Category Archives: Lifestyle

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Lifestyle | How to become your most productive self and get shit done

IMG_2181Do you ever have that feeling that no matter how hard you work to cram everything in, you’re always running out of time? That ticking clock in the back of your mind is your worst enemy when it comes to getting shit done and can demotivate us in seconds. How often have you felt psyched up for the day, then you’ve seen your mounting to-do list, saw time ticking away from you and just figured “I don’t even know where to start so I’m gonna sit down, have a cup of tea and a biscuit.” We’ve all been there but it’s so easy when you’re travelling full time or working flat out to let the basic life admin slide. By life admin, I’m talking about all those basic things like cooking, cleaning, washing – all the things that make your house feel like a home you want to return to at the end of the day, the things that make you feel like you’re looking after yourself. These are so much more important than you think because looking after yourself is the first step – forget to do this and your motivation for achieving anything else will quickly drip away.IMG_2280For those who are working flat out but feel they are so overwhelmed with their workload that they lose any drive to get things done – this is the perfect time to change your outlook. I remember when I used to let work get on top of me – I’ll fully admit I still do at times because I’ll always be a workaholic who can’t say no to working more hours. But the difference is I’m able to recognise when life is getting on top of me and I make sure I take a step back and give myself the time to recuperate and relax before I tackle my to-do list, that way I know when I do sit down to work, I’m doing the best job I can possibly do. Because if you ask me, if you don’t give a job 100+% there is pretty much no point doing it at all. So this post is about sharpening your focus and making sure that the time you spend working is super productive so that you can spend more time relaxing and enjoying yourself.IMG_2273

Here are my top tips for boosting productivity:

  1. Figure out your time schedule and how much time you want to dedicate to working/living – figuring out what work/life balance you want to achieve is important because then it is your decision and you’re not just going along with what is expected of you. It’s okay to set your own boundaries and to refuse extra work if you don’t feel like you can cope.
  2. Make a list and prioritise according to your life plan, no-one else’s. It’s so easy to get caught up in what we “should” be doing instead of what we actually want to be doing. Your boss’ priorities might involve you working 60 hour weeks for no extra pay and no rewards, but if that’s not in your life plan then why should you? Likewise, your partner’s life plan might involve you sacrificing your passions to spend all your free time with them, but again, that’s just not fair and you might not want to do that.
  3. Work through your list item by item – don’t try and tackle several things at once, you’ll still get them done but you’ll only have worked half as hard on them so the quality of your work will suffer. Better to use all your focus on one thing at a time and then you will maintain a good standard of work and get the satisfaction of ticking them off your list one by one.
  4. Get the boring shit done quickly and then reap the benefits. My favourite time to clean/cook/wash is always either when I’ve just got back from work at 2am or as soon as I wake up – the feeling of finishing and being able to get on with my day or to sleep peacefully is the best. Plus then I’m super motivated to get on with the rest of the day.
  5. Plan in getaways when you’ve been working too much and feel like the walls are closing in, getting out into nature can heal all stresses and anxiety. I recently went away camping for the weekend with friends to a national park and it did us all the world of good to get away. I came back feeling fresh and ready to take on the world.
  6. Look after yourself – drink water, eat healthy, get plenty of sleep – you’re useless otherwise. This is easily forgotten but should always be your number one priority. I often am working too hard to bother taking a break and forget to drink enough water in the heat – it leaves me feeling ill and burnt out. If you don’t look after yourself, no-one else will do it for you and you only have one body, so take care of it.
  7. When you have to work, create the perfect environment in the office or at home. Think about your workspace and don’t just work from bed, find a desk or table with a open windows for fresh air, good light and a comfortable seat. Good motivation includes picking a great Spotify playlist – I’ve just discovered the Focus ones which are great for working to – and great snacks as a reward for making progress.
  8. When you’re lacking focus, exercise. Go for a run or do a HIIT class, it will clear your mind and release stress ready for when you start work again. This is one of my favourite ways to start the day after cleaning and cooking, an exercise class is a great way to give yourself energy and refresh before hitting your to-do list.
  9. Be honest with yourself about what is achievable and if you’ve been given an unrealistic workload don’t be afraid to delegate or say no – recognising your limits is good management of yourself and others.
  10. Have a hobby – when you’re relaxing and having time off from work, it’s good for you to have a passion to escape into. It’s so easy to get caught in that cycle of going out, getting drunk and being hungover on your days off. Reading, writing, painting or creating something – creative passions ignite a whole different side of our brain and give us a real release. Why else do you think I’ve kept this blog going for so long?
  11. Take time completely alone – it can be hard when so many people are demanding a share of your precious time. You’re surrounded by people all day long and outside of work your friends and family need you, but what about what you need? It’s important to take time alone to grow and develop as a person.

IMG_2193And most importantly? Don’t see failure as this big dark cloud hanging over your head all the time. It’s okay if you can’t do everything – we are not machines and we should never feel like failures for not being able to squeeze everything in. I should never feel like I have to apologise for being a 26-year-old who travels solo full time, works 45 hours a week at one job, works as a freelance journalist and travel blogger, who manages to keep her apartment clean, tidy, cook great meals from scratch but sometimes doesn’t manage to FaceTime her friends and family at home as much because of the time difference. Yes I’m failing big time in that respect at the moment and it makes me feel very guilty when I don’t know what is happening in all my loved ones lives because we are on other sides of the planet. But I’m working my ass off over here and getting shit done, and they understand that. Sometimes we go through phases where we have to sacrifice something in order to achieve other great things, and that’s okay. That’s not failure.IMG_2188

What are your top tips for being your most productive self? Do you ever feel like you’re failing because of the sacrifices you have to make?

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#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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Travel | Life above the clouds – working as a flight attendant

13227097_467600236762891_2670598566680473826_nSomething a bit different for you today, one of the best things about my travelling lifestyle is the people I meet along the way. People doing all kinds of jobs and living completely differently to keep their life as nomadic as possible. Travelling up in the Northern Territory of Australia, I met a new friend who alternates her travelling lifestyle with working for Thomas Cook Airlines as a flight attendant – a job that seems so glamorous and full of travel that I just had to find out more about what was involved – read on for my interview with a flight attendant:

Which company do you work for and for how long have you worked for them?

I work for Thomas Cook Airlines and I have been with the company for a year now. The contract is only seasonal so I work the summer season and have the winters off.

What attracted you to the job?

Following my passion for travel. When I got back from a 12 month trip I started back with two companies I was with previously before I went away. I was working full time at a dental practice and part time on the weekends in the local night club. As much as I love working I wasn’t settled being back in the same routine. My Canadian friend said one day ”if you love travelling so much why don’t you work in the travel industry” and that was when the light bulb went off in my head. I started applying for airlines and I got the job! I truely love everything about it and it is perfect for me in this stage of my life.

How long did it take to train for the job? What was involved in the training?

The training period lasted for 5 weeks and the typical working hours of 9am-5pm. It involved both practical and theory. They were 7 exams in total and it was a very intense 5 weeks of my life but I learnt so much in that time. Not only did I learn all about the aircraft type I was trained on but all the equipment the aircraft has onboard to ensure the safety of the passengers. We learnt the company’s procedures for first aid, fire, emergency landings in and out of water, decompression, hijacking, disruptive passengers and many more.

In the training we also had to have a practical swimming test with our clothes on followed by a life rafts practical and the use of life vests to make it as realistic as it could be. In the training centre we had fake fire drills and we had to follow the procedure of finding the fire, using the right equipment to fight the fire and the what the role is of each cabin crew to ensure the safety of our passengers. In an emergency landing we had to prove that we had the knowledge of how to handle the situation which was tested upon us by our amazing trainers that work with the company.image

What are the best/worst things about being a flight attendant?

Being a flight attendant is unlike any other job. A lot of people assume we just waitress on a plane but it is so much more than that and the knowledge we hold involving the safety of the passengers is vital to offering the best service. Working with new people everyday, greeting passengers and going that extra mile to make there holiday experience that bit better and being rushed off your feet then looking out of the window at the Alps mountain range just puts a huge smile on my face. I would say one of the best things about being cabin crew would be the long haul but I have yet to experience that in the new year. I will be trained on the A330 which flies regulary to the USA and the Carribean. With that you get to stay in the company’s hotel and explore new destinations.

I dont really have any negative points about working on a airline other than it is exhausting! The days go really quick, you are constantly busy from start to finish but driving on the motorway back home after a 16 hour shift to have a couple of hour sleep then back to work for the next shift is an experience! My body quickly got used to it though which was good. It is not a ordinary 9/5 career, you could be on standby from 1am in the morning and be called out for work at anytime. You really need to be organised and punctual for this career. My life out of work is very different too, because of my random working hours and working weekends, bank holidays ect it is harder too have a ordinary social life but I do make it work.

What are the perks of the job?

I feel that when I experience long haul shifts I will get more perks as you travel to new destinations with work and get paid for it. Within the company we get a discount for holidays and flights if we choose to book with Thomas Cook. We also get other discounts with entertainment companies such as Go Ape or Alton Towers, gym memberships and other little perks that I need to find out more about.

What is the highlight of being a flight attendant?

Other than travel, my personal highlight is having the opportunity to sit in the flight deck on my break time and admiring the view at 38,000 feet in the air. One of my best memories would have to be a night shift I was doing. I was on my way back from Tenerife and I sat in the flight deck on my break and the view was breathtaking. The moon was behind the aircraft, with the blanket of clouds below and thousand of stars in the dark blue sky twinkling away is a image I will never forget. It made me really appreciate life.image

What is the average day like for you? How do you adjust to long-haul flights/time zones?

This is related to short/mid haul flights where I fly there and back in a day. An average day consists of getting ready for work, driving a hour to work then after I have parked up and got the staff bus into the airport grounds I make my way to the crew room. In the crew room we have a briefing with involves checking out money floats, briefing of the aircraft type/ flight time/ destination/location of each crew member/passenger profile ect. Then we have safety and procedure questions that need to be answered correctly. After we have done our briefing we make our way to the aircraft.

Once we are on the aircraft we have to do all of our safety and equipment checks, when completed we pass them on to the cabin manager. The passengers will then start to board. Once everyone is happy and seated and we are in the air we can start our outbound services. Depending on the time of day we usually do the bar service first, after follows inflight meal then duty free. If we have enough time we do another bar service before landing. After landing when the passengers have disembarked the cleaners will come on then we need to do seat pockets and the appropriate checks before passengers start to board again. Inbound flight is the same routine of services before landing back in the UK.

Once everyone has disembarked after landing we then need to make our way back to the crew room for a debriefing which involves cashing up, talking about any events that went on during the shift and how we could improve on anything. Then I make my way back to the carpark and drive 1/2 hours home depending of the time of day and traffic.

Can you see yourself doing it long-term?

I have a very busy lifestyle but I like it that way. Long term maybe. Depends on what opportunities the future has to hold for me.

What’s your favourite place you’ve been to/fave cities?

With work the only city I have stayed over is Glasgow which isn’t that exciting comparied to long haul flight destinations.image

How much time do you get to explore the places you visit?

This all depends on which destination you go too. Some can be a night and clear day in New York or 4 nights in Las Vegas. It completely varies depending on how many flights go out to that destination each week.

What advice would you give to anyone who wants to start a career as a flight attendant?

If you have a strong desire or passion for travel and have experience with customer service I would recommend this career path for you. It is a great way to see the world, meet new people and it is a career like no other. I also like the glamour side of it too as I feel very feminine at work comparied to when I used to wear scrubs at the dentist haha. Be happy in what you do as work takes up most of your life in the bigger picture. Life is too short to regret the choices you make.

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Infographic created by Opodo.

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Travel | What it’s really like to work as an au pair in Australia?

imageUnless you’re sitting on one heck of a trust fund or you’ve just won the lottery, Australia is pretty impossible to travel long-term without working. I worked lots of different types of jobs during my first year down under – hospitality jobs in a theatre and a bar, I got my hands dirty working on a farm, I even became a sales manager! Talk about variety, but one experience stood out above all the rest, for all the wrong reasons. You always hear about backpackers taking an au pair jobs while in Australia – for some it makes them brave enough to move over here having a job already lined up through an agency. For others, it’s a nice break from hostels and a chance to have your own room and live with a family for a while. It can be a great way to get childcare experience for those hoping to work in this industry, or in teaching, in the long run, but it can sometimes be totally different to what you expected.

My time as a nanny was without doubt the worst job I have ever worked in my life. I had never once underestimated the workload I would be taking on, the fact that I wasn’t that keen on children or what the job would entail, and yet I was still horrified by my own experiences. Saying some of it out loud to friends really showed me quite how much I put up with while I was there, and because of this, I wanted to write this post so that other backpackers travelling Australia will be a bit more prepared than I was. I’m not just going to focus on my terrible experiences, because that’s just not fair, I know several people who have had amazing experiences working as au pairs for really lovely families, but I also know some who have really struggled. This post is here to give you all the information so you can make a decision for yourself whether the job is for you, and to know what to do if it doesn’t work out.image

My experience

“I worked as an au pair for three months in Charleville – we’re talking 800km west of Brisbane – which was an incredible opportunity to experience real outback Aussie life. I took the job at the last minute when I struggled to find anything else and on first glance it looked like a good opportunity. It offered me $300 a week plus my own annex, food, gym membership and car/scooter access. I was looking after two boys (6 & 7) who were at school during the day, when I would have cleaning tasks to complete – I would get them ready for school and do drop-offs, then look after them after school, take them to their activities and prepare dinners. It sounded like the dream job for an au pair, but the reality was very different.

“I was never told that one of the children I would be looking after had special needs and with limited experience of looking after children I think this was vital information. This child actually turned out to be the most precious, he was loving and kind and sweet, and once we settled in he was great to look after. Saying goodbye to him was hard after several months together. The other child however, was spoilt, overindulged by his parents who were never there, he bullied his brother and was violent towards me. I don’t blame the child for one second, but the constant changeover of nannies in the home plus a lacklustre attitude to parenting hadn’t helped. Neither had the way his mother spoke to me, which he keenly imitated.

“Every day I would be kicked, punched, slapped, pinched and spoken to like I was worthless by both child and adult. I would be told I should be dead because everyone hated me, or that I was selfish and lazy. I worked 12-14 hour days dealing with every body fluid going, scrubbing, cleaning and cooking for the family and most nights I would finish late, sometimes several hours after I was supposed to finish.

“The family had no respect for their home, it was filthier than most hostels I have stayed in and they would constantly throw rubbish everywhere. Their menagerie of animals would leave trails of droppings across the floor and would piss on the carpets. One weekend, I had cleaned the house on the Friday and left it spotless, the family went on holiday that Sunday and left me to do a deep clean of the house. When I went in on the Sunday, there was rotting food laying all over the kitchen, there was rubbish everywhere, clothes scattered, shit on the floor, there was no end of filth in a house that had been pristine less than 48 hours earlier. It was this spiteful behaviour that became my daily life.

“There are some even worse things including abuse over social media that I won’t share on here, but I want you guys to understand, I worked my arse off for this family and was treated terribly. It makes me really sad that I never got to experience the amazing bond you can get with some families as an au pair, but I could have done no more to make that happen. Despite this, my outback experience was one I will never forget for the amazing people I did meet along the way, it’s just a shame my working life left so much to be desired.”image

Holly’s experience

Holly is an English girl I met while I was working as an au pair, she was a real rock through my three months there and helped keep me sane on many an occasion. She was also working as an au pair for a local family but had a completely different experience to mine. Read on to find out about her job:

“I found the job on Gumtree, I must have applied for around 50 nanny jobs in total and only two ever replied! The one I got and another one prior to that but decided this one was a better fit! I worked for a family in Charleville, in outback Queensland. I was only supposed to work there for three months but ended up staying with the family for over a year, and even moved towns with them!

“I didn’t get a very big wage which was the only thing I didn’t really like about the job, I worked from 7am till 9pm, six days a week so it was long days and very intense! I got $300 a week which doesn’t sound like much at all but I was quite lucky because my family paid for me to live in a house in town, I ate with them 6 days a week and they also provided me with a car and fuel (mainly for work purposes but I could use it in town socially) so the money I earned I got to spend on what I wanted.

“I looked after twin girls, they were five months old when I arrived and 17 months by the time I left, so I saw them change and grow up so much while I was there including crawling, first steps. I was pretty much their second mother, my involvement with that family was pretty intense. I cooked, washed, cleaned, fed, changed, bathed, shopped, played all day! Some days I had the twins just by myself which was hard work and other days the mother and I both looked after them.

“I honestly LOVED this experience. Charleville is so out of the way its not somewhere your average backpacker would’ve stumbled across but I’m so glad I did. I love the town and have made some great friends through it, and the bond I had with the family is one that I think will last a long time. Obviously not everything was perfect, things rarely are but on a whole I wouldn’t have changed this experience at all. At least I can say I’m prepared for my own children now. And I don’t think I ever would have done a lot of the things I have if I hadn’t come out here, I can’t say going to a rodeo or mustering cattle was ever high on my list of things to do but I did them out here!

“What advice do I have for other people interested in doing something like this? Say yes to everything! Life is too short to say no or be too scared, especially when you’re going to a completely new town by yourself. Just be brave and get stuck in! Enjoying yourself is the most important part!”image

Coping with your au pair job:

You might get lucky and have an amazing experience like Holly, or you might suffer like I did, but if things don’t turn out the best with your au pair job – here’s how to cope:

  • Try and have a Skype chat with the people you will be working for before you actually go there, it can help put your mind at ease and prepare you a little.
  • Make sure your job role is clearly outlined before you start – hours working, what your package (accommodation/food/transport) will include.
  • Nanny jobs can often be found on Gumtree instead of through agencies – this can be a good way of finding work. But make sure you vet them as much as possible beforehand – safety above all else and never go to an outback job without letting someone know where you’ll be.
  • Be prepared to work long hours and have a job that will take over your life, but also make sure you have boundaries and allow yourself to have nights completely off from the job.
  • Make sure you get your pay – don’t leave any outstanding when you leave as some will try to get out of paying you.
  • Make sure you get payslips and if you have to drive a vehicle for them, make sure you are insured.
  • Try and raise any problems – if you feel confident enough – with the family and see if they are open to discussion.
  • Don’t be afraid to say no – you’re an employer, not a slave.
  • If you’re somewhere outback, make the effort to get to know people in the closest town, don’t be stuck out on your own with a crappy job. My friends got me through three months of that job – I couldn’t have done it without them.
  • If you’re going very rural – check out this post I wrote on 18 things you learn from working in the Australian outback
  • If you’re in the outback or somewhere secluded and don’t feel safe, contact a friend or someone who can offer advice and get you out of there.
  • If you’re with an agency, contact them and raise concerns, see if they can transfer you to another family.
  • If you’re doing it for a second year visa and think you can battle through, see if you can stick it out, don’t risk finding an even worse employer and losing the hours you have worked.

imageIf you need any advice or have any questions about au pair work, leave a comment below or message me on Facebook or Twitter.

Have you worked as an au pair in Australia -what was your experience like? Where else in the world have you worked as a nanny?

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Food | Talking oils and nursing myself back to health

imageI’ve been writing a LOT about travel lately, and while I still have so much to share with you all from my month travelling around Europe and now Indonesia, I thought it would be a nice time to take a moment’s break to talk about two of my other passions. Anyone who knows me will know that I’m a big foodie at heart and that I love to stay fit and healthy – combining the two is a big love of mine and something I dedicate a lot of time to when I’m not travelling. We all know how hard it is to keep it going when you’re on holiday – well apparently my life is a holiday but if there’s something I hate, it’s getting ill while travelling. I’m actually writing this when my body is a wreck – too much partying means I’m now popping Vitamin C and painkillers to stave off every illness going and I know exactly why. It’s because my diet has suffered since being in Bali – I haven’t been eating as many fruits and vegetables since being away, I haven’t been eating enough and half the time I’ve had an upset tummy. Don’t get me wrong, I’m having a blast here, but it does catch up with you! So now I’m taking a few days of good, healthy food, fresh fruit smoothies and good sleep to recuperate.imageA few days off partying and sightseeing has given me time to use my brain a bit and talk to people, quite a few of these conversations have naturally led to one of my favourite products and one that is widely available in Asia – coconut oil. I love everything coconut – from the meat, the milk and the water, to the oils and natural products created from them. It is lifesaver for a girl with skin as delicate as mine – coconut oil is one of the few things I know I can use liberally without causing rashes both to eat and on my skin – it’s so pure that it can do no wrong. And one of the lovely things about buying it out here, is not only that it is so cheap, but that it has no preservatives or nasties added to it – it’s pretty much as pure as you can get it without the “health food” price attached. Even when I’m in the UK, I try to make sure I drink as much coconut water as possible and use coconut oil on my skin, hair and nails – it’s definitely a lot more pricey than it is out here but it’s worth it. Even long before it became “fashionable” I knew the value of using oils instead of lotions and creams that were packed full of things I could be allergic to. Trust me, once you find that out the hard way a few times, you become very cautious about what you are putting on, and in, your body.imageIf you do struggle with your skin like I do, particularly with eczema and dry patches, it’s a really good idea to take a look at your oil use. I’ve always alternated the use of coconut oil with olive oils to get the best results – both in my food and on my skin. While both have amazing affects when you add them to your diet, I notice huge differences when I also apply them externally. Often before going to bed I will cover my skin in coconut oil, or will coat any dry patches in olive oil, then allow it to soak in. By doing it when your body is resting, it has so much more time to really soak in and work it’s magic, trust me – as someone who has suffered with these problems for years – nothing has ever worked better than simple oils on your plate and on your skin. It’s also great to combine the oils with a body butter, if you can find one pure enough, that way the deeper layers of your skin absorb the oil while the butter moisturises the top layers. I personally find The Body Shop’s argan oil or cocoa body butters work really well this way, plus they smell amazing!imageIf you followed my blog over the last few months, you’ll know that I holidayed in Santorini with my parents for a few weeks. Greece is a big favourite with my parents – they love the food, the culture, the landscape, and after years of holidays there I can only agree with them. It’s a fabulous country and particularly when you get down to the islands, each one is completely different but still maintains the charm and traditions of Greece. One thing I really love about Greece is their Mediterranean diet, I do think Greek food is one cuisine that I could happily live off for the rest of my days. Maybe less of the bread, but throw all the seafood, salads and wine at me! We were living off the most delicious Greek salads, and even Santorini salads, dressed in the simplest of dressings, just the very finest olive oils and vinegar – so good they speak for themselves! When it came to seafood, the simpler the better. I’d have sea bass or bream, or even snapper, dressed simply in herbs and drizzled with olive oil before being barbecued. It was some of the most delicious food I’ve ever had and yet some of the simplest. The Greeks sure know the value of quality over quantity – they would rather serve just three ingredients but the very finest quality and flavours than have a whole plate of tastes that don’t quite get your palate excited.imageAt home we use a lot of olive oil in cooking and preparing meals, so if you’re struggling to think of ways of integrating more good oils into your diet it’s worth trying out some of my favourites. Salads are an easy way to introduce olive oils to your diet – drizzle olive oil and either balsamic or white wine vinegar over your salad, and the beauty of salad is that it doesn’t just have to be boring lettuce. You can mix it up and try quinoa, pumpkin, cous cous, spinach and all kinds of other tasty treats. If you like seafood, you can’t beat a nice bit of salmon wrapped in foil in the oven for 20 minutes, drizzle oil over it and add chilli or paprika for flavour – serve with sweet potato fries or minty potatoes. And if you need a little something for the side, why not add roasted vegetables? Just chop up loads of veg in a tray then drizzle oil all over it and season, stick it in the oven and roast for half an hour or until soft – perfect side dish. Or if you’re just cooking for one – do what I used to do at uni, roast loads then keep it in the fridge for wraps – yum! If you want to learn a little more about the different types of olive oil and what to do with them – you should check out this great infographic from Jamie’s Italian. It tells you all you need to know about how to cook with different types of oil to get the best results.jamies-italian-olive-oil-buyers-guide_57320f2dda035_w1500

Or, if you’re feeling like treating yourself, why not click here to book a table at Jamie’s Italian and let the pros show you how it’s done?

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Travel | 20 romantic experiences every travelling girl should have

11062_10152623571112617_7178081394249079839_nI’m a bit of a romantic at heart, just like most girls I love being swept off my feet and can find something beautiful in the smallest gestures. When you’re travelling, it’s easy to be caught up in the romance of your very existence, the transient nature of your life brings romance to the simplest moments. With tropical temperatures, sandy beaches and stunning sunsets at every turn, Asia is the perfect setting for a travelling romance, while Australia provides the incredible landscape to get lost with your newfound love. Europe is just perfect for those warm summer evenings drinking wine together or exploring a city of culture, there’s romance of years gone by haunting the streets you walk. When you travel it’s easy to fall for people and to fall hard and fast, you get swept away by the romance, the freedom and the excitement of it all. Add in the ticking time limit of that plane ticket home and things can get pretty intense. The important thing for travelling girls to remember when things come to an end, is not to feel broken-hearted over the love you lost but to enjoy the memories of what you had. Every single perfect second of your time together whether it was just one night, a few weeks or months together. Those precious memories of your fleeting romance will stay with you in years to come and will shape your travelling stories.

When travelling I love meeting couples who met on the road, couples who have managed to make things work beyond travelling. I love seeing people in the grips of romance who cannot imagine a life without the person they just met two nights ago. It’s beautiful and pure, it’s love in it’s own right and even if it doesn’t last, it doesn’t mean you didn’t feel it at the time. I was lucky enough to meet an amazing couple  who have become my very good friends, they met while volunteering together in South America and now several years later they have traveled the world together. In Thailand, I met an Australian girl who was crazy in love with an English guy and two years later they are still travelling the world together. It’s amazing when you hear these stories and so lovely to know that travel doesn’t have to stand in the way of finding love. But for every success story, there are a hundred stories of heartache and of lost loves – so for all of these, here is my list of the 10 romantic moments you need to experience when you are travelling:

  1. Watch a perfect sunset with the most amazing person, hold hands and watch the sun dip below the horizon. Don’t speak a word, let the colours and the moment speak for itself.
  2. Get lost together – go off exploring somewhere new and don’t be afraid to stray off the beaten path, getting lost can be fun it will give you more time to get to know each other.
  3. Camp out or lay in the back of a truck under the stars – some of the most romantic nights of my life were spent counting shooting stars with someone special.
  4. Go for a massage together – if you’re in Asia, this is a must. Cheap massages are the perfect way to spend a relaxing evening together. Try a foot massage for a less naked option.
  5. Go on a road trip together for a day, a week or a month. Nothing will teach you more about a person than spending 24 hours a day with them in a car but if you come out the other side, it must be special.
  6. Try something new together – snorkeling or diving could be an exciting first date, or try a cooking class, surfing lesson, wine tour, white water rafting. Sharing a fun experience can be an amazing way to bond.
  7. Teach each other something whether it is a language, a card game or a party trick. It’s amazing to have a beautiful memory of a person you met and to know that they taught you a new skill.
  8. Change your plans. When you’re a solo traveler, you’re always up for changing your plans if something – or someone – exciting comes along. So throw off your guard and give in to the moment.
  9. Have those really deep conversations where you share your soul with someone you barely know. The ones that leave you feeling like no-one has ever understood you like this before, or will again.
  10. Go skinny dipping, it’s cheeky, it’s silly and it’s fun. Let your inhibitions go and do something a bit wild, something a twenty-something who is travelling the word shouldn’t be afraid to do. It’ll be a great story one day.
  11. Have a date night – it could be dinner out or something wacky, but make the effort for each other, dress up and enjoy a little luxury together.
  12. Write a love letter, or receive one. There’s something so special about a hand-written note that you can keep forever. It can be a goodbye note you leave on his pillow on the way to the airport or a letter you send across the world.
  13. Make wild, crazy plans for the future. Lay in bed together talking about all the places you want to go and the things you want to do. Share the fantasy, even if you’ll never do them together.
  14. Be naughty – break the rules together. Take that how you will but trust me – it’s fun!
  15. Take cheesy cute tourist photos together as you explore a new city.
  16. Don’t listen to reason – so what if you live on opposite sides of the world? So what if you only have two days? Declare your love, fall head-over-heels and make those two days something to remember.
  17. Spend a holiday together – Christmas or New Year, even Oktoberfest! Celebrate something together and share a kiss at midnight in a foreign country – it’ll be one of those cute little stories that stay with you for life.
  18. Sit on the beach and watch the sun rise after an epic night out together, don’t stop until you’ve danced and laughed your heart out, then find some calm as the sea laps against the shore and the skies go pink.
  19. Have that moment when you look at this person and realise men aren’t all bad no matter how much you’ve been messed around, when you realise that you can love like this and you will again.
  20. Have an emotional goodbye at an airport. Every girl should walk through security with tears in her eyes at least once after a sad farewell to an amazing person.

imageDon’t get caught up in why it didn’t work, just make beautiful memories with that person and enjoy every moment of your time together. In twenty or thirty years would you rather remember bitter heartbreak from the guy you met on that beautiful Thai beach, or would you prefer to remember that night you held hands and watched the perfect sunset together?

Tell me about your most romantic travelling moments – what is your favourite memory? Which country holds the most romance for you?

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London | Affordable luxe dining at Island Grill

island-grill-copyI’m so excited to share one of the best dining experiences I’ve had in a while with you guys. You all know by now that I love to eat out and that food is one of my favourite things about travelling whether in the UK or abroad – I love to try out new restaurants and cuisines. So I was excited to head to Island Grill a few weeks ago to review their take on sustainable and affordable luxury cuisine. Right in the heart of London at the iconic mid-century Lancaster London, this amazing little restaurant overlooks Hyde Park and offers a very European menu that changes with every season as part of their dedication to sustainability. I’m passionate about the environment and have actually cut a lot of meat from my diet in the last year after realising quite how unsustainable it is, so this angle was something I was very interested in. Head Chef Adam Woolven has actually won the Sustainable Restaurant Association’s top Three Star rating with his tireless efforts to create an eco-friendly yet luxurious dining experience.island-grill-barAs we arrived at the restaurant, you can’t help but be wowed by the sleek interiors and the vast floor-to-ceiling windows running along the outside walls overlooking Hyde Park. The seating is arranged so that diners can either enjoy almost private dining alongside the huge windows or they can enjoy a view of the open-plan kitchen where they can see the chefs hard at work, adding another dimension to their gastronomic experience. The staff were so welcoming and friendly, eager to talk to us about the menus and to suggest wines that would go with the food. This made a huge difference, if you’ve read my review from Cottons, you’ll know how disappointing the service was and how much it affected my view of the restaurant. I couldn’t fault the service at Island Grill, it was attentive and they were keen to chat with us and answer any questions, but they also gave us time to just enjoy the food and our evening – the perfect balance.imageWe kicked off the meal with the Pan-Fried Scallops and Crispy Gressingham Duck Salad, both absolutely delicious starters packed full of flavour and the freshest ingredients. The duck was rich and and perfectly complemented by the Asian dressing, pak choi, the orange and the cashews. While the scallops were easily the best ones I have had, normally I find them very overcooked and rubbery but these were just right. It was served with a mixture of vegetables in very different forms from pickled and crisped to pureed. The head chef’s passion for the finest ingredients is clear from the delicious meals available on the menu. While enjoying our starters we shared a bottle of wine recommended by the waitress, and I couldn’t recommend talking to the staff about drinks choices enough. This is a restaurant where the staff really know their wines and cocktails, and they are more than happy to help you choose something special from the fully stocked bar.imageFor our mains, it seemed crazy not to indulge in a steak at what is primarily a grill restaurant. As I mentioned earlier, I’ve completely cut back on the amount of meat I eat over the last year and when I travel I am almost entirely vegetarian now, but I do still eat and enjoy meat. I prefer to save it for when I eat out as a treat now and I feel much healthier and happier as a result. So after not having had much meat for quite a while, I was looking forward to a good-quality steak. And boy oh boy did Island Grill deliver. We both had the 8oz Fillet of Beef and I can officially say it was the best quality and best cooked steak I have had in years, possibly ever. The meat was so unbelievably tender and tasty, and I chose to have mine served with garlic mash and mushroom sauce. It was heaven on a plate. We were both speechless and it was definitely the first time a steak has had that effect. After our mains we were pretty full and didn’t have room for dessert, but accommodating as ever, the staff didn’t want us to miss out and boxed up some of their Passion Fruit and White Chocolate Cheesecake for us to take home. I ended up saving mine until the next day but I can assure you it was as mouth-watering as it sounds.imageApologies for the lack of good photos of the food, it was a bit dark in the restaurant so my own images haven’t come out as clearly as I hoped. Regardless, if you’re heading to London, or you’re already living there, I can’t recommend Island Grill enough. The service is faultless, the location is fantastic and the food is just out of this world. Plus, as a bonus, it’s extremely affordable! It’s not often you can find food that is this good quality for such a reasonable price, making it perfect for a mid-week treat or even a date night. Find out more and book a table at Island Grill.

Have you been to Island Grill? How was your meal? Where else can you recommend for a good quality steak?

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London | A bittersweet trip to the Caribbean with Cottons

imageI’ve had people ask me before whether I really like things as much as I say in reviews, whether I’m just sugar-coating because I got to eat or stay somewhere for free. I can’t help but laugh when I hear this, because anyone who knows me well will agree that’s it’s almost impossible for me to hide how I feel about things, and lying just isn’t in vocabulary. I’m always honest and have just been lucky that so far I’ve never really had a bad experience when I’ve reviewed products or places, but that doesn’t mean I would hide it from my readers if I did. I actually had my first disappointing experience at a restaurant review a few weeks ago and wanted to make sure I shared this with you, because my blog is about life – the good, the bad and the ugly. No sugar-coating and no editing out the bad bits, just honesty about my experiences so that perhaps they can help you to plan yours.imageYou guys will already know I went on a little weekend jaunt to London a few weeks ago when I stayed at the gorgeous Mandeville Hotel – find my review here – well I actually went to London because I had a series of restaurant reviews booked in. Lucky me, I love food and I love visiting new restaurants so this is a serious perk of running this blog, and I wanted to make sure I squeezed them all in quick before I head back to Australia. The first restaurant review of the weekend was actually the one I was looking forward to the most, and sadly it was the most disappointing. Cottons Rhum Shack and Restaurant in Notting Hill was where we were headed and I was looking forward to a night of Caribbean cuisine and rum cocktails. It was a cute little restaurant with all the colour and character a Caribbean restaurant should have and the Rhum Bar looked like a fabulous place to sip on a cocktail. So what was the problem?imageWell, from the second we walked in the door, we just didn’t feel very welcome. The service sucked, big time. The staff barely looked up when we came in and just seemed like they couldn’t be bothered to chat to us or welcome us as we went to our table. It took about 15 minutes before anyone even came over to ask if we actually wanted any drinks or if we understood the menu, I could understand if they were busy but this was a quiet Sunday night. For me, the service really makes a restaurant – whether it’s a fine dining or a budget chain, the level of attentiveness can turn an average dinner into a really lovely evening. As someone who has worked in hospitality across pubs, restaurants and bars, I know full well how much it sucks to work the Sunday shift when perhaps you’re tired or hungover from the night before, but that doesn’t mean you offer lower quality service. It’s always so important to remember that each customer who comes in is paying for top quality service and food and I just didn’t feel like that was a factor in our meal.imageWe indulged in rum cocktails – I went for the Wild Tiki which was spiced rum flavoured with Maraschino liqueur, passion fruit, pineapple, kafir and lemongrass. It was delicious, like a slightly more exotic Pornstar Martini. While my friend went for the Reggae Rum Punch – going for Wray and Nephews rum mixed with fruit juices – always pretty tasty. The cocktails were a real highlight of the night because I’m pretty picky about the quality, I hate when you get a cocktail and it is just watered down juice. Then our dinner arrived, I’d ordered the Spiced Coconut Seafood Casserole which was packed full of clams, squid, crab and red mullet, annatto potatoes and was served with scotch bonnet rouille. It was fantastic, the coconut flavour was absolutely delicious and I loved the mix of seafood as I’m a big fish fan. But my friend was left rather disappointed by the Montego bay Jerk Pork and Ribs – he actually ordered off the Caribbean Classics menu so we expected that to a lot better but there was a real lack of meat served. As someone who has worked in a Caribbean restaurant and who loves the food, he was pretty disappointed with his meal.imageIn the end it was a pretty bittersweet evening, while the cocktails and my dinner were good, my friend’s meal and the service on offer left a lot to be desired. I personally wouldn’t eat there again, if I fancy Caribbean food in future I would probably try to track down a different restaurant. It’s a shame because the restaurant was in a great location in Notting Hill and had most of the ingredients to be a success but it just didn’t quite make it. Here’s hoping the staff were just having an off-night, but having someone walk off as I started to place a drinks order wasn’t a good sign. I’d be curious to know if anyone else has eaten at one of the Cotton’s Restaurants and whether you enjoyed your experience – please leave a comment below and tell me about it.

How was your Cotton’s experience? Can you recommend any other Caribbean restaurants in the UK?

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London | Dining on Dim Sum at Royal China

It’s been a long time since I’ve eaten Chinese food, but anyone who has been following my travels through Asia will know how much I loved the food there. Asia food is one of my absolute favourite cuisines and something I just know I could eat every day for the rest of my life. I love how fresh, light and healthy it is, and I’m a huge fan of their colourful dishes whether Thai, Vietnamese or Cambodian. When it comes to Chinese food, I’ve always been a little put off by memories of greasy Chinese takeaways filled with stodge and feeling really sick after scoffing one. It put me off for years but when I was invited along to try out the special Dim Sum menu at Royal China’s Queensway Restaurant, I figured it was time to give Chinese food another try at one of Royal China’s eight restaurants.royal-china-queensway-restaurantWe were welcomed by the staff as we arrived and were taken to our table – I was astonished by the size of the restaurant, it was huge, but was told that it has recently been extended and yet still has queues out of the door some days. It seems Royal China is a bit of an institution in the area and after being there for 20 years, who can be surprised? You walk in and see a room filled with 85% Asian people and quite frankly you know the food must be good if they’re choosing to dine out here. I was impressed by the decor at the restaurant, instead of the bright and colourful designs of most Chinese restaurants they had gone for a much sleeker and more elegant look that really gave the place a great atmosphere for a dinner. We were just having lunch but already the restaurant was mostly full on a Monday lunchtime, you can understand how busy it must get at peak times.royal-china-queensway-barI really felt the restaurant would be a great place to come with a larger party, the tables are big and could easily seat bigger groups and if you ask me, Asian food is always great for sharing with friends. We ordered several items off the Dim Sum menu including the sesame prawn rolls and the plain Cheung Fun with peanut sauce, seafood pancakes and the roasted duck dumplings, then picked others off the larger menu such as the aromatic duck, the spicy prawn stir fry and the pak choi. The food was delicious and served quickly but goodness me there was a lot of it. It would definitely be a place to go with friends, between the two of us we struggled to eat everything but really enjoyed the flavours. Although I have to admit, I’m still not entirely sure what Cheung Fun is – it was a very strange dish I have never tried before. The service was excellent throughout and the staff kept coming over to check if we needed anything at all, or just to talk to us about the dishes.dim-sum-at-royal-china steamed-prawn-dim-sum-at-royal-chinaOverall I would say the restaurant was lovely, we really enjoyed the meal and the atmosphere of Royal China. But we did find the dishes rather expensive for the size of the meal, perhaps it would have been less noticeable if you were sharing the meal with a group and were sharing lots of dishes but for two people I think it would have been an expensive meal out if you wanted to taste several dishes. However, the food was of a very high standard and very well prepared, it wasn’t at all greasy and had lots of flavour. If you were going to eat Chinese food, this would be the place to do it. For me personally, I don’t think Chinese food is for me, I’m glad I’ve given it another shot but I think I’ll stick to Thai and Vietnamese food from now on. If you fancy trying out Royal China, you’ll find restaurants on Baker Street and in Bayswater, Fulham and Canary Wharf. More information about Royal China available online.steamed-chilli-pork-dumplings

Have you eaten at Royal China – what did you think? What’s your favourite Chinese dish? What other restaurants would you recommend in London?

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