#ImpossibleExperiences | Fly me to the moon and let me play among the stars

12299237_10153171177402617_247656151924131368_nEver since quitting life as I knew it and leaving home to take on the adventure of a lifetime, I have been the queen of seeking adventures from the everyday to the most outlandish. I’ve shared pretty much every exciting second of with you guys from the crazy raves to the heartbreak and amazing jungle experiences. Now Into The Blue have asked me to write about an #ImpossibleExperience that I would love to turn into an experience day if ANYTHING were possible. So here I am, sitting in my Melbourne apartment drinking cold coffee and reminiscing about the travel moments that have captured my imagination and have set my world alight. On this 2.5 year trip, I’ve realised that so much more than I ever dreamed is possible in this life and it just takes a bit of bravery and the right people to show you how to make it happen. Who would have honestly thought when I set out that I would be living on the other side of the world? I’m all about making the impossible possible.16976762_10154214437896587_775327925_nWhen I came travelling, I also broke off a nine-year relationship, which was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. Since then, we’ve remained the best of friends and always encourage each other to get out there and enjoy single life. Travelling is the best way to life as a single girl – every new place has amazing new people to discover and exciting new dates to go on. Since travelling the globe I’ve had some of the most amazing and romantic dates I could experience – from picnics on the beach at sunset, to hiking mountains together, getting lost in a new city, wine tours and more. But one that really stood out and will always remain one of my favourites was the night spent stargazing in the back of a ute in central Australia. With someone who has turned into one of my best travelling friends, it was probably one of the most romantic and special nights of my life. We lost count of the number of shooting stars as we lay there for hours, and watched as the moon rose. We stayed until the dawn started to turn the sky pink and we realised the magic of the night was slipping away.16923573_10154214441036587_1009002517_nThat was a very possible experience and one that every traveller should experience at some point in their lives – but it ignited my imagination and made me dream of travelling experiences far beyond the possible. That night, anything was possible, we were brave beyond the life we knew and dared to dream of everything society tells us we can never have. While travelling the globe is entirely attainable for me, travelling beyond this universe and the next is not, but that night I dared to dream of experiencing other undiscovered worlds. The final frontier – space is the true unknown and I dream of exploring and discovering something new, untouched, like fresh snow. Imagine being able to hop on a rocket to the moon for lunch, of drinking champagne somewhere over the Milky Way before spending an afternoon chasing each other through wormholes. Anyone who could take me to another world, to disco dance on Saturn’s rings and kick up dust at a rave on Mars, they would change my world. Whether it was just for an afternoon or for 10 lightyears of fun – it would be a date that brought magic into my life. 16933747_10154214441021587_233963382_nGliding through the skies spotting constellations up close that I had once gazed at through a telescope in the back of a ute in central Australia. If you ask me, that would be a pretty special way to see the world and to really gain perspective on all that you knew. Looking down on that past self of yours laying in the back of the ute in central Australia naively dreaming of escaping to new worlds and dancing among the stars. Realising how much you have grown as a person since that moment, despite any struggles and pain you’ve felt, the successes and the achievements, you’ve made it through and have once again transcended all you knew was possible. This experience would be so much more than just a date among the stars, it would be the reaffirmation that you are taking control of your life and that you, alone, are the one making it spectacular. That one day someone will read your story and say, I want to live that life.

Whether you dream of dancing among the stars or something much more achievable, dare to dream. There was a time when I would sit behind a desk and imagine travelling the world and exploring new countries but I got off my arse and made it happen. It’s not that hard, you just need to believe in yourself and actually do something about it – the first step is the hardest, then it simply becomes your life. Dreaming big is never stupid, it’s the only way to achieve great things whether you want to travel, find a new career or change your life.

How have you achieved your dreams?

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*This was my entry to the #ImpossibleExperiences competition to win a £200 experience day – you can enter by following these instructions.

*Images by myself and my very talented friend Scott McDonald

Lifestyle | But, am I doing okay? Really?

15192616_10153957418182617_4700111268043211696_nI’m struggling lately. I’m not afraid to admit it. On the face of things, I have my shit together, I’m one of the most together people I know most of the time. Always sure of myself, always knowing my next step and what I want out of life. But these past few weeks, I’ve just found myself questioning everything. I don’t know what set it off, perhaps it was the exhaustion of the post-festival comedown and working over 50 hours a week that has left me an emotional mess, perhaps it’s just a mid-twenties crisis. But let’s be honest, sometimes all it takes is the news of how everyone else is progressing around you – in their relationships, careers, travels and lives – to make you really question everything you are doing and have achieved. I’m not one to compare myself to others, I know I’ve chosen a very different path to most people, but it’s easy to look at that without a heavy dose of perspective and think you’re not doing as well as you should be.

I said in a previous post how I was struggling to find the words to put on the page and I was taking a short break from writing until I regained my mojo. But it was only the last few days when it suddenly hit me that perhaps the reason I had lost my mojo was because I wasn’t writing as much. Spending so much time focusing on work, the gym, friends and enjoying Melbourne meant one of my biggest passions was pushed to the wayside and I was left with no real outlet for all those thoughts that swirl around in the back of my head. As a creative individual it’s easy to not realise the huge impact that has on you as a person, the challenge of being a creative is always finding new, and more satisfying ways to express yourself. But if that mode of expression is taken away, all that creative energy can just eat you up inside. I can see it even now as my fingers fly across the keyboard, just how much I have missed writing and sharing every facet of my life with you wonderful people.15203347_10153970687092617_759818856468780508_nSo what sparked this huge realisation? Well, last week at work (I’m working at a rooftop bar in Melbourne CBD) I had a visitor – a lovely girl who had travelled all the way from Germany, apparently a huge fan of this blog, and just had to meet me in person on her last night in the city. I can’t even begin to tell you what this meant to me, I’ve had a few real down days these last few weeks so to know that someone appreciated me and my work so much was an incredible boost. It hasn’t automatically fixed everything, but it has brought me back to writing and it has made me realise my priorities. I love exploring the world around me and living life to the max – I will always be a workaholic who struggles to maintain a work/life balance that doesn’t push my body to extreme exhaustion. But I also need to give myself time to reflect and enjoy, to appreciate the amazing experiences I have had rather than always surging ahead towards the next.

But, am I doing okay?

It’s the question we all ask ourselves all the time, whether we say it out loud or we let it eat us up inside as more friends announce new homes, huge career progression, engagements, marriage and babies. It’s so hard not to judge yourself by the standards of others, and it’s so easy to forget your own individual huge achievements that others just can’t compete with. Now several years down the line, I know that giving up my nine-year relationship to travel the world solo and build a freelance journalism and travel blogging career was the best decision I have ever made in my life. But I still can’t help but compare it to friends who have done the opposite and gave up everything for the one they love – putting aside their career and life plans. Likewise, giving up my working life at a newspaper was something that was long-overdue but going freelance and travelling long-term has also thrown me back into a life of temporary hospitality and casual work. I can’t help but both love the freedom and easiness of it while hating the transiency and the lack of progression. There is no future in it and it sometimes makes me crave the excitement of seizing career opportunities.15181360_10153970688762617_7809531450665387419_nI mean, technically I’m doing amazingly. I’m in a great job, earning good money, I’m complete independent, the fittest and physically happiest I’ve been for a long time. I have a great apartment, incredible friends and family on every side of the globe, and plans for the future. But right now, something just isn’t sitting right with me, I can’t put my finger on it but whether my life is missing something or I’m in need of something different, I know that something has to change. I’m not one of these people who mopes around and complains about the way things are, I prefer to be a little proactive and make things better. Being a solo traveller, you have to be willing to get off your arse and to do things for yourself instead of waiting for someone else to make you happy. I like to apply that attitude to every aspect of my life and so I always get impatient with myself when I’m having a few down days – I’m not a wallower, I’m a problem solver. So my next mission is getting myself out of this funk and finding my new happy, the change that will help me regain what I feel like I’ve lost lately.

So, how do I do this?

Well my first changes were pretty instantaneous, I cut a few toxic people out of my life in the last few weeks, people who were’t bringing anything positive into my world. I came back to writing, determined to let it heal me and to find my way back to this blogging world. I took some time for me, I went treated my body well and allowed it to recover, I indulged in my passions without stressing about doing things for other people. I planned a much-needed escape to nature with amazing friends and I refused to feel guilty for putting myself first. It hasn’t changed my world yet, but it has eased my mood and has given me hope for the upcoming weeks. Now all we can do is watch and wait.15179224_10153957417787617_6807561513212356488_n

Are you struggling at the moment – how do you cope with these feelings? Have you got any tips for getting back on track?

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Bali | Finding my island bliss – 10 reasons you HAVE to visit Gili T

img_2244I can’t actually believe how much time has passed since I was in Bali living it up with one of my best friends, with the serious lack of Melbourne sunshine I’m wishing more and more that I was back there! If you’ve read my Bumper Guide to Bali, you’ll already know my highlights and top tips for planning a trip to the island, but now I want to focus on one amazing part that you simply cannot miss out on. Gili T is probably one of the most talked about Asian islands other than the party islands in Thailand. It’s the place of tropical dreams and we’ve all dreamt of sitting on those beautiful sunset swings at one time or another. Just a short boat ride off the coast of Bali, it’s just so close it wouldn’t even make sense to not spend a few days exploring the island when visiting Bali – so here’s my top 20 reasons to visit:img_2243

  1. It’s completely different to Bali – you can escape the noise, the traffic and the commercialisation of the main island for a few days of back to basics island fun.
  2. SEA TURTLES! You can snorkel with countless sea turtles, a dream come true! Gather some friends and hire one of the guys on the beach with a boat for the afternoon – much cheaper and better value than the organised trips with 30 travellers to every one turtle.
  3. Those sunsets – Gili T sunsets are some of the most renowned in Asia and trust me, the pictures don’t even do the real deal justice. Head for the swings for that perfect Instagram pic!
  4. Hostels – there’s a great selection of hostels on the island no matter what type of trip you fancy – some of the best/recommended ones include Gili Castle and La Sister Boheme (where I stayed) in the centre of the island – both have good access to the whole island and come with lots of extras.
  5. With no traffic other than tiny little carriages pulled by donkeys, you’re free to explore the island on foot or by bike and it can be done in just a few hours.
  6. Snorkelling, other than sea turtles there is so much to see – some of the best snorkelling I have done around the world with so many fish and amazing underwater sights.
  7. Food – there was such a fantastic array of restaurants and places to get great food on a budget across the island. Don’t forget the Gili T Night Market for the freshest seafood and Indonesian favourites, and make sure you check out my favourite vegetarian restaurant with some incredible health food options – The Banyan Tree.
  8. Partying on Gili T is a heck of a lot of fun, people always seen to get so much wilder when they’re partying on the beaches in an island paradise. From starting out with beers and bonfires on the beaches with my hostel, to raging at the bars like Sama-Sama Reggae Bar, Rudy’s Pub, Evolution Bar, Sunset Bar and many more. My favourite nights were the ones when I ended up partying with the locals in the streets on my way home.
  9. Reggae bars are scattered across the island filled with locals – I had a few great afternoons sat chilling, singing old songs as someone played the guitar and playing with the baby goats that live all over the island.
  10. Even if you don’t fancy partying your way around the island, Gili T is an amazing place to go and enjoy surfing/yoga/diving, or just relaxing on the beaches, with several hostels and hotels dedicated to this purpose. Do your research when you plan accommodation and make sure you end up a one appropriate for your trip.

img_2207Gili T was an amazing week I won’t forget in a hurry – right now sat here in Melbourne thinking about the 10 hour shift I’m working later, I’d give anything to be back there. If you’re thinking of going on holiday to Bali, make sure you include time on Gili T as it was one of my highlights of the whole month I spent over there. When it comes to booking your trip, I would really recommend booking it on arrival – by booking the boat on the spot and just booking one night’s accommodation ahead of time you can end up saving a lot of money which is just more beers! By booking the hostel (La Sister Boheme) when we arrived, we were given a discount island rate that others who had pre-booked online didn’t get. Obviously if you are going peak season, it’s more important to ensure you have a place to stay and that not everywhere is booked out. If you’re planning a trip and have any questions – leave a comment below and I’ll get back to you!14568238_10153865005137617_8772185255114116314_n14721609_10153865005192617_4658519999923787707_n

Have you been to Gili T? Where did you stay/eat? What tips would you give to future travellers?

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Travel | My top 10 things to pack for a long bus journey

IMG_2380As a solo female traveller, and a backpacker living on a budget, I’m often asked about the cheapest and easiest ways to reach various locations around the world. Now much as I love flying and train journeys, they are not always the most practical or cost-effective option and, as I have discovered myself, sometimes the best choice can actually be kicking back on a coach from A to B. Not only do you get to relax and catch up on some Zzz’s, but you can often have saved a small fortune which can help you have the time of your life when you arrive at a destination. So many of us are put off by the thought of spending several hours on a bus for comfort reasons, but the truth is these days buses are some of the comfiest ways to travel with plenty of leg room, plug sockets available to charge your devices and even wi-fi. When you take into account all the rail disruptions we suffer in the UK these days and the price of internal flights – climbing aboard a coach really does start to sound like a great option.IMG_2319While it’s been a few years since I travelled by coach in the UK, I’ve found all over the world that it is more often than not the best and most efficient option. From crossing the border between Croatia and Hungary during the summer as I arrived in Budapest, to travelling huge distances up the East Coast of Australia and deep into the outback. And don’t let me forget those overnight journeys between Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia – up to 24 hours at a time but easily one of the best ways to travel so you don’t miss a single second of adventure time. In Europe and Australia I was taken aback by the quality of the bus journeys available, not only were the buses comfier than most hostels but they had great wifi so I could spend the hours catching up on work uninterrupted. The highest ranked coach, bus and train service in the UK, NationalExpress.com, offers the best of the best when it comes to bus journeys – with coaches that are fitted with leather seats, toilets, power sockets and air conditioning. They asked me to write about what makes a good bus journey and what to take with you when you set off, so here is:IMG_2366

My top 10 things to pack for a long bus journey:

  1. My number one will always be an iPod or MP3 player – music makes the journey and I can’t stand any long journey without a great new playlist. Take some time beforehand to download a few new albums, then sit back and enjoy.
  2. Snacks can make or break a journey – always take more than you think you will need, boredom brings out the hunger in us. I personally always eat ALL the unhealthy food on travelling days, calories don’t count when you’re between places. Chocolate, crisps, fruit and sandwiches always make good travelling food.
  3. Plenty of water, some buses stop every few hours, others not for 5-6 hours at a time depending on where you are in the world – don’t get dehydrated or the journey will feel like hell.
  4. A scarf or pashmina – air conditioned buses can seem draughty when you’re tired so it’s always a good idea to have something to wrap around you or use as a blanket if you want to sleep.
  5. A change of clothes can be a lifesaver, particularly if it is very hot or cold outside and the heating or air conditioning inside will feel like a dramatic contrast. These journeys are all about being comfortable.
  6. Any travel documents you might need – if you’re crossing borders be sure to have your passport and all visa information to hand, don’t leave it in the luggage hold of the bus.
  7. A good book can be a lifesaver in case you end up on a bus that is having problems with the wi-fi or is travelling out of range, or perhaps if you just don’t fancy looking at a screen.
  8. A laptop or iPad – if you work online it can be a great opportunity to catch up on work, I use the time to write blog posts/articles or edit photos. If you don’t have any work to do, why not watch a movie or Netflix? If you pre-download you can be sure it won’t be interrupted or slow.
  9. Any charging cables you need for your phone/laptop, you should have plug sockets available so make the most of them.
  10. Anything else you need to keep you comfortable/entertained – things like neck pillows and sleeping masks for those who want to chill, packs of cards and sweets for those who need something fun to do.

IMG_2383The more you pre-plan your journey, the better it will be! We’ve all had those trips where we spent the entire time thinking “oh man this would have been so much better with (insert item here)”. I’m all for spontaneous and adventurous travel, but when it comes to actual movements, a bit of pre-planning can be the difference between the journey from hell and a peaceful cruise to your next destination. Be smart and prepare, you’ll be giving yourself the opportunity to turn the journey into part of the adventure. If you’re planning to travel across the UK whether to the airport, a festival or gig, or even into Europe – look no further than National Express for the best in coach travel. Head to nationalexpress.com to book, or for more information.IMG_2309

Have you travelled by coach in the UK – how did it compare to other forms of travel? What is your favourite way to travel on a budget?

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WIN a 70 litre rucksack for your travels!

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I’m all about seizing life by the balls and making your dreams a reality, but I know so often things like money or worries about travelling solo can hold people back. It’s can be so easy to make excuses and put things off but the long you leave it the harder it gets. I’m so happy that through this blog and living my life to the max I have inspired so many to pick up and travel the world, so achieve their dreams and do things they never imagined they could do. I’ve now been on the road for around two and a half years, and I have no plans to stop – I’ve already started planning the next few years of my travelling life and I couldn’t be more excited about the path I’ve chosen. I’ve found it endlessly inspiring to meet so many of you along the way and to hear all about your own adventures.

So in the spirit of keeping your adventures and passion for travel alive, I’ve teamed up with Trespass to give you all the opportunity to win an Amin 70 Litre Rucksack to hold all your possessions as you head off gallivanting around the world making your dreams come true. It’s the same size as the rucksack I used when I first set off travelling, and as the one I am currently using. And with adjustable, added shoulder and back straps – it’s perfect for long term travels around Asia, Australia or further afield, with plenty of pockets to store everything you need. To anyone who is freaking out that they won’t fit their things into a bag this size – stop worrying and start shedding – trust me, you don’t need any more than will fit in this bag no matter where you are travelling.

So, how can you win?

Check out the box below and make sure you follow me on Twitter, like my Facebook page and then leave a comment at the bottom of this post telling me what adventures you want to take the rucksack on – easy peasy! This competition is only open to those from and currently living in the UK – sorry to all my readers scattered across the world. The winner will be announced around March 10.

Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Melbourne | The magic of Rainbow Serpent Festival

IMG_1219I waited a whole year to experience the magic of Rainbow Serpent Festival. I arrived in Melbourne this time last year, just three days after this incredible festival took place, I was devastated to have missed it but having been deep in the outback completing my farm work there was simply no way I could make it in time. It was a worthy sacrifice – those last three days of farm work meant I got the opportunity to stay in Australia for another year. Those last three days meant not only could I come back to Melbourne, one of my favourite cities in the world, but that I could get a second chance to experience life over the rainbow.IMG_2566IMG_2547For those who don’t know about Rainbow Serpent, it’s the ultimate in hippy trippy dreamland fun. Deep in the Victorian countryside that can only be described as desert in the 35 degree heat, a few small fields are filled with around 10,000 colourful, bright, passionate and excited souls for just a few days. Reminiscent of festivals like Secret Garden Party and Boomtown Fair in the UK, the festival is the kind of celebration that brings together a huge range of people, some pretty interesting characters and some seriously beautiful souls for a few days of creativity and magic.IMG_2564IMG_2551This year celebrating it’s 20th anniversary, the festival is a veteran amongst others and you can tell on arrival, many of those pulling up in camper vans to the most incredible campsites filled with marquees, sofas, outlandish decorations and the rest, are people who have been going for years. The kind who exclaim with sheer happiness when you disclose that this is your first Rainbow Serpent, their faces light up at getting to witness you experiencing the magic for the very first time. It’s easy before you go to feel like everyone just gets caught up in the hype or that it couldn’t possibly be as good as they say. IMG_2548IMG_2562Well, as a well seasoned festival veteran, I can safely say that the hype doesn’t even do the festival justice. Rainbow Serpent blew my mind – not just the music and the stages, the theatre and the arts, the yoga and the creativity. It was the people, the incredible collection of people passionate about one cause – making it the best celebration of Rainbow Serpent yet. Time and time again we were blown away by the amazing characters we met, experienced and then parted ways never to see each other again – but the most important thing was that we shared that one moment together.IMG_2565IMG_2550I was an incredibly lucky girl during this festival – the kindness of strangers has never been more apparent. Two of my friends were determined for me to attend the festival despite my already having given up on finding a ticket. They pushed one friend into tracking me down a ticket and when that one fell through he went to the ends of the earth to find me a replacement – whats the big deal you ask? This guy had never even met me but went to an incredible level of effort to not only ensure I experienced Rainbow Serpent but that I had the most amazing time possible. I travelled up with a friend from work and we spent the next few days camping with an amazing group of people – I couldn’t have put together a better bush doof crew if I tried.IMG_2567IMG_2560The bare basics – we hired a car from Hertz who I would never hire from again, overly expensive and extremely rude staff who constantly tried to overcharge us for things they hadn’t pre-disclosed. We borrowed a tent from a friend, filled up eskis with ice, beers and boxes of pasta – going prepared saved us a lot of money on food. The festival was totally BYO so we went prepared with bottles of vodka and rum decanted into plastic bottles (no glass at the festival) and lots of ciders and beers. Costumes and a hell of a lot of glitter filled ur bags, but everything else we needed was already at the festival or in our amazing campsite. We were in North camping, just a short walk from the Market Stage which was filled with the most amazing music almost 24/7, the food stalls which had a great selection, and the chill-out areas.IMG_2563IMG_2561Although the music is the main event and I had an fantastic time watching the acts, there was a lot more to the festival with plenty of amazing fun for kids, healing and massage areas, talks on everything from depression to psychedelics and society, creative workshops on survival skills, yoga and meditation, and art. There was so much going on and so much to do, you didn’t want to sleep or waste a single second. It was an absolutely amazing event and I well and truly give it the Absolutely Lucy stamp of approval – if you’re backpacking Australia and happen to be in Melbourne around January next year, I really recommend picking up a ticket. Trust me this festival is a life-changing experience and you won’t regret splashing the money. IMG_1218

Photos provided by myself and Hannah Gunstone, even they don’t do the festival justice but they certainly give you a taste of the fun!

Have you been to Rainbow Serpent – tell me about your festival highlights? What other festivals have you been to while travelling?

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Eurotrip | My 24 hours in Amsterdam

14292456_10153770246632617_4868750785377706268_nDuring the summer I headed home to the UK for a short while but it wasn’t long until I started getting itchy feet, and I thought why not take advantage of Europe being right on my doorstep? Living in the UK, we are so lucky to have so many countries and cultures so close and accessible, it’s important to take advantage of that EU passport while we still have it eh! I’ve travelled quite a lot of Europe over the years but  there were still so many places I longed to visit and since making so many new international friends on the other side of the world, it seemed a perfect time to go and visit them all at home for the ultimate Eurotrip! One of the top places on my list was Amsterdam – I’ve wanted to visit for years and have planned trips several times but ended up never quite making it. I would only have about 48-72 hours in the city but it was the perfect opportunity to experience it for the first time and to visit a good friend of mine at her home – from Australia to Amsterdam.14344242_10153770246852617_8477002503444430472_n14322737_10153770246727617_3952194705655828329_nI flew in from Budapest and after a fairly chilled few days spent in the stunning baths and exploring the city at a gentle pace, I was ready to take things up a gear to cram in sightseeing and partying into just a few hours. I was staying just outside the city with my friend, Lisa, and I have to give a huge shoutout to her for not only putting me up at her amazing apartment, but for helping me to make the absolute most of my Amsterdam experience. As soon as I arrived we cycled into the city in true Amsterdam fashion to check out the parks which were filled with the scent of barbecue and the chatter of friends. We sat in the sunshine at a little man-made beach along the river having drinks and pizza with friends, and spent the evening bar hopping along the canals. It was a perfect first evening there and gave me a chance to meet a lot of people, we even stumbled across a fashion festival happening in the streets with all of the high class shops hosting DJ sets and bars.14317358_10153770246982617_7699547149721011518_n14344708_10153770245602617_3898552608383686668_nThe next days, I headed into the city first thing to make the most of my sightseeing time by taking one of the brilliant free walking tours. I first heard about Sandeman’s free walking tours from a friend when I was in Berlin and after experiencing one there and another in ‘Dam, I would seriously recommend them to anyone visiting a European city. The tours are fantastic quality and are led by energetic, knowledgeable and passionate individuals who bring history and heritage to life through their delivery. The walks last just a few hours and take in the main sights of each city plus there are several specialised ones including tours of the Red Light District, beer tours, history tours, graffiti tours etc. The best thing about these tours? They’re technically free despite being such amazing quality. The people giving the tours make their money through tips – they just ask that you pay what you feel the tour was worth at the end – you can give nothing or you show how much you value the experience. It calls for the tour leader to really work hard to show you the city and it calls for you to give an honest and fair review of the services. I can’t fault the company or the system. The Amsterdam tour was fantastic and our guide was really friendly and knowledgeable.14355179_10153770245822617_6765741485707631537_n14238219_10153770245592617_5590145311600997742_nOnce we’d spent a few hours wandering through the busy streets and along the canals for the tour, I headed back to the apartment for a quick change and glam up. Then Lisa and I were straight out the door and off to Magneet Festival – a bit of a trip affair, the festival would feature some of Lisa’s friends who were DJing on the most amazing stage overlooking the whole festival. It was an incredible night, amazing music and a fantastic group of people made for a pretty special experience. We danced and partied our way around the festival, even checking out hardcore and rock tents and watching some entertaining karaoke. It was such a fun night and pretty epic to experience a festival in Amsterdam. After the gates closed, we headed into the city and ended up at De School – a converted school which has become a club where must-lovers can rave in a dark, smokey basement until the sun comes up. Such a good club, we had a fantastic night! The next day, dying of hangover, I packed up and headed out to catch my train up to the north where I was visiting another amazing friend for just one night before heading home.14322663_10153764176672617_3330531587880020450_n14212547_10153764176582617_1783270569474228189_nIt was such a flying visit but my goodness I crammed a LOT in, Amsterdam is a fantastic city which makes it hard not to want to cram everything into the quickest visit. Before even leaving I knew I already wanted to return for another visit – there is still so much I didn’t have time to do, like the Anne Frank House and the museums. And I would love a chance to spend more time exploring the city at a slower pace. I will definitely return in the future but I was so happy to not only get to experience the city for the first time but to share the experience with such amazing people. I’m a lucky girl and travelling the world definitely has opened me up to some incredible cross-continent friendships. Getting to reunite with friends in a completely new land is definitely one of my favourite things about travelling the world.14316794_10153764176542617_1276094821434236239_n

Have you been to Amsterdam – what was your favourite experience? Can you recommend any other walking tours?

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Melbourne | Loss and love at Bourke Street Mall

imageI haven’t posted in a while. I’ll be honest and say I’ve just been working so much and haven’t had time to sit and write, but it’s not just that, I’ve lost my motivation a bit lately. While my life is almost full to bursting with exciting stories to tell, I’d kind of hit a wall with inspiration. It happens every now and again, life gets busy and gets in the way of writing, but when it happens I don’t try and fight it because I know that I’ll always regain my mojo in the end, it just takes time. You can’t force yourself to be inspired and to write beautiful things, it comes naturally or not at all. While I was struggling to express the beautiful sides of life through this blog, something awful happened, something painful and sad and devastating. I may have been struggling with the words to express the happier situations in my life, but once I started typing my feelings of anger and hurt at the dangerous assault on my favourite city and it’s people last week, the words just wouldn’t stop.

For those who don’t know what happened, on Friday five people including a baby boy died in a horrific incident in Melbourne’s busiest shopping centre. A man went on a rampage around the city after allegedly stabbing his brother, mowing people down with his car and leaving 31 people in hospital. For those who were around the shopping centre at the time – including myself and several friends of mine – it was a scary, confusing and devastating experience. I was just about to start work and was walking past the incident as around 20-30 police cars went tearing along the tramlines in the pedestrianised areas to try and stop the man. Police helicopters were circling and police were screaming at onlookers to get away as quickly as possible. Luckily I worked nearby so I could find shelter in the hotel, at this point we had no idea what had happened with vague reports of a shooting/stabbing and a lot of misinformation. My first fear when I saw the police reaction was that it could be a bomb or some kind of terrorist attack, lack of information put this fear straight into my mind.

But I don’t want to dwell too much on what happened, instead I want to focus on what really horrified me that day. While the man’s actions were terrifying and have left the whole city unnerved, it was the actions of the onlookers that really showed me a dark side of humanity. As I ran up the street towards work I was dodging between people who preferred to stand on their phones recording every second of the incident, ignoring police advice to move to safety and choosing instead to share it on social media. A friend of mine was right in the middle of the incident and dived straight into help the injured people – he was brave and selfless in that moment, ending up covered in blood and just grateful he could help stop the bleeding from a man’s head injury. He was kind and patient despite his fears for his own safety and I find that incredibly inspiring. As with all the people who stepped up and helped save lives or to protect their fellow man that day – the ones who stopped and cared. My friend has since received word that the man he helped is safe and recovering in hospital.imageBut less inspiring was the man who stood right behind my friend and videoed the whole thing – instead of helping to stop the bleeding and to tend to those who were seriously injured he preferred to stand there and capture what was happening. I know we live in a modern age where camera phones open up the world to all of us to be the journalists and to share every bit of news at a flick of a button. But just as I always felt uncomfortable reporting the news from a desperate situation when I felt I could be helping to ease the pain and suffering of others, I find it disgusting that people would prioritise social media sharing and Snapchatting attacks on mankind over helping to save lives. Have we really reached a point where sharing an experience is more important that protecting a human life? While this experience may have inspired me to write about my anger and pain, I still don’t see how sharing it could ever be more important than protecting lives. Since Friday, countless people have flocked to Bourke Street Mall to lay flowers and messages of strength, love and compassion. This really makes you see the other side of humanity – the warmth that helps the world to move on and heal after such an incident.

It’s times like these when people need to put down their smart phones and to come together, because that’s what is really important. The love you feel from the other side of the world when friends and family message to check you are okay, the love you share when your best friend’s safety is your first thought as an incident happens, the love you feel from co-workers who rant and cry and understand the pain of others. It’s so easy to get caught up in the modern world we live in and to forget to break it down to the most basic and most important things – those around us who make our lives worth living, those individuals whose lives and presence we treasure more than anything. After hearing about the death of a Lynn legend – Juggling Jim – back at home, it shows more than ever the love for this character. The outpourings of sadness on social media at his death, he brought light into the lives of others and will be sadly missed. His spot on Lynn High Street will never be filled and his memory will be treasured.

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Travel | Top tips for being a happy camper

img_2335I’ve always very firmly believed that fresh air, a good dose of nature and time spent by the ocean can cure just about anything. It doesn’t matter how stressed I’ve been over the years, or how frustrated, I’ve always found solace in spending a few days away from everything, getting back to basics and enjoying life in it’s purest form. Over the years I’ve spent weekends camping in the Lake District, Peak District, in the shadow of Mount Snowdon in Wales, and around my home in Norfolk. I’ve stayed in campsites ranging from a full-on Glamping experience complete with champagne and pink wellies, to the most basic, wild campsites you can find, and I’ve done it in all weathers. Later on, as I discovered my love of festivals, I quickly realised that I was a much bigger fan of the four-day weekend camping events that allowed you to truly lose yourself in the music. I teamed up with Yelloh! Village, who offer the world’s finest open-air hotels and camping rentals, to write about what makes the perfect camping experience.imageThere’s something about getting back to basics with a group of your closest friends that just spells out a lot of fun. Whether you’re heading off to explore an untouched wilderness and can’t wait to get away, or you simply fancy going a bit wild in the woods, it’s a perfect way to actually spend time together with no distractions. It’s easy to forget that every second we spend with friends these days is dictated by the myriad of text messages, Snapchats, Facebook updates and Tweets that dominate our existence these days. Once all of those are done, often your time together is up and all you have to remember it is what is documented online. I was out with friends the other night and even dancing in a bar, every second of our moves was being photographed and snap-chatted by the pair for social media. It’s funny and it’s become an inherent part of our lives now but sometimes it is nice to just switch everything off and talk surrounded by nothing but nature. I guess I’m a country girl at heart, but I just find it so soothing to be away from the stresses of everyday life and there’s something about open space that just heals me.img_2333Some of my best camping memories are of the Glamping weekend I spent with my two best friends, the time spent camping in national parks in the Tasmanian wilderness as part of an epic 10-day roadtrip, and the hilarious times we’ve had setting up our tents and lounging round the campsite at festivals. Everyone was just present, laughing at each others’ jokes and experiencing every second together rather than thinking about how they would record it for social media. Every camping experience I’ve had boils down to the same factors whether we’re raving at a festival, getting lost in the woods or out on the moors – it’s the same few things that really make a camping trip a success, and a hell of a lot of fun. If you’re sat reading this thinking camping is so not for you, then think again – I never used to think I would enjoy it but it’s now become one of my favourite travel experiences. Plus it’s a great way to explore the world around you when you’re travelling on a budget, whether locally or on the other side of the world, the basic components of camping remain the same, it’s just the weather that gets better!image

What makes the perfect camping experience?

Tent

This is definitely something you want to invest in – buying a £5 tent from the supermarket and expecting it to withstand all weathers is just stupid. Even if you’re going to a festival – if it rains and becomes windy, your tent is going to flood and collapse and you won’t be able to get dry and warm. A camping trip can quickly become miserable if you have no way of getting dry. Look for great deals in the sales – I picked up my beauty of a tent in the Halfords sale a few years ago and it has seen me through countless amazing festivals and trips – it’s huge and easy to put up, and it  was reduced to less than half price when I got it.

Camping spot

Choose your pitch wisely – there’s nothing worse than putting your tent up in a rush and finding out later when you’re trying to sleep that you’ve camped on a 45 degree slope or there’s a massive rock right where you’re laying. Trust me, as someone who did a four day camping festival sleeping at a 45 degree angle because we arrived too late and couldn’t find a better spot – it’s absolutely bloody awful. Don’t do it. Always feel for rocks and lay down inside before you peg it to the ground.

Food

Plan the food you take well and it can change your whole experience, forget instant noodles and soup, its easy to cook up a good and healthy meal on a little gas stove. On my 10-day road trip around Tasmania we planned heavy meals of chilli and rice, and pasta to refuel after days of climbing mountains. It was quick and easy to prepare for four people so don’t be put off by the thought of it. There’s nothing better than a good, filling, hot meal at the end of a day camping.image

Location

There are some incredible places to camp in the world – under the stars in central Australia, on the beaches in Tasmania, and in the shadow of mountains all over the world are just some of my favourites. Choosing your location well can take a regular camping trip to the next level. Yelloh! Village has some amazing locations scattered across France which give you the opportunity to explore the landscape, towns and villages. Choosing a campsite where you can have a campfire also makes all the difference.

Price

Camping is a great way to travel if you’re on a budget. Especially for groups or families where accommodation could be expensive – there are so many free and cheap options available for campsites, and if you’re planning on repeating the experience your camping equipment is an investment rather than an expense.

Timing

Always look out for the skies above you – I’ve been lucky enough to camp in some amazing places with incredible views of the super moons, specific constellations, shooting stars. Sometimes the most beautiful sights are the ones that are totally free. There’s nothing better than a spectacular sunset, or making it up for sunrise.image

Company

The one thing that really makes the experience complete has to be the people you share it with. I say it all the time but it never becomes any less true, even in the most dire situations and the worst accommodations, the people are what shine through your memories long after the trip has finished. Taking your best friends who will make you laugh until you cry is the best way to approach a trip – no matter what goes wrong you’ll still make it an experience to remember.

Happy camping!

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My bumper guide to Bali – where to stay and what to do?

img_2180From lush tropical jungles to endless white sandy beaches with huge crashing waves, Bali has been described as paradise many a time and after just days on the island it was easy to see why so many expats have made it their home. From snorkelling with sea turtles to visiting temples and perusing the markets, there is no end of amazing sights to explore – it’s just finding the time to cram them all into your trip. Planning a holiday in Bali is no simple task – despite being a small island in Indonesia there is an incredible range of things to do and see – but lucky for you, I’ve done the hard work so you don’t have to! Whether you’re a beach bum, a culture craver, a surfer-type, an adventure seeker, a spa dweller or a nature lover, the perfect trip is waiting for you in Bali. I went to meet a friend I met in Australia for a week of partying and catching up before I headed back to Australia, but that one week turned into nearly a month of fun and exploring this amazing island. So if you’re struggling to plan your trip to Bali, this post will take a look at the best places to stay to get the most from your holiday.img_2190First of all it’s important to think about what you want from the visit – do you want to go all Julia Roberts and find your centre, focus on a health-filled yogi experience, or do you want to party all night and bake on the beaches all day? Do you want to explore monkey-filled jungles or take on the famous Bali surf? For just one island, Bali has a lot to offer and it’s easy to get carried away in exploring more “popular” parts and miss out on a slight different or more unique experience. Plan your trip well and you could have an experience that takes your breath away and stays with you for life. I know that my trip to the island is one that I will remember forever, the best trip ever with one of my best friends doing what we do best – living the craziest, wildest, cheekiest life we can.img_2243

Where to stay?

The beauty of Bali being an island is that everything is fairly close together and it is an easy place to travel around if you fancy a more well-rounded trip. With so many different areas to explore it would almost be a shame to stay in just one place during your stay. Even after spending a month on the island, there was still so much left to see so it’s important to be selective and focus on the trip you really want rather than rushing your experience. After all, island life is all about enjoying the sights, sounds, tastes, and pleasures of life.

Stay to party

Seminyak and Kuta are the partying home of Bali, wild nights out, cage dancing, lethal cocktails and all kinds of crazy fun. For the best music to dance to try La Favela in Seminyak, for crazy drunken fun 18-30 style head for Kuta, and don’t forget the gay clubs in Seminyak if you really want to dance until the sun comes up. Check out my review of Grandma’s Hotels here. Or if you’re after a hostel, you can’t go wrong with M Boutique Hostel – one of the best I’ve stayed in across Asia.

Stay for surf

Kuta, Caangu and Uluwatu are the key places for surf depending on how experienced you are. Stay in Caangu for the full surfer lifestyle in this chilled out beachy town. There are surf camps, lessons and help available all over for beginners.

Stay for yoga/health

Where else other than Ubud, head to the leafy paradise to find your centre, channel Julia Roberts in Eat Pray Love and to eat all kinds of delicious vegan, vegetarian, healthy goodness. You’ll rejuvenate your soul with yoga at The Yoga Barn and Ubud Yoga Centre and come out new woman. Check out brand new hostel – Ons Hostel, with a pool and free breakfast, plus huge, clean dorms and great owners – it’s a perfect place to stay in the shadow of the Monkey Forest.

Stay for island bliss

Head to Gili T and Gili Air if you find Bali too busy and crave peaceful island bliss. Tiny islands just off the coast of Bali, they’re amazing for a visit and well worth a few days. I stayed at Gili La Boheme Sister which was fantastic but I’d also recommend Gili Castle which was just around the corner and hugely popular – both are party hostels and good for meeting people but not the place to stay for a relaxing holiday.img_2207

Here’s my top 15 experiences you don’t want to miss in Bali: 

Uluwatu Temple

One of the best places to witness a spectacular Bali sunset, this Balinese sea temple is bound to take your breath away. Perched on top of steep cliffs that tower 70m above the Indian Ocean, the temple features stunning Balinese architecture and is one of six key temples believed to be Bali’s spiritual pillars. It even overlooks the daily Kecak dance performances which gives visitors a perfect opportunity to experience traditional Balinese culture in a truly magnificent setting.

Tanah Lot

Slightly further along the western coast of the island, Tanah Lot offers the perfect combination of Balinese culture set against Indonesia’s wild landscape. Another sea temple, it feels completely exposed to the elements as huge waves crash on the shore and against the visitors who come to pay their respects at the temple. This temple is the perfect place to watch the sunset and to really understand why so many fall in love with Bali’s raw, natural beauty.

Monkey Forest

Of course it wouldn’t be a tropical holiday without a trip into the jungle and where better to get a taste than in Ubud? In complete contrast to the beaches of Bali, Ubud is full of lush jungle vines and at it’s heart is the incredible Monkey Forest. Like a scene from The Jungle Book, it captures your imagination as monkeys climb and leap from branch to branch. While the ancient temple brings the culture of years gone by to life in front of you.

Tegalalang Rice Terraces

One of the most iconic images of Bali – those incredible rice terraces that stretch on forever with their vibrant beauty. You may have seen the picture a thousand times, but trust us, nothing compares to having that sight in front of your eyes, to the intense humidity, and the sweet, earthy smell. Be sure to try and head there early before the hottest part of the day and you’ll beat the crowds. Don’t let the heat put you off walking around this incredible landscape, you’ll find more beauty awaiting on every corner.img_2181

Swimming with sea turtles

Surrounding Bali and neighbouring Gili T and Gili Air is the most incredible coral reef that is just teeming with life and waiting to be explored. Grab a snorkel and head down the beach or hire some diving gear and go further out for some of the most incredible sights. Swimming with sea turtles is a must while you’re on the islands, hire a boat on Gili T and head off for the day to all the best spots. Make sure to pack an underwater camera!

Island paradise on Gili T and Gili Air

Just a short boat ride away is Gili T and Gili Air – two island paradises that will provide a perfect escape from Bali for a few days. Much quieter and with none of the busy traffic that plagues Bali, they provide a perfect refuge to kick back and relax with your loved ones. Those spectacular pictures of Indonesian sunsets you’ve been setting as your screensaver at work? Head to the beaches and you’ll get a chance to witness them with your own eyes. Truly breathtaking.

Tegenungen Waterfall

It’s not a trip to a jungle paradise without waterfalls and luckily Bali has plenty to choose from but by far the most spectacular is Tegenungen. Just a short distance from Ubud, this one is worth arriving early for to avoid the crowds. Take your swimsuit and dive into the fresh waters, swim into the cave behind and stand underneath the powerful waters as they plunge off the side of the cliff. You can even climb up to the top of the waterfall for a small fee – it’s well worth it for stunning waterfall photos.

Mount Batur

Get into full adventure mode by taking part in the sunrise trek to the summit of this active volcano for an incredible sunrise. Hike up in the cover of darkness to watch the first rays of light stretching across Bali. Towering 1,717m above sea level, climbing the third highest peak in Bali is the highlight of many traveller’s Bali experience. Nearby there are also hot springs to relax in after the climb.img_2209

Surf’s up

Bali is renowned for it’s incredible waves and attracts countless surfers each year who just can’t get enough of the landscape and the lifestyle. Whether you’re just a beginner or have been surfing for years, there is a perfect beach for you. Kuta, and Canggu are popular areas for surf camps aimed at those just starting out but also have some pretty big waves to challenge the more experienced. Uluwatu is a haven for experienced surfers who dare to take on the crashing waves.

Seafood at sunset

Imagine a beautiful island beach wedding at sunset, live music and fresh seafood. Perfect right? Head to Jimbaran for the evening and you’ll experience the romance and luxury of Bali on a budget with great food and free entertainment as the sun slips below the horizon.

Nightlife and a foodie’s heaven

Bali is infamous for it’s nightlife and while the club scene may not be for everyone, there is a huge range of ways to entertain yourself of an evening. From foodie heaven, to raging clubs/bars in Seminyak and Kuta, to beach parties in Canggu or live music and cultural performances in Ubud – you’ll never be at a loss for evening entertainment.

Yoga in Ubud

It wouldn’t be Bali without a reference to Eat Pray Love, but Ubud truly is an amazing place to find your centre. Where better to try out some yoga classes than in a beautiful studio overlooking endless lush, green jungle before heading to one of the local restaurants for a fresh fruit smoothie?img_2211

Exploring the countryside on motorbike

By far the best way to see Bali and to experience the real way the Indonesians live outside of the towns. Witness the true beauty of the local people and countryside as you explore the island at your own pace, you never know what hidden delights will be waiting for you.

Pamper at the spas

Asia is well-loved for it’s food, and for the amazing massages. It wouldn’t be a trip to Bali without indulging and the best thing about Bali is it caters for all budgets. Whether you’re a backpacker or a luxury traveller there is a spa for you, treat yourself after a long day of exploring the island.img_2154

What was your favourite Bali experience? Can you recommend any places to stay?

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