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GET ME TO BALI RIGHT NOW!!

What’s the current situation like in Bali?

Bali has a small population of around 4.2million and as of 12th April there were around 42,000 cases of COVID reported and a recovery rate of 93%, however this could be due to asymptomatic. Cases and a low testing rate

So in essence it is potentially safe for you to travel to Bali as long as proper hygiene and social distancing measures are being adhered to in line with guidance from WHO!

Can I travel into Bali right now?

Travel into Bali has been restricted for international tourists since March 2020 and visas on arrival have been halted for many, with exceptions made for those listed below:

• Indonesian citizens (WNI) from abroad

• Holders of valid Visa or Residence Permits

• Holders of Official Visa, Diplomatic Visa, Visit Visa, Temporary Stay Visa, Official Residence Permit, Diplomatic Residence Permit, Temporary Stay Permit (ITAS) and Permanent Stay Permit (ITAP)

• Transport crew members

• Medical, food, and humanitarian aid workers

• Holders of Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) and Business Travel Card (ABTC)

• Holders of Traditional Border Crossing card

Howeverrr! It’s not ideal, but if you’re desperate to travel, international travellers wishing to make the trip can do so by applying for a B-211 visa. It’s NOT a tourist visa and requires you to be there in an industrial or business-related capacity. It usually requires sponsorship from a company, but some visa agents can arrange this for you.

The visa is valid for 6 months and can be extended up to 4 times (with each extension allowing a maximum of 30 days before renewal is required).

I’m planning to travel during the “pandemonium”, what do I do?

Bali relies heavily on tourism and their local economy has been hugely impacted by the pandemic.

• First things first – Get a negative PCR-based swab test issued within 2 days prior to departure via land or sea. You can check out http://www.gov.uk for guidance on your local test centres if you’re from the UK and remember NHS tests are no longer valid for use when travelling so it’ll have to be done privately. Some airlines are offering discounts when you book with their affiliated companies. Sorry friends.

• Next up, you’ve got to fill out an electronic-Health Alert Card (e-HAC)

• You’ve got to have your test certificate to hand and this has to be renewed every 14 days.

4B4D229E-2D51-444E-BBBC-D15F218D4434.jpg

When will I be allowed to travel into Bali?

Tourism into Bali was initially slated to return in March 2022, with trial runs (whereby, travellers from countries where the infection rate was low, would be allowed to form travel corridors with Indonesia, but only allowed to visit Ubud, Sanur and Nusa Dua) being held in the Summer of 2021, but a recent video release by the Indonesian president said that Bali could begin reopening to tourists from as early as June 2021 if conditions remain favourable.

 Is anything even open in Bali?

Most popular destinations are still closed off to the public and tourists such as:

Lovina Beach

Besakih Temple

Wisnu Kencana

Some beaches in Bali and Kuta have reopened to residents and domestic tourists, but strict new normal measures are being enforced which means only a limited amount of people at one time will be permitted entry L

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Beijing 101

We like to give some quick fire tips for visiting destinations we have visited, so here’s Beijing’s!

So you want to visit Beijing/mainland China 🇨🇳, here are some things to consider:

  • Check your route works with the transit visa, you don’t need to go through the costly Chinese visa process if you’re not in China for an extended time period. Luckily there has been a new 24/144 hour transit visa introduced; there are a few rules you and your itinerary need to follow to be eligible but all in all – it’s really straightforward 😁
  • Download a VPN. Download a VPN. Download a VPN. I think you get what you need to do…
  • Don’t be alarmed if you see bears sat a restaurant table – someone didn’t forget their teddy. The bears are put there so you don’t feel lonely if you’re sitting alone.
  • Learn a few phrases, hello or thank you.
  • Stay photo ready – if you’re black or have distinct features, local people will stop you for pictures and videos.  Sometimes without your permission (!)
  • Be prepared for whatever season you’re going. Beijing is very open air, so when it’s hot – you feel all the heat and its quite dry. Same way when its cold, you’ll feel all the cold.
  • You can use your travel card to make purchases and get around. Taking out cash isn’t necessary.
  • Watch your step. It’s quite common for local people to spit on the ground, so depending on the area you’re in, just look out.

If you’ve been to Beijing/China, what was something you had to bear in mind?

Save and share this if you found it useful. As always, keep up to date with us on @trippinwithsj x

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The Great Wall

Exploring the Great Wall was the main draw to visiting Beijing, because we love a UNESCO site and a world wonder; okay!

Visiting the attraction doesn’t have to be arduous or unattainable; keep reading for our tips.

Why was the Great Wall built?

  • The primary function of the wall was for protection from invasion by Mongolian and Manchu armies from the North.

How far is the Great Wall from Beijing:

  • Badaling is approximately 1.5 hours by car or about 2.5 hours by tour bus. 
  • Mutianyu is about 2 hours by car.

When to visit: Autumn or Spring

  • Autumn brings a different variety of colours to the leaves and greenery around the wall which makes for a pretty sight.
  • Spring brings awesome weather and less people.
  • Summer is still nice but it does get super hot.
  • Winter brings frost-covered scenes but the cold air will feel even colder due to the wind.

Do’s:

  • There is more than one entrance up to the Great Wall, so depending on what you’d like to see and how long you have – this could be a full day excursion.
  • We visited the Mutianyu part of the wall – it’s the most restored section of the wall and offers the best picturesque views.
  • You can hike to the top or you can get a cable car up and down.
  • If you are feeling adventurous – get a toboggan down!
  • Remember there is no shade for the majority of the walk; so sunscreen, water and flannel.
  • Be prepared for the elements in whichever season you go.
  • Book a tour guide with reviews online; they can offer you further insight into the history.
  • Try some local cuisine in the Great Wall park.

Top Tip: Avoid the Great Wall during Chinese holidays, or you may get caught up in the crowds.

Don’ts:

  • Don’t wear open-toed shoes; there are loose pieces of rock and insects. There have been sightings of snakes in the bush around!
  • Plan/try to camp on the wall.
  • Take pictures in precarious positions – it’s an ancient structure.
  • Be a litter bug!
  • Forget tissue if you’d like to use the toilet.
  • Run or walk too fast; seriously – there is loose rock everywhere.
  • Don’t climb on the windows of watchtowers, especially unrestored ones that might collapse.

We hope this answers some starter questions you have about visiting the Great Wall.

Stay up-to-date with us on: @trippinwithsj

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Trevi Fountain

You didn’t do Rome if you don’t visit the Fontana di Trevi, or Trevi Fountain. The Trevi Fountain is known as one of the most stunning fountains in the world. But there’s more to it than it’s beauty.

It was one of 1,352 fountains in 4th century Rome, but the Trevi Fountain always stood out from the rest. 

Some fun facts about the the fountain:

  1. The Trevi Fountain is one of the oldest water sources in Rome – the fountain was built at the end point of the aqueduct, at the junction of three roads. These three streets (tre vie) give the Trevi Fountain its name, the Three Street Fountain.
  1. It’s made from the same material as the Colosseum – the fountain is mostly built from travertine stone, a name that means “from the Tiber” in Latin.
  2. The fountain uses A LOT of water – the Trevi Fountain stands a massive 85 feet tall and is almost 65 feet wide. Water pumps out of multiple sources and the large pool in front, the fountain spills about 2,824,800 cubic feet of water every day! Environment gang I hear you gasping! but don’t worry, these days the water is recycled (meaning unlike the ancient Romans you’ll have to drink from the nearby drinking fountains instead!)
  3. The fountain is charitable – during its operating hours roughly €3,000 is thrown into it every day as people follow the tradition of throwing coins over their shoulders. Legend has it that a coin thrown into the fountain will ensure a return to Rome. This tradition also dates back to the ancient Romans who often threw coins in water to make the gods of water favour their journey or help them get back home safely. (Throw in a second coin if you’re seeking love – even a third for wedding bells!) What many don’t know is that the coins are collected every night and given to an Italian charity called Caritas. Caritas, in turn, use the money for a supermarket program giving rechargeable cards to Rome’s needy to help them get groceries.
  4. It’s illegal to fish out coins from the fountain – in the past it was common for gangs of thieves to sweep the coins out of the fountain at night. In fact, three were caught by a T.V. show using a hidden camera in 2011. The most famous raider, however, was known by his nickname, d’Artagnan. He stole the coins from the fountain for 34 years before he was caught in the summer of 2002! (A true scammer!)

Insider tip: Like all popular sites, to maximise your photo taking opportunities you should get there early! To help me with this, I actually monitored it on this website: Live Cam Trevi Fountain – Rome. You’re welcome.

Keep up to date with us on: @sarahambitious / @trippinwithsj x

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Nungwi Beach

Nungwi Beach is one of the main areas you will find information about online when planning a visit to Zanzibar, and for good reason. It has powdery white sand, turqouise blue water that simply looks unreal – I remember standing in awe. I never get tired of looking at beautiful water.

Nungwi is all you expect from a tourist beach front; restaurants serving a variety of cuisines, water sports and regular party boats that include food, bottomless drinks and music you can groove to. I even got some beautiful henna done.

Here are 10 reasons you should visit Nungwi if you go to Tanzania:

  1. It’s an island paradise(!) 😍 (hyperbole?, yes but no)
  2. It’s warm all year round. Zanzibar is located near the equator and gets sunny weather most of the time, so tan me up please! (Averaging up to 32°C & 9 hours of sun) 🌞😎
  3. Beautiful sunset views. Again because Zanzibar is on the western coast at the top of the island, its perfect to get your insta moments and have people wishing they were laying up there too. You can enjoy a drink on a rooftop as the sun sets or get on a sunset cruise on a dhow. (Did someone say baecation criteria being ticked?) 🌅
  4. Experience nature up close. Baraka Natural Aquarium is a conservation site run by locals, but that deserves a blogpost all of its own. So keep an eye out 😉
  5. Nightlife! As the sun sets, the beach comes alive. Visit Cholo’s Bar – it’s the oldest in the village. 🥂
  6. Enjoy local flavours. There are countless restaurants that will cater to your tastes, you have everything from French inspired to classic Italian in addition to local flavours. 🥘
  7. Build a dhow. You won’t actually do the back breaking work yourself, but you can get a personal look at how it’s done. Dhows are used to catch fish and other seafood in Zanzibar, and some of the fisherman will give a ‘Dhow building 101’. 🚣🏾‍♀️
  8. Walk, walk, walk. Locals are used to tourists walking around, but please be respectful of the local culture and cover up – shoulders and knees. Try the village market and get the best in local fruits and veg. Try the local faves; date nut bread, fried plantains and octopus! Spice galore again – so much to take back home for friends and family.
  9. Melting pot of cultures. Nungwi beach is in Zanzibar which is an important location for the spice trade, trade always brings people together and as people pass through they leave bits of their culture behind. Asian, European and African cultures, can be seen in the religion, values and cuisine.
  10. Beach boys. The souvenirs will come to you, or maybe it’s a dhow cruise you’re after? Water sports? A picture. The Maasai people will try and sell it all, but they are not overbearing. A firm ‘no’, and they will leave you alone.

There are many beautiful beaches in Zanzibar, but Nungwi stays top 5 no debating. Nungwi has so much hustle and bustle, but you still feel secluded; I don’t know but it’s beautiful. 🧘🏾‍♀️

Best time to travel: All year round; June – October, January and February are the driest months

Places to eat: Le Macis Zanzibar

As always, keep up with us on @sarahambitious // @trippinwithsj x

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Stone Town

I remember being in primary school and singing a song about Zanzibar, something about the ships going down there…whilst I don’t remember the song well (obviously). The impression Zanzibar left it my mind never faded, so being next door in Nairobi – I had to make my way to this place that had lived in my imagination for so long.

My 1st stop was Stone Town, it’s the old part of Zanzibar. The architecture mostly dates back to the 19th century, and reflects the diverse influences of the Swahili culture. There are a unique mixture of Arab, Persian, Indian and European elements and for this reason, the town was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2000. We love a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Before slavery was abolished in Tanzania black people weren’t allowed to live within the city walls (go figure), but in the 21st century any and everyone is free to live here – in true Hakuna Matata fashion. 

Exploring Stone town you find different doors which other than offering a cheeky photo op; they show a history of the demographic within the city. The gold on the doors is a symbol for protection from elephant attacks (there aren’t elephants native to this part of Tanzania) so it is indeed a nod to the Indian influence that is part of Stone Town blood.

Walking around and exploring the deep depths of  Stone Town, doesn’t require much pre-planning as you can find a guide in the square who has a wealth of knowledge to offer for a small price.

It was awesome to spend time exploring Stone Town. 

Here’s our list of top things to do, places to see and eat in Stone Town:

Forodhani Gardensmuch like Drake, Forodhani comes alive in the nightime! It’s set right on the seafront and whether you are veggie, pesci or a serious meat-eater – there is indeed an option for you. Food is a huge part of any culture, and visiting Forodhani is a must do.

House of Wonders in Stone Town captured by sarahambitious

Visit the ‘House of Wonders’ – it was originally opened in 1883. It is the tallest and largest building in Stone Town.

Make an International Call at Jaws Corner captured by sarahambitious

Make an International Call at Jaws Corner – it works.

stack of fabrics in the market in stone town by sarah ambitious

Buy souvenirs – you’ll find something to take back for someone (any excuse, I know)

seafood platter from swahili house in stone town by sarahambitious

The Swahili Houseprovided awesome rooftop views, delicious food. If you’d like to spend time in Stone Town you can also lodge here. this seafood platter that consisted of a whole lobster, calamari, shrimps, mashed potatoes and a cup of tea ☕️ was a mere £20 🥺🥺

Fish Auction at the Darajani Markets by sarahambitious

Join the Fish Auction at the Darajani Markets. There are a variety of fresh seafood options and you have to get stuck in if you want a chance to win.

Take a Spice Tour – every spice you can think of is available. Freshhh! Take some home for your friends, your flatmate, your colleague. 

a traditional mask in swahili house in stone town, zanzibar, tanzania by sarah ambitious

Buy some coffee – everything is so fresh and pure 🥺 buy it all.

  • Prison Islandanother excursion you don’t have to neccesarily pre-book. See the Giant Tortoise and learn how prison island was built with the intention of housing prisoners; but was repurposed to help contain the bubonic plague epidemic that government officials feared would make its way on ships coming in from Egypt and Mumbai.
  • Visit the Slave Museum – if you fancy it (I opted not to, it’s not everyday relive trauma).
  • Visit Freddy Mercury‘s house! – arguably Tanzania’s most popular export.

Would you add a stop to Stone Town on your trip?

Keep up to date with us on @trippinwithsj, as always x

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Diani Beach

Searching for some winter sun and a tan, (it’s always about the tan!) is what drew me to Diani. My Kenya trip was actually planned with Diani in mind 1st and then every other amazing thing came afterwards.

So in search of the beautiful coastline that I’d heard so much about I made my way down to Diani. To reach Diani from the mainland (Mombasa) you have to use the Likoni ferry, if you fly into the main Mombasa airport this is where you’ll also start your journey.

Diani beach has been rated the best beach destination since 2015 by Lonely Planet. The Indian Ocean goes on further than your eyes can sea 😉 and the white sand is almost blinding. The quieter part of the beach is where the resorts and hotels are; you can easily blag your way in or buy a drink so you can sit in one of the sun chairs and take in the island breeze under some palm trees.⁣

There’s someone selling fresh coconut, necklaces or you may even catch an impromptu performance.⁣

All part of the Diani vibe. ⁣

If you choose to stay in a hotel; the majority of them are right on beachfront. If you get an airbnb, you can easily find one 10 mins walk from beach.

Don’t leave without getting on a dhow; unmatched vibes.

The standout excursion from my time in Diani was without a doubt, the day trip to snorkel Kisite-Mpunguti Marine National Park and Reserve. We sailed on a traditional dhow sailboat, stopping to explore two vibrant snorkel sites of coral reef. Sailing from the mainland to marine park was serene and I would say it was an eco-friendly way to experience the area. We spotted dolphins, turtles, octopus and countless fish. The cruise also included delicious Swahili seafood and drinks on Wasini Island. The service was amazing and it’s definitely something I’d recommend including on your itinerary.

Places to eat:

  • Tiki Bar – the food was delicious, great cocktails and a lovely vibe.

Places to visit: Kwale, Shimoni, Kisite Marine Park, Wasini Island

Luxe Out: a day trip to Kisite-Mpunguti Marine National Park (You can even dive if you know how to)

As always stay connected with us on @trippinwithsj x

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Mombasa

Mombasa is Kenya’s oldest and second-largest city. It sits along the coastline, so you’ll have access to fresh seafood! And beautiful coastline views.

Mombasa was one of those places that I found via Instagram, I love visiting as many places as possible in one trip. I love walking around old towns and learning all their old history, you see the things that were left behind and the parts that have been included into the present day-to-day life.

Places to visit:

13th century afro pick
  1. Fort Jesus. Mombasa offers a blend of cultures; due to the colonial past the mark of each group can be seen in the city walls. Fort Jesus which was built by the Portuguese – (well it was physically built by Kenyan slaves under the instruction of the Portuguese but I digress 👀). My guide explained how the Portuguese came very arrogantly, but their only motive was to trade. The British came and spread Christianity ✝️, the Omanis spread Islam ☪️ causing great divide amongst the coastal Kenyan people. ⁣It’s weird because a building that was used to oppress now offers a livelihood for so many in Old Town.⁣
a tortoise

2. Haller Park offers some more animal lovin’! It is the transformation of a quarry wasteland into an ecological area. Kenyans are serious about their nature conservation, (aside from it obviously making up for a significant amount of their GDP) they feel it’s their job to keep the animals and earth safe. Haller Park is a true marvel to me and one of the many things we LOVE to see. If you time your arrival well you’ll be able to see various animals at their feeding times – giraffes 🦒(not as phenomenal as the Giraffe Centre), crocodiles 🐊 , hippos 🦛 and some elderly buffalos 🐃 too. ⁣

⁣It’s a fun day out and can be tied on to the back end of your exploration of Mombasa. ⁣Insider tip: listen out for the story of the Haller millipedes.

3. Spice Market – spices, herbs, coffee or tea leaves. It would be silly to not grab a bag of something and bring it back home with you. I see it as extending your holiday ever so slightly, the Kenyan coffee and tea is the truth!

4. Moi Avenue – is known for two pairs of giant aluminium elephant tusks. The tusks were commissioned in the 50s for Queen Elizabeths visit to Kenya, they also serve as a reminder to Kenyan trade poachers that elephants should never be paoched for the ivory trade.

Places to eat: Cafesserie Mombasa

It’s also worth mentioning that if you are safari’d out, Mombasa is a great gateway to other areas of Kenya that allow you to experience some hiking and/or cycling. I genuinely think there’s something to do for every type of traveller in Kenya.

As always, keep up to date with us on @trippinwithsj // @sarahambitious x

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Nairobi

Nairobi will most likely be your first stop in Kenya if you’re flying in. Nairobi is amazing as it offers quite a few wildlife activities right in the heart of the city. Nairobi National Park is the only national park in the world to be in a capital city – on its savannah plains you can see rhinos, lions, giraffes with the city skyline as a backdrop.

There are bars and restaurants like you would expect from any capital city and the easiest way I found to get around was uber.

I spent my first night going for dinner at Carnivore, which is an open-air restaurant. Carnivore’s specialty is meat, and features an all-you-can-eat meat buffet – they offer a range of unusual meats; alligator, ostrich etc. The atmosphere was lovely, complete with a live band performance.

Area to stay: Westlands

Places to eat: Carnivore Restaurant, CJ’s 

Places to visit: David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, Nairobi National Park, Giraffe Centre

Luxe Out:

  • Fairmont the Norfolk – spa day
  • Carnivore Restaurant – dinner
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Maasai Mara

If you’ve watched Uncle Attenborough’s many animal documentaries, you will have heard of the Maasai Mara. The image of wildebeest and birds alike making the big migration.

Then if you love Lion King, I meannnnnn. I won’t go on too much, but my point is the idea of visiting this natural wonder has been in my mind and heart for a long time.

Now, in my experience of curating tailormade holidays; going on a safari is not cheap. So it was always a bucket list thing and I thought it would be unattainable for a while. However, when the opportunity to visit Kenya arose – I knew I couldn’t let the chance pass me by.

So, here they are – my tips on how to go on a safari in the most cost effective way. Hakuna Matata 😉

When to go: As with most trips, deciding what season you go will determine how much you spend overall.

  • December to February – it’s not dry season but when I went in December the weather was amazing, and we saw all of the Big 5 too. This time period will allow cheaper airfares, hotel stays and possibly discounted activities 🏌🏾‍♀️ (The weather was even good enough for a hot air balloon ride, but I’ll get into that later 😁)
  • June to October – is the ‘best time’ to visit Kenya as its during the Dry season. Late June to October are meant to be the the best wildlife viewing months. The wildebeest migration usually reaches the Masai Mara in August and remains until October when they move back to the Serengeti in Tanzania. 

As Kenya sits close to the equator, its seasons are the opposite of ours. So going in December I was greeted with at 26 degrees Celcius 😍😍

Where to stay: Outside

I would recommend setting aside 3 days minimum to make the most of your time in the Maasai Mara. This way if you miss animals on one day, there’s still more opportunities to see them. 

So, I’ve just told you to spend at least 3 days on the nature reserve. You’ve checked prices for lodges and you’ve come back to tell me I’m crazy 😜 

Relax friends, relax and walk with me 😂

I too, was impressed by the price of lodges on the nature reserve! If you have the funds to splash out, definitely stay on the nature reserve you save some time driving. However, if you want to save some coins – stay on a lodge just outside the gates of the Maasai Mara! They offer all the same services; game drives, glamping etc. but for a lot less. We even booked our hot air balloon tour with our accommodation. 

We were lucky enough to spot nearly all of the Big 5 during our game drive and we only needed to go on one day 🥺. A lot of the game drives will allow you to go again for free if you don’t see them on your first try. 

What to pack: Layersss

So I made a little song and dance about how warm it was in December. But, the temperature really does drop 🥶 as soon as the sun goes down and as it’s rising.

  • Hiking boots/weatherproof boots 
  • Hat 
  • Jumpers, cardigans (anything you can layer) 
  • Mosquito spray 
  • Water bottle
  • Camera
  • Torchlight 

Some people will go as far as hiring their own 4×4 and trying to drive the nature reserve themselves – you can do this and it will cut costs as you’ll only need to buy a ticket for entry. However, I wouldn’t recommend; I saw too many people stuck in the mud – literally. The guides who are local people, know the routes like the back of their hands and know how to navigate the plains. (You may also have the opportunity to visit one of the local Maasai families.)

Top site to see: Great Rift Valley

Other than the Maasai Mara itself, on your way there you will pass the Great Rift Valley.  The Earth moved when Kenya was created and the evidence can be seen with the Great Rift Valley, it cuts across the country’s length. There are lakes, savannahs and volcanoes that stretches from Jordan all the way to Mozambique. The drive from the city to nature reserve is quite long, so it makes a good stop for a photo op and a toilet break. The toilet is not anything fancy, so be prepared!

Stand-out excursion: Hot air balloon ride

Once in a lifetime means there’s no second chance…*clears throat* I’m all for saving your money on certain things so you can luxe out on others! We luxed out on a hot air balloon ride, and oh boy what a dream. 

You have to get up super early and it’ll be freezing, so driving around in a 4×4 with no heating sounds like a terrible idea. The ride you’re blessed with after you see the balloons being blown up tho? So worth it. 10/10 would recommend without a question.

After your flight you get to celebrate the succesful flight with everyone you flew with – there is a buffet breakfast and unlimited champage – (yes, I made myself countless mimosas). You get a certificate and a visual souvenir of the ride itself. Your guide is ready on the otherside to pick you up and take you back to base, or you can tie on a game drive since you’re already out there.

We hope this guide helps you get started on planning your own trip, or serves as a way back to fond memories of a safari trip.

Keep up with us on: @trippinwithsj x