Category Archives: Relationships

All my relationship experiences whittled down into some sound advice.

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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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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Birthday thanks, love and celebrations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Relationships | 20 things that made me realise I’m in love with my life

image1After writing last Friday’s post, I really got to thinking about my life now compared to a year ago and how happy I am. To put things in perspective, this time last year I was living it up in Thailand with a bunch of great mates and partying my arse off. Now, I’m writing this from my new home of Melbourne while my roommate snores his head off, and yet, I think over the last two weeks I’ve reached new levels of happiness I didn’t think were possible. So I decided to start a list, of all the moments I’ve had recently that have made me feel grateful to be alive and happy I made the decisions that have led me to this point. Because, if you read my last post – you’ll know that this Valentine’s Day I’m taking the time to celebrate being single, independent and the happiest with myself I’ve ever been. Forget giving out roses and chocolates, I’m taking the time to think about and be thankful for all the things that are giving me the rosy glow of happiness.

So what has made me realise i’m in love with my life?

  1. Finally achieving something that has been my goal from the very beginning of travelling – I’m living abroad and settled in one spot of my choosing, and Melbourne is a city that I really want to build a life in.
  2. Coming home – arriving in Melbourne to a huge, warm welcome from so many of my closest Darwin friends meant the world after three months alone in the outback. They are the family I have while I’m thousands of miles away from my own.
  3. I’m technically homeless and jobless right now, but it doesn’t stop me walking around with the biggest smile on my face.
  4. I’ve finished working in the worst job of my life and smashed it, got my second year visa and haven’t gone insane – I really can cope with anything!
  5. I’ve just spent three months going to the gym every day and am probably in the best shape I’ve been since before I came travelling – I feel healthy and fit, such a great feeling for a backpacker.
  6. The other night, I actually chose to stay in instead of hitting the clubs, instead I sat on the balcony and blogged for hours as the sun was setting – getting to indulge my passion and not being afraid to turn down a night out shows I’m confident in what I want to do.
  7. I no longer feel even that slight tummy pinch of nervousness when I go somewhere new – now I’ve been travelling so long it is just excitement at change.
  8. Linked to above – I’ve never felt more confident in my abilities to travel solo, make friends wherever I go, and to handle this shit.
  9. The other day, I made a new friend and was telling him about my travels and my life – through his reactions I got to see myself through someone else’s eyes and realise how awesome my life is. Sometimes we forget to really appreciate what we are doing as a whole.
  10. Since being in Melbourne I’ve actually started to make more effort to not look so homeless after Darwin and the outback’s more relaxed style – but I’ve really realised how much I prefer myself without make-up after six months of barely wearing it. I love that I’ve reached a point where I feel confident and happy without it.
  11. Despite six months off make-up, I can still do a perfect winged eyeliner on my first attempt punches the air
  12. This blog is smashing it right now – shortlisted in the UK Blog Awards, working with amazing brands every week, and a huge response from readers old and new. So great to see it take off in such a big way after all my energies.
  13. I’ve ticked off so many amazing things from my bucket list in the last 12 months, many of them I didn’t even know were on there! And I finally got to swim with a sea turtle!
  14. I’ve made a decision that I’m so happy doing what I do, that I’m not stopping after the year-mark. I’m not taking a gap year and heading home like some, I’m turning this into my lifestyle and have travel plans for the next year already!
  15. I’m also reaching a point where I know in the next six months I will be happy to return home for a short while to reconnect with friends and family – a sign of contentment that I am happy to return to the place that forced me to leave.
  16. My head, and my heart are filled with amazing memories of sights, sounds, tastes from along the way, the people I’ve met who have changed my world and my beliefs. I feel so grateful to have experienced so much.
  17. I’ve had quite a few messages lately from readers who have said that my blog, and my life, is inspiring. I’m not sure whether I agree, as I think this is something that anyone could achieve, but to regarded as inspiring is something that in turn inspires me every single day to carry on and to keep writing.
  18. I’ve realised that I’m nearly 26 years old and I have not a single regret – i’m not sure there are many people in the world who can say that. I feel so happy with every decision that I have made because it has led me to this point and I wouldn’t change that for the world.
  19. My values have changed – I realised since arriving in Melbourne and being surrounded by shops and every convenience, that I simply don’t need any of this stuff. Far more precious to me than the latest from Topshop are the memories I’m making.
  20. I’m excited for the future, but I’m not stressing or worried about anything – I literally don’t have a care in the world. I’m just excited to see what comes next and totally accept that whatever happens will happen. For a girl who used to worry about and organise everything, this is a huge change.

So there we go, the 20 things that have helped me realise why I’m so in love with my life and if you ask me, that’s by far the most important love you will have. Whether you were in a relationship or not this Valentine’s, take a moment to think about whether you are happy with yourself and your life – its something that is so easily brushed over in the busy day-to-day. Why not take 15 minutes out of your day to make a list like this one about all the positive reasons you are in love with you life, and why you are happy with your lot. You might find that actually you have a lot more love for the way things have turned out than you think – or it might just highlight a change you know you need to make! Either way – take the time to love yourself, your life and everything in it.

Tell me what you love mot about your life – what are you most thankful for? 

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Relationships | Why we shouldn’t be afraid to be single and love ourselves

12310435_10153179434847617_7636386476727184663_nAs Valentine’s Day approaches, I can’t help but remember just two years ago when I was crazy in love and whisked off my feet with all the hearts and roses that come with the holiday. A romantic dinner for two and a year later, who knew that I would spend my next Valentine’s Day at a Half Moon Party in Thailand more single than I had been in a decade, that two years on I would be preparing to spend the day at a festival with good friends. It’s amazing how much your life can change with your relationship status and it’s only been since I left my nine year relationship to come travelling that I have really noticed how much others really let their relationships rule their lives and their decisions. Even now, when I tell people I left behind such a long-term relationship to travel the world solo, they look at me incredulously and think I’m slightly crazy – but then I ask, wouldn’t it be crazier to put your dreams on hold and end up resenting the person you love the most? Begrudgingly they nod in agreement, but then you seem them do it again, and again, and again. Sacrificing their studies, their hobbies, their families and homes, all for a love that changes their world but not always for the better.

Two years ago, for Valentine’s, I wrote a blog post entitled “Relationships | What’s it really like to have a boyfriend at university?” which has still remained one of my most popular posts. It seems that the title of this post was something that several young women found themselves typing into Google as they tried to plan a future with their loves, tried to make a decision about their own education and future, and tried to keep the balance between what their head and heart were screaming. Over the last two years, this post has probably received the most comments and messages above all of my others, and it seems to be a bit of a hot topic for young ladies who are about to advance to this stage of their lives. Sixth Form and College is around the time when many young couples start pairing off and often you’ll find your first love, I certainly did. It’s a great time, when you’re learning what it’s like to first love another person, to be part of a real adult relationship and to be regarded as a “real” couple instead of foolish young teenagers. It’s easy for this love to take over your life a bit and we all went through that phase where we didn’t want to leave each others’ side, but then comes the pressures of university – whether you decide to go or not, often this can be the decider for whether many couples will survive. Often one half of the couple will have a longing to continue their studies as I did, while the other half will have a plan to either study elsewhere, or not at all. So what do you do when this happens?12313819_10153179433117617_7363152210766884983_nSo many girls have written to me explaining how worried they are that their relationship will not withstand the pressures of university and separation. I’ve had some asking whether I think they will make it when their other half already spends his time eying up other girls or flirting, I’ve had others ask whether the distance will be a problem, and I’ve had far too many asking whether I think they should change their lifelong university preference to attend the same school as their boyfriend. Something I want to make clear is that I have always been a very independent person, so has my ex-boyfriend and thats part of the reason we loved each other so much – we both trusted each other to give as much space as needed throughout the nine years and I think that’s why we were so happy throughout. When it came to me choosing my university and course, he had no input into my choice. I told him all about the universities I visited and about what my options were, but that was the extent of his influence. I made my choice of university based wholly on the course content, the campus, the people and the feeling of the place – from the moment I stepped on to the campus at University of Hertfordshire, I knew this was the place I had to spend the next three years of my life. Because that’s what it was – my life. Not his, although he was a huge part of my life after three years. But I knew that regardless of where I was, what I studied or how far apart we were, if we truly loved each other we would make it work. And if it didn’t work, I certainly didn’t want to be anywhere but my first choice of university.

The same happened when I came travelling – I made the decision separately that this was what I wanted to do, just like my other half decided he wanted to go to university to study. Independently we knew what was right for each of us, and mutually when we discussed it, we came to a decision that we both had to go our separate ways in order to be happy. Whether it was a permanent or temporary decision is another matter, but we both knew we had to do this otherwise we would end up resenting each other. It was easily the hardest decision of my life, but now, over a year after I left, I can tell you it was the best decision I ever made. Much like my choice of university, it has led me to one of the happiest times of my life, and yes, it does mean I’ve had to say goodbye to an incredible relationship but it also means I’ve chosen to invest in myself. Because being single doesn’t mean being lonely – if anything, since being single I’ve never been surrounded by such love, light and laughter, I’ve actually made some of the best friends and family of my life. So many seem to stay in a relationship because they are scared of the alternative, but what are you really afraid of – not having anyone’s shadow to stand in? I look around and see so many young women in relationships that make them feel insecure, afraid or unhappy, and I wonder why they stay. I’m entirely independent and alone at this point in my life and I’ve never felt stronger, braver or happier. Being single has made me fearless, given me incredible confidence and made me really value myself as an individual.

I’m not saying that every woman out there should go dump her boyfriend this Valentine’s Day (that would be a bit mean wouldn’t it?!), I’m just saying that it is important to celebrate being independent and single as well as celebrating retaining your individual identity when you’re in a relationship. Don’t be afraid to make independent decisions within a relationship, especially when it will have a huge impact on your own life. It’s easy to get swept up in coupledom, to let your loins take over your thought processes but don’t forget that when it comes to things like education and travel – these are things that change the way you view the life you live. If you already fear that the change will challenge your relationship beyond repair, then perhaps that relationship was not as strong as you first thought. But that’s okay, some people are destined to dip in and out of our lives gently influencing us along the way, while others exist to shake our worlds to the very core, changing and rebuilding them in ways we never expected. It’s easy to get them mixed up and sometimes a big change like university or travel is needed to show one from the other. But whichever type of relationship you have, it’s not as important as the one you have with yourself – that is the one you should be investing the real time, effort and love into, because its the only one you can guarantee will last for life.

How do you remain independent within your relationship? Can you think of a time when you have put yourself above the relationship? What have you sacrificed for love – and was it worth it?

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Lifestyle | On celebrating wild women and free spirits

imageWhen I was born, I was a little unexpected. For a start, I was a “mistake”. My parents were expecting a boy when suddenly out popped this little girl that looked a bit like Mowgli from The Jungle Book and couldn’t sit still. From the start I was a very independent child, unlike my sister who had to be sat on my mother’s hip at all times, I was running around and causing havoc from the very beginning. I was going to be called Jack until this creature who was very obviously a “Lucy” arrived. It makes me wonder, if I had been born a boy what would have been different – would I still have become a journalist and quit my job to travel the world? Would I still have an unhealthy love for cheese and wine? Or would I be a completely different person? I feel like my entrance into the world helped set the tone for the rest of my life, which so far has taken some pretty unexpected turns. I remember when I first announced to friends that I was coming travelling, some were shocked I was giving everything up and going it alone. Others, who knew me well, were unsurprised. More than one of them actually said they kind of expected something like this from me, that I’d always been a bit of a free spirit even when I was working full time and in a long-term relationship. I guess not much has changed about me since then, I just cast off all the shackles that were keeping me tied to one place so that I could experience total freedom for a while.

Growing up, I was always more of a boy’s-girl than a girl’s-girl, I always had my gang of close girlfriends but would always find myself spending more time with the guys. Back then I struggled with the bitching and “girl talk” that came with one particular gang and it kind of put me off female friendships a bit. I’ve never had any interest in people who want to talk about others negatively – I love the kind of people who want to build each other up and celebrate each other. But then some amazing women came crashing into my life that changed all that – I’m a very lucky girl to have a pretty special group of female friends both at home and on the road and they have completely changed my opinion. My friends at home are these amazing, creative, independent and exciting women who have an opinion on everything and will stand by you until the end. They’re the kind of women who will never make you feel bad about yourself, won’t make you judge other people and won’t make you feel insecure. Instead they bring light into your life, and colour, lots of it. A night with them is well spent whether you’re debating over a glass of wine, setting the world to rights over dinner, or dancing like fools in the club. They’re wild women, they’re passionate and have dreams. They don’t sit around waiting for a guy – they go out and work hard to earn their own money and they make their own dreams come true. They’re fearless and bold, they’re brave and they inspire me.imageWhile nothing will ever replace those incredible creatures that keep cheering for me and supporting me even when I’m the other side of the world, I’ve met some pretty amazing souls since travelling as well. The kind of women who make you feel like you can take on the world and do anything you set your mind to, the ones who will be your cheerleaders, who will be your shoulder to cry on, your tough love when you need it and the kind of women you will be friends with for life. I feel like when you meet people travelling it is so different to making new friends at home, it’s like you see their soul laid bare from the very beginning and people aren’t afraid to dive in the deep end. I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve met these beautiful characters who have laid their cards on the table from the first day and by the end of it we’ve been declaring our love for each other. People aren’t afraid to be exposed, if anything they’re more willing to be themselves no matter what. I love that, I love when people are unapologetically themselves. It’s refreshing to meet people who are fearless in expressing their ideas and opinions, who don’t try to fit in with any crowd or way of thinking. They’re free spirits and wild women and they’re everywhere. I saw a quote the other day and it really summed up what I’m trying to say in this post:

There is no competition between wild women. Their spirits are too free to be caught in a tiny space of envy. Instead they dance together and allow the good to flow abundantly amongst each other.

I love this. This is something to be celebrated. Not just among women, but I wanted to use this excuse to focus on the incredible women I have met in my life. We should always make it our business to be as wild and free as the world will allow – to follow our hearts and to dream big. And, even more importantly, we shouldn’t allow envy or jealousy to make us judge the achievements of others. At the end of the day, life is tricky sometimes and we all need a bit of help and support along the way, we should do our best to give this to all the women in our lives because we never know when we’ll need it returned to us. To all those who live their lives meekly and afraid of what others will say – stop. Live loudly and proudly, be excited and passionate and chase what you want out of life. Be one of those women that inspires you, be one of those women that inspires others. Whether your free spirit travels the world, creates something amazing or loves with great abandon – go full throttle on life and you’ll never look back with regret. I’ve spent the last three months living in the outback and it’s made me more grateful than ever before for my tribe: the girls here in town who have got me through, the girls across Australia who have kept cheering me on, and the gang at home who have been a ear when I needed to vent. Every single one of you have kept me inspired, supported and excited about life even after the toughest day at work. Thanks to you, I made it through. So I’ll end on this note, make it your business today to think about the women in your life, the ones who are wild and free and inspire you at every step. Let them know what a big part they play in your life.

Have you got an amazing gang of girlfriends? How have your girls inspired you? 

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Relationships | Why it can be great to start a New Year single

imageChristmas and New Year are definitely some of those times when people really start to think about their relationship status – a bit like the post-Christmas bloat, it’s something that hangs over every festive party and moment under the mistletoe. It can suck a bit to be single at Christmas, to not have someone special to keep you warm and to get you that extra special present. But it can also be great to be single at Christmas – you don’t have to feel guilty when you sit there and eat an entire cheeseboard in one sitting then spend the night farting in bed, and no awkward decision about whose family you’ll spend the day with. When it comes to New Year, this was my first as a single girl for nine years – which seems crazy to me. Basically as long as I’ve been old enough to go out drinking I’ve been in a relationship, more than a third of my life. And it was a good relationship, a great one in fact, but 2015 was all about the start of something new, about taking control of my life and doing something for me. I broke off my relationship and left to travel the world solo, a year later I should be heading home but have decided I’m not ready for my adventures to finish yet. Last December 31st I was surrounded by good friends and spent the night celebrating with my other half. But this year, it felt right to celebrate independently after the year I’ve had. I’ve conquered all sorts and I’ve done it all by myself, so I was more than happy to be a single girl as I took my first steps into 2016.

This time of year it’s easy to get caught up in the romance of the season – all those engagement rings popping up on my newsfeed, all those cute couple photos in matching Christmas jumpers, and all those New Year kissing photos. We’re blasted in the face with the expectation and the pressure to be in a happy relationship or left to feel like failures, but I have to ask, isn’t it more important at this time of year to be looking inwardly and thinking more about the relationship we have with ourselves? New Year is always a great time to look back over the year as it comes to a close – at what we’ve achieved and suffered, learnt and lost over the last 12 months. We’re all planning and making goals for the year ahead, but so many are setting goals, more like ideals for where they see themselves in 12 months. They’re thinking about things like relationships statuses, job goals, having their own homes. All of these are great in their own way, but why not take the time to think about how mentally healthy and happy you are. Two Christmases ago I took a two week break from work and from life – I finally had headspace to think and after the two weeks was up I realised I didn’t want to go back to that life. That was when I realised that how I was working and living was not making me healthy or happy – it was time to plan an escape and my next moves. That was when I began saving, when I bought a plane ticket. A year later, I hopped on that plane and never looked back.

It’s not the answer for everyone and I’m not saying this to tell you to go do the same. Travel might not be your way of healing but starting 2016 on your own could provide you with a good opportunity to really look closely at your life. Are you happy? Are you on your way to achieving what you want out of life? If not, why not? This is your chance to claim 2016 as your year to work on you – do what I did, step back and reassess. Our goals change as we grow as people and sometimes the ones you set a while ago will no longer fit the person you have become – if you no longer want something why work towards it? Evolve your goals and you will find happiness in working towards what you truly want. If a job no longer makes you happy, look elsewhere and find one that does. Feel like work is taking over your life? Take a step back and explore your passions in your free time. Unsure whether a relationship is still giving you what you need – make a change, end it or go in search of something new. It doesn’t matter how trapped you feel, even if it feels like there is no way out, there always is. But you have to be willing to make the first move – once you’ve taken that first step it turns into the easiest and most natural thing in the world, but first you have to take a leap of faith.

It can be a huge change that all your family and friends talk about, or it can be something tiny that just makes a world of difference to you. Either way, having the courage to examine your life and really think about where you want it to go can be simultaneously the scariest and most valuable thing you do this January. Why? Because it will help give you focus and goals for the year ahead – to find the happiness you’ve been searching for. 2015 was my happiest and freest year yet – it was so amazing that I skipped my flight home and chose to stay and carry on for as long as possible. I’m looking forward to seeing what 2016 brings – I’m just hoping for more happiness, the love of many new friends I have yet to meet and even more opportunities to follow my passions. Most importantly, I’m not sitting around and waiting for life to happen to me, I’m out there making it happen for myself.

Have you made any New Years resolutions? What are your goals for this year? Is travel in your plans for 2016 – where are you heading? 

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Darwin | I left my heart with the Dingos | Australia

imageThis post has been a long time in the making. I’ve started writing it about a hundred times and scrapped several copies. It’s just hard to know where to start, to even begin to find the words to describe the amazing group of people that have made your Australian experience complete. But it seems appropriate to post this at Christmas, a time when we are all thinking about family. I’ll be honest and say that when I planned my trip I was really excited about Asia and New Zealand, but saw Australia mainly as a place to earn good money in-between as I was only expecting to stay five months. I didn’t really have many expectations for the country as I didn’t really know enough about it despite knowing so many travellers who have been here. Arriving in Sydney, visiting Melbourne, and then travelling the East Coast was amazing and I wouldn’t trade a second of it, but I couldn’t help feeling like I hadn’t yet seen the real Australia, it was just partying your way along the beaches. But then I arrived in Darwin, it was hot and dusty and full of outback attitude. People drove around in pick-up trucks and there were drunk aboriginals laying in the streets, if you did anything that went against what was normally socially acceptable you’d just hear the locals cry “well fuck it you’re in the Northern Territory now, everybody does what they want”. It was clear from the start that anyone who lived there did it for the lifestyle – different to other parts of Australia, everyone just worked to pay for having a good time. There was no reason not to go out on any night of the week and the weekends were sacred.imageimageI was staying at Dingo Moon Lodge – which was great on the surface in the sense that it had a pool and wifi, free laundry and breakfast. But beyond that it was a bit of a dump, riddled with bed bugs and the owners were awful. They would spend hours in the office screaming at the staff – my friends – for nothing and often would come in and throw away people’s possessions from the washing line or the kitchen for no reason. But you know what they always say, it’s not the places you stay or the things you see that make the experience, it’s the people you meet along the way. I’m a firm believer in this and it’s one of my main reasons for travelling – I’m a journalist at heart and I’m driven to talk to people, to discover the world around me through people’s stories. I want to know where they’ve been, their annoyances, their loves and deepest desires, I want to know what makes them tick and I want to know where they’re going. So it makes sense that Darwin is where I met the most diverse and beautiful group of people yet in the whole of Australia, that this is what made my experience and my time at Dingos quite as special as it was. As the title of this post says, even now, nearly two months later and hundreds of kilometres further into the outback, my heart is still with the Dingos who are now scattered across the world with some in Melbourne, Sydney, Asia and Europe. But no matter what the distance, I know that all of us feel the same.imageimageSo how did it all start? Well as I said in my job hunt post, a group of us all rocked up at around the same time and formed a pretty close-knit group as we hunted for work, but over the next week or two even more dingos arrived and became a huge part of our group. We were ever changing and ever growing, but all accepting as people from all over the world came to join our ranks. It was great to be surrounded by so many people from so many countries and one thing I loved was that there were actually very few English there. I was constantly surrounded by French, German, Irish, Swedish, Aussie and many more accents – this is what I came travelling for! Being in the hostel with so many incredible people meant I had a family right from the start, and other backpackers will know that in the right hostel you quickly become very close to those around you. You cook together, you eat together, drink together, work together, party together and sleep together. Before you know it, they’ve become the biggest part of your life and you can’t remember what it was like without the family around you. It’s a pretty special experience to go from being a solo traveller to feeling like you have the biggest family in the world but it seems to come at exactly the right time. It’s easy to forget that even when you’re travelling people are going through their own personal dramas and we had our fair share. We had everything from relationships, and even engagements, that were taking place with thousands of miles between the couples, we had work stresses and money worries, depression, we even had one guy who was fighting to get residency so he could stay in Australia with his child. But the important thing was that with our dingo family, not a single person went through anything alone. And I tell you, the day our friend got his residency approved was a big day of celebrations for everyone there, it meant the world to each and every one of us because we had been there every step of the way.imageimageSure we partied a lot and some of the great memories I have are of nights when we were all drunk and rampaging the streets of Darwin or attempting to find our way home from a rave with one token naked guy. But there are also so many special memories of us all just hanging out, chatting shit and putting the world to rights. I lost count of how many nights were spent sitting around a long wooden picnic bench that we were just waiting to collapse beneath the weight of us all, drinking Whispers and laughing at one thing or another. Or the times we would cook up feasts for groups of us in the kitchen, or laze around the pool catching some rays. The times when we would scrape ourselves out of bed for the free breakfast and attempt to make conversation before heading back to bed until a normal hour, or those mornings when my roommates would wake me up by playing “Bitch Don’t Kill My Vibe” for the millionth time. Those nights getting ready to go out when we would have the tunes playing and would make stupid music videos in the dorms or have photo shoots, the nights when I would finish work at 10pm and get thrown in the pool fully clothed as I walked in the gate. The days spent making up crazy competitive games with the boys in the pool, or attempting to climb the trees in the yard. All those spoon sessions, Sunday Sesh BBQ’s, surprise birthday parties and don’t forget the time Robin got my name tattooed on his bottom! Then there were the chilled nights when we would all veg out in the dorm watching various different movies but would all have to stop every five minutes to show each other something hilarious. Starting up art club when we were hungover and needed to colour something in mindlessly, or sunset walks to the park or beach, and midnight runs and workouts on the esplanade. My head, and my heart, are about ready to burst from all the memories.imageimageSo here it is, my attempt to conclude a post that I don’t even think I have done justice to. I want to thank every single member of the dingos – whether you were there from the very beginning or you came in right at the end – for being the best friends a backpacker could ask for. For picking me up when I felt down and for being as excited and happy about everything as I was the rest of the time. For making me laugh until it hurt, for making me dance until I could no longer stand, for making me party until I dropped. Everything about you made my Darwin experience more than I could ever have dreamed of, and for that I am grateful. Most of all, I want to thank you for making me fall in love with this country – you made me see the real Australia and you made it harder to leave than any other place has since I started travelling. And if ever there were a time to talk about #squadgoals I think this is definitely it! Here’s to three months of going full bush like never before – best three months ever! For the travellers who have moved on to Asia or returned home, good luck and see you again! For those who are working their way down to Melbourne for our huge Dingos reunion, I’m counting the seconds until I see you again.image

 

Have you found an incredible traveller family like the Dingos? Which place stands out in your memory because of the people you met along the way? 

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Travel | Top tips for maintaining relationships at home while travelling

imageSome friendships break at the first sign of trouble – perhaps a boy gets in the way, or the distance becomes too great, or it’s just not as easy peasy when you’re not in the same class at school together. What it comes down to is often laziness when your lives start taking you in opposite directions, a shame, but often it is the best way to cut down your friends to the ones who really deserve to be on your Christmas card list. I’m talking about the ones who will pick you up in the middle of the night when it all goes wrong, who will sit out with you until the sun comes out talking about life and setting the world to rights. Those soulmates that you know you just can’t live without, whose voices appear at the end of the telephone line at the slightest sniff of trouble and scream with excitement at any tiny piece of good news. They’re the ones you want around and they’re the ones who stick by you even when you make a life changing decision to jet off across the globe without any idea of when you will return.

I won’t lie to you, it’s not easy to maintain friendships and relationships over Skype and Whatsapp, many just won’t make it. But the world we live in makes it easier than ever to keep in touch and there really isn’t any excuse for not showing the people you love how you feel. Often I find friendships like these fall into one of two categories – there’s the ones you speak to all the time, whether it’s just a like or comment on a picture on Facebook, a long old chat on Whatsapp, or FaceTiming once a week to update each other on all the gossip. Then there’s the friendships that seem untouched by time, the people you don’t speak to for weeks, even months on end and yet you know that you could call on them any time of day for help, or even just a chat. Both types are just as important and I know my best friends fit into both of these categories and all of them are just as important to me while I’m out here, as I hope I am to them. When it comes to family, there’s nothing more important than letting them know you are safe and well, and for you to know the same about them. Trust me, if you’ve ever had drama while travelling or felt unsafe at any point, you’ll know the first thing you want to do is call home.image

 

So how can you keep these friendships and relationships alive?

Compromise is key
They have to understand you are travelling and that you won’t always have good wifi or the time to be on the end of the phone or message 24/7, just like you have to understand that life at home goes on without you and that family and friends have lives and jobs too. Try and organise a time that suits both of you to Skype or message, that way everyone is happy.

Flexibility helps
Sometimes you just need to talk to the other person even though it’s the middle of the night, sometimes you’re upset or things have gone wrong, or you’re just plain homesick. Other times, your best mate’s cat might have died, or his girlfriend dumped him – perhaps they need to talk. Or there could be a family crisis that doesn’t fit in with your free time for skyping. Be flexible and open to talking when it doesn’t suit, it might be necessary.

Be honest
If something the other person has said or done has annoyed you, just come out with it. You know how they always say married couples shouldn’t go to bed on an argument? Well it’s the same principle even when you’re thousands of miles apart. Often they don’t even know you’re annoyed but just saying it out loud can ease the problem.

Make the effort
There’s no debating – relationships are built on the effort you make and the time and love you put into them, if you can’t be bothered to call and catch up or to listen to their problems every now and again then you can’t expect them to return the favour. Friendship and family are a two way thing, let down your end and you can’t be sure the other end will still work.

Don’t forget the small gestures
Sometimes it can just take a thoughtful tweet or Facebook message to make a person’s day, things like wishing them a “Happy World Elephant Day” because you know it will make them smile. Or sending them a message to say how proud of them you are for passing an exam or coping with something big by themselves – remember to do the small things.

Don’t go changing
Travel has a huge impact on your life and you can’t deny it changes your priorities, but don’t let it change who you are as a person. Remember the people who were with you from the start and don’t forget to value them even when you’re swept up in meeting new people and making new friends.

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Have you lost touch with friends at home? What’s your preferred way of keeping in contact with friends and family? Do you prefer to message all the time or save it for a big catch up?

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