A lot has happened in my last three years of travelling, I've gone from backpacking south-east Asia solo to working my way across Australia, to navigating the winding streets of Europe's cities. I've had over 1,000 days filled with adventures, hard work and a lot of fun, but during that time my plans have constantly changed as I've grown as a person. Originally when I first went travelling, my goal was New Zealand - it was one of the places that held the most magic for me, from the landscape to the incredible experiences waiting there for me. But after spending two years on a working holiday visa in Australia and travelling across the globe, my priorities have really changed and I'm considering travelling to vacation homes in Canada. Don't get me wrong, I still love the idea of travelling to New Zealand and know that one day I would just love to road trip the country in a van, skydiving, climbing glaciers and exploring the stunning countryside along the way. But right now, after spending so much time on this side of the world - I am ready for a change.
Particularly my last few months of travelling have brought me together with a lot of travellers who are seeking out other options for their future travels, which has been the topic of many a long conversation over beers. I've had a plan in my head for while that my next big travelling adventure would have to be South America, but for this I really need to save more money and after weighing up my options I'm starting to wonder if heading to New Zealand would be the right choice for me. It was only in the last few months that I really realised how many amazing working holiday visa opportunities there are out there for British travellers under 35, and what a fantastic way to travel this is. It provides you with a chance to really live in another country, to save money while you travel and to explore a whole new place long-term.
British citizens can get working holiday visas in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Japan, Singapore, Taiwan, and even the USA if they already have a job offer lined up. The standard working holiday visa is applicable for anyone under 35, or 30 depending on the country, and can last 1-2 years where the person will be able to work within the country. It doesn't guarantee a job on arrival but in my experience it is usually easy to find work anywhere if you are determined enough. For instance, Australia is very fruitful when searching for work with no end of hospitality, farming, construction, childcare and many more jobs available all over the country. Read: My Ultimate Guide to Finding a Job Down Under. My experience of the Australian working holiday visa was fantastic - I found work easy to pick up, even finding two jobs within an hour after arriving in a new city. My farm work was easy to find and efficient to complete, although the job was a nightmare I did have a full outback experience and after three months I had my second year visa lined up. The money I earned was fantastic - at one point I was earning $2,000 a week from a sales job and the following year I was earning over $1,000 a week from cocktail waitressing at a 5* hotel. Take a look at this article for more details on each individual visa, costs and how to apply.
The main reasons I've started reconsidering the New Zealand working holiday visa are money and fancying a fresh start. I've spent the last two years on this side of the globe and now I'm ready for a complete change. Plus after keeping in contact with many friends who have already been to New Zealand, I'm a bit concerned about the much lower wages slowing my travels. I've heard a lot about the wages being worse half those of Australia and yet the living costs being just as high. When I travel, I really want to experience a country and to be able to afford to enjoy it rather than scrimping and saving all the time. Many of my friends working hospitality jobs over in New Zealand have really struggled to make ends meet, or they have simply had to cut back on the amount of travelling to working they have done. This is not a sacrifice I am willing to make when a better quality of life and earning might be available. Other factors that have affected my decision are my friends who are over there already but are going to the end of their visas and will be leaving soon. I'm starting to wonder if perhaps I would prefer to just save up my money elsewhere and then spend a few months road tripping and travelling New Zealand in a van instead of aiming to work there.
Canada is far from everything I have experienced over the last few years, it is the other side of the world and a completely different culture. It is new and exciting, it is a fresh challenge. It's a great country to road trip and comes a wealth of new experiences including snow sports, city life and some incredible landscapes. I know everyone talks about how incredibly beautiful New Zealand is, but Canada offers some seriously breathtaking competition. Endless national parks and plenty of outdoor activities from hiking and exploring to skiing, snowboarding and much more. After seeing so many amazing photos I am desperate to visit Alberta and see it with my own eyes. It's the perfect country to road trip and explore by van which is one of my favourite ways to travel, and having family and friends scattered across the country provides lots of great places to stop off and visit people. By taking jobs in the national parks or out of the way in ski resorts, you could end up saving all your money due to being in remote areas, or heading to the cities and towns you could have a whole different lifestyle. There are so many options and I just love that it could provide me with opportunities to later travel the US and South America.
There are just a limited number of Canadian working holiday visas released each year and I have spoken to a few friends who have applied more than once before they finally had their visa. I have been told by a Canadian friend that one way to prioritise your visa application is by letters of recommendation which would be easily organised as I have two uncles and their whole families over there plus several Canadian friends who would be happy to recommend me. Read more about the application process for a Canadian working holiday visa here.
It's a hard choice - and one that I have yet to decide over, but it's always good to know what your options are and to not limit yourself. It would be easy for me to follow the standard backpacking route and head straight for New Zealand as many of my friends have done, but I've never been one for taking it easy and I've always loved a challenge. I'm ready for something new that excites my soul and perhaps Canada might be it. I'd love any advice or tips for either working holiday visa - so if you have experienced one please do leave a comment and help me make my decision!
I love arriving in a new place whether it’s a bustling city, a beachside resort or a mountain top town and feeling my senses tingling. I love that first sense you get of a new place, the first smells, sights and sounds that hit you, the warmth or the freshness of the air. It’s these moments that make a place real, that make it special to you, and that stay with you long after you have moved on to pastures new. I still remember the first time I set foot in Bangkok - the hot air pressed against my skin, the noise of the streets and the vendors, the smells of spices and street food mingled in the air. Ella in Sri Lanka was different, with fresh mountain air, fluffy clouds dotted along the skies and a sense of peace I had yet to find elsewhere in the country. Each place leaves a lasting impression, and those first few hours, or even first few days can really make or break how you feel about a place.
I was inspired to write this post because I’ve spent the last two days in Kandy, Sri Lanka, and it is the first place in a long time that I have felt an instant dislike to. After being high up in the mountains with fresh air and peace, Kandy has been an assault on the senses with too much traffic, too much noise and too much pollution. I’ve felt smothered here and can’t wait to leave today, to get back out into nature - back to exploring the jungle. However, I know that some of the reason I really don’t like Kandy is actually because I arrived here in a bad mood, exhausted and grumpy from travel, with a bad tummy and to a bad accommodation. The first few hours I spent here were feeling ill and wandering the streets trying to find somewhere to eat and giving up in the end. It just shows how much those first few hours or days can really shadow your impression of a place and that’s why I normally try to take control of the situation and to give myself the best opportunity to fall in love with every place I visit.
Well it’s all about making sure you throw yourself in at the deep end - whether you’re traveling by yourself or with friends or a partner, you have to get out exploring the first chance you get. By not sitting around feeling a bit lost, getting out and seeing the sights, meeting new people and really experiencing the city.
My favourite way, and one I use in every new place, is to spend the first day just walking. Especially in a new city, I love to just spend the day exploring on foot either with or without a map, this way I can get lost and find all the really cool stuff hidden away. Plus I end up learning my way around pretty quick from getting lost. I also find I talk to more random strangers and meet some great people along the way as well as getting to see the sights. I had a great day walking the length and breadth of Budapest - it was a great city for exploring on foot and I managed to see all the sights and make some new friends in a few hours.
Love running? Why not do like I sometimes do and explore a city in your running gear? I did this in Perth and had a fun day keeping fit and running around the city. Be creative with your sightseeing - I’ve spent a day exploring places on a bike or even on a segway - it’s a different way to see the city. I have a friend who really loves skateboarding and she always travels with her board, so she loves to explore every new city by skateboarding around and usually makes some friends along the way. Fancy trying it out? You can pick up skateboarding decks here.
Sometimes, especially if you are traveling solo or are pressed for time, it can be great to meet up with a traveling friend or even a new friend to be shown around a new place. When I visited Amsterdam and Berlin, I met up with old friends there from when I was living both in the UK and Australia - both friends took me under their wing and were excited to show me around their city. I had a place to stay and a tour guide, plus a great chance to catch up with friends and to see a new place. Don’t have a friend where you are going - why not try one of the many groups on Facebook to find someone who might want to host you? I’m part of a Girls Love Travel Facebook group which has almost forty thousand women from all over the world who live or are travelling all across the globe - they are always on hand for advice when travelling to a new place, keen to meet up for a drink, to show you round or even host you!
A good way to see the sights and explore a new city, if you don’t know where to begin why not join the professional tour guides? When travelling around Europe, I started using Sandemans NEW Europe Tours - they offer FREE walking tours around 18 European cities with fantastic guides who have endless knowledge and enthusiasm for their city. The tours are free but the guides work for tips and you are welcome to give as little or as much as you want - the tours were always so good that I happily 10-20 euros after my tours in Berlin and Amsterdam.
If you’re backpacking or staying in a hostel - why not take a look at the activities board and see what your hostel might be offering? Not only is it a great way to meet people and get to see the city, but it is often a lot cheaper or even free! When I was in Sydney, Australia, my hostel was fantastic for this and organised events daily including walking tours and wine and cheese nights, further down in Tasmania my hostel organised visits to the nearby mountain and museums for much cheaper than the usual price.
Not staying in hostels? Be smart about your accommodation and make it part of the experience! Renting out a house or apartment for your trip is a different way to experience the destination. Rental companies are making that option easier and safer, from AirBNB to CasaGo, you're sure to find somewhere that is perfect for you, and will give you a taste of the local culture.
How else do you like to explore a new city? Where will you be exploring next?
*This USA road trips post is a collaboration with Trek America
Is it just me or does everyone seem to be on a USA road trip this year? I'm getting the teensiest bit of FOMO so I thought I would write this post to share my dream road trip for the West Coast of the USA. Over the years, I've been lucky enough to visit New York and Florida but I have so much more yet to see over there. After seeing so many friends road tripping over there and their amazing photos. I've definitely been won over by the landscapes, the national parks, and of course, the food.
The last few years, I've been taking road tripping pretty seriously across Australia. I'm well practiced at camping wild, exploring and driving epic routes. Now I'm always looking for the next opportunity for a memorable ride ad daydreaming of being back on the open road. The USA is such a vast and other worldly landscape and I love the idea of hitting the open road with the stereo blaring and the roof down. Don't forget to comment and share your West Coast road trip USA adventures.
What first really captured my imagination about the USA was the spectacular landscapes. Don't forget the incredible national parks that are scattered across the West. Yosemite and Yellowstone are among many I dream of visiting and hiking the trails I've only ever seen on documentaries. The idea of being able to just lose yourself in the steamy geysers of Yellowstone and the giant, ancient sequoia trees of Yosemite. It's more than enough reason to pack my hiking boots and hit the road.
Despite not being a city girl, I just know San Francisco is a city I would instantly love. It's quirky cool exterior and artsy undertones would be just the place to inspire my writing. I love the idea of seeing the Golden Gate Bridge looming out of the mist. I couldn't leave without walking the corridors of Alcatraz listening out for the ghosts of former prisoners.
Of course, it wouldn't be a West Coast road trip without one crazy Vegas experience! My girls and I have long dreamed of celebrating a joint birthday celebration in this amazing city. Sadly life has stood in the way of this dream becoming a reality. Perhaps one day we will have our dream trip of putting it all on red in the crazy world that is Vegas. Then waking up with the sunrise over the Grand Canyon as we cruise over in a helicopter.
There are some roads that just demand to be driven. It would be rude to road trip the West without cruising along Route 66 and the Pacific Coast Highway. National Geographic have described the Pacific Coast Highway as the ultimate road trip. It's easy to see why when what is one of the most scenic routes in the world takes you all the way from San Francisco to San Diego. Stretching over 1,000km, the drive will take you from pristine coastline to untouched forests. With plenty of seaside villages and wine making districts to stop off in along the way.
Now I'm not too fussed about the current Hollywood dreamboats. But LA is also the home of classic Hollywood glamour and I'm a sucker for a black and white movie. I'm talking about those suave gents like Jimmy Stewart, Clark Gable, Cary Grant. And who can forget the dancing shoes of Fred Astaire? And the beauties that captivated their onscreen hearts and charmed us all, Marilyn Monroe, Ingrid Bergman and Judy Garland. I wouldn't mind taking a stroll down Hollywood Boulevard to see their names in stars, and who could resist a shopping trip along Rodeo Drive?
If my list has whet your appetite for some USA adventures then why not check out Trek America's amazing packages for traveling the West Coast - they've got a trip to suit all travellers!
What are your dream USA road trip destinations? Do any of these get your wanderlust tastebuds tingling?
*First pic by Jamie Flint
Whether it is because we are trying to look after the pennies or simply because you love exploring the land on your doorstep, exploring our own shores can truly open our eyes just how lucky we are to live in a land with such rich culture.
Although you won’t find the same weather as the Caribbean, nor will you come across mountain ranges such as those in the Alps, but what you will find is a lot packed into what is, in the grand scheme of things, a relatively small country. With this in mind, below is a list of five of our favourite places to visit in the UK and Ireland.
What a glorious city this is, oozing of Irish heritage mixed in with modern culture, Dublin arguably the greatest city on planet Earth. If you don’t agree with me you obviously have never been and, if not, why not?
The Temple Bar, located a stone’s throw away from the famous Ha’penny Bridge that sits over the River Liffey, is a social hotbed. At all hours of the day there is something going on, whether it is live music or stand-up comedy, this is the bar you want to drink in.
When the sun goes down and night looms over the Irish capital, this is when you see Dublin in all its glory. Paint the town red and get to know the locals, who are some of the friendliest you can hope to meet.
If it is ease of travel mixed in with a plethora of tourist attractions you are looking for, then London is your destination of choice. The Underground system is unrivalled by anywhere else in the world, and takes you to the doorstep of London’s favourite hotspots without the need for driving.
Trafalgar Square is the place to go for a night out in London, with restaurants and bars along the streets, and even a casino and cinema for additional entertainment (and it is also here that you will find M&M World!).
If British culture and pop fiction are two of your favourite things to experience, then head to the home of Robin Hood. In Nottingham, you will find lots of historic landmarks, such as Nottingham Castle and the cathedral mixed in with a very modern city.
Located in the Midlands, Nottingham is one of the best-connected cities in England and is easily reachable by train or car. Neighbouring Derby, nearby hotels can be found in equal distance to the two cities’ city centres in case you want to broaden your horizons.
The Scottish capital is just as vibrant during the day as it is at night, and is the scene for one of the most famous New Year’s Eve celebration in the world, Hogmanay. In Edinburgh, you will find the perfect mixture of the gorgeous Scottish countryside and a modern city, packed with places to visit.
Fantastic seasonal markets line the streets of Edinburgh in the winter, making the city the perfect place to visit over the festive period going into the New Year. You have to be quick, though, as hotel rooms are booked fast at this time of year.
Famous for more than a song title and a reality television show, in Newcastle you will find a brimming city packed with events, culture and landmarks. See the Angel of the North in all its glory, visit St James’ Park, the home of Newcastle United, and take in the sight of Gateshead Millennium Bridge, the world’s first and only tilting bridge.
Of course, the city is also well known for its nightlife, and is something that simply should be sampled if you ever have the fortune to visit the northern city.
If you have visited any of the above cities, or if you have been lucky to visit all five, then you will already know just how fantastic our shores are.
A bit of a throwback today, a little break from all the Western Australia posts as we hop back to Victoria and all my lovely days out while I was living down in Melbourne. I've already written about Wilson's Promontory National Park, Phillip Island, bar crawling around the city and much more - but this post is all about a great little day trip you can take if you fancy escaping the hustle and bustle of the city for a few hours. When I lived in Melbourne at the beginning of the year, I returned there with gusto and a desire to see all the amazing places I missed out on the first time. Working long hours as usual, I was determined to make the most of my days off by getting out to explore the beaches or different nature parks for walks and a change of scenery. Check out my blog post for Wild Melbourne here about all the best places to escape into nature around Melbourne. The Dandenongs were one of the final places I visited before setting off on my travels again, and they were definitely a day well spent with two of my best friends from living down there.The three of us were inseparable, working together, living around the corner from each other, and spending our days off together - it's safe to say we had a blast down in Melbourne together. So when two of us had a day off, and the other decided to skive off work for the day, we decided to get out of the city and do something fun. Well I decided, and dragged the other two along with me for some exercise. We caught the train from Flinders Street along the Belgrave line to the Dandenongs and got off at Upper Ferntree Gully Station - the journey took around 50 minutes which we easily filled with silly banter. Once there, we had to walk east away from the station and alongside the railway tracks, then we turned off the main road and walked across the trainline, following the track. After about 15 minutes walking, we came to the entrance to the Dandenong Ranges National Park where we were surrounded by lush, green forest and that incredible fresh air smell that can only be found away from the city.As you walk in, head towards the beginning of the 1,000 Steps, Kokoda Track Memorial Walk where you will probably see lots of people running around - so many use it as a workout and spend hours running up and down the steps. It's pretty impressive, I definitely didn't run them, but it was a nice walk up and down, especially as you can take one route up and another down to change it up. The walk is around 3km overall and is quite steep in places so you will want to take water and wear trainers - also do take a warmer layer as it is quite misty and cool in the trees. It says online that it should take 1-1.5 hours to complete, but you can do it in a lot less if you are relatively fit and aren't stopping every five minutes. There is also a picnic ground at the top, but sadly no real view to enjoy - this was a bit of a disappointment after the climb up there, but we still managed to have a great day out.
It's a beautiful place and lovely for a walk or to work out if, like me, you get bored of working out in the city. You can also do this trip in just a couple of hours - I think we were only gone around 3-4 hours overall so we still had the day to enjoy in the city. Plus it's a complete change of scenery being in the misty hills after living in busy Southbank and working in a bar all week. Well worth a visit. If you like this, you should also check out Jacob's Ladder in Perth for a good workout and a great view at the end.
What's your favourite place to escape into nature around Melbourne? Can you recommend any good outdoor places to work out in Australia?