It’s been less than 24 hours since I arrived home from my Great Ocean Road trip and already my fingers are itching to type and tell you guys all about it. I’m feeling so unbelievably happy and refreshed after a few days away from the city and with two amazing friends, especially knowing that I have ticked another amazing experience off my bucket list. Ever since before I touched down in Australia, it has been a goal of mine to road trip across the country. Although I’m putting off road tripping the West Coast until my second year, at least now I can leave in a few months knowing I’ve experienced an Australian road trip and what has to be one of the best road trips you can do in the world! From the moment I arrived in Melbourne, my friends and I have been talking about organising a trip down the coast, but typically with there being so many of us we hadn’t quite got round to organising it. Last week was a stressful week for a few of us and with the four-day weekend looming, we thought it would be a perfect time to get away from the city and get some breathing space.We planned absolutely nothing, we didn’t even book the car until about two days before we were due to leave! We ended up with a perfect combination of myself, my flatmate and someone who has become one of the best friends I have met since travelling - all equally laid-back girls who just wanted a stress-free weekend. We got exactly what we wanted - packing up our things the night before we just took the bare essentials - warm clothes, good shoes for hiking, duvets and a tent. Our tent cost us $33 from K-Mart, and we struck gold last weekend at the Grand Prix when spectators left behind their brand new camping chairs for whoever could be bothered to carry them home! For food, we raided our kitchens and took tins of tuna, salad, wraps, fruit, bread, nutella and peanut butter. Sticking to backpacker mentality, we all wanted to cut back on costs as much as possible and didn’t see the point in spending a fortune unnecessarily, plus we didn’t want to spend hours perusing the supermarket shelves when we could be out having adventures. We took plenty of snacks for the drive - rice crackers and crisps kept us going, and saved our money for cider and wine. In the end our trip cost us a grand total of around $150 per person - that’s for the car, petrol, food, booze and campsite!The trip itself was amazing - I can’t think of a single thing that could have made it better. Considering we didn’t plan anything, I’d say our trip was an even bigger success than I ever could have expected. So what made it so good? Amazing attitudes, great people, stunning surroundings and the freedom of life on the road again all played their part, but there are some far simpler things you can focus on to ensure your road trip - whether its from Devon to Newcastle, across the USA or outback Australia - will be a success. Here’s my guide to the perfect Australian road trip:
Don’t over plan
The more planning you do, the higher your expectations are and the more likely you are to let the small things bother you. Australia is a big place and you rarely have to plan far ahead - we did GOR over Easter and still managed to book a car two days before leaving, and found accommodation when we arrived at our destinations rather than pre-booking. Doing it this way gives you more flexibility and for me, that is a huge part of the experience. Being able to change your plans at the drop of a hat has led me to some of the most amazing experiences yet! Don’t stress about finding somewhere to park or sleep, it always works itself out!
Book a car with a good company
We used Turnbulls Hire who were fantastic, they provided us with a brand new, spotless Toyota Yaris which was the perfect size for us there girls and all our stuff. It was great on fuel and nice and small for those winding coastal roads. It also had a great sound system - essential for a good road trip! It cost us just $180 for three full days and petrol added very little to this bill. Plus the staff were fantastic and allowed us to drop off the vehicle later the next day, before offering us a lift to the train station! Now that’s great service.
Choose your road trip gang wisely
You’re going to be stuck in a car with these people for three or four days, or possibly longer, so make sure you can actually cope with them being in such close quarters. It’s important to make sure you are compatible to travel - it won’t be fun being trapped in a car with a person who stresses over everything if you’re the most laid back person in the world. Or it may work as a good combination if you level each other out! Make sure everyone is pulling their weight by taking turns to drive, organising the car/food, and most importantly, make sure the person who is supplying the tent can be counted on to not forget it!
Don’t be over-ambitious with food
Road trips and camping is about getting back to basics - it’s not about tapas and three-course meals. A barbecue is always great, but think carefully about how long the meat will be sat in a warm car before you buy, and think about how much space it will take up in the car. We were planning to camp for a few nights so a barbecue wasn’t practical, plus we were pretty happy with just raiding the fridge at home and taking salad, wraps and tuna for dinner. Bread and peanut butter/nutella made a great breakfast, plus snacks of fruit and carrots throughout the day. And what road trip would be complete without crisps?! Keeping it simple can save you a LOT of money - we spent nothing on food over three whole days - and it can save you hours deciding in the supermarket.
Skip the hostels
Most of the time they’re overpriced and unnecessary when you’re on a road trip. You already have a great gang of people in the car and can save a bundle if you take a tent with you instead. Camping adds to the experience and gives you a chance to have more freedom with your trip - you can build camp fires, barbecue your own meals, arrive and leave when it suits you, plus you meet some great people in the campsites. The first night we camped at Cape Otway National Park - an amazing campsite with fantastic facilities. It cost us $50 for a pitch and we had heaps of room around our tent and car, we had access to clean toilets/showers, a kitchen and barbecues. In a hostel over Easter weekend we would have paid around $30-40 per person. On our second night in the Grampians we actually camped for free in an amazing campsite full of great people and had the best time.
Take your time
Do your road trip at a pace that suits you - it sounds silly but so often people either rush the trip or dawdle too much because they don’t organise their time well. It’s important to take time out to stop and explore the sights, otherwise all you will have seen is the inside of a car. But at the same time, you don’t want to take too long at one sight because you may miss out on seeing something else. We planned our trip as we went but we all had the same priorities - see as much as possible without stressing over whether we would make it to the campsite in time. Flexibility is key to this!
Get the perfect soundtrack
If you ask me, after the people in your car, the music pumping out of your speakers is the most important thing on your trip. Even if the weather is rubbish and you get stuck in traffic, you can still have a great time and put everyone in a good mood by belting out some great songs. Whether you prefer he older stuff or all the latest chart-toppers, make sure your iPod is charged and ready for action. We were lucky because my flatmate loves music and had all the best stuff downloaded on her phone. We had a great time singing and dancing along the journey! Also - don’t forget to choose you road-trip song! This is the one that five, ten or even twenty years from now will remind you of this trip.
What was your favourite road trip? What countries would you love to road trip around? What has made your road trips so epic?
So far life in Melbourne has proved to be everything I dreamed it would be and more. I finally have the perfect city/coast life balance, I’ve found a job I really enjoy, I have an amazing apartment and I’m surrounded by amazing friends both old and new. I’m a lucky girl and I feel so grateful every single day I wake up here and realise how amazing my life is. I’m appreciating every second because I know it won’t last forever and the clock is already ticking down on my time in this incredible city. Since starting my new job I’ve already been promoted and am now managing a sales team of 12+, I’m loving the job despite never having worked in sales before now. But it is very demanding on my time and I’m working long hours, so blogging is having to take a slight backseat and I will be posting a bit less frequently over the coming months. It’s a strange adjustment after having all the time in the world spend on writing, editing and creating for you guys, but it’s nice to have a new challenge. I will still be posting at least once or twice a week, so keep checking back here to stay up-to-date with my adventures.With working so much, I’m making sure I make the most of any downtime I get whether it’s having late-night catch-ups with friends over a bottle of wine or dinner, or getting tickets to the biggest event in the city! So I could hardly resist when I found out the Australian Grand Prix would be taking place, not only in Melbourne but just a five minute walk from my apartment! I’ve always loved watching Formula One, I’ll be honest and say I know very little about it all and would’t be able to tell you much about it as a sport, but I’ve always loved the atmosphere that surrounds it - the whole spectacle. It’s something that I would happily watch on a lazy Sunday afternoon, but probably never would have had the opportunity, or the drive, to buy tickets for and watch live in the UK. But halfway around the world, it was taking place right on my doorstep and it would be rude not to get involved. With one friend set to leave the city to return to Darwin the very next day, it was a great excuse to get loads of my mates together for one final hurrah and a fun day out together. We ended up with a gang of around ten of us and scooped up tickets for a bargain price of $99. I was really impressed at the price - for a backpacker it’s a good wad of cash but considering you get a full day of entertainment plus the chance to watch the race unfold in front of your eyes. You can’t put a price on the experience.We rocked up around 11am, just an hour after the gates opened and already there was a steady stream of people arriving. Being typical backpackers, we were all doing our best to save money and brought along a picnic and snuck in some alcohol to avoid spending a fortune once inside the gates. Although prices weren’t actually too steep at the bars and food stalls, we were still glad we came prepared because it was nice having our lunch at the side of the track while everything was going on. There was so much to see and do around Albert Park, from live music stages and mini race tracks for the kids, to games and challenges, and loads of food and drink stalls. It was great just to walk around for a few hours and see everything that was going on, especially when you reached the collections of racing cars scattered around the grounds and had the chance to meet some of the drivers. All of this excitement was set against the stunning backdrop of Albert Park lake and the beautiful natural park. It was a perfect sunny day and we felt insanely lucky to have such good weather after the previous two days had brought nothing but cloud and rain - typical Melbourne bringing one extreme then another!Finally, after walking the whole way around the track and the grounds, we decided to head back to where we had entered around Gate 5. We were keen to secure a good spot to sit and watch the race when it finally kicked off at 4pm, and we had spotted a good place early on. We ended up with the most amazing view of the track - sitting right on a bend where we could see the cars approaching and zooming off into the distance, plus had a great view of TV screens to keep up with the rest of the race. Sitting on top of a hill meant we were looking down on the track and we didn’t have anyone blocking our view - I actually can’t believe how amazing our view was and how close we were to the main track. It really was something special. Just before the race, and during, there were constant flyovers from various jets and even an aircraft carrier from the airforce which sent eyes gazing into the skies with amazement and wonder. The race finally started to screams and cheers of excitement as the cars sped around the track and we became engrossed. The atmosphere was electric and you couldn’t help but be gripped by every passing moment. It was a dramatic race for sure.For anyone who missed the drama - the whole race took a turn for the worst when the drivers headed into lap 17 and both McLaren's Fernando Alonso and Esteban Gutierrez were involved in a pretty terrifying crash. As the BBC put it: “Trying to pass Gutierrez on the run down to Turn Three, Alonso's front right wheel tagged the right rear of the Haas and he was launched into a barrel roll, coming to rest upside down in the barriers. The two-time champion was clearly shaken but, although he limped away from his car, he was uninjured.” It was bloody scary to watch, on TV you’re always so detached from these incidents as you’re too caught up in the drama, but being there just metres from the track when this happened really made you realise how dangerous the sport is. I was amazed to see Alonso walk away uninjured from the crash - it really took your breath away to watch the footage and to see the remains of the vehicle. It really is a testament to the quality and the strength of these cars that it can withstand such damage and still protect the individual inside. Mercedes' Nico Rosberg won the event. The whole race was just incredible to watch and I feel so lucky that I had the opportunity to not only witness such an amazing event, but also to share it with such great friends. If you ever get the chance to go to the Grand Prix - whether you know a lot about racing or not - I would seriously recommend you go! It really is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and one I won’t forget in a hurry!
Have you been to the Grand Prix? What's your favourite sporting event to attend across the world? When did you last have a great day out with friends?
When packing for an extended trip, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the serious lack of space in your rucksack. Whether you’re someone who wants to squeeze in their entire wardrobe, or someone who just can’t stand to leave behind those chunky books, it’s never easy to decide what makes the final cut. I remember when I was first packing to come away and had no idea what to bring - luckily I ended up vetoing a lot of things because when I reached Asia I started to wish I had left it all behind and bought it cheap out there! I have met so many people on the road who have told me all their travelling secrets for packing light and keeping things simple - so many of these pieces of wisdom have had a huge impact on my journey. From rolling your clothes and stuffing your socks in your shoes, to finding multi-purpose gadgets that will cut back on the weight of your bag - there’s so many ways to slim-line your life when cutting it down to a 65l bag. Trust me, any shortcuts you find at the beginning will change your life further down the road.
Gadgets are a great way to make your life easier when on the road and a whole range of fantastic products are now available from travel and outdoor shops. I’ve tried out a few since travelling and felt conflicted over others, but I can’t deny that some of them have been a godsend when it comes to last minute packing, overnight bus journeys and any little crisis along the way. Here are some of my favourites, and a few that I’ll be investing in next time I’m on the move:
The most valuable item you will ever pack - not only will it work in every country so you won’t have to pack several different plugs, but they are usually very streamlined to fit neatly in your bag. It’s a good idea to get one that offers surge protection as quite often the power is unreliable or can overpower items plugged in, this will stop any of your electrical from being damaged if there is a storm or surge. Check out this one from Gap Year Travel Store for just $5.99.
I bought a travel towel when I first left home and absolutely loved it - it was lightweight, dried me twice as quickly as a regular towel and never felt damp. It made it all the way round Asia with me and was a fantastic space saver in my bag, friends who were carrying bath towels always felt a bit foolish when comparing the size of it to mine. They always come in cute colours - my first one was purple and I’m loving this new pink Solotrekk Microfibre Travel Towel that was sent to me by The Gap Year Travel Store. It’s going to make a huge difference to my packing when I get rid of the beach towel I’ve been using since Sydney, despite it being the same size, and I love that it comes in this neat little travel pouch. At just $8.99 it’s one of the cheapest and best additions to your travelling gadget collection.
I’ve never owned a set of these but have luckily always run into someone who did when I needed them most. It’s the sort of item that only one person has but the whole hostel borrows when they leave for the airport. Particularly in Australia, I’ve found certain airlines are a bit tight when it comes to hand luggage allowance and stick to the 7kg rule, even weighing to check. I’ve had o move a few things into my big bag before - and we all know how embarrassing it is to dig through your bag in the airport queue. The good thing about these is it’s just a hook so it can pack away nice and tiny when you’re ready to move on. Here are scales for just $6.99.
My waterproof camera has been one of my favourite and most treasured possessions since coming travelling. From snorkelling and swimming with sea turtles, to splashing around in waterfalls and tubing down rivers, it has been everywhere with me capturing every moment. On so many occasions I have been the only one with a waterproof camera and afterwards all of my friends have been over the moon to see photos of all our hilarious and beautiful memories. My particular camera is a Nikon Coolpix which I would really recommend if you don’t fancy a GoPro. I actually had a GoPro as well and sold it because I found this camera a lot more quick and effective to use, plus I much preferred the picture quality.
I’ve been conflicted over Kindles ever since they came out, I’ve been an iPad girl for quite a while so that I didn’t have to take a laptop while travelling. But I’ve always hated reading off a screen, I’m more of a traditional girl who likes the feel of a book in her hand. I’ve spent much of my time in Asia relying on book swaps, but I have to admit the books I like to read are often pretty chunk and weigh a lot. Even my Australia travel guide is huge, it would be great to cut back on the weight and space by having a Kindle to read on.
It’s amazing how such small items that seem so insignificant at home can have such a huge impact on your travelling life, but going prepared with items such as these can really help you from the second you step off the place. There’s nothing more annoying than trying to buy a cheap adapter in Bangkok as your phone battery is dying then getting one back to the hostel to find it doesn’t even work! Gadgets are one time when it is good to go prepared or make sure you buy them from a reputable company - leaving them to the markets in Asia can often mean the quality is less. Packing just a couple of these items could save you a lot of backpack space, plus a lot of time and stress later on, and who doesn't want that? Looking for something that could make your backpacking life run more smoothly - look no further than Gap Year Travel Store for all the essentials.
What gadgets have helped you on your travels? Which items would you suggest leaving at home, and which ones should you definitely not forget?
*This post was a collaboration with The Gap Year Travel Store, but all views remain my own.
I wrote a post last week about how social media really affects your travelling experience by bringing you closer to people you might never have crossed paths with otherwise. Well the other week I had the perfect example of this when I finally had the opportunity to meet up with someone who has been supporting my travels every step of the way. Starting out with a few comments on my blog and a passing tweet or Facebook comment, we soon started chatting regularly, providing each other with a wealth of travel information and a listening ear. I love the way we became much like modern-day pen-pals, always keeping in touch along our independent journeys through Australia. Finally the day came when we found ourselves in the same city and couldn’t resist meeting in person for a day of art, culture and chatting blogging, Amy and I headed to the National Gallery of Victoria for the incredible Andy Warhol and Ai Weiwei exhibition.This major international exhibition has brought together the works of two of the most significant artists of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. It explores the huge influence of Warhol and Weiwei on modern art and contemporary life, focusing on the parallels and points of difference between the two. The NGV exhibition presents more than 300 works, including major new commissions, immersive installations and a wide representation of paintings, sculpture, film, photography, publishing and social media. As described on the website: “Presenting the work of both artists, the exhibition explores modern and contemporary art, life and cultural politics through the activities of two exemplary figures – one of whom represents twentieth century modernity and the ‘American century’; and the other contemporary life in the twenty-first century and what has been heralded as the ‘Chinese century’ to come.”Whether you know a lot about art or not – and I admit that while my interest and curiosity continually finds me poking around in galleries, I actually have very little knowledge about art – this exhibition is fantastic. I was so impressed with the cross-cultural diversity of the pieces and the way they made poignant comments on society, offering great similarities over huge periods of time. The historical significance and the cultural significance is the part that really interested me, learning about how these stunning pieces reflected the politics and state of society at the time of making. And how these beautiful installations were still so accurate decades later – it really highlighted how our concerns in society can become timeless, that they may appear in lightly different forms but essentially boil down to the same issues. Ones that particularly stood out were concerns over mass-production and commercialisation as it took over the world, others included communication – from the basic right up to social media, and another that really interested me was the mass production of food and whether we can trust those who provide us with it.I loved learning about Ai Weiwei, while Andy Warhol is someone everyone knows of, I hadn’t yet come across Weiwei and it was a fantastic opportunity to learn about his history and his life’s work. He was a fascinating man and I’ve actually found a documentary about him on Netflix that I’m looking forward to watching to find out more about him. I was really impressed with the interactive nature of the exhibition, it was brilliant to be able to get involved with some of the installations, to experiment with making your own pop art and to have all of your senses targeted by the pieces. It was easily the most diverse exhibition I have seen yet and it really appealed to all ages – I saw people of all ages and backgrounds there taking in the sights and sounds of the pieces. It was great to see such a mixed crowd and really showed the wide appeal of this exhibition, that it was something all could relate to and understand, that it spoke of issues still so poignant in our modern day society.Some of the highlights definitely helped draw in the crowds as the exhibition was also featuring a brand new suite of installations from Ai Wei Wei including an installation from the Forever Bicycles series, composed from almost 1500 bicycles; a major five-metre-tall work from Ai’s Chandelier series of crystal and light; Blossom 2015, a spectacular installation in the form of a large bed of thousands of delicate, intricately designed white porcelain flowers; and a room-scale installation featuring portraits of Australian advocates for human rights and freedom of speech and information. All fascinating pieces with interesting motivations behind them - definitely ones to make you think. Plus you’ll get to see classic pieces from Warhol including the famous Campbell's soup paintings, his own self-portraits and the images he made of Marilyn Monroe and various other famous faces. The exhibition is running until April 24th, so there’s just over a month left to check it out – at just $26 entry I’d call that a bargain for getting to see some of the most famous pieces of modern art and some of the most current pieces by an internationally renowned artist. It’s well worth a look, and there are also a huge range of special events, tours and talks happening in the evenings including the popular Friday Nights at NGV. Find all details at the website.
Have you been to the NGV's Warhol Weiwei exhibition - what did you think? Can you recommend any other galleries in Melbourne, or across the world?
One of the things I love the most about Melbourne is that there is always something going on. It’s a lively city full of hidden gems and quirky, unusual events and I’ve already lost track of how many unexpected treats I’ve found since exploring the city. From the tiniest little food festivals to the Mardi Gras-esque street parties, there is always something new to discover and where better than to prime your taste in Australian music than by attending St Kilda Festival? Australia’s largest free music festival, the event showcases a range of the country’s national and local talent on huge stages set against the natural beauty of St Kilda’s beach. The event attracts over 400,000 people each year and this year took place on Valentine’s Day, which also just happened to be right in the middle of three of my friends’ birthdays. A perfect time to celebrate.Getting the whole gang together, we headed to St Kilda in the afternoon where we couldn’t wait to check out the huge range of performances set to take place across ten stages that day. Now we all know by now how much I love my festivals - whether they’re free or expensive, dance or reggae, camping or day events. I love them all and can always find something special at each of them. St Kilda Festival was great - a huge event that has obviously proven a great success by the crowds that poured through the streets. The performances I saw were great and the crowd were clearly enjoying themselves, who couldn’t with a main stage set against the backdrop of the ocean as the sun was setting? My favourite part of the event definitely had to be when I went down to the beach to sit and watch the sun set while listening to the performers on the main stage.But much as we did all enjoy ourselves that day, I couldn’t help but feel the event could have done with being better organised for the of us who aren’t from the area. Being new to Melbourne, and especially to St Kilda, I found it very difficult to navigate between and even locate some of the stages and actually only ended up getting to watch performances on two of the ten stages because it took so long to find our way through the crowds. I saw little to no signs around to direct us and whenever I stopped to ask stewards they seemed to have even less idea what was going on than I did. Very late on we finally found a map of the area, but we had missed most of the things we had really wanted to see. After speaking to a few friends who went along to the event separately to us, it seems they shared some of our experiences and felt the event was a bit over-crowded. Regardless, we still made sure we had a good time, a few ciders in the sunshine and a lot of laughs.Just a few days later, it was White Night and the whole city was abuzz again as Melbourne CBD prepared to put on the biggest show of colour, light and music. Bigger and better than ever the radio and TV stations promised us, so after a quick drink with a friend in St Kilda, I couldn’t resist heading into the city to meet friends for a good look around at the projections. Despite spending six hours wandering around the city, I never actually saw a single one! But don’t worry, we had the time of our lives walking around and discovering the huge range of musical talents hidden around every street corner.We actually ended up sticking around Flinders and Melbourne Central areas as every time we walked down the street we got sucked into watching another epic performance turn into a huge street party with people of all ages dancing in the streets. It was amazing and the atmosphere was electric, it kept me dancing my heart out until 6am despite being completely sober and starving hungry. I was so impressed with the quality of the performances and how diverse they were, on one corner we watched as an incredibly talented acoustic performer mixed DJ skills with guitar and even a touch of saxophone while talking to the crowd throughout. Then just down the road, a DJ had the whole street dancing and further along a fabulous group started a fiesta in the shopping mall with their Mardi Gras vibes. It was a fantastic night and even though I didn’t see what I set out to see, I found some fantastic performers along the way.
Have you been to either of these events - what did you think? Does your city have great local music events like these?
The world of travelling has changed immensely in the last twenty years - not only has tourism completely changed the cultural experience we have in certain parts of the world, but we are simultaneously more connected and yet further separated from each other than ever before. Travelling twenty years ago, there was still the opportunity to get completely lost without ever straying far from the beaten track. Now it has become far more difficult - but not impossible - to get away from it all and really switch off from the world around us. When people are planning a trip away, whether for a weekend break, a two-week holiday or a year long expedition, their main reason for doing so is usually because they want to get away from it all and experience something new. “Getting away from it all” is such an interesting phrase - I used it myself when I was planning my travels. I needed to get away from everything I knew; from my job, my relationship, my life. I needed to gain space, to give myself time and to escape the world that was keeping me pinned. Now, over a year late, I’ve had everything I dreamed of and more - I’ve completely lost myself over and over again in beautiful landscapes, fascinating culture and incredible moments.
It’s interesting to look back now with fresh eyes, with perspective, and to think about how much I wanted to escape everything I left behind. And yet, my biggest project since travelling has been this blog - I’ve finally had the time, energy and inspiration to throw into turning this into something greater than I ever envisioned. And despite my claims that I wanted to cut myself off from all that I knew at home, I have put all of my energies into communicating every moment of this journey through writing, blogging and social media. It’s a passion of mine and I think it has had a huge impact on my travelling experience. Don’t get me wrong - I’ve given myself plenty of time away from the screen and the internet - I think that’s something that screams out of the pages of my blog. It’s all about fun - about life coming first and the amazing things that happen when you switch off the laptop and leave the phone at home. That’s what I love to document, the moments that happen when you truly switch off from your old life and open yourself up to these amazing new experiences. For me, capturing it all in my memories and camera is made all the more special when I sit down to write about it and get to relive it as my thoughts come pouring out of my fingertips.I’ve had those amazing moments when I’ve called a tiny hut on a beach in Cambodia home, when I’ve sat watching the sunset all by myself and realised that no-one in the world knows exactly where I am at the moment. It’s an incredibly empowering feeling to be entirely alone and know that it’s nothing to be afraid of, to know that you have only yourself to rely on but that’s okay. I’ve loved those moments of feeling completely lost in the world and I’ve also had moments when I’ve felt more connected with the people I love at home than ever before. I stay in constant contact with my family and speak to them almost every day thanks to social media and the huge range of communication options available. If I had been travelling twenty years ago it would be reduced to a phone call, or perhaps an email every now and again, but now, they can be with me every step of the way. Knowing that my mum is at the other end of a WhatsApp message, that my sister will always tweet me back or my dad’s emails can be relied on like clockwork completely changes the travelling experience and perhaps thats why I never get homesick. Because there’s nothing to miss when you’re just as close to the ones you love as you were before you stepped on the plane - because they’re never far away and you can have the everyday conversations with them whenever you want.
Social media doesn’t stop at family and friends on the other side of the globe - I’ve lost count of the amazing new friendships that I have developed over Facebook, Twitter and Instagram since travelling. Some have been random meets that have led to travelling advice, recommendations for accommodation, places to eat or trips. Others have been a comfort in a time of struggle - my own gang of cheerleaders that kept me going, inspired me to write and travel, made me see the amazing things Ive achieved through their eyes. And then there are those that started out on social media but grew into something more, the ones who I have been lucky enough to cross paths with along the way. I can’t tell you how amazing it is to have the opportunity to meet up with people I have only spoken to online, to explore a city halfway around the world and to build an actual, human friendship. I have made so many amazing new friends since travelling - many of them started out as fans of my blog and the next thing we know, we’re perusing the markets or exploring the sights in some far off land. It’s extra special because I often wonder whether our paths would have crossed were it not for our online presence. When you hear so many negative things about social media on a daily basis, it’s so lovely to see such huge positives come out of it. This is what social media was invented for - to bring people from all walks of life closer together.For backpackers, social media has completely changed our concept of travelling and our attitude towards it. Backpacking culture seems more accessible than ever before because now it is all available at the touch of a button. Particularly when it comes to Facebook groups for those travelling Asia and Australia - I’ve found these amazing for when you are travelling solo. They are packed full of tips, advice, recommendations, friend requests, invitations to join trips, opportunities to buy or sell items ranging from camping gear to vehicles, the list goes on. I’m sure backpackers managed twenty years ago without the conveniences we have now, but I just love the way these channels open direct communication from backpackers cross the globe. The Australia groups I’m currently a part of have an open dialogue between travellers who are currently scattered across the country, those travelling Asia and heading this way, others in New Zealand, and many who can be found across the rest of the world - with eagerly anticipating their trip or happy just reminiscing about travels gone by. It’s a beautiful mix of people and really does help bring people together - I’ve seen many travelling groups formed for road trips or even to head overseas, I’ve seen many people organising meet-ups and nights out, and I’ve seen so many inspire others to step outside their comfort zone.It’s so important to let yourself switch off from Facebook and Twitter (and Snapchat for all you addicts!) when you’re travelling. To not let your status updates stand in the way of your fun - trust me, no-one will notice if you switch off for a while! But at the same time, social media can have a fantastic impact on your travels. Manage it well and it can really help to nurture precious relationships while encouraging you to build new ones. After all, we’re all just here for a good time so why not have a good time together?
How has social media shaped your travelling experience? How do you use social media to make your backpacking life easier? Has social media had a negative impact on your travels?
Now it wouldn’t be Absolutely Lucy without some raving and staying up past bedtime would it? I’d been such a good girl and barely partied for three months - giving my liver and my wallet a rest after Darwin - but now I was ready to make up for lost time. The weekend after I arrived, a group of us headed to Piknik Electronik - a weekly summer series that celebrates electronic music in beautiful summer settings. First starting out in Montreal, now the event has expanded as far as Barcelona and Melbourne, where it runs every Sunday over around eight weeks. If you’re craving serious festivals vibes but can’t afford a weekend escape from the city, or can’t spare the time off work, this is the perfect answer! I went along to the fourth edition of the event which was featuring South London Ordnance, Secret Cinema, Dean Benson and Andy Hart, on Sunday, February 7, at The Paddock, off Federation Square.All of us were in the party mood and couldn’t wait to hit the event, it started at 1pm and was due to run until 9pm, so we headed there about 3pm. We are glad to arrive then because the day was baking hot and there was very little shade at the event - I ended up with the worst sunglasses tan line on my nose! The tickets were really reasonably priced with the top price at $30 but plenty of first, second and third release tickets starting from $15. Also - it’s worth hanging out near Flinders Backpackers and other hostels in the area because Piknic staff were handing out flyers that gave reduced price entry so getting in turned out to be a bargain! Once you’re in, they have a cash-card system for the bars which definitely helps make them less crowded - you just top up a card when you arrive and anything that is left on it at the end of the day, you can claim back. This was great because I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve had money left on cards like these because the bars have been so crowded at festivals and haven’t been able to claim the money back - such a waste!The crowds were already there and we could tell we were in for a good afternoon from the moment we walked in the gates, people were already dancing and having a great time. The event had brought a complete range of people together; from businessmen to backpackers, from teenagers to parents, and the atmosphere was electric. It was fantastic to see such a varied crowd and to see how friendly everyone was, I lost count of the new friends I made that afternoon because everyone was so keen to make new friends and know your story. We had a great day spent dancing, chatting and laughing, a lot, it was a perfect event for the Dingo’s. And the mark of a good mini-festival in the city? When it really does feel like you’re a million miles away from the skyscrapers and bustling streets - with the park nestled against the Yarra riverbank it could’t have felt father away from the tourist trap that is Federation Square. It was great to be somewhere surrounded by all the colour and fun of festivals, but barely any distance from our home and without needing to take the day off work.Piknic caters for all tastes - so whether you’re there for the music, the drinks, the food or the fun, you’ll leave satisfied. Instead of stocking the usual rubbish drinks you get at festivals you can get craft beers and summer cocktails, although they were a touch expensive. Every week the event offers a new selection of Melbourne’s own delicious food trucks. And who can forget the little ones? Creating a fun, family environment, the organisers host Little Piknic - a designated children’s area with plenty of activities for them to take part in. I read that last year there were complaints over the lack of toilets and facilities but this year there must have been a big improvement as I didn’t find myself queueing for a toilet all day - a marked improvement on most festivals or music events! Running until 9pm, its the perfect place to see the sunset and to get you ready to rave all night - just a hop, skip and a jump from the CBD clubs - there’s plenty of places to head after to keep the party going.
Can you recommend any other great city events in Melbourne? Have you been to any other great city festivals around the world?