We live in an age of anxiety, worry and stress – where the challenge to face your fears could be an extraordinary feat to ask of us. After all, I'm rewriting this while we're currently in lockdown due to Coronavirus. A life-changing pandemic which has rocked many of us to our very core. It's forced us to slow down, to sit at home without distractions and turn inward. But in addition to this, it has built a culture of paranoia and fear in the UK. The flip-side to the positivity which overflows on social media is the darker anxiety-inducing aspect. This has led to many fearing to even leave their homes as the regulations are somewhat relaxed.
But even long before Covid-19 struck, fear was a primary emotion for the human mind. It's one of the most basic instincts we have to protect ourselves and our sense of fear can be a powerful one if we know how to harness its power. This applies to everything – whether it's a fear of flying, a fear of the unknown, a fear of commitment. Anything that gives you that feeling where you freeze up and your stomach lurches. We're all guilty of letting our own fears – or those of others – prevent us from taking action in our lives. Unfortunately being social creatures can sometimes be detrimental to our quality of life when we let the fear of judgement stand in our way. That's why I wanted to re-share this blog post as a means for supporting you to face your fears and take back the control of your life.
But you're probably wondering why I'm choosing to write on the topic. Well the truth is – I spoke with an old friend the other day, and we were talking about fear. They said to me that the one thing they've aways admired about me is that I'm fearless. If I want something, I go out and get it, I don't worry about what people will think or what might happen – I just focus on the positive. Hearing this was such a huge compliment – but it made me realise how differently other people view others, compared to the way we view ourselves. The truth is – I've let fear stand in my way many times in my life – my own and the fears of others. But it was when I finally snapped that I realised if I wanted to live a happy life, I had to stop giving my fears power and instead focus on all they good that could come into my life.
Nearly seven years ago, my life looked very different. I was in a nearly 10 year relationship, I was working a full-time job and I was doing everything that I should have been doing in my early 20's. But I wasn't happy. I was exhausted, unappreciated and overworked. But the truth is, my fear of being alone, and facing the unknown were too great. I knew nothing of life without this relationship as an adult, we had met when I was 15, I didn't even know who I was. I was worried about leaving my job as we were still feeling the aftershocks of the recession and I had been lucky to get the job straight out of university. It was only when I stepped outside of my situation and left, that I realised fear was controlling every aspect of my life.
Several years later, after I had managed to break the cycle, I met someone and was in what started out as a very happy relationship. Unfortunately, the person I was in a relationship with started to change and I saw a much darker side to their personality. He became emotionally and physically abusive and manipulative and I knew I had to get out. It took six months for me to escape that living hell and while that's a very short time in reality, it was the longest six months in my entire life. But the reason it took six months to escape, was because of fear. Fear that he had manipulated and capitalised on without my realising – but it boiled down to my fear that I couldn't cope with life without him.
No matter how many years go by, it doesn't get any easier to write about these experiences. But sharing them and voicing them is an important part of my process to face my fears. Not only does it make me feel stronger when I harness my fears for good, but it makes this story a hell of a lot more relatable for you guys. After all – we may not admit it but at times we've all felt lonely and feared always feeling lonely. We've all felt that pull to another person – often a person who wasn't good for us – and feared that life would never be the same without them.
We've all grown up in a society that capitalises off our worst fears – that's how capitalism works. It's why we have an entire industry for online dating – for those who fear being alone. It's why we have a beauty industry with an emphasis on hair removal and losing weight for women. We've been socialised to believe that we have to be and act a certain way – after hundreds of years of conditioning. When the truth is, people just want to make a profit off us and the easiest way to do that is to use our fears against us.
So now let's focus on the fun part – how did I face my fears? How did I emerge from my cocoon and become this "fearless" gal you see today? Okay – confession time. I'm not actually fearless – the truth is no-one is! Fear is a natural instinct – it's fight or flight – and we need it to survive. If you get rid of your fear – surely that just makes you a plant? I'm not ready to be a houseplant so instead, let me share with you the ways I managed to harness the power of my fears into motivation to achieve my dreams.
After all – I went from that long-term boyfriend and full-time job to travelling the world solo for over six years, living abroad all over the world and living my dream life. I went from a rural town in the UK, to backpacking through Asia, living in Australia, travelling Central America and living vanlife in Europe. In the last six years, I realised that no-one comes along to save you in this life. You have to be your own Prince Charming and make your dreams come true – otherwise you will wake up one day and wonder where your life went. My one hope with this post is that it inspires you to stop sleepwalking through life and face your fears.
Recognise your fear for what it is – don't avoid it or try to hide it under the rug. This avoidance only fuels your fears and gives them power over yourself. Acknowledging your fear means accepting that yes, you are human and it's okay to be afraid. But realising that fear doesn't have to prevent you from taking action. If anything, it can inspire you to take great life-changing action – but this doesn't come without a risk. And that risk, is where lies your fear. That feeling doesn't disappear when you face your fears, but it does become smaller and a lot more manageable. In short, you get back the power of your mind, and your life.
It's a harsh reality – but so many people in this world settle for less than they deserve. They do this because they're afraid to take a risk, because they don't think they're worthy of more. Whether it's relationships or careers. So many of us stay with people when we're not truly happy, "because it's better than being alone" or we don't try for a new job because we're afraid we won't get chosen.
So we just never put ourselves out there – we never really know what it's like to be alone, or to strike out and hope for something better. Between you and me – I've done the "alone" thing for several years now and it can be truly amazing, if you allow yourself to truly be. Just like taking a risk for a new career – it might not pay off, but the confidence boost of putting yourself out there is worth it. Don't settle – you're worth so much more.
You know the difference between a push up when you put all of you energy into it, and one where you don't even try. Well it's the same with life. It's obvious when someone isn't really trying, when they're not living their best life and when they're not putting themselves out there. Unfortunately if you don't put the effort in – other people will recognise this in you and you're less likely to be chosen for relationships, jobs, opportunities. But even worse – how will you ever recognise your potential? How will others see what you're capable of if you never even try to show them?
Linking with my previous point – if you're only ever giving 50% in your life. Well, you're only going to meet others who do the same. I'm a big believer in energies and manifestation – if you're putting negativity or half-hearted energy into the universe. What do you think you're going to attract? That's probably why you keep meeting guys with no dating prospects, or ending up in jobs that you hate. If you're only showing the world a shell of yourself – if you don't value yourself enough to give more. How can you ever expect more from the world?
No-one who is wildly successful got there overnight. There is a lot of work involved and you're going to face challenges along the way. Some of them you might smash and see huge success – others might knock you down. But it's important to realise that failure is an important part of this process. It's how we learn and grow – you learn more from doing something wrong once than for doing it right a hundred times. Whether this is in business, life or relationships. I consider the mistakes I've made over the years as my greatest teacher in life. Those mistakes have shaped the person I've become. Having that attitude towards failure means that even when things don't go to plan – it's a positive and a learning opportunity.
One great way to face your fears today is to realise that all fear is essentially a fear of the unknown. Humans are creatures of habit and we thrive off routine and what we know. It's a safe zone. A comfort zone that protects us from predators or anything that could harm us. Unfortunately for us – most of our happiness lies just outside that comfort zone. We've spent our lives being told to be careful and don't risk it but the truth is... The only way to grow and change is to take risks and step outside what we know. It's how we've evolved over millions of years. By trying something different which causes the very world we live in to shift and change.
You guys know by now that I love a list. They're so therapeutic for me and really help get my thoughts in order. Writing a list can be a great way to minimise and face your fears. Start by writing down your greatest fears – then ask yourself what you're really afraid of. What's the worst thing that could come out of the situation? Then ask yourself – is it really your fear, or a fear that society has projected on to you? Breaking down your fears like this can make you realise how small they are in the grander scheme of things. It can show you that actually you have nothing to be afraid of. That actually the risk is worth it to face your fears.
I spoke about how we are creatures of routine and we like to live in our comfort zones. Well one great way to start facing your fears is to break that cycle and to start changing up your routine. It's the reason why I appear so fearless to others – and why I feel it a lot of the time. Travellers don't have a routine. Each day is completely different and you have to always be prepared for anything to happen. It's one thing I really love about travel and it's one reason why not everyone can live this lifestyle. Not everyone can cope with the constant change – and that's okay, we're not all built the same.
But if you do start to mix up your routine at home, I can assure you that you will naturally adapt. Start small and face your fears, then gradually work up to the bigger fears. By exposing yourself to change and lower amounts of risk each day, you will grow more resilient to cope with your greater fears. Try walking a different way home, or go to the cinema by yourself. Challenge yourself to do something different.
Before I even started travelling – I seemed to attract opinion. Sadly as a solo female traveller – I think people will always feel within their right to offer comment simply because you choose to step outside the norm. Never mind that the "norm" is based on hundreds of years of oppression and abuse of women. I was told it wasn't safe, that I would be robbed, attacked, that I couldn't do this as a woman alone. Six years later and I'm the living proof that yes, you can travel solo as a woman and actually have a damn good time.
In the last six years, I've made it my business to voice this and to speak out when people start to project these fears. Asking them why they believe it's unsafe – usually it comes from the media and propaganda. As someone who used to work as a journalist. I know exactly how the media manipulates the news to instil fear and to fuel reaction. Challenging these ideas and beliefs is important to make people wake up to these facts. Even if it is a family member who tries to project fear that you haven't met a man, settled down and had kids yet. Ask them why they believe you can't live a full and happy life without those things? Ask them what is the rush.
Realise that you have the power over the media, advertising and content you consume. While it may seem like we're constantly bombarded by these fear tactics. You always have a choice. An important part of your mental health and wellbeing journey, is ensuring you cultivate an environment that supports you along the way. This means looking at what you consume – whether it's the news, TV programmes, Netflix, social media. Look at what you're watching.
If you suffer with paranoia and the fear that the world is a dangerous place. Start to cut down on the news content. If your fears are around body image and weight – look at social media and advertising. Stop following people who make you feel bad about yourself. Fill your newsfeed with body positivity and representation of all sizes. Afraid of being alone? Stop fuelling it with programmes about marriage, babies and finding your other half. Instead fill your screen with things that inspire you to be a whole on your own. Realise that you are enough and anyone else just adds to your life.
Instead of focusing on the negatives – bring some positivity into your life. Think about what you fear the most – and instead of telling yourself what could happen if you do it anyway. Ask yourself what could happen if you do it anyway. Instead of filling your mind with all those negative thoughts of failed relationships or failure to get the job. Focus on the positive potential outcomes. You might get an amazing new job that challenges you, or you might find a wonderful man who loves you. It's easy to think of a million reasons not to do something. But forcing yourself to think of reasons to do something will change your mindset and really motivate you to face your fears.
Abso-fucking-lutely. Facing my fears was the best decision I ever made. I chose a life outside the norm and it was worth all the risks I took to achieve it. Never did I think that I would still be travelling full time over six years later. Never did I think I would have lived abroad in several countries and I could find love along the way. By taking those first initial risks to break off a relationship, to quit my job and leave the country, I set the wheels in motion. It gave me an opportunity to become the designer of my own life, instead of merely a bystander watching as my life crept past me.
It hasn't all been a bed of roses – there have been tough, lonely and hard times as well. But you can't have the rough without the smooth, as my best friend always used to say. Life is a balance of light and dark. When you take a risk, you hope for the light but it's impossible to have one without the other. The key to a happy life, is not letting a fear of the dark stop you from reaching out to switch on the light.
Have you overcome your fears? How did you manage to get past your worries and achieve something great? What is your greatest fear?
It finally happened. The moment I've been counting down to, that has never seemed quite real, and that I've been waiting for all year. The moment when my travelling dreams finally became a reality. This time last week...
I QUIT MY JOB.
Holy shit. I can't actually believe I finally did it. It still hasn't sunk in despite everyone at work wanting to know all about my plans - where I'm going, how long for and who with. I keep repeating the same combination of words: solo, Thailand, Cambodia, Australia, hostels, seven months, saving money, so excited... but no matter how many times I say them, I really cannot believe that they make up my plans for the next year. It just seems odd to me that this could finally be here, that my adventure is nearly within a fingertip's grasp, that I can almost taste the Thai spice and salty sea air on my lips. You see, I've spent the best part of my life day dreaming about where I would go, what I would do and the people I would meet if I ever made my travel dreams a reality. I've spent the last year dreaming of a future that I couldn't quite piece together, and I've spent the last 11 months saving, planning and booking the trip of a lifetime. And now, I have 10 weeks left until I board that plane all by myself and finally make that leap to full independence and take on a scary solo journey.I won't lie, I'm pretty terrified. But I'm also more excited than I have ever been about any decision in my life, and that is what tells me I'm doing the right thing. It's something I've dreamt of all my life and it is something I have more than earned the opportunity to do after working so hard for so many years. I have been working four jobs on and off this year, I have done everything asked of me and gone beyond the call of duty at all four jobs. I have put the time into setting the groundwork for a great career, put endless time into friendships and relationships. Now I deserve to take some time for myself. To enrich my own life, steal some real independence and strike out on my own. Don't get me wrong, I am a very independent gal and anyone who knows me well enough will tell you the same. But the truth of the matter is, I have always been lucky enough to be surrounded by amazing friends, family, colleagues and to have a fantastic boyfriend by my side. This means I have never really had the chance to do anything by myself - university was the one thing where I struck out on my own but I had a huge group of great mates from the first day so it never seemed a challenge. This is something that will test me in every way possible - it will terrify me, make me rely on myself to keep me out of trouble, to take chances, to meet people, to find my way, to make a plan and all the rest. It is a big challenge when you have always had someone to help out along the way. That is the exciting part. I'm also really looking forward to finally having time to really reassess my life. I'm at a point where I think it would really do me good to take a step back and take a look at things, before making my mind up about my next move. I want time to indulge myself and to discover new passions, interests and loves. I want time to really dedicate to blogging and writing what I love, and I really want time to discover more of the world and more of myself. It is so easy to get caught up in the day-to-day rush of working so much and never really taking time to smell the roses - well now I want to smell the roses, and the spices, and the flavours the world has to offer. Yes it means leaving behind friends, family, and a boyfriend that means the world to me, but in the grand scheme of things, it is a short-term sacrifice for a lifetime of happiness. That is the best way of explaining it to those who I know don't understand how I can leave behind these things. Adventure and risk are the best way to discover what you really what to be doing, by stepping outside of your comfort zone, you find out where your boundaries really lie.So how did I do it? Quit my job I mean. I know there are a lot of people who have been asking me how I went about it, so I though this post could explain the few steps I took to quitting my job. It was one of those things that seemed like a huge task, but when it came down to it, it was so simple and so easy. I had lots of friends and family joking about how I would do it - would I go in and slam down my resignation letter? Would I just storm out in a dramatic moment? Would I just not bother turning up any more? Haha of course not. So how did I do it?
Seven simple steps that took me from being a full time employee of the company to an unemployed traveller who is set to embark on a huge trip across the world early next year. It may seem really daunting to quit your job and a bit scary to have to basically reject the company after your time there, but you must remember you are completely entitled to leave at your will and move on whether to develop your own career or try something different. Don't feel guilty for quitting your job, but remember to be respectful and grateful for what you have gained by being a part of the company. You never know when you will need a good reference, or when that job will affect your future or give you the right contacts for your next move. Don't underestimate the power of a thank you and the importance of keeping things polite and civil to the bitter end - even if you have really hated your time in that job.It's an exciting time - that's for sure. I'm slap-bang in the middle of a couple of courses of jabs, I'm working every hour going to save more money and trying my hardest to see as many friends as possible. I still have so much to do and so little time to do it in. If any of you are planning your travels - don't let fears of quitting your job stand in your way. It is one of the most freeing things you can do.
How did you go about it when you quit your job to take up another or travel the world? Any tips you would like to add from your own experiences?
I was too busy to write this post last week, but it's been playing on my mind ever since and I've now actually delayed another post to share this with you guys today. Those of you who don't follow many blogs might not be aware of the scathing column written by Independent journalist, Chloe Hamilton, about the nation's number one blogger and vlogger, Zoella. This attack came completely out of the blue, and interestingly at a time when Zoe Sugg is at the top of her game, winning awards, becoming a charity patron, launching a beauty range and more. Perhaps more to do with attracting attention than actually making a valid comment? Zoe has the amazing success most bloggers dream of and aspire to. She is a beautiful young girl, both inside and out, who vlogs to share her experiences and struggles with anxiety with others, creating a support network for teen girls across the world. Pretty amazing for a 24-year-old! With over six million subscribers on her YouTube channel, she must be doing something right and is nothing short of an inspiration to a lot of us.
I'm sure you can already tell I disagree with the column, but my concern is not so much the viewpoint of the writer, but the fact that she felt the need to be so nasty while making her point. Chloe is welcome to feel that Zoella reinforces certain stereotypes and perhaps doesn't represent the "typical" view of feminism - but where is the need to describe her as "the latest creation spat out by the YouTube machine" or slate her "brand of sickly sweet girl power"? And what is the "typical" view of feminism anyway? There are so many stereotyped ideas of a "typical feminist" that I wonder how anyone could say what a feminist looks, speaks and acts like. This column is pure nastiness and really just embarrasses both the Independent and the "journalist" behind it, who quite frankly both appear to have published the piece to stir up reaction and page views. Well I'm sure it has worked, considering the reaction from countless bloggers and vloggers across Facebook and Twitter, and I hate to give the article the time of day because I know it just gives the writer what she wants. But I'm more concerned with the greater cost to "feminism".Too many already consider feminism a joke - a way to justify beating down men at every opportunity, to not conform to society expectations, to just kick up a fuss at every given opportunity - I've seen and heard these views given several times over the years. They don't understand that in its purest form feminism means "the advocacy of women's rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes". The reason they don't understand this? Well, because feminism has become a bit of a fashion statement, I'm not saying everyone is jumping on the bandwagon, but all too often I am seeing women using feminism as an excuse for their behaviour, when actually there is no excuse. I'm not talking about those who are campaigning, who stand up for those who are mistreated because of their gender - those who are underpaid, treated with no respect, or even abused simply because they are women. These are the good feminists, the true feminists who are paving the way for women. They are the inspiration to us all to follow their lead and do the same, to stand up and say something when we see real-life sexism and inequality.
I'm talking about those who are using "feminism" as an excuse to slate successful women and who use their own medium, whether blogging, writing, vlogging, "journalism", social media or something else, in an attempt to bring them down or leech off their fame. I've seen a few examples of this recently, a couple over Twitter that were indirectly attacking a woman seemingly out of jealousy because she was successful and yet they felt the need to attack her looks and the way she dressed, and the way she wrote. How sad. No matter how indirectly you dress it up, we all know who you're talking about, and honey, it doesn't make them look bad - that's all on you.This latest attack by Chloe Hamilton is far worse because it targets not only Zoe's success - which has caused her to become an inspiration for millions of teen girls. But it also launches an assault on how she has made her living - I just struggle to understand how a young woman who has found a hobby that she loves and turned it into a huge career through hard work can be seen as anything less than inspirational. Although many may not realise it, blogging is hard work - it takes up a huge portion of your life and is a massive commitment. You spend hours each week writing posts, videoing them, shooting pictures, brainstorming ideas. We do it because we love it, but as a professional journalist, an editor and a blogger, I can say I spend a lot of time perfecting my posts and I know others are the same. So the fact that Zoe has dedicated so much of her time to creating a brand, to promoting it, to working with her viewers and communicating with them is no mean feat. And the fact that for a long time she wouldn't have been getting paid for any of it - just shows what a hard worker she is.
My next question is why does Chloe Hamilton hate Zoe so much for enjoying make-up, for trying out hairstyles and for liking getting dressed up? Since when has any of this stuff meant you are any less of a feminist? I love make-up, fashion, getting my hair done and styling it, not because it makes me pretty for men to look at, but because I enjoy the process of treating myself. But I also love equality, I love that my gender does not prevent me from getting an education, that it doesn't have to hold me back from certain career paths and I hate that there are women out there who are preyed on because of their gender, who are raped and attacked and persecuted. Isn't that the essence of feminism? Not what lipstick I've put on today. Or the fact that we choose to wear lipstick at all.
Chloe needs to try watching Zoella's videos about her anxiety and feeling confident in your own skin, she represents and covers all these important issues alongside beauty and hair - that doesn't mean she is going back on what she has said. Instead she gives us the boost we need and represents the girl-next-door, showing that everyone struggles with confidence and fears, but that it's okay and that we don't have to worry. She then gives girls the techniques and the tips so they can do make-up and hair well if they need it to boost their confidence or make them feel better individually, not for men.
Perhaps Chloe needs to spend a day in a high school to understand that the majority of teen girls want to learn about make-up and hair, they want to feel pretty and confident. I was a real bookworm at school and loved spending time with my friends, but that doesn't mean I didn't want to get dressed up as well. Zoella isn't playing on insecurities of youths, she is talking about her passions and her loves and they are obviously shared by girls across the world or she wouldn't have such an enormous following.Taking a quick look at the bigger picture here, something that Chloe seems to have missed. When Zoe is encouraging teen girls to enjoy innocent hair and make-up tutorials, or videos about anxiety and coping with it - shouldn't we be grateful that all these millions are tuning into her videos? All that time they spend watching them is another few minutes they are not watching and idolising "celebrities" like Rihanna, Nicki Minaj and the rest of the women who feel the need to take their clothes off or dance provocatively while aiming their music at teen audiences. Zoe Sugg is making a credible difference to young audiences already because she respects herself, she is a successful woman who has forged a career in an industry that is only just beginning and she is a real girl, who doesn't have a team of make-up artists and retouching equipment that makes her seem perfect. She isn't afraid of her imperfections, she just finds ways to live with them and be happy with them.
Sorry this has ended up being such a long post, but I think it is something that really needs to be said. Women need to stop attacking each other and instead look at the real problems. Green is a terrible colour on some people and jealousy is a nasty emotion. Isn't it time we all started building each other up and being proud of our success stories? I'm happy and lucky to have a fantastic group of women as my friends, all strong feminists with big personalities who support and encourage each other to the bitter end. And the blogging community has been such a warm and welcoming place full of words of encouragement, congratulations at every small success and generally a huge amount of support at every stage of the game. We all believe in equality and women's rights, otherwise we wouldn't be voicing our opinions on the internet, creating these little spaces for our voices to be heard. THAT belief, THAT support and THAT passion is what we are proud of and what we love about blogging. That is what we should focus on and that is the future.
What did you think of the Independent column? What do you think about the Mean Girls who are calling themselves feminists?
In all these posts, and all these months I've been writing at Absolutely Lucy, there's one thing I've never got round to telling you. For a very long time, I was utterly convinced I was a mermaid, and actually, to this very day, I'm still not completely convinced otherwise. Why you ask? Because I love the sea, I love the rivers and I love the lakes. I even love the pond up the road. I think I must have got this from my mother, I just love to be around open water, but particularly near the coast. Much as I love trips to cities and more built up areas, for me you just can't beat the wide open beaches and the brisk, fresh, clean air rushing in off the ocean - I crave it. There's just something so simple, soothing and pure about being by the ocean, no matter how much is going on if your life it all just seems to float away on the endless sea.
“Because there's nothing more beautiful than the way the ocean refuses to stop kissing the shoreline, no matter how many times it's sent away.”
I used to stretch out bath-time like you wouldn't believe as a kid, and even when I was older, I was always the last to get out of the swimming pool. Whether at swimming lessons or on holiday, I'd stay in until I was forced out and my hands were wrinkled. I just loved diving under the water, where things all became muffled and voices became faint, where all the problems of the surface seemed a million miles away. To this day, I still find swimming one of the most soothing things, it still helps me more than yoga, pilates and meditation combined. But even just the feeling of being by the sea is enough these days. As some of you will know, this year has been particularly stressful for me for various reasons and in times of stress I have found that a walk at the beach has done wonders.
So with that in mind, it seemed only right and proper that my final Ireland post of the week is all about the stunning beaches we visited the day after the wedding. Amazingly, after the rubbish weather the day before, the sun was beaming down all day long, leaving us with a glorious Saturday. Slightly hungover and desperate for some fresh air to blow away the cobwebs, we headed out to visit two of our favourite beaches and another one that blew me away. We started our trip by heading to Woodstown Beach, somewhere I had never visited before, but I was astounded by the beauty of this wide open sandy beach, dotted here and there with dog walkers, runners and the odd walker like ourselves. Enclosed in a huge bay, the beach felt completely exposed and unpopulated, and yet sheltered from the harsher elements - you could see how many happy summers were spent with local kids playing in the sand. We walked the entire length of the beach, watching the waves, nudging driftwood with our feet and collecting sea shells.
Our next destination took us to one of my favourite places in Ireland, Dunmore East, where last year I attended a wedding in a hotel overlooking the sea. It was a beautiful wedding, and a stunning setting for the occasion, and again we were so lucky with the weather! The sun shone throughout the weekend and gave us plenty of time to walk the beaches, the coastal walks and to eat out by the sea. It was perfect and I was so excited to return and see all of those gorgeous sights again. I wasn't disappointed and had a lovely wander around the village, before popping into The Strand, a pub over looking the stunning view below, for an amazing seafood lunch. One thing I really love about this place is that it is so unpretentious, so unassuming, and so untouched. There are no "touristy" or tacky amusements, no arcades, no greasy chip shops, none of that nonsense. This place has been allowed to remain as naturally beautiful as possible, like time has stood still, and that is what makes me want to keep coming back.
We finished the afternoon by popping to Tramore, just a bit further along the coast from Waterford, for an ice cream and a walk along the prom. Slightly more touristy, this is where you get the fun fair rides and the chip shops, but turn towards the sea and you'd never know it. Surfers making their way into the swell, choppy wave washing towards the shore, where families with young children play, run and build sandcastles. Further along, on a concrete slop into the waves, a group of old couples sit along the wall, the men enjoying an ice cream while the women brave the waves for a swim! It may have been sunny, but it wasn't very warm and you wouldn't have caught me in there! Further along the slope, with mummy and daddy not far behind her, a little girl is all trussed up in her coat with bare feet as she runs into the sea giggles and runs away as the waves chase her up the slope. Facing the sea, you could have stepped back in time 50 years, and that is the charm of the place, not the shiny bright colours of the fair, but the quaint tradition of the town. Check out the photos from the top of this post for more of Tramore.
Just as I'm sure there are those out there who couldn't understand how I could cope living in a rural Norfolk town for so many years, I cannot understand for a second how people can cope without every visiting the sea. I love living so close, and make it my business to get even closer as often as possible. Watching the waves is the best therapy for me and after my Mindfulness post from last week, I think it is the one thing that will always help me to gain perspective.
Have you visited any Irish beaches - which is your favourite? Do you love the sea like I do? What helps soothe you when life gets tough?
The long weekend in Ireland got off to a fantastic start with gorgeous sunshine blazing across blue skies, giving us the perfect opportunity to explore the island and to see its beauty. After lots of hugs, chat, a few drinks and some delicious food at the Gold Club, we all made sure to have an early night so we were all refreshed and ready for the wedding the next day. Me and the boyfriend, his mum and step-dad in particular had been up for a really long time by this point after catching our flight from Stansted first thing that morning and having to set out at around 4am. We were very glad to crawl into bed and dream of lucky four-leaved clovers and all the Guinness that was to follow.
We awoke early and refreshed the next morning, me and Mark were contemplating heading out for some fresh air but the weather was playing chicken with us. Just as predicted, the skies were cloudy, dark and threatened with rain, but with patches of blue sky dotted about, we were optimistic that they day wouldn't be too bad - as long as the wind didn't play silly buggers with my hair anyway... Finally after a lot of debating, and a short shower of rain, we headed out and were glad we did as the sun came out for a short while as I took Mark on the scenic route walk from the day before - check out the previous post for pics - which he loved. We even spotted a load more deer along the way - again they were totally unbothered by us and just carried on about their day.Suddenly realising the time, we quickly headed back to the lodges where the rest of the family had been preparing breakfast and sat down for a delicious fry up, which we were glad of later. I hate how normally when attending a wedding you often are in such a rush you don't get to eat properly in the morning when it is such a long time to wait until the wedding meal. After being left starving hungry at a few weddings and then annoyingly drunker than I plan because of my empty stomach later on, I now make sure I get the chance to eat a proper meal in the mornings - not everyone had as much sense though and there were a few rumbly tummies! We all got ready and it was lovely to have the time and space to not have to rush, I was so excited to get the chance to finally wear my amazing ASOS dress that I bought a month or so ago, I've been dying to wear it ever since!
For the wedding ceremony, we went to a little church just outside Waterford where Uncle Richard (boyfriend's great uncle) conducted the service, he travelled all the way from South Africa to be part of Siobhan and Nathan's special day. With lots of readings from family and friends, a special musical interlude by Mark's uncle Joe on the fiddle, and blessings for Siobhan's late parents - particularly an emotional one for her mother Kathleen who sadly died just a few months ago. It was such a beautiful, family wedding and really epitomised why I love attending weddings in their family - they all go to so much trouble. Nathan's side of the family were all from New Zealand and many had travelled over for the occasion, which really made it even more special. Uncle Richard gave a beautiful sermon, and although I am not Roman Catholic, I really can appreciate the more philosophical side of his part in the service. He's one of these people who can turn something so simple into a really profound statement that will leave you thinking about it much later on. Just because it is not my religion does not mean I don't get involved, and the family always take me up for communion, where Uncle Richard gives me a blessing - which, I'm not gonna lie, makes me feel slightly invincible and pretty darn holy.One of the cutest parts of the ceremony had to be the gorgeous flower girl, Alana, who is Mark's little cousin, and she made a beautiful flower girl with her curls and sweet little dress. She actually took the whole thing so seriously when walking down the aisle that she forgot to smile! Following her down the aisle in the safe grip of a family member, Niall, the little terror, was making all kinds of crazy faces at the family and friends trying to snap pictures as they made their way into the church. Cue a lot of laughs and sniggers at him as we all tried to keep a straight face. Later in the service he had to be plied with sweets to stay quiet and proceeded to run around the church, even putting his hand up to interrupt the priest - it was hilarious and everyone had a good laugh. Bless him - definitely more spirited than when Mark and I went to stay with his parents and spent a week looking after and playing with him, but a good giggle.
One of my favourite parts of the ceremony had to be the beautiful wedding poem, The One, being read by a friend of the family. I love the words of this poem, and although I have no idea who it is by, it always touches my heart.
When the one whose hand you’re holding
is the one who holds your heart,
When the one whose eyes you gaze into
gives your hopes and dreams their start,
When the one you think of first and last
is the one who holds you tight,
And the things you plan together
make the world seem just right,
When the one whom you believe in
puts their faith and trust in you,
You’ve found the one and only love
you’ll share your whole life through.
After the service, we all headed back to Waterford Castle, where we were greeted with a glass of Prosecco, a roaring fire and a pair of musicians. Shortly after, when all of the guests had arrived, we were served delicious canapés and had time to chat amongst ourselves - a great opportunity to catch up with old friends and family members we hadn't seen since the last family wedding. The time flew by and before we knew it the family were having wedding photos, unfortunately by this time the heavens had opened and these had to be taken inside to avoid soaking the happy couple. Absolute chaos of trying to get the kids to all face the same way and smile, trying to get all the Broderick sisters lined up together and trying to keep everyone together long enough for a photo to be taken! Thank goodness they managed to get some lovely pics and we all headed in for dinner.
We had been put on a table adjoining the main room, and we were so glad because it was so much cooler in there - people were coming out to cool down after the food was served and the wine was poured. Several glasses of wine later, some delicious mojito sorbet, Irish beef, and a dessert platter later, the speeches were in full flow. They kicked off with some lovely words from Mark's uncle, Michael, in place of Siobhan's father who died several years ago, who spoke of Shiv's life, achievements, with a few embarrassing moments in there for good measure. It always brings a tear to my eye to hear families talking so lovingly and so proudly of each other - it's beautiful and sad at the same time that often these things are left unsaid until weddings or funerals. The best man gave a cracking speech that had us all laughing our heads off and finished with a toast to the bride and groom. After coffee and chocolates, we all headed to the reception room where the bride and groom were ready to cut the cake and share their first dance.The rest of the evening passed in a blur of more wine, wedding cake, energetic dancing, a great band, good catch-ups with family and friends, making new friends, a spectacular performance of the Haka by the best man, a lot of laughs, some sausage sandwiches and a rainy walk back to the lodges. It was an amazing wedding and I feel so lucky to have been able to attend a wedding in a real castle - a perfect day for the bride and groom, and for all those of us lucky enough to join them. The weather may not have been great, but spending the day inside meant we weren't too bothered - it just made it extra cosy by the fire.
Do you love weddings as much as I do? What makes them so special for you? Have you ever been to an Irish wedding?
I'm finally getting round to writing up my posts on my trip to Ireland - it took a little longer this time, partly because things have been so busy at chez moi since getting back and partly because I already had a lot of posts I wanted to share with you first. I've got a couple of posts lined up for you guys all about different parts of the holiday and this first one is all about the stunning island we stayed on in the centre of Waterford, where Waterford Castle can be found. After arriving in Dublin, we drove to Waterford and on to the ferry over to the island. It's a beautiful place, just a small island in the middle of the River Suir and covered in trees, with a huge golf course and sports club, lots of lodges to stay in and of course, the amazing Waterford Castle. Naturally, I took lots of photos as I explored the island and here I wanted to share them with you all, but I'll save the best for last.We were staying in the lodges, which were lovely and really decked out with everything you could need in a three-bedroom self-catering house. Three double bedrooms with two en suites and another two bathrooms, plus a nice kitchen and great living space which was perfect for us as there was a lot of other members of my boyfriend's family staying in the other lodges for the wedding, which was to take place in the castle over the weekend. The lodges were a short walk from the castle and the golf club, both took you along the same road which was lined with old-fashioned street lamps lighting the way under a dense canopy of huge trees. It was the perfect romantic setting for a wedding, and the weather was lovely for a couple of days which meant we were able to really enjoy the island in all its splendour.The island was teeming with wildlife, with rabbits running everywhere and deer - tamer than any I have seen - just chilling out on the driving range. They let us get so close to take photos and didn't even seem spooked, they just carried on munching away. Later, a couple of us spotted lots of them just stood out in the open on the golf course after the golfers had gone, it was so strange to me to see them away from the trees like that and just showed how peaceful the island is. We spent a bit of time with family over in the golf club, which was a cosy little bar with food and plenty of places to sit - a must with the Broderick family. When the call is made for a wedding, they come in droves and there needs to be enough room for them all to catch up - it gets pretty loud and Irish, and I love it! The afternoon of the day before the wedding, a couple of us decided to head out for a wander around the island, and we discovered a tiny path marked "the scenic route". We couldn't resist checking it out and we were so glad we did - on what had been a fairly dull but dry day, the sun suddenly burst out from behind the clouds as it was lowering in the sky. We made our way along the path, brushing aside branches and nettles, stumbling over tree roots and rustling through autumn leaves. Then the trees started to thin and we spotted the water, we were right at the edge of the island and the water was lapping against the rocks that lined the shore. The sun was beaming down on us as we walked along and we had to stop and take in the view. The rest of the path led us around the edge of the island, giving a great view of the castle and across the golf course where the groom and some of the wedding party were off playing a New Zealand vs Ireland game.The path took us back through the woods, where we stumbled across a deserted ramshackle building covered in moss, a secret garden with a gate draped with flowers and more cute little pathways to explore. We climbed the steps back up to the castle and stood in it's shadow as we tried to work out where the lodges were, while admiring the view back across the lawns towards the river where we had just walked. It was so beautiful and the sun coming out really showed us the island in all its glory. The whole walk we never bumped into a single person and that feeling of solitude and peacefulness was just perfect, it was so tranquil there. Just what we needed before the madness of a big Irish wedding!Okay, I've teased you all enough - here it is, the stunning Waterford Castle. I amazingly later discovered the personal family history of this place - my boyfriend's grandfather and his wife ran away to be together years ago, they made there way to the island in Waterford where they lived and he worked on the island as a labourer. The family extended and grew within Waterford, which is where many of them still live today. Picturesque and enchanting, the island is said to have been home to monks between the sixth and eighth centuries, as the carving of the monk's head over the main entrance suggests. In 1978 the island was rented to Roger Shipsey, a Waterford Pedigree Dairy Farmer, who later bought the island outright. Eddie Kearns, who bought the island in 1987, both preserved its past and secured its future by opening the beauty of the Castle and the Island to all visitors by developing it into a luxurious Hotel and Country Club, which now is one of the most impressive Castle Hotels in Ireland.
Just one look at the stone walls, the old fashioned turrets and the gorgeous red leaves spread across the front of the building. I'm sure you understand exactly why I was over the moon to have a chance to not only stay on the island, but to get the opportunity to attend a wedding in this amazing setting. Definitely one of those times you have to release your inner princess, especially when you are half expecting Rapunzel to lean out a window and let her hair tumble down. Check out my other upcoming posts to see more of the wedding and some exploring around Ireland.
Have you been to Waterford Castle before? Have you ever had the opportunity to live out a princess dream?
Mindfulness is the buzz word of the moment. But the more I talk to people, the more I realise that there are so many who don't have a handle on what it's all really about. What may have once had a reputation as hippy-dippy nonsense is actually a remarkably simple way to live your life in order to maximise your happiness levels and ease your suffering. It's basically what we're all seeking – deep down – a way to find joy in everyday life instead of always waiting for that elusive day that never comes.
Do you often feel stressed, anxious or like your life is out of control? Ever felt like you were sleepwalking through your life, or waiting for it to start? Then living a more mindful life could be exact what you need to take back the reins of your life and to start afresh. The sad truth is that many of us are only ever 10% present in our own lives. The rest of the time we spend overthinking the past and worrying about the future. How can we ever enjoy and live a moment fully when we're always obsessing over the myriad of ways things could, or have, gone wrong?
This was actually a post I originally wrote around six years ago. Mindfulness is a topic I've always been interested in and I love to share wellbeing techniques that have helped me. Over the last few years, I've devoted a lot of time to reading and learning on the topic. I've actually just finished a 10-week online course on The Science of Wellbeing with Yale University, so it seemed a perfect time to share all the things I've learned over the years and how they've worked for me. Particularly in the last two years, I've found that mindfulness and meditation have really helped me to overcome some of the worst times of my life.
Now that we're locked down because of Coronavirus, it seems a perfect time to really turn our attentions inwards and focus on what our bodies and minds really need. What's that saying – "when we can't go out, let's turn inward." So whether you're already practicing mindfulness and want to develop your skills further, or you've never heard of it before. My beginner's guide to mindfulness is just what you need to get started and take the first steps towards the life you want to be living.
If your goal is to live a more mindful life, it means incorporating small changes that will, over time, lead to a happier life, and a happier you. It's a choice to being more intentional in our decisions, reactions and choices so that we are living with purpose instead of aimlessly drifting through life. It can be uncomfortable at first – after all, we are breaking up with the way we have been told to live our lives for centuries. We live in a capitalist society that is designed to pray on our insecurities in order to monetise them. But unfortunately that means we are constantly reaching for something just beyond our grasp and often, it's things like money, or materialist goods which don't actually make us happy.
Mindfulness is reaching a level of self-awareness with these thought processes and toxic behaviours. It's using techniques to rise above them and to reach a level of contentment within yourself. The closer you get, the more you can squash negative thought patterns such as worry, anxiety and stress. Instead of being reactive and overly emotional in our responses to situations, it gives us the ability to step back and breathe. It means taking back control of your mind, your thoughts and your life.
I could speak for hours on this topic, but instead, I'll keep it short and sweet. Here are my top 5 reasons why you should make mindfulness and meditation part of your daily routine:
This is the core teaching of mindfulness – always return to the present moment because there is nothing else. It sounds big and dramatic at first. But what it really means is there is no point worrying about the future or obsessing over the past. I know so many of us are guilty of doing this – myself included! But that's okay, we're only human! The trick is, you need to be aware of when you are doing it and the goal is to recognise this behaviour and to bring yourself back to the present moment.
This is actually the goal of meditation – to always clear your mind and return to the present. It's something that is a work in progress for everyone but the more aware you become, the easier it is. Start simply by allowing your thoughts to wander, then noting what you are doing, kindly guide yourself back to the present. It's a great exercise for those prone to overthinking – to recognise when you are doing this and gently guide yourself away from this behaviour.
Leading on from the previous point – a great way to keep yourself in the present moment is to focus on your breath. Meditation is basically a practice of mindfulness, to focus on the breath as the only thing you have control over. Therefore it is the only thing to focus on – empty your mind of all other thoughts and you are in the present moment. Pure as it is, this goal doesn't last long for most of us, especially those just beginning. Meditation can be one of the most frustrating things in the world. But when you get it just right, wow it can be one of the most transforming experiences.
If you're new to meditation and don't know where to start, why not try a guided meditation? There are loads available via apps like Headspace and Calm, or search for them on Spotify podcasts. If you're not sure if it's for you – why not try going to a class? Sometimes it can really help at first to have the community feel and someone to guide you. Just remember – you don't have to be perfect at it, you don't have to become a guru overnight. You don't even need to do it for any length of time – just 10 minutes a day can make a big difference.
I read somewhere that we're only ever 10% actually present with our lives and the people in them. How incredibly sad is that? All those people that we love so much and we only ever give them such a tiny part of ourselves. Remember, what you put into a relationship is also what you get out of it, so think about what we could be missing out on. Listening is one of the greatest skills you can have. It can transform our relationships and connections with those around us, if only we let it.
The truth is, most of the time when we think we're listening, we're actually just planning what we're going to say next. We take in various pieces of information and put them together like a jigsaw to make up our version of what the person has said. But we could all do with putting our phones down and really listening to what our friends and family are saying.
This is something that I know I have been guilty of in the past, always rushing from one thing to another, always busy. We live in a culture where it's cool to be seen as busy all the time – it's our currency for how we value our success. But what if we all just stopped. If we just took a moment to breathe and take it all in? If you feel like you never have enough time in a day, or that you never feel satisfied no matter how much you accomplish. Perhaps you are focusing on the wrong things.
In fact, you're focusing on doing all the things instead of picking carefully what you put your energy into. It all comes down to choosing achievable goals, setting boundaries and not being afraid to pause and ask yourself, whether something is bringing joy or peace into your life. If the answer is no, you need to question whether it has any value in your life anymore. But the only way to know, is to slow down and stop rushing.
Ask yourself – how am I? Take the time to check in with yourself and how you are feeling. We don't do this enough. It's easy for life to get in the way and things to get busy. But we're always asking others how they are doing – what could be more important than checking in with yourself? This is especially important when it comes to healing and growing as a person. If you don't take the time to address your own problems and feelings, to identify why you are feeling this way. If you don't take the time to do the necessary work needed to grow as an individual – you can't ever hope to be truly happy. Not doing the work is living in denial and it means you're likely to keep repeating the same toxic behavioural patterns.
A big part of mindfulness is taking in your surroundings, engaging your senses and really being present in a moment. A great way to do this is to take a walk and leave your phone behind. Instead of distracting yourself with a podcast or audiobook, listen to the birds sing and the wind in the trees. Smell the summer barbecues wafting on the breeze, watch the light pooling through the trees.
Why not start by taking a walk on your lunch break each day? 15-20 minutes of sunlight daily can have a huge affect on your mood. Don't let yourself give in to distractions of modern technology or other people, leave your phone in the office. Sometimes you just need time alone to be in nature – that's why nature is the world's best healer. I know I always feel a million times better after a visit to the ocean or a walk in the forest. If you're someone who struggles with feeling anxious or stressed – this could make a world of difference.
This one is simple but can be a game-changer for changing your mindset and helping you become more positive. If your negative emotions and worries often take over your brain. Implementing this daily can have a huge impact on your mental health. Each morning when you wake up, or each evening before you go to sleep, list 3 things you are grateful for that day. They can be small things like the sun shining, or someone holding a door open for you. Or getting top marks in an exam. It could be bigger worldwide things like seeing huge acts of kindness or the work of amazing charities or the NHS. Even discovering someone who inspires you. However big or small, write these down and focus on them for a few minutes.
A big part of mindfulness and staying in the present moment is becoming more aware of the place you hold in the world. This means increasing your own self-awareness and realising the impact you have on others. A great way to become more aware of this is by performing random acts of kindness. This could be a thoughtful gesture like sending a supportive message to someone you know is struggling. Or helping a stranger with their shopping bags. It could even be something wider like holding a fundraiser to support an important cause. Whatever you choose to do, watch for the ripple effect after. See how that positivity and kindness spreads beyond your action. Being in the moment means you pay attention to the world around you and recognise when there are opportunities for kindness.
Mobile phones have brought a new level of connection into our lives. But as someone who was actually around before they existed. I can also say that they have brought endless, unhealthy distraction into every waking moment. Their presence in our lives can cause various problems including interrupting our sleep, which is one of many factors that can lead to anxiety and stress. If you want to reduce these problems and live a more mindful life, it's easy – put your phone away!
Why not try having phone-free mornings and evenings for the first and last-hour of the day? It will give you a chance to start the day peacefully without letting the rest of the world in. And it will give you a chance to wind down for the night without exposure to blue light which can affect your sleep.
Let me stress that yoga is not compulsory for living a mindful life. It is perfectly possible to practice mindfulness daily without ever setting foot in a yoga studio. I know yoga isn't for everyone, but it has been documented as having a huge impact on the mental health and mindset of a lot of people. Myself included – a few years ago I had never even tried yoga and now I can't go more than a few days without it. Yoga is all about concentrating on the breath and the present moment. It's all about stretching the body and opening it up to the world around you, while focusing inward.
There are lots of different types of yoga. From slower and more relaxing styles that lead nicely into meditation, to more powerful practices. The best way to really see if you like yoga is to attend a class. I also am a strong believer that having a great yoga teacher is a huge part of finding a flow that works for you. So if you don't find you gel with it immediately, don't be afraid to try a different class and see if you prefer it. If you hate the idea of a class – why not try Yoga with Adrian or Sjana Elise Youtube channels for yoga videos you can follow along with.
When was the last time you ate something and really savoured the flavours? Can you think of a time when you were really present in the moment and tasted how fresh the dish was? When you lost yourself in the rich and decadent desserts, a fresh, zesty fruit, or a creamy and aromatic dish. The truth is, it was probably a while ago. It's so easy, when life is so busy, to forget to take the time to just eat and enjoy. Instead we're constantly multitasking. Eating while replying to emails, wolfing down a sandwich between meetings or throwing together dinner after a busy day.
Sometimes it's necessary, but we need to remember to not live like this all the time. After all – food is one of life's greatest pleasures. If you ask me – the Italian and Spanish cultures have a great attitude towards food. It's a celebration of the senses and a time for socialising. A time when they slow things down and draw things out as long as possible. Try turning the TV off when you eat, why not dine outside on a summer evening? Focus on your food and eat slowly, enjoying each bite.
If you're feeling like your thoughts are always drifting and you're constantly lapsing into the past or future. Try reminding yourself at different points throughout the day to focus on your senses. It only takes a few seconds, but can be a great reminder to stay focused on the present. Think about what you can smell, hear, taste, touch and see. If you're feeling stressed or worried, it can be a great way to centre yourself and to focus on the moment.
If you're feeling overwhelmed with life's problems – just stop and ask yourself. Is there anything wrong in this exact moment? It can be just the reminder you need that actually all of life's problems exist in overthinking the past, or worrying about the future. This new perspective can really help you to gain perspective and to tackle one problem at a time.
One of the things that made me so focused on living a mindful life was travel. I could see how when I was travelling – I was truly living in the moment and appreciating every second. I was grateful for those around me, the food I was eating and mindfulness came naturally to me. Even if you don't travel long-term – we'll all have been on those holidays where you're fully in the moment. You're not thinking about anything back at home. Experiencing life in this way for extended periods of time made me all the more determined to try and keep living this way even if I returned home. I saw how much happier and more content I was when I kept this mindset.
If travel isn't an option for you, or you want a way to maintain staying present even when at home. Why not try mixing up your routine? This is essentially what keeps us present when we travel – it's the constant newness of the world around us. When we slip into the same old routine, we drift through life so easily that we forget to pay attention to our surroundings. This is why they say "if you think adventure is dangerous, try routine, it's lethal!". Try applying this to your own life – take a different route to work each day, tale a walk somewhere new, visit a place you've never been before. Throw yourself outside of your comfort zone and watch how present you become.
Actually, everything on this list is a form of self-care and all are equally important. But another great way to be present with yourself is to take care of yourself. Things like making sure you are sleeping enough, eating healthily and drinking enough water. Self-care means different things to different people – for some it might mean spending time alone with candles and bubble baths. For others it might mean going to bed earlier, or waking up for the sunrise. Or it might mean saying no to nights out or situations that make you feel uncomfortable.
By prioritising self-care, you are focusing on yourself in the present moment and what your needs are. Try listening to your body's needs more. You could either set aside a small amount of time each day to focus on you. Or if this is tricky around family/work life, why not set aside one evening a week that is just about you?
You know that feeling when you completely lose yourself in your work, or a hobby? When you suddenly realise you've been working away for hours on a project without eating, drinking or stopping for a break. It's a great example of when you are truly present in the moment. This is why it's so important that even if you don't have a job you're really passionate about, that you make time for passions. It could be writing, knitting, volunteering, gardening, photography or building things. Whatever it is – we all need something we can lose ourselves in and be completely present.
If you really want to change your life – and this applies to anything whether it is mindfulness, a healthier diet or exercise. You need to maintain the changes for a length of time until they become a natural part of your routine. Breaking the old habits and replacing them with new ones is the hardest part. Once you've done this, it becomes easy to maintain the new lifestyle. Here are my top 5 ways to make sure you stick to your new routine:
The important thing to remember is that there is no failure when it comes to mindfulness and meditation. Each are individual practices that are unique to you. Only you can make you do them and only you will feel the results. This is why it can be hard to maintain them sometimes and when we get busy, they are often the first things to slip. But always remember that what you prioritise in your life will have a big effect on your mental health and wellbeing. So if you always prioritise work, you may feel exhausted and unhealthy because your diet and sleep suffer. Life is all about finding a balance that works for you.
So stop looking at others and feeling like what you're doing (or not doing) is not enough. Some people might need to practice yoga seven days a week to feel good. You might just need to do it once to feel great. Others might keep a gratitude journal that makes them feel centred and in control, while you might find it totally cringe. Everyone finds their own way with mindfulness and there is no right or wrong answer. So just experiment with it – this post is just full of ideas that you can try. Why not try implementing one or two of them daily to begin with and see whether it makes you feel better.
Do you practice mindfulness or meditation daily? What are your favourite mindfulness techniques? What makes you feel better and more in control?
With amazing timing, I was invited to the second annual Tobi's Ball on Saturday night - a black-tie fundraiser for Norwich-based charity, It's On The Ball, which works to raise money and awareness of testicular cancer. It took place just days after I suddenly spotted a load of publicity for a special Channel 4 programme fundraising for cancer research and celebrating reaching the point where as many people survive cancer as succumb to it. A huge landmark in cancer research and the development of treatment, and how better to acknowledge this amazing change than by helping to raise awareness of a lesser publicised form of the disease and raising money for such a good cause? Anyone who has lost anyone to cancer, or who has suffered themselves, will know how hard it is to watch someone you love go through that. The fact that this charity in particular was set up by a group of men who had all suffered and survived the disease makes it all the more important to me, because the chairman of the charity is in fact my boyfriend's dad. Vince was diagnosed with cancer twice - yes lightning does strike twice - but bravely fought it and won the battle both times, long before I knew him. Knowing how much my own father means to me, and to my family, I know that we are all very grateful he had the expert medical care he did and that it was spotted early enough so that he could be here today for his son and his own family.
The ball was hosted by Sprowston Manor, in Norwich, and the entertainment could be found in the ballroom marquee, which was draped with icicle fairy lights with blue lighting and was decked out with fantastic decorations - my favourite were the choice of vases filled with mini chocolate footballs, as the charity is particularly targeting footballers. The whole evening was organised with a certain level of cheekiness which really added to the atmosphere, and it was amazing to think this was only the second time it had run - it was so polished and well-organised. We luckily arrived just a minute or two before the apocalyptic thunderstorm hit, and thank goodness we did as the people coming in after us were drenched! Dressed in our finest, we were looking forward to an evening spent doing something a little bit different - the ball promised drinks, a three-course meal, a raffle, live entertainment including musicians, a singer and disco, an auction and some great speeches - not bad for £40 a ticket, especially when you know that money is all going to such an amazing cause.The entertainment kicked off with welcome drinks and some live music by two very talented musicians on the saxophone, clarinet and various other instruments, before wedding singer Tommy Winn, who has now proved a huge hit two years in a row, took to the stage. Kicking off the ceremony was professional footballer Paul McVeigh who compèred for the evening and talked us through everything from the menu to some great games that livened up the crowd and later, the auction. He was very popular and had a great way with the crowd, who he had in stitches for much of the night. There were lots of great ideas for fundraising games which had us competing to win prizes from bottles of wine to cash prizes, and I loved the way the donations were in built into the evening - it was really nice to donate money while having a bit of fun. After three-course dinner - which also made me chuckle because the starter and dessert were both ball-shaped - of stuffed balls, chicken and passionfruit tart with sorbet, we were all pretty stuffed, but were treated to coffees and homemade shortbread - a lovely touch!
The meal was followed by the auction, which sported prizes including a signed Barcelona football pennant, a spa package, some signed football shirts and Formula One goodies. A pretty amazing spread and really good fun to watch the auction unfold and people got more competitive and even started bidding wars on their own tables! It was really fun and probably one of the highlights of the night, particularly as they managed to raise over £3,000 from the auction alone thanks to some very generous bids. It's times like that when, as Mark and I said to each other, it makes you wish you were rich enough to be able to slap down a grand on the table and give it all to charity - what a great feeling, to know you made such a difference to the total at an event like this! But we know we all made a difference that night, whether it was paying for the ticket, buying raffle tickers, playing the games or even having professional photos taken in exchange for a donation to the charity. We made sure we did everything and it was money well spent, plus we all had an amazing time!After the dinner and auction, there were the speeches, led by Vince as chairman. His speech was perfect - short, simple, but really hit you hard and I found myself welling up as he spoke of a young lad, Alfie, who I had met only a few weeks previously. Alfie lost his dad to testicular cancer, and his mum has been left a very young widow thanks to the disease. The pair both hugely support the charity, but couldn't be there on Saturday because they were walking the streets of Norwich, raising awareness by taking part in the Stand Up To Cancer walk. Truly inspiring and, as I'm sure you agree, the perfect example of why this charity's work is so important - with more research and awareness, the lives of countless fathers could be saved so that they can be there to watch their sons, and daughters, grow up. Throughout the evening, the organisers had also created a slideshow of photos from various other fundraisers held throughout the year which was displayed on the back wall. The night continued with a lot of dancing, chatting and great music - I don't think I've ever seen such a packed dance floor for the entire evening before!
I'll finish with a bit more information about It's On The Ball - the charity aims to support patients and their families by providing support packs and a buddy-system to the newly diagnosed, plus there is financial assistance available to help with travel and accommodation costs for those required to travel to London for specialist treatment. They also hold several events throughout the year to help raise awareness at locations including The Forum and University of East Anglia in Norwich. While other fundraisers are held throughout the year, Tobi's Ball contributes a huge part of the money needed by the charity - with over £7,000 raised at last year's event and expectation that this year's will beat that total. This year, the charity was named Charity of the Year by the Norfolk Football Association which has hugely helped to raise awareness and funds for It's On The Ball. Word is spreading thanks to the hard work of the trustees and volunteers, but more still needs to be done. So why not get involved somehow? Help raise awareness like I am now and make a difference. Even the tiniest donation will make a difference to the work of It's On The Ball, but there are other ways of getting involved - why not just take their pledge to check yourself, or your boyfriend, every month? Just running through their check-list for a few minutes every month could help you notice instantly if anything changes and the earlier the diagnosis, the greater chance of survival.
Do you know someone who has been affected by testicular cancer? Have you been to a charity ball - what was your favourite part?
Food - for some it is merely part of surviving, of living from one moment to the next, and fuelling all your endeavours along the way. For others, it is a constant quest for new mouth-watering flavours and alluring aromas to tempt the palate and excite the senses. As a bit of a foodie, I'm always searching for a new lip-smacking experience and as you can imagine, I was in my element when the team at Jarrolds department store, in Norwich, invited me along to join them for their food blogging event to mark the opening of their new bistro restaurant, Benji's. Offering a whole new dining experience that is a step above that of the other three restaurants and coffee shop within the store, the restaurant has a fabulous menu designed to entice even the fussiest of eaters. The restaurant has such a sophisticated feel and the fine decorative touches really make it feel warm and welcoming, as well as exclusive and a real treat.
Upon arrival, we were welcomed with champagne and canapés - a warm greeting if ever there was one - with the intricately designed snacks artfully arranged on platters decorated with flowers. Each platter showcased the fantastic array of flavours evident throughout the menu, with some delicious battered smoky barbecue chicken served with a fiery sweet chilli sauce, plus a wonderful goats cheese and beetroot stack (cheese provided by local Fielding Cottage), and finally some crab towers that were packed with flavour. All of these delectable delights left us wowed by the combination of flavours that perfectly complemented the other tastes. Shortly after the introductions, we were treated to a cooking demonstration by the head chef, who has years of experience working in top London hotels and Michelin-starred restaurants. He swiftly whipped up a treat for the nose and the eyes with pan-fried sea bass on a bed of artichokes, samphire and salsa verde, with seasonal vegetables. It smelt absolutely divine, and looked so simple to prepare, although I'm sure mine would not look half as presentable as his. Reflecting the constant changes to the menu, this dish will only be available for a couple more weeks as samphire goes out of season. Using only local produce and producers, the restaurant's menu is dependent on what is available within Norfolk.
After the demonstration, we headed downstairs for a look around the deli and home-ware department, both of which had us all drooling over treats - both of the food and kitchen-ware variety! We moved between the shelves, checking out everything from chocolate pasta to parsnip and chilli chutneys, lusting over everything from Emma Bridgewater mugs and egg cups, to Artisan mixers. We were lucky enough to have a demonstration of one of the Sage by Heston Blumenthal smoothie makers, which was so easy to use and made the tastiest ginger, apple, orange and kale smoothies - a perfect palate cleanser before we headed back upstairs for our dinner. On the walk back upstairs, I finally got to indulge in that dream of having a department store closed just for you and yes, I did feel exactly like Topshop's Chloe Green, it was great to wander around the shoe department without any shoppers in my way!
There are not enough words in the English language to do justice to describing the amazing spread that awaited us back in the restaurant, with multiple platters lined up and packed with the most incredible selection of seafood, meats, vegetarian and even floral treats! I can't list everything that was there, but you'll be able to see from the photos the delicious piles of scallops, smoked salmon and mackerel, prawns on the fish platters. On the vegetarian plate, there were various raw vegetables, plus roasted aubergine and peppers, hummus and an onion chutney, with pitta and even edible flowers! Over on the meats platter, there were piles of chicken with peanut and barbecue sauces, mini sausages with a tomato sauce, terrine which went beautifully with an apple sauce and much more. It's making my mouth water again just thinking about it - and I haven't even added the photos yet! The food was accompanied by a great range of wines and soft drinks, for those of us who were driving, plus plenty of foodie chat about our favourite restaurants and dishes - thanks for the recommendations guys!
Shortly after, the main came out and although we already knew what it was, we once again marvelled at the beauty of the colours on the plate, before tucking in excitedly. It was an amazing dish, so tasty and I would really recommend trying it before it disappears off the menu! I'm a big lover of seafood dishes anyway, but this was a particular treat and I loved the sea bass - one of my favourite fish - with the salsa verde, it really enhanced the flavour, as did the delicious artichokes. It was so lovely to sit round with other bloggers who love food and local produce as much as I do, and how better to finish the evening than with a selection of the very finest local cheeses and chocolates?
We had a fantastic talk by Sam Steggles of Fielding Cottage, a family business based in Honingham who create their very own goats cheese, meat and skin care products. We tried two types of delicious cheeses, the Norfolk Mardler and the Wensum White, and I have to say the creamier Wensum White was my favourite, with a texture rather reminiscent of Brie - one of my absolute favourite cheeses. This was followed by one of the creators behind Dolce Momento, a company with a passion for the tastes of Brazil who develop an exciting and varied range of gourmet brigadeiros, cakes and treats. The chocolates were gorgeous in appearance and you really could see why them were such a hit at weddings with such stunning presentation. And the tastes were truly out of this world, with an amazing chilli and cinnamon one, plus delicious milk and dark chocolate treats - all sweeter and gooier than the average ganache thanks to condensed milk, good taste and a lot of love. A perfect end to an amazing evening.
A huge thanks to the team at Jarrolds for inviting me along, I had the most amazing night and loved meeting all the other bloggers. I look forward to more events in the future, but in the meantime, you guys should all get yourselves to Norwich and check out this amazing hidden gem - have fun working your way through the menu and enjoy the fact that you are eating local and supporting local businesses. They're much more important than eating out at yet another boring, soulless chain restaurant!
Have you eaten out at Jarrolds - what did you think? Will you be checking out the new menu at Benji's?
I write this with incredibly sore arms after starting a course of jabs ahead of next year's travels, and I felt it was about time for another post about my plans. This one is about a question I've been asked a lot since making my decision and starting to plan my getaway for next year. It's strange, because it doesn't seem a big deal to me - just a natural choice, but it is a pretty huge decision to pack your life up, move to the other side of the world, give up your job and take a chance. It's not something that comes easy to all of us, and for me, this decision was a long time coming. So, for those who are having those niggling thoughts, who catch themselves daydreaming about the life they wish they had, this post is all about how I made one of the biggest decisions of my life.
It happened over Christmas 2013. For the first time since finishing university, I had a full two weeks off work for Christmas and after just a week, I knew I didn't want to go back. I'd had these thoughts in the back of my mind for a long time that my job was no longer what I wanted it to be, and it was just a case of working out if I wanted to move to a big city like London and start afresh, or whether to follow my dreams of travelling the world. This was more a daydreaming stage and I never thought I would actually make my travelling dreams a reality. I'd been stuck in a sort of limbo for the past few months, the previous summer had been amazing and I'd been so busy having fun that my job had become just that, a job. But when the summer drew to a close, I realised without all those fun distractions, I was a bit bored and wanted to escape.
I don't want to sound ungrateful, I love my job and it has given me huge opportunities and a great basis for a career, but it had become stale for me after three years of working in the same office and I was ready for a change. I plodded on, not really thinking about it as other distractions popped up, but that voice in the back of my head grew louder and louder. My relationship was going through a bit of a rough patch and so I threw myself into a family Christmas and loved every second. But early January, something happened. Something that I'm still not really ready to talk about, but it suddenly threw everything into place for me. Something snapped inside of me and I realised that there was nothing holding me to my town, that actually, at that point, there was more driving me away than pinning me down. You've all had those moments when life gets a bit much and you have to get away? Well I couldn't escape it all, so I started to plan and I made a decision. I decided to travel.
You might worry I was running away, but actually my problems at the time were just a catalyst for something much bigger that was already in motion. This was the answer to my melancholy, to my feelings of being trapped inside my own body. I told a few people, close friends and family about my decision, but I'm not sure they really took me seriously, they just thought I had an idea but wouldn't actually end up going. Of course there are many who make the plans and never end up going, many who talk about it but never find the courage to up sticks and travel. But I was determined. So what did I do?
It was as easy as that, once I snapped everything just started to slot into place and suddenly it all made sense. I felt so free to have made the choice and to have a plan, a goal to work towards and that has seen me through the last nine months where I have been saving and working. I had several commitments that meant I couldn't leave any earlier in the year, which was hard for me for a while as circumstances had me wanting to up and leave straight away. But I'm glad I waited as I wouldn't have been in the right mindset to really enjoy my travels at that point. Plus the time I've had has given me the chance to save at a realistic rate, and to enjoy spending time with all my loved ones before leaving, which makes me feel less guilty in case I decide to stay longer.
For me it was slightly easier as I was living with my parents, which meant I had no ties to a mortgage or home, plus I was working in a job that I had already milked clean of all experiences and potential.
I totally understand for others it might be more complicated, but I genuinely believe that making the initial decision to jump is the hardest part and after that it all starts to fall into place.
What sparked your decision to give up life as you knew it and travel? Did you have a similar experience to me?
I was nominated by the lovely Lauren Blenkinsop of Tea and Post, a travel and lifestyle blog, to blog about the five cities I would most like to return to as part of Booked.net - Top Destinations To Go There. As someone whose whole life seems to be dedicated to making travel plans and saving hard for a number of adventures I have planned for next year, this is a great chance for me to reminisce over some previously amazing holidays and trips I have had with family and friends. I've been lucky enough to go on a number of amazing holidays and to travel a lot in my life, unfortunately I also have a pretty adventurous heart that tends to fall in love with most places I visit which means I always want to go back for more. Like Lauren, I never feel like I get enough time to really explore a place and always leave wanting more...
Port Louis, Mauritius
On my dad's side, my family come from Mauritius, and sadly because of the cost and the time needed for a holiday there, I have only been able to visit twice in my life. I love the country, its smells, colour, music and culture. I loved visiting the markets, walking the streets and visiting the temples in Port Louis, where my father was born, and where my family still live. To me, the country is summed up in a hot afternoon spent in my grandmother's yard eating mangoes picked fresh by my uncle from the overhanging trees, while my aunt and grandmother are cooking up a goat curry ready for when the whole family comes round that night for lots of chat and music.
For my 18th birthday, my mum and I celebrated with a weekend away in Brussels together. We wanted to do something special and this was a great excuse to get away, spend some time together before I went off to university, and to eat lots of amazing food! The city is stunning, packed full of culture and amazing architecture. We spent the days walking endlessly around the city, shopping, and dining in gorgeous little restaurants run by families and full of delicious food. Such a multicultural city, we could eat French food for breakfast, Greek for lunch and Italian for dinner - it was fabulous. And don't get me started on the chocolate...
A stunning city I visited while holidaying with the boyfriend in Mellieha a couple of summers ago. This city has such a long, rich history and we loved taking a trip to really experience a place that time seems to have forgotten. The buildings are stunning and I could look at them all day, in fact I did. I walked so much I felt like my feet would cave in, up and down the wonky streets, so full of character and old time magic. The churches and cathedral were beyond beautiful and you felt such a sense of peace walking through their silent rooms. I loved our day visit there but wished we had more time to explore at a slower pace, it would have been nice to spend more time exploring the culture.
New York, USA
Of course, New York has to be in there, I love the city so much and despite having been about four times now, I still feel like I have so much more to discover. There is something about New York that has captured my heart and I just feel addicted to the atmosphere, the excitement and the possibilities that come with a trip to the big city. I will never get bored of the city and will always happily go back, but I plan to wait a while until my next visit - perhaps a visit to some other US cities is in order - San Francisco anyone?
Rome HAS to be on my list. I was lucky enough to go on a school trip to Italy, we travelled to Rome and did all the sights, then on to Pompeii and the Amalfi Coast. It was stunning, such a beautiful country, but I feel I was too young to really appreciate the incredible historical landmarks, the amazing food and the people. Plus being on a school trip meant what we had time to see was limited and filtered through schoolteachers. I actually heard of a job opportunity in Rome, working as a nanny for the children of the head of police, but sadly couldn't go for it as I had already decided to go travelling at that point and was saving. Rome is a city I would truly love to live and work in so I could really experience and throw myself into it.
3. Tatty Travels
5. The World Wanderer
Where would you most like to return to on your travels? Which city holds some serious magic for you?
Booked.net - Top Destinations to Go There
As you read this, I'm packing and getting ready to go to the airport for a wedding in Ireland with the boyfriend's family. I'm so unbelievably excited about this wedding, there has been one every autumn for the last few years, but this is the last one for a while and it's a very special one. This wedding is taking us to a tiny island in the centre of Waterford, where the wedding will take place in a castle! I visited the castle last September and it was just beautiful, like something out of a fairytale, and covered in trailing red flowers. Looking at it, I half expected Rapunzel to lean out of the turrets and pour down her golden hair. We're actually staying on the island in lodges as well so we won't have far to stumble back to bed after the wedding, but in true Irish style, the celebrations will continue for three days of partying, drinking, eating and being very merry. So, this post is all about celebrating the 10 things I love the most about Ireland, and what has kept me going back every autumn for the last few years.
Everyone I have met in Ireland has been friendly, welcoming and has gone out of their way to make you feel at home. I wouldn't want to generalise but if you walk down the street in England, you will be met with more frowns and grumpy faces than you can cope with, but in Ireland, everyone has always been happy to see me and chat. Everyone I have ever met on my visits has been warm and kind, plus quick to help if you are lots of need a recommendation. Plus, THAT accent gets me every time.
Ireland is a beautiful country with everything to offer, inland there are rolling hills and lush green fields full of cows and sheep. On the coast there are stunning beaches, cute seaside towns and choppy waves. So many towns look like time forgot them and they still hold that quaint appeal in the tiny churches and hole-in-the-wall pubs with warm fires and great music.THE FOOD
You guys know by now, I love my food and anywhere that can promise me a good meal is going high up in my estimations. Well Ireland certainly delivers, and particularly at last year's wedding where we had some amazing freshly caught seafood in the coastal town where we were staying, and had the gorgeous prime Irish beef as the main wedding meal. Yum. Looking forward to seeing what food we'll get this time!
Every single time we go to an Irish wedding it is a pretty legendary night - the last one saw us partying with the bride to an epic soundtrack she had picked herself and downing beers until the sun came up - the bride and groom actually carried on and yet still beat us to breakfast! Another one we went to was pretty manic and ended up with me locked out of the hotel room and having to bunk in with some cousins! These events always involve a lot of booze, dancing and fun so I'm sure I'll have some tales to tell after this one! THE FAMILY
I really love getting to spend time with the boyfriend's extended family - my family, although big, are spread across the globe and we don't often see each other. When we do, we are not particularly close, so it is lovely to spend time with a family who make such an effort to get together and to celebrate even the tiniest occasions. It is a lovely thing to be a part of and they do make me a big part of it. At this wedding, a member of the family will be travelling from South Africa to ordain the ceremony, and there are lots of others travelling from America.
As you guys know, I've been working constantly for a long time now and have been saving hard for backpacking in a few months, I haven't really had a proper break because all my holiday time has been spent at festivals which are just as crazy! So this will be a nice relaxing break as well, a chance to regroup and get away from work for a bit. I have long needed a break - that's for sure! Ireland is the perfect place for a break because although you feel a million miles away from home, it is super convenient to get to.THE ACTIVITIES
Every time I've visited Ireland, we've had no end of fun things to do, see and try. Previously we've had big family meals, gone walking around the coast, watched family take part in a 10k run, taken the kids to the funfair, visited a monastery and family graves, and even gone to the races! This time, there is a big golfing game to join in and, obviously the wedding, but we also have a huge family do the day after at a well-known pub, which will give us lots of time to spend together. There's so much to do!
Have you been to Ireland? What did you think of the country and what has made it a special place for you?