personal travel

How I Ended Up in Gibraltar

So, in case any of you hadn’t noticed I’ve ended up moving to Gibraltar. Typing it out cements its status as quite a bizarre thing that has happened in my life. It’s an odd feeling being honest, especially because of how bruised my arm is after pinching myself too many times to see if I’m dreaming – but I’m still here, or possibly in some deep Matrix-like coma. Maybe we all are, I guess we’ll never know.

The feeling being here is quite different to my experiences of going abroad to Spain and Tanzania, mainly because nobody is holding my hand during the moving process. Both of those relocations were through organisations, where they hooked me up with host families, jobs, and generally kept an eye on us all during our times there. Now it’s me and my girlfriend, all by ourselves and being honest, the freedom of being abroad and making everything work out yourself is probably the best part – if not highly stressful. Yet as they say, no risk no reward.

Made a friend at the top of ‘The Rock’ (September, 2021) 🇬🇮

The story of how I ended up in Gibraltar starts with a solid foundational plan; one that had been in place since November of last year. Charlotte and I had been working towards it since then, getting the necessary paperwork and qualifications together. The thing is, that plan was aimed at moving to Thailand, and moving to Gibraltar hadn’t even crossed our minds until about a month ago.

The initial decision to move abroad came around a month after we’d moved into our flat in Welwyn Garden City. It wasn’t that we were sick of the place already, more to do with the fact we’d been grounded for years and that we’d both developed itchy feet to live away again. That and the fact that we’d never intended to move to Welwyn Garden City, and you get the point.

We had settled pretty early on moving to Thailand as one of my partners’ best friends lived out there, who she hadn’t seen in years. I was just happy to be invited along for the ride. We had nothing in WGC worth staying for, so we got to work securing ourselves a qualification in teaching English as a foreign language (or a TEFL for short).

Ah, the TEFL qualification, the bane of my life. See, when I moved to Lleida, Catalonia, four years ago (four years ahh!!) a section of my contract guaranteed that I would study for and receive a TEFL at the end of my time there. Alas, life, with its giant spanner, threw it into the works and I had to leave my job in Spain earlier than I (and the programme) had originally intended – the chance of getting my TEFL for free while I worked went with it. Thus, I had to fork out £300 to do another one, which for a certified Level 5 qualification wasn’t too bad.

After that purchase I followed up by doing nothing Thailand related. Instead, I worked on The Toucan Man and got promoted at work – all the while the six-month time limit for completing my coursework ticked away. Diamonds are formed under pressure though. Right?

My word was it an absolute slog. After leaving it until the last possible moment to begin, I’d backed myself into a corner where I had to slave night and day on my TEFL. This was not only on my days off, but during work time as well when I could sneak off for 20 minutes at a time. It was horrendous, but I did it, and now I’ve got another shiny qualification on my resume. Even though I never actually used it to get my current job, who knows when it might come in handy in the future. Also, it’s always good to learn new things and add to a fresh arrow to your quiver. On a personal note, I was able to finally tick off something that I should have completed a while ago. So, go me I guess.

Brown on Seashore Near Mountain
Maybe someday… 🇹🇭

We decided that because of the disease that shall not be named we’d be better off booking flights as late as possible to get to Thailand, and that our best chance of employment was getting into the Kingdom first then figuring it out later as the normal recruitment drive for foreign language teachers online had dried up into a barren wasteland.

We didn’t think about it enough to be deterred, too busy building up our savings to fund the, what became increasingly evident, expensive trip. We were excited, passionate and determined to make it work.

This was when August hit and the murmurs coming out of Thailand about another lockdown started increasing in volume, there was talk about pushing back school dates, which meant no classrooms to be taught in, which in turn meant little to no jobs in the country itself as they could all be done over the internet. The October date we would be leaving our Welwyn Garden City flat on was fast approaching, and we were being told to wait for an opening as it might pass in a week or so. Wait we did, and we waited and waited. The good news never came, so we decided that we’d just book our flights and get there, everything else would surely fall into place afterwards.

Then the bureaucracy kicked in, the amount of paperwork required to get into Thailand (at the time of writing) was too much. Each document required another form that couldn’t be filled in until the one we were filling in had been completed. It was chaos, seemingly designed difficult to dissuade people from travelling. In the end, it felt too much like swimming against the tide of a flowing river. We closed the laptop in defeat, the Thailand dream was dead in the water.

However, like a phoenix in the ashes, a new idea formed out of the old one. Our time in WGC was coming to an end, that was a guarantee. The world was now potentially our oyster, as long as it was situated on the UK green list.

This was when the applications started flying out, not for teaching jobs, but for writing positions I was qualified for in Dubai, Malta, and Gibraltar.

For the latter, I was offered an interview the next day for the following week, which I attended and was offered the role two hours afterward. It was mind-bending, we’d gone from fighting the current to being swept up by it, now eager to see where it would throw us off.

After getting off the phone and going hysterical with excitement it dawned on me, we had two weeks to get to Gibraltar. We sold all of our furniture and packed up our belongings, taking only what we could carry. Our backs becoming decimated from 4 days sleeping on the floor as we’d accidentally sent the pump for the airbed back up North with my girlfriend’s dad.

In a way it was the perfect storm. My partner’s job is home-based so she could move to the peninsula freely, combine this with the visa-free access and being on the green list made it a surprisingly simple move. Not long after our arrival we sorted out a flat too. It had all started to finally feel real. We spent our first few days in Gibraltar treating it as a holiday, something we had been unable to do since a trip to Glasgow in early 2020.

Gibraltar at night (October 2021) 🇬🇮

I’m not sure what the moral of this story is. Half of me thinks its knowing when to let go of a pipedream, when to realise something is implausible even if you’ve worked so hard for it – but its in letting go that more opportunities rear their heads, ones that you would have been blind to beforehand like a horse with its blinkers on.

On the other hand, it could be about not selling yourself short, that the opportunities to do what you love will come eventually as long as you work toward them. Being offered a job abroad as a copywriter is something I could have only dreamed of a couple of years ago – especially after working in marketing and my old manager deciding to go external with the company’s copywriting duties, even though that was my bread and butter. In hindsight that may have been the turning point where I started to take writing (and myself) seriously, as I started this website a month or so later.

As I sit here in a bustling café just off Main Street in Gibraltar, with a light lunch of a cortado and quiche, letting myself absorb the new surroundings I find myself in, I’m filled with excitement for the coming years. I don’t grieve a missed opportunity in Thailand, as it was never meant to be, and so in the end never existed.

Because if it had, I’d never be here.

music travel

A Love Letter to King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut

Back in 2011, stressed during my GCSE’s but taking the first grasps at young adult life, I was sat in one of the media studies classrooms at lunch. Me and my friend Ryan were looking at upcoming concerts in Manchester. I’d wanted to start attending gigs regularly now I’d turned 16, being situated in Chester placed me in the perfect position to travel to both Liverpool and Manchester to see my favourite bands.

That day I was searching for emo-gamechangers Madina Lake, their album ‘Attics to Eden’ had been released a couple of years prior and the lead single ‘Never Take Us Alive’ had made the rounds on my iPod Nano since its release. I remember downloading the song illegally using some sort of YouTube to MP3 website like every other teenager at the time, in a forgotten world without Spotify and Apple Music.

The band that started it all, Madina Lake (unugunu, Wikimedia Commons)

Searching for the band on Google, we were met with their upcoming performance in Glasgow, at an amazingly named venue by the name of ‘King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut’. At the time I gave it a raised eyebrow, intrigued by its name, before ending our search due to the impending school bell. Little did I know however, that this was the beginning of a lifetime obsession with a venue in a country I had never even visited.

Since then, I have always noticed the venue on the touring schedules of the bands I loved, every time the name sparked my interest. Why did this North African Pharaoh have a venue in Scotland? What the hell was a ‘Wah Wah’? But most importantly – when could I go?

For those of you unaware, King Tut’s is a small cult venue situated on St. Vincent’s street, a short walk from the centre of Glasgow. Founded in 1990, the 300-capacity venue takes its name from a Lower East Side New York club and experimental theatre space from the 80’s. That iconic club hosted the likes of the Blue Man Group, whereas the one this side of the Atlantic boasts The Strokes, Biffy Clyro and Beck.

The original King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut in the Lower East Side of NYC (Lupo Rodriguez, Pinterest)

The venue has been voted as BBC Radio 1’s ‘Best Small UK Venue’ and NME named it “quite possibly the best small venue in the world”. It was even the location for Liam Gallagher’s ‘Come Back to Me’. My love for the idea of going to King Tut’s faded after a decade of life, until one weekend last December when I briefly mentioned my former infatuation to my girlfriend in jest. I didn’t think anything of it, but she did – the next thing I knew she’d booked me tickets to go on my birthday.

It was to see a band called IDER, a ‘post-genre’ indie band consisting of Lily Somerville and Megan Markwick. I’d never heard of them, but I didn’t care – that’s how you discover new music anyway. I was beyond excited. It’s still up there with one of the most genuine and thoughtful gifts I’ve ever received.

I was finally going to King Tut’s!

The walls of the blokes toilets in King Tut’s. The first and last time I’ve taken a photo in a bathroom. (February, 2020)

Before I waffle on, Glasgow as a city itself is phenomenal. The people are ace, I got rinsed in a comedy club after being selected as the ‘most Scottish looking person in the room’, only to hit the host with my brand of Cestrian English. He said to me, “Ginger and English? I don’t think you’re liked much up here or down there”. Bruised ego aside, the city is great – don’t let its reputation stop you from going. The ‘Dear Green Place’ is more than it’s cracked up to be if you give it a chance.

The venue itself is everything I wanted it to be and more. From the enormous logo outside, to the toilets plastered with signed setlists from gigs long ago. They have their own ‘King Tut’s Lager’ on tap, which was decently potent (especially after 4 of them). I was Captain Ahab, the venue Moby Dick – I’d fall into the water and let it take me wherever it wanted me to go. Luckily, it didn’t take 3 days to chase the venue down.

King Tut’s revels in its history. It bursts with an array of artwork, posters and instruments that preceded its famous steps; each one archiving the artists who performed there that year into its very foundations. A million memories condensed into a single footstep, only to capture a million more in the next.

The famous steps at King Tut’s (February, 2020)

The atmosphere buzzed for IDER. After getting acquainted with the aforementioned lager and being ‘that guy’ who took a photo of the stairs (I hate myself too) we spilled into the venue. Split between the bar, stage, and a raised mezzanine we we’re engulfed in the shadows of your typical venue – the features of Charlotte’s face only visible by the oozing red stage lighting as we waited patiently for the band in its eager glow.

IDER were ace.

If you’ve ever attended venues like Parr Street Studio 2 in Liverpool, or The Ritz in Manchester – you’ll know there are certain venues that were built for music. This is one of them. The London duo’s voices bounced from the walls as they performed. They were that good that their current Wikipedia image is from the gig that we were at (see photo).

The name IDER comes from the character that “manifests itself when [they] harmonise“, although intended as a joke they named themselves after – this genuinely rang true. They intertwined melodies and swapped instruments with ease, it felt like a fever dream.  It was one of the best performances I had seen for a long time, in arguably one of the best gig venues I’d ever attended. As a bonus, the night concluded with the best drunk Five Guys burger on our way back to the hotel.

Give them a listen if you’ve got a spare 3 minutes and 45 seconds.

So, whether you’ve got plans to visit Glasgow already or if you’re travelling for King Tut’s itself, it is 100% worth the visit. This might be the decade of bias talking, but I think it might be my favourite venue in the country. Although I’ve got NME and Radio 1 on my side so I can’t be too far from the truth.


And I definitely didn’t buy a commemorative mug.

In the words of Liam Gallagher – “Why don’t you come back to me?”

I’m sure someday I will.