Native Moments by Nic Schuck: A review

Native Moments is a novel written by Nic Schuck focusing on surfing and adventure. Nic got in touch a while back to ask if we would like to review his book and we were more than happy to oblige. Once again we dipped into our extensive pool of talent and decided that Grace Melville, one of our bloggers, an avid traveller and an English Literature student was the perfect person to write our first ever book review! So somewhere in-between all the turkey and red wine she sat down during Christmas and put this review together for you and we hope you enjoy! It may even inspire you to read the book?

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Native Moments is a novel that takes the reader on a journey with the main character, Sanch Murray, as he seeks escape from traditional American life. With his arrogant, ex-pro surfer friend, Jack, the two embark on an adventure to Costa Rica, attracted by the low cost lifestyle and the great conditions for surfing.

The author presents the reader with two imperfect main characters who, despite their flaws, the reader cannot help but love and become invested in. Schuck gives much attention to character development, slowly unpicking the personalities of the characters in the story. The result is an intimate narration and the attraction to the characters is so strong that it makes up for occasional lapses in the quality of writing.

The story is easy to follow, keeps good pacing and also manages to surprise the reader at times. Most notably Sanch’s relationship with Andrea. It is left ambiguous whether she really cares about Sanch or whether she’s using him as a ticket back to America. Plus her being referred to as a ‘whore’ really muddies the waters around the authenticity of her attraction to Sanch. Regardless the characters are displayed with vibrant humour and colour, and we’re sad to see them go when the story pushes on.

Ultimately this book is a homage to the free spirited world of surfing and a celebration of a life not tethered down by materialistic wants and needs. Sanch Murray is escaping a life back home which would see him enter the Navy, a future he does not want for himself. This trip is a way to depart from his childhood and family tradition and carve out a new individual identity. What’s more the reader supports this decision and actively encourages him to continue down his chosen path. Schuck gives those who are stuck in a rut in their lives, uncertain of their future, a character to root for and hopefully a character to aspire to be.

Schuck clearly has a soft spot for Costa Rica and this shines through in his writing. If Costa Rica was not on your radar before, it will be after reading this book. This novel is one for those who are seeking adventure, and for those who already have the travelling bug, this story will leave you dying to get back out there and on your surfboard.

 

You can find Native Moments available to buy on Amazon here.

My day with the Elephants… By Grace Melville

I was lucky enough at the end of last year to travel around Thailand with my parents and sister. We travelled around Bangkok, Chiang Mai before ending our time on a tiny island off the south coast. Those who have been to Thailand will know how beautiful this country is. It is a never ending sensory overload and I only wish I had more time to explore. This country has the ability to leave a profound effect on a person and I was no different.

Elephants are Thailand’s largest land animal and one of its largest animal exploits. This post will be about my experience in meeting elephants but I wish to speak shortly about the problems that surround elephant tourism. Being people of travel we care about the planet and this care naturally extends to animals.

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I think the simplest terms in which to put this is:

DO NOT go to any elephant ‘parks’ which advertise elephant rides or elephant shows.
DO go to elephant ‘Sanctuaries’.

Some in Thailand have seen the interest in elephants from tourists and have capitalised on this interest extensively. Unfortunately in this process the body of the elephant becomes nothing more than a commodity, used only for profit, at the expense of the elephant’s welfare and health. Those in charge are often uneducated in how these creatures need to be cared for, leading to widespread mistreatment. This is an issue across Thailand and Asia. Elephants are trained by having their spirit broken, known as ‘the crush’. This involves weeks of torture and beatings until the elephants submits. They are then used for rides, shows or as street acts where they are over-worked, under-fed and kept in appalling conditions. If you enter somewhere that offers rides or shows, I urge you to leave. 

My tip to avoiding such places is researching the place you are going to, read trip advisor reviews. It will quickly become apparent whether the company care about the elephants or money.

My family and I visited the Elephant Jungle Sanctuary. This was without a shadow of a doubt one of the most amazing experiences of my life. The Elephant Jungle Sanctuary has 5 locations around Chiang Mai and look after over 20 elephants. They are dedicated to the welfare and health of these creatures as well as educating the public on how they should be treated.

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My experience:

After a very early start and a bumpy 2-hour car ride up into the valley we arrived at the sanctuary. Upon arrival we were given a multi coloured thread top. I would recommend bringing shorts as otherwise you look half naked like I did. But to be quite honest no cared about the semi-nudity, least of all the elephants. After an introduction to the team we were given a talk about elephant care and a history of all the elephants in that location. The carers were kind and intelligent, stressing the need for improved conditions for these animals.

After this we were lead down to the wide open field where the elephants were. Coming face to face with these creatures in an environment that is entirely their own is indescribable. The elephants were not fearful and would happily walk around us sniffing our hair and eating bananas out of our hands. All the food is provided by the sanctuary so do not worry about bringing any with you. Fun tip: the elephants love the bananas and sugar cane, but aren’t as keen on the cucumbers so grab the former if you want to be popular with them! Be calm and patient with the elephants, they’re naturally curious and playful. But mind your feet!

Everything is done on the elephant’s time; the feeding session can take thirty minutes or an hour. It is completely up to them. After the feeding we went on a short walk with the elephants up the ravine and finally down to the small lake that lay below.

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Then it got really fun. We were shown how to help wash and scrub the elephants. Definitely bring a swimming costume or trunks with you because it gets very wet. No matter what age everyone was splashing around in the water. Truly unforgettable.

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After this we walked back to main hut and said goodbye to our new friends. This entire experience felt calm and natural, a far cry from the mechanic and capitalist attitude seen at other locations. This piece is by no means meant to sound preachy or condescending. Obviously no one in his or her right mind would wish to see an elephant hurt. My aim is to merely pass on the knowledge I learned from this experience and share the magic I felt from this day.

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Thank you and happy travelling x

Follow more of Grace’s adventures here.

Useful links to learn more and the website of the sanctuary I visited:

http://www.saveelephant.org

http://www.elephantjunglesanctuary.com

Exploring Croatia By Sea..By Grace Melville

Last summer myself and three friends from uni headed out to Croatia for one week. We wanted to try something a little different so chose to travel around on a boat. I would be lying if I said this was a cheap way to explore Croatia and the company themselves were rather disorganised. For those wishing to do a week like this I would say *be prepared to spend more than you would normally BUT *be prepared for one of the best experiences. Despite a rocky start (my friend got mugged within 2 hours of landing) things started looking up as when we arrived we were told we would be spending our week on boat with four Australian doctors. *eyebrow raise* 

 

Our little boat we would call home for the week was called Knot So Fast and we quickly settled into marine life. Each morning we woke up on the front deck being warmed by the  sun, our first view being the blue sky then the glittering sea. The views in Croatia are breathtaking, we spent our first evening watching the sunset, our feet dipped in the sea, it truly sunk in how lucky we were to be there. Our first night was spent in the numerous bars along the marina in Split. Drinks are fairly cheap but I would *suggest stocking up on alcohol and food at local supermarkets to cut costs. Fun titbit, Split is also famous for its lavender so if you’re looking for a easy and cheap present for friends or family this checks all the boxes. Also anytime you’re walking around Croatia, stop to take in the views. I cannot remember a time when the view wasn’t stunning (apart from the view of my reflection after the nights out). 

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Another one of our stops was Hvar, a beautiful place, *definitely worth visiting the old town and getting lost down all the little alleys full of restaurants and shops. Hvar has become more of a hotspot for partying in recent years and if that’s your scene then put aside time to visit if you want an unforgettable experience. There is an event called *Carpe Diem which takes partiers to an island off to coast, I personally didn’t have enough time to go to this but I’ve heard that it lives up to the hype around it. 

If you take anything from this post please please try and visit the island of Vis. Without a doubt one of my favourite places I have even been to. Previously home to a military fort, the island has only been open to the public for 20 years. Because of this it has managed to escape the hoards of tourists and is relatively untouched. If you’re looking for an authentic Croatian town, I would recommend exploring here. Whilst my friends and I were there we *hired mopeds. Again I cannot recommend this enough. Super cheap and easy to drive, you are then free to explore to whole island. We drove up to the highest point and watched the sunset from there, took a cheeky selfie then left. Others drove down to the coves and equally were in awe with their surroundings. Driving around with the wind in our hair, it all sounds so cliche but really felt magical. Mopeds are available to hire on most islands so if you can’t manage it here, other places I’m sure will also deliver. 
Also *must do on this island is *George Fort, which is a old restored fort, now home to a restaurant and at night, a club. A taxi is required to get you up to the fort or a official mini bus is available to book onto, so *make sure you plan ahead so you don’t miss out. The night at the fort was one of the best I’ve had, stunning surroundings and again cheap drinks. 
And if you’re feeling rather worse for wear the next day there’s a fresh smoothie cafe on the side of the marina that sell a smoothie specifically designed for curing hangovers. 

Another thing I want to highlight about Croatia is the people. Everyone there seemed so chilled and relaxed. The perfect place to travel around. Everyone we met was friendly and generous. So if you’re looking for a beautiful place to explore, with new adventures around every corner then add Croatia to your bucket list. Treat this country with the respect and admiration it deserves. 

 

Grace Melville xx

Meet the blogging team! Grace Melville.

Grace Melville – Introducing Grace. Grace is currently studying English at Newcastle University and like all our guest bloggers has the travel bug. When Grace isn’t exercising her need for knowledge she is booking trips around the world with all that spare money and time students have! ha.

Based in the North East of England but born and bred in London you can find Grace blogging here.