Category Archives: Travel Features

Everything I love about travel.

Making plans for another huge year of travel in 2017

15181277_10153970689502617_3934123284494633256_nNow that the new year is well and truly underway, it’s about time I gave you a little life update. This blog has been a little infrequent the last few months and I know that means many of you actually have no idea where I am right now. Well, after a month of flat-hunting and staying with friends as I job searched, I can now officially say I am all settled in my amazing new flat right in the middle of Melbourne city, I have an awesome job working in a rooftop bar, and life feels pretty damn incredible. Once again, Melbourne feels like the home I’ve been waiting for and I couldn’t be happier to be back surrounded by all my amazing friends, and a whole heap of new ones. I know the blog posts have been few and far between since I left England again, but between Bali, Cairns, road tripping through Tasmania and now Melbourne – it’s been pretty hectic. Life just got in the way and I won’t apologise for that, because life is exactly what this blog is about – living every second to the max. And I can assure you I’ve been doing just that.

Yesterday was officially my two year travel anniversary, just two months ago I hit my 30th country, and I’m already making plans for the next exciting year of travel. I’m still the same girl who left home two years ago, I still have the same best friends at home, the same family and I’m still happily single and independent. But I’m also an amazing new version of myself – happier, brighter, bolder, crazier and ready to take on the world with every step. I’m capable, I’m knowledgeable and quite frankly, I know exactly what I’m doing, I don’t second guess myself. It’s the best version of myself I’ve ever been and I plan to keep taking steps to evolve and grow myself in this direction, I can’t see any reason why not to. So for all the people who have asked when I’m coming home, or when I’m going to stop travelling. My answer is who knows, whenever I get bored of growing as a person, learning, changing and being happy – but it won’t be anytime soon.

If you haven’t seen my post from just before New Years, check it out here to read about my travelling highlights from 2016. It was a year of serious highs, and one serious low, but you can’t live the highs without having the lows to compare them with. I use the lows to add fuel to my fire and make plans for the future, it’s the one thing that pushes me to make snap decisions and to book the trip, or take the plunge. So for all those girls out there who message me almost daily to ask about their relationship problems, or choosing between love and travel. Two years on, I will still say that choosing travel over love was the best decision of my life, that we remain the best of friends but both say this was the best thing to ever happen to us. That choosing to keep travelling and forget the love that I found on the road was also the best decision I could have made, because I know otherwise I would have regretted it and been let down. It wasn’t so much choosing travel over love, but choosing myself over people who would just let me down. That’s not a selfish decision, it’s a smart one and because I chose well, I have no regrets.15181702_10153970688737617_8366636806619897556_n

So what are the big travelling plans for 2017?

I’ll now be settling in Melbourne for a few months to work and save money for my big West Coast road trip – hopefully happening around March/April – when myself and a friend will drive from Melbourne up to Darwin over a few months. I’ve been looking forward to this trip since arriving in Australia and I know it’s going to be the best yet. Then up in Darwin, we’ll be taking in all the National Parks as I work and save for my last few months in Australia – gotta make the most of these $$$.

After my visa runs out, I’ll be having a month-long holiday somewhere in Asia – possibly the Philippines as I’ve been desperate to visit since I arrived in Asia. I’ll be craving huge untouched beaches by then and a chance to relax and detox after Darwin. Then I’m hoping to be joined by one of my best travelling friends for a huge trip to South America where I’d love to spend a few months travelling as much as possible.

It’s all just a vague plan at the moment and it may all change at the drop of a hat, but it’s exciting to have goals for the year. So this year will be less countries ticked off, but I’ll be crossing at least three continents and should hopefully get at least another five countries ticked off my list which is far more than many people around the globe. I’d say I’m a lucky girl, but I made all this happen by investing in myself and my trip. You can make it happen too, it’s very easy, just make a decision to do it and you’ll get there.15230746_10153970703987617_5186619301054171263_n

My New Year’s resolution?

Forget all this “New Year, New Me” bullshit, I’ve been doing awesome the last two years so if anything, I’m planning to keep up my attitude to life and following my own bliss – the rest all falls into place as a result. Stop worrying about the small negative things and the rest suddenly becomes the everything you’ve been searching for.

What are your New Year’s resolutions? Where do you plan to travel in 2017?

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2016 – The end of another amazing year of travel

15747862_10154056897662617_3367207312712882158_nThere’s no doubt about it, 2016 has been a pretty incredible year for me. I’ve had some soaring highs and felt pretty low at times, but I’ve also had the chance to experience some thing I never could have dreamed I would. I crossed three continents and ticked off my 30th country, worked with hotels, spas and restaurants either side of the globe for this blog, I said goodbye to love so that I could travel Europe solo and I made some incredible friends along the way. I’ve worked as a sales manager, a cocktail waitress, a journalist along the way and all the while I’ve been working on creating amazing content for this blog. 2016 has been a year of working hard and playing harder, and as it draws to a close I can’t help but reminisce over the special times I’ve shared with amazing people. From the teary goodbyes at the airport, to the mates I’ve shared incredible road trips with this summer, to the incredible welcome home I got from some of my best friends when I arrived back in Melbourne. Getting the opportunity to celebrate a real Aussie Christmas surrounded by so many amazing friends was a perfect way to end the year. But what have the highlights been?

My top 5 travelling experiences of 2016:

Melbourne

Without a doubt, Melbourne is my number one for the year. Voted the Most Liveable City in the World six years running, it’s no wonder I’ve just moved back here for the second time. I lived in Melbourne at the start of the year and it was the first place in nearly two years that had felt like home. I had an amazing flat, a great job as a sales manager, the most incredible friends and I completely fell for a great guy. Now I’m back for round two and I’m already well on my way with a great job at a rooftop bar and my own brand new apartment. Melbourne, you are well and truly my second home.12742300_10153292964597617_7986843509108504989_n

Budapest

A city I had dreamed of visiting for years, Budapest was everything I had imagined and more. I loved the history, the beauty, the architecture and the people I met there. Part of my summer backpacking trip around Europe, it was a perfect opportunity to explore the city independently and to have some amazing experiences. One of my favourites was eating dinner in a traditional Hungarian restaurant with my newfound Aussie and Norwegian mates talking about the world under a blanket of stars. Visiting Budapest reminded me how much I love exploring a new city alone on foot, and it’s a city I can’t wait to revisit.image

Slovenia

Slovenia was an amazing experience – not only did I get to explore some of Eastern Europe, a dream of mine for several years, but I was invited along on my first blogging trip. It was an amazing privilege and a reminder of how hard I have worked to build up this travel blog over the last few years. Spending a week at a luxury glamping site on the Slovenian/Croatian border was a fantastic way to see the country – from woodland hikes to swimming in the rivers, to visiting locals and eating feasts of freshly caught local fish. The people, and the place, made it unforgettable.image

Bali

My second blogging trip of the year came about only as a last minute plan – I was at a low point and unsure of what my next move would be when one of my best travelling friends invited me to Bali. It was the best decision ever and led to my being invited along to review hotels, spas and restaurants on the island. What was supposed to be a week-long trip turned into a month and yet I still wasn’t ready to leave. I explored the Bali countryside on motorbike, visited temples, explored monkey forests, swam in the waves, spotted manatees and swam with sea turtles. It was the holiday I had needed – not just travelling, it was a holiday and one of which I appreciated every second.img_2178

Tasmania

Definitely the most breathtakingly beautiful place I have been yet, by far. Tasmania was somewhere I had longed to visit since arriving in Australia and “mini-New Zealand” definitely lived up to the hype. I spent three weeks there staying in the best hostel I have found yet in Australia, exploring Hobart and road tripping around 11 national parks in just 10 days. I hiked for days on end, camped wild under the stars and the full moon, I climbed several mountains and spotted countless whales, kangaroos, wombats and wallabies. It was a magical experience and one I’m so glad I made happen, it was just what I needed. A true breath of fresh air.img_2381

After such an incredible year, it’s hard to imagine just how 2017 could top 2016. I’ve travelled to eight different countries this year, I’ve lived in two of them long-term, I’ve gone from outback living to city slicker to beach babe and total mermaid. I’ve taken my clothes off on top of a mountain in the snow, I’ve changed my mind in 10 minutes and booked a spontaneous flight to the other side of the world. I’ve refused to stop living my dream for anyone other than myself and I’ve made a plan for the future. It’s an exciting time to be Absolutely Lucy and it all starts again when the clock strikes 12 on New Years. Another fresh start, another exciting adventure and another dream come true. I’m ready, are you?

Where has been your favourite place to travel to this year? Have you enjoyed following my adventures? What are your travel plans for 2017?

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If you’re making travel plans for 2017 already – look no further than Sunshine for cheap holidays that will bring your dream destination a little closer. With hotel deposits from just £1 and holiday deposits from just £50, they’ll help you make your dream trip a reality.

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

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

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

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

What attracted you to the job?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What are the perks of the job?

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

What is the highlight of being a flight attendant?

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

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

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

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

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

Can you see yourself doing it long-term?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Infographic created by Opodo.

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Travel | Why a fear of flying shouldn’t stand in the way of taking the plunge

img_2080As I travel further and further around the globe, I meet so many inspiring people along the way. People who have defied the odds, who have left behind whole lives, careers and even loved ones behind to pursue their love to travelling. I’ve met some amazing men and women who have put their fears aside and who have broken free of the norm in order to keep exploring the world around them. Some of them fighting fears that have previously left them shaken and restricted, instead channeling their worries into finding a solution to living their travelling dreams. One of my very good friends has become a total inspiration to me after she refused to let an almost crippling fear of flying stand in the way of her travelling the world. Instead of letting it hold her back and squash her dreams she has used her fear to become more creative in the ways she travels. Now, years later, she has explored around 30-40 countries by making her way over land and sea to places like China and Russia, even braving the flight to Australia! By facing her fears she has achieved so much and that is endlessly inspiring, she may still be afraid of flying but she has shown herself, and others, that she won’t let it stand in her way.

When you think of exploring the world around us, many jump straight to the thought of long-haul flights and gap years, but there are so many different options available to us. No matter what kind of traveller you might be, there is always a travelling style to suit you. It might mean inter-railing around Europe, sailing around the Caribbean or motorbiking around Vietnam, but there are countless ways of getting out there and exploring the world around us. While I do love flying, it isn’t always the most cost effective way to travel and I’ve found myself keenly using buses, trains and cars to get around. Here are some of my favourite ways to travel without flying:img_2376

Top ways to travel without flying

Cruise the coastline

As I experienced in Greece and more recently, in Bali, it can offer you a whole other experience to travel by boat. Whether a cruise liner or a smaller boat trip, you get a totally different perspective on the landscape and, in turn, the country. I haven’t yet had the experience of a full cruise liner but I have enjoyed boat trips of several days in the Whitsundays during my time in Australia, in Bali and Vietnam, and in Greece. It was a great way to travel and gave us plenty of opportunity to spot some incredible wildlife in its natural habitat while spending our days snorkelling, diving and paddle boarding. Cruises come in all shapes and sizes – from the shorter few day-long trips to those of several weeks that span rivers, oceans and more.

And If you fancy exploring other countries, there is a whole new selection of cruises departing from the UK heading to places like Spain, Portugal, France, Germany, Ireland, Scotland, Greece and Gibraltar.img_2375

Hit the road

Road trips are a fantastic way to see the countryside and get off the beaten track. You have total freedom over the route, the stops and, most importantly, the snacks! Road trips around Tasmania and Bulgaria have been some of my favourite trips in the last few years and I’ve loved the chance to explore the wilderness at my own pace. Plus it gave us great options to stop off and camp along the way – I’m planning to do the same when I travel the West Coast of Australia next year. Check out my guide to the perfect Aussie road trip on a budget here.

Train for your trip

The train is a method I’ve used less so far but having friends who have raved about their experiences inter railing around Europe, Russia, India and Sri Lanka, I know it’s something I’ll be trying out a lot more in future. It gives you the best of both worlds – no chance to get sea-sick, no stress of driving on unfamiliar roads – instead you can just sit back and relax with a good book as the countryside slips by the windows. If you’re travelling on a strict time schedule, overnight sleeper trains can be a life-saver by allowing you to catch some precious zzz’s as you move between one destination and the next as I found in Vietnam.img_2379

Bus it up

Overnight buses are either great or really bad in my experience – some are spacious and comfortable with good drivers and snacks. Others are cramped and traumatic from start to finish, but I can’t deny they are a great way to get from one place to the next – I lived on them in Asia and Australia and they were often the best, if not the only, way to get between places.

Don’t let a fear stand in the way of what could be the best time of your life – whether it’s a holiday or long-term trip you’re planning. The only way to beat a fear, is to face it head on. You never know, you could have the time of your life!

Have you faced a fear to travel? Tell me about your experiences with dealing with fears when on the road.

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

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

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

My experience

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

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

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

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

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

Holly’s experience

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

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

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

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

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

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

Coping with your au pair job:

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

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

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

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

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Travel | How to budget for a gap year and plan your trip

imageOne of the most common messages I receive from readers asks about how to budget for backpacking. I write about saving money and how to plan trips a lot on this site, but one thing I really want to focus on is how you can possibly know how much you will spend on a long-term trip. After all, at home you’ve been living month-to-month rinsing those paycheques dry until you’re watching the days creep by towards pay day. The thought of not having a steady income and relying entirely on your savings can be scary for some – so it’s important to budget correctly and plan realistically if you want to have the best time. I’m all about making the most of your money and every possible experience – I don’t want to miss out on a single trip, meal or massage. BUT, I aways manage to do it on a budget because let’s be honest – I’d rather keep travelling as long as possible than indulge in a week of full luxury.

So how do you budget for a long-term trip?

First of all you need to establish how long you want to travel for and where you plan to go – weighing up the cost of living/travelling in each country. For instance – travelling in Asia is the cheapest travelling I have found and I could easily do a year there on the money I would need for 5-6 months in Australia. But when travelling Australia I have been working along the way and earning a small fortune compared to what I could save at home in the UK. If you’re on a break from work and only have a month – perhaps consider Europe which although expensive is a great way to see a lot of countries in a very short space of time. If you’re looking to travel for six months on a tight budget, Asia is fantastic – you can see so many different countries and the cost of living well is very low. If you’re looking to work abroad and fancy doing a year abroad – why not go for a working holiday visa in Australia, New Zealand or Canada and try a combination of working and travelling?image

What kind of trip?

What are your priorities when you travel – are you looking for a full cultural experience of staying with locals? Are you planning to party your way around the world? Or are you a thrill seeker who wants to try every adventure trip going? You need to factor in the cost of trips/alcohol/food/living costs and be realistic. Always over-compensate – what’s that quote?

“When preparing to travel, lay out all your clothes and all your money. Then take half the clothes and twice the money.”

I couldn’t agree more – take as much money as possible by giving yourself enough time to save and cutting costs wherever you can (check out my top tips here). I worked five jobs for a year before going away the first time – it was worth every miserable second when it meant I saved £10,000, didn’t have to work for nine months and lived like a queen! I personally like a balance of cutting costs, partying a lot and adventure trips so I always think about how I can balance them. Sometimes I will stay in the cheapest accommodation possible and live off instant noodles so that I can justify an amazing road trip or island cruise. Other times I won’t be interested in trips and will spend all my money on cocktails and my own private hut on the beach. When I budget for my trip I take that into account and over budget my living costs. I always try and budget roughly £1,000 a month no matter where I am – then I know that in Asia I will hugely underspend which balances out in Australia when I definitely overspend, likewise with Europe I budgeted more because I knew I was travelling around a lot very quickly which costs more – best way to cut costs when you travel? Stay still for a while in a cheap place and just live simple.

Be realistic

We all have those times when we accidentally splash too much cash, when we shop too much in the markets or take our card on a night out then look at our account the next day with horror. I know I’m definitely guilty of that at home and since I’ve ben travelling – but it’s good to acknowledge it. If you admit you are possibly going to do it, budget for it and give yourself a cushion of cash to keep yourself out of the red.image

Don’t forget

Remember to account for any home costs while you’re away – if you’re still paying rent on a house or phone bills/credit cards you need to make sure you have the money available in the correct accounts at all times. You need to make sure you can afford to do this and don’t end up in more debt as a result of messing up your money or under-budgeting.

Don’t let budgeting put you off

Remember you will never have as much money as you would like. It would be great to live in that dream world where you have a constant supply to keep you going, but it may never happen. Don’t let that stop you from travelling – I know people who have gone away with £1-2000 for a long trip and who have just figured it out along the way. I always think the less money we have, the better we are with it. And always remember – there are so many amazing options for working abroad these days – those working holiday visas I mentioned earlier, see if your own current working company can transfer you abroad, study abroad, teach English around the world, volunteer, work for accommodation. The options are endless and there is always a way to make your travelling dreams a reality. I’ve been both the richest and the poorest I’ve ever been since travelling and I can assure you I’ve lived the dream throughout both. If you’re determined and committed to making it a reality, you will always find a way.

This post was a collaboration with Auto Advance.

Need budget tips for your upcoming trip – leave a comment below with any questions! What are your best budget tips for preparing for a long-term trip?

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Travel | 10 ways to make long-haul flights bearable

imageWhen it comes to tropical holidays on those pure white sandy beaches – often it seems nothing but a dream to those with one great big barrier standing between them and paradise. Long-haul flights are either amazing or horrendous – every person feels a little differently about them but for so many they actually prevent them from exploring some of the world’s most exciting and beautiful destinations. I’ve always loved flying, since I was a little girl I loved the excitement of getting up in the middle of the night and stealing away to the airport, of watching planes taxi down the runway and eventually that moment when you take off to somewhere hot and sunny. But despite enjoying them for the most part, I will definitely admit long-haul flights are a slog and having several connecting flights can be a total mood-kill when you just want to be on holiday. In the last two years I’ve completely lost count of how many flights I’ve been on, both short and long-haul, and I’ve literally flown from one side of the world to another several times, so I’m getting pretty good at knowing what makes my life a little better when I travel.imageThe team behind Optrex are also pretty good at knowing what will help make that journey a little easier – when they heard I was flying to Bali they popped a little something in the post for me. Their Cloud Nine kit was just what I needed to get me through a long layover between flights in Dubai airport. The box came complete with a great little travel wallet to store all my important travel documents – the perfect size for your passport and money. To keep me entertained on the one flight there was a pair of headphones which block out noise from the plane engines and the departure lounges as I listen to my chill mixes and caught up on some zzz’s. For someone who normally just sticks to earphones, these were a great new addition to my hand luggage. Finally the highlight of the package – the brand new Optrex Warming Eye Masks – one of their newest products and one that I now swear by for travelling. I never would have thought of an eye mask as something useful for travelling but it was a total game changer on that flight to Bali. When you pop the mask on it instantly starts warming the skin around your eyes and soothes tired, dry eyes – as someone who suffers with hay fever, I could tell they would be great for easing the itchy feeling. The masks are perfect for sensitive skin and use Microsteam technology that is air activated, they’re available unscented or with a hint of lavender to help you sleep. I’ve been rationing the rest of the pack on my flights since to make sure I always have at least one mask in my bag for any long journeys.image

So many people actually let a long flight stand in the way of them seeing what’s on the other side of the world, when there are so many ways to make long-haul flights that little bit easier. Check out my top tips for changing your in-flight experience:

10 ways to make long-haul flights more bearable:

  1. Dress smart – the clothes you wear to the airport can change your whole experience. Always put comfort first – I usually travel in leggings because they’re much softer than jeans and they don’t wrinkle. Plus you can make them look much smarter with a nice top. Always take a scarf to block any drafty air conditioning on the plane, and remember to try and look a bit smarter – you’re more likely to get upgraded if you look the part. I always get cold when I travel so I always take a few layers with me.
  2. Home comforts – you’re going to be travelling for up to 24 hours with barely a break, things are going to get a bit gross. Always pack your toothbrush and toothpaste – it’s amazing how brushing your teeth can make you feel like a new woman. And I always pack face wipes and moisturiser so I can take my make-up off, or put it on. Plus the air on the plane is very drying so it can feel amazing to put moisturiser all over your face.
  3. Bring entertainment. Whether you take your laptop and work through the flight, a book to read or music to listen to, make sure you have something. Most long-haul flights come with in-flight movies and entertainment now but it still doesn’t hurt to come prepared in case those break or are unavailable – 24 hours is a long time to stare at the seat in front of you.
  4. Eat – I always treat travel days like treat days – I usually never know where my next meal is coming from and find myself bored and waiting around a lot so I just make it my business to eat as often as possible – my record is 12 meals in 24 hours. Calories don’t count if you’re on different continents.
  5. Head to an airport lounge for some pre-flight relaxation – if you’re going to spend the next 48 hours travelling, it’s nice to treat yourself a bit before. Lounges offer a perfect place to unwind, eat and pamper yourself before taking to the skies.
  6. Catch up on sleep – a lot of people struggle to sleep on long flights, the noise and lack of legroom can make it hard to relax enough to sleep. I know I usually end up either working or watching movies the whole way then end up feeling wrecked when I arrive. But a perfect chilled playlist on your iPod can change everything – I always make sure I have a few super chilled albums to listen to – my favourites are The XX and Lapsley at the moment and never fail to relax me enough for a good sleep.
  7. Organise yourself well beforehand. By making sure you have all your travel documents to hand, all your visas are in order and your airport shuttle at the other end is booked – you’re free to relax and enjoy the journey.
  8. Give yourself peace of mind by ensuring that your home and belongings are safely locked up at home – check out my guide for keeping your home safe when you travel.
  9. Don’t forget your manners and talk to the staff – airline staff get a bad rap when behind-the-scenes they do a very hard job. They are in charge of your in-flight experience and can make-or-break it for you, so throw a smile their way and chat to them – it can be the difference between a miserable and a great experience.
  10. Always remember, the journey is just as important as the destination – some of my greatest travelling memories have been the anticipation of the trip and the experience of getting there. Don’t get so caught up in the length of the flight that you forget to enjoy the pre-holiday build-up!

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What are your best tips for making long-haul flights bearable? What are your most important hand luggage items?

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Travel | Top tips for keeping your home safe while you travel

imageWhether you’re heading off on that much anticipated two week holiday or you’re heading off on a huge backpacking trip, it’s important not to get so carried away you forget to safeguard your home. So often it is the last thing we think about when we’re going away, but it is actually the time when our homes and our possessions are most vulnerable. With thieves getting smarter and so much of our personal lives being available for the world to see on social media, it only takes one bad egg to take advantage of your trip to line their own pockets. But as ever with travelling, planning is key and can save you a lot of time, hassle and money. So when planning your next trip, why not put some of these suggestions in action and see how much of a difference they make. You can spend as much as you like on a luxurious resort, but if you don’t have peace of mind that your home is safe, there’s almost no point in being there. Treat yourself to full relaxation on your next holiday by making sure you’ve done everything in your power to give yourself a good homecoming.

What can you do to protect your home?

For city breaks/summer holidays:

  • Make friends with your neighbours – they’re the best security watch you can get and they’re totally free (well, perhaps get them a box of chocolates to say thanks for watching the house)
  • Stay off social media. As hard as it can be to not boast pics of you sipping on cocktails in the Maldives, there have been several homes targeted by thieves who knew people were on holiday from social media.
  • Get a house sitter – there are lots of websites where you can get house sitters for any length of time – in exchange for a place to stay people will watch the house and any pets you may have. Or ask a friend/family member to do it.
  • Install a security system – good quality systems are available for all budgets these days and will offer 24/7 monitoring of your home and possessions. Check out this Panasonic Smart Homes System.
  • Make sure the building is secure before you leave – all doors/windows should be locked and make sure expensive items are not on display, you don’t want to tempt any opportunist thieves.
  • Don’t close all curtains and make the building look abandoned – it is very clear when no-one is home and it is most vulnerable. Instead use net curtains/blinds to block views into the downstairs rooms, leaving the main curtains open and making the building appear active.

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For the long-term travellers:

  • See if you can find someone to rent or live in the property while you are away. If you can’t find a renter, consider Air BnB (which will also generate income) or house sitters to make sure there is always someone at the property and that it doesn’t sit abandoned.
  • Ensure the building is secure before you leave – check all exits and entrances, all windows and doors for vulnerable points or anywhere that could be a target for thieves. Replace any weak joints/hinges that could become a problem in six months.
  • Making friends with neighbours or having a friend/family member who can monitor and check up on the building is a good idea whether you have renters or not.
  • Installing a security system can be a good way to instantly alert authorities or family if there is a problem and the property is unattended.
  • Place any expensive items that will not be used (i.e. cars/TV/computer) in secure storage so they are not left in an unattended house.
  • Make sure your house insurance/contents insurance is up-to-date no matter where you are in the world or how far away it all seems. It only takes a burst pipe or an opportunist thief to cause serious damage at your home and you want to be covered for all forms of loss.

Don’t suffer from FOBA (Fear Of Being Away) – get out there and enjoy your travels by doing all you can to protect your home while you’re away. Just as you padlock up your suitcase and buy travel insurance as a back up in case anything goes wrong – make sure you look after what’s waiting for you at home. Also, stay safe abroad by checking out my safety tips for travelling solo.

Have you been a victim of theft while on holiday? What security do you put in place at your home while you travel?

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Travel | Planning your Northern Lights adventure

nl-spitsbergenWe’ve all got those places on our bucket list, the ones that fire up our imagination and lose us in daydreams when we’re at work. Mine is already never-ending, but there will always be certain places on there that stand out as ones that would be totally unforgettable. I’ve written about my top choices many times but this time it is more poignant than ever – by the time you read this I will be down in Tasmania. Going from Bali to Cairns, then down to Tasmania is around a 30 degree drop in temperature and don’t get me started on the humidity. It’s going to be a brutal shock to the system – so why am I doing it? Because it is exactly now that the Southern Lights are in full force with some of the strongest bursts seen in a long time. I only discovered that the Southern Lights were actually a real thing round a year ago and vowed I simply had to see them with my own eyes. You’ll already know how desperate I am to visit Iceland and see the Northern Lights, but spending so much time in the Southern Hemisphere due to my travels I’m a bit restricted on opportunities. So I thought I’ll put Iceland on hold, but the Southern Lights are an absolute must-see while I’m down here – that way when I finally get to Iceland I’ll be able to say I’ve seen both!

Now I hate repeating myself and always want to bring you guys fresh new posts – so this time I’ve worked with Best Served Scandinavia to help you plan your trip to see the Northern Lights. There are so many different ways to experience them that it’s important to find the perfect trip just for you.nl-tromso

Where to see them?

When you talk about the Northern Lights, everyone’s mind jumps straight to Iceland but it’s not the only place you can see this natural phenomenon. Heading up towards the Arctic Circle, you can also glimpse the famous green glow in the skies over Norway, Sweden, Finland or Greenland. You can even see them in Canada and Russia! Each of these places will die you that same opportunity to see the Lights but to perhaps get a little off the beaten tourist track and will give you the opportunity to visit somewhere a bit different. The best time to spot the Northern Lights at their brightest is between September and March as the darker and longer nights make them clearer to the naked eye.nl-thingvellir-national-park

Where to stay?

Once you’ve narrowed down a place, it’s important to make sure you book a place to stay as early as possible. As you can imagine, resorts get booked up pretty quickly and if you want to score a night in one of the luxurious lodges with hot tubs and a glass roof to watch the lights from your bed, you better lock in the dates quick. I know when I eventually get to go, I would want to go all out and experience all the amazing luxuries that come with the Northern Lights trip. I’ve spent a lot of time daydreaming about staying in an igloo with a glass roof at so I can watch the Lights from my bed, or a snow hotel, or a safari camp like this one, or even a treehouse! There are so many incredible options available and you could even combine different ones to really give yourself some once in a lifetime experiences.nl-lapland

What kind of trip are you after?

It’s also important when planning to decide what kind of trip you’re after. Are you taking your partner for a weekend of romance under the Norther Lights, or are you in the mood for a luxury spa experience, or are you a bit of an adventure seeker like me? There are so many other amazing activities you can try out around light spotting, it’s a good opportunity to fill your days with amazing memories as well as your nights. Depending on which country you choose there are options like dog sledding, horseback riding, visiting the Blue Lagoon, visiting volcanoes and waterfalls, sightseeing palaces and cathedrals, cruises and much more. It’s worth bearing that in mind when you choose the country you want to visit.nl-horizontalOnce you’ve made all the big decisions, it’s time to jet off and just enjoy your trip. Pack some warm layers and a good camera to capture the magic of every last moment – this will be a holiday to remember for years to come. If you need any help organising your trip to see the Northern Lights, look no further than Best Served Scandinavia to answer all of your questions and help you plan the perfect trip.

Have you been to see the Northern Lights, or the Southern Lights? How was your experience – can you give any tips for a first-timer?

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Travel | 20 romantic experiences every travelling girl should have

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

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

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

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

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

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