Tag Archives: group travel

Backpacking | Why you should go on a Tasmanian road trip | Australia

IMG_2310Perhaps it’s the wild, rugged landscapes that are incomparable to anywhere else in the world, the fact that so few backpackers actually make it down from the mainland or just that so much of the island still feels undiscovered. But there is something about Tasmania that really captures the imagination and memories of the breathtaking scenery will often stay with travellers long after their trip has finished. After spending nearly a month down there exploring and road tripping the heart-shaped island, filling my lungs with the cleanest, crispest, freshest air, and eating the finest locally produced foods. I can safely say it is one of my absolute favourite places in Australia and the trip was everything I needed to fall in love with the country all over again. Read all about my experiences in Hobart here – including my guide for where to stay and what to do. My favourite part of the trip was the 10 days I spent in the complete wilderness of Tasmania, I was completely offline, surrounded by great people and back to basics. It was bliss and an experience I wish every backpacker could have so they could experience a real taste of Australia instead of just the mass-produced party of the East Coast. For any backpackers reading this – there is so much more to Australia than party hostels and goon – step outside of the box and chase experiences like this that are once in a lifetime.14938388_10153922457372617_5309997962770160888_n


Planning your trip

Finding your road trip gang

Travelling solo and don’t know a soul in Tasmania? Neither did I, but that didn’t stop me having the trip of a lifetime! Everyone who arrives in Hobart is looking to road trip so you’ll never be short of people to travel with. Your best shout is staying in a major hostel like The Pickled Frog which is full of travellers who are planning big two week and short weekend trips you could tag along with. I actually used the backpacker Facebook groups for finding my road trip gang – I just put a message up on both of the Tasmania backpacker pages I found explaining my plan to travel for around two weeks, to hire a car and try to do a full circle of the island. Within less than 24 hours I had a group of four people, including one guy who decided to fly over from Melbourne overnight to start the trip with us. That’s what I love about backpackers – they just say yes and grab the opportunity with both hands!15203213_10153957407647617_5588392711465277933_n

Hiring a car

We hired a car from Budget – after researching and visiting every car company in Hobart we found they were the cheapest both online and in person. We hired a big SUV because we were planning to take a lot of camping gear and to have two people sleeping in the car and two in a tent each night. It worked out at roughly $450 for 11 days between four of us, the pick-up was just round the corner from the hostel and the company were really helpful. The car was fantastic – brand new and easy to drive, we had four wheel drive but didn’t need it even when we went very rural and travelled through the national parks. When it came to insurance, we didn’t take the Budget insurance to lower our excess, instead we used a separate online company which cost us just $60-80 overall instead of an extra $30 a day. It may all sound complicated to anyone not used to hiring a car but this all took us less than a day – it was worth doing the research to get the cheapest and best deal for us.

*It costs more money is drivers are under 25, so be aware of this when planning your road trip group. We had two drivers over 25 so just put them on the licence but with just one person it would be a lot of driving.15095500_10153957408002617_7789733408271269548_n

Planning your route

When I first came to Tasmania, a friend of mine recommended I head to the tourism office in Hobart and pick up a booklet called 60 Great Short Walks Tasmania – this booklet became my Tasmania bible and quite frankly the trip would have been nothing without it. The book splits Tasmania up into five key areas and breaks down the best walks ranging from 20 minute strolls to eight hour treks, all varying in difficulty levels and the incredibly beautiful views they sure with you. The booklet gives all the information you need including talking about what to take, weather effects on the track, whether they are suitable for children/elderly and what kind of footwear is suitable.IMG_2335We planned to travel up the East Coast, around Wineglass Bay, up towards Bay of Fires and Launceston then across to the West and down via Cradle Mountain back to Hobart. This was our original plan but we checked again and again with the weather – it’s so unpredictable down there that you have to be smart to get the most out of your trip. There is another useful booklet available from tourism centres called Tasmania, Your Complimentary Touring Guide, which gives you all the information you need on 11 different touring routes around the island if you have limited time or just want to target one specific area. For me, the most important thing was being active – I wanted to break up the driving and to stop off to do as many hikes/climbs and explore as much as possible along the way – by planning this way we stopped off in 11 national parks and saw an incredible amount of national beauty and different landscapes.IMG_2337

Packing the right gear

Tasmania is definitely not as built up as other parts of Australia so you’ll struggle to find many hostels outside of Hobart/Launceston. Skip them all together and save money by picking up camping gear and diving deep into the national parks. You’ll need a good tent, sleeping mats, take a tarp for sitting on damp ground and any chairs you can get your hands on. We borrowed a lot of items from the hostel which saved us a lot of money as we just put down a deposit for them which we got back when we arrived back at the hostel. One of the girls already had the tent, we all chipped in for a good stove and gas cylinders but this was our most expensive outgoing for camping gear. I bought myself a sleeping bag and torch from KMart which were great for the trip and perfect to sell afterwards. We bought a cheap plates/cups/cutlery set from Target, and everything else we “borrowed” from the hostel and brought back with us. Just be sure to make sure you try and sell anything you buy after the trip – recycling is great among backpackers and it helps you save money. Also, if you have big bags with you, just leave them all in hostel storage while you are away and just take the essentials.15181339_10153957489932617_2533724623235037281_n

Pack the right clothes

This is important because the weather is so changeable down there – you want to make sure you have clothes for all weathers without taking too much. The best things I bought for the trip were definitely thermals from Kathmandu – bright pink and stripey – they made one heck of a statement but most importantly, they kept me warm both at night and during the day and acted as a good wind resistor. The rest of my clothes were just workout leggings, a few tops and vests, lots of socks as there’s nothing worse than sweaty old socks. I took a jumper, a hoody and a thin waterproof jacket for the rain. I also took sweatpants which were a great warmer layer for over my leggings when it was wet or cold. You have to be prepared to smell and feel gross when you’re camping for 10 days, but small things can make it better. Things like wet wipes and keeping one clean set of clothes just in case you decide to shower at one of the campsites.15095557_10153957407347617_757346241930156525_n

Other important details

Don’t forget to get your National Parks pass! This can be bought for around $50 from the tourism office and gives you access to all of the national parks, it stops you picking up fines and buying it in Hobart means not being slowed down later on.

Always make sure you are stocked up on fuel – some parts of Tasmania can see you driving for ages without a petrol station and it is not a nice experience to run out as we almost did on Sunday night miles away from an open fuel station. Trust me, driving on eco mode up steep hills is a pretty stressful way to drive when you don’t know where the nearest fuel stop is.

Use Wiki Camps app – this app is great for letting you know where the nearest camp sites are, particularly free ones, and what facilities they have available. We didn’t pay for a single one and had amazing campsites surrounded by wallabies on the beach or in the shadow of mountains.

Expenses apps like Splittr and GroupMe are great for working our what everyone owes on the trip, we had once person in charge of documenting every charge/cost and then worked out easily at the end what everyone owed to who. So much easier that way!


IMG_2304Planning a Tasmanian road trip? Leave any questions below and I’ll try to help. Also, look out for my upcoming posts on highlights of the East and West Coast.

What was your favourite part of Tasmania – did you road trip? Any tips for other travellers?

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Eurotrip | My 24 hours in Amsterdam

14292456_10153770246632617_4868750785377706268_nDuring the summer I headed home to the UK for a short while but it wasn’t long until I started getting itchy feet, and I thought why not take advantage of Europe being right on my doorstep? Living in the UK, we are so lucky to have so many countries and cultures so close and accessible, it’s important to take advantage of that EU passport while we still have it eh! I’ve travelled quite a lot of Europe over the years but  there were still so many places I longed to visit and since making so many new international friends on the other side of the world, it seemed a perfect time to go and visit them all at home for the ultimate Eurotrip! One of the top places on my list was Amsterdam – I’ve wanted to visit for years and have planned trips several times but ended up never quite making it. I would only have about 48-72 hours in the city but it was the perfect opportunity to experience it for the first time and to visit a good friend of mine at her home – from Australia to Amsterdam.14344242_10153770246852617_8477002503444430472_n14322737_10153770246727617_3952194705655828329_nI flew in from Budapest and after a fairly chilled few days spent in the stunning baths and exploring the city at a gentle pace, I was ready to take things up a gear to cram in sightseeing and partying into just a few hours. I was staying just outside the city with my friend, Lisa, and I have to give a huge shoutout to her for not only putting me up at her amazing apartment, but for helping me to make the absolute most of my Amsterdam experience. As soon as I arrived we cycled into the city in true Amsterdam fashion to check out the parks which were filled with the scent of barbecue and the chatter of friends. We sat in the sunshine at a little man-made beach along the river having drinks and pizza with friends, and spent the evening bar hopping along the canals. It was a perfect first evening there and gave me a chance to meet a lot of people, we even stumbled across a fashion festival happening in the streets with all of the high class shops hosting DJ sets and bars.14317358_10153770246982617_7699547149721011518_n14344708_10153770245602617_3898552608383686668_nThe next days, I headed into the city first thing to make the most of my sightseeing time by taking one of the brilliant free walking tours. I first heard about Sandeman’s free walking tours from a friend when I was in Berlin and after experiencing one there and another in ‘Dam, I would seriously recommend them to anyone visiting a European city. The tours are fantastic quality and are led by energetic, knowledgeable and passionate individuals who bring history and heritage to life through their delivery. The walks last just a few hours and take in the main sights of each city plus there are several specialised ones including tours of the Red Light District, beer tours, history tours, graffiti tours etc. The best thing about these tours? They’re technically free despite being such amazing quality. The people giving the tours make their money through tips – they just ask that you pay what you feel the tour was worth at the end – you can give nothing or you show how much you value the experience. It calls for the tour leader to really work hard to show you the city and it calls for you to give an honest and fair review of the services. I can’t fault the company or the system. The Amsterdam tour was fantastic and our guide was really friendly and knowledgeable.14355179_10153770245822617_6765741485707631537_n14238219_10153770245592617_5590145311600997742_nOnce we’d spent a few hours wandering through the busy streets and along the canals for the tour, I headed back to the apartment for a quick change and glam up. Then Lisa and I were straight out the door and off to Magneet Festival – a bit of a trip affair, the festival would feature some of Lisa’s friends who were DJing on the most amazing stage overlooking the whole festival. It was an incredible night, amazing music and a fantastic group of people made for a pretty special experience. We danced and partied our way around the festival, even checking out hardcore and rock tents and watching some entertaining karaoke. It was such a fun night and pretty epic to experience a festival in Amsterdam. After the gates closed, we headed into the city and ended up at De School – a converted school which has become a club where must-lovers can rave in a dark, smokey basement until the sun comes up. Such a good club, we had a fantastic night! The next day, dying of hangover, I packed up and headed out to catch my train up to the north where I was visiting another amazing friend for just one night before heading home.14322663_10153764176672617_3330531587880020450_n14212547_10153764176582617_1783270569474228189_nIt was such a flying visit but my goodness I crammed a LOT in, Amsterdam is a fantastic city which makes it hard not to want to cram everything into the quickest visit. Before even leaving I knew I already wanted to return for another visit – there is still so much I didn’t have time to do, like the Anne Frank House and the museums. And I would love a chance to spend more time exploring the city at a slower pace. I will definitely return in the future but I was so happy to not only get to experience the city for the first time but to share the experience with such amazing people. I’m a lucky girl and travelling the world definitely has opened me up to some incredible cross-continent friendships. Getting to reunite with friends in a completely new land is definitely one of my favourite things about travelling the world.14316794_10153764176542617_1276094821434236239_n

Have you been to Amsterdam – what was your favourite experience? Can you recommend any other walking tours?

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Travel | 15 reasons you should road trip across Bulgaria

imageSometimes you meet people and you get that feeling that this is just the start of a big adventure together that will span years. This summer, almost 18 months after we first met in Thailand, I was reunited with my favourite squad – The Pioneers – in Bulgaria. We were thousands of miles away from where we first broke all the rules, had all the fun and forged a lifelong friendship but nothing had changed. Amazingly with very little planning, a reunion came together and before we knew it, we were sitting in a bar in Sofia, Bulgaria, together ahead of a week-long road-trip around this amazing country. imageYou know those friendships where you don’t even need to speak for months on end, but when you finally see each other everything just slots back into place? Well that’s these guys, to the max. We all have such different lives that take us to opposite ends of the globe, but when we saw each other again it could have been just another day in Thailand. In true pioneer-style, we decided to go a little off the grid, all being true travelling souls we weren’t made to stay in a resort, we wanted to explore a new country together. It was actually my second time in Bulgaria, but eight years on I was looking forward to seeing how it had changed.imageSo what was our plan? We decided to spend one night in Sofia to give us time to catch up before picking up our hire car the next morning and starting the drive towards Plovdiv, stopping off at a few sights along the way including the Seven Rila Lakes, we then spent a few days exploring Plovdiv before finishing our trip with a night out in Sunny Beach. imageConsidering we only had five nights together, we crammed a heck of a lot in and saw a lot more than I managed to see eight years ago. Plus we got to have an amazing road trip experience along the way which has given me enough laughs to last a lifetime! Very unlike my first trip to the country, this one gave me an amazing opportunity to really see the beauty of Bulgaria set against it’s communist past, it was an interesting contrast and I’m so glad I had the chance to experience Bulgaria in this way.image

So why should you road trip Bulgaria?

  1. It’s cheap! If you’re looking for somewhere to explore on a low budget, Bulgaria is the one for you, its cheap to fly to, it’s cheap to hire a car (especially if there’s five of you – it was just £30 a day for us), food is cheap and it’s cheap for accommodation. I barely spent anything during our five-day trip and still had an amazing time.
  2. The roads are amazing – seriously, compared to the UK, the quality of the roads is fantastic and it’s pretty easy to navigate your way around. Most of the time the roads are empty so you’re free to enjoy driving through the countryside.
  3. The cities aren’t very busy so actually if you stayed in one place for a week you might find yourself a bit bored, it’s a great opportunity to see a few cities and the Black Sea.
  4. Who doesn’t love a road trip with their buddies? Old school tunes, too many snacks, laughing until your stomach aches…
  5. Something always goes wrong – we managed to get the car clamped within the first hour of having it – it was hilarious and made for a great story!
  6. There’s such a range of places to stay in – we used AirBnB which was fantastic for Plovdiv and Sunny Beach – we ended up with a lovely apartment in a resort with two pools for our last day and it was still cheap as chips.
  7. Plovdiv shouldn’t be missed and you have to road trip to get there from the airport – it’s a beautiful centre of culture, architecture and the food was great.
  8. The countryside is amazing – endless rolling hills and fields of green with the stark contrast of old abandoned communist buildings – it’s a sight worth seeing and one I haven’t seen anywhere else.
  9. Seven Rila Lakes – these glacial lakes are one of the biggest attractions on the Balkan Peninsula and one not to be missed. It’s a beautiful place but sadly when we went it was so foggy we could barely see the chair lift taking us up the mountain let alone the lakes. Still an incredible experience and one you need to road trip for.
  10. The people in Bulgaria are very guarded to begin with, but talking to them really shows you that once you make the first move they are filled with warmth and hospitality. Travelling around gives you the opportunity to meet Bulgarians from across the country and to really understand the culture.
  11. Random experiences – if we hadn’t road tripped to Plovdiv and decided to go to a club called “Pasha” one night, we wouldn’t have had the chance to watch rapper Ice Cream perform live – it was seriously one of the most hilarious nights out ever.
  12. Trying out Bulgarian culture, as you can see from the pictures, we decided to go full Bulgarian and dress up for a photoshoot! It was so much fun and gave us a chance to get into full character – I was a Bulgarian bride with a full headdress that probably weighed more than me.
  13. Gelato – you wouldn’t think it but Bulgaria is big into ice cream and we’re talking really good ice cream – head to Plovdiv and try ALL of the flavours. I was pretty obsessed with the mango, and couldn’t resist the Nutella!
  14. The road trip experience – there’s very few people in this world that I could spend 24/7 with but this gang is definitely one of the groups of people I can. You get such a different experience when you’re all in the same car, in the same beds, and living every second together. It takes a level of being comfortable together that you only get with travellers.
  15. Sunny Beach – it’s still as disgusting as it was when I went there eight years ago, a total resort party town, but you simply have to do it for one night when you’re in Bulgaria. If only for the laughs and the stories you’ll have to tell after. I can’t repeat most of what happened there but we definitely had an entertaining time.

imageimageimageStill don’t know if Bulgaria is for you? Well neither did I, but I’ve visited twice now and and had the most amazing trips. It’s not the first place that comes to mind when you plan a trip to Europe, but that’s part of it’s charm – the fact that is isn’t as touristy as places like Amsterdam and Barcelona. Here you can still get a taste of European charm untainted by Starbucks and McDonald’s on every corner, you can still get lost in the winding streets, cultural sights and incredible countryside. I can’t recommend it enough for a budget road trip.

Have you been to Bulgaria – how was your trip? Which country has been your favourite to road trip?

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Slovenia | Exploring the Primostek countryside with Big Berry

imageOne of the highlights of visiting Big Berry is getting a real taste of the Slovenian lifestyle against the incredible backdrop of the untouched countryside that lies just beyond the camp gates. My week was spent there visiting several local producers of beer, gin, oil and chocolate amid visits to viewpoints, hidden lakes and abandoned mills. We took breaks for delicious meals made from local ingredients including some of the best trout and carp I have ever eaten, fresh from the river that runs through the camp itself. I even had the opportunity to take a peek into the past when I visited an old fashioned Slovenian home to see how the people of years gone by would have lived, and the crafts and memories that remain.imageimageIt hit me when I was there, just how hard it is these days to find a landscape that is actually untouched and undamaged by commercialisation. There are few places left in this world you can truly escape the modern world and step back in time into a completely natural landscape where green forests and clear rivers stretch as far as the eye can see, and eagles soar across the sky. It sounds like something out of a movie because we just don’t get a chance to see this very often without a fast food restaurant or some kind of brand getting in the way. But Eastern Europe is a very different matter, the Balkan countries just seem to have escaped the commercialisation that has dominated so many other places in Europe. There are still so many wide open areas you can get lost in and that makes them very precious to the modern day traveler.imageimageWhen it comes to local producers, Primostek and the nearby villages are a wealth of smaller companies that pack a punch with top quality products that kept me fed and watered throughout my stay. Everything from fruit, cheese and bread, to gin, wine and beer. There’s plenty to keep your stomach full and a smile on your face knowing your stay is supporting the local companies, plus you get a chance to see the process behind the products. All of the companies allow for tours to see how their food, drink and even body products are made during your stay, which is a great way to meet the local people and see another side to Slovenia.imageimageMy favourite tours had to be Berryshka – the liqueur and chocolate makers – and Vizir Pivovarna – the beer producers. The owners of both were so welcoming and took the time to talk us through the whole process of creating the products as they took us on a tour of the factory/brewery, before enjoying a tasting of the products. For me, the highlight of Berryshka was tasting the unusual lavender chocolate, a new product, and tasting their liqueurs served in a chocolate cup. Just delicious. Vizir Pivovarna had a great range of beers and were happy to explain the differences to a non-beer drinker, my favourite ones were definitely the dark beer and the stronger 10% beer they produce. Another huge highlight was getting to eat at the home of the delicious apple juice producers, Lamut, where we enjoyed a home cooked feast of fresh carp and trout washed down with apple juice, wine and a lot of Rakea.imageimageDuring the visit we also took the time to walk around local vineyards and taken some stunning views from the mills and local beauty spots. It was great being shown around by the team who knew all the best places to see and best things to do. If you’re staying at Big Berry, I would recommend getting out and exploring the local producers and seeing more than just the camp, get a real taste of this part of Slovenia and you’ll fall for the beautiful location just like I did. I mustn’t forget my favourite activity, on the last day we went rafting down the river and I don’t even have the words to describe how much fun and just how breathtaking the views were.imageimage

Have you been to Slovenia – what was your favourite part? Does the wide open landscape appeal to you? Have you visited local producers on other trips?

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Slovenia | Luxury living at Big Berry lifestyle camp

imageEastern Europe has been on my must-see list for several years, there’s something about it’s wild, untouched beauty that really appeals to me especially when so many places in Europe are so overcrowded with tourists. I’ve long since wanted to travel to Romania but haven’t yet had the opportunity after travel plans changed this summer and I found myself meeting friends in Bulgaria instead – more to come on that in a later post! But when I was invited to Slovenia on my first travel blogger press trip, I was beyond excited to experience the country for myself and at the hands of those who know the local area best. I was invited to stay at Big Berry, a new luxury glamping lifestyle camp on the banks of the river Kolpa in Primostek and the first of its kind in the country. Big Berry embraces the concept of enjoying total luxury for the whole family while getting back to grass roots and really experiencing the Slovenian countryside.imageimageI was lucky enough to be staying in a gorgeous mobile home which has been specially designed to satisfy every need and want – the design was sleek and absolutely beautiful offering complete luxury and the opportunity to enjoy self-catering if wanted. Sleeping six, the cabin gave me plenty of room to myself and I even had my own private jacuzzi – total luxury after staying in hostels for the week beforehand. Waking up in the morning, I could step into a stunning rain shower before heading to the terrace for breakfast which was hand-delivered each morning. Filled with local produce, from fruit and yoghurt to eggs, milk and bread, it was a perfect way to start the day as the sun shone over the Kolpa river. Just across the water was the Croatian border, giving you ample opportunity to swim between the two in the cleanest, purest water you can imagine. If you’re after a complete digital detox, this is the perfect place for you and I relished the chance to get away from a screen and to really experience life in the Slovenian town, but it also provides great communal areas perfect for working online which could be well suited for the digital nomads among us.imageimageMornings would start with a workout to get the blood racing – a former Slovenian boxer led the classes out on the grass overlooking the river, a perfect setting. Then later there was plenty of time to explore and relax in the grounds by swimming in the river or reading a book on the comfy sunbeds scattered around. There’s also volleyball, bikes and canoes available if you fancy something a bit more active. The team behind Big Berry hope to give visitors an authentic experience of the Bela Krajina region by showing them how the locals live, giving them an insight into the Slovenian past and present with visits to historical houses, beauty spots and local producers to try everything from cheese and wine, to oils, beer and chocolates. There’s a packed schedule available to visitors who want to get to know the area and to fully experience local life, or for those who want to just relax and take it in at their own pace, there is total freedom to dine and explore independently.imageimageThe camp, which will be open from May to September from next year, is perfect suited to families who want to get outside with the kids and explore somewhere new – the camp is very safe for young children with plenty of space for them to run around. It would also be perfect for couples who fancy a romantic weekend away in the countryside – trust me there’s nothing more romantic than watching the stars sparkle over the river from the comfort of your own hot tub. At 200 euros a night, it provides you with all the luxury you want while allowing you to get back to basics and to enjoy a simple few days enjoying Slovenia in its purest and most beautiful form. Plus being right on the Croatian border, it gives you a good opportunity to explore two countries in one trip if you’re flying into Zagreb like I did. Check out my upcoming posts for more information about the trips available while staying at Big Berry. You can find more information about Big Berry and planning your trip to Slovenia here.imageimage

Have you been to Slovenia – what did you think? Does the Big Berry concept appeal to you? Tell me about your favourite luxury getaways.

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Santorini | Volcano, hot springs & cruising the Caldera | Greece

13872705_10153669369437617_2574518093963893625_nThere’s nothing like a good day trip to break up a holiday, whether you go off to visit another nearby island or just another town, it’s a perfect way to experience something totally different during your trip. We were in Santorini for two weeks so we made sure to organise plenty of day trips and activities – like climbing the mountain – to break up our time sunbathing on the beach. One of my absolute highlights of the holiday was a bargain day trip we took from Perissa to explore the nearby active volcano, to swim in natural hot springs and mud baths, and finish the day with a cruise around the Caldera. You’ll see this trip on offer a lot when staying on the island in various different forms, but it can be difficult to ensure you don’t get ripped off when booking without doing a little research. Luckily for you, I’ve done the research for you so you can sit back and enjoy the trip!image

Booking the trip

We booked our trip at a Perissa travel agency after checking out several to compare prices, it’s always worth comparing at least three and seeing if they can offer you a discount for group bookings. A few euros doesn’t sound much, but it makes a huge difference to your pocket if you have a big group of people. We booked our trip with Star Travel, on the main street, who were great – they offered a full day trip with all three attractions for the same price other companies were charging for a half-day experience. At around 20 euros per person, we could be picked up from the agents in the morning and taken to hike up the active volcano, we would swim in the hot springs then break on the nearby island of Therissa where you can enjoy a peaceful lunch before heading home and cruising around Oia and the famous Caldera. A pretty busy day, but one worth experiencing. Not only do you get to tick some pretty amazing sights off your Santorini bucket list, but you also get to do it at a steady and enjoyable pace.13882417_10153669369852617_5295825705394534213_n13882417_10153669369712617_1683611288060951229_n

Climbing the active volcano

An amazing experience to see the volcanic, bare landscape set against a background of ocean and Santorini coastline. Just out in the bay from the island, it’s just a short 5-10 minute boat ride before you land here and prepare to climb the volcano. I wore running shoes but you can easily do it in sturdy sandals, I saw some in flip-flops but I wouldn’t recommend it. You have to pay a few euros each for entrance to the volcano, then it’s off up towards the crater. The hike takes less than half an hour and isn’t too strenuous but it is hot – make sure you have water and sunscreen – and be aware that it is at least five degrees hotter at the top. The walk up is incredible – take a second to appreciate the stark landscape – and when you reach the crater it’s amazing to walk around. Annoyingly you will be surrounded by boat-loads of tourists and plenty of selfie sticks, but it is still worth a visit and it is possible to find a quiet spot. Listen out for your tour guide talking about the history of the volcano, it has an interesting past, and then stroll around the crater taking in the 360 degree panoramic view of ocean and island. Watch out for our pal Walle who sits up there 24/7 monitoring volcanic activity and serving as an early warning for the island to be evacuated in case of emergency.13887038_10153669369867617_7050272482306377329_n

Swimming in hot springs

Back on the boat and we cruise round the volcano and off towards the hot springs which sit in the shadow of a nearby island. As you approach, you’ll see further in where the water changes colour to a deep rusty, brown colour, where the mud carries no end of minerals. The boat stops around 15-20 metres away from where you will be able to touch the ground but you do have to jump off and swim for it – if you’re not a confident swimmer stay on the boat. A short swim across and you can swim/walk across the rocks to enter the hot springs, feeling the water warming your skin. It’s only just above body temperature but you can feel the difference and it’s lovely to sit there in the water. I recommend rubbing the mud all over your skin – everyone thought Mum and I were mad for doing this but it makes your skin incredible soft. I was aiming for five years younger but I don’t know if I quite reached it. We have just half an hour to enjoy the mud baths before heading back to the boat, but it’s the perfect amount of time as we were starving by this point. Swimming back you definitely feel the cold hit you as you leave the hot springs but luckily the clear sea water washes off any remaining mud before you climb back on board.13876508_10153669370047617_6032899850155312868_n

A relaxing lunch on Therissa Island

Next our journey took to to the island of Therissa, a step back in time to the Greece of years ago. You can walk up to the main village but it is a very steep climb and we weren’t sure we would have time to squeeze that in with lunch. Instead we pottered along the shoreline to one of the restaurants and sampled the stuffed vegetables and freshly caught calamari – I’ve become addicted to calamari over the last few weeks. It was a perfect relaxed lunch with a beautiful view of all the boats and the crystal clear waters. All of the restaurants serve the freshest of fish and for roughly the same prices so choose any and enjoy the setting. After we ate, we decided to wander along the shore to the windmill at the other end of the beach so we could check out the views and shops along the way. It was a lovely little walk and with two hours there we had just enough time to see everything we wanted to see before heading back to the boat to get a good spot at the front for our Caldera cruise.13934590_10153669370202617_1448667652268613479_n13880203_10153669370217617_7472480666856025732_n

Oia and Caldera Cruise

How better to finish the day than with a peaceful cruise around Oia – a chance to finally view it from the ocean in all its splendour before making our way along the Caldera by boat. I’ll be posting about my day spent in Oia at a later date – but you must without a doubt experience Oia from the ocean, within the town during the day and of course, at sunset, to get a real feel for the town. It’s spectacular in all its forms and not at all overrated, every time I was in awe of the beauty and the magic of this stunning location. And of course, a boat cruise around the island in the afternoon sunshine is a perfect way to experience Santorini. There’s something so peaceful about being out at sea, perhaps it’s the mermaid in me but it just soothes my soul every time. Clear, endless waters, overlooked by centuries old white windmills – that’s what Santorini is all about and that’s what this trip will give you. All those dreamy island views you’ve been stalking on Instagram in the months leading up to your trip.13934741_10153682680522617_1083166504792679114_n13903378_10153669370362617_1717106529558893240_nI can’t recommend the trip we went on enough – it gave us everything we wanted and more. You get to see a whole different side to the island, a natural and raw side to the landscape that often isn’t associated with the more manicured beauty of Santorini. It’s a perfect way to spend a day during your holiday to the island.

Have you been on this trip – what was your highlight? Do you love boat trips, where was your favourite one?

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Wireless Festival, BBQs and summer reunions

13590372_10154252356975320_729683975418578408_nThis one is a little later than the usual Monday morning post, but I make no apologies – I was off having far too much fun at the weekend and that’s what this blog is all about! My weekend was filled with festival fun, barbecues and sunshine – the perfect English summer weekend and a great excuse to be reunited with a lot of old friends I’ve missed so much since I disappeared off to the other side of the world. After a ridiculously long two-and-a-half years since we last saw each other, I was finally reunited with five of the six girls who made my university experience incredible. Each one of these special humans, and one more who sadly couldn’t make it along, were with me through every high and low, through every horrible exam and every drunken night – we started together and we finished it together. This might not sound that incredible to you – I know what you’re thinking, everyone makes friends at university and goes through the same things – but the difference is we graduated five years ago. We’re scattered all over now working different jobs, living different lives and following different dreams, and with me travelling the world, it’s not easy to keep this friendship going. We work hard at making sure we stay in contact, at being there for each other when times are tough and at organising reunions when we can, but it’s not easy to see each other as often as we would like.13592821_10157086175820655_1765592331929799551_n So when we finally do get to meet up, it’s a whirlwind of a weekend filled with catching up, dancing the night away, making beautiful memories to carry us through to the next reunion and maintaining the connections that make this group special. Why am I writing about this? Because I used to know so many groups of friends at university who I know no longer keep in contact, I too have friends from school who have fallen by the wayside as our lives grew in opposite directions. It’s hard to keep friendships alive when you’re on the opposite side of the world, heck it’s hard enough to keep them going when you live two hours down the road from each other let alone in a different time zone. We all grow up and we all create this amazing life for ourselves but it’s often difficult to make space for everyone, so it’s important put in the extra work to keep it going with those special individuals. It is actually possible to still keep those university and school friendships going five, ten, twenty years down the line and to preserve what was special about them from the start – it just takes time, patience and a lot of love.13615069_10157089350700655_3137137395394220610_nThis weekend’s reunion was at Wireless Festival – we went along for the Saturday when Chase and Status were set to headline, with the likes of J Cole, Wilkinson, Krept and Konan, Craig David and many more performing. With a few of the girls living in London, it was a perfect opportunity for a girly sleepover and to bring along some other old friends we hadn’t seen for a while. It was also a good excuse to relive some of the fun we had when we organised a huge weekend trip to Parklife Festival in Manchester a few years ago – any excuse for good music, ciders in the sun and a lot of fun. I was really excited because I hadn’t actually been to Wireless Festival before and you all know how much I love my festivals – this would be my first one in almost two years as I didn’t manage to squeeze in any during my travels! Our hostess lived not far from Finsbury Park so we stopped off there to glitter up and get ready – there’s nothing more fun than getting ready with your girls – then headed to the festival grounds. Despite the masses of people attending the festival we easily found our friends and made our way into the park without having to wait more than a few minutes. A well established festival, I was impressed at the speed of service on the gates and at the bars later on, it was clear the organisers knew what they were doing and had made every effort to ensure everyone had a great day and didn’t waste time in queues.13619822_10157089349005655_2306554507262899929_nWe were excited to see Chase and Status, I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve seen them live now but they never disappoint, and I couldn’t wait to see Wilkinson again. After spending the last two years travelling Asia and Australia, one thing I had really missed was good drum and bass and the fantastic UK electronic acts, they just have a much grittier sound than the house I hear everywhere over there. I more than got my fill after about ten minutes of standing near the Smirnoff stage which had some incredible music coming from it from the very beginning of the day. I meant to head back there later on but completely forgot as we stumbled across more great acts. It’s always tricky trying to manoeuvre your way around a festival and several stages when you have a group of around 10 people to keep track of, but we did a pretty good job. We made it to all of the performances we wanted to see – for me Wilkinson and Chase and Status were the absolute highlights, both dropping their classics Afterglow and Blind Faith to ecstatic screams from the crowd. But I know my girls were also seriously loving J Cole and Krept and Konan earlier in the day. We were a little disappointed that Craig David was just doing a DJ set instead of performing, but at least it meant we didn’t mind when we couldn’t get inside the tent because there were so many people crowding the entrances.13612114_10153616640412617_3033065007156393811_nWireless is a fantastic festival, if you’re not really into camping and don’t want to venture far out of the city, it’s a perfect event to try. It was really easy one for all of us to get to despite coming from all over the country and it was great being able to get day tickets so you could choose which acts you wanted to see and fitted around work. Also, despite attracting so many people to Finsbury Park, the festival never once felt overcrowded or too busy, which I have previously found at other events where there wasn’t enough toilets or space to accommodate people in some of the tents. We also managed to get a great spot in the crowd for every single performance except Craig David, which was a huge plus with so many of us and so many shorties in the gang – there’s nothing worse than not being able to see over the crowd! There was also a much better selection of food on offer and much cheaper drinks than I had expected – ciders were just £5 each – which made a huge difference to the day. I can’t stand when you go to an event and have already forked out a lot of money for a ticket, then have to spend a fortune on bog-standard drinks and mediocre food.13626536_10157090774585655_6456116625256186478_nWireless is also a great event to go people-watching at – I spotted one of my favourite rainbow bloggers, Lulutrixabelle, there looking fabulous as usual. Lots of my girls bumped into random friends they hadn’t seen in ages, and I know there were quite a few celebrities in the crowd that I completely missed. The day finished with an amazing show by Chase and Status rounded off nicely with fireworks, we managed to escape the crowds and make our way home easily which was great, we didn’t fancy getting stuck on the tubes as thousands wandered out of the gates. It was a perfect weekend and was made all the better by the fantastic weather – I had been worried I would be forced to wear wellies but the rain stayed away and it was so warm the whole time. The next day, after the long drive home, I even spent the evening at a barbecue with some other old friends before finally making my way home to my bed. There’s no better feeling than your own bed after a festival whether it was a cheeky day one or a full weekend of camping. For someone who much prefers the full weekend festivals, I was glad to ease myself back into them with a cheeky one-dayer, especially when it was filled with some of my favourite people.

How was your Wireless Festival experience? Which was your fave performance of the weekend? Are you going to any other festivals this summer?

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Melbourne | Cruising along the Great Ocean Road | Australia

imageI love road trips – they’re such a great way to travel and to experience a country whether you stay in the UK or venture abroad. You have so much more freedom when you share a car with friends and don’t have to stick to timetabled flights or buses. The whole experience of driving on the open road without a care in the world is just incredible if it’s done well and fair play to my road trip gang, we did it very well considering we didn’t plan a thing. We set off on Good Friday and after picking up the car at around 9am, we cruised back into the city to pick up the third member of our team, our tent and to ill the car with duvets and food. We left the city around 11am, which was right on schedule for the vague plan we had made – it seemed leaving at this time had helped us beat the real bank holiday traffic of the previous evening and that morning. Despite it being a cloudy, grey morning in Melbourne, as soon as we ventured out of the city and hit the highway, the sun broke through the clouds and with the tune blaring out of our little Yaris’ speakers, we could already feel the holiday vibes.imageThe first hour of driving took us through Geelong, keen to make good time and explore the later beaches we didn’t stop but cruised through on our way to Torquay. This was a town I was keen to see, it’s somewhere I’ve heard about for ages and as we drove along the ridiculously hilly road to Bell’s Beach (hills like this still seem weird to a Norfolk gal) we started to see signs for not just any surfing competition, but the 2016 Rip Curl Pro, the longest running professional surfing contest in the world, and this was the 55th year of the event. We’d just missed the main event, but there were still countless surfers bobbing around in the waves so we walked out the viewpoint where we could see some epic surfing unfold.imageFurther along the road, we continued on past Anglesea which looked like the cutest little town, before stopping at Airey’s Inlet – a beautiful stopover and one that us girls got very excited about once we realised it was also home to the lighthouse from kid’s TV programme Round The Twist! We all walked up thinking the lighthouse loved familiar, but it was only when someone started singing the theme song that we realised why! It’s was a lovely little stroll to the viewpoint that reminded me very much of the Byron Bay lighthouse walk – also an absolute must in coastal walks. Further down from the lighthouse there is also a lovely beach that seemed very popular with visitors as we passed.imageComing up next were Cumberland River, Wye River and Kennett River as we approached Apollo Bay – we didn’t really stop off at any of these but paused at a few viewpoints for more stunning photos. The driving around this part was stunning – all winding cliffs, bright blue ocean and gorgeous sunshine. We got really lucky with the weather because I’m not sure the driving would have been quite as fun were the weather rubbish. Along this stretch of road we also saw a koala hanging from a tree as we approached Apollo Bay – first bit of wildlife of the trip!imageApollo Bay was great – you can see why it’s so popular for tourists and festivals – being Easter Weekend it was very busy so we just popped to the shops for some snacks and drinks for the night ahead as we planned our campsite. We had originally planned to camp around Apollo Bay but we hadn’t booked a campsite and a lot of the good ones were full or overpriced, and the other ones that had sprung up in recreation grounds and football pitches were decidedly gross. Not booking a campsite turned out to be the best thing we could have done, it meant we drove on past Apollo Bay and towards the 12 Apostles, where we had planned to arrive for sunrise.imageWe kept on driving, certain we would find a campsite along the way, and lo and behold we did as we were driving through Cape Otway and towards Port Campbell National Park, the sign sprung up in front of us and before I knew it I had swung the car off the main road and into the forest. Around 7km in we had passed countless kangaroos and all kinds of wildlife, arriving at the campsite we were told it was $50 for a pitch and that they could squeeze us in – there was loads of room left in the busy campsite and we were welcomed by Steve, the awesome campsite manager. It was a fantastic campsite with amazing facilities from spotless showers and toilets to a kitchen, barbecues, log fires and much more. We ended up exploring the campsite and making friends with a nearby group who had a campfire on the go and some great music as we sat under the stars. It was a perfect first night of camping and such a great experience to camp in the national park. We awoke early the next morning in hopes of catching a stunning sunrise with a view of the 12 Apostles.imageSadly we were disappointed by the cloudy day we woke up to, there was a fine mist of rain and despite packing up our campsite and leaving before 6.30am, we were not to see a sunrise. Instead I drove us out of the campsite, dodging kangaroos, baby deer and all kinds of spooky wildlife lit up by the headlights of our little car – we named her Rhonda by the way. But instead of being disappointed by the dark, overcast morning, we used the time to make an early start on the day, driving past the viewpoint we had aimed for, we kept heading towards the 12 Apostles and only stopped in tiny Princetown for a quick breakfast and a chance to spruce ourselves up for the day ahead.image We arrived at Gibson’s Steps – one of our favourite beaches – not long after where we were thrilled to get out and stretch our legs on this wild and untamed beach. The wind blew spray across our faces as we walked across the empty sands and we were glad to have beaten the crowds as we discovered a tiny penguin lying on the sand. He looked a bit lost but was soon rescued by a woman from an animal charity. After a brisk walk, we loaded back into the car for just a short journey to see the 12 Apostles – it was amazing. Incredible to finally see with my own eyes after seeing so many pictures over the years – we were gutted not to get to see them bathed in sunlight but it was still a majestic sight.imageThe rest of the day was perfectly broken up with lots of walking to viewpoints and various rock formations between Port Campbell and Warrnambool, including Loch Ard Gorge, the Arch, London Bridge, Grotto and Bay of Islands. Each one was more beautiful than the last and it’s well worth taking the time to stop at each of these to enjoy the walks and views along the way. imageI actually found some of these viewpoints more spectacular than the 12 Apostles – probably due to the weather improving as we moved further along Great Ocean Road – before 12pm the sun blazed across the sky and brightened up the wet day. We finished Great Ocean Road with a pit-stop in Port Fairy, which is an adorable little seaside town with a lovely picnic area overlooking the beach and quaint little craft shops set just behind, where we re-fuelled and stocked up on food and drinks for our second night of camping.

Read all about our adventures in the Grampians National Park in my next post.

Have you road-tripped Great Ocean Road? How was your experience? What was your favourite part?

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Darwin | Goodbye to the East Coast and on to the next adventure | Australia

imageAs all the trips came to a close and we wound up our time in Cairns, we started to think about the next adventure. I was all out of money and it was time to find a job and try somewhere new, after five weeks on the East Coast and a month in Sydney, I was eager to see somewhere totally different and a bit more ‘real Australia’. I wanted to see a bit of outback, some really hot weather and dust, lots of red dust. I always had this niggling thought in the back of my mind, a memory from when I was in Cambodia and met a couple in Siem Reap. They had actually both met in Darwin and travelled Australia together – knowing I was going to Australia a few weeks later, I wanted to know everything they had to tell me about travelling and working there. All they went on about over two nights was Darwin! They loved it there, had returned several times and found work easily, they loved the place, the people, the atmosphere, the money and the memories. I may not have realised it at the time but I was already sold on their recommendation and that when the time came to find work, I would be heading there. It’s so strange to think back on it all now – it just seems like Darwin was exactly where I needed to be. I ended up spending three months there and even now, over two months later, my heart still remains there. It’s just amazing how things fall into place when you travel – like there really is some greater plan for you, I feel like this so often when I end up in places I never dreamed of visiting. To be honest, Darwin wasn’t even on my radar before I met the couple in Cambodia.imageimageWe booked our flights and after a few hours in the air, we touched down to find exactly what we were after: intense heat, dust and dry barren land. It was the Northern Territory, and it doesn’t get more outback than that. I was instantly in love with the place and after we rocked up to our hostel and got settled, we went out to wander the streets and see what lay in store for us on Mitchell Street. We were staying at Dingo Moon Lodge, which was down one end of Mitchell Street, and anyone who moves there should prepare for their life to centre around this one street which is full of hostels, bars and a scattering of shops. Now I did t really know what to expect of Darwin, I had never been anywhere like it before, but I instantly loved it and felt like it was a place I wanted to settle for a while. I started my job hunt and had two jobs within 24 hours of being in the city – great news for my bank balance but not so great for getting off the main street as both my jobs confined me to around 300m of street and I was working as many hours as possible. For the first two weeks all we did was keep to ourselves – we were sick of meeting new people and exhausted from the east coast – it was time to recuperate and relax. Luckily the hostel had a pool and wifi so most of our time, around me working, was spent making the most of these and at the markets.imageimageWe were lucky and arrived at a great time to enjoy some of the great things Darwin had to offer, we spent our Thursday and Sunday nights at Mindel Markets which were packed full of food, music, jewellery, clothes and trinkets. It was a fabulous place with a great boho feel and I have to admit I couldn’t help myself when it came to the jewellery stands. They would have fire shows, magic shows, plus a great variety of music acts from acoustic singers to reggae artists on tour. Plus it all took place right next to the beach and started at sunset, a perfect time to head down with your friends and a bottle of wine before perusing the stands. Another night was spent at the flicks, but this wasn’t just any cinema. I finally had the chance to tick off going to an outdoor cinema in Australia from my to-do list. We caught Mad Max at the Deckchair Cinema and had a brilliant evening – the air was so warm and we could watch bats swooping over our heads as the sun set and the screen filled with action. The cinema is amazing and I’m just sad I never had the chance to go back around work – perils of working nights in a bar! It’s well worth a visit and shows a great selection of movies, plus it hosts the film festival. We also arrived perfectly in time to catch the Darwin Festival – a yearly event filled with music, arts and culture spread across several locations within the city. I was actually working at a venue that was hosting some of the acts. It was great for us poor backpackers because they also hosted several free events including some lunchtime sessions and live music in the evenings at a special park they created. It was a beautiful location and had lots of food and drink stalls, a great atmosphere and the music was lovely. I was amazed to arrive in Darwin and find so much going on!imageimageimageThere’s plenty more to tell but I’ll save that for some upcoming posts. After a week of quiet life, we met a group of awesome people who had arrived at around the same time as us, we ended up forming a little family that soon grew to the entire hostel as more and more people arrived. I’ll talk more about this in a special post I’m working on, but I’ll say this, there was a lot of love there and there’s a lot of memories in my heart because of that place. After three weeks there, I had to say goodbye to Mark once again, this time after we had spent two amazing months together, and it was heartbreaking, all over again. I’m not sure I could have coped if it wasn’t for my Dingos, they refused to let me mope around, they filled my life with laughs and craziness so that it didn’t feel empty without Mark there. I never actually spoke about how hard it was to say goodbye to him and the fact that they just knew and they were just there to make everything better was what sealed us as friends for life. That and a whole lot of naughty Dingo behaviour that I probably can’t publish on here. Let’s call this ‘to be continued’.imageimageimage

Have you been to Darwin? What did you think of it? Have you found an amazing hostel family?

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Travel | Top tips for maintaining relationships at home while travelling

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

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

 

So how can you keep these friendships and relationships alive?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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