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Melbourne | The magic of Rainbow Serpent Festival

IMG_1219I waited a whole year to experience the magic of Rainbow Serpent Festival. I arrived in Melbourne this time last year, just three days after this incredible festival took place, I was devastated to have missed it but having been deep in the outback completing my farm work there was simply no way I could make it in time. It was a worthy sacrifice – those last three days of farm work meant I got the opportunity to stay in Australia for another year. Those last three days meant not only could I come back to Melbourne, one of my favourite cities in the world, but that I could get a second chance to experience life over the rainbow.IMG_2566IMG_2547For those who don’t know about Rainbow Serpent, it’s the ultimate in hippy trippy dreamland fun. Deep in the Victorian countryside that can only be described as desert in the 35 degree heat, a few small fields are filled with around 10,000 colourful, bright, passionate and excited souls for just a few days. Reminiscent of festivals like Secret Garden Party and Boomtown Fair in the UK, the festival is the kind of celebration that brings together a huge range of people, some pretty interesting characters and some seriously beautiful souls for a few days of creativity and magic.IMG_2564IMG_2551This year celebrating it’s 20th anniversary, the festival is a veteran amongst others and you can tell on arrival, many of those pulling up in camper vans to the most incredible campsites filled with marquees, sofas, outlandish decorations and the rest, are people who have been going for years. The kind who exclaim with sheer happiness when you disclose that this is your first Rainbow Serpent, their faces light up at getting to witness you experiencing the magic for the very first time. It’s easy before you go to feel like everyone just gets caught up in the hype or that it couldn’t possibly be as good as they say. IMG_2548IMG_2562Well, as a well seasoned festival veteran, I can safely say that the hype doesn’t even do the festival justice. Rainbow Serpent blew my mind – not just the music and the stages, the theatre and the arts, the yoga and the creativity. It was the people, the incredible collection of people passionate about one cause – making it the best celebration of Rainbow Serpent yet. Time and time again we were blown away by the amazing characters we met, experienced and then parted ways never to see each other again – but the most important thing was that we shared that one moment together.IMG_2565IMG_2550I was an incredibly lucky girl during this festival – the kindness of strangers has never been more apparent. Two of my friends were determined for me to attend the festival despite my already having given up on finding a ticket. They pushed one friend into tracking me down a ticket and when that one fell through he went to the ends of the earth to find me a replacement – whats the big deal you ask? This guy had never even met me but went to an incredible level of effort to not only ensure I experienced Rainbow Serpent but that I had the most amazing time possible. I travelled up with a friend from work and we spent the next few days camping with an amazing group of people – I couldn’t have put together a better bush doof crew if I tried.IMG_2567IMG_2560The bare basics – we hired a car from Hertz who I would never hire from again, overly expensive and extremely rude staff who constantly tried to overcharge us for things they hadn’t pre-disclosed. We borrowed a tent from a friend, filled up eskis with ice, beers and boxes of pasta – going prepared saved us a lot of money on food. The festival was totally BYO so we went prepared with bottles of vodka and rum decanted into plastic bottles (no glass at the festival) and lots of ciders and beers. Costumes and a hell of a lot of glitter filled ur bags, but everything else we needed was already at the festival or in our amazing campsite. We were in North camping, just a short walk from the Market Stage which was filled with the most amazing music almost 24/7, the food stalls which had a great selection, and the chill-out areas.IMG_2563IMG_2561Although the music is the main event and I had an fantastic time watching the acts, there was a lot more to the festival with plenty of amazing fun for kids, healing and massage areas, talks on everything from depression to psychedelics and society, creative workshops on survival skills, yoga and meditation, and art. There was so much going on and so much to do, you didn’t want to sleep or waste a single second. It was an absolutely amazing event and I well and truly give it the Absolutely Lucy stamp of approval – if you’re backpacking Australia and happen to be in Melbourne around January next year, I really recommend picking up a ticket. Trust me this festival is a life-changing experience and you won’t regret splashing the money. IMG_1218

Photos provided by myself and Hannah Gunstone, even they don’t do the festival justice but they certainly give you a taste of the fun!

Have you been to Rainbow Serpent – tell me about your festival highlights? What other festivals have you been to while travelling?

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My bumper guide to Bali – where to stay and what to do?

img_2180From lush tropical jungles to endless white sandy beaches with huge crashing waves, Bali has been described as paradise many a time and after just days on the island it was easy to see why so many expats have made it their home. From snorkelling with sea turtles to visiting temples and perusing the markets, there is no end of amazing sights to explore – it’s just finding the time to cram them all into your trip. Planning a holiday in Bali is no simple task – despite being a small island in Indonesia there is an incredible range of things to do and see – but lucky for you, I’ve done the hard work so you don’t have to! Whether you’re a beach bum, a culture craver, a surfer-type, an adventure seeker, a spa dweller or a nature lover, the perfect trip is waiting for you in Bali. I went to meet a friend I met in Australia for a week of partying and catching up before I headed back to Australia, but that one week turned into nearly a month of fun and exploring this amazing island. So if you’re struggling to plan your trip to Bali, this post will take a look at the best places to stay to get the most from your holiday.img_2190First of all it’s important to think about what you want from the visit – do you want to go all Julia Roberts and find your centre, focus on a health-filled yogi experience, or do you want to party all night and bake on the beaches all day? Do you want to explore monkey-filled jungles or take on the famous Bali surf? For just one island, Bali has a lot to offer and it’s easy to get carried away in exploring more “popular” parts and miss out on a slight different or more unique experience. Plan your trip well and you could have an experience that takes your breath away and stays with you for life. I know that my trip to the island is one that I will remember forever, the best trip ever with one of my best friends doing what we do best – living the craziest, wildest, cheekiest life we can.img_2243

Where to stay?

The beauty of Bali being an island is that everything is fairly close together and it is an easy place to travel around if you fancy a more well-rounded trip. With so many different areas to explore it would almost be a shame to stay in just one place during your stay. Even after spending a month on the island, there was still so much left to see so it’s important to be selective and focus on the trip you really want rather than rushing your experience. After all, island life is all about enjoying the sights, sounds, tastes, and pleasures of life.

Stay to party

Seminyak and Kuta are the partying home of Bali, wild nights out, cage dancing, lethal cocktails and all kinds of crazy fun. For the best music to dance to try La Favela in Seminyak, for crazy drunken fun 18-30 style head for Kuta, and don’t forget the gay clubs in Seminyak if you really want to dance until the sun comes up. Check out my review of Grandma’s Hotels here. Or if you’re after a hostel, you can’t go wrong with M Boutique Hostel – one of the best I’ve stayed in across Asia. You may also check out these 18 Best Value Hotels To Party in Bali  compiled by HotelsCombined for more ‘party and stay’ ideas in Bali.

Stay for surf

Kuta, Caangu and Uluwatu are the key places for surf depending on how experienced you are. Stay in Caangu for the full surfer lifestyle in this chilled out beachy town. There are surf camps, lessons and help available all over for beginners.

Stay for yoga/health

Where else other than Ubud, head to the leafy paradise to find your centre, channel Julia Roberts in Eat Pray Love and to eat all kinds of delicious vegan, vegetarian, healthy goodness. You’ll rejuvenate your soul with yoga at The Yoga Barn and Ubud Yoga Centre and come out new woman. Check out brand new hostel – Ons Hostel, with a pool and free breakfast, plus huge, clean dorms and great owners – it’s a perfect place to stay in the shadow of the Monkey Forest.

Stay for island bliss

Head to Gili T and Gili Air if you find Bali too busy and crave peaceful island bliss. Tiny islands just off the coast of Bali, they’re amazing for a visit and well worth a few days. I stayed at Gili La Boheme Sister which was fantastic but I’d also recommend Gili Castle which was just around the corner and hugely popular – both are party hostels and good for meeting people but not the place to stay for a relaxing holiday.img_2207

Here’s my top 15 experiences you don’t want to miss in Bali: 

Uluwatu Temple

One of the best places to witness a spectacular Bali sunset, this Balinese sea temple is bound to take your breath away. Perched on top of steep cliffs that tower 70m above the Indian Ocean, the temple features stunning Balinese architecture and is one of six key temples believed to be Bali’s spiritual pillars. It even overlooks the daily Kecak dance performances which gives visitors a perfect opportunity to experience traditional Balinese culture in a truly magnificent setting.

Tanah Lot

Slightly further along the western coast of the island, Tanah Lot offers the perfect combination of Balinese culture set against Indonesia’s wild landscape. Another sea temple, it feels completely exposed to the elements as huge waves crash on the shore and against the visitors who come to pay their respects at the temple. This temple is the perfect place to watch the sunset and to really understand why so many fall in love with Bali’s raw, natural beauty.

Monkey Forest

Of course it wouldn’t be a tropical holiday without a trip into the jungle and where better to get a taste than in Ubud? In complete contrast to the beaches of Bali, Ubud is full of lush jungle vines and at it’s heart is the incredible Monkey Forest. Like a scene from The Jungle Book, it captures your imagination as monkeys climb and leap from branch to branch. While the ancient temple brings the culture of years gone by to life in front of you.

Tegalalang Rice Terraces

One of the most iconic images of Bali – those incredible rice terraces that stretch on forever with their vibrant beauty. You may have seen the picture a thousand times, but trust us, nothing compares to having that sight in front of your eyes, to the intense humidity, and the sweet, earthy smell. Be sure to try and head there early before the hottest part of the day and you’ll beat the crowds. Don’t let the heat put you off walking around this incredible landscape, you’ll find more beauty awaiting on every corner.img_2181

Swimming with sea turtles

Surrounding Bali and neighbouring Gili T and Gili Air is the most incredible coral reef that is just teeming with life and waiting to be explored. Grab a snorkel and head down the beach or hire some diving gear and go further out for some of the most incredible sights. Swimming with sea turtles is a must while you’re on the islands, hire a boat on Gili T and head off for the day to all the best spots. Make sure to pack an underwater camera!

Island paradise on Gili T and Gili Air

Just a short boat ride away is Gili T and Gili Air – two island paradises that will provide a perfect escape from Bali for a few days. Much quieter and with none of the busy traffic that plagues Bali, they provide a perfect refuge to kick back and relax with your loved ones. Those spectacular pictures of Indonesian sunsets you’ve been setting as your screensaver at work? Head to the beaches and you’ll get a chance to witness them with your own eyes. Truly breathtaking.

Tegenungen Waterfall

It’s not a trip to a jungle paradise without waterfalls and luckily Bali has plenty to choose from but by far the most spectacular is Tegenungen. Just a short distance from Ubud, this one is worth arriving early for to avoid the crowds. Take your swimsuit and dive into the fresh waters, swim into the cave behind and stand underneath the powerful waters as they plunge off the side of the cliff. You can even climb up to the top of the waterfall for a small fee – it’s well worth it for stunning waterfall photos.

Mount Batur

Get into full adventure mode by taking part in the sunrise trek to the summit of this active volcano for an incredible sunrise. Hike up in the cover of darkness to watch the first rays of light stretching across Bali. Towering 1,717m above sea level, climbing the third highest peak in Bali is the highlight of many traveller’s Bali experience. Nearby there are also hot springs to relax in after the climb.img_2209

Surf’s up

Bali is renowned for it’s incredible waves and attracts countless surfers each year who just can’t get enough of the landscape and the lifestyle. Whether you’re just a beginner or have been surfing for years, there is a perfect beach for you. Kuta, and Canggu are popular areas for surf camps aimed at those just starting out but also have some pretty big waves to challenge the more experienced. Uluwatu is a haven for experienced surfers who dare to take on the crashing waves.

Seafood at sunset

Imagine a beautiful island beach wedding at sunset, live music and fresh seafood. Perfect right? Head to Jimbaran for the evening and you’ll experience the romance and luxury of Bali on a budget with great food and free entertainment as the sun slips below the horizon.

Nightlife and a foodie’s heaven

Bali is infamous for it’s nightlife and while the club scene may not be for everyone, there is a huge range of ways to entertain yourself of an evening. From foodie heaven, to raging clubs/bars in Seminyak and Kuta, to beach parties in Canggu or live music and cultural performances in Ubud – you’ll never be at a loss for evening entertainment.

Yoga in Ubud

It wouldn’t be Bali without a reference to Eat Pray Love, but Ubud truly is an amazing place to find your centre. Where better to try out some yoga classes than in a beautiful studio overlooking endless lush, green jungle before heading to one of the local restaurants for a fresh fruit smoothie?img_2211

Exploring the countryside on motorbike

By far the best way to see Bali and to experience the real way the Indonesians live outside of the towns. Witness the true beauty of the local people and countryside as you explore the island at your own pace, you never know what hidden delights will be waiting for you.

Pamper at the spas

Asia is well-loved for it’s food, and for the amazing massages. It wouldn’t be a trip to Bali without indulging and the best thing about Bali is it caters for all budgets. Whether you’re a backpacker or a luxury traveller there is a spa for you, treat yourself after a long day of exploring the island.img_2154

What was your favourite Bali experience? Can you recommend any places to stay?

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Making plans for another huge year of travel in 2017

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

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

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

So what are the big travelling plans for 2017?

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

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

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

My New Year’s resolution?

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

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

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Charleville | The Charleville Cup & exploring the area | Australia

imageMy first day in the town turned out to be an interesting one, the whole town had turned out for the Charleville Cup, a horse racing championship that took place on the same day as the Melbourne Cup. It gave me a real taste of life in the outback as I had the opportunity to meet pretty much the whole town and to see everyone dressed up to the nines. Coming from rural England, it was interesting to see the huge similarities and contrasts between that and rural Australia. Thinking back now, I was very lucky to arrive in time for the event because most of the people I met that day turned out to be some of the best friends I have made in the town. I’m so glad that I did meet them straight away because I think otherwise I could have had a bit of a lonely time in the town and might have struggled to meet as many people. I was amazed to meet a whole gang of English girls but it was great to hear some familiar accents among all the broad Queensland drawls, definitely comforting to know that there were some people who understood how nuts it is for an English girl to find herself living and working in the outback like this. The day was filled with horse-racing, fashion shows, betting and drinking, and was a great welcome to the town, I think better than any day I have been here, that one really summed up what my life would be like for the next three months.imageI’ll be honest and say it took a few weeks to really adapt to the slower pace of life in Charleville after the last few months in Darwin, it took me a little while to realise there would be a lot more empty time spent here. Instead of spending my nights dancing my heart out and partying, I would exchange for a life of lazy mornings spent sleeping in, afternoon workouts at the gym followed by quiet nights in front of the TV. It was a shock to the system and to start with I couldn’t cope with how bored I was, it seemed such a waste of time to relax but once I got over the shock I realised it was exactly what my body needed. I started to really enjoy having a break and pushing myself at the gym to get healthy and fit again – I’m probably now in the best shape I have been since travelling because I’ve been determined to get fit. I’ve taken the time to do other things I enjoy like cooking in a real kitchen, instead of a pathetic hostel offering, I’ve been reading and lazing by the pool. I’ve still missed a lot about my old life but knowing it was just for a short time gave me the motivation to make the most of it instead of fighting against it.imageDon’t think for a second that means there is nothing to do in Charleville – it’s just different. One of our favourite things to do was to get out of the town and head to the Ward, a part of the Warrego River where you can swim. On weekends you’ll go there and often see groups who take boats and jet skis up there – I never thought I’d be seeing people riding jet skis in the outback that’s for sure! It’s lovely and I remember the first time I went up there, we stayed floating around in the muddy water at sunset, chatting away while I watched kangaroos hopping up the banks of the river while horses drank further downstream. I went several times after that and one friend even made me jump off the bridge – I lost my sunglasses but totally worth it! For some it might be a muddy river with huge fish that jump out of the water, but for me it was a taste of the real Australia – a side that even many Australian haven’t seen for themselves. I got to see how these people had grown up and to experience, if only for a little while, how they live. That’s what travelling is all about, experiencing other cultures, other ways of living, and throwing yourself in the deep end to experience it for yourself.imageDon’t worry, I wasn’t totally sober and devoid of nights out for the last three months, we still went out every weekend for drinks at the pub or parties at the Bowls Club or one of the houses in town. There was something going on most weekends if you knew the right people and luckily I did, it meant I always had something to look forward to each week and that the weekends flew by! The nightlife may not have been particularly buzzing, but there was a good crowd to have a few drinks with and laugh a lot with each time so we had plenty of fun. I did also get to experience some pretty entertaining nights including a Bachelor and Bachelorette Auction to raise money for a sports team – everyone was hilariously drunk and bidding on the brave would who had got up on stage. There were also great parties over Christmas including the annual Boxing Day party which had a huge turnout and was a great night filled with dancing and lots of drinking games. And of course, just a week ago I was celebrating Australia Day with a barbecue, pool party and drinks with friends – so I’d say I’ve done pretty well over the last few months.image

Have you spent time in the outback? Where did you find yourself? How was your experience?

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18 things you learn from working in the Australian outback

imageSo after three amazing months of living and working in Darwin, it was time to move on and get my regional work done – I was determined to get that second year visa signed off so I could come back and do it all again. I had been hoping to move down to Tasmania or hit up Western Australia, but then a job came along that I just couldn’t turn down. More about the job itself in another post, this one is going to focus more on what it was like to live in an outback town in Central Queensland, if you like, a real Aussie experience. I arrived in Charleville after a full 24 hours of travelling by car, plane, train and bus took me from the Top End, out to Brisbane and then nearly 800km west. As the 12 hour bus ride ticked by, I dozed between spurts of gazing out the window as we drove further and further away from ‘civilisation’ and further into the bushland that dominates the centre of Australia. It was a strange feeling to not only be so far away from home, but to be so far away from the family I had created along the way. It was actually the first time I had been entirely alone in Australia, despite having been here for around six months. A pretty empowering and terrifying feeling at the same time, this feeling was something I had missed from travelling solo – that thrill and adrenalin rush you get when you know you can only rely on yourself if it all goes wrong.imageI arrived at around 7.30pm to a pitch black town, just a few useless streetlights were dotted around. I was the last person on the bus and the bus driver jokingly offered to take me back to Brissy if I was having second thoughts, but I laughed, hauled my bags off the bus and prepared myself to meet the people I would be working for. This week my three months will come to an end, and with three months of working in the Northern Territory, I’ve learnt a lot about what life is like in the outback. So if you’re thinking of doing the same to get your visa signed off, or just for fun, read on to find out what you need to know about bush life. Here are 18 things you learn from working and living in the Australian outback:

  1. When Aussies say outback, they mean it. There is literally nothing there. No shops, just a post office, a bank and a supermarket if you’re lucky. Sometimes there’s even less than that and you can be hours away from the closest shop. When you buy supplies, stock up on everything you need and even the things you don’t realise you will need.
  2. The lifestyle is totally different – gone are the days of doing something every single night, gone are the cinema trips, dinner dates, after work drinks. In the outback people work all week and save it for the weekend.
  3. Any event is a huge deal. The races, a Christmas party – anything like this that involves the whole town will be a huge affair and people will plan for weeks, or even months for it.
  4. Phone signal and wifi become huge luxuries – sign up to Telstra who seem to be the best – but don’t expect to rely on your phone for anything. Even electricity can be unreliable at times – as I write this I’m glad I charged my iPad as the power has just cut out!
  5. The landscape is something incredible – at first you see it as this dry, barren desert but soon you start to see the beauty in it, the gorgeous, deep red of the earth contrasted by the intense blue of the sky.
  6. The flies – the further into the centre of Australia you get, the more flies will swarm you. I was warned, and I’m glad they’re not too bad here in town but I’ve heard some horror stories from other travellers who ended up in the centre.
  7. There is not much to do around work, so naturally, people in the outback love to drink at the weekends. But don’t expect those bottle shops to be open as long as they are in the cities. Stock the fridge up and you’ll be sorted.
  8. Fear for your life. Well, not quite that extreme but do be careful and remember that this is the place you are most likely to see all those dangerous snakes and spiders people warn you about when you come to Oz. Always kick the toilet seat and check your boots if you leave them outside.
  9. The stars at night are some of the clearest and most incredible you will see. With so much less light pollution and clearer skies, you’re bound to be spellbound by the night sky, I know I am.
  10. You’ll be loving the simpler way of life and the break from city living, and simultaneously hating it and counting down until you can leave and return to life as you knew it.
  11. The people are amazing, you’ll meet some great characters and really have the chance to see how real Aussies live. You’ll never find a place more welcoming.
  12. There’ll be animals everywhere! Horses, goats and cows in the fields, dogs, cats and chickens in the houses. And they’re just the ones that the families invite in, don’t forget all the bugs, bats, birds and more that will be lurking outside.
  13. Everyone drives everywhere. The distance from the house to the shop, to a friend’s place or the post office will always be so great that everyone will just drive. Gone are the days of walking everywhere as a backpacker, you’ll be back on the road and probably in some real outback vehicle.
  14. Everything will be trying to eat you alive – there will be mosquitoes, sandflies, midges and many more. Sometimes itchy lumps will spring up on your skin and you won’t know why – don’t worry, most of the time it’s impossible to tell because there are so many things it could be.
  15. The weather is intense and hot, it’s a heat unlike any you have felt elsewhere. Often it feels like the heat is radiating up from the very ground as well as shining down on you from the sun. Plus when it rains, which it will do at times, it will be serious, tropical showers.
  16. You will always be dirty and sweaty, the breeze is constantly blowing around dirt and dust, and no matter how you try to keep clean, you will never feel it. You’ll soon accept it and come to enjoy being a bit grubby, especially if you’re doing farm work – trust me, no shower feels better than that one at the end of the day.
  17. There are so many opportunities to get out there and embrace the Aussie lifestyle and to get to try out things that you never thought you would. On your days off try helping out at a nearby cattle station, learn to ride a horse or shear sheep. It’s a skill you’d never get the chance to try in the city.
  18. That outback life isn’t for everyone, but everyone can give it a go. There’s nothing more satisfying than being a total girly-girl who loves make-up and shoes, but giving it all up to live rough for three months. Proving to all your friends and family at home that you can do it, and giving you a new appreciation of life when you return to city slicking.

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Have you ever worked on the Australian outback? What kind of work did you do? Where were you based for it? 

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Travel | Go starry-eyed over the sights of New York

imageIf you read last week’s post on my top city break destinations, you’ll already know that New York is a city I’ve fallen in love with over and over again. I’m a child of the Sex and the City generation and a lover of classic movies set in the Big Apple, both have given me such a romanticised view of the city that I never thought it would live up to my expectations. But after travelling there four times I can assure you that on every single trip it has surpassed my dreams, and my expectations to bring me a whole new experience. My most recent trip there, in April 2014 was by far the best trip yet and was actually a big decider in me going travelling solo. I had just gone through the roughest few months of my life and out of this came the push to book a family holiday to NYC, getting away gave me perspective and space, and seeing the bright lights of a whole new country gave me the excitement of something new.imageI suddenly realised that this holiday had made me happier than I had been in months, in every aspect of my life, and while I had already had ideas about going travelling, this was the moment I realised that I had to make it happen. I needed that feeling of excitement and boarding a plane to last, but this time I needed to get away and not know when I was coming back. There’s something about the feeling of getting totally lost in a place that is awesomely inspiring and even now, I just love the idea of escaping from the norm and discovering a new place and way of life. It may sound cheesy, but getting excited about a holiday to New York gave me hope that I would get past this horrible time in my life, it helped me remember a time when I could be happy and gave me a determination to reach that once again.imageEach time we’ve been there, we’ve crammed as much as possible into our five days or a week, the perfect amount of time for an NYC city break or holiday. Staying close to Times Square has really helped that as so much is within walking distance and you can tick a lot of the great sights, and great eats, off very quickly. Going there for the first time? It’s difficult and often overwhelming when trying to plan what to squeeze in and what to leave out – so here is my list of the top 10 things you have to do/see when in New York:

  1. Tick off the main sights – climb the Empire State Building to admire the view, go to the Top of the Rock, stand in Times Square, watch the ice skaters in Rockefeller Centre. If you have time, head to Grand Central Station and the New York Public Library too! And be sure to take cheesy photos at every single one – you may hate being a tourist but you’ll regret it if you don’t have the perfect cheesy photo to Instagram after!
  2. Pick a nice day – hopefully better than the one we had – and head down to Battery Park to see Lady Liberty, even better, take one of the boat trips over to the island to see her in her full splendour.
  3. Try your hardest to get tickets to a game or concert at Madison Square Gardens – it looks like an amazing venue and sadly I haven’t managed to get tickets yet but it’s definitely on the list for next time!
  4. Spend an afternoon wandering around Central Park in the sunshine, it’s beautiful there and gives you a bit of peace from the hustle and bustle of the busy streets. Take a picnic, watch the musicians and performers, check out the ice skating rink, take a horse and carriage ride or walk through the zoo.
  5. Shop until you drop. I always spend a fortune when I go shopping in NYC but it’s just fabulous – take a leaf out of Carrie Bradshaw’s book and head for the malls, often a lot of stuff works out cheaper than it would at home.
  6. Spend a day wandering through Chinatown and getting lost in Little Italy – these beautiful little neighbourhoods give you a chance to experience a different side of the city and we always make sure to have a meal in one of the cute, family-run restaurants in Little Italy.
  7. Get yourself to a Broadway show! Whether you love musicals or hate them, there’s a show for everyone, why not try a play or a cabaret? The best thing is that there always cheap tickets on sale – skip the scalpers and queue up at door before a performance is due to start, often you can get great tickets for cheap because no theatre wants empty seats!
  8. Eat your way around the city – there are amazing breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner stops on every corner. Dive into the fluffiest pancakes with bacon, snaffle down a bagel with smoked salmon and cream cheese, snack on cheesecake, wolf down burgers and steaks. Trust me, New York does food really, really well. And look out for unique dining experiences like the Jekyll and Hyde Restaurant.
  9. One of the best things I’ve done in New York was completely free! It can get expensive visiting every sight in the city, but don’t forget what is right above you. Up on the Highline, every Tuesday, a group of volunteers take their telescopes so that visitors and travellers can take a look at the night sky. Take the opportunity to get starry-eyed by stargazing in one of the brightest cities in the world.
  10. And no visit to New York would be complete without a visit to one of the most devastating and most poignant memorials in the world – most will remember clearly where they were when they heard the news of the 9/11 attacks, I remember being 11 at high school when the news broke. The city have done an amazing job with the memorial and the museum, it was interesting to see the site go from a pile of rubble on my first visit, to the incredible buildings that stand there today. Whatever your feelings about the attack, you can’t help but be incredibly moved by the experience of visiting the 9/11 memorial.

imageThere are a million and one things you can do in New York City and there are always new parts to discover, I can think of countless other things I could recommend for you to check out. But on a first time visit you are always working against the clock to fit everything in and still have fun without rushing. All of these trips, activities and experiences are well worth the time spent on them, no matter how touristic they may seem. You’ll always be hard-pressed to squeeze everything in so make sure you choose the things you want to see and do the most – if you just fancy a shopping trip then why not head to Tiffany’s before shopping your way down Fifth Avenue? Or go vintage and check out the amazing range of markets scattered across the city. There are no end of museums and art galleries from the most prominent to the quirky and unusual, and, if your budget allows it, why not splash out on a helicopter ride across the city? There are so many ways to experience and fall in love with New York City and even after four trips there I know I’m not done – bring on the next trip!image

What’s your favourite thing to do in New York? Are there any attractions you wouldn’t recommend?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Happy New Year | My 2015 highlights and what I’ve learnt | 2015

imageWow, I can’t believe 2015 is finally at an end. It’s been a hell of a year and I still can’t quite believe I didn’t dream some of it. It’s safe to say, this has been the best year of my life yet and I am happier than I’ve ever been before – if you knew how I was feeling at the end of last year you’d realise what an incredible change a year has had on my life. I ended 2014 with my life totally up in the air, I’d just quit a good, steady job, I’d put all my money into a plane ticket to the other side of the world, and I’d just broken off a nine year relationship. Pretty dramatic eh? So although I was beyond excited about my plans for travelling across Asia, Australia and New Zealand, I was also questioning whether I had made the right decision, whether I could really do this. Whether I could do this all by myself. I had a bit of a wobble in the airport over a glass of wine when I read all the amazing messages of support from friends and family, but then I realised it didn’t even matter if it all went tits up – I had the best people at home to pick up the pieces. Knowing that gave me all the strength I needed to realise it would all be fine and I was going to have an incredible adventure. So that was exactly what I did. In just five days it will be a year since I boarded that plane and set out on the trip of a lifetime, which should have been ending in just a few days but instead is still going strong with no real end in sight.

In the last 12 months I’ve been through so much – I’ve met the most incredible people and seen the most beautiful things, I’ve stayed up all night to watch the sunrise in the most amazing places, I’ve faced my own mortality and I’ve realised so much about myself and what I want out of life. It sounds cheesy, but getting away from life as I knew it has really taught me a lot about the way I want to live my life and it definitely doesn’t fit into any boxes society has carved out for me. The last 12 months has been about breaking all the rules, setting new ones and living the dream. Looking back, all the pain leading up to my decision to travel was more than worth it now because it led me to this part of my life and I wouldn’t trade this for the world. I’ve never felt freer and being trapped at home while I raised the cash to come and do this was totally worth it because I have appreciated every second since then all the more. I feel so incredibly proud of myself for doing this all alone – it’s the first time I’ve done anything truly independent of friends, family and a boyfriend so that is a huge achievement and it has been the biggest boost to my confidence. I know now that if I can survive a year of travelling solo and not only smash it, but have the most incredible time, then I can do anything!

I’ve done so many amazing things in the last year; from racing round Bangkok in tuk tuks to trekking through jungle to waterfalls, I’ve volunteered with elephants and gone hill tribe trekking in Northern Thailand, I’ve partied insanely hard down on the Thai islands and eaten copious amounts of curry and pad Thai. I’ve swam through caves and kayaked out on a lake in the centre of a 180 million year old rainforest at sunrise, I’ve hiked up to a temple to watch the sun rise over Phuket, I’ve bartered at markets and lived my days in tie-dye, I’ve clung to my friend as we raced around on motorbikes and persuaded friends not to ride elephants. I’ve spent two days on a slow boat to Laos singing annoying songs, I’ve swam through waterfalls pretending to be a mermaid, I’ve gone bowling in weird places in Laos and been tubing with a load of nut cases as we drank our way down the river bars and created chaos. I’ve fallen in love with Vietnam from the history to the food, I’ve been on cycling tours, visited waterfalls, worked out on the beach, explored markets, had clothes made for me, abseiled down waterfalls and jumped off cliffs.imageI’ve seen the beauty in rural Cambodia and the genuine kindness of the locals, I’ve been healed by yoga, meditation and the beautiful people around me, I’ve been pampered and massaged by experts, I’ve learnt all about a history I never knew happened and I’ve watched the sun rise over Angkor Wat. I’ve celebrated my 25th birthday surrounded by friends old and new in a brand new country, I’ve realised what Australia has to offer, I’ve seen cities like Sydney, Melbourne and Darwin and I’ve travelled for two months with another person. I’ve seen what the East Coast has to offer; I’ve 4WD around Fraser Island, I’ve swam with sea turtles on Whitsundays and been white water rafting, I’ve kayaked with dolphins, surfed in Byron Bay and been whale spotting, I’ve cuddled a koala and fed a kangaroo. I’ve found the best travelling family a girl could ever ask for and spent three months partying and raving my heart out with the best friends you could find. I’ve experienced the outback in Darwin and seen the Northern Territory. I’ve travelled solo across the country to live in the bush and work alone for three months.

Don’t get me wrong, it hasn’t all be amazing – there have been rough bits too. But as one of my best friends always says, “you take the rough with the smooth”. There have been times I’ve been scared and felt horribly alone, when it’s all gone wrong and I didn’t know what to do. I’ve been robbed by taxi drivers and had to punch my way out of an argument, I’ve had to look after more than one friend after they were attacked in the most unlikely places, I’ve had to look after another friend when all of her money was stolen out of her bank account by someone we thought we could trust, and I’ve faced my own mortality three times. It’s not all smiles and sunlight when you travel and in particular those three serious crashes left me pretty shaken up. Until that point I think I always thought in the back of my mind that everything would be okay and that I was invincible but suddenly I realised that it could all come to an end quicker than you can say bye. But all of these experiences have taught me quite how important it is to live every second like it’s your last. I always have done anyway, but now it seems even more important than ever. I’ve realised that even when you’re thousands of miles away from your friends and family that there are people, good friends you meet along the way, who will come drop everything and come running to save you. And most importantly, I’ve learnt how to save myself and not rely on anyone else to do it for me.

2015 has been a year of growth, a year of triumph and success. I’ve never been prouder of myself for all I’ve achieved, and I’ve never been more excited about what the future holds. I’ve already changed my plans countless times and instead of heading home in a few days like I was supposed to, I’m staying in Australia to keep living the dream. I’ve already made travel plans for the following 18 months and I can’t wait to start living them. Instead of being the end of an incredible year and the beginning of reality kicking in, I’ve made this my reality and it feels like just the beginning of another incredible adventure. It might be egocentric but I don’t really care, this last year has shown me how amazing, strong and brave I am and it seems only right that someone who possesses these qualities would want to take on the world – so I shall. Thank you all for being with me every step of the way and I hope you’ll be sticking around for the long haul as we’ve got a long way left to go!

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Careers | 10 jobs everyone should do in their lifetime

imageI’ve had a lot of jobs in my time – from dominating hospitality in bars, shops, restaurants, pubs and box offices, to working as a journalist, editor and freelance writer. I’ve supported students in primary school, helped provide learning materials for college students and even worked as an au pair. Can you tell I like to experiment? I’ve always felt that we should try out as many different jobs as possible in order to really gain an idea of our skills and talents, plus working a cross section of jobs really helps to show how diverse we are. Many of these jobs I have held at the same time, and I think five is the highest number of jobs I have held simultaneously. Right before I came travelling, I was saving hard so I was working full time as a journalist, while also working in a pub/restaurant, freelance writing, taking an editor role for an online magazine and babysitting. It was a busy time for me, but I loved the challenge and the chance to gain experience in so many different roles, plus I was organised so I still managed to have a social life. It paid off, because getting the experience of working on a bar and recent waitressing experience helped land me a job in Darwin’s busiest bar/restaurant where I was working 40 hours a week. The babysitting experience and reference helped land me a job as an au pair which saw me working with two little boys five days a week and helped me save a lot of money.

While travelling, it is easy to pick up a range of different roles, because often you are looking for a stopgap role to save money before moving on a few months later. This is the perfect opportunity to keep trying new things and broadening your skill set, plus you have the sense of adventure and lack of restrictions to push you to try things you never have before. For example, living out in Australia has given me the opportunity and the drive to take on a job in the outback in order to get my second year visa, not something I would have had the chance to do while back at home. But even when we’re job hunting at home, there are plenty of ways to step outside your comfort zone and try something new. It’s important to do this, even if the job won’t directly affect your career, because it gives us a greater understanding and respect for the roles others take on.

Here are 10 jobs I think everyone should try in their lifetime:

  1. Work in hospitality. Every single person should at some point have to serve others, whether it’s drinks, food, milkshakes or working on a supermarket checkout. It can be fun or it can be soul destroying, but it’s important to see both sides of the coin and to seriously understand the impact the way we treat those who serve us has on the world. It’s the domino effect – a simple please and thank you can mean the difference between good and bad service.
  2. Work with children, whether babysitting, teaching or nannying. It’s a learning curve and really helps you to understand whether you are ready for children of your own. It can be the hardest and the most rewarding job in the world. Sometimes you will feel like your head is going to explode, other times it will be your heart that is full to bursting.
  3. Work the shitty job. Everyone has one, that horrendous job you had to work in order to motivate you to move up, to change your career or to make a change. For me, it was working in a terrible milkshake shop that was so unprofessionally run that people were stealing from the tills. It’s what drove me to get the job at the newspaper and the rest is history.
  4. Work the job that changes you. I’m talking about the one that ignites a passion in you when you don’t know what to do with your life. The one that inspires you and fuels a drive to learn and grow within the role. This is the really important one, so many are left searching for something they truly love, but if you find it, it can change your world.
  5. Work for a good cause. Everyone in my opinion should volunteer at some point in their lives – whether it’s helping out at the Red Cross shop once a week, helping to run a kid’s after school session, working with the disabled or elderly, or volunteering overseas. Giving up my time at Elephant Nature Park in Thailand has inspired me to do more and was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.
  6. Work the job that challenges you. We all end up working at least one of these, the job that pushes you to your limits, takes advantage of your good nature and willingness to work, the job that takes over your life. It’s always a horrible time when you realise how much a job like this has taken over, but it’s important because it pushes you to grow and to refuse, it helps you realise your limits and your worth.
  7. Work the fun job. Sometimes it might not pay well or it might be more of a hobby with benefits on the side of a main job, but it’s always a good one to have. For me, it was my role as the editor of an online magazine which gave me experience and free tickets to any festivals I wanted. Blogging is my latest fun job, it pays and fuels a passion of mine.
  8. Work the creative job. This is the one that really lets you be yourself and to use your talents to their full potential whether it is writing, building, designing, communicating, fundraising or whatever it might be. It gives you space to grow and to develop a new way of working.
  9. Work the career job. The one you really take seriously, the one you’ve been waiting for, the one you know will take you to a new level in your profession. The one you realise you’ve been working for all along.
  10. Work the change-of-career job. Not for everyone, but sometimes you get to a point in your life and you realise what you’ve been working for all along no longer matters to you. You realise that there is a new passion bubbling away inside you and you just have to follow it.

What types of jobs have you worked? What career would you like to get into? Have you had a game-changing career moment when you realised you had a passion for something else?

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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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