We Fly High with Ellen ✈

Nasir here, the new Shut Up and Go blog manager filling in to interview this month’s We Fly High feature!

It’s the middle of June, so many of us (myself included) just graduated high school or university. Firstly, congratulations! Secondly, everyone is probably asking what’s next? Some of us will hop right into our first job, and that’s cool – do you. But for the rest, the thought of booking a flight (preferably on our site) and navigating life abroad is just as appealing! The only problem is how the heck do you just drop your life back home and “make it work” elsewhere?
Well, here’s Ellen, and here’s how she did it!

Give us all of the basics – who are you and how old are you?

I’m Ellen and I’m 18! My first trip alone was at the beginning of this year to Glasgow for an audition but I proper transformed it into a vacay – I explored the city with an old friend I randomly met while eating breakfast at my B&B! But, family holidays growing up were always pretty cool – lots of DIY road trips across new places which, I think, made me the “disorganised, cheap, late night local train ticket booking” girl I am today!

Where did you grow up?

I grew up in a small town called Faversham in Kent, England.

How has growing up in Faversham shaped your perception of yourself and your place in this big ol’ world?

Growing up in such a sleepy town had some good moments – like it was totally possible for me to full out diva lip-sync to my music (Say a little prayer was a favourite for many years – because it works well with a bit of kick ball chain walking) on the way to school because everywhere was pretty much empty. But, I always begged my parents to take me to London because I loved the diversity of people and styles and how everyone WAS THEMSELVES inspired me as someone who had never really felt like they ‘fitted in’.

Where do you live nowadays?

I still live in the countryside with my parents between trips which is lovely and underrated. I don’t really get why there’s a stigma against living with your parents, you know. As long as you get along – it can be a LOT of fun – there’s a lot of laughter in my house! But next year I’m moving to MANCHESTER and you best believe I’m weeing myself with excitement to be living in such a cool city! (Especially for the thrifting opportunities)

So, you took a gap year? Yay you — live ya’ life!  What did you end up doing during this year?

Well, I started off by living in Paris for two months which was VERY COLD but beautiful and idyllic and, despite the cigarette fumes and the grumpy Parisians, I could never be in a bad mood in such an artistically perfect place! (While I was living there, I was taking language classes at Lutece Langue which was really fun and very close to Musee d’Orsay so perfect for a relaxing walk by the river after a confusing grammar lesson) Then, after a quick trip to Reims with a choir in between, I moved to Florence for a month which was full of tiny little-cobbled streets and wonderful pasta and flawlessly beautiful people.
While I was there I had singing lessons on the outskirts of the city and because the bus routes change every week, I saw almost every little meandering street in the city centre! As well as just taking in the calm aperitivo style of Florence, I also visited Milan (Basically a friendlier Paris – I was a very big fan) and then Venice, which was very crowded but very photographable.  My next stop is Germany – Köln and Hamburg, here I come! 

In general, is taking time to explore and travel a part of UK culture? Or are you just one who likes to break the typical mold that has been assigned to people our age? Break them rules 😉

In the UK, when you tell someone that you’re taking a gap year, the most popular response is “oh my gosh, gap yaaaah.” This response is super common because it’s a stereotype that someone taking a gap year is a well-off person who’s going to go and ‘find themselves’ in India for 6 months. Can I just say there’s nothing wrong with that… INDIA IS ON MY LIST AND I’LL GET THERE ONE DAY. So, a gap year is sort of seen as a time-wasting luxury which is sad because travelling is, in my opinion, so important to broaden everyone’s mindset on life and on themselves and others and it absolutely can be done on a budget.

Let’s talk finances! It seems that money always stops people (at all ages — especially ours) from traveling. What motivated you to say SCREW IT and to just take off?

First off, I decided to really be strict on myself and budget food to less than 15 Euros a day. I went to museums that were largely free, and I visited neighbourhoods that I thought sounded cool. It is entirely possible to live in a foreign country and budget while exploring! I know Americans who took coaches to London to explore (while living in Paris) which cost under 20 euros. The budget travel options are completely there, and there’s nothing to stop people our age from exploring – even if it’s just locally.

Any quick finance tips for others who are about to take a gap year or take an extended summer travel?

Always drink water instead of fanta or coke (I’m not a health freak it’s just cheaper). Hit up the supermarkets for cheap meals in. Don’t buy food in really trendy areas because predictably the price will match the area – especially don’t buy food in the centre of Florence. Books and clothes will be expensive unless you hit up second-hand places! (OVS is a v cheap Italian clothes shop which I became addicted to)

I feel like no one ever talks about the “unpretty” side of travel, but I am all for it. If you don’t mind answering, I’m curious to know: during your travels, what was the most reckless or “out of character” thing that you’ve done? How did you feel?

A very out of character moment for me was in Paris and it was the ONE TIME I decided to be a tourist and go on the Montmartre funiculaire! But we went in the evening and the trouble began as I was passing through the ticket barriers, and I threw my purse into my girlfriend’s open backpack. At this point, I was standing on the other side of the barriers, and while she was starting to struggle with her ticket, I watched this group of men encouraging each other until this one man ran over and tried to put his hand in her backpack as she came through the barriers. And so in a complete rush of overconfidence, I ran forward and pushed him back hard and shouted ‘NON!!!’
He held his hands up and walked away! Now anyone who knows me knows that I hate confrontation, and it was a strong side of myself that I had never seen! I was surprised and just a little bit pumped with, I think, my inauguration into being a genuine, grumpy Parisian.

Do you have any last burning thoughts or advice that you care to share with us?

I have a very passionate Paris food recommendation that I share with everyone: you have, have, have  to go to Le Marais, and try the falafels at L’AS du falafel. Hear me out, you might think you hate falafel, you might think it’s balls of dusty veggies, or you might think it’s a 60 year old yoga lady snack. THIS WILL CONVERT YOU. 

But general gap year advice coming up:

1) Don’t put pressure on yourself to have crazy stuff happening every day – there will be chill days when you just wander and take everything in and then go home to bed!
2) Split up the cash you have into different places! (I have some designated socks)
3) No matter how many embarrassing encounters you have while speaking another language – PERSIST! (And don’t let it affect your confidence – you’re making an effort and everyone has blunders!)

If you want to be featured on We Fly High, and if you’ve booked a flight on our site, send an email with the subject line “We Fly High,”  to contribute@shutupandgo.travel!

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