Tag Archives: foreign travel

Travel | Top tips for being a happy camper

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

What makes the perfect camping experience?

Tent

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

Camping spot

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

Food

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

Location

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

Price

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

Timing

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

Company

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

Happy camping!

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Travel | 5 cruises that will satisfy the adventurer in you

14264056_10153770394817617_8465574241067378914_nCall me a free spirit. Call me crazy if you want. But I’ve always been a spontaneous traveler. I remember the days when I would book a holiday months in advance and wait impatiently for it to creep round for two precious weeks of escapism and there was nothing wrong with that. It was my life for a long time and for many it is the only way to live around a full time job and family. But what really gets me going is spontaneous, unpredictable, exciting, adventurous travel. The thought of picking up and taking off in a heartbeat, waking up in a different city where no-one knows my name or my story. The is why I’ve always preferred travelling independently and not going on organised trips where everything is planned out – they can be great and I have friends who have raved about them. But for me, at this moment in my life, I need crazy wild adventures. I know there are so many out there like me, and I know how important it is to find ways to make travel as adventurous as can be, so when Planet Cruise asked me to write about my dream cruise experiences, I couldn’t resist thinking of ways to incorporate my adventurous side with an organised trip.

Lucky for me, Planet Cruise are a company that really does cater for everyone and they have a huge range of cruises on offer – from the coastline of the UK and the fjords of Norway, to the romance of the Indian Ocean and the sparkle of the Northern Lights. There is sure to be a trip that sets your wanderlust a wandering! For me, I wanted to focus on the cruises that really push boundaries, that would take me to far off climes and exciting new landscapes while giving me the opportunity to see them from a very different vantage point than that of an airplane window or a coach. So what are my top 5 cruises that will satisfy the adventurer in you? Well you’ll have to read on to find out!antarctic-penguins-dive

Antarctica

The ultimate for any traveler – this one is a serious bucket list item. Imagine reaching the ends of the earth where there is nothing but ice and penguins. To see a world almost untouched by man and vastly undiscovered. It looks so magical and really would be a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I’m a big nature lover and I think it would be absolutely breathtaking just to see this raw landscape with my own eyes, to see the ice walls, the spiralling snow and the bare land.galapagos-bay

Galapagos

As I said, I’m a serious nature geek and the Galapagos contain some of the most incredible creatures including one of my favourites – giant tortoises! I have a rescue tortoise living in my garden and am pretty attached to him, so the chance to see a giant version of him roaming free on these volcanic islands would be amazing. Plus a chance to explore with experts on the animals and environment would be a fantastic learning experience. A perfect place to step back in time while experiencing all the comforts of the modern age on board a ship.mombasa-kenya

African River

Imagine cruising down the Nile spotting hippos and crocodiles as you weave your way through Ancient Egyptian history. As someone who still remembers so clearly being fascinated by the Egyptians as a child, this would be an incredible experience. Seeing with my own eyes all those famous icons, the pyramids and the Sphinx that previously I had found among the pages of history books. Plus getting to experience an African safari would be the ultimate bucket list item.glacier-bay

Alaska

This breathtaking and captivating landscape sounds like one of the most exciting yet with a whole range of ways to experience this unique part of the world. This time your cruise will take you through glacier walls, allow you to sail alongside whales and experience the midnight sun. In a place where wildlife outnumbers people, there is no better place to see moose grazing on the fresh grass, eagles soaring and humpback whales breaking the water’s surface. With no fewer than 10 national parks to explore, there is no end of amazing sights to witness. And there’s be a huge range of activities available on and off board – you can experience everything from helicopter rides and dog sled rides to whale watching, forest ziplines and much more.santarem-brazil

South American River

A luxury cruise in South America would give travelers the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to explore Machu Picchu, Sacred Valley, Cusco, Lima and more on a Peruvian river cruise. Along the way there would be amazing sights along the Amazon with pink river dolphins, caiman, giant otters and many more unique local species. Step into Charles Darwin’s shoes by then extending the trip to include the Galapagos cruise experience as well.south-africaNow if that doesn’t get your adventurous taste-buds tingling, I don’t know what will – I know these trips would be enough to get me excited! Any chance to see such amazing creatures as penguins, giant tortoises and pink dolphins in the wild would be beyond my wildest dreams. And getting to explore everything from the icy, barren landscape of Antarctica to the lush, green Amazon and the dry, dusty shores of Africa would be an amazing experience. All these cruises, and many more, are available at Planet Cruise.

Have you been on a cruise – where did you go? How was your experience? Where would be your dream cruise go?

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Melbourne | Partying at St Kilda Festival & White Night | Australia

12742849_10153297889262617_2785038916657325425_nOne of the things I love the most about Melbourne is that there is always something going on. It’s a lively city full of hidden gems and quirky, unusual events and I’ve already lost track of how many unexpected treats I’ve found since exploring the city. From the tiniest little food festivals to the Mardi Gras-esque street parties, there is always something new to discover and where better than to prime your taste in Australian music than by attending St Kilda Festival? Australia’s largest free music festival, the event showcases a range of the country’s national and local talent on huge stages set against the natural beauty of St Kilda’s beach. The event attracts over 400,000 people each year and this year took place on Valentine’s Day, which also just happened to be right in the middle of three of my friends’ birthdays. A perfect time to celebrate.12729295_10153314611102617_352570379247041229_nGetting the whole gang together, we headed to St Kilda in the afternoon where we couldn’t wait to check out the huge range of performances set to take place across ten stages that day. Now we all know by now how much I love my festivals – whether they’re free or expensive, dance or reggae, camping or day events. I love them all and can always find something special at each of them. St Kilda Festival was great – a huge event that has obviously proven a great success by the crowds that poured through the streets. The performances I saw were great and the crowd were clearly enjoying themselves, who couldn’t with a main stage set against the backdrop of the ocean as the sun was setting? My favourite part of the event definitely had to be when I went down to the beach to sit and watch the sun set while listening to the performers on the main stage.12742176_10153314610592617_2808402488505373794_nBut much as we did all enjoy ourselves that day, I couldn’t help but feel the event could have done with being better organised for the of us who aren’t from the area. Being new to Melbourne, and especially to St Kilda, I found it very difficult to navigate between and even locate some of the stages and actually only ended up getting to watch performances on two of the ten stages because it took so long to find our way through the crowds. I saw little to no signs around to direct us and whenever I stopped to ask stewards they seemed to have even less idea what was going on than I did. Very late on we finally found a map of the area, but we had missed most of the things we had really wanted to see. After speaking to a few friends who went along to the event separately to us, it seems they shared some of our experiences and felt the event was a bit over-crowded. Regardless, we still made sure we had a good time, a few ciders in the sunshine and a lot of laughs.9861_10153314609857617_117124694456852418_nJust a few days later, it was White Night and the whole city was abuzz again as Melbourne CBD prepared to put on the biggest show of colour, light and music. Bigger and better than ever the radio and TV stations promised us, so after a quick drink with a friend in St Kilda, I couldn’t resist heading into the city to meet friends for a good look around at the projections. Despite spending six hours wandering around the city, I never actually saw a single one! But don’t worry, we had the time of our lives walking around and discovering the huge range of musical talents hidden around every street corner.12728787_10153314615482617_7942346077139755604_nWe actually ended up sticking around Flinders and Melbourne Central areas as every time we walked down the street we got sucked into watching another epic performance turn into a huge street party with people of all ages dancing in the streets. It was amazing and the atmosphere was electric, it kept me dancing my heart out until 6am despite being completely sober and starving hungry. I was so impressed with the quality of the performances and how diverse they were, on one corner we watched as an incredibly talented acoustic performer mixed DJ skills with guitar and even a touch of saxophone while talking to the crowd throughout. Then just down the road, a DJ had the whole street dancing and further along a fabulous group started a fiesta in the shopping mall with their Mardi Gras vibes. It was a fantastic night and even though I didn’t see what I set out to see, I found some fantastic performers along the way.

Have you been to either of these events – what did you think? Does your city have great local music events like these?

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Backpacking | “You’re never alone but you’re always lonely”

imageI had a pretty intense chat with a friend recently, he was going through a bit of a tough time and had lost his travelling way for a little while. It happens to us all when we get settled in one place for too long – we get antsy, frustrated, feel the need to escape but don’t know where to turn next which can leave some people feeling pretty alone. I know because I went through the same thing at around the same time – it’s the trouble with having a travelling soul, you’re always looking for the next adventure. Most of the time that’s amazing, but if that feeling hits you when you’re stuck working somewhere and have to wait to leave, it can be a killer to your mood. After several people I was really close with left Darwin to start their next adventure, I was pretty down and sick of life there – don’t get me wrong, the city had been an amazing home for me for three months and is full of memories for me. But it was the longest I had spent in one place since starting travelling – while that was just what I needed to start with, it soon became suffocating as more and more people left. I know my friend felt much the same, he was struggling to see why he was still there because he too had never planned to stay as long – he had just fallen in love with the place and the people, as had I.

At the time, I found our conversation hard to hear and talk about, but now – since moving on, it keeps coming flooding back to me and I can’t help but remember one phrase in particular. “When you’re travelling, you’re never alone, but you’re always lonely.” The way my friend came out with that really surprised me, he’s the life and soul of the party and everyone loves him so much, he always puts in every effort and will do anything for his friends. But it just shows you that even the ones who are the centre of so many people’s worlds can be lonely and struggle sometimes. I could totally understand what he was talking about after speaking to another close friend who said: “You form these intense and beautiful bonds with people, but you never really have a lasting connection with those around you because people always leave.” I couldn’t put it anymore perfectly myself – I’ve felt this so many times when I’ve met people and fallen in love with their character, personality and soul. I’ve fallen head over heels for the moments we’ve shared and the things we’ve experienced together. Then just days or even hours later, we part ways and sometimes never see each other again.imageIt’s a hard thing to adapt to and I think that’s why me and my friend were feeling down – we were both so used to being the people who leave and go on to something more exciting to distract us from the sadness of what we have left behind. This time, we were some of the last ones of our gang there and we felt the pain and the loss of every single bright spark who made our time in Darwin as special as it was. I totally understand where my friends were coming from but I can’t help but disagree about the part after people leaving – it can feel like that at times when you’re constantly moving from place to place and don’t get a chance to spend more than a few days together. But there have also been so many times where I have seen it proven how amazingly travellers can come together to create a family that cares for each other no matter what. I saw it when I was in the crash in Cambodia and friends who were scattered across Asia and beyond went out of their way to check I was okay and to even come and look after me until they were happy I was safe enough for them to move on. I saw it in Darwin when something awful happened to a friend of mine and the whole gang rallied around, they did so much by just being there and it just showed how close we all were after just days of knowing each other. I know that I could call on so many of my travelling friends day or night, if every I were in trouble, or just needed a chat, they would be there.

It’s been nearly four months but I still speak to friends I met on the East Coast on a regular basis and am even making plans to be reunited with some of them soon. It’s been nine months since I met one of my most special gangs back in Thailand and I still speak to them every few weeks and even FaceTime despite us all being scattered around the globe now. It’s an amazing feeling to know you have so many connections across the world and is easily one of my favourite things about travelling – these friendships are so special and I treasure them so much. This morning I woke up to around 30 messages from old and new friends and it really showed me that even when I’m working in the middle of nowhere, these friends don’t just forget you. Yes, there are lonely times when travelling – but they’re also the times that really shape you as a person and teach you the important life skill of being on your own and actually enjoying it. There is no light without dark, and as much as there are times when you will feel completely alone, there are times when you will be overrun with people and friendships that will last a lifetime. The important thing is to recognise in other travellers what point they are at in their own journey – be kind and be what others need you to be. When we’re on the road it is more important than ever to look after each other and to support each other – don’t leave anyone lonely, don’t push anyone away. We all need a little family sometimes. The sights are important, but it’s the people that make the real memories.image

 

Have you struggled with feeling alone while travelling? Have you found that perfect travelling gang of friends? Do you manage to stay in contact with other travellers along the way? 

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Travel | Dream big then make your dreams a reality

imageI’ve always been part of a travelling family – we’ve always had our base in little old Norfolk but have been constantly dreaming of holidays in countries far and wide, dreams that have then become reality. I’m very lucky to have grown up that way and I think a lot of my curiosity about the world has stemmed from my parents’ attitude to travel. At just 18 years old, my dad boarded a plan and flew halfway around the world from his home in Mauritius – leaving behind all his friends and family – to train and work as a nurse in the UK. My mum, for as long as I can remember has always needed to be by the sea and to have a holiday planned and booked so she doesn’t go stir crazy – I was never built to stay in one place. From the moment I was born, I was holidaying across Europe, Africa and the US, but I’ve always had plans for bigger and crazier places, stories and moments. I’m always looking for the next adventure and when I decided to come travelling, my parents were so excited for me to head out on a brand new one. Their support and encouragement meant I never really worried about doing it on my own, it meant I just looked forward to it until it was too late to turn back. That was just what I needed to not feel the fear, to not second guess myself. It was just what I needed to realise that adventure is in my blood and jetting off to the other side of the world is just another step in the rollercoaster of my life.

The more I travel, the more I want to travel. It’s addictive – the people, the sights, smells and sounds – once you start it’s impossible to imagine stopping and going back to what you knew before. Whether you’re backpacking long-term or just on holiday for two weeks, we all have that moment where we ask ourselves – what would happen if we just stayed, if we never went back? But what about those people that never do it? You know the ones I mean – the ones who daydream about sipping cocktails on the beach or walking the Great Wall of China but leave it at that. The ones who talk about doing amazing things and falling in love on a desert island somewhere in the Pacific or dancing until dawn on a beach in Thailand but allow themselves to be put off by stories in the media, or worse, money. I can’t stand when people talk to me about the money of travelling – when they assume that I managed to travel for nine months without working because of daddy. When they don’t realise that I actually worked my arse off for a full year in five jobs and saved every penny, so I could live the dream. When they don’t realise that I haven’t had a full day off from work in weeks because I never turn down a shift in either of my two jobs while I save for my next adventure. I read something interesting the other day about how people who don’t go travelling blame the money for not going, but they also buy lunch for work every day and how this can add up to around £2-300 a month. By saving that money and taking a packed lunch, in around three months you could already afford to buy a plane ticket to almost anywhere in the world. That these people are just too lazy to make lunch.

Most of the backpackers I know are some of the poorest people in dollar but they make up for it in the richness of their character and stories. They will happily live off instant noodles and sleep in bedbug infested hostels to save the money to do amazing things like trek up a mountain or party on a Thai beach. They spend their days working every hour available and all the while are envisioning sunbathing on a gorgeous beach or swimming in waterfalls somewhere, dreaming big gives them the motivation to work and save hard. It’s how I can stand to go and live in the middle of nowhere for three months to complete my regional work so that I get my second year visa – I’m thinking about the long term when I can return to Australia and the road trip I get to do after I finish. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a backpacker or holidaymaker – you should always dream big when you think about your next destination. Whether you fancy stunning Asian beaches, dusty African deserts, the skyscrapers of the US or the quirky history of Europe – there’s something for everyone and it can all be tailored to suit the kind of trip you really want. My dream trip would be to travel around either Africa or South America, discovering the different cultures, foods and traditions that each individual country has to offer. In Africa, I have always dreamt of that hot air balloon ride over the savannah at sunrise or sunset, while South America conjures up visions of improving my salsa skills and spicy food. Both would be incredible and I’m sure that they will happen one day, travelling has made me all the more determined to keep exploring the world around me.

In need of some travel inspiration for your next big trip? Look no further than Wexas! They can tailor the perfect trip just for you, you family or friends – plus they have some great articles from the best last minute deals to the most incredible worldwide trips! Check them out and see where you fancy going next!

What is your dream trip? If you could go anywhere in the world and do anything – what would you choose? 

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This is was a collaboration with Wexas.

Independence | “Don’t be scared to walk alone, don’t be scared to like it”

imageIt’s been a funny few weeks – I won’t go into too many details but let’s just say a few things have happened lately that have really forced me to step up and act like an adult. It’s pretty easy when travelling to feel like you’re 18 and invincible, that nothing can touch you and that somehow you’re just evading all the bad things in life. Often you’re just so overwhelmed by the goodness and kindness of people that you wonder if you had them all wrong when you were back home working that 9-5 job and getting stressed out constantly by the behaviour of others. I’m not going to deny that bad things ever happen when you’re travelling, but to be honest they don’t very often – at least nowhere near as often as people warn you that they do. But when they do, it’s a shock, it brings you back down to earth with a bump after months of soaring along with your head in the clouds. Don’t worry, everyone, including myself are okay – if anything, I’m being a bit dramatic. Why? Well it all goes back to a conversation I had the other week with a friend about the situation, something she said really struck me and made me think.

When asked about life back at home, I told her that I don’t really get homesick – yes I miss the people, the moments and the history, but I don’t think I have once spent a day pining for home. I know some find homesickness a real problem when travelling and I’ve had friends who can be down for days on end if something sets off those feelings, but that’s just not me. I was never homesick when I went to university either, I think I’m just used to dealing with the feeling of being separate and I’m a very logical person who will always reason with herself that family and friends are always at the end of the phone. My friend, who does get homesick and has been missing home lately, commented on how independent I was and seemed surprised by it. Especially when she realised that I had travelled so far across the world by myself and was unafraid to tackle Asia and Australia solo. I’ve had this reaction multiple times since planning my travels and setting out – it’s something that just seems odd to me and perhaps highlights that it is still thought of as unusual for a young woman to be “brave” enough to be on her own and to be completely independent. Don’t worry – I’m not going to start quoting Beyoncé songs to you, but I do want to make the point that I think it is a huge compliment to say that someone is so very independent.

Independence is vastly underrated – whether is financial, emotional, physical or even mental, there is nothing more valuable than the ability to be on your own and still be happy. Too many people in this world are relying on the behaviour of others to make them happy, but wonder why they are always left disappointed. They don’t seem to appreciate that you have no control over the behaviour of others, ultimately if they want to mess you around or treat you badly, you can’t do anything about it except adjust your own attitude. I’ve forgiven people for some pretty horrid behaviour over the years and sometimes I’m asked why – I always respond, because it doesn’t have any impact on me beyond being upset. That person has to live with the knowledge of how they have treated me and my hating them for it will only make me unhappy and bitter – why would I want to introduce that unhappiness into my own life? As I said on my Facebook page the other day – not relying on others to make you happy is the greatest power of all. By being able to make yourself happy through fulfilling your own goals, setting your own challenges and comforting yourself in times of strife, you give yourself the key to happiness. Solo travel is a great way to learn that, but it’s something we should all learn in our own lives – other people can make your life better but only you can make it great.imageOf course we need others to bring light into our lives in other ways – to put a smile on our face after a hard day, to crack a joke when we’re mad, or do thoughtful things, but what happens on the day when they aren’t there? You need to be able to build yourself back up instead of just expecting others to do it for you. I’ve always been a very independent person, but before coming travelling I was a lot more emotionally dependent on others. Travelling solo has given me the space and the time to get to know myself better, it has meant learning to look after myself when times are tough and boy, have they been tough sometimes. I remember being pulled out of a crashed minibus which was half buried in a ditch, I’d been thrown against the windscreen and would have gone through it if it weren’t for the driver grabbing hold of me. I stood on the side of the road with blood pouring from my legs, with a group of Cambodians who spoke barely any English, and remember thinking, I genuinely don’t know if I’ll make it out of this one. Being in a situation like that, being forced to look after yourself and to get yourself to safety in a city that is still a hundred miles away is quite a challenge. But I did it, and I’m a stronger person for it. Now I don’t want anyone to go through anything like that, but there are ways to teach yourself the value of independence without putting yourself in danger.

Just taking a tiny step outside your comfort zone and doing it all by yourself is the most valuable experience of all – it can mean disappearing off one day and exploring a place you’ve never been before, forcing yourself to eat out alone, dealing with something complicated all by yourself instead of seeking help from parents or a partner. All of these are things I do on a daily basis now – I love to eat out alone, I love the satisfaction of managing to deal with a problem completely by myself or turning up in a place where no-one knows me and no-one in the world knows where I am. Some people call that brave, I call it just living my life one step at a time and taking chances. So far it’s paid off better than I ever could have imagined and it could be the same for everyone. Being independent is one of the most empowering feelings I have ever known. Some say to love and be loved is the greatest thing of all, but I think that being brave enough to say “I got this shit” to yourself and to others every damn day and proving it again and again is the one to aim for. Don’t ever think independence is a lonely place – I’ve never been surrounded by and had the support of quite so many amazing people who I know love me and would do anything for me as I have lately – what brought us all together is the fact that we all kick ass independently.

Do you consider yourself independent? How else can we gain independence? When’s the last time you went off the grid?

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Backpacking | 12 signs you’ve fallen in love while travelling

imagePeople travel for all kinds of reasons, but often one that drives them to make the huge decision to go it alone is heartbreak. The desire to be independent and free after big changes in your personal life can be the perfect motivation to go and get lost in the wilderness somewhere and never return. Something that starts out as an escape from the harsh realities of life can soon blossom into something so incredible that you’ll never believe you haven’t been living like this all along. I’ve met so many people on my journey who had been forced to take a long hard look at the way they were living their lives after a long term relationship blew up in their faces. What really amazed me about it was how healing travelling could be for these situations – the combination of excitement, experience, culture and a reignited zest for life was the perfect way to get over heartbreak. Time passes so slowly and so quickly at the same time – simultaneously you will feel like you’ve been away for no time at all and yet so much will have happened, changed and affected you. It’s a perfect way to get over someone.

For those whose trips aren’t fuelled by the desire to escape the relationships dramas of back home, we all know the potential for a holiday romance is never higher than when you’re young, free, single and backpacking on an extended trip. We may flat out deny it to our friends back home but the idea of a little holiday romance is one we all fantasise about while lazing on golden sandy beaches, or while cruising over ocean waves in one of the most romantic settings in the world. When all you meet are interesting people with a story to tell, a spark in their soul and an adventure underway, it’s not surprising that most people seem to meet someone pretty amazing while on the road. I have actually met several couples since travelling who say they found each other along the way after setting out solo, fell madly in love and haven’t looked back since. But whether that moment lasts for a night, a few week or months, or a lifetime, each fling is as special as the last. Those romances teach us so much more than relationships at home because they push us out of our comfort zone, takes off the pressure of society’s eyes and gives us a freedom to be who we really wanted to be all along.image

 

12 signs you’ve fallen in love while travelling:

  1. You’ve gone from being that fiercely independent girl who don’t need no man, to a slightly softened version of yourself who finally admits it was nice to have them around.
  2. You used to be that person who complained about couples who felt the need to spoon on one bunk bed but then you spent every night spooning in one – hypocrite!
  3. You got annoyed when people called them your boyfriend or girlfriend, you couldn’t deal with labels and yet you had taken on the roles with ease.
  4. You still can’t believe it happened – they just came out of nowhere and disappeared as fast but even months or years later the memory brings a smile to your face.
  5. You’ve had to wave someone you’ve known for just days or weeks off with tears in your eyes and feeling like you’ve known them forever.
  6. You make all these big plans to travel the world together and do all these exciting things together knowing it’s likely they’ll never happen – but know that doesn’t matter.
  7. You learn how to say all sorts of rude things in another language – key phrases of course.
  8. Moving in together after just a night or two seems pretty normal, especially if you’re in Asia and can afford your own bungalow.
  9. You know you’ve formed friendships for life with these people – you’ve both been through something so intense together and that this will forever be treasured by both of you.
  10. You know that what you had together would be dismissed as a fling or holiday romance back home, and possibly never would have happened with the eyes of the world on you.
  11. Feeling this way about someone at this point in your life has healed a part of you that you didn’t know needed healing.
  12. You never said goodbye, you just said see you later and knew you would.

This post was sponsored by Durex and if you liked this post, you’ll love this list of the Mediterannean’s top ten nudist beaches they created. Fancy something a little cheekier? Head to this one instead.

Have you fallen in love on your travels? Had a holiday romance that turned into something more? 

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All photos by Madeleine Ko.

Fraser Island | Why Fraser Island should definitely be part of your East Coast trip | Australia

imageWhen you start to plan your East Coast trip you’ll start hearing all these names bounded about by other backpackers you meet along the way – things like Whitsundays, Fraser Island and Magnetic Island. It will go straight over your head most likely, that it did with me and I didn’t know much about what the trips would actually entail. If you do like me and Mark and book your whole trip as a whole, the number of different trips on offer will baffle you and often leave you unsure of what you want to book. First tip, do your research. For each of these locations there are countless different trips on offer and you don’t want to end up on the wrong one. From party cruises to camping outdoors and driving trips, there’s loads to choose from and it’s important to choose one you think you will enjoy as they are all aimed at different types of groups. For me and Mark, our absolute hands-down favourite trip was Fraser Island, and it’s definitely the one East Coast trip I would go back to do all over again.image

 

What is Fraser Island?

Fraser Island is actually the largest sand Island in the world – sitting just off the East Coast at Noosa the Island covered a huge area of 184,000 hectares which span a length of 123km and a width of 22km. Big right? Well trust me, it feels that big, you can drive for hours up and down the sandy beaches and only cover part of one side of the island. Further inland, the Island is full of lush rain forests, gorgeous sandy beaches and don’t get me started on those crystal clear lakes that are hidden away in the centre. Bursting at the seams with natural beauty and amazing animals, the Island is a world heritage listed paradise just waiting to be explored and those who book on to exciting four wheel drive trips might be lucky enough to stumble across Australia’s most pure dingo blood line as well as a range of creatures including whales, dolphins, turtles, goannas and more.image

 

What trip should I do?

We chose the three day, two night Nomads Fraser Island Tag-Along Tour which is advertised here for $459 and includes all food/accommodation on the Island (in a hostel type setting and is the only one that doesn’t leave you camping on the beach) but it also gives you a night in Nomads included in the price both before and after the trip. Just to point out, we also paid significantly less for this trip by booking a huge package deal at the beginning of the trip because we were given bigger discounts but even at this price it is worth it. During the trip you are separated off into cars of about seven or eight people, with drivers and passengers in each – if you have a licence you can take it in turns to take the wheel which is the best bit of the trip! The tour leader drives the first vehicle and then we had one automatic and one manual vehicle so it’s suitable for all types of drivers. The guide will take you off roading for the three days with plenty of time exploring incredible locations including “the fresh waters of Lake McKenzie, the shipwrecked remains of the ‘Maheno’ and the spectacular views from Indian Head. Relax in the ‘Champagne Pools’ or take a trek to the Hammerstone Sandblow. Abundant in native flora and fauna, explore the tropical rainforests of Central Station, the coloured sands of the Cathedrals and at Lake Allom see fresh water turtles. Drive 4×4 along 75 mile beach, explore the sand dunes and swim in Lake Wabby. Picnic at Lake Garawongera or float down Eli Creek.” Despite being organised by Nomads – who you guys will know I have been less than impressed with before – it was a great and well organised trip.image

 

What was the trip actually like?

It was absolutely bloody amazing. From start to finish I don’t think I laughed as hard anywhere else on the East Coast, nor did I meet funnier or more amazing people. It always comes down to the people you meet – it doesn’t matter how awesome the place is, if you don’t have great people with you it will only ever be an average experience. The people on my Fraser Island trip made it for us, they made our East Coast experience because two different groups of them met up with us later on for other trips. We were actually lucky enough to have two of the girls on our Whitsundays trip and three of the boys were with us in both Airlie Beach and Cairns which was an amazing reunion! We were lucky and our whole gang bonded pretty much instantly which set us up for an amazing time playing in the lakes, driving like maniacs along the beach and whale spotting. The accommodation was brilliant and we really appreciated not camping because it did get cold at night there, we were staying in four bed dorms must metres from the beach where we were stargazing at night and dingo spotting in the day.imageAs you can see from the pictures, Fraser Island truly needs no filter – but I love them so hey. During the few days we visited Mackenzie Lake and the Champagne Pools which were both absolutely beautiful, the lake was filled with crystal clear waters and the pools were perfect for an afternoon dip and trying to catch fish. Indian Head was worth a stop-off because this was the first place I spotted whales on the East Coast – the whole horizon was filled with water spurting from their blowholes and below us sharks circled. As you’re driving along the beach keep your eyes peeled because there are whales swimming alongside the Island and they always wave a fin to say hello. Swimming at Eli Creek is a refreshing way to spend the last few hours of the trip and don’t forget to check out the Maheno – a huge shipwreck on the beach. My favourite part was definitely Mackenzie Lake and the driving around the island – I was the only girl in the car and definitely gave the boys a fright with my driving.image

 

What to pack?

Pack light – just a small bag with one or two changes of clothes, swimmers, mosquito repellent if you get bitten a lot, warm clothes for nighttime, lots of goon and a towel. You seriously don’t need much and you probably won’t bother to shower when you’re there, none of us did. Make sure you take your camera and even better if it’s a waterproof one!

Have you been to Fraser Island – what did you think? What tour did you choose? Which was your favourite East Coast tour? 

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Noosa | Discovering the jewel of the East Coast | Australia

imageThe incredible natural beauty of Noosa has made it a highlight of the east Coast for me, even now after having finished the trip I still look back on it as one of my favourite places. I wasn’t expecting much after Brisbane, if anything my expectations had been lowered but I was blown away by how much I loved Noosa. It helped that we were back by the ocean and were staying with a National Park right on our doorstep – I’m definitely less of a city girl and more of a nature lover. We were unfortunately staying at Nomads hostel which not only was one of the dirtiest hostels I’ve ever stayed on – throughout Asia and Australia – but it was at the bottom of a huge hill we had to climb every day to get to the beach. Any of my Norfolk readers will understand my aversion to hills after being raised in the flattest part of the UK. The hostel was horrible – the kitchen was unusable and the staff were not very helpful – I don’t mind if they want to get stoned all the time but it would be great if they could actually function in their job instead of staring at you blankly and giving you the wrong keys twice.imageimageThe hostel might have been rank, but we barely spent any time there. Up first in the morning, we were out running through the national park and discovering more and more beautiful viewpoints, sunbathing on the beach, walking through the woods and up to the sunset viewpoint, and just discovering the area. On our first day, we did a big walk at sunset through the coastal path of the National Park, it was gorgeous. The ocean on one side and the woods on the other, koala bears clinging to eucalyptus trees, so many viewpoints to stop and and enjoy watching dolphins playing in the waves. It was stunning and obviously a popular route from the numbers of people walking along with us and running the path. We decided to try a run the next day and explore the other paths through the woods – there were several to choose from and I don’t know how anyone could ever get bored of them.imageWe spent our days sunbathing on the beach or exploring the town which was filled with places to eat and shop – sadly I had no money to enjoy the shopping! One evening we walked up to the sunset viewpoint to watch the sun go down and this is definitely worth a look – offering a beautiful view across the whole of Noosa bathed in a golden glow, it’s one of the best things to see there. Although it was pretty chilly on the walk down, as soon as the sun set in Noosa you started to feel the difference in temperature. Our nights were pretty fun too, especially when we returned to the hostel for a night after our Fraser Island trip with the entire gang and partied the night away. It was a hilarious night filled with way too many drinks and laughs, and we even managed to win some pretty awesome prizes! Nomads at Noosa had the best prizes on offer of any backpackers hostel I have seen so far so definitely get in on them! The boys managed to score a free Whitsundays trip and I won a free North Island Kiwi Experience Pass for New Zealand for doing nothing other than putting my name in a raffle!image

What did you think of Noosa? Do you prefer cities or being out in nature?

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Brisbane | The anticlimax of the East Coast | Australia

imageNow I’m sure many people are going to seriously disagree with me over this one but that’s fine, I’m just sharing my experiences of this city. We arrived after a few hours on the bus and were already feeling blue after leaving the Surfers gang behind, hungover after last night’s drunken antics and exhausted from travelling. We arrived at the hostel – we were staying at Bunk – and were surprised to see how huge it was after staying in such a small place in Surfers. To be honest – I much prefer the smaller hostels, they’re so much more personal and welcoming, the bigger ones always seem to remind me of a slobby version of a Travelodge – functional and impersonal. I was pretty unimpressed when the girl on the counter said our room was ready but we couldn’t check in until 2pm – it was 9am. I know the hostels have their rules but considering the room was ready and clean it seemed a bit rubbish we couldn’t be allowed up there for a shower and some sleep. Instead we had to wander round the city waiting to be allowed to check in.imageimageNow we only had three days in the city, which I know doesn’t give you much of a chance to get a first impression – particularly as I’ve found most who love Brisbane are the ones who have ended up living and working there. But I was pretty disappointed, it was such an unattractive city after the likes of Melbourne and Sydney, it seemed so unexciting after the previous places we had been. On our first full day there, we decided to go for a long walk around the city, through the harbour and botanical gardens, around the city and beyond. We spent hours exploring the city and by the end of it we felt no different about Brisbane – we found no hidden gems, we found no really stunning views across the city and we met no one exciting along the way. It was such a shame and I so wanted to find more in this city, to find something I loved, but it just wasn’t for me. It seemed strange, although we made the best of it, I couldn’t find anything I loved about Brisbane like I did about Sydney and Melbourne. That night we went out for drinks at a great bar down the road which had a live band on, that was probably the best part of our time in the city, but it was quickly followed by the worst.imageYou may have already read about what happened that night in this previous post – about how we met this young lad who was staying in our room, how he was pilled up to the eyeballs, and how he ended up pissing all over our dorm while we slept. How we woke up to find puddles of piss everywhere. Not impressed was a serious understatement. Luckily that day we had already planned to vacate the hostel early and head to Australia Zoo for the day – thank goodness as it gave the cleaners chance to work their magic. Australia Zoo is a fantastic day out – I don’t normally agree with zoos but this one is great as it really looks after the animals better than many. We caught the train first thing from a station round the corner and after about an hour and a half of napping we arrived and climbed on to a bus to reach the park. I had bought us discount tickets using the Groupon App and would really recommend it as they were about half price! It was so easy and quick to get there, and we must have spent about a good six hours walking around, watching shows and visiting the animals. We could have easily stayed longer but the skies were starting to look stormy.imageimageIn the end we treated Brisbane like our recovery time between Surfers and our next destination, Noosa. I think the city would have made more of an impression if I went there to work, or if we weren’t so exhausted, but we’ll have to leave that for another time as we were already packed and ready for our Greyhound and ready to get the hell out of there. Excited for the next few days in Noosa before we were due to head on our Fraser Island tour!image

 

What did you think of Brisbane? Did you stay for a short or long time? What did you love or hate about the city? 

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