Tag Archives: traveler

Bali | My bumper guide to getting a bit #EatPrayLove in Ubud

IMG_2178It’s taken a while to get to my final Bali post but here we are, and what better to write about than my time spent in the incredible jungle haven where Julia Roberts famously found love again in Eat Pray Love? Ubud is the spiritual centre of Bali and if you’ve visited the island without setting foot in this jungle paradise, you honestly haven’t seen Bali. It was so different to every other place I visited while there and it was easy to see why so many expats had now chosen to call it home. Easily my favourite place on the island, Ubud is the perfect place to relax and really look after yourself for a while, especially if you’ve just come from partying in Seminyak or Kuta. I won’t lie, I had been indulging a lot and partying pretty hard over there and on Gili T for a few weeks so I was more than ready for a rest and a chance to try out the alternative, yogi, health-food lifestyle for a while.IMG_2188

Planning your day trip

Earlier in my stay on Bali I had taken a day trip with a friend to Ubud where our taxi driver took us to visit the Monkey Forest, the Tegalalang Rice Paddies and Tegenungen Waterfall – as you’ll see from some of the pictures in this post, they are all worth a visit! Ubud is an area of outstanding natural beauty, and while it takes you away from the sandy beaches the island is famous for, it offers something even more beautiful instead. The best way by far to explore the island is by motorbike which you can hire for almost nothing, but we found as there was a few of us it worked out pretty cheap to do a taxi as we managed to strike a deal for around 250,000RP for the day – the average day taxi costs around 3-350,000RP. Our driver was great and told us a lot about the different places we visited, plus it meant we could have a nap in the back of the car instead of driving all day. We visit from Kuta, if you do this make sure you set off extra early to beat the traffic as it gets pretty hectic mid-morning onwards.IMG_2182These three attractions are the most popular and well known for Ubud, plus they are great to combine even if you are just visiting for the day as they are the perfect distance from each other so you don’t have to rush. I absolutely loved the rice paddies – you do have to pay to get in but it is worth it if you go early and pretty much have the place to yourself. We spent a few hours doing the sweatiest hike I have ever done across the fields which stretch as far as the eye can see. We joined a farmer for a cool refreshing coconut and played his musical instruments with him as we chatted with some Swedish guys we met. After, we headed to the Monkey Forest for a wander around an amazing temple that reminded me of King Louis’ in The Jungle Book, monkeys scamper around the forest climbing on tourists and stealing food. It was pretty cool, but oh my gosh I still haven’t got over my fear of monkeys so I was squealing a bit – especially when one stop a water bottle from my friend and started to stare him down!IMG_2183Finally a refreshing dip in Tegenungen Waterfall was a perfect end to the day – it was absolutely beautiful and a perfect place to be for sunset. Despite being quite busy, there was still plenty of space to swim/get photos/relax, and it is well worth paying a little bit to get up to the top! We drove back to Kuta in rush hour traffic which took ages but it was a great day, well planned and we had spent about six hours on the road and visiting the sights. We probably spent around 500,000RP altogether for the taxi, entry to the sights and meals for the day which is equivalent to around £30 – you could probably do it for a lot less if you went by motorbike.IMG_2179

Where to stay?

At the end of my trip, I couldn’t resist joining some friends for a few days in Ubud. It’s a bit cheesy but I really fancied a Julia Roberts experience – some yoga, some healing, some jungle life and some time to figure my next move out. Our friends had booked into the brand new Ons Hostel which they raved about, so I booked in to join them. On arrival with two other friends, myself and one of them were checked into a 14 bed dorm with no-one else in it! The place was so new they were just building up custom but it meant we had the whole place to ourselves. Imagine whitewashed walls, clean fresh dorms with the comfiest beds, luxury bathrooms with rain showers, a swimming pool with an area to sit and eat the freshly made pancakes and omelettes made to order for breakfast. It was like staying in a hotel – absolute luxury. I can’t recommend staying there enough. It is positioned the other side of the Monkey Forest which although separate from the centre of Ubud, it gives you a lovely walk into the centre and a chance to see a different side to the area. Check out this HotelsCombined blog on the 7 Best Value Hotels to Relax in Bali to complete your Bali experience.IMG_2280

Where to eat?

I would really recommend dining at Laka Leke restaurant one evening – our hostel was just down the road so we gathered all 20 of our friends and booked in for the night’s entertainment. The food was incredible, I had a traditional Indonesian curry which was mouth-wateringly good, and as we ate we watched a live performance of the Kecak and fire dance. It was a very interesting performance and there are several others they perform on different nights if you fancy something different. I believe the restaurant will also do pick-ups from your hotel/hostel if you are staying further away. Other favourites of mine included the amazing selection of vegetarian restaurants – I can’t name them all here but there are so many that offer really high quality food. Also, the tiny Warungs – my favourites were the really small, local family run ones who would treat you like a daughter and cook you the best meal from scratch.IMG_2269IMG_2268

Where to yoga?

Everyone talks about Yoga Barn when it comes to Ubud, but after reading up, it sounded like there were a lot of people complaining about having to join huge classes of 60 people. As a bit of a beginner, I wasn’t sure that was for me. But I did spot that Ubud Yoga Centre was just down the road so I signed up for a Bikram Yoga Class at the centre instead. It was cheap and the centre was really lovely, all brand new and very high quality. The class was hard and the heat was a lot to take, but I gave it my best shot and really enjoyed the class, it was lovely to have a good stretch out. Afterwards I was exhausted and spent the day sunbathing.IMG_2277

What to do?

You may have already seen the main sights, but there’s lots more to do around Ubud. Your best bet is to hire a motorbike as we did and go off exploring local temples, rice paddies and villages for the day. We had a great day visiting local craftsmen, getting lost in the rice paddies barefoot in the pouring rain as we tried to find waterfalls and being blessed at the temples. We asked at our hostel who gave us a booklet of all the best places to visit and we worked out way through as many as we could cram into a day. Some to add to your list would include the Elephant Cave, Puri Saren Royal Palace and the Blanco Renaissance Museum. Also, if you get time, the Campuhan Ridge Walk is totally free and looks really beautiful – sadly I didn’t get time.IMG_2276If you fancy sticking closer to the centre of Ubud, don’t forget to check out Ubud Market for some of the best shopping I found in Bali. And head to one of the many salons for some cut price beauty treatments – my friend and I each had a massage, manicure/pedicure and facial for 200,000RP – just £12! And if you’re a bit of a bookworm like me, make sure you take advantage of the many beautiful, relaxing places to snuggle up with a book and a fresh juice – either at a bar or your hostel. If you’re planning a trip to Ubud and need help – let me know by leaving a comment below!IMG_2275

And if you’re heading off on your first backpacking trip – don’t forget to enter my competition to win a backpack to store all your precious possessions!

image7-1-1

Lifestyle | But, am I doing okay? Really?

15192616_10153957418182617_4700111268043211696_nI’m struggling lately. I’m not afraid to admit it. On the face of things, I have my shit together, I’m one of the most together people I know most of the time. Always sure of myself, always knowing my next step and what I want out of life. But these past few weeks, I’ve just found myself questioning everything. I don’t know what set it off, perhaps it was the exhaustion of the post-festival comedown and working over 50 hours a week that has left me an emotional mess, perhaps it’s just a mid-twenties crisis. But let’s be honest, sometimes all it takes is the news of how everyone else is progressing around you – in their relationships, careers, travels and lives – to make you really question everything you are doing and have achieved. I’m not one to compare myself to others, I know I’ve chosen a very different path to most people, but it’s easy to look at that without a heavy dose of perspective and think you’re not doing as well as you should be.

I said in a previous post how I was struggling to find the words to put on the page and I was taking a short break from writing until I regained my mojo. But it was only the last few days when it suddenly hit me that perhaps the reason I had lost my mojo was because I wasn’t writing as much. Spending so much time focusing on work, the gym, friends and enjoying Melbourne meant one of my biggest passions was pushed to the wayside and I was left with no real outlet for all those thoughts that swirl around in the back of my head. As a creative individual it’s easy to not realise the huge impact that has on you as a person, the challenge of being a creative is always finding new, and more satisfying ways to express yourself. But if that mode of expression is taken away, all that creative energy can just eat you up inside. I can see it even now as my fingers fly across the keyboard, just how much I have missed writing and sharing every facet of my life with you wonderful people.15203347_10153970687092617_759818856468780508_nSo what sparked this huge realisation? Well, last week at work (I’m working at a rooftop bar in Melbourne CBD) I had a visitor – a lovely girl who had travelled all the way from Germany, apparently a huge fan of this blog, and just had to meet me in person on her last night in the city. I can’t even begin to tell you what this meant to me, I’ve had a few real down days these last few weeks so to know that someone appreciated me and my work so much was an incredible boost. It hasn’t automatically fixed everything, but it has brought me back to writing and it has made me realise my priorities. I love exploring the world around me and living life to the max – I will always be a workaholic who struggles to maintain a work/life balance that doesn’t push my body to extreme exhaustion. But I also need to give myself time to reflect and enjoy, to appreciate the amazing experiences I have had rather than always surging ahead towards the next.

But, am I doing okay?

It’s the question we all ask ourselves all the time, whether we say it out loud or we let it eat us up inside as more friends announce new homes, huge career progression, engagements, marriage and babies. It’s so hard not to judge yourself by the standards of others, and it’s so easy to forget your own individual huge achievements that others just can’t compete with. Now several years down the line, I know that giving up my nine-year relationship to travel the world solo and build a freelance journalism and travel blogging career was the best decision I have ever made in my life. But I still can’t help but compare it to friends who have done the opposite and gave up everything for the one they love – putting aside their career and life plans. Likewise, giving up my working life at a newspaper was something that was long-overdue but going freelance and travelling long-term has also thrown me back into a life of temporary hospitality and casual work. I can’t help but both love the freedom and easiness of it while hating the transiency and the lack of progression. There is no future in it and it sometimes makes me crave the excitement of seizing career opportunities.15181360_10153970688762617_7809531450665387419_nI mean, technically I’m doing amazingly. I’m in a great job, earning good money, I’m complete independent, the fittest and physically happiest I’ve been for a long time. I have a great apartment, incredible friends and family on every side of the globe, and plans for the future. But right now, something just isn’t sitting right with me, I can’t put my finger on it but whether my life is missing something or I’m in need of something different, I know that something has to change. I’m not one of these people who mopes around and complains about the way things are, I prefer to be a little proactive and make things better. Being a solo traveller, you have to be willing to get off your arse and to do things for yourself instead of waiting for someone else to make you happy. I like to apply that attitude to every aspect of my life and so I always get impatient with myself when I’m having a few down days – I’m not a wallower, I’m a problem solver. So my next mission is getting myself out of this funk and finding my new happy, the change that will help me regain what I feel like I’ve lost lately.

So, how do I do this?

Well my first changes were pretty instantaneous, I cut a few toxic people out of my life in the last few weeks, people who were’t bringing anything positive into my world. I came back to writing, determined to let it heal me and to find my way back to this blogging world. I took some time for me, I went treated my body well and allowed it to recover, I indulged in my passions without stressing about doing things for other people. I planned a much-needed escape to nature with amazing friends and I refused to feel guilty for putting myself first. It hasn’t changed my world yet, but it has eased my mood and has given me hope for the upcoming weeks. Now all we can do is watch and wait.15179224_10153957417787617_6807561513212356488_n

Are you struggling at the moment – how do you cope with these feelings? Have you got any tips for getting back on track?

image7-1-1

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?

image7-1-1

2016 – The end of another amazing year of travel

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

My top 5 travelling experiences of 2016:

Melbourne

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

Budapest

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

Slovenia

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

Bali

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

Tasmania

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

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

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

image7-1-1

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

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

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

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

My experience

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

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

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

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

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

Holly’s experience

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

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

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

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

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

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

Coping with your au pair job:

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

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

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

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

image7-1-1

Indonesia | Explore Yogyakarta, the soul of Java

imageWhen I travelled to Bali last month, I only planned to stay for a week but I fell in love with the Indonesian culture and the incredible landscape. A month later I only left because of my visa but I know for sure I’ll be back in the future to explore more of Indonesia in the years to come. There are thousands of incredible islands waiting to be explored and each come with their own incredible sights, customs and experiences just waiting to be discovered. From the jungles of Borneo to the beauty of the Gili islands and the wildness of Komodo Island – Indonesia truly captivates the soul. One area I would love to visit is Java, and when the team at Hotel Tentrum Yogyakarta asked me to write about my perfect trip there, I couldn’t resist the chance to share it with you guys. Yogyakarta has long been described as the artistic soul of Java and it’s easy to see why when it has combined the traditional Balinese culture with modern living. Now famed for its arts and culture, the city remains protective over its customs combining the new with the old.imageIf you’re planning a trip to the city, be sure to check out some of the incredible natural sights that lie all around, delve into the history of years gone by and indulge in the foodie highlights around the city. Don’t miss these top sights:

  1. Stand in awe of the magnificent Prambanan Temple, the 9th century Hindu temple is part of the Indonesia UNESCO World Heritage Site, being one of the largest Hindu temple architecture in Southeast Asia. Just 18km outside of Yogyakarta, it can easily be reached by bus and is well worth a visit.
  2. Just a short walk from Prambanan, the eerier Sewu Temple will leave you with chills as you walk around and attempt to uncover the mystery of this captivating temple. Be sure to explore every dark corner to discover some incredible carvings.
  3. Even for those who usually don’t hike or climb, the short hike to Mount Merapi is a sight that will leave you humbled as you walk through the leftovers of homes shattered by the 2010 eruption of the volcano.
  4. For a peek behind-the-scenes into the opulent world of a sultan, visit the Taman Sari Water Castle and explore the huge complex that used to be a former royal garden.
  5. Try Gudeg, the most famous dish in Yogyakarta, this unique Indonesian dish is a stew made from young jackfruit (nangka) with palm sugar, coconut milk, meat, garlic, and spices.
  6. Shop at Jalan Malioboro and Pasar Beringharjo for bargains when it comes to silver jewellery, food and almost anything you can think of. Barter with market stall holders for the full Indonesian experience.
  7. In total contrast to the temples and culture of Yogyakarta, head out for a day trip to Jomblang Cave if you fancy an adventure. Visit the ancient forests, try your hand at vertical caving and lots more. An astonishing natural sight, prepare your camera for some amazing shots.
  8. The cable cars at Timang Beach will give you a day off sightseeing as you travel suspended high across the bay and enjoy the beautiful sights.
  9. Fancy dosing up on a bit more local culture? The Ullen Sentalu Museum showcases a lot of old photographs, paintings, fabrics, old letters and statues that show Javanese culture.

image

If that’s whet your appetite for a visit, why not take a look at these Yogyakarta hotel deals and start planning your trip? Have you been to Yogyakarta – what was your highlight? Can you recommend any places to visit?

image7-1-1

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

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

What can you do to protect your home?

For city breaks/summer holidays:

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

image

For the long-term travellers:

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

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

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

image7-1-1

Travel | Planning your Northern Lights adventure

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

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

Where to see them?

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

Where to stay?

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

What kind of trip are you after?

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

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

image7-1-1

Travel | Off on my 3rd solo adventure!

imageIt’s official – tomorrow is the day, the day when I get to start living my dreams again. This last week has been the slowest of all time, I’ve been clock-watching and calendar-counting, just hoping the days would pass by a little quicker. If you read my rather personal post last week, you’ll know I’ve been struggling a bit lately and that I really need to get away. Feeling like this was good in one way because it has prompted me to book my flights and get back out there, to put a limit on my time at home and actually go again. I’ve loved having these months at home, they have given me so many amazing opportunities to see my friends and family, to work as a journalist again and to dedicate real time to this blog. It’s been incredible to work with so many UK and international brands, to be featured in an industry magazine and to get to review so many amazing places. I feel so lucky and so grateful, but at the same time, the whole time I have been home there has been this nagging little voice in my ear telling me this is not where I am supposed to be.

Perhaps that’s what prompted me to travel around so much of Europe during my time back here, and that too has been incredible. I’ve visited so many amazing travelling friends, seen places I had only dreamed of before now and ticked off my 29th country. But still, it wasn’t enough, I returned home and have had serious post-travelling blues since, then with everything I spoke about in my last post, I just realised it was time to go. It sounds horrible to say but I just struggle to spend any length of time in this town now, I love being at home but beyond that there is nothing really here for me. I’ve exhausted all career options and I’m a working girl at heart – I need something I can be passionate and excited about to keep me in a place. I’ve been incredibly lucky with the sheer amount of freelance work I’ve been able to source and that has given me the money to do amazing things over the last four months. But there comes a time when it is just not enough and I know I’m more than ready to move on again.12140590_10153104137662617_1072458207340519505_n

So what’s next?

Well, that’s the big question. With all the stuff that has happened lately, I wasn’t quite ready to return to Australia and I think I’m long overdue for some serious relaxation time. All you guys see is fun and games from my travels but I can assure you I’ve been working A LOT since I’ve been back – my whole summer has been taken up with a huge amount of freelance work, running this blog and working with countless different companies. It’s been amazing, but also exhausting especially when you try and combine it with having a social life and now, I’m done. I’m completely emotionally and physically exhausted from it all – told you I always overdo it!

But that’s okay, because I think I’ve earned a week completely off from life. So I’m heading to – wait for it – my 30th country!! And I’m doing it with one of my best friends. I couldn’t be more excited to be travelling to Bali – a place I’ve long since dreamed of – and to be doing it with one of my closest travelling pals. When you feel a bit fragile, there’s nothing more important than surrounding yourself with people who mean the most to you and will bring nothing but happiness and laughter back into your life. I can’t think of anyone I will laugh harder with or be happier with at this moment in my life. I’m about ready for a week of cocktails, partying Dingos-style and relaxing. I’ll be taking a week off from blogging – but true to form, I’ve over-prepared and you’ll still be getting two new posts this week and two next week.12066066_10153150235258779_1396839736833225395_n

And after that…?

The travelling dream will be back on track and I’ll be heading back to Melbourne – the city that well and truly has my heart – to catch up with some amazing friends and start part two of my journey. I’ll be honest and say that while my body may have come back to the UK back in May, the last four months my heart has definitely been elsewhere. Other travelers will know that feeling of being torn between your heart and your head, between the reality of day-to-day life and the dream you’ve been living. Well I’ve had an extreme version of this and just couldn’t really settle at home, hence why I’m so excited to get back there and really feel free again. Right now my head is all over the place, but by the time I step back on Australia shores I hope to be a bit more ready to take on the next year of my life and live my dream again.

I remember the exact second I had my second year visa came through after weeks of angst and worry, I was in Amsterdam and celebrated with a friend I actually met the last time I was down under! It was the happiest feeling, knowing I was going back to a country that brought me so much happiness, so now I just hope it will do the same once again. Plans for this year of travelling include visiting the raw, natural beauty of Tasmania and road tripping the slightly more wild Western Australia, plus I’m sure I’ll fit in some time in Darwin and Christmas in Melbourne with all the friends I was so dearly missing during the last festive season when I completed my farm work. I’m looking forward to being that travelling version of myself again, I feel like I’ve been a watered down version of myself since I’ve been home and it’s time to get back to being the real me.13920864_10153669383367617_3668028187169531860_n

Here we go again!

Right now I’m spending the day packing and making last minute preparations and tomorrow I officially take to the skies for a delightful 20 hours of travelling (eek). I can’t wait to be back in the air and on my next adventure, it’s so much more special knowing some of my favourite people are waiting for me in Bali and Australia, but I also can’t wait to just get lost in these countries. Bring on solo traveler life again and bring on my return to Asia – it’s been far too long. Follow my adventures on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter – I’ll be posting all of our misadventures!

Have you been to Bali – any recommendations? Have you experienced any of these feelings as a solo traveler returning home?

image7-1-1

Travel | How travel can be the greatest healer for heartbreak

13912473_10153669362822617_8683319907628436864_nFirst of all, I want to thank all my lovely readers for their messages and emails lately. Especially to those who have pushed me to publish this post – it was the hardest one to publish for a very long time. It’s amazing to get feedback on the posts I write and I feel honoured that so many of you come to me for advice on everything from travelling to relationships. It seems incredible to think this blog started out as a hobby and now it brings me close to people all over the world who are going through the same things, and who are inspired to do the same things I have been. One of my most popular posts has been drawing a lot of new readers to my blog lately and I’ve had a lot of requests to write more personal posts, it’s something I’ve shied away from for a while because although I’ve had a lot to write about, sometimes it is difficult to find the words. But one topic that comes up again and again is “how do you cope with heartbreak?” It’s ironic that this keeps coming up so often when I’ve just had a fresh wave of this to deal with, but when better to talk about it?

Having your heart broken hurts. There’s no getting away from it. Even if you try to squash it down and pretend it’s not happening, it always comes back and hits you with a fresh wave of pain. I remember being in such physical pain after I had my heart broken the first time, my heart actually ached and I couldn’t get away from it, I couldn’t get it out of my head. Now after this past week, I’m feeling that pain all over again and I remember how hard it was to cope with the first time. It’s that hopeless feeling when you know there’s nothing more you can do and you can’t help but blame yourself. Last time it was in no way my fault, I had no regrets, but this time I can’t help but feel I could have stopped this happening even though I’m sure that’s not true. Heartbreak makes you question everything you thought you knew, including yourself. I hate that, that feeling that you can’t trust your own decisions, that you should have done something to stop it happening. It hurts more than anything I’ve ever experienced and there isn’t a painkiller strong enough to numb it. So right now, I’m officially worn out. My heart hurts and I’ve lost a lot of my fight and the excitement I had for life. But don’t worry, it’s not permanent – I’ve survived this before I sure as hell will again. I’m never one to mope for long and I’m already planning how I’m going to deal with this – two words, Bali & Australia!14191987_10153748497077617_2176329870460161678_nOne thing I’ve noticed about myself – and I’m not sure what this says about my psychology – is that when things like this happen, when a relationship breaks up or things don’t turn out the way I expect, my first instinct is to leave. When my nine-year relationship broke up and left me broken-hearted, my first thought was “I have to get out of here” and just like that, I booked a flight to the other side of the world. Just like now when I’ve just had my heart broken all over again and it’s pushed me to book those flights and get back out there. It’s an easy decision to head off into the unknown and I’m never scared at the prospect of travelling solo, let’s face it, it couldn’t be more painful than what I’m going through at home. It’s something I still love about being a backpacker, that if things don’t pan out – in relationships, work and life – then there was always the option to pack up and start again somewhere new. Perhaps that makes me sound flighty, or like I give in too easily, but I think actually it’s because I know when things are a lost cause. I know when I’m done.

I’ve come to realise over the years that I have a pretty good gut instinct and that I can always trust it when it comes to making decisions. I know we’re expected to stay and struggle through the hard times, that it will build character and something greater will come out of it in the long-run. Well I’ve done that, I’ve done it at work, in life, and in relationships. And yes, sometimes it is true, but also sometimes things are just lost for good and there is no saving them. The trouble is identifying whether there is anything left to fight for and knowing there is nothing wrong with just letting go. For me, I knew there was nothing left for me in my hometown both work-wise and relationship-wise so it was a no-brainer to start a new life somewhere else – it wasn’t running away, it was the best decision I ever made. Likewise now, I ended up booking my flights to Bali and then back to Australia and have less than a week until I leave, it’s not about escaping, it’s about going back to my real life after this tiny break.14184308_10153755995597617_4288620605281792800_nMy point is, we’re made to feel that running away is wrong and that it is lazy or cowardly to cut ties and leave. But actually, I think it can sometimes be the hardest and strongest decision to make. To be strong enough to cut a toxic friendship or relationship out of your life is hard and you’re brave for doing it. To cut and run from a job that is wearing you down is difficult and scary if you don’t have a back-up, but this is how some of the most successful people have built an empire. To pack up your life into a backpack and move to the other side of the world where you don’t know a single person is incredible. And for me, this was the biggest healer of all. Pushing myself far, far beyond the limits, taking myself out of my comfort zone and jumping in the deep end. Travel well and truly healed my heartbreak – it made me rely entirely on myself, it made me put my own happiness first, it taught me skills and scared me shitless. It brought countless new souls into my life – the kind of people that set my world alight and bring happiness into my world that I never knew existed. It gave me life-changing experiences that turned into stories, into memories that will last a lifetime. It gave me love, a much greater love for myself and for those around me.

Considering how much travel has given me, I don’t see it as running away to be leaving again. I see it as running towards the life I should be living. For those who have contacted me lately to ask how they can know whether they should choose a relationship or travel – I can’t tell you what to do. All I know is that travel has taught me more than any relationship ever has, it has introduced me to a life where I put myself first and where I’m driven by my needs, not empty wants. I may have less stuff than I have ever had, but my heart is fuller than ever and my head is full of thoughts that revolve around my passions, my ideas, my inspirations. Not about boys or worrying about others. It may sound selfish to some but after living for so many years always thinking of others before myself, it’s refreshing to really see the world laying just ahead of me. No baggage. No stress. This is what travel teaches you, this is what healed my heartbreak, realising that you can only live for yourself and not to keep others happy. And realising how short life is, and how huge the world is – that sure puts things in perspective for you.14232413_10153748468992617_6321713972258996034_nSince having my heart broken I’ve traveled solo through 12 countries, covered three continents and am actually about to hit my 30th country. I’ve built a whole new career around a passion, I’ve sacrificed one phone, one camera and a lot of dignity. I’ve had epic wild nights out, long days at work, healed myself both inside and out on multiple occasions, nearly died three times, made so many incredible friends, been extremely badly behaved at times, and helped others through some pretty tough stuff, I even fell in love which I really didn’t think was possible. I’ve been happier than I’ve ever been and discovered what I’m capable of, and what I’m not, and although my favourite word will always be YES, I’ve not been afraid to say no. In fact, I’ve not been afraid of any damn thing because life is for living and I’m doing just that. I’m a completely different person to the girl who went away to Thailand two years ago, and I’ve never been happier or stronger. So don’t you try and tell me that travel isn’t the greatest healer for heartbreak – I know it has changed my world. Let’s just hope this time it will heal my heart as well as it did the last time.

Has travel helped heal your heartbreak? Tell me about your experiences. What are your best cures for a broken heart?

image7-1-1