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imageI wrote this on A level results day, a whopping eight years after I collected my own results and found out I was going to my first choice university to study English. After all the hard work I put in, my dreams had come true and I couldn’t wait to start my new life. Now eight years later, I can’t believe where my life has taken me – never could I have known that the next few years would see me interning at a fashion magazine, writing a column for a newspaper, gaining a 2.1 BA Hons, changing my career plans and becoming a journalist, working for six different newspapers, becoming the editor of an online festival magazine, starting a blog that would later win an award and feature in an industry magazine, travel round the world solo working with brands that are household names. It’s been a whirlwind few years and I can’t believe half the stuff I’ve done in that time, but that’s just my point, none of the students who have just collected their results have any real idea of what an amazing point they are at. Their whole world is about to change and they have no concept of what lies ahead. It’s exciting and terrifying, my favourite combination of feelings.

Anyone who has made a big decision in their life whether to do with relationships, careers, or even travel, will understand the feeling. That moment when you’re about to take the leap from all you have ever experienced into the unknown, but have no idea what will happen next. As a traveler and a bit of a risk-taker, I’ve experienced this feeling a lot – when I quit my job, when I broke off my nine-year relationship and traveled to the other side of the world solo. All of these moments have been absolutely terrifying and have filled me with a heart-stopping fear, but underneath the fear was excitement for what would come next. For a new challenge and a new way of life, for new people, sights and sounds. I remember sitting in the airport when it finally hit me that I had quite literally quit everything I knew to go to the other side of the world, by myself. It was nuts and totally overwhelming, I can’t deny a few tears were shed as I read the messages from family and friends, but then my flight was called. I pulled myself together, downed my wine and headed to the gate, and the rest is history.imageI’m currently in Berlin on my second solo trip, this time heading around Europe. But before I left I was getting that feeling again, like this little time in my life is over. I’m only off for a month but it’s the end of my time here at home and the start of something new, a whole new trip and a whole new way of travelling. I seem to get this overwhelming feeling that I need to leave every now and again, it plagues me, I never know when it will hit. Sometimes I can be perfectly happy in a place for six months, other times it creeps up on me after a few days, but when it hits I know I have to get gone. That it’s time for a new adventure. A lot of my friends aren’t travelers but they’ve experienced the same feeling – that desperation for a career change or eagerness to get out of a relationship that has gone sour. One of my friends has always had a “cut and run” theory that I share with her, when her gut instinct tells her she’s not happy she cuts her losses in relationships and gets gone. Another has found her passions overwhelmingly taking her away from her career and pushing her towards self-employment – a scary prospect but the most exciting thing to ever happen to her career-wise.

My point is we all have that thing that sets us tightrope walking along the very fine line between completely terrified and beyond bloody excited. But it’s whether we take that leap of faith that everything in front of us is just as magical as what lies behind, that is what decides our course in life. I read this quote the other day:

“You get a strange feeling when you’re about to leave a place, like you’ll not only miss the people you love but you’ll miss the person you are now at this time and this place, because you’ll never be this way ever again.” — Azar Nafisi

It just seemed so perfect for describing this feeling, the fear that you will never again experience this moment – I know I’ve had it a lot when I’ve formed incredible bonds with groups of people along my travels. That fear that by letting go of that perfect moment things will never be the same again. But more importantly, because every decision you make is shaping you as a person, everything changes you as a person. My decision to quit my job, relationship and life as I knew it changed me. Travel changed me. Just like the relationships and career choices of my friends have changed them. We are all learning and growing with every step we take in this world and it can be scary to let go of everything we know, but it’s only by doing that and leaping into the unknown that some of the best experiences of our lives will happen. So here it is, if you’re standing on the pinnacle of a life-changing decision, afraid that you will lose something precious, just take a second and think about what you could gain. By deciding to take the leap and grow as a person, you open yourself up to so many more incredible experiences – trust me, I’m a poster girl for this. Go for it and stop worrying, you have so much more to gain than you ever could lose.

Have you made a life-changing decision? How did you push yourself to take a risk? What is the scariest choice you’ve had to make?

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africa-toursMy life has always been about adventures. Call me cup-half-full but I like to view the world around me as a series of exciting opportunities that I just can’t wait to seize with both hands. Looking back, adventures have come in all different forms throughout my life. Career-wise I’ve had the amazing experience of working as a journalist and an editor, my nine-year relationship was an adventure from start to finish and more recently, you guys will know all about my travelling adventures that never seem to end. Well this life of adventure chose me and I’m more than happy to live it every single day. Since travelling, I’ve been lucky enough to live some adventures beyond my wildest dreams and I’m so excited to share some of them with you in this post as part of a collaboration with Encounters Travel. This post is taking a look at some of the incredible adventure trips I’ve taken and some that remain firmly on my bucket list… for now!

Australia

Australia was one of the biggest adventures of my life. Not only was I literally on the other side of the world from everything I knew, but I was thrown between living life in the middle of a bustling city and the dry, dusty outback. Outback life is an adventure anyone who travels to Australia should not miss out on, it was one of the most incredible experiences I have had since travelling. From working on a cattle farm by day and watching endless shooting stars at night, to learning to ride bareback and swimming in flooded rivers. It was epic and I can’t recommend it enough. If the outback isn’t for you, then head to the coast for no end of adventures from diving on the Great Barrier Reef and swimming with whale sharks, to white water rafting and skydiving, perfect for all the adrenaline junkies.princess-junk-halong-bay-vietnam

Thailand

Thailand was my first solo adventure and one I won’t forget in a hurry. Adventures came in all forms there from volunteering with elephants and exploring ruins by bike, to partying the night away on the islands and trekking through jungle to visit hill tribes. No matter what part of Thailand you head to, there is an adventure just waiting to be uncovered. For a taste of the untouched, head deep into the middle of the country to Khao Sok, an 80 million year old rainforest just packed full of exciting adventures. There’s hiking to waterfalls, swimming through caves, jungle safaris and kayaking to be done, and you can spend your nights sleeping either in treehouses or in a hut on a raft deep in the middle of the jungle. If that’s not an adventure, I don’t know what is.

Vietnam

Vietnam is an adventure for all the senses as you escape the beaten track and take the chance to explore Sapa, visiting local families and experiencing life as they live it. Kayak around a UNESCO World Heritage Site at Halong Bay, navigate the crazy traffic in Hanoi or even motorbike from one end of the country to another. For those who want to feel their pulse race, look no further than Dalat, where you can experience the ultimate adventure at Canyoning, a day of abseiling down waterfalls and freediving from huge heights. There’s time to squeeze in mountain biking to waterfalls before heading to Hoi An to taste delicacies you never knew existed.peru-machu-picchu

Borneo

One of my absolute dream destinations – Borneo is the home of the orangutan. After volunteering with elephants in Thailand, my taste for wild an exotic animals turned to another favourite and I can’t think of anything more incredible than seeing these creatures in their natural habitat. The jungle in Borneo looks absolutely prehistoric and I love the idea of seeing this incredible landscape with my own eyes, plus the opportunity to climb Mt Kinabalu would be a complete adventure. Once done exploring the centre, there is so much more waiting along the coastline from national parks to stunning wildlife – this land literally seems to have it all.

South America

I know I’ve overgeneralised here but that’s because at the top of my bucket list sits a trip to South America – I can’t break it down because quite frankly, I want to see it all. From the Inca Trail in Peru, to the Bolivian Salt Flats, to Iguazu Falls in Brazil and seeing the Amazon with my own eyes in Ecuador. From the physical challenges to the language barrier, I love the idea of throwing myself into harder travelling where I have to really learn along the way. That’s the true adventure to me. There is so much to see and do that I know I’ll never manage it all, but that won’t stop me trying. I’m hoping to experience this adventure from start to finish in 2017/18 and can’t wait.local-woman-india

India

Ever since I read the book Shantaram, India has been firmly on my must-travel list. The book describes the culture, colour and character of India so beautifully and uses such poetic prose that it made me long to experience it for myself.Travelling India just sounds like it would be such an adventure, to truly immerse yourself in the land, every aspect of it from the people, to the spirituality and the food. It seems like a country that would change the world as you know it, that would change your whole understanding of life. Any true adventure should rock you to your very core and change you as a person, India is an adventure waiting to happen.

Iceland

Somewhere I have been lusting after for years – as someone who always plumps for tropical locations the idea of experiencing the magic of this snowy land really appeals. Friends who have been have described action packed weekends exploring glaciers by snowmobile, diving into the Blue Lagoon and even riding through the mountains on horseback. But nothing would compare to my dream of seeing the Northern Lights with my own eyes, this may be one of the few times I stand still but would be one of the greatest adventures of all. Especially with my plan to also see the Southern Lights while down in New Zealand.blue-eyed-shags-antarctic

United States

Over the years I’ve made the standard trips to the US, I’ve spent Christmas in New York gazing at the views from the Empire State Building and wandering around vintage markets in Brooklyn. I’ve holidayed in Florida exploring all the theme parks and splashing my way through the water parks. But I have such an urge to one day experience so much more and how better to do it than by experiencing one of the greatest road trips. Gathering up a solid gang of mates and setting out to explore every state would be an amazing adventure. Highlights for me would be San Francisco, Chicago, Washington DC and LA. But another amazing way to do it would be by venturing from one national park to the next – there are some beautiful natural sights such as the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone that would be the perfect stop-offs. It is my dream to visit New Orleans either for the Jazz Festival or for Mardi Gras – what an adventure to party there! 10 facts about New Orleans you need to know.

Africa

An African adventure is probably on a lot of people’s bucket lists, but for me it goes a little deeper. With half of my family coming from Mauritius, I find myself longing to explore more of the continent from jungle to desert, and city to beach. There are so many amazing ways to have an adventure here and I’m sure you could spend the rest of your life in Africa without really delving into the depths of this land. For me, most of my ideals of Africa have centered around the idea of going on safari on the Serengeti, or waking up to the sight of giraffes and zebras roaming free, of waking in the night to the roars of lions and the trumpeting of elephants. I love animals and particularly I love seeing them in their natural habitat so this would be the ultimate adventure and a dream come true for me. One thing I must do in my lifetime is a hot air balloon ride over the Serengeti at sunrise. Elsewhere, there is endless desert to explore, bustling modern cities and luxury resorts dotted along the coastline. Africa looks like a traveler’s paradise, if you’re planning a trip there check out the overland tours available from Encounters Travel here.

Antarctica

Call me crazy if you want, but Antarctica has always seemed like the most incredible adventure. Going to the coldest place on earth where nothing but penguins seems to survive and witnessing the weather and wildlife is such an exciting prospect. A place where tourism is absent, where you get back to basics and focus purely on the landscape. That is what travelling should be all about and that seems pretty adventurous to me. Sadly it is very expensive and seems like the least likely of my list, but that doesn’t stop me imagining what it would be like to embark on this adventure one day.

What has been the biggest adventure of your life? What is your dream adventure destination? Do you dream of visiting any of these places?

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imageOn Sunday, I had a chance to live out all the dreams of five-year-old me. I was helping out a friend by working an event she had organised in the town where I live – Fairytales and Legends was right up my street, a day filled with Disney princesses, superheroes and dragons. First of all, serious kudos goes to my friend Abbie Panks who organised an absolutely amazing event that filled the town with families and countless excited children in fancy dress and face paints. It was an amazing feat, especially if you know quite how many other responsibilities she has that take up huge amounts of her time. I was so excited to be a part of the event – let’s be honest, anything that gives me an excuse to wear a pink crown and lots of glitter is automatically awesome – but this was such a fun day.imageI was dispatched straight away on important glass slipper and treasure placement, followed by princess liaison duties – yes I will be updating my CV accordingly. And then was sent off as an escort for Batman, Captain America and Spiderman for the day. Essentially I was a bodyguard for Batman, I was mistaken for Captain America’s girlfriend and spent the afternoon preventing Spiderman from being rugby tackled by kids high on e-numbers and groped by some rather forward grandmothers. It was absolutely hilarious. Later in the afternoon I also managed to sneak some photos with the princesses and hung out with Olaf and the girls from Frozen, plus had a lovely chat with the Fairy Godmother. A pretty good day in all! I won’t chat on any longer – instead enjoy some of my pics from the day.imageimageimageimageimageimageimageimage

Did you go to the Fairytales & Legends event – what did you think? Which is your favourite Disney princess?

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You’ve booked your ticket, you’ve quit your job, your visa is ready. You’ve got a bit of money saved but you’ve heard how expensive Australia is and figure it won’t be long until you have to find a job. But how easy is it to find a job in Australia? That’s the question that plagues the conversations I have with friends, messages from readers and the Facebook groups for backpackers down under. Well, I’ve teamed up with Dimitri Roumpos of Working Holiday Jobs and Fruit Picking Jobs websites to put your mind at ease and prepare you for job hunting in Oz. I’ve posted before about my top tips for job hunting when in Darwin and top tips for getting that second year visa, but this post will be focusing on the best ways to seek work, what you need to have prepared and how on earth you find a job that will qualify for your second year visa. So sit back and prepare to learn all you need to know to get a good job in Australia – coming from a girl who figured it all out as she went.

What you need to have prepared:

Preparation is key and having all this ready can really make a difference to the speed at which you find a job and can actually start work. I had all this ready and it meant I got two jobs and started both the following day which really helped my bank account after the East Coast. image

Where to look for work:

It can be difficult to know where to start when you’re job hunting, but don’t let it put you off actually looking. The sooner you start, the sooner you’ll find something. If you don’t have access to a computer go to the library, print CVs at Peter Pan’s for free and speak to everyone. Don’t let it get you down if you don’t find something straight away, just change your approach and get a friend to glance over your CV.image

How to find a second year visa job:

Don’t say I just need to do my 88 days! I was amazed how many people said I need a job so I can do my 88 days to get my second year visa. Whilst we know that is the reason most backpackers seek regional work, stating that that is your pure motivation, does not sit well with a lot of farmers. By stating this your basically saying your heading out to a regional area under sufferance and you can’t wait to get the hell out of there!

Dimitri Roumpos

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Top tips for job-hunting:

What do the travelers say?

imageWhile I was in Australia, I worked in a bar/restaurant, a theatre box office, as a nanny, on a cattle farm, and in sales. All of them were a great experience and I’d really recommend getting in a range of different work while away. It keeps things interesting and broadens your skill set, plus you can make great money in all of these. Darwin is a good bet if you need work fast, particularly in dry season, I managed to find two jobs within an hour when I was at my poorest. If you need good money quick and don’t fancy taking your clothes off, it’s worth trying sales, I was on $2,000 a week in Melbourne within just a few weeks and it gave me invaluable work experience. If you have any questions about finding work in Australia – leave a comment below, find me on Facebook or Twitter, or email me at absolutelylucy@hotmail.com

How did you find a job in Australia? Any top tips for finding work? How did you find your second year visa job?

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13906764_493770277479220_1878856214988640844_nIt’s about time I gave you guys a little life update – those of you who follow me on Instagram or Twitter may already know about my plans, but for those who don’t I’m sure you can guess they include travel! When I came back from Australia, the first question everyone asked me was ‘What next?’ – they just knew how incredible my experiences had been and couldn’t imagine I could settle back into life at home. At the time, I had no immediate plans but knew I would be returning to Australia in the autumn, this gave me just long enough to spend time with all the people I’ve missed so much over the last year-and-a-half and to take on some freelance work at the newspaper to earn a few £££ while I was back in the UK. I started out at a relaxed pace with a few days freelance work each week – plenty to pay the bills and save – and plenty of time to work on this blog and catch up with friends. If I had only thought about the kind of person I am, I would have realised there was no way things would remain this chilled.

Instead I’ve ended up taking on so much extra freelance work that I’m working full time hours across six newspapers lately – this is great money but it has eaten into my time to spend with friends and family. Typical me, especially when you add in that I’ve been trying to squeeze in as many blog reviews/events and working with as many brands as possible during my time in the UK. I’ve never been a stand still and let life happen to you kind of gal, I prefer to go out and seize the day in any way I can. While I was away I was contacted with so many amazing opportunities, but they were all based in the UK so I wanted to make the most of them while I was back over here. It’s a really exciting time for this blog and I’m so happy to see how it has grown since I first started travel blogging. Some of my most incredible news yet is that I have been invited on my first press trip as a blogger – more to come on that later – and I couldn’t be more excited about it! To actually be recognised enough as a travel blogging brand to be approached for a press trip is amazing and more than I could have ever dreamed of at this stage.13886498_10153669382742617_4492331175337727894_nI’ve been pretty busy in the last two years despite travelling and, often, working full time along the way. I’ve worked with some incredible brands during this time including some well-known names such as Durex and The Flight Centre, with plenty more coming up. I hosted an Instagram takeover for Travelex UK and have worked with some amazing travel and technology brands plus I’ve featured in a lot of articles by brands and bloggers alike. I’ve recently guest posted on some amazing websites and written pieces for brands including Base Backpackers. I’ve been invited to some amazing events such as the Blogosphere Magazine Summer Party, and reviewed some incredible restaurants and hotels. I also have one very exciting announcement coming up that cannot be revealed until September, and some very exciting partnerships for later in the year – all very hush-hush at the moment but I can’t wait to share them with you. It’s safe to say all my hard work is really paying off and I’m so happy to see more people enjoying my content than ever before.

So what is my big news?

Well despite having just returned from two weeks in Santorini, it’s just a few days until I’m off again! I’ve currently waiting for my second year visa for Australia to be approved, so in the meantime I’ve decided to explore some parts of Europe I haven’t yet had the chance to while catching up with some of my travelling friends. I was already planning a trip to Bulgaria for a reunion with some of the best travelling friends I have made – trust me, we have matching tattoos to prove it! The five of us made some serious memories after we all crossed paths back in February last year when we were all exploring Thailand – two amazing weeks spent on Koh Phanang and Koh Tao together. We’re talking a lot of partying and the infamous Half Moon Party, boat trips, markets, food, ladyboy shows and a LOT of fun. I can’t wait to reunite with the others in a whole new country and explore together, despite having been to Bulgaria years ago I’m looking forward to experiencing a bit more of the local culture.

When we started planning the trip, I had in my mind I would Euro-hop a bit by myself after, not expecting to be invited on a press trip to Slovenia a few days later. In the end, my trip almost planned itself. From Monday, I’ll be spending around a month away, starting with just under a week in Bulgaria then a few days in Berlin, heading to Slovenia for the press trip for five days. Then I’ll move on to Budapest – a place I have long wanted to visit – before finishing up in the Netherlands, with a few days staying with a friend in Amsterdam followed by a visit up north to see my Melbourne flatmate. It’s going to be a pretty amazing trip mixed between catching up with a group of friends, travelling solo, experiencing my first press trip with other bloggers and visiting both friends from home and those I have met around the globe. A perfect combination if you ask me. And I’ll round it off nicely with a few days in London which will be spent reviewing hotels and restaurants. It’ll be totally different to my previous trip and I’m looking forward to trying something new and experiencing a whole new world. I’m quite excited for the feeling of rocking up in a hostel in a new city and not knowing a soul – after making so many friends in Australia that became hard to do after a while!13886417_10153682678967617_4372336380896194184_n

Thanks so much to everyone who has offered me a place to stay, a tour guide, recommended places to stay/eat and things to do – you’re all getting me so excited! If you have any other suggestions please leave a comment and I’ll add them to my list! And of course, I hope you’ll join me every step of the journey right here!

Have you traveled Europe – what were your highlights? Any ultimate hostel experiences to share or unusual activities to try?

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imageOne of the things you simply have to do if you visit Santorini is spend an evening at the Open Air Cinema in Kamari – it’s an incredible way to experience sunset on the island and see the latest movies at the same time. When I was invited along to review the cinema I was so excited for the experience, it’s something a bit different to do of an evening and a great family activity. My family and I love going to the movies whether it’s the latest comedy, something a bit soppy or the old classics, and we couldn’t resist a visit. I actually had my first open air cinema experience when I was in Australia and couldn’t recommend it enough – it’s just such a wonderful way to experience your favourite movie and take advantage of the good weather. Our movie of choice was the newly-released Disney remake of Tarzan, a movie we’d all been keen to see as big Disney fans.

We caught two buses to get from Perissa to Fira, and then on to Kamari, arriving a bit early so we had time for dinner. Stopping at an amazing fish restaurant, Zorbas Taverna, in the village, we couldn’t resist the freshly caught sea bass, which was genuinely one of the tastiest fish I have eaten, it was served with saffron rice and a fresh Greek salad. The wine was delicious and the service was quick, we were very impressed by everything, especially when they presented us with a complimentary dessert as we left. For a pre-cinema dinner it’s lovely, just be sure to allow enough time to walk to the cinema with a full stomach, it’s about a 15 minute walk up and out of the village. Be sure to arrive in plenty of time to join the queue before doors open at 8.30pm, seats are first come first served so you want to be there on time to secure the centre rows. The cinema itself is absolutely beautiful, like a modern-day amphitheatre surrounded by trees and with high walls that do a good job to block noise from the road.imageWhen you arrive you queue to get in and purchase your ticket which costs 8 euros, then usher in your loved ones to find seats – whether you prefer deck chairs at the front or the slightly more upright at the back. If you’re chilly, blankets are provided and there is a very well-stocked bar at the back offering wines, beers, cocktails and all kinds of snacks. One thing I loved about the cinema was the atmosphere, everyone is chatting away before the movie starts, enjoying cocktails or wine to a background of 1920’s music. Then once the film starts up everyone falls silent, lost in the setting and the screen. The surround sound is incredible – trust me, when your dad is as deaf as mine, that’s important to make sure he enjoys the film as much as we do. Over the years, as technology advanced and theatres became less used, many across Greece were converted to make way for the cinematic era and now have become a big part of Greek life. This was clear from the sheer number of locals and travelling Greeks who were enjoying the show.

Tarzan was amazing, such a fantastic remake of a great film and we were all gripped from start to finish. They threw in a few breaks for those needing to pop to the loo or restock on drinks. But I think for all three of us, it was our second visit to the cinema that was the real highlight. Being there for two weeks, we couldn’t resist returning for another show as we had so much fun the first time. This time we headed to a screening of My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 – who could honestly resist while in Greece? It was one of the best film screenings I have ever been to. Not only were we watching the Greek antics on screen but we revelled in the amazing Greek families chuckling along at the movie and voicing their agreement with some of the funnier moments. The whole thing was hilarious and an absolute highlight of our final days on the island. Trust me, if you’re looking for something a bit different to fill an evening on Santorini, this is the perfect answer and an experience you don’t want to miss.image

Have you been to an open-air cinema? When travelling, do you tend to look for evening activities or prefer to relax?

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imageSomething I really love about travelling is the shopping – I can never resist a good market or a browse around a boutique filled with delicate handmade crafts. There’s something beautiful about the way so much effort is put into the creation and sourcing of such wonderful products. It’s just so pure when you come from a world of mass-produced fashion where everyone dresses the same and personal style can sometimes lack a bit of soul. I’ve always much preferred something a bit quirky, something not everyone else wears – I love clashing colours, bright prints and vibrancy that reflects my personality. When I traveled in Asia, the markets filled with tie-dye, patterns and colours were made for me, the delicate shall bracelets and coloured anklets were the stuff my dreams were made of and the cheap prices allowed me to reinvent my image every few days.imageWhen I was in Australia, even when things were a touch more expensive, I couldn’t resist the lure of a beautiful handmade jewellery shop in Darwin that has given me one of my favourite pieces of jewellery. Never leaving my ankle, this dainty silver piece was handmade and holds some of my most precious travelling memories close to me wherever I go. It’s amazing really how a well chosen memento can transport you back to a moment in seconds, how it can transform your day with just a glance by reminding you of happier times. Something handmade always seems that much more precious because of the time, effort and heart that has been poured into the creation of it. It just seems so much more special because it is a handcrafted reminder of not only the place, but the people who created it and the history behind it.imageSantorini was surprisingly a hidden gem when it came to shopping after warnings it was an expensive island. I actually found the shops very reasonably priced, especially for the quality of the items on sale. And actually having a suitcase with me instead of a backpack for once – it seemed rude not to indulge! While there didn’t seem to be any markets to browse, there were several shops and lovely little jewellery stalls scattered around Perissa, where we were staying. My favourite item of the holiday was without a doubt my mermaid dish, pictured at the top, it is absolutely beautiful and perfect for holding all my favorite jewellery. I love the shimmering shell and it was a total bargain for something that will fit beautifully with my room at home and make a perfect present for friends. For any other mermaids out there, it’s a perfect reminder of those gorgeous ocean blues when you’ve had a long day at work or the weather is kind of crappy at home.imageEverywhere you go in Greece there are shops selling handmade sandals, wallets and bags, and usually I’m not very interested. But when I stumbled across a little shop full of some of the most beautiful, and quirky, handmade sandals I’ve ever seen – plus a real-life cobbler whipping them up in front of my very eyes – I just couldn’t resist! This shop was amazing and I decided to treat myself to a new pair of sandals which are already the most comfortable shoes I own and I know I’ll have for a very long time. The cobbler was so friendly and even made my mother and I matching bracelets to wear with the shoes. The whole process of watching him create these beautiful shoes from pieces of leather and fabric was just amazing, and it was so lovely to witness as you were buying the shoes. It really gave you a sense of where the shoes came from and made them that much more special.imageFurther along the seafront we discovered a little shop with some of the most beautiful dresses, jumpsuits and jewellery adorning the rails inside. A total mish-mash of creative, colourful trinkets lined the shelves, including some rather odd items such as decorative penises, and a host of gorgeous decorations for your home and even photo albums. I couldn’t resist trying on this beautiful dress, and I found an amazing jumpsuit and dress for my mum, plus I treated her to a cute little bracelet as a reminder of the holiday. The staff were so friendly and put the emphasis on the handmade elements of the clothes and jewellery within the store, that was what really sold the items to us, the fact that they were one-of-a-kind with only one of each in the shop. That’s something you really struggle to find back home where everything is available in every colour and size, so it just means everyone has one.imageIf you’re looking for a handmade gift that is just a little bit more personal, why not try Forever Handmade – they focus on using centuries old techniques to create modern looking accessories. This post was a collaboration with Forever Handmade, but as usual, all views are my own.

What handmade treasures have you discovered while travelling? Which purchases have become treasured possessions?

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imageWhether you’re a city break gal, a two-week holiday hell raiser or a long-term backpacker – anything that makes your life easier when travelling is only a good thing in my book. I’m always looking for any new addition to my collection that will help my travels run smoother, safer and more efficiently. Some of my favourites over the years have been travel towels and waterproof cameras, both have made such a difference to my travelling experience and are something I never leave behind. Just before I headed off on my holiday to Santorini, I was asked to review a few products and thought what better time to test them out? I’ll be continuing to trial them throughout my travels in Eastern Europe and Australia over the next few months, but as always all opinions are my own! These products are fantastic for all kinds of travellers and will make a huge difference to both living the experience, and capturing it – whether you’re a travel blogger or not.

First up are a couple of products from what is quickly becoming one of my favourite brands – Juice is an ethically sound, high quality company that works to create the best electronic accessories. Everything you could need to charge, protect and complement your devices and plenty of affordable additions that will not only look super cute but will make your life a lot more streamlined and easier when you travel.image

Juice Universal Travel Adapter

Something we all need when travelling is a reliable adapter that will fit with sockets in every country. It doesn’t matter if you’re off on a short holiday to one country or you’re crossing several borders, you’ll always need to charge your phone, iPod, or turn on your straighteners. If you’re the kind of girl who can’t go out without taming her mane, you’ll know the absolute annoyance when you can’t plug in your bloody hairdryer after a long flight. It’s one of those boring things your dad always has to remind you about, but really could make or break the holiday if you arrive without – you can’t get good replacements everywhere even in the modern world! One of the newest additions to the Travel Juice range, the Universal Adapter even comes in a range of cute colours!imageMy bright pink set definitely won’t be forgotten when I’m in a mad rush to pack my bags next time before a flight, and if my phone, MP3 or iPad cuts out I know the Travel Juice Adapter is equipped with FASTcharge and has three slots so I can charge all three at the same time. The set comes with four interchangeable plugs which are compatible with sockets in over 150 countries – now I’m only on 25 countries so far but I’m determined to trial the charger in as many as possible. If you’re sick of rubbish, cheap quality adapters, this is a good one to invest in for the long term, and best thing yet – it’s still a budget buy at £22.99 so you can keep your money for your holiday! Not yet available from the website, you can find it in-store in Sainsburys and it will soon be available from Tesco and WHSmith.

Juice Power Station

I’ve been in need of a power pack for my phone for a long time, let’s be honest no-one’s battery ever lasts long enough when you’re Instagramming your holiday snaps, Tweeting your pals back home and catching Pokemon. When you’re backpacking and need your phone to survive a 50-hour bus journey so you can use maps at the other end, it becomes even more important to be able to recharge. The Juice Power Station is a high capacity power bank which can recharge your iPhone 6 not once, not twice, but over six times.imageIt also works with your iPad or tablet and you can charge two devices at once, on a long journey, that could be one hell of a saviour and I sure could have used it when I was constantly on my phone in my sales job. With the same rapid charging function, it’s very efficient at giving your phone the boost it needs – trust me, I tried it out at a blogging event and a week later I was still able to use it to charge up my phone – it’s very good. The LED lights on the top let you know at a glance how much power is left in it. The hot pink means it’s never going to get lost in your bag, and if you prefer another colour it comes in any of 13 options. Costing £29.99, it’s a great investment and available here to buy.

Ordel GoPro Accessories

Another fantastic brand for travellers of all types is Ordel, they’ve got something to suit all your electronic needs and their range of GoPro accessories is amazing! Before I set out on my 18 month travelling adventure, I invested in a Go Pro – everyone had one and I kept reading they were just the best camera to take backpacking. I already had a waterproof compact camera at this point but was convinced I would use a GoPro as well – I was wrong. I barely used it in the time I was away and actually posted it home in the end. Since being in Santorini, I’ve rediscovered it thanks to Ordel who sent me some awesome accessories including the Monopod and a body and head harness. Having these really showed me how easy the camera is to use and the fantastic quality of the photos I can get that give a totally different perspective to those I’m used to. As someone who loves photography and is constantly trying to improve and capture images in a different way, I think it’s great to be able to take such wide images of the landscape.imageI’ll be honest, I’m not a selfie stick person. I’m the kind of person who finds the crowds of tourists with them so irritating when I’m trying to watch the sunrise at Angkor Wat on no sleep. BUT, when you’re a travel blogger, a solo traveller, or just someone who loves a good photo – they are a fantastic addition to your travelling gadgets. Plus the Monopod is much slimmer and more streamlined than many of the other selfie sticks I’ve seen previously, much more subtle, and at £4.95 it’s a bargain! I have some great pics from the top of an active volcano and a mountain I climbed during the holiday, plus some great underwater videos from snorkelling. I loved that the pack also came with a head and a body harness – I haven’t yet had the opportunity to try these but they’re coming back to Oz with me for the ride! If you’re looking for a cheap and good quality kit to help boost your Go Pro pics – look no further than Ordel. You can also find the kit here on Amazon.

Any other travelling gadgets you’d like to recommend? If you’re a brand interested in sharing your products for a review – email absolutelylucy@hotmail.com

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13892178_10153669370592617_5126173372115806732_nThose of you who follow me on Instagram and Twitter have been berating me over the last two weeks for teasing you all with photos from my rather lust-worthy holiday. Sorry, I’m so not sorry about it. It was without a doubt one of the best holidays I have ever had and oh my, have you seen how crazy beautiful Santorini is? I’m not lying when I say the Greek island has been on my Must Visit list for years, and now having spent two weeks there I can officially say it is just as incredible as I dreamed. All those times I scrolled infinitely down websites and Instagram feeds taking in every dreamy image and every scrap of information about the island, and finally I had the chance to see it with my own eyes. I am such a lucky girl. Even more so, because I wasn’t supposed to be going! My parents had booked themselves a holiday, not knowing when I would be back in the country, but when they realised I would be home, they booked me on to the holiday with them as my birthday present. Officially the best parents and the best birthday present I could ever dream of.image

Where to stay

We stayed on the south-east of the island in the popular resort of Perissa – it’s a good choice if you find the prices a bit steep in Oia and fancy actually being on the beach. After visiting both Oia and Perissa, I would say that for a week or longer holiday, Perissa is a perfect place to stay, but if you’re just going for a few days you would probably want to stay in Oia. Perissa is nestled at the bottom of the mountain and it’s the only place in the world I have seen the mountains meet the ocean on a beach of black, volcanic sand. Even in peak season, Perissa has a relaxed and quiet feel to it and the beaches are never overcrowded, nor are the restaurants. It’s a good place to stay if you want a mixture of relaxing, exploring and activities during your stay – we found it a great base for visiting the rest of the island and enjoying trips. The buses give you great, reliable access to other areas such as Fira, Kamari and Oia, or you could hire and car or bike. Most places in Perissa come with a pool and there are a lot of self-catering apartments available which is great for those that have children or prefer to do their own thing.13872700_10153669383307617_2571551292654911782_nI stayed in a self-catering apartment at Sandy Villas, this place was great with huge rooms, private bathrooms and balconies for each apartment. My room also came with a small kitchen including a hob, fridge and basic items. It had a bar and lounge area with wifi (although rubbish) and offered the largest swimming pool in the area. It was set back from the main strip and closer to the mountain, but I loved that it was a short walk away from everything and it meant having a stunning view of the mountain and the ocean from my balcony, and getting woken up by the donkeys in the morning. A true Greek experience. The owners were very welcoming and friendly, all of the staff were so lovely, especially when they realised I was staying alone. I was really impressed with the place and would definitely recommend it for others travelling as a group, a couple or independently. With a shallow pool, this place is well-suited to young children and many of the groups staying had children with them.13906680_10153669381897617_6894478547748232475_nIf you’re looking for something a bit more adult, try Anezina Villas, it’s much more suited to a couple on holiday with smaller rooms and more of a hotel feel. It was a lovely apartment for my parents with a private bathroom and balcony, although they did find the rooms a little stuffy. It came with a small kitchen area with a fridge and all that was needed to make simple foods if you preferred to have breakfast at the apartment. The outside area was the absolute highlight – the bar and seating around the pool was gorgeous and for sunbathers, you were treated to the most comfortable sunbeds I have ever laid on. Short of being a waterbed, I don’t think they could have been better quality. Likewise, the pool was fantastic for adults, very deep and large enough to enjoy a good swim – not great for children due to the depth.The apartments also come with a swing and play area, a hot tub, and sit nicely in the centre of the town, perfect for strolling to the beach or out to dinner. Both places were fabulous and we would really recommend them if you’re planning a trip to the island.13906635_10153669347502617_1002783273706622821_n

Where to eat

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If you’re heading to Perissa, have a wonderful time. It’s a fantastic place to stay and perfect for a holiday in Santorini. If you have any questions about the area or planning your trip, leave a comment and I’ll do my best to help you out!

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imageAs a travel blogger, I’ve spent a heck of a lot of time out of the country since I started blogging which is fantastic but can be a bit lonely when it comes to having real life blogger pals. The internet is a saviour in this case and means I’m found some pretty amazing friends from every niche, but it’s always nice to actually meet in person. I actually first started my blog after being inspired by some pretty incredible bloggers who had turned a hobby into a full time job when I attended a bloggers party as a journalist. I was encouraged to start a blog of my own and thus Absolutely Lucy was born, three years later and I was invited to the Blogosphere Magazine summer party – an incredible event organised by the only industry magazine currently running.imageimageAppealing to all of our good taste as bloggers, the team at Blogosphere organized an amazing event full of tea, cake and some beautiful jewellery, plus plenty of opportunity to meet some pretty inspiring ladies and have a lot of laughs. It was so lovely to spend time with bloggers who have also followed their passion to write about travel, food, beauty, fashion, parenting and all kinds of cheeky topics. To be surrounded by vibrant, real, exciting women who have something to say for themselves and understand the commitment we have all made, the time we spend curating something beautiful for the internet. It’s easy for people to brush over the time and effort that is put into blogging, so it’s lovely when you meet others who do what you do and understand the pressures we put ourselves under for the love of blogging.

13906611_493439657512282_3644149689230291666_nFor the two hour train to London in 26 degree heat, an event has to be pretty good and this one was great – serious props to Albertine Brandon for organising such a beautiful event. We chatted away the afternoon with delicious teas from The London Tea Company and some incredible gluten-free cakes from Pearl and Groove – the raspberry and white chocolate was to die for! It was great to finally meet Albertine, Elaine and editor-in-chief Alice Audley after so long admiring their work, I’m looking forward to more events in future. And I found some great new blogger friends in Oh It’s Sare, Han Meets World, Taylor Mae Makeup, Honestly Aine and many more. Plus it was good to meet the girls behind brands including World Duty Free, The London Tea Company and Jewellery Box. A day spent talking everything from travel and Pokemon to vlogging and photography is never a day wasted in my book.13900331_493043824218532_4781742066757099605_nIt was a pretty busy weekend, even before I had set off to London for the Blogosphere party I had spent a full day reliving my travels at the Cambridge Thai Festival – a day full of Muay Thai, ladyboy shows, traditional dance performances and some delicious food. I went along with one of my blogging friends, Vikki of FrickingVikki, and had a fantastic day in the sunshine. Luckily we managed to skip all the queues to get in, for food and drinks, as we saw some people waiting for quite a while to get tickets, but for £3 entry, the whole event was a total bargain. A full programme of entertainment for two days over the weekend had something for everyone and certainly kept us entertained on Saturday afternoon. Browsing the stalls, there was also a beautiful Buddhist stand where you could meet the monks and chat to some lovely ladies about blessings. Further round we even found a cheeky photobooth where you could get dressed up and take pics in Thai traditional dress – this was a lot of fun! It was a great event and if you get the chance to attend one in future, I’d take it with both hands. It’s always worth checking out what amazing free/cheap local events are taking place right under your nose – next weekend I’ll be checking out a free day of folk music in my home town! Here’s some pics from the day.13903245_10153677941922617_7130469003252046109_n13934997_10153677941857617_170774601652952582_nimageimageimageimage13872850_10153677941782617_7331660002625806475_n

Did you go to the Blogosphere Summer Party – what was your highlight? Have you found some great, free local events?

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I used to love packing for a holiday – the time spent planning my wardrobe, the purchasing of sun lotion and beach towels. Those final moments trying to make everything fit and realising there’s just no way you’ll squeeze in another pair of sandals. I think I used to love it because it only happened once a year so I associated it with the excitement of going away. But now, after an 18 month backpacking trip across Asia and Australia, I think I can safely say, I’m done. When you’ve spent so long living out of a backpack, or trying time and time again to squeeze in your few possessions into your bag with just a few minutes to spare, it gets kinda old real quick. When I was packing for my holiday to Santorini two weeks ago, I thought “oh this will be easy having a whole suitcase to fill!” but how wrong I was – if anything the packing was a lot harder and more stressful. Having all this extra space just paved the way for me to cram more shoes, clothes and rubbish I didn’t need in my suitcase. I actually thought to myself how much easier it was to pack for a long-term trip because you’re less likely to indulge if you have to carry your life on your back.

I’ve started many times to write a packing guide for an extended trip, but have always ended up trailing off to something else. But when Shiply asked me to write about my top packing tips it seemed only right to explain how I managed to cram my life into a 65l rucksack to travel across Asia and Australia for a year and a half. So how do you pack for a long-term trip?11659517_10152807344362396_558828969069746182_n


Choosing a bag

I was lucky and already had a 65l backpack from when I did Duke of Edinburgh a few years ago, it was a good quality rucksack that had been in the sale in an outdoor shop in town. It was strong material, came with lots of useful pockets and had good, thick, supportive straps that would protect my shoulders. If you need to purchase a bag, think carefully when you do, don’t just buy the cheapest or the first one you see. In Asia, you spend a lot of time carrying your bag sometimes great distances, so it needs to be comfortable for your shoulders and it mustn’t be too heavy. If you ask me, 65l is perfect size especially for Asia, but it is also worth seeing if you can find a bag that also has wheels for when you reach Australia. Make sure the bag has strong material – I later had to buy one in Asia and the cheap material ripped very easily. If you’re heading just to Australia, get something on wheels. The whole concept of backpacking is different there and there is no actual backpack needed – you can take a one, but if you prefer you can just use a suitcase or a backpack on wheels which may give you a bit more space.


Shoes

Much like for soldiers in the trenches, as a backpacker, your feet and legs are everything to you. You walk everywhere and in Asia, you definitely don’t want to risk blisters or cuts from bad shoes that could lead to infections. I had a friend who skidded off a motorcycle and scraped the skin of his entire leg – he had a nightmare trying to protect the wound from dust and cleaning it each day. You want to make sure you have comfortable, good quality shoes that will support your feet and will last you. There are three types of shoes you definitely don’t want to leave home without:11751414_10152949592672617_3776395476331486033_n

  1. 1x trainers for walking/hiking and activities. I took Converse with me which lasted beautifully and were really comfortable even when I was hiking mountains and climbing through caves. I later bought some Nike running shoes over there which are my absolute favourite shoes ever.
  2. 1x rubber flip flops for using on the beach, in the showers (trust me) and everywhere else. I took Havianas at first but these broke within a week so I relied on ones from the market which were actually more comfortable and supportive.
  3. 1x sandals – this is where you can take something pretty for the evenings, something a bit smarter for when you hit the bars or want to go somewhere a bit fancier. I’ve found great sandals from Primark/New Look and similar shops that lasted me all around Asia.

Don’t take high heels. You don’t need them, no-one wears them in Asia and I barely saw anyone in them in Australia. They take up space and weigh a lot. Same goes for walking boots – unless you are going specifically just to hike and climb mountains the whole time, trainers will do.


Clothes

Now this is where it gets tricky. Let me start by saying forget all those beautiful boho Instagrams you’ve been stalking – forget the gorgeous floaty white lace items that will be ruined in a day. Keep it simple and keep it practical. If you’re heading to Asia – you want to take as little as possible and just buy clothes out there for a fraction of the price and a lot more traveler style – that’s what I did. I was lucky and already had a lot of summer/festival/traveler style clothes in my wardrobe so I didn’t actually buy much at all. It’s definitely best to use what you have and head to the markets when you arrive, but there are a few key items you want to make sure you remember:

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Asia:

Everything else you can buy there!11112211_10152889525942617_4295118282751061184_n

Australia:

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TOP TIPS:

  1. Always choose patterned and coloured items, white turns grey very quickly when you’re travelling and patterns will hide any unfortunate stains. Also, choose hard-wearing fabrics, don’t go for anything delicate or anything that will crease easily.
  2. If you have to buy clothes in Australia, head to the Op-Shops – they’re amazing and full of vintage/bargains often fresh out of the shops!

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Other practical items

These ones are good ones to remember for any destination:

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So there you have it – my ultimate girl’s packing guide for a long-term trip. Best thing to always remember is that if you’re starting out in Asia it is a much better idea to buy clothes out there. If you’re spending several months in Asia and have no space to pack for Australia – why not do what I did and send a holdall of clothes back from Asia then either raid charity shops in Australia. Or if you fancy some of your slightly more stylish clothes from back home, get your mum to post out a few of your favourites from home. It’s much cheaper than you think to do this and it can be lovely to get a care package from home with all your favourite goodies, plus it’s always a lovely idea to send a package of gifts for your family. I sent mine a package of jewellery, coconut oil, clothes and Vietnamese coffee – what will you send back from your travels?

If you’re thinking of sending gifts home or want your family to send out packages to you, why not try out Shiply? The courier service will deliver to almost anywhere in the world and will take all manner of items – perfect for travelers all over the globe.

Disclaimer: This was a sponsored post but as usual all opinions are my own.10417584_10152668456562617_4921039091851626771_n

What are your packing essentials for a long-term trip? Which items have been your most worn when travelling?

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