Category Archives: Lifestyle

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London | A taste of the AbFab lifestyle at The Mandeville Hotel

imageSo many bloggers focus on one type of travel, but for me that’s just not possible. You see, I like to vary my travelling style as much as I do my clothes. While sometimes I’ll be backpacking on a budget, I still see the importance and the fun in enjoying a slightly more luxury stay whether for a holiday or city break. For me, it’s all about finding that balance between big blowouts and treating yourself, to the times when you’re making every penny stretch. I find you appreciate one so much more when you’ve experienced the other, and you learn a heck of a lot more about money along the way. I was lucky enough to live the Absolutely Fabulous lifestyle of dreams last weekend when I was invited to review The Mandeville Hotel. In a collaboration with Maison Christian Lacroix, the entire fifth floor of this luxury boutique hotel was redesigned with each room telling a different story from the French Riviera, based on Maison Lacroix’s “Belles Rives” Collection. It was perfectly timed as the final weekend I would get to spend in London before I jet back off to the other side of the world, and as a couture treat before I head back to a life of hostels.imageimageSituated just a five minute walk from Bond Street Station, the hotel is perfectly located for a weekend of shopping and sightseeing. Actually, I was so impressed at how close it was to one of the busiest parts of London, and yet the hotel seemed a million miles away from the hustle and bustle. It was actually a lot more peaceful in the streets surrounding the hotel with people sitting out to eat and drink in restaurants. As we walked up to the hotel excited to experience the decadence of Lacroix, we were greeted by the friendly staff who offered to take our bags to the room and organise any restaurants or taxis we might require during or after our stay. As we headed up to our room, we were left to check out the fifth floor makeover. All the rooms have their own individual flair and style, from The Jardin Exotique to Midnight Blue telling the story of the secret midnight bathing society, all telling beautiful stories with inspirations from Lacroix’s upbringing combined with Grace Kelly’s ‘To Catch a Thief’.imageIf you’re like me and have grown up on the antics of Eddie and Patsy in Absolutely Fabulous, you’ll probably have been just as excited as I was when the new movie came out. So to get to stay in a hotel that was every bit as fabulous as the crazy pair was one of my best London experiences yet! You’ll see from the photos the decor was over the top in all the right ways and combined bright, clashing patterns and accessories with sleek designs to ensure maximum comfort. We were staying in The Jewel Box room, which combined Classic Lacroix with whimsical colours and bejeweled designs inspired by Grace Kelly’s stolen Cartier jewels. The lace and mantillas worn by women in The Camargue inspires the Macarena lace wallpaper around the room, balanced with classic Lacroix silver and black striped wallpaper, a true haven for fashion lovers. I was completely taken aback by the room when I walked it, it just screamed Absolutely Fabulous and I was so excited to be staying there. After the long journey, it was nice just to pop on the robes provided and have a coffee from the Nespresso machine in our room (I know where was the Bolly darling?!) and just take in the luxury.  Heading into the gorgeous white marble bathroom, there were a selection of lovely products there to enjoy as I got ready.imageimageThat night, after dinner and cocktails, we headed back to the hotel and I couldn’t wait to get a good night’s sleep. It turned out the room was the perfect place to relax on a Sunday evening, not a single sound from the street outside or the other rooms could be heard while we watched a movie. And when it was time for lights out, the room fell to complete darkness and silence. Combined with that incredible comfy bed and the lovely turndown service that had cleaned the room and organised the pillows for us, I was in heaven. It was the best night’s sleep I’ve had in weeks. I woke up with a big smile on my face and ready to take on the hotel’s breakfast – we’d been booked in for the full English breakfast with continental. Now I never normally order a full English breakfast so I was quite excited to have one for the first time in years – and I was so impressed with the high quality of everything on the plate, including the perfectly poached eggs. Plus over on the continental table there was plenty of fresh yoghurt, juices, fruit and muesli to choose from, as well as platters of croissants and pastries. It was the breakfast of dreams and with checkout not being until 12pm, I took advantage of the opportunity to go back to bed and catch up on even more sleep.imageimageI’d just like to say a huge thank you to all of the staff at the hotel for making our stay there exceptional. I felt so welcome from the second I walked in the door and they really worked hard to make sure every tiny detail was thought of and catered for. It really is a mark of excellence when you don’t have to think of anything the whole way through your stay and come away from a weekend in London feeling rested and content – normally my weekends there leave me feeling exhausted. The Mandeville Hotel is perfect for a luxury treat if you’re visiting London for a special occasion, at £317 a night for the room and full English breakfast, it is expensive but I can assure you it is worth every penny. Staying at the hotel is a whole experience that goes far beyond just a bed for the night, and one I would really recommend to anyone who fancies treating themselves. Find out more or book to stay at the website.

Have you stayed at The Mandeville Hotel – how was your stay? What other luxury hotels would you recommend in London?

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Travel | Absolutely Lucy turns 3 and the end of my Eurotrip!

imageI’ve been back in the country less than 24 hours and it’s safe to say after four weeks of mad, fast, exciting travelling around Europe, of dancing until the sun comes up and  sightseeing for days – I’m glad to be home. I’ve had the most incredible few weeks road tripping across Bulgaria, exploring Berlin, relaxing in the stunning surroundings of Slovenia, diving into the beautiful baths of Budapest and partying it up in Amsterdam. It’s been epic from start to finish and went better than I ever could have hoped, all thanks to all my amazing friends I met up with along the way. The trip was a fantastic excuse to visit some of my friends from trips to Asia and Australia back in their own homes and to catch up on old times, while picking up some awesome new friends along the way. It felt so good to be on the road and completely independent again, travelling solo really is my favourite way to travel, and I feel so refreshed after  a break from working so much. Also a big thanks to everyone who has been following me on Instagram and has offered countless suggestions of place to eat, things to see and do along the way!

So what next? You all know I’m never one to stand still for long so of course I’ve already got lots of plans for the next few weeks and if you’ve been following me on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook, you’ll already know that in just one month I’ll be heading back to Australia for another year! While I was away my second year visa was granted and after waiting months for it to be approved I was beyond ecstatic, I can’t wait to get back there to start a whole new adventure and to see all my loves I have missed so much. With just a month to prepare, you’d think I’d need to take a few days off working to get everything in order, but actually I’ve ended up signing up to full time freelance hours until the date I leave! Plus I’ll be covering a lot of extra blogging events and reviewing a huge range of restaurants and hotels for you guys with all my top tips for weekends away and how to make the most of your time off work. And I’ve got some exciting collaborations with travel brands and opportunities coming up that I can’t wait to share with you.

It’s been lovely to take some time off from the blog over the last couple of weeks just to get some perspective and really appreciate how far I’ve come. This week my blog celebrated it’s third birthday and I actually cannot believe how much it has changed and grown in that time – from the very first blog post I published to the most recent collaborations and going on my first blogging press trip a week ago. I’m so proud of everything I have accomplished with this blog – from working with brands to helping readers plan their trips. I actually received an amazing message from a long-time reader this morning saying she was inspired by this blog post to quit her job and her relationship so she could buy a one-way ticket to Australia. It is just incredible to have any kind of influence on readers, but to have such a huge impact on her life is more than I could have dreamed of when I started Absolutely Lucy.14368820_10153777471112617_1681907711635110597_nWhen you love to write as much as I do, and you love to travel, getting to combine these passions in a way that helps others and helps you build a career is so precious, it is important to appreciate every second. Last week, the 10th edition of industry magazine Blogosphere published with the incredible In The Frow on the cover – one of the bloggers I have followed from the very beginning – and guess who was featured inside? One of my favourite travel bloggers, Vicky Flip Flop, chose to feature Absolutely Lucy among her favourite travel bloggers for the month. I haven’t yet had a chance to see it as I’ve been away, but I’ll be sharing it with you as soon as my copy arrives – I’m so excited to be a part of such a fabulous magazine, and such an incredible industry.14354903_10153777471157617_3487606775261715180_nThese last few weeks have been exactly the tonic I needed to come home feeling super inspired, with a brain and a camera packed full of amazing content that I just can’t wait to share with you. I’m planning on working my ass off at this laptop and bringing you a huge range of new posts on all my adventures and hope to inspire you to plan some of your own. I’m also on a serious health kick – after four weeks of drinking and eating all kinds of rubbish – I’m looking forward to getting in the gym again and eating healthily. It’s time to get this body in shape and to peak fitness before I get back to Australia and living in my bikini every day! I’m so pleased I finally found a gym in my small town that offers a huge range of classes, plus a well-stocked gym and a pool – actually, I’m going to wrap up this post now and head straight down there for a workout! So there you go guys, a little glimpse into a chaotic few weeks that have left me with a big smile on my face.

Have you traveled around Europe – what was your favourite place? Have you been in spired by my posts – tell me about it! What’s your workout regime – got any tips for me?

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Lifestyle | Making life-changing decisions and taking risks

imageI wrote this on A level results day, a whopping eight years after I collected my own results and found out I was going to my first choice university to study English. After all the hard work I put in, my dreams had come true and I couldn’t wait to start my new life. Now eight years later, I can’t believe where my life has taken me – never could I have known that the next few years would see me interning at a fashion magazine, writing a column for a newspaper, gaining a 2.1 BA Hons, changing my career plans and becoming a journalist, working for six different newspapers, becoming the editor of an online festival magazine, starting a blog that would later win an award and feature in an industry magazine, travel round the world solo working with brands that are household names. It’s been a whirlwind few years and I can’t believe half the stuff I’ve done in that time, but that’s just my point, none of the students who have just collected their results have any real idea of what an amazing point they are at. Their whole world is about to change and they have no concept of what lies ahead. It’s exciting and terrifying, my favourite combination of feelings.

Anyone who has made a big decision in their life whether to do with relationships, careers, or even travel, will understand the feeling. That moment when you’re about to take the leap from all you have ever experienced into the unknown, but have no idea what will happen next. As a traveler and a bit of a risk-taker, I’ve experienced this feeling a lot – when I quit my job, when I broke off my nine-year relationship and traveled to the other side of the world solo. All of these moments have been absolutely terrifying and have filled me with a heart-stopping fear, but underneath the fear was excitement for what would come next. For a new challenge and a new way of life, for new people, sights and sounds. I remember sitting in the airport when it finally hit me that I had quite literally quit everything I knew to go to the other side of the world, by myself. It was nuts and totally overwhelming, I can’t deny a few tears were shed as I read the messages from family and friends, but then my flight was called. I pulled myself together, downed my wine and headed to the gate, and the rest is history.imageI’m currently in Berlin on my second solo trip, this time heading around Europe. But before I left I was getting that feeling again, like this little time in my life is over. I’m only off for a month but it’s the end of my time here at home and the start of something new, a whole new trip and a whole new way of travelling. I seem to get this overwhelming feeling that I need to leave every now and again, it plagues me, I never know when it will hit. Sometimes I can be perfectly happy in a place for six months, other times it creeps up on me after a few days, but when it hits I know I have to get gone. That it’s time for a new adventure. A lot of my friends aren’t travelers but they’ve experienced the same feeling – that desperation for a career change or eagerness to get out of a relationship that has gone sour. One of my friends has always had a “cut and run” theory that I share with her, when her gut instinct tells her she’s not happy she cuts her losses in relationships and gets gone. Another has found her passions overwhelmingly taking her away from her career and pushing her towards self-employment – a scary prospect but the most exciting thing to ever happen to her career-wise.

My point is we all have that thing that sets us tightrope walking along the very fine line between completely terrified and beyond bloody excited. But it’s whether we take that leap of faith that everything in front of us is just as magical as what lies behind, that is what decides our course in life. I read this quote the other day:

“You get a strange feeling when you’re about to leave a place, like you’ll not only miss the people you love but you’ll miss the person you are now at this time and this place, because you’ll never be this way ever again.” — Azar Nafisi

It just seemed so perfect for describing this feeling, the fear that you will never again experience this moment – I know I’ve had it a lot when I’ve formed incredible bonds with groups of people along my travels. That fear that by letting go of that perfect moment things will never be the same again. But more importantly, because every decision you make is shaping you as a person, everything changes you as a person. My decision to quit my job, relationship and life as I knew it changed me. Travel changed me. Just like the relationships and career choices of my friends have changed them. We are all learning and growing with every step we take in this world and it can be scary to let go of everything we know, but it’s only by doing that and leaping into the unknown that some of the best experiences of our lives will happen. So here it is, if you’re standing on the pinnacle of a life-changing decision, afraid that you will lose something precious, just take a second and think about what you could gain. By deciding to take the leap and grow as a person, you open yourself up to so many more incredible experiences – trust me, I’m a poster girl for this. Go for it and stop worrying, you have so much more to gain than you ever could lose.

Have you made a life-changing decision? How did you push yourself to take a risk? What is the scariest choice you’ve had to make?

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Fairytales & Legends Day | Norfolk

imageOn Sunday, I had a chance to live out all the dreams of five-year-old me. I was helping out a friend by working an event she had organised in the town where I live – Fairytales and Legends was right up my street, a day filled with Disney princesses, superheroes and dragons. First of all, serious kudos goes to my friend Abbie Panks who organised an absolutely amazing event that filled the town with families and countless excited children in fancy dress and face paints. It was an amazing feat, especially if you know quite how many other responsibilities she has that take up huge amounts of her time. I was so excited to be a part of the event – let’s be honest, anything that gives me an excuse to wear a pink crown and lots of glitter is automatically awesome – but this was such a fun day.imageI was dispatched straight away on important glass slipper and treasure placement, followed by princess liaison duties – yes I will be updating my CV accordingly. And then was sent off as an escort for Batman, Captain America and Spiderman for the day. Essentially I was a bodyguard for Batman, I was mistaken for Captain America’s girlfriend and spent the afternoon preventing Spiderman from being rugby tackled by kids high on e-numbers and groped by some rather forward grandmothers. It was absolutely hilarious. Later in the afternoon I also managed to sneak some photos with the princesses and hung out with Olaf and the girls from Frozen, plus had a lovely chat with the Fairy Godmother. A pretty good day in all! I won’t chat on any longer – instead enjoy some of my pics from the day.imageimageimageimageimageimageimageimage

Did you go to the Fairytales & Legends event – what did you think? Which is your favourite Disney princess?

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Backpacking | My ultimate guide to finding a job when travelling Australia

imageYou’ve booked your ticket, you’ve quit your job, your visa is ready. You’ve got a bit of money saved but you’ve heard how expensive Australia is and figure it won’t be long until you have to find a job. But how easy is it to find a job in Australia? That’s the question that plagues the conversations I have with friends, messages from readers and the Facebook groups for backpackers down under. Well, I’ve teamed up with Dimitri Roumpos of Working Holiday Jobs and Fruit Picking Jobs websites to put your mind at ease and prepare you for job hunting in Oz. I’ve posted before about my top tips for job hunting when in Darwin and top tips for getting that second year visa, but this post will be focusing on the best ways to seek work, what you need to have prepared and how on earth you find a job that will qualify for your second year visa. So sit back and prepare to learn all you need to know to get a good job in Australia – coming from a girl who figured it all out as she went.

What you need to have prepared:

  • A working holiday visa or a student visa to work limited hours – you cannot work on a tourist visa.
  • A tax file number – apply when you arrive and it’s posted out within a few weeks.
  • A bank account – you will need to set this up immediately and make sure you also have a Superannuation account (for this you will also need an…)
  • Australian mobile number – easy to get a SIM from a corner shop/supermarket, go for Telstra as they offer the best coverage even in the outback.
  • White card – this is compulsory for anyone that wishes to work in the construction industry in Australia.
  • RSA – this is compulsory for anyone who works in a job with alcohol involved – bars/restaurants etc will require this and there are different RSA’s available for each Territory. Northern Territory is the cheapest and easiest to get online, New South Wales and Victoria require you to actually attend a session at a centre.
  • CV – always arrive with two or three copies of your resume at the ready. You want to make sure you have one that is in your chosen field with all relevant experience (mine is a journalism CV) then another that focuses on hospitality work with bar/restaurant experience. Then it can also help to have another specialised CV available – I have one that focuses on administrative experience and another on sales experience and all of these have come in handy at one point or another. If you have any outdoor work/construction/manual labour experience, this is also a good one to have at the ready.
  • References – whether you have good references from back home or you put down a mate’s number – make sure they are aware they may get a call and have something prepared.

Preparation is key and having all this ready can really make a difference to the speed at which you find a job and can actually start work. I had all this ready and it meant I got two jobs and started both the following day which really helped my bank account after the East Coastimage

Where to look for work:

  • Sign up to Working Holiday Jobs and Fruit Picking Jobs, like the Facebook page and follow on Twitter to make sure you get instant updates of job alerts.
  • Use social media to ask friends/contacts when you move to a new place – if lots of your friends are travelers too this could help get you a tip. This scored me a great bar job in Darwin thanks to a friend-of-a-friend messaging me back.
  • Word of mouth – speak to other travelers in your hostel, they’ll always know if anyone is leaving and their job might be up for grabs.
  • Hostels – check the jobs board daily and talk to staff, they have all the insider information.
  • Hayes Recruitment are fantastic for finding administration jobs and, if you’re looking for sponsorship, a more long-term prospect. My friend found a job as a property manager and is now being sponsored to stay.
  • Job seeking agencies – don’t get sucked into paying to join a club or job fair who promise to find you a job, just get out there and find it yourself. It saves you money and is quicker.
  • Print off CVs, walk to every business/cafe/bar/shop in town and ask to speak to the manager. If they’re not available, ask what time they will be and go back. It’s much easier to secure a job in person than over email/the phone.
  • Check out Seek and Indeed – they’re great for the professional job seekers.
  • Gumtree and Craiglist are a used a lot more in Australia than the UK – I found my second year visa job on Gumtree. Obviously be careful but don’t write them off as full of creeps. These are great for one-off labouring jobs and these can be almost as good as a full-time job.

It can be difficult to know where to start when you’re job hunting, but don’t let it put you off actually looking. The sooner you start, the sooner you’ll find something. If you don’t have access to a computer go to the library, print CVs at Peter Pan’s for free and speak to everyone. Don’t let it get you down if you don’t find something straight away, just change your approach and get a friend to glance over your CV.image

How to find a second year visa job:

  • First of all try to choose a Territory where you would like to work – narrowing your search to QLD, VIC, NT, NSW, WA, SA or TAS can really help when trawling through endless job lists. Also, you’ll be spending three months in a place – make sure your location is suitable.
  • Be aware that a lot more different types of job count in the Northern Territory and you don’t have to be quite so remote when completing your 88 days there as you would in Queensland or Victoria.
  • Think about the type of work you would like to do – you could do anything from fishing and pearling, to fruit picking or landscaping, even working in a vineyard counts. Think outside the box and turn it into a travelling experience not just ticking off your 88 days. I have a friend who worked in real estate and on a cattle station and said it was an amazing experience, he was glad he didn’t just stick to fruit picking. Check out a full list of suitable jobs here.
  • As mentioned, sign up to alerts from Fruit Picking Jobs and Working Holiday Jobs, plus any others you can find, these are great for finding work. Also, check out Gumtree as this can be a goldmine for second year visa work – be careful and don’t take risks.
  • Look carefully at what is offered as part of the deal – some will offer reduced wages to cover food and board, others will charge you after wages have been paid. Be savvy and compare different jobs so you have an idea of what is fair.
  • Likewise, compare wages for fruit picking, check how they pay – whether by hour or by bucket and make sure you aren’t getting ripped off. You can actually make and save quite a lot of money doing your farm work, but you have to be clever about the job you take.
  • Speak to other backpackers/friends who have completed their farm work and see if they can recommend a job/place, also listen to the warnings. I heard on the backpacker grapevine that Bundaberg was still accepting backpackers despite there being no work, so I knew to avoid.
  • Try and get it out of the way in plenty of time – don’t leave it until the final three months as seasons and work aren’t always reliable. Give yourself six months to complete it and then enjoy the time if you get done early.
  • Make sure you get payslips, evidence of you working – pictures etc – and any paperwork signed off. You need payslips now since the laws have changed – and you need to have been paid for the work. Extra evidence will help you if you end up being one of the unlucky ones to get investigated.

Don’t say I just need to do my 88 days! I was amazed how many people said I need a job so I can do my 88 days to get my second year visa. Whilst we know that is the reason most backpackers seek regional work, stating that that is your pure motivation, does not sit well with a lot of farmers. By stating this your basically saying your heading out to a regional area under sufferance and you can’t wait to get the hell out of there!

Dimitri Roumpos

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Top tips for job-hunting:

  • If English is not your first language, get a friend/dorm mate to check over your CV and right any wrongs. Bad spelling is a big no-no for employers.
  • Be available – if you’re asked when you can start, tell them straight away.
  • Have a smart outfit at the ready for interviews – and if you’re going for a hospitality job having an all black outfit can be helpful in case you’re asked to start the next day.
  • If you can’t find something immediately, ask in the hostel. There are almost always opportunities to work for accommodation or to take on paid roles in hostels.
  • Don’t be afraid to big yourself up – list your skills and talents with pride.
  • If you don’t have any experience, gloss over the truth. A lot of jobs, especially in bars/cafes/restaurants, you can learn on the job so if you’re not getting anywhere you can easily pick it up if you’re willing to work. I don’t recommend outright lies claiming you can do circus tricks while laying tables but it’s okay to bend the truth a little.
  • Ask those already working to recommend you at their workplace – I got a lot of my friends jobs in this way.
  • Don’t give up. It can seem hopeless and frustrating if you don’t get something straight away, but don’t lose hope. Keep at it and you will find something – it’s much easier to find a job Down Under than it is in the UK!

What do the travelers say?

  • “Word of mouth. My friends were at a hostel where the manager finds you the work. Just had to wait til there was a free space at the hostel and then was working two days after.” – Devon Tobin
  • “Go to a cattle station or crop farm where you get to do actual helpful work that’s fun and really teaches you something!” – Holli McCarthy
  • “Remember that people also can do construction in all of NT, SA, Tassie and lot of other smaller towns for the second year.” – Robin Lassinniemi
  • “I had to be up as early as 6am as the farmers were up posting jobs. The good jobs went fast so you had to be up at the crack of dawn.” – Stuart Harrowing
  • “Make sure you’re getting a legal wage ($17ph) and check how many days are you actually being signed off for? Don’t assume a week sign off if you didn’t work the weekend.” – Jodie Green
  • ” I lied about being a farmer in Sweden on Gumtree to get a job.” – Richard Andersson
  • “I’ve heard a few stories about people working picking jobs and having to spend most of their pay just on the accommodation and food but I think if you can make the right contacts and get smart about it, you can find some good jobs out there. Pro tip though: prepare an iPod with all the music/audio books you can get your hands on, three months is a long ass time and the days go faster if you’re listening to tunes!” – Paul Jefferyes

imageWhile I was in Australia, I worked in a bar/restaurant, a theatre box office, as a nanny, on a cattle farm, and in sales. All of them were a great experience and I’d really recommend getting in a range of different work while away. It keeps things interesting and broadens your skill set, plus you can make great money in all of these. Darwin is a good bet if you need work fast, particularly in dry season, I managed to find two jobs within an hour when I was at my poorest. If you need good money quick and don’t fancy taking your clothes off, it’s worth trying sales, I was on $2,000 a week in Melbourne within just a few weeks and it gave me invaluable work experience. If you have any questions about finding work in Australia – leave a comment below, find me on Facebook or Twitter, or email me at absolutelylucy@hotmail.com

How did you find a job in Australia? Any top tips for finding work? How did you find your second year visa job?

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Santorini | Discovering handmade treasures when you travel | Greece

imageSomething I really love about travelling is the shopping – I can never resist a good market or a browse around a boutique filled with delicate handmade crafts. There’s something beautiful about the way so much effort is put into the creation and sourcing of such wonderful products. It’s just so pure when you come from a world of mass-produced fashion where everyone dresses the same and personal style can sometimes lack a bit of soul. I’ve always much preferred something a bit quirky, something not everyone else wears – I love clashing colours, bright prints and vibrancy that reflects my personality. When I traveled in Asia, the markets filled with tie-dye, patterns and colours were made for me, the delicate shall bracelets and coloured anklets were the stuff my dreams were made of and the cheap prices allowed me to reinvent my image every few days.imageWhen I was in Australia, even when things were a touch more expensive, I couldn’t resist the lure of a beautiful handmade jewellery shop in Darwin that has given me one of my favourite pieces of jewellery. Never leaving my ankle, this dainty silver piece was handmade and holds some of my most precious travelling memories close to me wherever I go. It’s amazing really how a well chosen memento can transport you back to a moment in seconds, how it can transform your day with just a glance by reminding you of happier times. Something handmade always seems that much more precious because of the time, effort and heart that has been poured into the creation of it. It just seems so much more special because it is a handcrafted reminder of not only the place, but the people who created it and the history behind it.imageSantorini was surprisingly a hidden gem when it came to shopping after warnings it was an expensive island. I actually found the shops very reasonably priced, especially for the quality of the items on sale. And actually having a suitcase with me instead of a backpack for once – it seemed rude not to indulge! While there didn’t seem to be any markets to browse, there were several shops and lovely little jewellery stalls scattered around Perissa, where we were staying. My favourite item of the holiday was without a doubt my mermaid dish, pictured at the top, it is absolutely beautiful and perfect for holding all my favorite jewellery. I love the shimmering shell and it was a total bargain for something that will fit beautifully with my room at home and make a perfect present for friends. For any other mermaids out there, it’s a perfect reminder of those gorgeous ocean blues when you’ve had a long day at work or the weather is kind of crappy at home.imageEverywhere you go in Greece there are shops selling handmade sandals, wallets and bags, and usually I’m not very interested. But when I stumbled across a little shop full of some of the most beautiful, and quirky, handmade sandals I’ve ever seen – plus a real-life cobbler whipping them up in front of my very eyes – I just couldn’t resist! This shop was amazing and I decided to treat myself to a new pair of sandals which are already the most comfortable shoes I own and I know I’ll have for a very long time. The cobbler was so friendly and even made my mother and I matching bracelets to wear with the shoes. The whole process of watching him create these beautiful shoes from pieces of leather and fabric was just amazing, and it was so lovely to witness as you were buying the shoes. It really gave you a sense of where the shoes came from and made them that much more special.imageFurther along the seafront we discovered a little shop with some of the most beautiful dresses, jumpsuits and jewellery adorning the rails inside. A total mish-mash of creative, colourful trinkets lined the shelves, including some rather odd items such as decorative penises, and a host of gorgeous decorations for your home and even photo albums. I couldn’t resist trying on this beautiful dress, and I found an amazing jumpsuit and dress for my mum, plus I treated her to a cute little bracelet as a reminder of the holiday. The staff were so friendly and put the emphasis on the handmade elements of the clothes and jewellery within the store, that was what really sold the items to us, the fact that they were one-of-a-kind with only one of each in the shop. That’s something you really struggle to find back home where everything is available in every colour and size, so it just means everyone has one.imageIf you’re looking for a handmade gift that is just a little bit more personal, why not try Forever Handmade – they focus on using centuries old techniques to create modern looking accessories. This post was a collaboration with Forever Handmade, but as usual, all views are my own.

What handmade treasures have you discovered while travelling? Which purchases have become treasured possessions?

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Santorini | Where to stay & eat when you visit Perissa | Greece

13892178_10153669370592617_5126173372115806732_nThose of you who follow me on Instagram and Twitter have been berating me over the last two weeks for teasing you all with photos from my rather lust-worthy holiday. Sorry, I’m so not sorry about it. It was without a doubt one of the best holidays I have ever had and oh my, have you seen how crazy beautiful Santorini is? I’m not lying when I say the Greek island has been on my Must Visit list for years, and now having spent two weeks there I can officially say it is just as incredible as I dreamed. All those times I scrolled infinitely down websites and Instagram feeds taking in every dreamy image and every scrap of information about the island, and finally I had the chance to see it with my own eyes. I am such a lucky girl. Even more so, because I wasn’t supposed to be going! My parents had booked themselves a holiday, not knowing when I would be back in the country, but when they realised I would be home, they booked me on to the holiday with them as my birthday present. Officially the best parents and the best birthday present I could ever dream of.image

Where to stay

We stayed on the south-east of the island in the popular resort of Perissa – it’s a good choice if you find the prices a bit steep in Oia and fancy actually being on the beach. After visiting both Oia and Perissa, I would say that for a week or longer holiday, Perissa is a perfect place to stay, but if you’re just going for a few days you would probably want to stay in Oia. Perissa is nestled at the bottom of the mountain and it’s the only place in the world I have seen the mountains meet the ocean on a beach of black, volcanic sand. Even in peak season, Perissa has a relaxed and quiet feel to it and the beaches are never overcrowded, nor are the restaurants. It’s a good place to stay if you want a mixture of relaxing, exploring and activities during your stay – we found it a great base for visiting the rest of the island and enjoying trips. The buses give you great, reliable access to other areas such as Fira, Kamari and Oia, or you could hire and car or bike. Most places in Perissa come with a pool and there are a lot of self-catering apartments available which is great for those that have children or prefer to do their own thing.13872700_10153669383307617_2571551292654911782_nI stayed in a self-catering apartment at Sandy Villas, this place was great with huge rooms, private bathrooms and balconies for each apartment. My room also came with a small kitchen including a hob, fridge and basic items. It had a bar and lounge area with wifi (although rubbish) and offered the largest swimming pool in the area. It was set back from the main strip and closer to the mountain, but I loved that it was a short walk away from everything and it meant having a stunning view of the mountain and the ocean from my balcony, and getting woken up by the donkeys in the morning. A true Greek experience. The owners were very welcoming and friendly, all of the staff were so lovely, especially when they realised I was staying alone. I was really impressed with the place and would definitely recommend it for others travelling as a group, a couple or independently. With a shallow pool, this place is well-suited to young children and many of the groups staying had children with them.13906680_10153669381897617_6894478547748232475_nIf you’re looking for something a bit more adult, try Anezina Villas, it’s much more suited to a couple on holiday with smaller rooms and more of a hotel feel. It was a lovely apartment for my parents with a private bathroom and balcony, although they did find the rooms a little stuffy. It came with a small kitchen area with a fridge and all that was needed to make simple foods if you preferred to have breakfast at the apartment. The outside area was the absolute highlight – the bar and seating around the pool was gorgeous and for sunbathers, you were treated to the most comfortable sunbeds I have ever laid on. Short of being a waterbed, I don’t think they could have been better quality. Likewise, the pool was fantastic for adults, very deep and large enough to enjoy a good swim – not great for children due to the depth.The apartments also come with a swing and play area, a hot tub, and sit nicely in the centre of the town, perfect for strolling to the beach or out to dinner. Both places were fabulous and we would really recommend them if you’re planning a trip to the island.13906635_10153669347502617_1002783273706622821_n

Where to eat

  • Apollon Restaurant – The very first place we ate out and one of my favourites! The staff were great and the food was fantastic – order the Winegrower’s Lamb.
  • Acropolis – We LOVED the woman who ran this place, think Julie Walters in Mamma Mia, she was so lovely and served us the yummiest food. Seafood pasta, lamb chops and meatballs were highlights.
  • God’s Garden – Great service and lots of great deals on meals for two and platters for sharing. We shared a meatballs meal for two and it came with an extra half litre of wine – always a win in my book!

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  • Cyclades – This beautiful restaurant is set in a cobbled courtyard with bougainvillea, a perfect setting for the best moussaka of the holiday. Such a great restaurant that we chose to eat her on the final night of the holiday.
  • Dorians Bar/Grandma’s Recipes – Dorian’s is the bar next door to the restaurant but you can also order food from Grandma’s there if you fancy a drink too. I’m not a fan of gyros normally but the lamb burger gyros was to die for. Seriously.
  • Tranquilo – My favourite hippie-style bar, think hammocks, bright colours, delicious cocktails and great live music. We were lucky enough to be there for their full moon party – an evening of fabulous live music. Great atmosphere and they also do food.

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  • The Volcano – Great food for when you’ve literally just climbed the volcano! We were so stuffed after this meal, the shrimp saganaki and the feta from the oven became my two new favourite dishes.
  • Mermaid Tavern – Without a doubt the worst restaurant in Perissa. The food is terrible, the staff are either children or a guy who kept scratching his bits between serving us food. AVOID.
  • 24/7 Bakeries – Don’t miss out on the freshly squeezed juices, ice coffees and fresh bread/pastries – these places are a haven for breakfasts and snacks. I’ve still not worked out why a town so small needs more than one 24 hour bakery, but hey, it means you’re never far away from one!

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If you’re heading to Perissa, have a wonderful time. It’s a fantastic place to stay and perfect for a holiday in Santorini. If you have any questions about the area or planning your trip, leave a comment and I’ll do my best to help you out!

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Tea & cake at the Blogosphere Magazine Summer Party

imageAs a travel blogger, I’ve spent a heck of a lot of time out of the country since I started blogging which is fantastic but can be a bit lonely when it comes to having real life blogger pals. The internet is a saviour in this case and means I’m found some pretty amazing friends from every niche, but it’s always nice to actually meet in person. I actually first started my blog after being inspired by some pretty incredible bloggers who had turned a hobby into a full time job when I attended a bloggers party as a journalist. I was encouraged to start a blog of my own and thus Absolutely Lucy was born, three years later and I was invited to the Blogosphere Magazine summer party – an incredible event organised by the only industry magazine currently running.imageimageAppealing to all of our good taste as bloggers, the team at Blogosphere organized an amazing event full of tea, cake and some beautiful jewellery, plus plenty of opportunity to meet some pretty inspiring ladies and have a lot of laughs. It was so lovely to spend time with bloggers who have also followed their passion to write about travel, food, beauty, fashion, parenting and all kinds of cheeky topics. To be surrounded by vibrant, real, exciting women who have something to say for themselves and understand the commitment we have all made, the time we spend curating something beautiful for the internet. It’s easy for people to brush over the time and effort that is put into blogging, so it’s lovely when you meet others who do what you do and understand the pressures we put ourselves under for the love of blogging.

13906611_493439657512282_3644149689230291666_nFor the two hour train to London in 26 degree heat, an event has to be pretty good and this one was great – serious props to Albertine Brandon for organising such a beautiful event. We chatted away the afternoon with delicious teas from The London Tea Company and some incredible gluten-free cakes from Pearl and Groove – the raspberry and white chocolate was to die for! It was great to finally meet Albertine, Elaine and editor-in-chief Alice Audley after so long admiring their work, I’m looking forward to more events in future. And I found some great new blogger friends in Oh It’s Sare, Han Meets World, Taylor Mae Makeup, Honestly Aine and many more. Plus it was good to meet the girls behind brands including World Duty Free, The London Tea Company and Jewellery Box. A day spent talking everything from travel and Pokemon to vlogging and photography is never a day wasted in my book.13900331_493043824218532_4781742066757099605_nIt was a pretty busy weekend, even before I had set off to London for the Blogosphere party I had spent a full day reliving my travels at the Cambridge Thai Festival – a day full of Muay Thai, ladyboy shows, traditional dance performances and some delicious food. I went along with one of my blogging friends, Vikki of FrickingVikki, and had a fantastic day in the sunshine. Luckily we managed to skip all the queues to get in, for food and drinks, as we saw some people waiting for quite a while to get tickets, but for £3 entry, the whole event was a total bargain. A full programme of entertainment for two days over the weekend had something for everyone and certainly kept us entertained on Saturday afternoon. Browsing the stalls, there was also a beautiful Buddhist stand where you could meet the monks and chat to some lovely ladies about blessings. Further round we even found a cheeky photobooth where you could get dressed up and take pics in Thai traditional dress – this was a lot of fun! It was a great event and if you get the chance to attend one in future, I’d take it with both hands. It’s always worth checking out what amazing free/cheap local events are taking place right under your nose – next weekend I’ll be checking out a free day of folk music in my home town! Here’s some pics from the day.13903245_10153677941922617_7130469003252046109_n13934997_10153677941857617_170774601652952582_nimageimageimageimage13872850_10153677941782617_7331660002625806475_n

Did you go to the Blogosphere Summer Party – what was your highlight? Have you found some great, free local events?

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Backpacking | My ultimate girl’s packing guide for a long-term trip in Asia & Australia

11873736_10153005033717617_683763527235870508_nI used to love packing for a holiday – the time spent planning my wardrobe, the purchasing of sun lotion and beach towels. Those final moments trying to make everything fit and realising there’s just no way you’ll squeeze in another pair of sandals. I think I used to love it because it only happened once a year so I associated it with the excitement of going away. But now, after an 18 month backpacking trip across Asia and Australia, I think I can safely say, I’m done. When you’ve spent so long living out of a backpack, or trying time and time again to squeeze in your few possessions into your bag with just a few minutes to spare, it gets kinda old real quick. When I was packing for my holiday to Santorini two weeks ago, I thought “oh this will be easy having a whole suitcase to fill!” but how wrong I was – if anything the packing was a lot harder and more stressful. Having all this extra space just paved the way for me to cram more shoes, clothes and rubbish I didn’t need in my suitcase. I actually thought to myself how much easier it was to pack for a long-term trip because you’re less likely to indulge if you have to carry your life on your back.

I’ve started many times to write a packing guide for an extended trip, but have always ended up trailing off to something else. But when Shiply asked me to write about my top packing tips it seemed only right to explain how I managed to cram my life into a 65l rucksack to travel across Asia and Australia for a year and a half. So how do you pack for a long-term trip?11659517_10152807344362396_558828969069746182_n


Choosing a bag

I was lucky and already had a 65l backpack from when I did Duke of Edinburgh a few years ago, it was a good quality rucksack that had been in the sale in an outdoor shop in town. It was strong material, came with lots of useful pockets and had good, thick, supportive straps that would protect my shoulders. If you need to purchase a bag, think carefully when you do, don’t just buy the cheapest or the first one you see. In Asia, you spend a lot of time carrying your bag sometimes great distances, so it needs to be comfortable for your shoulders and it mustn’t be too heavy. If you ask me, 65l is perfect size especially for Asia, but it is also worth seeing if you can find a bag that also has wheels for when you reach Australia. Make sure the bag has strong material – I later had to buy one in Asia and the cheap material ripped very easily. If you’re heading just to Australia, get something on wheels. The whole concept of backpacking is different there and there is no actual backpack needed – you can take a one, but if you prefer you can just use a suitcase or a backpack on wheels which may give you a bit more space.


Shoes

Much like for soldiers in the trenches, as a backpacker, your feet and legs are everything to you. You walk everywhere and in Asia, you definitely don’t want to risk blisters or cuts from bad shoes that could lead to infections. I had a friend who skidded off a motorcycle and scraped the skin of his entire leg – he had a nightmare trying to protect the wound from dust and cleaning it each day. You want to make sure you have comfortable, good quality shoes that will support your feet and will last you. There are three types of shoes you definitely don’t want to leave home without:11751414_10152949592672617_3776395476331486033_n

  1. 1x trainers for walking/hiking and activities. I took Converse with me which lasted beautifully and were really comfortable even when I was hiking mountains and climbing through caves. I later bought some Nike running shoes over there which are my absolute favourite shoes ever.
  2. 1x rubber flip flops for using on the beach, in the showers (trust me) and everywhere else. I took Havianas at first but these broke within a week so I relied on ones from the market which were actually more comfortable and supportive.
  3. 1x sandals – this is where you can take something pretty for the evenings, something a bit smarter for when you hit the bars or want to go somewhere a bit fancier. I’ve found great sandals from Primark/New Look and similar shops that lasted me all around Asia.

Don’t take high heels. You don’t need them, no-one wears them in Asia and I barely saw anyone in them in Australia. They take up space and weigh a lot. Same goes for walking boots – unless you are going specifically just to hike and climb mountains the whole time, trainers will do.


Clothes

Now this is where it gets tricky. Let me start by saying forget all those beautiful boho Instagrams you’ve been stalking – forget the gorgeous floaty white lace items that will be ruined in a day. Keep it simple and keep it practical. If you’re heading to Asia – you want to take as little as possible and just buy clothes out there for a fraction of the price and a lot more traveler style – that’s what I did. I was lucky and already had a lot of summer/festival/traveler style clothes in my wardrobe so I didn’t actually buy much at all. It’s definitely best to use what you have and head to the markets when you arrive, but there are a few key items you want to make sure you remember:11136690_10152722008812617_6311377351277944564_n

Asia:

  • 2x bikinis – one practical for water activities like diving/watersports, and one pretty one for beach parties
  • 2x t-shirt/long-sleeved top to cover up when visiting temples
  • 1x full length skirt/trousers and 1x shorter skirt
  • 1x denim shorts – they go with everything and don’t show dirt!
  • 1x shorts
  • 3x  tops/vests
  • 2x dresses or playsuits (My wardrobe seems to be made up of one or the other, but I think they are the BEST for dressing up or down.)
  • Pants/socks/bras – you decide, but trust me you’ll need a lot less than you think. You’ll be spending most days in bikinis and flip flops, so keep it to a minimum. I took two bras, three pairs of socks and five pairs of pants.
  • 1x leggings and warm top – these are a MUST for when you’re on overnight buses/flights/trains and the air con is on full blast.
  • 1x scarf/pashmina – great for covering up in religious places and warming up if it gets chilly

Everything else you can buy there!11112211_10152889525942617_4295118282751061184_n

Australia:

  • 1x leggings/workout leggings – trust me, these were my most worn items when travelling around or during the winter.
  • 1x big shirt to wear over clothes (my checkered shirt was my fave travelling item and will be the first thing I pack when I go back!)
  • 1x jumper – trust me, Australia gets cold too and you will want a warm sweatshirt!
  • 1x jeans – if you arrive in winter like I did, these are a must!
  • 1x denim shorts, the staple of every travelling girl’s wardrobe
  •  When it comes to underwear you may want a little bit more with you as you’ll use them more in Oz and washing is more expensive.
  • 1x smart dress for job interviews/nights out to fancy clubs if you choose.
  • 5x tops – take a mixture of styles as the weather can vary depending on where you’re going
  • 2x bikinis – one practical for water activities like diving/watersports, and one pretty one for beach parties
  • 2x playsuits/dresses/skirts for nights out

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TOP TIPS:

  1. Always choose patterned and coloured items, white turns grey very quickly when you’re travelling and patterns will hide any unfortunate stains. Also, choose hard-wearing fabrics, don’t go for anything delicate or anything that will crease easily.
  2. If you have to buy clothes in Australia, head to the Op-Shops – they’re amazing and full of vintage/bargains often fresh out of the shops!

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Other practical items

These ones are good ones to remember for any destination:

  • A large padlock for lockers, or even the door to your hut.
  • A small torch
  • A travel towel – takes up half the space and dries much faster
  • Plastic bags – don’t waste money on packing cells when bags will do the same job, just don’t be the person who wakes everyone up rustling in the middle of the night.
  • A sarong for the beaches – don’t bother with a beach towel
  • Jacket/coat/raincoat – look carefully at the weather and time of year you are going. Winter in Australia – you need a jacket. Wet season in Asia – a raincoat is a good idea.
  • A hat – if you burn easily this is important for protection.
  • A smaller carry-on rucksack
  • 2x Adapters so you can charge multiple items

10407945_10153743643145744_3804068750240679927_nSo there you have it – my ultimate girl’s packing guide for a long-term trip. Best thing to always remember is that if you’re starting out in Asia it is a much better idea to buy clothes out there. If you’re spending several months in Asia and have no space to pack for Australia – why not do what I did and send a holdall of clothes back from Asia then either raid charity shops in Australia. Or if you fancy some of your slightly more stylish clothes from back home, get your mum to post out a few of your favourites from home. It’s much cheaper than you think to do this and it can be lovely to get a care package from home with all your favourite goodies, plus it’s always a lovely idea to send a package of gifts for your family. I sent mine a package of jewellery, coconut oil, clothes and Vietnamese coffee – what will you send back from your travels?

If you’re thinking of sending gifts home or want your family to send out packages to you, why not try out Shiply? The courier service will deliver to almost anywhere in the world and will take all manner of items – perfect for travelers all over the globe.

Disclaimer: This was a sponsored post but as usual all opinions are my own.10417584_10152668456562617_4921039091851626771_n

What are your packing essentials for a long-term trip? Which items have been your most worn when travelling?

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Australia | It’s tax back time and I’m celebrating!

imageI write a lot about budget travel – about how to make every dollar and very pound stretch that little bit further and how to make the most of what you have. Because that’s what we backpackers do, we make every penny count towards the incredible life we build on the road. I know people who have slept in parks, lived on instant noodles and even taken up questionable jobs to make ends meet and to keep the experience going just a little longer. We all do what we can, I’ve been the poorest I’ve ever been in my life while travelling and still managed to keep my dream alive instead of heading home. Those are the moments that define us, when travelling stops being easy and things go wrong, when you don’t know how you’ll afford a bed for the night or how you’ll pay for food for the week. This is when we really have to work for our travelling dream and damn, do we work. I’ve worked some of the hardest and most demanding jobs of my life since travelling, I’ve given them every hour of the day, every last bit of energy I had, and then some. I’ve worked two jobs when everyone else was partying, and in one job I was treated the worst I’ve ever been by another human. But it was all worth it, just to stay one more day and keep it going.

Whether you agree with us backpackers being able to claim back our tax or not, you need to realise that we don’t just do it on a whim. These claims come after a year of working our asses off and often being treated like crap – without any control over what was happening. Now I’m not saying all employers are like this in Australia – some are incredible and give you amazing opportunities, but there are also a lot who take advantage of the fact that we are travelers. The ones who give us no hours at all or refuse to give us time to sleep and when we ask for a day off, threaten us with the sack, or the ones who refused to pay friends of mine after they had completed the work. The fruit picking farmers who take advantage of the fact that you’re desperate for that second year visa by forcing you to work for an unfair wage, refuse to sign you off because they don’t like you or even try it on with you. My own experiences with farm work were pretty dire, I’ll talk about that more in a later post, I’ve had landlords refuse to pay back bonds and stop returning my calls. And don’t get me started on the hostel owner from hell who used to scream in the faces of my friends who worked there and treat them like dirt on his shoe. My point is, we as backpackers get messed around when we’re over there. I know it’s not the only side of the story and there are lots of businesses who have been messed around by bad workers who were backpacking, but after my experiences I don’t feel guilty for one second for claiming every cent back.

So when it comes to this time of year and you start getting those reminders through about claiming your backpacker tax back, oh boy do you smile. Because now more than ever, you realise how it was all worth it when the money you’re getting back will pay for your entire West Coast trip. Considering how much I managed to see and do while I was in Australia – a month in Sydney, six weeks on the East Coast, four months in Darwin, three months in central Queensland for farm work and three months in Melbourne – I also managed to work a lot. If you’ve worked in Australia and claimed your own tax back at any point, you’ll understand why I feel like I’ve had a bit of a windfall and am grinning from ear-to-ear. All that time when I was getting overtaxed for my sales job has paid off because now I can see it like an extreme savings scheme that has just paid out. It’s an amazing feeling to know that I already have a nice pot of money, plus my savings, waiting for me when I return and that I can start planning my incredible West Coast road trip straight away. There’s something very satisfying about paying for your whole trip yourself – I’m always proud of the fact that I’ve funded my entire adventure despite what some people might think. But it is lovely when you get a bit of a bonus like this, it’s like a pat on the back for all your hard work in making your dream come true. Because let’s face it, we all dream of winning the lottery, of picking the right scratch card or just getting plain lucky and coming into just enough money to pick up and take off without a second thought.image What’s that quote? “If travel was free, you’d never see me again” and how true that is, if it wasn’t for the expense I would have probably traveled the entire way around the globe by now. There are so many countries on my bucket list but I know the one thing standing in my way right now is money, without it I’m just not free to achieve all I want in life. The truth is, when it comes down to it I don’t need much. These days I carry my life on my back and don’t have expensive tastes – I’ve spent much of my travelling time sleeping in wooden huts and travelling with the locals. The problem is that travel does add up when you’re jetting all over the world. Even if you’re staying in budget accommodation and eating from street markets, to keep it going for any length of time you’re talking thousands and if you have a taste for the more luxurious then you better start stacking the notes. Everyone at home has been talking about winning the lottery lately, it’s like some new version of the American Dream – as if a windfall would answer all of our problems and take us off to a new life of utter freedom. And who’s to say it wouldn’t, these days money spells freedom and that’s all any of us really want, freedom from the mundane, working life, freedom from the rubbish weather at home and freedom from expectation. Money buys you an escape, and therefore buys you freedom.

That’s why getting this tax back is so amazing and why it makes such a different for travelers – because it means that instead of the dream being over it can extend for just that little bit longer. For me, it means going back to Australia with dollar in my bank, enough to fund the next exciting part of my travels. For others, it means months of travelling Asia or South America, a boost to your New Zealand fund or even a chance to travel Europe. So many travelers I know are so grateful to get their tax back because it means they can continue living their dream just that little bit longer before returning home, to reality. It gives us freedom to continue living the backpacker life for as long as possible, and to make the most of every cent before we go back to a life of saving and living for payday. If you haven’t already applied for your tax rebate – why the hell not? I worked for about nine months of my first year and I’m getting more than the average tax back of around $2,600 – so it’s definitely worth doing. Don’t be put off by the paperwork – it doesn’t take long and it’s more than worth it for the cash! Either head to the Australian Government website to claim it back independently (super easy) or go through TaxBack.com if you want someone else to do the legwork for a small charge. Either way – don’t miss out on claiming back your money because you’re lazy – that’s your next travelling fund right there!

What are you spending your tax rebate on? How did you claim back your tax – can you recommend a way? Have you claimed from other countries?

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