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imageI've been writing a LOT about travel lately, and while I still have so much to share with you all from my month travelling around Europe and now Indonesia, I thought it would be a nice time to take a moment's break to talk about two of my other passions. Anyone who knows me will know that I'm a big foodie at heart and that I love to stay fit and healthy - combining the two is a big love of mine and something I dedicate a lot of time to when I'm not travelling. We all know how hard it is to keep it going when you're on holiday - well apparently my life is a holiday but if there's something I hate, it's getting ill while travelling. I'm actually writing this when my body is a wreck - too much partying means I'm now popping Vitamin C and painkillers to stave off every illness going and I know exactly why. It's because my diet has suffered since being in Bali - I haven't been eating as many fruits and vegetables since being away, I haven't been eating enough and half the time I've had an upset tummy. Don't get me wrong, I'm having a blast here, but it does catch up with you! So now I'm taking a few days of good, healthy food, fresh fruit smoothies and good sleep to recuperate.imageA few days off partying and sightseeing has given me time to use my brain a bit and talk to people, quite a few of these conversations have naturally led to one of my favourite products and one that is widely available in Asia - coconut oil. I love everything coconut - from the meat, the milk and the water, to the oils and natural products created from them. It is lifesaver for a girl with skin as delicate as mine - coconut oil is one of the few things I know I can use liberally without causing rashes both to eat and on my skin - it's so pure that it can do no wrong. And one of the lovely things about buying it out here, is not only that it is so cheap, but that it has no preservatives or nasties added to it - it's pretty much as pure as you can get it without the "health food" price attached. Even when I'm in the UK, I try to make sure I drink as much coconut water as possible and use coconut oil on my skin, hair and nails - it's definitely a lot more pricey than it is out here but it's worth it. Even long before it became "fashionable" I knew the value of using oils instead of lotions and creams that were packed full of things I could be allergic to. Trust me, once you find that out the hard way a few times, you become very cautious about what you are putting on, and in, your body.imageIf you do struggle with your skin like I do, particularly with eczema and dry patches, it's a really good idea to take a look at your oil use. I've always alternated the use of coconut oil with olive oils to get the best results - both in my food and on my skin. While both have amazing affects when you add them to your diet, I notice huge differences when I also apply them externally. Often before going to bed I will cover my skin in coconut oil, or will coat any dry patches in olive oil, then allow it to soak in. By doing it when your body is resting, it has so much more time to really soak in and work it's magic, trust me - as someone who has suffered with these problems for years - nothing has ever worked better than simple oils on your plate and on your skin. It's also great to combine the oils with a body butter, if you can find one pure enough, that way the deeper layers of your skin absorb the oil while the butter moisturises the top layers. I personally find The Body Shop's argan oil or cocoa body butters work really well this way, plus they smell amazing!imageIf you followed my blog over the last few months, you'll know that I holidayed in Santorini with my parents for a few weeks. Greece is a big favourite with my parents - they love the food, the culture, the landscape, and after years of holidays there I can only agree with them. It's a fabulous country and particularly when you get down to the islands, each one is completely different but still maintains the charm and traditions of Greece. One thing I really love about Greece is their Mediterranean diet, I do think Greek food is one cuisine that I could happily live off for the rest of my days. Maybe less of the bread, but throw all the seafood, salads and wine at me! We were living off the most delicious Greek salads, and even Santorini salads, dressed in the simplest of dressings, just the very finest olive oils and vinegar - so good they speak for themselves! When it came to seafood, the simpler the better. I'd have sea bass or bream, or even snapper, dressed simply in herbs and drizzled with olive oil before being barbecued. It was some of the most delicious food I've ever had and yet some of the simplest. The Greeks sure know the value of quality over quantity - they would rather serve just three ingredients but the very finest quality and flavours than have a whole plate of tastes that don't quite get your palate excited.imageAt home we use a lot of olive oil in cooking and preparing meals, so if you're struggling to think of ways of integrating more good oils into your diet it's worth trying out some of my favourites. Salads are an easy way to introduce olive oils to your diet - drizzle olive oil and either balsamic or white wine vinegar over your salad, and the beauty of salad is that it doesn't just have to be boring lettuce. You can mix it up and try quinoa, pumpkin, cous cous, spinach and all kinds of other tasty treats. If you like seafood, you can't beat a nice bit of salmon wrapped in foil in the oven for 20 minutes, drizzle oil over it and add chilli or paprika for flavour - serve with sweet potato fries or minty potatoes. And if you need a little something for the side, why not add roasted vegetables? Just chop up loads of veg in a tray then drizzle oil all over it and season, stick it in the oven and roast for half an hour or until soft - perfect side dish. Or if you're just cooking for one - do what I used to do at uni, roast loads then keep it in the fridge for wraps - yum! If you want to learn a little more about the different types of olive oil and what to do with them - you should check out this great infographic from Jamie's Italian. It tells you all you need to know about how to cook with different types of oil to get the best results.jamies-italian-olive-oil-buyers-guide_57320f2dda035_w1500

Or, if you're feeling like treating yourself, why not click here to book a table at Jamie's Italian and let the pros show you how it's done?

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11062_10152623571112617_7178081394249079839_nI'm a bit of a romantic at heart, just like most girls I love being swept off my feet and can find something beautiful in the smallest gestures. When you're travelling, it's easy to be caught up in the romance of your very existence, the transient nature of your life brings romance to the simplest moments. With tropical temperatures, sandy beaches and stunning sunsets at every turn, Asia is the perfect setting for a travelling romance, while Australia provides the incredible landscape to get lost with your newfound love. Europe is just perfect for those warm summer evenings drinking wine together or exploring a city of culture, there's romance of years gone by haunting the streets you walk. When you travel it's easy to fall for people and to fall hard and fast, you get swept away by the romance, the freedom and the excitement of it all. Add in the ticking time limit of that plane ticket home and things can get pretty intense. The important thing for travelling girls to remember when things come to an end, is not to feel broken-hearted over the love you lost but to enjoy the memories of what you had. Every single perfect second of your time together whether it was just one night, a few weeks or months together. Those precious memories of your fleeting romance will stay with you in years to come and will shape your travelling stories.

When travelling I love meeting couples who met on the road, couples who have managed to make things work beyond travelling. I love seeing people in the grips of romance who cannot imagine a life without the person they just met two nights ago. It's beautiful and pure, it's love in it's own right and even if it doesn't last, it doesn't mean you didn't feel it at the time. I was lucky enough to meet an amazing couple  who have become my very good friends, they met while volunteering together in South America and now several years later they have traveled the world together. In Thailand, I met an Australian girl who was crazy in love with an English guy and two years later they are still travelling the world together. It's amazing when you hear these stories and so lovely to know that travel doesn't have to stand in the way of finding love. But for every success story, there are a hundred stories of heartache and of lost loves – so for all of these, here is my list of the 10 romantic moments you need to experience when you are travelling:

  1. Watch a perfect sunset with the most amazing person, hold hands and watch the sun dip below the horizon. Don't speak a word, let the colours and the moment speak for itself.
  2. Get lost together – go off exploring somewhere new and don't be afraid to stray off the beaten path, getting lost can be fun it will give you more time to get to know each other.
  3. Camp out or lay in the back of a truck under the stars – some of the most romantic nights of my life were spent counting shooting stars with someone special.
  4. Go for a massage together – if you're in Asia, this is a must. Cheap massages are the perfect way to spend a relaxing evening together. Try a foot massage for a less naked option.
  5. Go on a road trip together for a day, a week or a month. Nothing will teach you more about a person than spending 24 hours a day with them in a car but if you come out the other side, it must be special.
  6. Try something new together – snorkeling or diving could be an exciting first date, or try a cooking class, surfing lesson, wine tour, white water rafting. Sharing a fun experience can be an amazing way to bond.
  7. Teach each other something whether it is a language, a card game or a party trick. It's amazing to have a beautiful memory of a person you met and to know that they taught you a new skill.
  8. Change your plans. When you're a solo traveler, you're always up for changing your plans if something - or someone - exciting comes along. So throw off your guard and give in to the moment.
  9. Have those really deep conversations where you share your soul with someone you barely know. The ones that leave you feeling like no-one has ever understood you like this before, or will again.
  10. Go skinny dipping, it's cheeky, it's silly and it's fun. Let your inhibitions go and do something a bit wild, something a twenty-something who is travelling the word shouldn't be afraid to do. It'll be a great story one day.
  11. Have a date night - it could be dinner out or something wacky, but make the effort for each other, dress up and enjoy a little luxury together.
  12. Write a love letter, or receive one. There's something so special about a hand-written note that you can keep forever. It can be a goodbye note you leave on his pillow on the way to the airport or a letter you send across the world.
  13. Make wild, crazy plans for the future. Lay in bed together talking about all the places you want to go and the things you want to do. Share the fantasy, even if you'll never do them together.
  14. Be naughty - break the rules together. Take that how you will but trust me - it's fun!
  15. Take cheesy cute tourist photos together as you explore a new city.
  16. Don't listen to reason - so what if you live on opposite sides of the world? So what if you only have two days? Declare your love, fall head-over-heels and make those two days something to remember.
  17. Spend a holiday together - Christmas or New Year, even Oktoberfest! Celebrate something together and share a kiss at midnight in a foreign country - it'll be one of those cute little stories that stay with you for life.
  18. Sit on the beach and watch the sun rise after an epic night out together, don't stop until you've danced and laughed your heart out, then find some calm as the sea laps against the shore and the skies go pink.
  19. Have that moment when you look at this person and realise men aren't all bad no matter how much you've been messed around, when you realise that you can love like this and you will again.
  20. Have an emotional goodbye at an airport. Every girl should walk through security with tears in her eyes at least once after a sad farewell to an amazing person.

imageDon't get caught up in why it didn't work, just make beautiful memories with that person and enjoy every moment of your time together. In twenty or thirty years would you rather remember bitter heartbreak from the guy you met on that beautiful Thai beach, or would you prefer to remember that night you held hands and watched the perfect sunset together?

Tell me about your most romantic travelling moments – what is your favourite memory? Which country holds the most romance for you?

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island-grill-copyI'm so excited to share one of the best dining experiences I've had in a while with you guys. You all know by now that I love to eat out and that food is one of my favourite things about travelling whether in the UK or abroad - I love to try out new restaurants and cuisines. So I was excited to head to Island Grill a few weeks ago to review their take on sustainable and affordable luxury cuisine. Right in the heart of London at the iconic mid-century Lancaster London, this amazing little restaurant overlooks Hyde Park and offers a very European menu that changes with every season as part of their dedication to sustainability. I'm passionate about the environment and have actually cut a lot of meat from my diet in the last year after realising quite how unsustainable it is, so this angle was something I was very interested in. Head Chef Adam Woolven has actually won the Sustainable Restaurant Association’s top Three Star rating with his tireless efforts to create an eco-friendly yet luxurious dining experience.island-grill-barAs we arrived at the restaurant, you can't help but be wowed by the sleek interiors and the vast floor-to-ceiling windows running along the outside walls overlooking Hyde Park. The seating is arranged so that diners can either enjoy almost private dining alongside the huge windows or they can enjoy a view of the open-plan kitchen where they can see the chefs hard at work, adding another dimension to their gastronomic experience. The staff were so welcoming and friendly, eager to talk to us about the menus and to suggest wines that would go with the food. This made a huge difference, if you've read my review from Cottons, you'll know how disappointing the service was and how much it affected my view of the restaurant. I couldn't fault the service at Island Grill, it was attentive and they were keen to chat with us and answer any questions, but they also gave us time to just enjoy the food and our evening - the perfect balance.imageWe kicked off the meal with the Pan-Fried Scallops and Crispy Gressingham Duck Salad, both absolutely delicious starters packed full of flavour and the freshest ingredients. The duck was rich and and perfectly complemented by the Asian dressing, pak choi, the orange and the cashews. While the scallops were easily the best ones I have had, normally I find them very overcooked and rubbery but these were just right. It was served with a mixture of vegetables in very different forms from pickled and crisped to pureed. The head chef's passion for the finest ingredients is clear from the delicious meals available on the menu. While enjoying our starters we shared a bottle of wine recommended by the waitress, and I couldn't recommend talking to the staff about drinks choices enough. This is a restaurant where the staff really know their wines and cocktails, and they are more than happy to help you choose something special from the fully stocked bar.imageFor our mains, it seemed crazy not to indulge in a steak at what is primarily a grill restaurant. As I mentioned earlier, I've completely cut back on the amount of meat I eat over the last year and when I travel I am almost entirely vegetarian now, but I do still eat and enjoy meat. I prefer to save it for when I eat out as a treat now and I feel much healthier and happier as a result. So after not having had much meat for quite a while, I was looking forward to a good-quality steak. And boy oh boy did Island Grill deliver. We both had the 8oz Fillet of Beef and I can officially say it was the best quality and best cooked steak I have had in years, possibly ever. The meat was so unbelievably tender and tasty, and I chose to have mine served with garlic mash and mushroom sauce. It was heaven on a plate. We were both speechless and it was definitely the first time a steak has had that effect. After our mains we were pretty full and didn't have room for dessert, but accommodating as ever, the staff didn't want us to miss out and boxed up some of their Passion Fruit and White Chocolate Cheesecake for us to take home. I ended up saving mine until the next day but I can assure you it was as mouth-watering as it sounds.imageApologies for the lack of good photos of the food, it was a bit dark in the restaurant so my own images haven't come out as clearly as I hoped. Regardless, if you're heading to London, or you're already living there, I can't recommend Island Grill enough. The service is faultless, the location is fantastic and the food is just out of this world. Plus, as a bonus, it's extremely affordable! It's not often you can find food that is this good quality for such a reasonable price, making it perfect for a mid-week treat or even a date night. Find out more and book a table at Island Grill.

Have you been to Island Grill? How was your meal? Where else can you recommend for a good quality steak?

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imageI've had people ask me before whether I really like things as much as I say in reviews, whether I'm just sugar-coating because I got to eat or stay somewhere for free. I can't help but laugh when I hear this, because anyone who knows me well will agree that's it's almost impossible for me to hide how I feel about things, and lying just isn't in vocabulary. I'm always honest and have just been lucky that so far I've never really had a bad experience when I've reviewed products or places, but that doesn't mean I would hide it from my readers if I did. I actually had my first disappointing experience at a restaurant review a few weeks ago and wanted to make sure I shared this with you, because my blog is about life - the good, the bad and the ugly. No sugar-coating and no editing out the bad bits, just honesty about my experiences so that perhaps they can help you to plan yours.imageYou guys will already know I went on a little weekend jaunt to London a few weeks ago when I stayed at the gorgeous Mandeville Hotel - find my review here - well I actually went to London because I had a series of restaurant reviews booked in. Lucky me, I love food and I love visiting new restaurants so this is a serious perk of running this blog, and I wanted to make sure I squeezed them all in quick before I head back to Australia. The first restaurant review of the weekend was actually the one I was looking forward to the most, and sadly it was the most disappointing. Cottons Rhum Shack and Restaurant in Notting Hill was where we were headed and I was looking forward to a night of Caribbean cuisine and rum cocktails. It was a cute little restaurant with all the colour and character a Caribbean restaurant should have and the Rhum Bar looked like a fabulous place to sip on a cocktail. So what was the problem?imageWell, from the second we walked in the door, we just didn't feel very welcome. The service sucked, big time. The staff barely looked up when we came in and just seemed like they couldn't be bothered to chat to us or welcome us as we went to our table. It took about 15 minutes before anyone even came over to ask if we actually wanted any drinks or if we understood the menu, I could understand if they were busy but this was a quiet Sunday night. For me, the service really makes a restaurant - whether it's a fine dining or a budget chain, the level of attentiveness can turn an average dinner into a really lovely evening. As someone who has worked in hospitality across pubs, restaurants and bars, I know full well how much it sucks to work the Sunday shift when perhaps you're tired or hungover from the night before, but that doesn't mean you offer lower quality service. It's always so important to remember that each customer who comes in is paying for top quality service and food and I just didn't feel like that was a factor in our meal.imageWe indulged in rum cocktails - I went for the Wild Tiki which was spiced rum flavoured with Maraschino liqueur, passion fruit, pineapple, kafir and lemongrass. It was delicious, like a slightly more exotic Pornstar Martini. While my friend went for the Reggae Rum Punch - going for Wray and Nephews rum mixed with fruit juices - always pretty tasty. The cocktails were a real highlight of the night because I'm pretty picky about the quality, I hate when you get a cocktail and it is just watered down juice. Then our dinner arrived, I'd ordered the Spiced Coconut Seafood Casserole which was packed full of clams, squid, crab and red mullet, annatto potatoes and was served with scotch bonnet rouille. It was fantastic, the coconut flavour was absolutely delicious and I loved the mix of seafood as I'm a big fish fan. But my friend was left rather disappointed by the Montego bay Jerk Pork and Ribs - he actually ordered off the Caribbean Classics menu so we expected that to a lot better but there was a real lack of meat served. As someone who has worked in a Caribbean restaurant and who loves the food, he was pretty disappointed with his meal.imageIn the end it was a pretty bittersweet evening, while the cocktails and my dinner were good, my friend's meal and the service on offer left a lot to be desired. I personally wouldn't eat there again, if I fancy Caribbean food in future I would probably try to track down a different restaurant. It's a shame because the restaurant was in a great location in Notting Hill and had most of the ingredients to be a success but it just didn't quite make it. Here's hoping the staff were just having an off-night, but having someone walk off as I started to place a drinks order wasn't a good sign. I'd be curious to know if anyone else has eaten at one of the Cotton's Restaurants and whether you enjoyed your experience - please leave a comment below and tell me about it.

How was your Cotton's experience? Can you recommend any other Caribbean restaurants in the UK?

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

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

So what's next?

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

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

And after that...?

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

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

Here we go again!

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

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

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