Melbourne | Living on the Edge at Eureka Skydeck | Australia

imageAs the clock ticked down on my final days in Melbourne, it struck me that there were still several things I had yet to do before leaving. All those touristy things we want to do but simply forget once we start working and life gets in the way. Well working 12 hour days six days a week definitely cut back the amount of time I had to give to such activities, but I was still determined to give it my best shot. So when the birthday of one of my best friends was approaching, I thought how better to celebrate than with a trip up the Eureka Skydeck to see our beautiful city twinkling in the moonlight followed by a night of cocktails by the river. We met at Ludlow’s, a bar along the river where loads of our friends who worked there were celebrating the boss’ birthday with drinks and food. The crowd that work at the bar are great, such a friendly bunch and they definitely know how to party. The company actually owns part of the Skydeck and when they heard we were going up there that evening, the bosses gave us free tickets to both the Skyjack and The Edge – we couldn’t believe it! It was so lovely of them and we really appreciated it. Normal prices at $20 for entrance to the Skydeck Experience and a further $12 for The Edge.imageWe walked over to the entrance and were given a warm welcome by the staff to ushered us into the lifts which carried us a whopping 285m above ground in just 38 seconds! No wonder my ears were popping. The fastest elevator trip in the Southern Hemisphere took us directly to the dizzying heights of the Eureka Skydeck – and I wasn’t sure how well this was going to go down. Heights have never bothered me in the slightest, but the birthday girl suffered terrible vertigo as we had found in the Grampians and I hoped she was going to be able to enjoy it. We walked around the Skydeck where we experienced Melbourne sightseeing at its finest, the whole city was alight and glowing against the dark skies. It was beautiful – take your breath away beautiful. I was so glad we hadn’t come up during the day, but also wondered what it would have been like to witness this spectacular view at sunset. We had an incredible 360 degree view of the Melbourne skyline thanks to the floor-to-ceiling windows. From the top it is possible to see Albert Park Lake, Port Phillip Bay, the Dandenong Ranges and beyond. There are also 30 viewfinders around the Skydeck, so you can take a closer look at some of Melbourne’s favourite landmarks such as the MCG, Federation Square and Flinders Street Station.imageAfter exploring the platform, we decided to enjoy a nice glass of wine with the view over the city – it really was a breathtaking sight. We all had to take a minute to breathe in the fact that this was our home, we lived in this amazing city. It was one of the moments I really found a true appreciation for how lucky I am. Then our buzzer went and it was our time to check out the second stage of the experience – The Edge – a glass cube that projects from the 88th floor of the Eureka Tower and suspends visitors almost 300 meters high above Melbourne. A world first, it gives you a chance to stand over the city and really experience the view from a whole new perspective. Now I know that it might not appeal to those who are scared of heights but with me were two of my best friends who were both nervous about the experience and worried they couldn’t cope with the height. Both came out with huge beaming smiles on their faces and not a hint of shaky legs. Even if you hate heights and ca’t usually deal with them, don’t write off this experience because my friends coped well and were so glad they had given it a chance. There really is no other way to see Melbourne like it and I will always remember seeing Melbourne twinkling below me.

For more details about the Skydeck Experience, prices, opening times or The Edge, check out the website for more details.

Have you been up the Eureka Skydeck? How did you find The Edge? What other top Melbourne attractions could you recommend?

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Birthday thanks, love and celebrations

imageI wasn’t very excited for my birthday. Now if you know me well, you’d know that’s pretty odd for me, I’m the sort of girl who likes to celebrate her birthday by going big with all the people I love, I’m the sort of girl who likes to stretch out her birthday for weeks and even months. So for me to not be excited for my birthday, that was a bit strange. My birthday fell a week after I was due to arrive back in the UK after 18 months of travelling the globe – a year ago I was celebrating in Melbourne with good friends and without knowing, in the place I would come to love the most in Australia. I had a birthday/leaving party in Melbourne the weekend before I flew which was amazing – everyone dressed up in shit shirts and celebrated with me in my flat in Melbourne – two incredible friends I met in Asia even flew over from Adelaide especially for the party. I couldn’t have been more touched by the amazing turnout and the effort people went to, it really showed me what incredible friends I have found since travelling, and especially in Melbourne. So returning home and leaving that all behind has been hard, I’m not great with goodbyes and it kind of put a damper on my excitement for celebrating.13263704_10153507465677617_489101414685350076_nFor the first time in my life, I woke up feeling completely unexcited about my birthday. Not a feeling I’m used to, but I think the fact that it was supposed to be a day of celebration really highlighted that some people who really mean the most to me were on the other side of the globe and wouldn’t be here to share the day with me. It’s one of the hard parts of coming home from travelling, suddenly you feel a world away from the people who have been your entire world for the last few months. But I’m not a girl to sit around feeling sorry for myself, so instead I got up and made a delicious batch of fluffy pancakes. Then the messages started rolling in, and the phone calls and the texts… It was overwhelming to see how many amazing people both here in the UK and scattered cross the world, in Asia, Australia, Europe and even South America took the time to message me and wish me a happy birthday. People I hadn’t spoken to in almost a year were messaging to find out how my travels were going, or to see how I was celebrating the day. Again, the effort people went to really touched my heart and made me realise how lucky I am to have made such incredible friends with such amazing humans since I’ve been travelling.13178557_10153502015042617_9220132387357246480_nNot just since I’ve been travelling, but far beyond that, the people I’ve known since I was a little girl, the people I’ve grown up with and the people I’ve studied alongside.It turned my day around, hearing from so many wonderful people on this day and made me realise how lucky I am to have made so many amazing connections in my life. How lucky I am to be so loved. So many float through life and miss out on so many opportunities for friendship and love, I feel so grateful that I have found so many throughout my life and to constantly be surrounded by so much love. I’m so astonished by some of the longest standing and greatest friendships I’ve found – many of them were ones I expected to fizzle out as our paths separated and headed in different directions. So many of these friendships have been the most unexpected and perhaps that’s what makes them so precious to me, the fact that they could have so easily been missed along the way. I’m the kind of girl who falls hard for people, whether it’s relationships or friendships – if I feel that spark with someone I’ll very quickly make them a huge part of my life. It’s meant that I’ve been hurt in the past by people who took advantage of that, but it doesn’t mean I’ll ever give it up. If you ask me, the only way you ever discover those real friendships – the ones you’d do anything for – and the relationships that really touch your soul, is to fall hard and hope they catch you.12524420_10153417099822617_1368577783249818291_nSo now, as I sit here on the evening of my birthday with a belly full of Greek barbecue and prosecco, with the long weekend stretching ahead of me, I’m reenergised and ready to celebrate. A weekend filled with some of the most precious souls in my life and celebrating everything we have accomplished. My past 18 months of solo travel and everything I have experienced along the way, for my friends it’s new studies, apartments, houses, relationships and even engagements. After so long apart, its more important than ever to take a long hard look at how far we have come. I know so many people are funny about getting older, about getting closer to 30. Well I’m officially 26, closer to 30 than I’ve ever been and yet instead of feeling like it’s something to dread, I want to celebrate every single moment, every thrilling moment of the years that have led me to this point. The passion, the bravery, the fearlessness and the jokes that have kept me laughing and happy to my very core. Even the moments that made me lose my breath, the moments that scared me beyond belief, the moments I thought I wouldn’t come back from, every single one brought me to this point of my life. And if that isn’t worth celebrating, I don’t know what is. So with that, let’s raise a glass – to everything I’ve survived so far and to all you angels who have pushed me to keep on going. I can’t thank you enough.

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Travel | Coming home – The end of an era

13227097_467600236762891_2670598566680473826_nI wrote this while I was floating high among the clouds somewhere between Australia and Malaysia, feeling like my life was some strange version of limbo caught halfway between two worlds – reality and the incredible life I’ve been living for the past 18 months. After quitting my job and deciding to travel the world solo, I set out on the adventure of a lifetime planning to return within a year and settle back into normal life. Well, that’s what I told everyone, even then I was planning to be gone much longer so it was never really a surprise to those closest to me when I skipped my flights and decided to follow my heart, instead exploring more of Australia than I ever dreamed I would and making plans for the future. I can’t even begin to put into words the effect the last 18 months has had on every aspect of my life – meeting such amazing people at every turn and seeing such incredible sights has really set my heart on fire and has opened me up to a whole new world that I could only fantasise about before now. But you see, the thing is, I felt totally unprepared for returning home. Yes that’s right, after the last 18 months of pure happiness I was finally headed back to the UK. It kind of snuck up on me, despite knowing for months my time in Melbourne would be ending and at some points really looking forward to my return simply to see my family and friends again after so long away. But when it finally came down to it, I just wasn’t ready.13241315_466927216830193_2112462883777615447_nI thought I could handle it, I thought I would be okay. I said my final goodbyes to the very closest of friends and refused to shed tears as I knew it was really just “see you later”, but later would sit in the bath and cry at the thought of leaving this amazing family I’ve found in Melbourne. It really has been home – a place I finally felt settled in and loved my lifestyle, with fantastic friends and regular haunts, a career I could build into something greater than I ever imagined in such a short space of time. A chance to really make something of myself. Melbourne really was the city of opportunity for me and I will never forget the final months I spent here, they were more than I ever hoped they could be. But the one thing that really made it special, was the fact that this was where I was when I realised I was totally healed. I left the UK with a broken heart but returned the happiest I’ve ever been – travel was the best possible thing that could have happened to me. It truly is the greatest healer for a broken heart and I tell you why, it’s because it makes you focus entirely on yourself and what makes you happy, it forces you to be self-reliant and to fall back in love with yourself as a person, to truly learn to be alone and to enjoy it. I learnt so much by travelling solo and it has honestly been the best and most valuable experience of my entire life.13139101_462393443950237_7458104603258956728_nEven though I know my journey is not at an end – I already have travel plans for the next few months across Europe before returning to Australia after the summer – I know that it is the end of an era. When I begin my travels again, I will no longer be a first-time solo traveller, I will know what I’m doing, I won’t a mess of butterflies figuring it out and hoping for the best. I’m proud of that because it shows how much I have learnt since travelling solo, but it also means starting afresh in a whole new way of travelling. I really feel the last 18 months are the best reason to celebrate that I could ever think of – much as we celebrate when we graduate university or marry, we should all celebrate the fact that not only did we survive travelling, we smashed it! I learnt more in the last 18 months than I did from three years at university or a nine year relationship. I am so grateful for every single person who has been with me, whether it was the very first group of friends I made in Bangkok, or the amazing group of Pioneers I found on the Thai islands, whether it was the Darwin Dingos - the greatest travelling family I have ever known, or the crazy beautiful people I found in Melbourne. You’re all so special in so many ways and you all brought such laughter and happiness into my life, you made my travelling experience.13238967_466927206830194_1731875816918540482_nNow that I am half a world away from everything I have known for the past 18 months, I find myself reminiscing over every forgotten moment, every tiny detail and loving every part of the experience for what it was. I can’t believe some of the things I have seen and done, and while a good rest was well-needed after working flat-out for so long, it just gets me even more excited for the next stage of travelling. So what am I doing back here? Well my plan is to be back for a few months, a couple spent working back at the newspaper before heading off to Europe to holiday with family and to visit friends before returning to Australia in September for Part II of my travelling adventure. I still have so many blog posts about Melbourne to share with you, plus any parts of Australia and Asia I may have forgotten to share with you all. Plus I have some exciting collaborations coming up and as always I’ll be keeping you up-to-date with my adventures in the UK – it’s been great having you guys along with me for every step of this adventure and I can’t wait to share the next part with you all!

How did you find returning home after travelling? What travel plans have you got for the summer?

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Melbourne | City of festivals, culture and life | Australia

12742300_10153292964597617_7986843509108504989_nMelbourne goes all out when it comes to celebrating the culture that pours from its streets – from street parties to festivals, there’s always something going on and yet another amazing faction of the city to celebrate. (Check out my previous post on White Night and St Kilda Festival) There’s so much to get involved with and so many ways to feel a part of the city whether you prefer to celebrate the music, art, people or history of the city. These huge events bring people from all walks of life together in that magical way that only a festival can – and we all know how much I love my festivals. Whether it’s a four day bender in the heart of the English countryside, a weekend of acoustic performances, fields filled with art installations or the atmosphere of a heaving city event – all festivals have one thing in common. They bring people together to celebrate something we all love – creativity.imageFestivals are definitely something I’ve missed since travelling – if you’ve been reading for a while you’ll know I’m something of a festival queen after my work as editor of This Festival Feeling. So after managing to miss out altogether during my travels, I was so happy to find so much going on in the streets of Melbourne. If you’ve read my post on Piknic Electronik then you’ll have already had a taste of the vibes I’m talking about. While the festivals and parties I’ve found here haven’t been quite as wild as the ones back home or up in Darwin, they’ve been plenty of fun! I’m talking about the bush doofs just outside the city, and the warehouse parties in Footscray – all with a totally different atmosphere to those I’m used to but awesome in their own right.13083223_10153463041977617_2551648419583997879_nElsewhere in the city, I gathered a few friends and headed to the Lonsdale Street Greek Festival one sunny afternoon back in February. Melbourne’s biggest Greek street party filled the city’s historic Greek precinct with the sights, sounds and smells of Greek culture. From the delicious scent of freshly fried calamari with a squeeze of lemon juice, to the students Greek dancing in the streets, to the three stages crammed with entertainment, children’s rides and activities. The street was lined with over 60 food, drink and craft stalls and the space in-between was filled with hundreds of people. The atmosphere was fantastic and the musical performances were cheered on by the waiting crowd. Just down the road in Federation Square visitors could transport themselves across the globe at the Japanese Festival where over 15,000 people gathered to honour their ancestors and celebrate Japanese culture. With traditional dance performances, traditional dress on show, Taiko drumming and sumo shows, there was plenty to watch and get involved with. Plus plenty of Japanese delicacies including sushi and bento to whet your appetite for Japanese culture.12717955_10153324143872617_3408464075534223549_nElsewhere, over on Chapel Street one of my best friends in Melbourne dragged me out to what I thought was going to be a food festival one Sunday. We were both in recovery mode from the previous night out but couldn’t resist the promise of food and fun. We headed to Windsor Block Party, where I expected a small gathering of stalls but what I found was so much more. Food stalls with huge crowds gathered around them and the smell of sizzling goodness, further along the costumes of circus performers glittered in the late afternoon sunlight. They spun flaming poi and hula hooped to the beats of a DJ set-up – think Notting Hill Carnival street party vibes – everyone was dancing and cheering at the DJ. As the sun set, the music pounded and everyone was dancing together, a perfect Sunday evening if you ask me, all rounded off with an afterparty in a nearby bar. It was one of those events that brings everyone together in the best of spirits for all of the best things in life – good food, good music and good fun.12801640_10153324143887617_8742430497768825513_nAnother weekend we just happened to walk through Moomba Festival, yet another celebration in the centre of Melbourne that had brought out crowds of thousands to the Yarra riverbanks just off Federation Square for a weekend of music, food, entertainment, all rounded off with some amazing fireworks. If you love a festival as much as I do, you’ll definitely be headed for Melbourne at some point – I know when I head back i already have a whole list of festivals I simply have to experience – I can’t wait!

What’s been your favourite Australian festival experience? Are you headed to any UK festivals this summer?

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Melbourne | The city of street art | Australia

imageThe most liveable city in the world has been my home for the past four months and I don’t think I’ve ever been happier living in a city than I have been since I moved here. From the second you get off the plane you can feel the city is alive and buzzing with excitement at the arrival of yet another new face eager to unlock its hidden treasures. From bars hidden behind bookcases and acoustic performers lining the streets, to the regular festival takeovers and the incredible street art that lines alleyways across the city. Melbourne is a city of life and excitement with amazing discoveries hiding around every corner – even after four months I still have so much to learn about this city and feel like I have barely scratched the surface.imageWith just three weeks left here I guess I’m getting a bit emotional at the thought of leaving the place that has become home to me, the first home I’ve had in 18 months. I’ve loved every second of my life here and that’s exactly what it has been. I have built a life here over the past four months, more than just meeting friends before hitting the road again, this is a place where I have friends, family, a career and a home. I’ve met so many amazing people who have set my soul alight and I know that even when I fly to the other side of the globe, I’ll be leaving a big piece of my heart here. You all know who you are, every single one of you amazing people have made this one of the best experiences of my life and it’s you that makes the thought of leaving seem incomprehensible.imageimageBut if you know anything about me by now, you’ll know that I’m never one to dwell on the sad times, instead I have a series of posts lined up to celebrate Melbourne and all that has made this city incredible for me. All the reasons I’ll be returning in just a few short months, all the things that have made me live every single day with a smile on my face. And what better to start with than the amazing graffiti that lines the streets of Melbourne? I love art - walking around the city to see bold, colourful statements that reflect the consciousness of a passionate, exciting and creative city is one of my favourite parts of Melbourne. From the political and the poignant, to the current and the comic – there’s a piece for all tastes and the constant fluctuation of work is what keeps it exciting. You never know what will spring up next and what will disappear, this change is what keeps the walls of Melbourne alive in a way that other cities just cannot keep up with.imageMuch as you often find you stumble across incredibly relatable and poignant posts across social media that seem to be written especially for you and your emotions at that moment. Melbourne city walks are like a live feed of passion and emotion spread right across your eyes – it’s amazing what you will stumble across if you just take a second to look up from your phone as you wander the cobbled walkways. Of course, if you’re planning on exploring the city anytime soon you’ll need to know the best places to start so here’s the best places to venture if you fancy seeing some of the most awe-inspiring pieces on show. Start out at the famous Hosier and Rutledge Lanes, just off Federation Square, before heading to Caledonian Lane, off Little Bourke Street, then check out Union Lane, off Bourke Street Mall.imageimageIf that’s not enough for you, head for the rear of 280 Queen Street in Finlay Avenue, 21 Degraves Street, or the corner of Flinders Lane and Cocker Alley. Over towards Carlton there’s some amazing artwork at 122 Palmerston Street, and don’t forget Centre Place between Collins Street and Flinders Lane. All of these areas feature some of the best street art I have seen, and it’s so wonderful to see them displayed in a place where it is valued and considered art – Melbourne is such a modern city and I love the attitude that appreciates the art instead of squashing these amazing talents like in many cities. Another great area for checking out the art is Brunswick Street and the rest of Fitzroy where you’ll find some pretty spectacular scenes hidden amongst the streets.11390285_10152841231267617_5301555924944016490_n

 

What do you think about street art in cities – is it just graffiti or something much more? Where are your favourite places in Melbourne to spot the latest and best street art?

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Careers | Why you should always always answer when opportunity knocks

imageLife has been pretty busy since I arrived in Melbourne and although it has meant blogging has taken a bit of a back seat, I wouldn’t change the last few months for the world. I’m now just three weeks away from returning home and I can’t help but reminisce over the last 18 months of travelling. I’ve learnt so much about myself on this journey and have had the opportunity to experience things I never dreamt I would. There have been ups and downs, bumps in the road, some of the wildest parties and some of the most sobering experiences of my life but every second of it has made me happier than my wildest dreams. My time spent flitting between Asian beaches and mountain ranges was incredible, as were the memories and friends found along the East Coast of Australia. But while the constant movement and escapism of travelling was exactly what I needed at some points – to truly lose myself in the whole experience – I have also found such happiness in staying put, in developing a life, a career and a base.

During my time in this amazing country, I’ve had the chance to explore career options I had never previously considered and that in itself has been an invaluable experience. I’ve done plenty of the usual hospitality work in bars and theatres over here, but it was my job as a nanny that was a real eye-opener. I’ll be posting more about that job in the future, but for now I really want to share the job that has taken over my life since moving to Melbourne. When I arrived back in February, I was so happy to have escaped outback life and to be reunited with my Darwin friends that I couldn’t resist a few weeks off work – I spent these job hunting and enjoying life after working so hard for seven months straight. It was wonderful, having all the time to explore the city and to really enjoy it. But then I started to get impatient, I was ready for a new challenge and wanted to work. I had originally been looking for journalism or writing work, or some kind of office job, but my visa stood in the way time and time again. It was difficult to find a job that would take me on with a working holiday visa – especially when I had decided I really wanted to avoid hospitality work.13092046_10153463041812617_1559144075203980058_nI applied for everything and then finally one job called me in for a meeting – I had no idea what the job was having applied for so many, but I figured I had nothing to lose by going. It turned out to be an information session for a sales job – door knocking to be precise – not something I would ever have applied for had I known what the job entailed. I always hated the idea of working in sales, all the targets and pressure, and the lack of creativity just didn’t appeal to me. But with no other job offers on the horizon I felt I ought to give it a day to see if it could be a short-term option, plus I instantly liked the rest of the staff and found it a pretty fun place to work. Despite having no experience, I managed to make over 100 sales every single day in my first four days leading to an instant promotion. Within a couple of weeks I was managing my own team of people which ranged from 12-18 people, training others to do the job and developing their skills to eventually branch out and run their own buses. It’s now two months later and I’m one of the most senior members of the channel and a team manager who has just launched another team branched from my own. Last week I also had the second top selling team in the entire country and became the highest ever paid team manager in the channel, earning $2,000 in a week.

Why am I telling you this? Not to boast I promise, I am very proud of what I have achieved since being in Melbourne – this job has given me a wealth of new experiences, skills and a fantastic reference. But my point in sharing my own experiences is to make others realise what I have – you should never judge a book by its cover, nor should you ever turn down an opportunity without good reason. Had I known what the job was before attending the information session, I never would have gone. I would have missed out on a invaluable two months and some amazing friends along the way. I always felt so stupid when I first started and had to tell people what my job was, but now I announce it with pride and happily recruit people from everywhere, even on nights out! I have people requesting to be in my team because it is the very best of all the teams, and I’m proud to lead a group of people who work their asses off, who are all filled with ambition and positivity. I never once thought I would end up working in sales and I may never do it again, but I will be forever grateful that I answered when opportunity came knocking on this occasion. This job has definitely taken over my life at times and has even brought me to the verge of breakdown because I was exhausted, but it’s also been the most rewarding experiences I could have had career-wise in such a short space of time.11822272_10152959995477617_5291704052004368303_nSo many people, myself included, let silly things stand in the way of opportunity. Letting things like pride, greed and urgency prevent you from trying something new or unexpected can life-changing, in all the wrong ways. No matter what point you reach in your life, it is so important to always remain open and accepting of all new ideas and to always try. The fact that you put yourself out there and tried in the first place sets you apart from the rest, it makes you brave and automatically more likely to succeed. Those individuals who let embarrassment or fear of failure stand in their way are just setting themselves up for a fall, or they just avoid even putting themselves out there. But if you never take a risk, you’ll never get that feeling of butterflies in your stomach, that excitement that you don’t know what will happen next. I’ll tell you something, that butterflies feeling is my favourite in all the world. Why? Because I associate it with all the happiest and most successful moments of my life. The moment when I met my first love, the moment I quit my job, the moment I hopped on that plane and the moment I realised I had achieved the life I dreamed of. I realised earlier that I’m the happiest I’ve felt since travelling and I’m putting it all down to following the butterflies.

Have you found a whole new career through a fleeting opportunity? What moments in your life have given you butterflies?

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15 ways to feel like you’ve got your shit together

imageEver had one of those moments in your life where you feel like everything is falling down around you? Those times when you suddenly realise that you’re nowhere near where you hoped you would be in life and yet everyone else seems to be giant strides ahead of you. We’ve all been there, we’ve all felt like shit because we don’t think we’re doing as well as everyone else looks like they’re doing on social media. But that’s okay, it’s okay to feel like you’re failing a bit. Why? Because it’s these moments that help us to really view our lives clearly, to make cut-throat decisions about where we want to be, what we want to achieve and who we want beside us. I definitely had a moment like this just before deciding to come travelling – it was one of the hardest times of my life and yet now I look back on it as the deciding moment that changed my life. My career, relationship, home were all gone in a second and yet I’m now happier than I’ve ever been – it took rejecting all I knew to achieve all I never knew I wanted. But trust me, that’s the hardest decision to make. It’s so much easier to carry on as you are and bury your head in the sand.

It’s been almost eighteen months since I left the UK to travel Asia and Australia, and it’s now been over two months since I arrived in Melbourne. For the first time in a while, I actually feel really settled and like I’ve actually got my shit together. It’s an amazing feeling after living such an unsettled existence for the last two or three years. I have a home, a steady job that challenges me, a great group of friends and a plan for the next six months – its an odd feeling but a great one. For a long time all I wanted was a life of excitement and uncertainty, of adventure and of freedom. But now, after over a year on the road it’s really nice to be able to live a different way and to have a whole new adventure – living abroad – and to tick another item off the bucket list. Finally having a routine again and being in that familiar cycle of work/fun/sleep/repeat really gives me the opportunity to reflect on my 18 months away and to think about how far I’ve come, what I’ve experienced and where I’m going in life. I feel like I’ve got my shit together and it’s a great feeling – so now I want to share all the tiny things that help me feel like I’ve got it together. Tiny changes can really make a difference to your whole outlook on life.

  1. Sleep - erratic sleeping patterns really affect your mindset and your motivation. Getting a good night’s sleep can really help you be productive and feel like you’re on top of things.
  2. Eat well - healthy food, healthy body, healthy mind. By looking after your body, you feel better and that gives you the energy to take charge of your day. Eating rubbish makes you feel sluggish and lazy.
  3. Drink lots of water - this is something that affects me more than anything, I get dehydrated really easily and hate the headaches that come with this, drinking lots of water helps you think clearer.
  4. Build a home - whether it’s a temporary home or something long-term, having your own space makes a huge difference. You can have a home anywhere you can feel comfortable – in a huge house or a busy hostel – it’s what you make it.
  5. Make goals for your career - whether it’s short-term saving for travelling or long-term career progression as you climb up the ladder. It’s important to have a clear idea of what you want to achieve or you’ll stay in that job far too long.
  6. Clean up - just having a tidy, uncluttered space can make a world of difference. I can’t cook in a dirty kitchen, and I can’t stand to live in gross conditions. Just wiping surfaces and cleaning the floor can make my mind clearer.
  7. Exercise - running helps me clear my head when I’m stressed or indecisive, and the endorphins you get from working out can affect your mood more quickly than anything else.
  8. Look at your behaviour - if you’ve stopped having fun but feel like you’re always partying then perhaps you’ve slipped into a rut. It’s easy for one night of fun to become a vicious circle when you’re surrounded by certain people. Make a decision whether you want to behave like this or whether you’re just wasting time and money. The same goes for those who are working all the time and are having no fun.
  9. Make a list - I swear by to-do lists. For the food shopping, for work, for jobs at home, for my bucket-list, for books to read, the list goes on. They keep me focused, simplify things so they seem less intimidating and they help me stay on track. Often I don’t even write them down, I just make them in my head, but there’s nothing more satisfying than ticking everything off.
  10. Make a plan - if you’re not happy then think about why, what is stopping you from being happy? The remove the obstacles one-by-one, it’s not hard when you break it all down to a few steps and it really can change your life.
  11. Play your favourite song - every day when you get out of bed, or when you’re on the way to work, listen to your favourite song and feel it changing your mood. Music has an amazing way of affecting the way you feel and it can change your whole attitude.
  12. Take time out - it’s so important to give yourself time to think, to just be. Whether you meditate, read, listen to music or do yoga, it’s a great way to soothe your mind of stress and worry. It really does help you to put things in perspective.
  13. Get away - head out of the city or just explore somewhere new, whether it’s for a few hours or a few weeks, it really helps you to clear your head and think about what you want to do in the future. A bit of space and distance can change your whole outlook.
  14. Talk about it - often just uttering the words that something is wrong can take a weight off your mind. Talking about it to friends or family can often make you realise that actually you have a lot more going for you than you think.
  15. Cut yourself off from social media, or see it for what it is - no-one actually has their shit entirely together, the sooner you realise that, the happier you will be.

What tiny things help you feel like you have your life in order? When you’re struggling, what helps you stay on course?

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How UNiDAYS can give you the best training for backpacker life

imageThere’s no denying that for many, their student days conjure up memories of wayyyy too many cheap baked bean cans, far too many hungover lectures and amazing memories that will last a lifetime. My university life was no different – it was something I had been looking forward to for years: a chance to get away from all I knew, to study something I was passionate about and to live as wild and freely as my bank balance would allow. That first taste of freedom is the make-or-break moment for many and while some will flounder in the face of independence, spending every penny of their student loan in the first few weeks and scraping by for the next three years. Others thrive, finally given the space and time to live the way they deem fit, growing as an individual into the person they always had the potential to become. It’s a fantastic opportunity for teenagers to learn some serious life skills because so many at that age have been molly-coddled with no real work experience or life skills.

Now I would never say that university is right for everyone, especially when there are so many different paths these days that can help get you into the career of your choice. But there is one lifestyle that I think student life could really help prepare you for – backpacking. Travelling has been my life for almost 18 months and the whole experience has really opened my eyes to the different types of young travellers out there – from the very youngest at barely 18-years-old, to the mid-twenties and beyond. It’s amazing how difficult it becomes to read people as they are travelling – but once you remove many travellers from the “real world” their life experience and confidence just soars. I’ve been astonished to find how much I have in common with students who are barely out of university, and it has made me respect their maturity in new ways. Seeing their bravery in boarding that plane to the other side of the world, I wonder if I could have done it at their age and whether I would have had the same experiences.imageLooking back, I was always an independent person, someone who was always looking for opportunities to strike out on her own. But it was when I went away to study that I finally came into my own, being wholly independent was amazing and gave me the space I needed to grow as an individual, to really take control of my life. Student life gave me an amazing basis for becoming a traveller – it taught me to be independent and strong, yet flexible around others. It taught me the standard at which I want to live my life and a respect for how that measures up to the standards of others. It taught me basic skills like money management and the value of money, it taught me how to organise EVERYTHING for myself and others. It taught me time management and ways of having it all – of balancing my studies and personal life. It taught me to be creative – with everything. It taught me to be brave and to put myself out there in terms of my career and life opportunities. It taught me that life waits for no-one and you have to make the most of every second. UNiDAYS are life-changing in so many ways and I wouldn’t trade mine for the world. Not when it was those student days that prepared me for the world.

Talking to friends who are just beginning their studies, I can’t help but reminisce about the amazing memories I hold of my university days. Of those incredible friendships you build along the way, of the opportunities that await on every corner, the chances to excel both in your studies and extracurriculars. I remember the impassioned lectures, the fiesty discussions in seminars and the keen eye of the lecturers as they watched your ideas develop in front of them. The sporting events, the gigs, the events, the groups and all the rest. Those days where you had to get creative with baked beans because it was all you had left to eat, the nights you can’t remember and the times you’ll never forget. It all hopes your experience and changes your world without you even realising – but it’s these changes that set you on the right course to success in every aspect of your life. But it wouldn’t be student life without all the perks that come with it – I’ll never forget those student discounts! From £5 pizzas at Dominoes to free cheeseburgers at McDonalds, to that cheeky 10% off at all my favourite clothes shops – it was the dream!

If you’re just starting your studies then you should join the 7.2million students who are already signed up and saving with UNiDAYS – free to sign up it gives you access to the best range of student discounts online and in-store with all the leading brands. UNiDAYS is partnered with the biggest brands including the likes of THE ICONIC, Glue Store, ASOS, City Beach and Beginning Boutique. The free UNiDAYS App gives you instant access to student discount at home and on the move. When shopping in participating stores, just flash your UNiDAYS iD at the till point to redeem your discount. Save money on everything from the essentials to life’s little treats. Enter exclusive competitions and be the first to hear about exclusive student-only events, new store launch parties and much more. To find out more and sign up to start saving straight away – click here! Or find UNiDAYS on Facebook, Twitter (@UNiDAYS_AU) or Instagram (@UNiDAYS_AU).

What are your favourite student memories? Where did you study? What are your best tips for new students?

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Melbourne | Exploring the Grampians | Australia

imageMaking the most of the four day weekend, we couldn’t resist extending our Great Ocean Road trip by visiting the nearby Grampians National Park on the recommendations of good friends. Just a couple of hours north west of the coast are three amazing national parks for adventurous and outdoorsy eyes to explore to their heart’s content. As three girls who love adventures and miss camping trips, we were excited to spend another night camping in a national park, and were excited to have two other friends joining us for two days of exploring the bushwalkers’ paradise. We headed to Hall’s Gap, which was packed with families, to meet our friends who had already found us a great camping spot at the Plantation campsite. It was a lot wilder than the previous night but a great campsite and nicely sheltered from the wind by Mount Zero.imageWhen we arrived during in the late afternoon, we quickly set up camp before heading up Mount Victory to explore some of the lookout points. We drove straight up the steep and winding road – not a fun experience for our friend who suffers from terrible vertigo and happened to be driving – until we reached the Reeds Lookout and The Balconies. It was a perfect place to start our time in the Grampians because it gave us a nice and easy 10 minute walk to the summit where we found the most incredible 360 degree view of the national park from Victoria Valley and Lake Wartook, to the Serra, Victoria and Mt Difficult mountain ranges. The endless empty space was breathtaking. Such an astonishing experience to see nothing but empty space and to breathe that clean mountain air after being in the confines of Melbourne for months. Afterwards we took the easy 2k walk to the balconies to see more incredible panoramic views of Victoria Range, Lake Wartook and Mount Difficult, a perfect location to spend that misty afternoon.imageWe were instantly reminded of the Blue Mountains in New South Wales for those of us who has previously visited Sydney, but the Grampians felt so much wilder and vaster in comparison. As we headed back down to our campsite for dinner, we were excited to spend the next day exploring the other viewpoints. Back at the campsite, we rustled up a quick dinner of salad wraps with cider. Very basic but we were glad we hadn’t bothered with the excessive set-ups and barbecues those around us were having – we preferred to spend our time having drinks and building a campfire of our own. The five of us (Shoutout to Absolutely-Scootsie) went off collecting wood and rocks to build our fire and our dedication paid off – we ended up building a fantastic fire that kept blazing for around six hours in the end. We sat round with ciders and toasted marshmallows and slices of bread on the fire, it was so much fun! There’s something about getting back to basics that really brings out the best side of everyone. Later, as the other fires around us died down, several others from the campsite came to join us and have drinks. We all ended up pretty drunk and had a hilarious night together.imageThe next morning we all woke up later than planned but eager to start the day’s hiking after a breakfast in Hall’s Gap. After some delicious bacon and eggs, we started driving up the mountain again for an amazing walk we had seriously underestimated. We were to take on The Pinnacle on the advice of our friends – there are two options to enjoy the walk by taking an easy route from the Sundial Carpark, or the challenging hike through the Grand Canyon from Wonderland Carpark. I would seriously recommend the hike – we went for it not knowing about an easier option but were glad we did. The climb through the gorge was incredible and although hard work, was so rewarding when you finally reached the top.imageMake sure to take plenty of water, we took three bottles but it was a hot day and we wished we had brought more with us. We hiked all the way to the very top of the Pinnacle before taking a different route down and rejoined back at the Gorge. We also followed some silly Canadian lads who ended up getting us lost by not following the path so we ended up rock climbing down the last part of the walk. It was brilliant fun, but make sure you pay attention to the paths. By the end of the walk we were knackered but felt amazing – it was lovely to get some real exercise in such beautiful surroundings. In the end we covered around 8km through the routes we took, so it’s well worth it.imageAfterwards we were excited to be heading to Mackenzie Falls to cool off after the hike. At the bottom of a steep 2km train down the cliff, a spectacular view of the water cascading into a deep pool awaited us. Fine rainbow mist sprayed across the faces of those descending the slippery steps as the reached the floor of the gorge. It was a beautiful sight and one that would excite the mermaid in all of us – it definitely had one guy excited as he slipped off his shirt and dived into the water for a photo right under the waterfall. We were disappointed we hadn’t brought our bikinis although I’m not sure you’re actually supposed to swim there, and the water was bloody freezing! We dipped our toes in and watched the water for a while before heading back up the steep steps.imageWe finished the day by heading to what is supposed to be one of the best lookouts in the Grampians – Boroka Lookout. It offered a stunning 180 degree view of Western Victoria, overlooking Halls Gap and Lake Bellfield, and only a tiny stroll from the car to the viewpoint. It was beautiful but I found it hard to really enjoy this on as there were far too many people dangling themselves precariously from the rocks for the perfect photo. It was pretty annoying having to wait ten minutes for a simple photo because there were so many people in the way, and personally I did think the Reed Lookout was far more breathtaking. But Boroka is definitely worth a look! It was the end of an amazing trip and we were all exhausted after a busy couple of days of hiking, camping and having way too much fun. It was time to head back to Melbourne, but we left with huge smiles on our faces and amazing memories with great friends. Our weekend could not have been any better and I’m still grinning now just thinking about it. We’ve already started planning the next trip!image

 

Have you been to the Grampians National Park? What was your favourite part? Can you recommend any other Australian national parks?

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Melbourne | Cruising along the Great Ocean Road | Australia

imageI love road trips – they’re such a great way to travel and to experience a country whether you stay in the UK or venture abroad. You have so much more freedom when you share a car with friends and don’t have to stick to timetabled flights or buses. The whole experience of driving on the open road without a care in the world is just incredible if it’s done well and fair play to my road trip gang, we did it very well considering we didn’t plan a thing. We set off on Good Friday and after picking up the car at around 9am, we cruised back into the city to pick up the third member of our team, our tent and to ill the car with duvets and food. We left the city around 11am, which was right on schedule for the vague plan we had made – it seemed leaving at this time had helped us beat the real bank holiday traffic of the previous evening and that morning. Despite it being a cloudy, grey morning in Melbourne, as soon as we ventured out of the city and hit the highway, the sun broke through the clouds and with the tune blaring out of our little Yaris’ speakers, we could already feel the holiday vibes.imageThe first hour of driving took us through Geelong, keen to make good time and explore the later beaches we didn’t stop but cruised through on our way to Torquay. This was a town I was keen to see, it’s somewhere I’ve heard about for ages and as we drove along the ridiculously hilly road to Bell’s Beach (hills like this still seem weird to a Norfolk gal) we started to see signs for not just any surfing competition, but the 2016 Rip Curl Pro, the longest running professional surfing contest in the world, and this was the 55th year of the event. We’d just missed the main event, but there were still countless surfers bobbing around in the waves so we walked out the viewpoint where we could see some epic surfing unfold.imageFurther along the road, we continued on past Anglesea which looked like the cutest little town, before stopping at Airey’s Inlet – a beautiful stopover and one that us girls got very excited about once we realised it was also home to the lighthouse from kid’s TV programme Round The Twist! We all walked up thinking the lighthouse loved familiar, but it was only when someone started singing the theme song that we realised why! It’s was a lovely little stroll to the viewpoint that reminded me very much of the Byron Bay lighthouse walk – also an absolute must in coastal walks. Further down from the lighthouse there is also a lovely beach that seemed very popular with visitors as we passed.imageComing up next were Cumberland River, Wye River and Kennett River as we approached Apollo Bay – we didn’t really stop off at any of these but paused at a few viewpoints for more stunning photos. The driving around this part was stunning – all winding cliffs, bright blue ocean and gorgeous sunshine. We got really lucky with the weather because I’m not sure the driving would have been quite as fun were the weather rubbish. Along this stretch of road we also saw a koala hanging from a tree as we approached Apollo Bay – first bit of wildlife of the trip!imageApollo Bay was great – you can see why it’s so popular for tourists and festivals – being Easter Weekend it was very busy so we just popped to the shops for some snacks and drinks for the night ahead as we planned our campsite. We had originally planned to camp around Apollo Bay but we hadn’t booked a campsite and a lot of the good ones were full or overpriced, and the other ones that had sprung up in recreation grounds and football pitches were decidedly gross. Not booking a campsite turned out to be the best thing we could have done, it meant we drove on past Apollo Bay and towards the 12 Apostles, where we had planned to arrive for sunrise.imageWe kept on driving, certain we would find a campsite along the way, and lo and behold we did as we were driving through Cape Otway and towards Port Campbell National Park, the sign sprung up in front of us and before I knew it I had swung the car off the main road and into the forest. Around 7km in we had passed countless kangaroos and all kinds of wildlife, arriving at the campsite we were told it was $50 for a pitch and that they could squeeze us in – there was loads of room left in the busy campsite and we were welcomed by Steve, the awesome campsite manager. It was a fantastic campsite with amazing facilities from spotless showers and toilets to a kitchen, barbecues, log fires and much more. We ended up exploring the campsite and making friends with a nearby group who had a campfire on the go and some great music as we sat under the stars. It was a perfect first night of camping and such a great experience to camp in the national park. We awoke early the next morning in hopes of catching a stunning sunrise with a view of the 12 Apostles.imageSadly we were disappointed by the cloudy day we woke up to, there was a fine mist of rain and despite packing up our campsite and leaving before 6.30am, we were not to see a sunrise. Instead I drove us out of the campsite, dodging kangaroos, baby deer and all kinds of spooky wildlife lit up by the headlights of our little car – we named her Rhonda by the way. But instead of being disappointed by the dark, overcast morning, we used the time to make an early start on the day, driving past the viewpoint we had aimed for, we kept heading towards the 12 Apostles and only stopped in tiny Princetown for a quick breakfast and a chance to spruce ourselves up for the day ahead.image We arrived at Gibson’s Steps – one of our favourite beaches – not long after where we were thrilled to get out and stretch our legs on this wild and untamed beach. The wind blew spray across our faces as we walked across the empty sands and we were glad to have beaten the crowds as we discovered a tiny penguin lying on the sand. He looked a bit lost but was soon rescued by a woman from an animal charity. After a brisk walk, we loaded back into the car for just a short journey to see the 12 Apostles – it was amazing. Incredible to finally see with my own eyes after seeing so many pictures over the years – we were gutted not to get to see them bathed in sunlight but it was still a majestic sight.imageThe rest of the day was perfectly broken up with lots of walking to viewpoints and various rock formations between Port Campbell and Warrnambool, including Loch Ard Gorge, the Arch, London Bridge, Grotto and Bay of Islands. Each one was more beautiful than the last and it’s well worth taking the time to stop at each of these to enjoy the walks and views along the way. imageI actually found some of these viewpoints more spectacular than the 12 Apostles – probably due to the weather improving as we moved further along Great Ocean Road – before 12pm the sun blazed across the sky and brightened up the wet day. We finished Great Ocean Road with a pit-stop in Port Fairy, which is an adorable little seaside town with a lovely picnic area overlooking the beach and quaint little craft shops set just behind, where we re-fuelled and stocked up on food and drinks for our second night of camping.

Read all about our adventures in the Grampians National Park in my next post.

Have you road-tripped Great Ocean Road? How was your experience? What was your favourite part?

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