*This is a language learning collaborative post
Language learning is no easy task and if, like me, you're not a natural, you'll need as much help as you can get! Whether you're trying to learn Spanish, you're attempting French or you fancy your chances at Chinese – everyone needs a little extra help when trying to branch out from their mother tongue. If you're from the UK, it's easy to get caught up in this idea that because most people speak English around the world, we don't need to learn other languages. But after spending so many years working, living and travelling with people from all over the world, I can honestly tell you, you're missing out on a whole other world.
Speaking another language is about more than just bonjour-hola-hello, it's a whole new understanding of the world. It's an appreciation for another way of life and another way of thinking and seeing everything around you. When you visit a new place, language learning is a great way to connect with the locals and to gain a deeper understanding of the culture. Plus, if you've ever seen a local's face light up when you are able to chat with them during your holiday, you'll understand the value of a little extra effort.
My best travelling experiences have come from throwing myself into meeting the locals and heading out into the world on my own. I remember being in Thailand and being welcomed into an artist's house to meet his family and learn all about his work, all because I took the time to learn a little Thai and greet him as I walked past. Likewise, my struggles to speak Thai, but the fact I tried, also brought me together with a woman who practically adopted me as her daughter as she showed me around her town. When I moved to Germany, it was the hardest few months of my life until I picked up enough German to have conversations with people – you can read my post here on what it's really like to move to a country without speaking the language. I can't recommend at least trying to learn a language enough. It's not always the easiest, but not only is it an amazing skill, but it forces your brain to work in different ways. Here are my top ways to start language learning:
Once you've picked up the basics, practicing is so important but it can be tricky to find a buddy. Find a language tandem buddy and you'll pick up a language in no time, while helping them to learn your language! It's easy to find someone in a new city – check expat Facebook groups or visit the local university library where students may also be keen to join in. Either match up with someone who is also looking to learn the same language, or someone who perhaps wants to learn your language and do an exchange. You can also find language tandem buddies online through Facebook groups – that way you never even have to leave the house!
This is one of my favourite ways of learning, because it makes learning fun, interactive and convenient. When I moved to Germany, I downloaded Duolingo, Memrise and Babbel and started to use them daily on my morning and evening commute. It meant I was using the empty time and was engaging my brain before my day had even started. By starting early in the morning, it meant my brain was more receptive to the language and made me more likely to remember later in the day, and to feel inclined to use it. If you hate textbooks, this is perfect for you, learn through fun games and tests instead.
If your resolution for the year is to learn a language, but you want to do it from the comfort of your own home, why not try learning online? There are lots of online courses you can do which can help you develop your skills, testing you at different levels and fitting in with your lifestyle. Why not try Rosetta Stone, Fluent in 3 Months, Future Learn, or Learn Light.
If you're planning on spending longer in a country, perhaps you're moving abroad or planning to travel long-term, it might be worth signing up for language school. I had a lot of friends doing this in Germany and I'm thinking of doing it for my next big trip (can you guess what language I want to learn?). It's a great way to learn in a more formal setting, plus it offers a much better grip on grammar and business-level language which you might need for a new job or studies. If you can't spare the time for full-time language study, why not join a night course? My job in Germany actually offered classes at the office twice a week.
Learnt a bit of the local lingo and want to practise? There's no better way than getting out in a new place and speaking to the locals. Why not go out and ask for directions, or order food in a restaurant and challenge yourself to speak entirely in the local language. Not only will the locals appreciate your effort and probably love chatting back to you, but you'll get to experience a whole other side to travelling!
If you have a partner or family member who already speaks the language, why not try limiting yourself to speaking only that language at home. It doesn't matter how much you know of that language, when you force yourself to figure it out, it's amazing what you can muddle through. By putting yourself in a situation where you have no choice but to speak in the language, you're much more likely to remember it than by reciting fake conversations.
So many young people from other cultures learn English by watching movies, listening to music and podcasts from the UK and US, so why not do the opposite? Watch Spanish movies, listen to Italian music and find a podcast in whatever language you want to learn and listen to it everywhere. Listen and learn on your commute to work, during your lunch break, and last thing before you go to bed. Constant exposure is a great way to learn and getting used to hearing a language is just as important as speaking it.
What are your favourite ways to learn a new language? How many languages do you speak?
*This travelling memories post is a collaboration with El Camino Bracelets, but as usual, all views are my own
Travel is never about how long you spend in a place, rather how much you let it change you. When I left over four years ago to travel the world solo, I traded a life of things for a life of memories and I've never looked back. Over time, travelling memories become a currency among new friends, as stories are traded and connections are forged, eventually becoming their own tales. We all cling to our travelling memories like the precious jewels that they are. Keeping traveling mementos close can be difficult when you’re living out of a backpack, but it’s so important to keep a little piece of your experience with you. When you cut down on stuff, memories become all the more precious, and any way you can find to immortalise them is priceless.
It seems perfect timing that El Camino bracelets wanted to help me keep my traveling memories close when I am about to head back to the place where my solo traveling journey first began. Over four years ago, I touched down in Thailand and stepped into the chaos of Bangkok to start the adventure of a lifetime. With a flight booked home for exactly one year later, I already knew my traveling would not stop then. It was those first incredible moments – the vibrant colours of the temples, the sizzling of the street food stalls and the incredible noise of the city that made me fall in love with it. This was sensory travel at it's finest. Overwhelming and disorientating, I threw myself in the deep end and this craving for the unexpected twists and turns, is what has kept me travelling ever since.
In two weeks, I'll be heading back to Bangkok, this time to show some very special people why I love this city, and the rest of Thailand so much. I'm so excited to share this adventure and to share a country that will always have a piece of my heart. After the city, we'll spend the rest of the time down in the south on my favourite island, Koh Lanta, the place where I first turned my dreams into reality, sleeping in a little wooden hut on the beach, watching the waves from my bed and drinking fresh coconuts at sunset. After spending so long feeling so trapped in my life, it was like I could finally breathe, like I could finally be the person I wanted to be.
The team behind El Camino Bracelets have given me such a unique and beautiful way to keep my traveling memories with me wherever I go. Created out of sustainable products, their bracelets are made to survive your travels, no matter how much of an adventurer you are. More than anything, I love the company's values – this bracelet isn't a way of counting countries, it's a reminder of all the people you've met along the way.
We love travelling, we know how addictive it can be and that's why we started El Camino. Each country you've visited is an accomplishment and the country's name becomes more than just a name to you but a memory of everything you experienced there. Your El Camino is a way to keep track of the countries you have travelled to. It's a reminder to you, your friends and people you meet along the way of the memories you've created all over the world. – El Camino
I chose to represent both my past and future travels on this bracelet – with individual steps to represent the oceans I've swam in, the mountains I've climbed. There's one on there for Asia and another for Australia, both huge parts of my life that I will never forget. Each time I look at my bracelet, I'm reminded of all you amazing souls I met when traveling over there and what you all meant to me. There's also two steps on there for two upcoming destinations for later this year – I can't reveal these just yet but I'm so excited to share them with you.
Have you been to Thailand? How do you keep your travelling memories with you wherever you go?
*This digital nomad post is a collaboration which includes gifted products, but as usual, all views remain my own.
We all love the idea of becoming a digital nomad – of having the freedom to design our own life and work as we choose. Whether we want to do that in Bali or to simply work freelance in our pyjamas at home, it's never been a more realistic option for so many of us. Now don't get me wrong – it's not an easy choice by a long shot and it takes a hell of a lot of hard work to build up a freelancing career. But despite the time spent setting it up, the time and effort you put in at the beginning could finally help you live the life you've been dreaming of.
So many companies in the UK are not yet taking full advantage of flexible working and I am lucky to be working for a company at the moment who have really embraced the concept. Not only do we have the option to work remotely – either from home or even from another country – but we can choose our working hours and have access to a range of benefits including free travel, gym memberships and much more. Despite many companies in the UK taking bigger strides towards allowing their staff the opportunity to work from home, they are still hesitant to make the leap. Online security labeling company, Seareach, recently discovered that over 50% of office-based staff who could do their job role working from home were unable to as their employers would not permit it, due to security and GDPR reasons. Reasons for not allowing this have ranged from security issues and lack of teamwork, to productivity and fairness. But let's talk about what working remotely is really like for employees.
As someone who has worked in a office, remotely, across the globe and freelance, I believe that trusting your staff to work out of the office is a great way to encourage them to raise the quality of their work. When your management gives this vote of confidence, you feel inspired by their belief in you to actually work harder and better. Working in an environment of your choice, and without distractions, you will find your productivity levels increase and cut down on working hours due to lack of wasted time. Staff remain much happier and full of energy because they no longer waste time on a long commute or working in some stuffy office building. For companies, they are saving money on providing office space and can utilise technology for meetings and organisation. Happy staff and happy company means more room for growth and better employee retention in the longer term which benefits the business.
As with any choice, there are always cons for some people. Some may not embrace the independent working style of becoming a digital nomad. You do have to be a certain sort of person to do well at working remotely and to remain productive. Some do struggle outside of an office environment or may find the work lonely, but there are ways around this with co-working spaces and meetings over Google Hangouts and Skype. There sadly will always be individuals who take advantage of the generosity of their managers to work less and get away with as little as possible. There are also questions over security, data protection and ensuring laptops and technology provided by companies remains safe. But, overall, I would always say the pros far outweigh the cons.
There are so many ways of becoming a freelancer or a digital nomad – whether you start your own business, pick up clients or even start doing "home office" instead of working in-house. If you're dedicated and focused, it can be much easier to slip into this way of working than you think. There are so many ways of working freelance and becoming a digital nomad – basically if you can work from a laptop, you can work from anywhere. From writers and bloggers, to Youtubers, virtual assistants, seo experts, designers, coders... the list is endless! If you're thinking of becoming a freelancer – the first job you have is figuring out your skills and learning to sell them to clients and businesses.
I first started working as a freelancer when I was still in university when I was writing a weekly column for a newspaper. Over the last nearly ten years (yikes) I've worked freelance around traveling and various other jobs and have eased my way further into digital nomad life. These freelance roles have ranged from writing, blogging, journalism, social media, seo and content management, to even photography! At points I've been a full-time digital nomad, and at other points, I've held various jobs at the same time, and at some points I've jacked it all in just to travel full time. One thing I've loved about my experience is that it has been one heck of a varied journey and has taught me a LOT of new skills along the way.
It doesn't matter if you are planning to freelance from your bedroom, or if you want to build a business to run while you travel across the world. The job requires the same skills and commitment if you're going to be successful. You have to stay focused, organised and on top of your workload – but what are the best ways of doing that? Here are my top tips for creating the perfect working environment for your "home office":
This is vital to boosting productivity and ensuring distractions are kept at a minimum. First, figure out what kind of worker you are – do you crave silence, classical music, jungle sounds or loud cafes? Are you a morning person who leaps out of bed and seizes the day, or do you prefer to work when everyone else has gone to bed? Don't try to force yourself to be the worker you're not – working freelance is the perfect opportunity to finally do things your way. Be honest with yourself and embrace a working style that works for you.
The beauty of working as a digital nomad is that you get to design your life and make your work fit in with it. So choose your timetable wisely and take on as much work as you need, but make it work around you. Love yoga? Never let yourself miss those morning yoga sessions. Crave the beach? Give yourself a few hours off in the afternoon for tanning and swimming. For those who are staying at home – if you have children, or friends who want to spend time with, make sure to give yourself time for brunches and playtime. By allowing yourself to live without restriction and to do all the things you want to do, it makes it easier to leave distractions at the door. Work extra hard and keep your productivity levels high and you may even master the art of working minimal hours for maximum reward.
Part of embracing your working style is creating the perfect workspace for you. This means finding a spot where you feel comfortable and inspired to work, where you're safe from distractions but also not cooped up as you would be in an office. For some this means creating the perfect office space at home and filling it with light and creativity to inspire their work. For others it can be finding the perfect cafe with fresh juices and avocado toast no matter where they travel. And for some – with the right mindset – the world becomes their office whether it's the pool, the beach or the plane. I normally find heading to where the wifi and coffee are of similar strengths helps.
For me, part of workspace is being able to easily transport my most important tools both safely, and with a touch of luxury to make sure I always regard them as vital parts of my business. Family business, Pad and Quill, recognise the importance of hard-wearing and long-lasting items that come with a hint of luxury thanks to the highest quality materials. They gifted me a beautiful artisan-made Valet 13" leather laptop case, which comes with space to store both your laptop, iPad and accessories. Each of their products is thoughtfully designed for maximum practicality for your business needs, while still maintaining the traditional leather treatment and workmanship. I feel so lucky to have been gifted such a beautiful product, it really is made to such a high standard and I love that despite it being brand new, it will only improve with time as the leather becomes naturally worn and well-traveled – much like it's owner. Their website features a whole range of products from bags and wallets, to journals, wallets and much more, I can't recommend it enough for high quality but budget-friendly luxury accessories.
Investing in yourself and your new business is important – it doesn't have to mean spending a fortune but it does mean you believe in yourself. If you need a new camera, laptop or technical equipment, make sure you spend time doing your research, asking friends for advice and making sure that when you lay down the money and invest, you're sure you've found the best tools for the job. Think about marketing materials to help promote your business – whether it's branding, a new website or logo, business cards or pamphlets and spend time designing these exactly the way you want them. Even look into courses and ways of becoming an expert in your field – build your knowledge and learn how to sell yourself.
My biggest working investments have been my laptop, camera and mobile phone – all of these I use on a daily basis to work and further my business. It's easy to see these are larger outgoings, but when you weigh up the money you could make and the ways you could grow your business and skills with the right equipment – you'll see they're a worthy investment. My friends at Juice gifted me the Juice Kickstand Wireless Charger which is a great addition to my portable office. No matter where I am, I can always charge my phone even when there's nowhere to plug in – it's a lifesaver when I'm in a rush and need to work or stay online. When you spend as much time on the go as I do, you come to rely on battery packs and making the most of every last bit of charge. I'm a huge fan of the Juice products and I really love that they work on a "waste free world" policy – producing minimal accessories to reduce product waste.
It's so important to maintain a healthy lifestyle both physically and mentally when you're freelancing or working as a digital nomad. Even more so than while working in an office as you no longer have people telling you to go home, or make sure you take a lunch break. You have to take responsibility for setting your working hours, for making sure you take breaks and spread your workload, for recognising stress and any strains on your mental health. After all, when you run your own business, you have to invest everything into yourself. That means eating healthily and making sure you stop work to break when you eat rather than blasting through. It also means forcing yourself outside for some fresh air and getting to the gym to clear your head after a busy day. Most importantly, it means taking full days off and not letting yourself look at emails or anything work-related – taking time to indulge your creativity and inspire yourself away from work.
It can be easy to get lonely when you work freelance and stop going to the office – but don't let that make you feel isolated. Instead use this new business opportunity to meet like-minded souls and build a support network. Social media can be a godsend for this, as can co-working spaces and meet-ups for freelancing/business women. By using any, or all three of these, you can find it easy to make friends in similar positions who can offer friendship, support and advice. If you don't have any friends or family who already work freelance, it is really important to meet others who understand the struggles of the working life. By building up a working community of your own, you'll never miss the experience of office life.
Thinking about going freelance – what is inspiring to to try it out? What are your biggest worries over remote working? Does your company allow flexible working?
* This is a collaboration with Hotels.com who gifted the spending money for the London Bridge outing, but all views are my own.
I've spent a lot of time in London over the years, but one thing I love about London is that it never stops delivering. No matter how many times you've been there, or how long you may have lived there, you never stop discovering new parts of the city. Now that I spend so much time out of the country, I try to make sure I explore a new area each time I visit so I can fall in love with London all over again. Visiting my sister in her new home around London Bridge was a perfect opportunity to spend more time exploring while catching up on some long overdue sister-sister time. Now that my little sister spends all her free time running marathons, I thought it was her big sister's duty to make sure she was well fed, so we decided to go on our own foodie tour of the London Bridge area. I was staying with my sister for the weekend, but if you happen to visit the area, there are plenty of London Bridge hotels to choose from.
I was definitely feeling a little delicate after a few too many G&T's the night before, so a good breakfast was in order and where better to head than Where the Pancakes Are? Especially just a few days ahead of Pancake Day. My sister had picked out the perfect spot, from fresh juices and teas, to an amazing pancake menu with something to tempt all taste buds from sweet to savoury. Just make sure to get there early – we were there at opening time and there was already a queue! I went for the pancakes royal which came with poached eggs, hollandaise, tarragon, asparagus, and I added smashed avocado. My sister went for the 1000 baby greens, with baby leaves, cumin, spring onions, green chilli and lime-coriander butter. Both of us went for the vegan pancake mix and were glad we did because the food was so filling. Highly recommend, it was so good, the guy next to us ordered two dishes because he couldn't decide!
After such a huge breakfast, we needed waking up a bit and luckily there was a cute little coffee shop, The Colombian Coffee Company, right next door, with ethically sourced and freshly brewed Colombian coffee. You could choose between several different types of coffee bean, each with a unique and different flavour. Then choose the type of coffee you fancied, and the type of milk for your brew. It was coffee like I've never tasted it before, with a much more floral taste to the beans. If you're a coffee lover, this one is worth checking out.
If you're sightseeing around London Bridge, it would be rude not to pop into Borough Market, whether you want to pick up fresh veggies and ingredients for dinner that night. Or even if you fancy picking up a snack or lunch from one of the many delicious food stalls there. I love going there for a wander around to taste all the lovely bouji foods, from truffle oils and cheeses, to cakes and breads – it's a foodie's delight. Don't get me started on the amazing food stalls which have everything from vegan Indian cuisine, to freshly baked brownies, meat feasts, fresh juices and seafood – you'll be spoilt for choice! My sister couldn't resist trying the juicy banana bread from one of the cake stalls.
After a wander around to let ourselves recover from the food, it was time to head to the Mercato Metropolitano, an epic street food market filled with amazing food, bars and even a cinema! Tucked away on Borough High Street, it's the perfect place to go for an fantastic range of street food, from sushi and South American cuisine, to fresh pasta, burgers, gelato and much more. Plus, if you're a gin lover, coffee addict or like your craft ales – you'll be in your element. It's actually open seven days a week, so there's plenty of time to get down there, and with plenty of outside and inside areas, it's great no matter what the weather. There's a luxe cinema, yoga studio and even vintage markets, plus you can even catch bands playing there some evenings. If you haven't been here yet, I can't recommend it enough. We couldn't resist trying the amazing gelato – I went for the mango and pear sorbet – and later on picked up a fresh chestnut pasta with truffle mushrooms on top – heaven!
Have you been to the London Bridge area – can you recommend any foodie finds? What's your favourite part of London – do you like to explore new places?
It's not secret that I love a glass of wine and throughout my travels have loved experiencing tastings across Europe and Australia. When I'm not traveling, I find wine and food are amazing catalysts for bringing those traveling memories flooding back. While the lighter white and rosé wines instantly transport me back to sunny days on the Greek islands. The more full bodied reds and ports will always remind me of Western Australia when I took a wine pairing tour over there. And let's not forget the amazing wine tasting from when I visited Liechtenstein with vineyards overlooked by the castle on the mountainside. So, when I was given the opportunity to work with fine wine company, Millésima, I couldn't wait to share this company with you.
Based in Bordeaux, the company offers a range of wines from the best properties in the Rhone, Burgundy, Alsace, and other leading French regions, as well as top producers from Italy. With more than 2.5 million bottles of fine wine slowly ageing in the company's cellars, their comprehensive list includes Crus Classés wines from all Bordeaux vintages of the last 15 years. Boasting more than 150,000 private clients, the company helps their customers to easily source the Chateau and the vintage that they are seeking. Not only do they provide this service online, but they also welcome visitors to the area and to explore wine pairing within their two hundred year old cellars.
Working in the region since 1983, the company was founded by Patrick Bernard, whose expertise and reliability has led the company to become Europe's leading fine wine mail-order merchant. Patrick Bernard's aim then, as now, was to bring some of the world's greatest wines direct to wine lovers from the Châteaux. Over the past 15 years, Millésima have made over 300,000 deliveries to more than 65,000 wine enthusiasts of top wines from France, Europe and the rest of the world. Whether you're a regular visitor to the area, or just love the local wines, Millésima could provide you with the perfect trip down memory lane. And even better, you don't have to move from your home, so even when you can't escape for a trip to the south of France, you can still indulge in the finest wines from the region.
If you're a wine-lover like me, there are so many ways to bring the finest grapes into your travels. Most importantly, there is a way to bring wine into your travels no matter what your budget – it doesn't always have to be expensive. Wine is a fantastic way to connect with the local area, from visiting vineyards and seeing where they make the wine, to tasting the local flavours and wine pairing with amazing local dishes. Wine awakens the senses and perfectly complements the travel experience.
This is such an important one, don't just go to the usual tourist traps when you travel. Instead head off the beaten track, speak to the locals and go to their favourite bars. Avoid the international drinks and instead plump for a local beer or wine. Dining out is a great way to do this, always ask the waiter for a wine pairing recommendation!
This is such a lovely day out and can suit all budgets – from the super expensive wine tours to the £5 free tastings! I've visited vineyards all over Australia and Europe and loved the experience. Vineyards are always such beautiful locations and often they offer a cheaper tasting where you get to try several wines and can take your time exploring.
If you visit a brewery or a vineyard, most offer wine tastings, but even better, if you get a good-sized group together you can often get a free wine tasting or a good discount. I've had free wine pairing sessions and tastings all over the world, from food festivals and fine wine shops, to local bars and vineyards. Always do your research and just ask to try!
Australia offered a lot of food and wine tasting trails which proved the perfect day out. You would pick up a map and then make your way along, stopping off at various farms, vineyards, factories and all sorts of places with amazing delicacies to try. From wines, beers and ciders, to cheese, cake, fruit and much more.
It's always nice to take a bottle home to remember the place you visited, whether you pick one up as a gift or for yourself. Either pick one up from the local shops, or, if you get home and regret not buying one, why not source one online using Millésima to bring some holiday flavour back home? I tried out ordering a bottle from Millésima and I was so impressed with the service. Not only do they deliver the wine straight to your door, but they're on hand to answer any questions and offer advice on which bottle is the right one for you. It's such an easy way to make home feel just like a holiday.
Do you like to try new wines when you travel? What have been your best wine experiences when traveling?
*This was a sponsored post but as usual all views are my own.