After the longest three months of my life drew to a close, it was time to get excited and to start thinking about packing up my life again to start afresh in a new city. I had been planning to end up in Melbourne before I even arrived in Australia, from everything I had heard about the city I knew it was the kind of place I wanted to get lost in so I was worried that if I went there to start with that I would never see the rest of the country. It was a good decision, Melbourne is an incredible city and within just a few days I had fallen completely in love with the place, the people and the lifestyle. Had I come here when I first arrived, I’m not sure I would have seen so much in such a short space of time - I certainly don’t think I would have got to spend the four amazing months I had up in Darwin and I wouldn’t give up those memories for the world. As the clock wound down, I became more and more excited, not only about seeing a new city and somewhere busier, but about being reunited with some of my closest travelling friends who had also traveled down from Darwin.
The Dingo’s were set to be reunited in the big city - away from the dry, dusty landscape of the Northern Territory, away from the bush raves, hostel life and the serious party lifestyle. It was a strange thought, imagining us all in a big, busy city full of businessmen, but it was a pretty exciting thought that not only would I get to see these amazing people again, that we would also get to explore a whole new place together! I’ve been travelling for quite a long time now so I don’t really tend to get the nervous feeling when I’m heading to a new place, but I definitely still get the excitement butterflies and when the day finally dawned it felt like they were quickstepping in my stomach. I knew that two flights, two baggage carousels, five random conversations with strangers and a whole heap of goodbyes later, I would finally be where I belonged. Two of the Dingos came to meet me at the airport and I can’t tell you how happy I was to see their faces after what felt like the longest time.It was the biggest weight off my shoulders to know that my rural work was done and dusted, and to know that life could begin again with nothing standing in the way. Naturally it was time to celebrate both that and finding out I had just been shortlisted in the UK Blog Awards for the second year running! A completely unplanned night out (the best ones always are!) followed where I was reunited with some of my greatest loves - my former roomies from Darwin, my biggest party pals and even some of my old workmates - it was amazing. I felt completely transported back to all the great times from Darwin and yet so excited about the future that lay ahead of us in Melbourne. I was staying at a friend’s apartment on Chapel Street - and I didn’t realise quite how lucky I was until I arrived and saw the apartment was right in the centre of all the bars, clubs, shops and cafes. I was so lucky to have this as my introduction to the city and I’m so glad I did, it meant a lot of partying at the bars up and down the street over the next week.
That first night out we went to a whole host of bars and clubs across the CBD and Chapel Street - I just went where I was told but had the best night back with the gang. It just shows you that it really doesn’t matter that much about the place - it’s always the people that make or break your experience and the fact that we had been reunited the other side of the country but nothing had changed meant everything. It felt like not even a day had passed since we were last together and that is something so special about friendships when you are travelling. Whether it’s friendships with people back home or those you meet on the road, because sometimes you do lose touch for a while but knowing you can get back to bliss again with these people is what makes them the best of friends. Barely any time had passed since i arrived in Melbourne and it already felt like home, knowing my family were there made it home for me. It wasn’t necessarily about what Melbourne had to offer, it was that from the second I stepped off the plane I already felt welcome. It was already my home sweet home.That in itself was a pretty big deal. I haven’t had a home for a very long time. Over a year to be precise - travelling Asia I was never in one place for more than a week, then with the East Coast I was constantly moving. Darwin was the closest I got to home and it will always be a home in one sense, but living in a hostel the whole time meant I never felt completely settled with my own space, the same in Charleville - hating the job made it hard to feel completely comfortable. So when I came to Melbourne I was determined to find an apartment and a job, to settle and really unpack all of my stuff, to feel comfortable and at home in this amazing city. The thought of having a base for a while, even just a few months, was so attractive after being constantly on the move for over a year, and I was finally happy to indulge myself after seeing and experiencing so many amazing things around the globe. One of my huge bucket list items was to live abroad and to really experience living in a city in Australia - while I did that in Darwin, this time I wanted to experience it out of a hostel and in a home of my own. And let me tell you, it’s been four weeks now since I arrived and I’m loving my life in the city, my apartment and my friends - it’s everything I dreamed it would be and more.
Have you lived abroad - where and for how long? Have you craved a home and routine after travelling for a long time? Have you been to Melbourne?
I made a new friend in Melbourne this week, he’s a local guy and we were talking about all the places I’d travelled within Australia and Asia. He was astonished to find out how much of the country I had already seen in just nine months, while he has spent his whole life here and barely seen beyond the Southern coast. But as I quickly reminded him, although I have seen so much of the other side of the globe, there is still so much of what lies right on my doorstep at home that I have not yet seen. It seems ridiculous to me to think that I have flown to the other side of the world, to travel extensively through Asia and yet I haven’t even been to Scotland. There are still huge parts of Ireland, Wales and England that I have yet to see, and I haven’t even seen half of Europe. My family have always had a preference for the exotic - for white, sandy beaches, tropical sun and spicy foods - and I think that has passed on to me. I can't help but dream of long-haul flights to destinations I thought I could only dream of, to imagine sipping cocktails while lying in a hammock that sways in the gentle breeze. But the longer I am away, the more I find myself longing to explore more of my own country - I want to see the counties and beautiful spots I have only heard about before now. I dream of surfing on Cornwall’s stunning beaches, of losing myself in the beauty of the Scottish moors and exploring bustling cities like York and Leeds.
We’re always very cynical of what lies right in front of our eyes - just like we always scoff at the place we come from because how could it possibly compare to these faraway lands? It’s because it’s all we know and whether you’ve travelled the UK or not it’s easy to assume it’s all very alike, especially when you have travel brochures advertising gorgeous Mexican beaches, once-in-a-lifetime safaris on the Serengeti or American road trips. But home can offer an experience you won’t find anywhere else - a chance to be a tourist in your own town. I often do this - coming from the Norfolk coast it’s easy to see the real beauty of the area and growing up I spent pretty much every weekend at the beaches building sandcastles and eating ice cream, or walking in the woodlands near my home. It was a perfect way to grow up and really made me appreciate how lucky I was to live somewhere so natural instead of the concrete surroundings of London. There's a reason great writers like Shakespeare, Austen and Brontë spend pages and pages describing the beautiful, wild, natural landscape of the UK. It's time we started to view our homeland through the eyes of these greats, to see the poetry in every rolling field or sky-scraper spotted skyline.
Britain holds so much natural beauty and so much diversity for such a small area of land - trust me when you’ve travelled countries like Australia you realise how tiny England really is. And yet we have such an incredible variety of people, of accents and dialects, personalities and landscapes. Seeing the surprise of other travellers from across the world really highlights the huge differences between the cultures of the north and south of England, let alone the rest of the UK. England has so much to offer in the way of quirky personality that you can really understand why just like all the youth of Britain travel thousands of miles across the world to explore Australia, youths from other nations are keen to head over to the UK to explore, work and live. It’s about time all us natives took the time to really enjoy our country and to see as much of it as possible. Not only is it cheaper than a plane ticket to Thailand, but you’ll get a chance to learn about and experience the different cultures that make up your own country. So many of us, myself included, know so little about our own heritage and history, and have seen so little of our most famous monuments, but now is the time to change all of that. One in particular that I have always wanted to see for myself, is Stonehenge. I feel like it must be such a magical place, surrounded by such mystery, and to witness it for yourself would be an amazing experience particularly at dusk or dawn, which to me are always the most special times of day.
Fancy visiting this incredible prehistoric location? British Tours offer a range of great tours to Stonehenge and several other destinations in the UK and beyond. For those looking to explore the magic of this particular location, there are day tours as well as special access tours that will give you the opportunity to witness this marvel as the sun dances on the horizon at dusk or dawn. The purpose and the construction of this awe-inspiring monument is one of the world's most enduring mysteries. Why did our ancestors build the circle - as a temple, a burial site, a place of healing, or a calendar? And how did they transport the massive stones weighing up to 50 tonnes from so far away? Arthurian legend has it that the circle was built by Merlin, assisted by giants. Stonehenge tours can be customised to include many other interesting locations like Bath, Salisbury, Winchester, Oxford, Windsor and the Avebury stone circle. Visit the megalithic stone circle surrounding the village of Avebury - lesser known than Stonehenge, this fascinating site's first stones predate those at Stonehenge by at least 200 years and form the largest stone circle in the world. All of their tours are privately guided by expert London tour guides who will collect you by car or minibus from your London hotel, with all tours available in all foreign languages. Whether you're on holiday or just want to see the real magic of the UK - check out these tours to see the country from a whole new perspective!
Have you been to Stonehenge - what was your experience like? Where are your favourite UK destinations to visit? What's your hometown like?
*This was a collaboration with British Tours but all views are my own
Three months. It doesn’t sound like a long time, but when you’re in a job you hate, trust me, it drags. As the Darwin days came to a close, I started to think seriously about getting my regional work done - it wasn’t something I had planned but after the last few months I knew I really wanted to stay in Australia the full two years. I still had so much left to see and do, I couldn’t abandon this amazing country just yet. So I began looking online for jobs that would count towards my 88 days - originally I was supposed to be joining two friends from home on a mango farm near Darwin but poor crop meant that fell through. After that I started looking at everything from working in outback pubs, livestock farming, fruit picking, au pair work on farms, even working on ranches and cattle stations. There were so many jobs it was hard to know which ones to apply for so I started off by narrowing it down to areas I really wanted to visit - places like Tasmania and Western Australia that I hadn’t yet explored. Then, once I’d applied for all the jobs from those areas, I started to widen my search on Gumtree to areas like Queensland and the Northern Territory. This website was the most helpful when it came to finding work in places that satisfied the criteria needed to get that second year visa.
It’s a bit of a long process applying for jobs like these unless you have a contact on a farm already - that seems to be the best way to do it, by recommendation. When you’re just desperate to find something and take the first job offered, sometimes you can end up doing something you hate and working for people you can’t stand. I think one of the main problems with taking rural work is that the Australians hiring you know that you will do pretty much anything for the sign off - they know that they can push it and take advantage because you need them more than they need you. I mean, we’re interchangeable and more importantly we’re replaceable. One backpacker can be replaced by 50 eager new ones in a week, so why should they really care how they treat us? Now before someone jumps down my throat, I know not all farming employers are like this and I have several friends who have had a blast doing their farm work, who have loved it so much they spent twice as long there and later returned for more. Many who describe it as their best memory of this country.
But I’ve also heard twice as many stories of people being taken advantage of - in every sense from money and working hours, to sexually. You only have to take one scan down the backpacker Facebook pages to read some of the horrific stories of travellers turning up and being treated like slaves, expected to work insane hours for almost no wages and disgusting living conditions, and I’ve heard way too many stories of girls getting stuck out on a farm in the middle of nowhere with dodgy farmers who tried to touch them or even crawl into their beds in the middle of the night. I’ve heard all sorts since travelling - mainly because thats always the first conversation people want to have in Australia - everyone is looking for tips on how to tackle their farm work or to vent about how awful theirs was. Mine? It was an experience that I definitely wouldn’t want to repeat. I learnt a lot about how much I can put up with when I really want something - because trust me it’s not like me to keep my mouth shut in the face of such treatment. But thanks to good friends there and keeping my eyes on the prize, I made it through and now it feels like it happened a million years ago. It was worth sticking it out to get it done and dusted with three months to spare, but I’m so happy I will never have to go through that again.
If you're looking for farm work, why not check out my top tips for getting that regional work done:
Tell me about your farming experiences - what kind of work did you end up doing? Best or worst three months of your life? Any other top tips?
Finding inner peace – it's a journey for all of us. Human condition has imprinted on us the need to search for something. While these days that may be interpreted as an external need we have to satisfy. There is so much more to it than searching for riches, purpose or that one person who will make you happy. Have you ever felt like "one day" you will finally reach your goal? Or one day you will finally be happy? Well the truth is – you already have the power within you. You just need to learn how to access that inner peace by making small lifestyle changes.
These changes have transformed my life over the last few years. While the journey may have been rough at times – as one of my best friends always say – "you can't have the rough without the smooth." It will be challenging at times and you may feel like giving up and focusing your energies on shallower pleasures. But if you stick with it and make gradual changes – you'll one day look back and realise how far you have come. Getting to a point where you can access that inner calm and serenity is one of the most powerful skills you can have. It can completely change your world.
It doesn't matter whether you're a spiritual person, or whether you're atheist. The search for inner peace is something that transcends religion and society ideals. It's an inward journey that we all go through in our lives. Some of us progress further than others, some of us transform our lives in the name of finding inner peace. But what is it that we're all searching for? In a word, self-acceptance. We humans are a confused and mixed-up breed. Every aspect of our lives is affected by the projected expectations and ideals of the society we live in, and those that have gone before us. So no wonder we find it so hard to find that sense of calm and contentment when we live in a world that constantly places judgement on everything we do.
We might have a different understanding of what we are searching for. Some might be looking for happiness, others for love, purpose, self-acceptance. But essentially all of these goals can be broken down to the search for happiness within yourself – acceptance and knowledge that you are enough. Reaching that understanding that the only thing you can control in life is yourself. That you can't place such great importance on the thoughts, comments, reactions of others – or you will never find true joy. Finding inner peace is a battle, it's a lifelong challenge and we're all a work in progress.
The truth is, we're all searching for something. Whether it's the person who will make our life complete, the job of our dreams, the home we will always want to come back to. It always seems to centre around the idea of seeking perfection. It actually all comes back to capitalist ideas that we always need to be seeking the next best thing. While staying busy keeping up with the Joneses' – we're distracted by our incessant spending and searching. When in fact, removing all of that "noise" from our lives is the one thing that would give us what we never realised we were searching for all along. Deep down all any of us really want is to find that sense of inner calm and contentment – real happiness. And I can tell you – finding inner peace definitely doesn't come from the endless accumulation of stuff.
Throughout your life, you will face challenges – some more than others. It can feel like the world is against you at times, that you'll never reach your goal. When in fact, each challenge brings you closer to self-acceptance. It can be a huge learning curve as you stumble from one challenge to another – a lot of us feel like we're bumbling our way through life. But as the years pass by, you start to gain perspective and to realise that the huge challenges you faced at the beginning were actually not much more than a tiny stumbling block. As you become more resilient, brave, strong and accepting of your own weaknesses – you creep ever closer to finding inner peace.
This elusive goal has no endpoint but is an everlasting journey towards a happier and more accepting life. By taking the first steps along this path, you'll find that you become a calmer and happier person. All those things that make you feel anxious or worried, no longer take up so much space in your head. That constant background noise of thoughts racing around your brain, slowly lessens by the day until you can clear your thoughts. It becomes easier to separate out thoughts that bring you joy, and to rid yourself of the demons that plague your mind. You'll find patience, contentment and a quiet within, that no-one will be able to take away from you. And better still, that you can take with you, wherever you go.
Don't get me wrong – I'm still very much a work in progress and I'm learning more each day. But the last decade of my life has been the biggest learning curve. I've faced the biggest challenges yet and have overcome things I never could have imagined I would face. It's been painful, hard, lonely and there were points I questioned whether it was all worth it – whether I could carry on. But, on the other side of this – it's also helped me grow, becoming more accepting of myself and others. It's given me the drive and determination to achieve things I never dreamed possible. But best of all – it's made me take a step back. I realised how little control I have over the world and over my life. It's taught me to be accepting of this and to only place importance in the things I can control.
Throughout my travels over the last six years, I have become a completely different person. A few years ago, I was impatient, quick to anger and frustration, and at times, judgemental. I'm still all of those things in smaller doses, but I feel like my entire soul has relaxed over the last few years. I've slowed down my lifestyle, I've stepped back and I've stopped worrying about the things I can't control. It's transformed the way I travel, and it's what helped me heal so well after escaping domestic violence. It's been a long and hard journey – but every second of struggle was worth it to reach a point where I am so accepting of myself and others.
We are all guilty of being busy all the time. Our society has an obsession with constantly "doing". Whether it's work, socialising or simply projecting the idea that we're all living our best lives 24/7. We've become human "doings" instead of human "beings". It's bred a generation of people who don't know how to slow down and just "be". Luckily now society seems to be shifting in the opposite direction and living a more mindful life is becoming the goal. Stop living your life at 100mph, stop booking up all of your time with work, friends and side hustles.
TOP TIP: Schedule in time to just "be" and you'll notice a huge difference to your mindset.
Technology is one of the greatest achievements and failures of the modern world. While we have created a million new ways to connect with others, we've forgotten how to connect with ourselves. These endless distractions of mobile phones, laptops, iPads, Alexa and TV. We're constantly stimulated and crave it when it stops – without it our lives feel empty or "boring". But the truth is, it's only when we learn to switch off that we really begin to connect with ourselves again. If you can't just be, how can you ever have a hope of finding inner peace?
TOP TIP: Try a technology free day – leave your phone at home and head out for a walk. Or introduce phone-free mornings.
Hands up if you're guilty of constantly overpowering the noise inside your head? Whether it's listening to podcasts, chatting to friends and family, watching TV. We're never just quiet and we never give ourselves the time to be alone with our thoughts. This is so important for finding inner peace – after all, how can you ever expect to be happy if you don't even dare face your own thoughts? For those who suffer with anxiety or worry a lot – this can be a scary thing to do. But the more you do this and stop avoiding dealing with your mind, the happier and healthier you will be.
TOP TIP: Take the time to check in with yourself – ask yourself how you are feeling. If you're having bad or negative thoughts – acknowledge them, don't deny the feeling. But find a way to turn it into a positive. Creating this new habit will change your outlook on life.
Have you ever noticed that we're always saying the nicest things and complimenting our friends? But when it comes to ourselves, we're harsh, critical and borderline bullies. It's amazing how much your internal commentary can define the person you become in life. But when you're constantly exposed to it, it becomes more powerful than any form of advertising. It's so important to listen in on the thoughts in your head, realise the way you speak to yourself and to make an effort to be kinder. Be your own cheerleader and interrupt when you start to have negative or mean thoughts.
TOP TIP: Each day, look in the mirror and say 5 things you like about yourself. Such a small step can make a huge difference on your journey to self-acceptance.
Realise the only thing you can control is your own reaction. It's scary to admit, but also hugely empowering. This is one that many of us might not even be aware that we are doing. But if you're someone who feels frustration, anger, sadness and disappointment often. You might be subconsciously placing too much importance on how much control you have over your world. Changing your perspective allows you to be so much happier, because it means you don't allow your happiness to be affected by the actions of others. That means, if you get a nasty comment on Instagram, or you get dumped or treated badly by a partner – you're able to separate your experience from the actions of another.
This one was hugely powerful for me when I was overcoming my experiences with domestic violence. I realised, I couldn't control how he was behaving. All I could control was my own emotions and reactions – this thought gave me the courage to leave. Afterwards, it helped me to realise that the one thing I had control over – was how I moved forward with my life.
TOP TIP: Always take a second to pause before you react. It's easy to fly off the handle in the heat of the moment. But taking just 10 seconds to breathe can really change the way you act, and react.
It's simple – toxic people drain your energy. Whether it's a friend, family member or a partner. You are worthy of so much more, and you don't have to support these people. You don't exist to be their physical, mental or emotional punching bag. There are so many damaged and broken people in this world who sadly don't want to do the work, or they're simply at a very different stage in their journey. These people come along to challenge us in our lives and to help us grow. But rejecting them from our lives and refusing to share our energy with them – is a huge step towards finding inner peace.
TOP TIP: Ask yourself whether the people in your life are enhancing your life – what do they contribute? If all they do is sap your energy and bring negativity in – it's time to cut them loose.
It's okay to say no. It's healthy to establish boundaries. I feel like they're two sentences that aren't said enough in this world. You don't owe anyone anything. You don't have to justify your existence with what you do for others. This can be such a difficult one to learn and the lessons that come our way can be earth-shattering. They were for me. But learning to set these boundaries and the power of saying "no" is a huge turning point in your life. It can transform both your life and your relationships. Start small and work your way up to the bigger things, don't be afraid of losing people in the process.
TOP TIP: Always remember that anyone who complains or reacts to you setting boundaries – is someone who was benefitting when you had no boundaries.
There is so much we have to learn and it's your choice whether you open yourself up to this, or whether you shut down. Expose yourself to the words, thoughts and ideas of people outside of your circle. Realise that what you've grown up with might not be the only way to live, it might not be the only option. You don't have to agree with everything you read – but realising that there are many different views and ideas out there will make you a lot more accepting of yourself. As I said before – we are all a work in progress and it's okay to change your mind. It's okay to grow. No-one is perfect, or ever will be – going into the world with the attitude that you have so much more to learn. It's already a huge step in the right direction.
Journaling is such a great way to start on your journey towards inner peace. After all – how can you allow inner peace to fill you up, if you're already a mess of thoughts, ideas and worries. Facing your anxieties head on can be a huge help in moving towards a happier and more content version of yourself. I used to have so many ideas about how I should live my life. So many societal ideas of relationships, travel and work. It was the moment I cast off those shackles and decided to live the life I dreamed of, instead of the one I thought I "should" be living. That was when I found happiness. Whether you write these ideas down, or whether you scream into a pillow. Find your own way of expressing your emotions and releasing them.
TOP TIP: Try a journal prompt, or even write lists. Or just write stream of consciousness and blurt it all out on the page. You'll be amazed how small and manageable your worries seem when they're written on the page.
We're constantly surrounded by a sea of stuff. Every aspect of this capitalist society is pushing us to buy more, to each for more "things" in order to achieve happiness. The truth is – out of all my years of travel – one thing I've seen is that those with the least stuff are the happiest. We don't need the latest iPhone or laptop to be happy, that "it" dress isn't going to make you feel happy six months or a year down the line. Instead of reaching for things that give us that quick endorphin hit, we need to see beyond the immediate and look for longer-term joy. Finding inner peace comes from a lifestyle shift and realising that our value doesn't equate the stuff or the money that we have. Cutting back helps clear our minds and our lives, practicing gratitude makes us value what we do have.
TOP TIP: Each night before bed, think of three things you are grateful for. Let that be your last thought before you sleep.
Have you found inner peace? Where are you on your journey towards calm? What has helped you to reach your goals?
After writing last Friday’s post, I really got to thinking about my life now compared to a year ago and how happy I am. To put things in perspective, this time last year I was living it up in Thailand with a bunch of great mates and partying my arse off. Now, I’m writing this from my new home of Melbourne while my roommate snores his head off, and yet, I think over the last two weeks I’ve reached new levels of happiness I didn’t think were possible. So I decided to start a list, of all the moments I’ve had recently that have made me feel grateful to be alive and happy I made the decisions that have led me to this point. Because, if you read my last post - you’ll know that this Valentine’s Day I’m taking the time to celebrate being single, independent and the happiest with myself I’ve ever been. Forget giving out roses and chocolates, I’m taking the time to think about and be thankful for all the things that are giving me the rosy glow of happiness.
So what has made me realise i’m in love with my life?
So there we go, the 20 things that have helped me realise why I’m so in love with my life and if you ask me, that’s by far the most important love you will have. Whether you were in a relationship or not this Valentine’s, take a moment to think about whether you are happy with yourself and your life - its something that is so easily brushed over in the busy day-to-day. Why not take 15 minutes out of your day to make a list like this one about all the positive reasons you are in love with you life, and why you are happy with your lot. You might find that actually you have a lot more love for the way things have turned out than you think - or it might just highlight a change you know you need to make! Either way - take the time to love yourself, your life and everything in it.
Tell me what you love mot about your life - what are you most thankful for?
As Valentine’s Day approaches, I can’t help but remember just two years ago when I was crazy in love and whisked off my feet with all the hearts and roses that come with the holiday. A romantic dinner for two and a year later, who knew that I would spend my next Valentine’s Day at a Half Moon Party in Thailand more single than I had been in a decade, that two years on I would be preparing to spend the day at a festival with good friends. It’s amazing how much your life can change with your relationship status and it’s only been since I left my nine year relationship to come traveling that I have really noticed how much others really let their relationships rule their lives and their decisions. Even now, when I tell people I left behind such a long-term relationship to travel the world solo, they look at me incredulously and think I’m slightly crazy - but then I ask, wouldn’t it be crazier to put your dreams on hold and end up resenting the person you love the most? Begrudgingly they nod in agreement, but then you seem them do it again, and again, and again. Sacrificing their studies, their hobbies, their families and homes, all for a love that changes their world but not always for the better.
Two years ago, for Valentine’s, I wrote a blog post entitled “Relationships | What’s it really like to have a boyfriend at university?” which has still remained one of my most popular posts. It seems that the title of this post was something that several young women found themselves typing into Google as they tried to plan a future with their loves, tried to make a decision about their own education and future, and tried to keep the balance between what their head and heart were screaming. Over the last two years, this post has probably received the most comments and messages above all of my others, and it seems to be a bit of a hot topic for young ladies who are about to advance to this stage of their lives. Sixth Form and College is around the time when many young couples start pairing off and often you’ll find your first love, I certainly did. It’s a great time, when you’re learning what it’s like to first love another person, to be part of a real adult relationship and to be regarded as a “real” couple instead of foolish young teenagers. It’s easy for this love to take over your life a bit and we all went through that phase where we didn’t want to leave each others’ side, but then comes the pressures of university - whether you decide to go or not, often this can be the decider for whether many couples will survive. Often one half of the couple will have a longing to continue their studies as I did, while the other half will have a plan to either study elsewhere, or not at all. So what do you do when this happens?
So many girls have written to me explaining how worried they are that their relationship will not withstand the pressures of university and separation. I’ve had some asking whether I think they will make it when their other half already spends his time eying up other girls or flirting, I’ve had others ask whether the distance will be a problem, and I’ve had far too many asking whether I think they should change their lifelong university preference to attend the same school as their boyfriend. Something I want to make clear is that I have always been a very independent person, so has my ex-boyfriend and thats part of the reason we loved each other so much - we both trusted each other to give as much space as needed throughout the nine years and I think that’s why we were so happy throughout. When it came to me choosing my university and course, he had no input into my choice. I told him all about the universities I visited and about what my options were, but that was the extent of his influence. I made my choice of university based wholly on the course content, the campus, the people and the feeling of the place - from the moment I stepped on to the campus at University of Hertfordshire, I knew this was the place I had to spend the next three years of my life. Because that’s what it was - my life. Not his, although he was a huge part of my life after three years. But I knew that regardless of where I was, what I studied or how far apart we were, if we truly loved each other we would make it work. And if it didn’t work, I certainly didn’t want to be anywhere but my first choice of university.
The same happened when I came traveling - I made the decision separately that this was what I wanted to do, just like my other half decided he wanted to go to university to study. Independently we knew what was right for each of us, and mutually when we discussed it, we came to a decision that we both had to go our separate ways in order to be happy. Whether it was a permanent or temporary decision is another matter, but we both knew we had to do this otherwise we would end up resenting each other. It was easily the hardest decision of my life, but now, over a year after I left, I can tell you it was the best decision I ever made. Much like my choice of university, it has led me to one of the happiest times of my life, and yes, it does mean I’ve had to say goodbye to an incredible relationship but it also means I’ve chosen to invest in myself. Because being single doesn’t mean being lonely - if anything, since being single I’ve never been surrounded by such love, light and laughter, I’ve actually made some of the best friends and family of my life. So many seem to stay in a relationship because they are scared of the alternative, but what are you really afraid of - not having anyone’s shadow to stand in? I look around and see so many young women in relationships that make them feel insecure, afraid or unhappy, and I wonder why they stay. I’m entirely independent and alone at this point in my life and I’ve never felt stronger, braver or happier. Being single has made me fearless, given me incredible confidence and made me really value myself as an individual.
I’m not saying that every woman out there should go dump her boyfriend this Valentine’s Day (that would be a bit mean wouldn’t it?!), I’m just saying that it is important to celebrate being independent and single as well as celebrating retaining your individual identity when you’re in a relationship. Don’t be afraid to make independent decisions within a relationship, especially when it will have a huge impact on your own life. It’s easy to get swept up in coupledom, to let your loins take over your thought processes but don’t forget that when it comes to things like education and travel - these are things that change the way you view the life you live. If you already fear that the change will challenge your relationship beyond repair, then perhaps that relationship was not as strong as you first thought. But that’s okay, some people are destined to dip in and out of our lives gently influencing us along the way, while others exist to shake our worlds to the very core, changing and rebuilding them in ways we never expected. It’s easy to get them mixed up and sometimes a big change like university or travel is needed to show one from the other. But whichever type of relationship you have, it’s not as important as the one you have with yourself - that is the one you should be investing the real time, effort and love into, because its the only one you can guarantee will last for life.
How do you remain independent within your relationship? Can you think of a time when you have put yourself above the relationship? What have you sacrificed for love - and was it worth it?
One of my favourite things about being in Charleville was the incredible, enveloping darkness that I noticed from the very first moment I pulled up in town. Living in Darwin CBD, I never really experienced the darkness of the outback, I was always surrounded by streetlights and only ever really noticed the darkness when I went running alone at night. But nothing compares to standing out in the street in Charleville alone after dark, there are barely any streetlights and you can't even see your hand in front of your face. I've never experienced a darkness like it. It's unnerving at first, and then you start to adapt, you get used to walking the same paths without any lights, you start to make out familiar shapes. One of my favourite times to be outside was when I would arrive home late, either from a friend's house or the pub, and I would hop out of the car at my place. As they pulled away I would always stop for a second to let my eyes adjust to the darkness, then I would look up at a sight that would always take my breath away. The stars here are the brightest, the clearest, and the easily the most beautiful I have ever seen. I cursed the fact that I didn't have a good enough camera to capture their beauty on several occasions, but was certain that even the best cameras in the world would not do justice to the sight.I was lucky enough to have a great friend - one of many - while I was in town, someone who kept me sane on more than one occasion and made me feel so welcome from the beginning. He loved the stars and had his own telescope, so we went out a few times while I was in town and parked up in a field in the middle of nowhere to get away from the lights and take a closer look. Those nights spent lying in the back of a truck watching as one arm of the Milky Way moved across the night sky were easily my favourite time in the town. Spending nights losing count of all the shooting stars we spotted and zooming in on different constellations - those are the moments I know I'll remember the most from my time in Charleville. Even better, it was great to be with someone who knew about the stars and could tell me about them. I remember the first time we went out and I managed to capture the amazing picture of the moon through the telescope - I couldn't believe how beautiful it looked that night and I'm glad I appreciated it then because another time when we went out at the full moon it was so bright it outshone so many of the stars in the night sky.While I was in Charleville, what was probably one of the most random coincidences I have ever experienced happened. An English friend I met while in Thailand and travelled with through Laos suddenly showed up in town. It turned out the solar power company he worked for sent him all over the country, he had just been in New South Wales the previous week and now he had turned up in my tiny outback town! I couldn't have been more surprised to suddenly hear from him, especially when he dropped the bombshell that he was in town with his friend and colleague, JP. It came at a perfect time - the halfway point through my three months and I was struggling to stay sane in this town. Seeing Paul and getting to catch up with a fellow backpacker was just the tonic I needed to show me why I was here doing this three months - so I could spend another year with people like him. Of course, we had to celebrate being reunited and how better than with steaks and wine?! We had a fantastic weekend together catching up, we went swimming at the river and even squeezed in a visit to the town's Cosmos Centre and Observatory.The three of us went along on our final night together ready for a night of stargazing - we weren't disappointed. After we were shown a short movie about the observatory and how it was created, we headed straight out to a specially-built building with a retractable roof. It was very impressive and obviously had a lot invested into the creation of such a structure, especially considering it was housing several telescopes worth millions. The guides were fantastic - they talked to us throughout, answering any questions and telling us all about what we were seeing and lots of other information that helped us to understand the scale of what we were seeing. We focused on the brightest star in the night sky, Sirius HR 2491 which is also known as the Dog Star, before taking a look at The Great Orion Nebula in the sword of Orion, both beautiful and completely different to look at. We also took a look at open cluster M41, a binary star system called Almaak with orange and blue stars, before finishing with the second largest globular cluster in the night sky - Tuncana 47. Now this won't mean much to most of you - but I can tell you it was a pretty spectacular collection of stars and a real range. They were beautiful. The only thing I was a bit disappointed by was at that point all the planets were below the horizon so we didn't get to see any, sadly they only started to appear as I left so I missed them completely. But to be honest, the stars were just that stunning that I wasn't really that bothered. If you happen to find yourself passing through Charleville, I would definitely recommend a visit to the Observatory - it's truly out of this world.
Where is the best place you've stargazed? Have you randomly bumped into a travelling friend in the middle of nowhere?
My first day in the town turned out to be an interesting one, the whole town had turned out for the Charleville Cup, a horse racing championship that took place on the same day as the Melbourne Cup. It gave me a real taste of life in the outback as I had the opportunity to meet pretty much the whole town and to see everyone dressed up to the nines. Coming from rural England, it was interesting to see the huge similarities and contrasts between that and rural Australia. Thinking back now, I was very lucky to arrive in time for the event because most of the people I met that day turned out to be some of the best friends I have made in the town. I'm so glad that I did meet them straight away because I think otherwise I could have had a bit of a lonely time in the town and might have struggled to meet as many people. I was amazed to meet a whole gang of English girls but it was great to hear some familiar accents among all the broad Queensland drawls, definitely comforting to know that there were some people who understood how nuts it is for an English girl to find herself living and working in the outback like this. The day was filled with horse-racing, fashion shows, betting and drinking, and was a great welcome to the town, I think better than any day I have been here, that one really summed up what my life would be like for the next three months.I'll be honest and say it took a few weeks to really adapt to the slower pace of life in Charleville after the last few months in Darwin, it took me a little while to realise there would be a lot more empty time spent here. Instead of spending my nights dancing my heart out and partying, I would exchange for a life of lazy mornings spent sleeping in, afternoon workouts at the gym followed by quiet nights in front of the TV. It was a shock to the system and to start with I couldn't cope with how bored I was, it seemed such a waste of time to relax but once I got over the shock I realised it was exactly what my body needed. I started to really enjoy having a break and pushing myself at the gym to get healthy and fit again - I'm probably now in the best shape I have been since travelling because I've been determined to get fit. I've taken the time to do other things I enjoy like cooking in a real kitchen, instead of a pathetic hostel offering, I've been reading and lazing by the pool. I've still missed a lot about my old life but knowing it was just for a short time gave me the motivation to make the most of it instead of fighting against it.Don't think for a second that means there is nothing to do in Charleville - it's just different. One of our favourite things to do was to get out of the town and head to the Ward, a part of the Warrego River where you can swim. On weekends you'll go there and often see groups who take boats and jet skis up there - I never thought I'd be seeing people riding jet skis in the outback that's for sure! It's lovely and I remember the first time I went up there, we stayed floating around in the muddy water at sunset, chatting away while I watched kangaroos hopping up the banks of the river while horses drank further downstream. I went several times after that and one friend even made me jump off the bridge - I lost my sunglasses but totally worth it! For some it might be a muddy river with huge fish that jump out of the water, but for me it was a taste of the real Australia - a side that even many Australian haven't seen for themselves. I got to see how these people had grown up and to experience, if only for a little while, how they live. That's what travelling is all about, experiencing other cultures, other ways of living, and throwing yourself in the deep end to experience it for yourself.Don't worry, I wasn't totally sober and devoid of nights out for the last three months, we still went out every weekend for drinks at the pub or parties at the Bowls Club or one of the houses in town. There was something going on most weekends if you knew the right people and luckily I did, it meant I always had something to look forward to each week and that the weekends flew by! The nightlife may not have been particularly buzzing, but there was a good crowd to have a few drinks with and laugh a lot with each time so we had plenty of fun. I did also get to experience some pretty entertaining nights including a Bachelor and Bachelorette Auction to raise money for a sports team - everyone was hilariously drunk and bidding on the brave would who had got up on stage. There were also great parties over Christmas including the annual Boxing Day party which had a huge turnout and was a great night filled with dancing and lots of drinking games. And of course, just a week ago I was celebrating Australia Day with a barbecue, pool party and drinks with friends - so I'd say I've done pretty well over the last few months.
Have you spent time in the outback? Where did you find yourself? How was your experience?
The last seven days have been a total whirlwind and I can't believe it is only now that I am getting the chance to write this post and share it with you guys. If you follow me on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram there's a good chance you already know about this but if not - after a long three months in the outback I completed my regional work for my second year Australian visa just an hour before finding out Absolutely Lucy had once again made it into the finals of the travel section of the UK Blog Awards! An amazing day - I was completely elated to find out that I had made the shortlist for the second year in a row. Last year this blog was awarded a highly commended award after just six months of being a travel blog, who knows what this year will bring! This year, Absolutely Lucy was shortlisted out of 2,000 blogs and the awards received total of 73,352 votes - a HUGE thank you for all the ones that were for me! Whether this year brings success or not, I am already over the moon at the fact that so many of you amazing people took time out of your day to vote for me, that you've been there every step of the way - liking, commenting and sharing my posts. This blog was started as a way of sharing with my friends and family what I had been up to, now that crowd has grown beyond anything I could have expected and it's giving me the opportunity to work with amazing companies and brands, all thanks to your support.
If the last year of travelling, and especially the last three months in the outback, have taught me anything, it's gratitude. I have never been more grateful for my life, for all the opportunities I get, and for the people who surround me. After completing my regional work on Friday, I moved across the country to Melbourne - something I have been looking forward to for months on end - and was finally reunited with some of the best friends I have made since travelling. Yes, that's right, the Dingos are back together and I could not be happier about it. I've spent the last three months missing my Darwin family more than I could ever put into words, we went through so much in such a short space of time and were closer than any group I have met. So to suddenly be parted from them all - the people I spent every second of every day with - and be completely on my own was pretty hard. What got me through were great friends in Charleville and the thought that soon I would be reunited with my gang - arriving in Melbourne and seeing my family again was the most amazing feeling. It's made arriving in Melbourne feel just like coming home.Spending three months in a place where there were no shops, no distractions, and the nearest McDonald's was three hours away has really made me appreciate all that I now have on my doorstep. I had forgotten how much fun it is to explore a city even if you're completely alone - I always remember the Sex and the City episode where Carrie talks about New York as her date. Now that's exactly how I feel, I have a whole city to explore whether I'm walking graffitied alleyways, checking out the sights, museums or cinemas. Some of my friends here are already working so I had a perfect opportunity to spend a day with myself - I went shopping, had my hair done, ate out and even went to the cinema. So many people hate doing these things alone but I can never understand why - it was a fantastic day and I always think if you can't stand to spend time with yourself then why should anyone else want to? Before coming travelling alone I had never really had to do anything by myself - there was always a friend, boyfriend or family member to keep me company - but ever since, I've really started to value the time I spend alone just as much as the time I spend with the ones I love. You should try it. Set yourself the challenge of doing something every day for a week completely alone - go eat out by yourself, grab a coffee, go to the cinema, go for a walk. Don't be self-conscious or care what others think - just do it and embrace the solitude. It feels strange at first but soon you start to crave those moments and really enjoy them. It gives you the confidence to put yourself out there and be proud of what you have to offer, it gave me the courage to enter the UK Blog Awards and to end up a finalist!
Have you tried going it solo lately? What are you too scared to do by yourself? What's the greatest thing you have achieved by yourself?