Be Proud of You! The Incredible Experience Participating in the Miss Muddy 5k Fun Run

Wednesday, 26 April 2017
If you asked 10, even 5, years ago if I would ever run a race, I would have laughed in your face and accused you of being crazy. About a year ago, I got the crazy idea to sign up for a Spartan race and give it a go. Since then, I’ve been pretty obsessed with doing various obstacle course race and fun runs in Melbourne. Around the Christmas holidays I participated in Operation Blackhawk, but most recently I ran in the Miss Muddy 5k Fun Run.

Like most of my life decisions, I decided to sign up for this run a little last minute. Luckily, they were still in need of volunteers. For those who have never participated in an obstacle course race or fun run before, when you wait until the last minute to book a ticket it can be quite expensive. With Miss Muddy, you had the option of volunteering and then run the race for free. This was the perfect option for me (an excellent choice for those who want to give fun runs a go but don’t want to pay the money).

Motivational quotes on the course

The day of the event, morning volunteers were to arrive at 7 am to find out their assignments and get settled. Luckily I was with two friends who helped share the pain of early Saturday rises. Even better was the host of event insisted on keeping all friends together during their volunteer shift. Of all the obstacles, we got the most labour intensive and the most entertaining. For four hours, we were assigned to the water balloon fight section. Filling up water balloons for four hours does sound a little boring, doesn’t it? Nope, it wasn’t! We had our own DJ booth with music to keep us motivated. Plus we were running low on water balloons, we just sprayed the runners with the hose. It was lovely getting to see the various groups come through and see everyone having fun.

Best volunteer job
After our volunteer shift had ended, we were brought back to the starting line. We decided to have a quick bite to eat (hangry was starting to set in) before starting the run. We all had our limitations for the run, I was just coming off a torn tendon in my thigh, but it didn’t matter. We were going to run the race at our own pace and enjoy ourselves while doing so!

Muddy and rocking it
That mentality was the perfect one for this fun run! We took our time on the run. It didn’t matter what fitness level we were at. We started together, we were going to finish together. Each obstacle was incredible. The more difficult ones, we supported one another and helped us successfully complete that obstacle. The easier and more fun obstacles, we took our time and enjoyed.

We got this!
Not to toot our own horn but I was incredibly impressed with all that we were able to accomplish. I have never been able to complete any monkey bar related obstacle in any race before Miss Muddy. Because of how incredibly motivating my teammates were, I stepped up the monkey bars with all the confidence in the world. Next thing you know, I’m on the other side. I didn’t just complete the obstacle, I slayed it! Don’t judge, monkey bars are a lot harder than you think. Especially when you have the upper body strength of a toothpick.

Not my best look. But I did it!
The rest of the run was spent enjoying ourselves. While we definitely didn’t overexert ourselves, we did push and challenge ourselves. It was an incredible experience to share with friends. That is probably what I most enjoy (and why I highly recommend) about obstacle course races. Everyone tends to be incredibly supportive. If you can’t complete an obstacle, you can bet there will be other runners out there who are going to try their damn hardest to make sure you’re able to do so. If you’ve ever run in an obstacle course race, what did you think?

And until next time...
Stay Curious!

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7 Simple Ways to Afford to Travel

Wednesday, 19 April 2017
It seems like the age old question: “How can I save money so I can afford to travel the world?”. With Instagram, Facebook, and other social media sites regularly showing the positive sides to our peer's lives, it can often become quite frustrating and discouraging. Often we do not see the struggle and the dedication these people exert to travel. For myself, travelling is not only a choice but a priority. I often forgo certain luxuries to save money to travel. Here are 7 more ways I save to travel the world:

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Meal Planning
I’m going, to be honest, I don’t always follow through with my meal prepping. Life sometimes gets in the way, and there are times I just want a friggin burger and chips. Anywho, the times that I am able to meal prep, I save heaps of money! Depending on how I’m eating, it usually costs about $75 for the week of my groceries. That may seem high (Australian prices are a wee bit outrageous), but if I ate out for lunch and dinner each day, I would be spending a minimum of $140 for the week. The money saved adds up quickly.
This handy little app is quite amazing. It is linked to my bank account and rounds up every purchase I make to the nearest whole dollar. That money gets transferred into my digit account. I can set it to withdraw a higher amount if chosen to be able to save more each month. I tend to forget that I have this savings account which is really nice. By not remembering it’s there, I’m not tempted to withdraw money from it. Since opening my Digit account, I’ve managed to save over $500 (That’s almost a roundtrip ticket home)!

Similar to Digit, Acorns is a micro-investment app that sends small amounts of money to a savings portfolio any time you use your debit card. This app has made me much more conscious about my spending. You can choose the type of portfolio ranging from conservative to aggressive, depending on how aggressively you’d like to invest. I’ve been able to save heaps thanks to this app!

Daily Budget App
I used to be amazing with budgets. Growing up, we had a spreadsheet that we needed to input where our money that we made would be allocated. Not sure when it happened, but I got piss poor at keeping a budget. This app has helped tremendously! I am able to input my income and my monthly bills, along with what I would like to save each month, and then it tells me how much I’m allowed to spend per day. It’s been super eye opening and incredibly helpful to keep me on track and on a budget.

No Spend Days
On my weekly calendar, I’ve literally started writing in days where I’m not allowed to spend anything. One these days, if I need to leave the house, my money gets left out of my purse. This means I have to plan ahead with all my purchases. Groceries, topping up my myki card, and gas are all examples of things that need to be prepared within my week. Because I have a daily to-do list that stays near my weekly calendar, I’m able to easily navigate my no spend days. Every week, I will be trying to add more and more no spend days.

I’m so happy I stumbled upon this app. This has been particularly useful when signing up for the obstacle course races I enjoy doing. Honey automatically scans for discount codes when you make online purchases. It has saved me heaps! Which is fantastic because I can still do the things I love and save money to travel the world.

Sign up for Honey now:

This is another website that has been incredibly helpful. It’s definitely not a site that will make you rich, but you can earn small amounts every day that will eventually add up. I try to do enough surveys to make $5/day. You can also earn money back when you purchase goods from the site. I have not yet bought anything via Swagbucks as I tend to stick to the surveys and videos. It’s not a lot of extra money per month, but it is enough to cover a few bills every now and again which leaves more money for travelling!

Sign up for Swagbucks and earn $5 instantly:

I Know the Pilot/Scott’s Cheap Flights
I’m not even sure how I functioned as a human being before I stumbled upon these websites. They seriously have been a godsend. As an expat, I’ve opted to receive emails for both. If you’re Aussie, I Know the Pilot will be the emails you never knew were missing from your life. If you’re from the USA, Scott’s Cheap Flights is your new travel bread and butter. I notified anytime there are insane travel flight deals via email almost daily. This is how I found a roundtrip flight to the US for $550! I’m not even joking! The most recent getaway that I had to fight myself not to purchase was about $485 round trip to the Maldives….Visa first, then travel….Visa first, then travel...Visa first, then travel.

Travelling isn't the cheapest of hobbies, however, if you make it a priority it is totally obtainable. What are some of the ways you save to travel the world? Have you tried any of the ways I suggested? How did they work for you?

And until next time...

Stay Curious!

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Chiang Mai: Volunteering at the Ran-Tong Elephant Sanctuary

Wednesday, 12 April 2017
Anyone who knows me is aware that I’m mildly obsessed with animals. Any chance I have to get an up-close and personal encounter with any animal makes my life. The ONLY reason we decided to add Chiang Mai to our trip was so that I could volunteer at an elephant sanctuary and get to see the tigers. I had spent quite a few weeks researching various animal rescue locations trying to find one that treated the animals properly and didn’t completely drain my bank account. After the research, we both agreed that Ran-Tong Elephant Sanctuary would be the perfect place for us.

Ran-Tong Elephant Sanctuary offers a variety of packages ranging from a half day to week long volunteer projects. As we were only spending a short time in Chiang Mai, we opted for the half day package. We were picked up promptly from our hotel, Welcome More, at 7:15 am and proceeded to get the other individuals who booked the half day package.

Upon arrival, you’re given clothes to change into because you will get wet and muddy. Shortly after changing, I was met with pure happiness and joy. We started off by making snacks for the baby elephants. This was done by giving a massive klutz (me) a dangerously large knife to cut sugar cane into fourths. Personal tip, stash as many little sugar snacks as you can. This will give you more face to face time with the elephants.

That's not a knife. 
From there, we journeyed down a short path to where the mummy and baby elephants were wandering. As none of the elephants are chained or on ropes, they come to you when they feel comfortable or when they see their handlers. There is one Mahout per elephant, and they are with them almost 24/7. You could see just how much the elephants trusted their Mahout and the incredible bond the two have together.

The unbreakable bond. 
This was where I got to have my first up-close and personal encounter with the elephants. It was apparent just how brilliant these animals are. They quickly were able to find out where the sugar snacks were being kept. Some would sneak up behind you and try to steal a treat. This was when I unexpectedly got a kiss from one of the baby elephants. I’m pretty sure the look on my face sums up exactly how I was feeling. It was one of the most magical experiences of my life.

Sneaky kisses.
After the elephants had plenty of snacks, we took a nice walk around the sanctuary before leading them in for a mud bath. I have a bit of an apprehension getting into the water where I cannot see what is underneath me. I managed to put my big girl pants on and jump right in. The elephants made themselves right at home. They loved having their mud bath. One decided to lie down while getting bathed. Thankfully I moved out of the way quick enough otherwise I would have gone down under the elephant.

So fresh and so clean!
At the conclusion of the mud bath, we walked across the path to the stream where we rinsed the elephants off. The elephants continued to have fun, splashing water back on us. It was the coolest experience I’ve ever encountered. Just to see the elephants acting as they would in the wild.

Mummy baby bonding.
We finished up our trip at the Ran-Tong Sanctuary by enjoying a yummy bowl of Khao Soi. Khao Soi is a delicious dish that is made in Northern Thailand. Seriously, if anyone knows where I can find some in Melbourne, you’ll become my best friend. The perfect way to end an amazing experience.

Elephant cuddles
If you have plans to travel to Thailand in the future, I highly recommend looking into volunteering at one of the various animal sanctuaries. Please do your research, though. If it seems incredibly cheap in comparison, there is probably something wrong. Any place, where the animals are doing tricks, will be a place that mistreats the animals. DO NOT spend your money there!

Have you ever volunteered at the Ran-Tong Elephant Sanctuary or any other sanctuary in Northern Thailand? Share your experience in the comments below!

And until next time...
Stay Curious!

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