Travel risks are something we all face when planning our next big adventure, but how often do they stop us in our tracks? From the smaller scale car accidents and health problems, to the much bigger threats of natural disasters and even terrorism – there's a lot to take into consideration. But do we let these fears stand in the way of our travel plans – or is it all just a lot of hype? I get so many questions about travel safety and fears over the stories that end up in the media, and I thought it was time to talk about facing travel risks and overcoming fears. After all, I want this blog to always face the real issues of traveling head on, while still inspiring you all to take that first step. So today, I want to do that by answering the biggest question of all – should you let fear and safety concerns stand in the way of your future travel plans?
There's no denying that the media plays a huge part in perpetuating our fears and concerns by portraying incidents in a certain light. But how much are we to take as a serious warning, and how much should this information affect our travel planning? Last year Mexico was ravaged by two earthquakes just weeks apart causing huge damage and the loss of over 360 lives. In the summer, Greece suffered horrific wildfires which killed over 70 people and resulted in the complete destruction of a tourist resort. While holidaying in Majorca, a British couple lost their lives as torrential rain caused flash flooding which engulfed the town of Sant Lorenç. Now it seems even the "safe zone" of Europe is now heavily affected by climate change and extreme weather conditions. But should this stop us from exploring these regions?
If anything, the British "Keep Calm and Carry On" attitude seems to be reigning high and our appetite for holidays is increasing more than ever. ABTA’s Holiday Trends Report 2018 revealed that 60% of people went abroad last year, the highest number since 2011. And while 63% of people said they wouldn't holiday where a terrorist attack had taken place (Survey by Silver Travel Advisor), last year saw hugely increased numbers of travelers to countries including Turkey, Egypt and Tunisia despite previous attacks. When it comes to natural disasters, so much of the time it is countries that rely the most heavily on tourism which are affected. Think back to the multiple tsumani that have struck Indonesia throughout the last decade, and despite this the number of Britons traveling to the country has doubled since 2010. So should we even question withdrawing our tourism from the countries who need it most? Or should we continue to travel and support these communities as best we can?
We live in an age where reports of disaster and terrorist attack are no longer the occasional news, now one event captures the headlines only to be quickly replaced by more recent breaking news. There will always be a lull in tourism following an event, but it seems the desire to travel will always overwhelm any fears we may have. As has been pointed out, many travel insurance policies will be rendered void if your travel goes against government advice. The important thing is to minimise risks, by ensuring you have comprehensive cover in place to provide peace of mind in a world full of surprises.
Some travel insurance lenders have anticipated this thirst for travel and are adapting their policies to offer a wife range of covers to to enable travelers to protect themselves against extreme situations and disasters.
Insure4Retirement, a specialist Over 50s Home and Travel insurance provider, in partnership with Just Travel Cover, offer a Crisis Response Service with their Ready2Go Gold travel policy. A key benefit of this cover is a dedicated phone number which gives travelers access to immediate assistance and an unrivaled set of skills if disaster strikes while they are abroad. The service is provided by S-RM who has a team of crisis response consultants made up of former military, law enforcement and intelligence agency personnel, strategically positioned around the world to provide assistance during a crisis. If you're planning a trip to a more unpredictable location, these are the guys you want on your team!
Throughout my years of solo female travel, I've experienced travel risks of all kinds, from bus crashes to explosions and brutal attacks. And yet, despite this, I have felt safer in countries around the world than I have done at times in the UK. You name it – I've probably been warned about it by someone who saw reports in the news. But after working as a journalist for years, I've realised that everything news report from the perspective of the reporter and that these stories are so often blown out of proportion. So should we let news reports strike fear into our hearts and put us off travel?
I have spoken to so many people who have traveled to countries such as Iraq, Iran, Turkey, Egypt and Tunisia in recent years and all have spoken of the beauty of these countries. Despite media reports warning otherwise, they haven't seen any violence or felt threatened in at all. I think it is important to be smart and safe at all times when we travel, but we are also capable of assessing travel risks and deciding whether we feel confident to make a trip. But we should be basing our decisions on real accounts by real travelers who have visited recently instead of sensationalised media reports. We also have to take into account, how vital our tourism is at these darkest times to support the communities who will lose their livelihoods due to the lack of visitors.
A huge thank you to all the wonderful souls who joined in the discussion on Twitter – it was fantastic to see so many different viewpoints on the topic! If you've been affected by these issues, or would like to share your views – please do leave a comment below.
[GIFTED items featured] There's no denying 2018 was a rough year for my wellbeing and happiness. I threw myself in at the deep end and gave 150% for months on end, completely forgetting to look after myself. It's not surprising after such an emotional roller-coaster that I crawled into 2019 feeling more than a little burnt out. In a society that seems to pride itself on how busy, how dedicated and how motivated it is, it can be easy to feel like you're under-performing, or like you just need to try a bit harder. But honestly, I'm so over this idea that we need to be constantly doing and achieving in order to be our best selves.
We all want to be the best version of ourselves, but when we're always trying to be great at everything, we often feel like we're falling short at every hurdle. That's why I'm declaring 2019 as the year for focusing on wellness, self-care and happiness. It seems the team at Whittard agree and they've sent me this lovely [GIFTED] wellbeing hamper filled with all sorts of goodies to help me start looking after myself. From special teas to help you sleep and tasty snacks, to gorgeous peppermint soap and even a mindfulness colouring book to help de-clutter my mind. It's made me slow down and take a breath to think about what is really important to me – what will make me happy this year.
We've all got dreams, but sometimes life gets in the way and you're forced to push them aside. Well I think it's time we stop waiting for tomorrow and we get focused on those crazy goals! Always wanted to start a new career, learn a language, move abroad, write a book, travel, buy a new car, go self-employed? Who says 2019 can't be the year you make this come true? The longer you wait, the harder it becomes to make this become a reality.
I saw this great line the other day about how there are countless people out there who are less qualified than you to do what you want to do, and yet they've done it through positive thinking and confidence. There's a lot of power in having a great mindset and just trying. Taking that first step is the hardest part, and you have nothing to lose by giving it a shot. If you don't you'll spend your life wondering what could have happened. Every goal is attainable if you make a plan, take one step at a time, and work hard.
This is such an important one and I know I'm not alone in needing to put certain friendships and relationships in the past. 2018 was a year when i was exposed to some toxic people. I'm glad to have said goodbye to a few friendships that were bringing nothing but negativity into my life, and I don't feel bad for cutting them out. After all, your vibe attracts your tribe. So if someone is bringing bad vibes into my life, it's only going to attract more negativity, and that's something I'm leaving in 2018.
Most importantly, we do not exist to fix other people's problems. We do not exist to heal others. we are all responsible for ourselves. If someone has their own issues that are impacting our happiness and wellbeing, then I'm afraid it's time to say goodbye to that person. If they're not making effort or pulling their weight as a friend, there's no shame in holding your hands up and saying that someone is simply not good for you anymore.
For those feeling a little run-down or overworked and exhaustion has become your middle name. What has really helped me is changing my priorities. For me, a big issue was my long commute and working hours which left me no time for anything else. I hated the wasted time traveling, so I filled it with books and podcasts to make the most of every second. It's so easy to learn with so much information at our fingertips, so why not use travel time or your evenings to boost your brain power?
It gives you such a confidence boost to know you're learning a new skill or language, or you're listening to podcasts on major issues. Since leaving Hamburg, I've rediscovered my love of books, art, music, podcasts, documentaries – I'm using every second to learn and grow. It's amazing the effect reading books and listening to podcasts has on your mental health compared to scrolling through social media. Use your "wasted time" wisely and you can make a huge difference to your well-being.
This one is so important. There's a whole world out there waiting to question and criticize you, so why do it to yourself? It's so easy to forget about that inner monologue you have with yourself, but it's one of the most powerful voices you'll ever hear. If all you do is judge yourself, of course you're going to feel crappy! I'm a strong believer that you need to be your own cheerleader.
I always say you should speak to yourself how your best friend does. Always be supportive, always been a cheerleader and celebrate even the smallest successes. Importantly, just like your true bestie would always do, don't be afraid to straight talk yourself, to put yourself back in your place when you need it. Just watch how your mindset changes when you start turning every negative into a positive.
For some people self-care is long hot baths, candles and a good book. It's taking time for yourself and allowing yourself to relax. For others, it's facing up to home truths, cutting toxic people out of your life and allowing yourself to feel pain so you can move on. Whether your self-care is face masks or starting a difficult healing process, find the one that works for your wellbeing. Find a new set of values and take control of your life.
My self-care process has been allowing myself to take a time out from writing and social media to heal. It has meant investing in myself and my true passions, working towards new goals and dreams. Most importantly, it has meant cutting out all negativity and toxicity. By taking these steps – not all of them easy ones – I'm setting myself up for a year of healing and getting back to happiness.
Staying fit and healthy is always a good goal to have, but so many people do it for aesthetic reasons. Instead of trying to lose weight, why not shift the focus to boosting your mental health and wellbeing? I love to workout but I do it mostly for my mind. I love the rush of endorphins, group classes put smile on my face and yoga is great for soothing my soul.
There are so many different ways to workout and stay fit – make 2019 the year you find the one that suits you. Don't just go to the gym if you're bored of it, why not sign up for classes for the social side, or head out on beach walks with the dog for some fresh air? Why not workout with your bestie and combine catch-ups with a session? There's so much more to fitness than fitting in those Lululemon leggings.
For the goodies from the lovely wellness hamper:
How are you improving your wellbeing this year? What are you doing to invest in yourself?
This long winter has had me dreaming of beaches for months on end and I know I'm not the only one. I'm excited to be heading back to Asia on holiday soon, so it seemed a perfect time to start lusting over the endless, gorgeous beaches that will be awaiting me when I head back. Sadly I won't be going to the Philippines this time, but as it has been one of my dream destinations for years. But I'm excited to share this list of seven hidden beaches to explore in the Philippines. If you're looking for the perfect place to escape the crowds and find an untouched part of the world just for yourself, you'll want to check out these gorgeous sands on your next trip.
With 35,000km of coastline, beach lovers have never had it as good as in the Philippines. Boasting pristine stretches of sand, these hidden gems include some of the best beaches in the world, so head there before others find out. You may have your work cut out reaching some of these spots, but if you are willing to go the extra mile, then I can assure you your beach trip will turn into an epic journey.
Really escape the crowds at Tikling Beach, where you won't find any infrastructure, upscale accommodation or restaurants. However, what it lacks in basics is more than made up by the stunning pink sand beaches which have been created by the crushed red corals which are still found in abundance, making it also a fantastic snorkeling location. This still undeveloped piece of paradise lies just off the coast of Matnog, Sorsogon, and can only be reached by a thirty-minute ride from there. This is after you have already undertaken the fourteen-hour overland journey from Manila. Alternatively, you could fly to Legazpi and take a van from there.
Casapsapan Beach is another hidden gem, known just to a handful of people. The beach has fine cream-colored sand, crystal clear waters and acres and acres of virgin mangrove forest not to be found anywhere else. To reach this beautiful place you need to get to Baler via Manila and Cabanatuan. Baler is a fantastic destination in its own right, especially popular among surfers. Once you reach Baler, you can catch a taxi van to bring you to the beach.
Visitors find this island beach captivating for a number of reasons. Apart from the powdery sand and clear water, the beach is so tiny that it can be covered in fifteen minutes. Snorkeling is the principal attraction in Colibra. The best way to access Colibra is by catching one of the limited bus services from Cubao headed for Sta. Cruz, and which passes through the town of Dasol.
Catch the waves on this clear white sand beach as you gaze at the sight of the sun dipping into the Pacific Ocean. Often referred to as the “Boracay of the North”, Anguib deserves this compliment simply because here, you can really experience the beauty of Mother Nature at her finest.
If you are seeking the ultimate place to unwind and relax during your holiday in Siargao, just opt for a scenic drive to the secluded Alegria Beach towards the North. A short one and half hour drive via Tak Tak falls, will bring you to this picture postcard pretty place. Apart from a few locals, you will find no tourists there. The water is still and allows for swimming, which is not possible on any another beach in Siargao.
The locals all praise this paradise off the beaten path, serene and unspoilt. White sands, clear water and the perfect spot to escape the holiday-makers. Calaguas is a relaxing and idyllic destination, perfect for couples and backpackers. A holiday here, rarely fails to live up to the experience expected of a tropical island trip.
The raw and untouched beauty of the Philippines can be found at hundreds of great beaches spread all over this archipelago nation. Spots like Boracay and Palawan have become legendary as far as the tourist radar is concerned. Popular as they are, they tend to be too crowded. By straying from the beaten track, you could easily explore these beaches above, which are equally beautiful and a lot emptier. These hidden gems may be difficult to access, but they are avenues to an adventure trip like no other – and we all know I love an adventure!
Have you been to the Philippines? Where are the best beaches you've found? Where will your next beach trip take you?