Nomadic Apples Origins: Fred the Minion

A few months before I scooted off to Mexico, a guy called Louis (whom I lived with) won a Minion at a fair. We called this minion Fred and Fred sat in our kitchen for several months, watching over our burnt pizzas and toxic fajita fumes.

When the time came to move out, my friend Louis forgot to take Fred and as I was the last person in the flat I asked Louis if I could take Fred with me to Mexico. Louis agreed.

Since that moment, Fred has been my travelling companion – escorting me to any foreign destination that my heart takes me.

We had fun in Mexico of course,


“We made it”

And in the US,

But since then, Fred has also seen

  • Amsterdam


  • Oslo

Cruising the Oslofjord

  • Berlin

Brandenburg Gate, Berlin

  • Warsaw

Sigismund’s Column, Warsaw

  • And a lot of Italy, including the very impressive Coliseum

The Coliseum

and the giant lemons of Pompeii!


In Pompeii

  • And most recently, Copenhagen.
    Fred loved Tivoli Gardens

Tivoli Gardens – Fred enjoying a Glogg


Peace, BA.

My First Solo Trip – Part 2

Sorry for not posting this sooner – been frantically planning and sort stuff out for before I leave! More on that later this week.


This is a continuation of My First Solo Trip Pt 1, although this can stand alone.


Prior to travelling to Mexico, I decided that as I was on the other side of the Atlantic, I might as well stick around for a little bit.

I planned to go to the U.S.A. on a Trek America trip and to stay in New York City for a little bit. But first, I stayed in Mexico for a little pool time…


Following our farewell at the children’s home, our group went to the airport so that the majority could fly back home. Their time in Mexico had come to a close and they had a long journey back to England. My heart was already in a sensitive state after saying goodbye to the kids, but now I had to say goodbye to people who had become my close friends.


Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.


When I returned to the hostel that had been my home for the past four weeks, it was so quiet. But this eerie silence was just the beginning of my first step out as a solo traveller.


I had booked a hostel near the town centre of Puerto Vallarta (PV) for a couple of days. This hostel was the ideal location for most backpackers – walking distance to the clubs that this area was known for, but far enough away that we were safe from the noise or the hooligans.


Here, I arrived with my backpack and found my way to my room. My first encounter was a solo traveller was a Mexican man called José – he was in the bunk beneath me. Sadly, my Key Stage 3 Spanish eluded me and I forgot how to respond to ¿Dondé vives? (where are you from?).

Solo fail #1.


In the handful of days which I spent at this hostel, I met some travellers from across the globe. An Englishwoman, a French Canadian lady who was somewhat of a polyglot and a German guy with a unique stance on environmentalism (a topic which I have an interest in). But more importantly, this hostel had a pool!


That first dip in that pool after 28 days in 35+ heat was a sensation – it also helped with the hangovers which naturally came with the hostel life.


The fondest memory I have of these few days was one night when we’d decided to go out, but we had decided too late and none of us 6 was drunk. Sadly, in this district, to purchase alcohol from a convenience store (we were on a budget after all) past 11 pm was illegal. We scoured the few stores which were still open for a drink – as getting drunk in a bar would have cost 20x as much.

Thankfully we found a place which was known to the locals, and we ended up sitting on the beach, looking out to the thunderstorms raging in the Pacific, drinking triple strength vodka and pop from polystyrene cups.


This is one of those stories which would never have arisen without the hostel environment of inviting others to dinner.


Due to visa restrictions, I had to leave Mexico two days after this evening.


I had booked a flight months before, from PV to Chicago O’Hare then onwards to Newark. My layover in Chicago was 14 hours, overnight.



Next stop, America


I did my research and I decided not to travel out of the airport at this time. In hindsight, this wasn’t the best idea – I should have gone out just for a Chicago-style pizza pie. #RIPizza. 

The dinosaur was pretty cool though!



The dinosaur that welcomed me to the USA


So, here I was, 31 days in the tropics of Mexico, now staying in an airport overnight, with no phone (it had died). One thing I hadn’t counted on was the A/C. The A/C in O’Hare seemed to be set on absolute zero at night as if to help all travellers coming in from the American Summer cool off. For me, it was like stepping into a cryogenic freezer. I had travelled for 14 hours and I needed sleep.


When I landed at Newark and got to baggage reclaim, disaster struck.

My bag wasn’t there.


My bag, with unique [for them] Mexican presents for my family and all my clothes [par one set which I always pack in my hand luggage] had disappeared.


But I held back the panic.


I found my way to the baggage problem desk, which seemed miles away, and informed them of my problem. They didn’t seem engaged at all. I was met with blank faces. They told me to go check again, although I had already waited and all of the baggage had come through.


Back I went, my bag was still vacant.

I returned to the blank faces at the desk.


I was starting to freak out. I had booked to go on a 7-day tour of North East USA the next day, I wouldn’t have a permanent location for more than a week. Even if they did find my bag, how could they return it to me?


A lady at the desk saw the anxiety grow in my eyes and stepped forward to help. She asked me to describe my bag and said that it could have been placed in the Special Baggage Area due to its size.


After 5 minutes of rummaging through, she found it!

Panic over!


I made my way to the hotel.


7 days we spent in this van


Having little travel experience, I thought I’d let someone else do the planning for my first trip. As such I booked onto the Freedom Trail Trek America tour which was a minibus tour with destinations including


Washington DC

Niagra Falls

and Boston


These famous locations were definitely a highlight of the “trek”. Each location exceeded my expectations – seeing places that I had seen on television and in films left me kind of starstruck.


Our tour guide, John, was a hilarious strawberry-blonde American who had been working at Disney World Florida for a couple of years. He was a great guy to travel with, definitely when the rest of our tour group was less forthcoming with enthusiasm as the week wore on. It also helped that we had similar interests and he never took anything too seriously – something I try to involve in my days since.


This week was filled with great times, a few were

Getting a fresh hot Philly cheesesteak – I miss that cheese every day

Running up the Rocky steps

Seeing the Lincoln Monument in DC

Going to the Jettison cemetery and seeing all of the unnamed graves

Visiting an Amish Town, to then realise it was just an open-air museum.

But a goat walked on me so it wasn’t so bad!

Following this, we visited a Cracker Barrel and had fresh American biscuits ❤

Visiting WalMart and Targets (a lame goal, but I liked it!)

Staying in the only hostel in Boston (HI-Boston) and meeting up with a friend from Mexico

We stayed in national parks for most of the journey, in tents, which was a great way to get away from the busy cities we visited during the day

Being offered drugs 3 times in the half an hour I spent in Boston Green. I was more interested in my 32oz Big Gulp I got a 7/Eleven

Buying the shoes below at a random thrift store

Getting Canadian WiFi from Buffalo, NY



Eye of the tiger


Sweet cheesy deliciousness


Fred 2016


High on a hill was a lonely goatherd


Biscuits ❤



Following that, a personal highlight was when we just came off the Maid of the Mist at Buffalo. We were singing Taylor Swift’s Shake It Off [the (un)official song of the trek as it was released the day we started] **** whilst queuing for a lift. The unique part of this story is we were actually with a lady who had played Jasmine at Disney, she was a good laugh and nearly had a breakdown when we approached the Canadian border ‘cos she didn’t have her passport.


Like all good things, this trek had to finish, and John dropped us off at that first hotel in Newark. From here, I made my way to a hostel in Brooklyn – not without having a night-time sighting of the Empire State Building, which was immense.

I had booked this hostel back in England, mostly because it was the cheapest option. I mentioned this to a guy on my trek and his face dropped. He said that he’d stayed at this hostel before coming on the trek, and it wasn’t in a nice area. He then went on to explain the time that he got off the Subway (which was 60m from the hostel), but went the wrong way when off the train and had to be escorted by the Police back in the right direction.

A lovely thing to hear when you’ll be staying at this place for the next 5 nights.


The next 5 days were both a blur and a struggle. I had so much planned and was able to do everything I wanted to do, but I hadn’t expected to be ready to go home when I was in a city I had wanted to visit for so long. The 5/6 weeks away had started to take it out of me, I felt emotionally drained.


When I was back in Mexico, Elle Seaver (the founder of TSF) put it this way, and I still think about this now,

   It’s like you’ve got a big pot of love. And by giving and volunteering to these kids, you’re using up your pot. Without those you love and your close friends to replenish the pot, you soon feel less drained.


Using this analogy, I had used up my current pot of exploration. I needed to go home to see my friends.


But I carried on. I didn’t get stabbed outside my hostel, which was nice, but it wasn’t the best hostel I’ve ever stayed in. I didn’t find it very social and being under-21, I couldn’t partake in much even if it was. (Also the bathrooms had this weird frosted glass in, so you could see who was on the toilet or in the shower)


I’m glad to say that as a solo traveller, I did a lot of stuff in NYC. So much to say that I do not need to return as a tourist (although I probably will)


During my 4 days there, after meticulous planning, I was able to

Go to the Top of the Rock to see the Empire State Building

My ears popping in the elevator was unusual

Walk around Central Park

Visit the toy store from up

Go see the 9/11 memorial

Go on all 5 Grey Line bus tours (I bought a 2-day pass, which included 1-hour bike rental)

Cycled across the Brooklyn Bridge

Walked Wall Street

Had Chinese in China Town

Went to Trader Joes and bought some food

Walked the Highline 

Which had a free food/art/music festival at the end

Accidently took a water taxi to Ikea in Brooklyn

See the Statue of Liberty



I cycled across the Brooklyn Bridge!


Fred takes on Times Square


The highlight of this part of my journey and my favourite place in the world is Jane’s Carousel.

This hidden gem below the Brooklyn Bridge is a gentrified area of Brooklyn with hipster shops, restaurants and, of course, a carousel.

I didn’t go on the carousel but I found serenity just sitting up against it, with the New York skyline in the distance, reading a book or listening to some music.


Peace, BA.


My favourite place in the world


My First Solo Trip – Part 1

July. 2014. A young guy stands in London Heathrow Airport with a 53L backpack at his feet, a thin red hoodie on his back and a one-way ticket to Puerto Vallarta (PV), Mexico in his pocket.

This young guy? He was me. Little did he know that this trip would change his perspective of his life, in ways he’d not thought possible.



During my second year of university, I saw an advert in a volunteering pamphlet about giving four weeks of my school summer holidays to a charity. This charity, the Seaver Foundation (Two-Birds at the time), was set up by a Loughborough alumni to help young children – from England and Mexico – who are socially excluded.

The Seaver Foundation offered four weeks volunteering on the Pacific coast of Mexico for a relatively small fee (which covered flights, accommodation and training resources to those who go).


My first summer back from uni had been eaten up by working at my old job, a drinking holiday to Faliraki (shoutout to Raki13) and days lazing about my parents’ house. Having studied Spanish at school for three years and having spent most of my family summer holidays in the Mediterranean (thanks Mum), I thought that I would go and check out what this opportunity offered.


What I learnt during an hour-long PowerPoint presentation was that this programme offered a chance to really give back to children who had been orphaned or abandoned and a chance to put the smile on their faces. I couldn’t refuse.

Fundraising for the trip wasn’t the difficult bit; through working any shift I could at my university job and holding the odd raffle (I apologise for the Facebook spam), I had raised the £1,750 I needed to get me there. The hard bit, however, was breaking the news to my family.


I’m the youngest child of three, and although I had lived away from home for 18 months by the time I left for Mexico, my parents were more anxious than I was. They had heard the terrible things that happened in Latin America, they feared kidnap, they feared the drug cartels, mostly they worried about not having their youngest son close by for most of the summer.

But they knew I had to go.


Flash forward a few months, to a posse of young adults waiting at Mexico City Airport after a 10-hour flight; we were waiting for a connecting flight to PV. Here I was, sitting at an altitude of 2,238m, with a group of people who had only met a couple of times, drinking a Starbucks coffee I ordered in broken Spanish.



Buen Dia!


LIFE GOAL: Highest altitude ever reached: 2,238m


Although it was the dead of night, and we were at this high altitude, Mexico during summer was still quite warm. Given these conditions, it was still ~25**DEGREES SYMBOL UNICODE**C and I had started to sweat a little. Sadly, this natural reaction did not stop for the 31 days that I was in the country. And to make matters worse, the inland hostel that we were staying in didn’t have a pool.

Other than that, the hostel was really nice! The rooms were tight and the manager provided us with some fans to circulate the air at night – the effect of these didn’t hit me but I bet for my roommates it was nice. The hostel also had alright WiFi and provided good shelter from the Sun’s rays.



Our hostel’s roof area – great for days we had off


Our room in the hostel – there were 6 of us in this room, I took the top bunk closest to the camera


But the heat. That’s one thing I wasn’t ready for. I knew I was going to be hot, and I brought a fair bit of sunscreen with me, but I wasn’t prepared for the constant sweating. This may be TMI for some readers but for those who are worried that they will find themselves in similar situations in the future, I have one word for you – electrolytes.

See, when you sweat, you’re sweating out precious salts (not just the kosher kind) which your body needs to function optimally. Without these salts, you will end up feeling tired, worn out and with a general feeling of fatigue.

Thankfully, they know this in Mexico and in many convenience stores is a drink which cures all of these ailments (it’s also good for diarrhoea).

Drink electrolytes if you’re sweating more than normal.

These will become your blood of Christ in countries closer to the equator.


Anyway, back to the story…

Whilst in Mexico, TSF offered support and another pair of hands to four projects:

  1. The child’s home, for children between 0 and 13 years of age
  2. A gym sports summer camp, where some of these children went to during the week
  3. A daycare centre for people with disabilities
  4. Teaching English and general pastoral care to locals who lives in a shanty town


I had been assigned the children’s home as my main project and during the first few days, it was quite tricky.

The residence of these children was no fewer than 30 steps away from the hostel we were staying in. Sadly it was up a steep incline. If you weren’t sweating by when you left for the project (~9 am), you definitely were 30 steps later!

The home was managed by a two Madres (Nuns) and hosted 20 – 30 children who by different means had been abandoned or removed from their natural guardians. Our job was to engage, play with and generally look after these niños during a time in which they lacked structure.


My time here was spent playing football, teaching some English, changing nappies, helping to cook dinner, dancing, playing chase, playing hide and seek, playing Pato Pato Ganso (duck duck goose), teaching some English, singing and a lot of cuddles.

Sadly, due to the sensitivity of these children’s circumstances, we do not have photos of these cherished moments, but they will forever be in my heart and mind.


No two days were the same whilst in PV and flexibility was key. One day I’d turn up with a game of Twister that we had brought over from England, only to be told that the kids were helping to do the washing. My broken Spanish came in handy here, although I wish I learnt more when I was a teenager!

That being said, what 19-year-old Brit can confidently say pañal (the Spanish word for nappie)?


The flexibility also came with which project you were working at.

Many mornings I spent were at the aforementioned gym.



El gimnasio


This gym really did inspire me. This gym’s vision was to cut social barriers across the local area and it achieved this by a simple rule.

For every child who was paid to be there, one from a children’s home could come.

This mix of intake worked perfectly – during the two to three hours each child attended per day, they were able to socialise and play with those who they wouldn’t naturally.

The gym was great. The usual run down was a fun warm-up, followed by some team games / child-orientated circuits, with a freestyle game at the end.

Once we taught them netball, that’s all they ever wanted to play.

There was also sessions aimed around yoga, arts and crafts and making good choices when it came to food. Like many countries, Mexico is facing an increase in obesity following poor food and physical education and targeted marketing from fast food giants.


Note, to put the temperature thing back in perspective – the air con of the gym was set to 32 degrees. After exercising, this felt like a cold spring morning.




Although I only spent a couple of hours at the disability day care centre, I did spend a few days at the fourth project.


To be blunt, the location of this project was next to a dump.

We were working alongside another charity who provided enterprise opportunities to families who survived of garbage. In these families, the older males would go onto to landfill to salvage things that they could sell on. This is tiresome work, as you could understand, and to make matters worse, these gentlemen had to pay to go to the landfill and just prior to us arriving in the area, the local government had changed the location of their garbage disposal. The men just trying to feed their families now had to use some of their tiny hard-earned income on buses to and from this new landfill.


Their home was a literal shanty town. With single floor homes made from old refuse, walls made from mattress springs and corrugated metal. There were even a few chickens pecking about the place.

However, due to the charity, we were working alongside, they had one solid structure in the center of their township – a two-story brick chapel. Which had WiFi.

This community worked because of their similar situation and their history together, but they also worked together because of their faith.


I swear, standing in those services, 50 Mexicans squished into an air-conditioned room all singing hymns was an amazing sight to behold.


Our work at this chapel was to teach the women of this community how to sell their handmade jewellery to English speaking tourists. These beautiful (and fashionable) pieces were made using materials paid for by the income earnt off the landfill.

These ladies were so lovely and quite funny! Their attitude and their shyness always made me smile – definitely when they start laughing because of a comment one of their friends made. I couldn’t understand what was said, but I’d start laughing as well!


Everyone needs some downtime, right? Well, thankfully for us PV is quite a popular destination for American tourists. And as uni students, we definitely utilised the bars and clubs that this town had to offer once a week. On our days off, of course.


We didn’t abuse our time in this destination – yes we had fun on our days off, but not to the extent that we couldn’t perform when we needed to. I think this is really important if volunteering, be respectful of the establishment you’re trying to help! Or you just seem like a user.



The finale waterslide on a ziplining tour we did


Being an August Baby, it was also my birthday over there – celebrated with a Mike Wazowski piñata!

Surprisingly, it was tougher than it looked and I ended up breaking the boom with which I was beating it with.



Yes I took my blindfold off – it’s harder than it looks!


And oh my. The storms. I’ve never seen thunderstorms like the ones I saw in that valley. It seemed like it would never stop, and the volume of the thunder claps was nothing short of epic. With 35+ heat every day and humidity to match – these storms came as a Godsend.



Our first tropical storm


Mexican food that we have here in England is not the food of the Mexican people. Myself and another volunteer found a street cart near our hostel one day and we both got fresh tacos. For some reason I knew that those given to me wouldn’t be the hard yellow kind you get from El Paso. Still delicious though!



Un taco


Munch munch

In the final week of our project, we redecorated the children’s home’s “classroom” to inspire the kids and to brighten up the place a little bit! This came after some discussion with the Madres, but when they saw the work that we had done, even they applauded. The kids absolutely loved it.





My time with these groups had to end, and it did 4 weeks after we arrived. Our farewell was heart-wrenching. All of the kids took it differently, some were crying, some didn’t want to speak to us. One of the children gave me a present which will sit firmly on my Christmas Tree for the rest of my life – a constant reminder of my summer in Mexico.


Now, I’ve probably gone on too much for a first post, but this trip showed me the amazing ways you can give back to a community that you didn’t know existed. And the effect they can have on you.


The hours of which I spent that summer are still the most fulfilling days of my life. Frankly, I doubt anything I will do in my life will compare to those four weeks.

One can dream.



In the babies’ room. A lot of happy memories were made here.


In my next post, the twin to this one, I speak about what I did following this time:

Finally a pool!

Welcome to America

New York City


Peace, BA.