I ask for salads with extra meat so they are a bit more filling, also helpful for  hitting your protein goal.

Tip 2: Just beware of the dressing, most salad dressings are more calorific and higher in fat than people think. I usually use balsamic vinegar or vinaigrette at home and that usually is not too high in both calories and fat.

5) Choose a high protein dish, Not only is protein extremely important for maintaining/gaining muscle mass, it is the nutrient that a lot of people struggle to hit their goal for on a day to day basis. Where possible I usually try to get a dish that one of the main ingredients is a meat. Most of the time the meat (protein & fat) comes with a carbohydrate (e.g. Potato – ideally not chips) and some veg. As you can see that meal will give you a good balance between the three macro nutrients. As opposed to a pizza that will only really give you Carbohydrates and fat.

6) Modify your dish – Don’t be afraid to ask for your meal with or without certain ingredients.

E.g. 1) Removing the cheese in a sandwich to cut back on fat.

E.g. 2) Ask for plain chicken rather than breaded chicken.

img_20170108_231927_886
Scrambled Eggs on toast, minus the bacon

7) Choose a smart side: Use your side dish to ensure you get your 5-a-day in. Almost always, a salad is the best option, Steamed veg is great too.  Again, just be careful with the calorific dressings.

Tip: The more naturally colourful your plate is the better.

8) Sauce on the side – Sauces are usually quite high in calories due to their high fat content. I usually ask for them on the side so I can control how much I have.

9) Don’t have all three courses, if everyone is having three, compromise and only get two.

10) Get tea or coffee instead of dessert, this will distract you while everyone is digging into their desserts.

fullsizeoutput_1
Avoca Monkstown Ireland’s Chicken Caesar salad – dressing on the side

Although these tips will hopefully help you stay on the straight and narrow whilst eating out, if you are serious about achieving your fitness and weight loss goals you should really keep eating out to a minimum. Having said that, having a social life is so important and it is all about trying to find a balance. If you enjoyed this post you may also be interested in 6 Healthy Habits to aid Weight Loss5 Ways to Make Getting Fit Easier and How to Stay Healthy Whilst Traveling.

I hope these tips have been able to help you guys, see you in the next post 

The Girl on the Go xx

Surviving a Canadian Winter

As many of you may know by now, I am currently on a study exchange in Canada. There have been a lot of things that I have had to adapt to that I am not used to back in Ireland. This post is for anyone who is planning on moving, visiting or coming on a study exchange to Canada in the Winter – basically, what I would do differently/advice I would want to know before I arrived.

1) Travel: Travel as much as you can, I am lucky where I am based (Ottawa) because there are a lot of places to visit that are relatively close by like Montreal, Kingston, Toronto, Quebec City and loads more.

Problem: Getting from one place to another is bloody expensive

Solution: Rideshares. So many people drive from city to city on a daily basis as their job, you can find drivers in kijiji.com (kind of like eBay in Canada). The two I have got have been really nice and really good value. Okay, I know. It sounds dodgy getting in a stranger’s car but they are generally completely full so you aren’t on your own with the driver. They are quite common over here and less than a quarter of the price of trains and buses.

2) Footwear: I had no idea what sort of footwear to bring/buy before I came here. I will say if there is still snow around and you think runners are a good idea, they aren’t a good idea. You are wrong.

Problem #1: There is snow everywhere and it is really slippy!

Solution #1: Get a WATERPROOF pair of boots WITH GRIP. I got two pairs, a just above the ankle leather pair of black boots that I am happy to wear both during the day and at night. The other pair I got are snow boots, they go half way up my calf and lace up the front. They are nice but honestly, I have only worn them twice on the really cold days as they are warmer but to be honest I probably didn’t need them. (NOTE: I am based in the city in Ottawa so the streets are usually cleaned, however, if you are going to be going to a ski resort or living/staying out of the cities the longer ones might be a good idea if the road clearing systems aren’t as efficient)

Problem #2: The roads are regularly salted to prevent it becoming really icy. When you are walking along the path the salt stains your boots.

 

Solution #2: Be sure to have some wet wipes handy to remove the salt marks as they leave a permanent stain your boots if you don’t

IMG_20170401_142052_839
Keeping your snow Boots clean

3) Choosing a jacket: When in Canada your jacket will be your best friend, you want to be sure that you makes the right decision when choosing one.

Problem #1: When we first arrived the main place where we were cold was our thighs, you can pile layers under your jacket but either 1) Never think to put layers under your jeans or 2) If your from abroad would never consider that you would need to put layers under your jeans so don’t buy a big enough size.

Solution #1: In fairness it has been a very mild winter while I have been here, but there hasn’t been a huge amount of days where I have needed to wear thermals under my jeans so I wouldn’t be advising you to go to the shop and spend a fortune on jeans that are too big for you. Instead, when choosing a jacket I would make sure that it at least came over your bum. Some people get ones to their mid thigh but I prefer shorter ones so a ‘bum coverer’ is ideal.

img_20170115_163021_766

Problem #2: You are wearing this jacket every single day, sometimes it is raining. Sometimes you get makeup on it, sometimes your jacket won’t go with everything.

Solution #2: Get a neutral coloured jacket. Black, Grey or Navy ideally. It will give you the most amount of options in terms of what it goes with. I thought it was a great idea to get a white jacket … (What was I thinking?). Although it is pretty it is easy to get dirty especially with makeup etc.

Hope you guys have found this helpful, if you have give it a like!

The Girl on the Go xx

 

 

 

Igloofest Montréal – What to expect

Planning a trip to Montréal’s Igloofest but don’t know what to expect? That’s how I felt last week before I went. I didn’t know what to bring, what to wear or what it would be like. So I decided to share my newly found ‘Igloofest Wisdom’ with you guys!

img_20170201_213907_678

Here is a list of a few (7 to be exact) pointers and advice for your trip to Igloofest. Hopefully, by the end of this post you won’t feel as clueless as I did.

Layer up: When I was there I saw a lot of people that I assume forgot the fact it was winter… in Canada. If you are cold you just won’t enjoy it at all.Simple as.

Dress code: You can wear whatever you want, before I went myself and my friend looked up videos and saw that people dressed up, so we decided to do the whole ‘festival girl’ look with glitter and bright clothing etc. It wasn’t until the last minute that we panicked a bit, wondering if we would look silly, but when we got there no one cared. Some people were dressed up, some weren’t. It’s just a matter of personal preference. We had so much fun going to Dollarama (€ shop in Ireland) and buying loads of funny costumes and close to 100 pounds of glitter. (Warning, if you weren’t aware glitter goes everywhere and is a nightmare to clean up – but worth it)

Lanyard: When you get into the crowd up close to the stage it is so crowded that if you drop something you can kiss it goodbye, as it will be trampled into the ground, not to mention the ground is about 3cms of muck. That being said I would recommend getting a lanyard for your phone, it also means that you have your phone close by to take loads of pictures. Another one for your phone, make sure it’s fully charged. It is easy to get split up from your friends.

Bring cash: When I was there the queue for the cash machines were really long and I heard they had high charges. So bring cash and save yourself from the charges and spend more time enjoying the night.

Buy an Igloofest hat: Keep between 16&22CAD to buy an Igloofest hat, they are really big at the festival, every second person has one. I got one and I haven’t taken it off since I have got home, it is a really nice memento and a great way to rub in all your friends faces you were there (That was a joke – but not really).

img_20170202_185630_377

Mud-proof shoes: I mentioned in another point how muddy the place is, well that wasn’t an exaggeration. I wore boots and they were filthy by the time I got home, luckily mine were leather so were easy enough to clean. Whereas my friend wore runners, and not only did she get them so dirty her feet were also frozen compared to us in our boots.

Pre-book tickets: (if possible) Not only does it save you time on the night, (not having to buy tickets at the ticket booth and then join the long queue) but it can also save you money. There was a group of five of us so there is a special group deal online for big groups so be sure to check online before you go.

Hope you enjoy it, it is such a surreal experience dancing at a festival while it is snowing! Maybe I just find this so cool because I’m Irish and don’t see snow very often.

The Girl on the Go xx

 

Study Exchange/ Erasmus – Where to go?

If you are reading this you are probably one of the lucky few that have been given the amazing opportunity to go on a Study exchange or an Erasmus. I hope this post can help you understand how lucky you are and hopefully help you to decide where the best place for you to study might be.

I am currently on a Study Exchange in Canada, and being truly honest I didn’t want to come to Canada. Canada wasn’t one of my top preferences, but my course is quite competitive and it just so happened the people with better grades also wanted the choices I had in my top 10. So why am I here in freezing Ottawa if I wanted to be in sunny Australia?

img_20170117_172301_272
The Ottawa River on a Winter evening

I was initially devastated when I got the email that I had got a place in uOttawa. Not because I didn’t like the sound of it, it was more because I was so keen on going to Australia. I even considered not going. For a ‘warm weather girl’, the idea of living in a climate that averaged at -18 degrees celsius sounded like torture. That’s when I decided I needed a serious reality check! I started to realise how lucky I was to have been given this amazing opportunity. As one of the girls I have met in Canada says I’ll be ‘one experience richer’ at the end of it.

IMG_20170327_230258_025
The Ottawa River in the Spring

Since I have arrived I haven’t looked back once, I laugh at that girl who threw a little tantrum because she didn’t get her first choice. I have met the most amazing people and I am lucky enough to have some of my best friends both with me and only a short train journey away. I have so many exciting trips planned and I know if I stupidly decided not to come it would be something I would have regretted for the rest of my life. So if you are given the opportunity, DO IT!

img_20170113_154723_482
University of Ottawa

So if you are still in the choosing process here are some factors you might want to consider before applying:

  1. Language barrier – do you speak more than one language and would you like to improve it? For me, I tried to avoid places with a language barrier, even though my classes would have been through English I just felt it would be easier to make friends if I spoke the same language as them.
  2. Climate – The one that went against me in the end, but you should consider if would you like to explore a different climate to your home country’s climate.
  3. Culture – Would you like to experience a completely new culture to what you are used to or something similar enough?
  4. College ranking – study exchanges are not only great for experiencing new things and meeting new people, they are also a great way to get to another college name on your CV, so maybe consider where all of the different colleges are ranked and maybe pick one higher than the college you are currently in.
  5. How far from home you are comfortable being – I wouldn’t say I am a home bird, yes I will miss my family and my friends at times but I love being away and doing new things. If you are anxious about going away on a study exchange based on being home sick it might be a good idea to consider somewhere closer to home. If you fall under this category, having a smaller time difference and the potential opportunity to fly home or for people to visit you should be something you should maybe take into account.
  6. Friends – this should DEFINITELY not be a major deciding factor on where to go, but it just so happened one of my best friends got into the same college as me and some of my other best friends are in Canada as well. We all got really lucky how it worked out, and it gives me some sense of home – I know some people might say ‘that’s not a real Erasmus experience’ if I have friends close by but it’s just how it has worked out and I am really thankful for it.
  7. Budget – some places are a lot more expensive than others, do your research on the cost of living in terms of food, accommodation and activities in each place and it might help you make your decision.

Push yourself to go and you will be thankful you did, I haven’t met one person that has regretted going on a study exchange. So go and do your research and start applying!

I hope this advice helps you guys!

The Girl on the Go xx

Interrailing – What to bring?

Don’t know what to bring interrailing? No problem, that’s what I am here for! Interrailing is an extremely popular holiday choice amongst students and is a great cheap way to see a lot in a small space of time. I personally interrailed around Europe, so my advice is based on my own experience.

collage-2017-01-11-21_14_22
Top Left: Budapest, Top Right: Lake Bled, Bottom Left: Berlin, Bottom Right: Venice

Must haves: 

Rucksack – A good Rucksack makes your whole trip a lot more enjoyable. Get one that is comfy (emphasis on the comfy part!) and that you will be able to carry yourself (you mightn’t always have help). Some of my friends brought suitcases which was a total nightmare when we got somewhere that didn’t have a lift and they have to lift them up the stairs. A rucksack with wheels would be ideal, the best of both worlds!

Locks for bags – Generally the trains were safe but I always kept my bags locked and tied them to the chair or the overhead rail, for extra security. You may look like an idiot or your friends might tell you that you are being over cautious but better than being stranded in a foreign country without even a pair of clean underwear.

Travel belt – A MUST! These little belts are the single most important item to have when you are traveling, whether its interrailing or just on a holiday. They clip around your tummy and you usually wear them under your t-shirt, in here you put your important things (again a safety measure but trust me on this one). For example, I had my interrailing pass, passport, phone, credit cards and cash. One of my friend’s ‘carry on’ bag was taken from under his feet and stuff was taken – get one, you have been warned! Available on Amazon for little or nothing.

41oxza9-i7l-_ac_sr160160_

Plastic folder for important documents: fairly self-explanatory, but definitely best to have hostel bookings, ticket confirmations etc. all together in one place

Micro fiber towels: available in most ‘outdoorsy’ shops, these towels were like magic. They rolled up into barely anything and dried super quick (this mightn’t seem important now, but a few days in when you arrive in your second destination and realise your damp towel has wet all your clothes and made them smell you’ll wish you listened to me!)

Adaptor: I needed one as Irish plugs are different to most European countries – however, won’t be necessary for everyone.

Optional but handy

Extension lead: Most rooms only have a few plugs and when you are sharing a room with multiple people there usually isn’t enough for everyone. An extension lead is something I didn’t bring but immediately wish I did. Also, it means that you can have your phone beside your bed rather than on the other side of the room.

Little mirror: I know when I was interrailing there was normally only one small mirror per room, and maybe one in the bathroom. When 7 other girls in your room are trying to get ready to go out and putting on make up this lack of mirror space causes chaos. Bring your own little one and avoid having to book a place in front of the mirror.

Plastic bags for separate items: I didn’t do this but one of my friends did and it is genius! She categorised her clothes and put them in labeled plastic bags in her rucksack, this meant if she was looking for something in particular she didn’t have to pull everything out of her bag to find it.

Disposable camera: I am a huge fan of disposable cameras but don’t use them nearly enough, disposable cameras force you to print out your pictures, rather than just having them on a screen (until you lose your phone).

Laundry bag: always a good idea to keep clean and dirty clothes separate until you get to a place where you can wash your clothes.

These were to me the most important essentials of interrailing, however, everyone has different experiences and has different advice. I hope you can take at least one thing from this list that will help you. Enjoy yourself, it’s an amazing experience!

The Girl on the Go xx