*This is a collaboration with United Healthcare Global

With so much of my family still in Mauritius, I've long since wanted to explore more of Africa, and Kenya holidays have been permanently on my bucket list for years! Such an incredible country with so much amazing wildlife, stunning landscapes and beautiful people, who wouldn't love to explore such wild and untamed lands? After exploring countries across Europe, the US and Australia and finding them so manicured in comparison, only Asia has given me a taste of wild jungles and vast open plains in recent years. It's now been over a decade since I visited Mauritius and yes I still remember it like it was yesterday, if anything it has only whet my appetite for more Africa travels in the future. So, as a taste of things to come, here's a little extra post on the important things you need to remember before planning your Kenya holidays.

Kenya is a stunning country boasting 54 national parks, a beautiful coastline and striking mountains, including Mount Elgon and the Aberdare Range.With Kenya becoming more popular by the year, it's a great time to visit this relatively unspoiled country before it becomes a tourist hot spot. With visitor numbers increasing from 37,000 in 2008, to nearly 100,000, it's set to be hugely popular with travelers searching for their next adventure. But, there are a few things you need to bear in mind when planning your trip.

Elephants enjoying the sun

Pic by Ludovic Hirlimann

Health insurance for Kenya holidays

Never travel without health insurance. Trust me, as someone who has been in several serious car accidents while traveling, who has stepped on a sea urchin, face planted the water from an 18m jump and goodness knows what else – you never know when you will need it. Medical care is expensive in other countries – when you've grown up with the NHS, you have no idea how much you have been sheltered from. It is wise to buy comprehensive travel and health insurance to ensure you are covered for all eventualities, particularly if you are planning adventure travel activities that might put you at further risk.

Get your vaccinations before you go

Planning Kenya holidays takes a bit of organisation and time, you will need to get vaccinated before you go to prevent the risk of infection when you travel. Check with the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for an updated list of recommended vaccinations before you travel. The current list for Kenya advises you get immunized against the following: Measles, MMR, Diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis vaccine, Chickenpox, Polio, Flu shot, Pneumonia, Yellow Fever, Hepatitis A, Typhoid, Cholera, Hepatitis B, Malaria, Meningitis, Polio, Rabies.

It is a long list, but you will most likely have already had around six or seven of the vaccines on the list when you were younger. It is worth visiting your doctor to check if you require all of these, any booster jabs, and also how long it will take to get the jabs done. For rabies – needed if you are spending time around livestock or perhaps even on safari – there are several jabs that must be taken over several weeks/months prior to the trip. The rest, all except Yellow Fever, are not obligatory for all travelers. Whether it is wise to have them or not is for you to determine. Your doctor will help you to decide which ones you need. You also need to bear that not getting the right vaccinations may mean that your health insurance will not cover certain illnesses.

*As always, Absolutely Lucy is not a medical professional and cannot advise specific cases – you must speak with your doctor and make the best decision for yourself.

Masai Mara Tribe Women, Kenya

Pic by Dylan Walters

Visas and passports for Kenya holidays

The rules for Kenyan visas vary depending on where you are from. So, you should always check to see what the requirements are for your country. Even if you think you know what the rules are, double-check before booking your ticket. Visa agreements can be updated and changed, at any time. So, you want to be sure that you are working with the latest information, which is available here.

At the time of writing this post, UK citizens require a visa to enter Kenya, this can be organised before traveling or on arrival at the airport. To minimise queuing time, it is advised to get it beforehand by applying for a single entry or transit visa on the evisas website. You can also apply for these, and other types of visa, at the Kenya High Commission in London. For more information, see the website of the Kenya High Commission. Your passport should be valid for a minimum period of 6 months from the date of entry into Kenya. Make sure you have two blank pages in your passport on arrival.

Traveling to other African countries

If you are not sure Kenya holidays are for you, but would still like to visit an African country there are plenty of other options. If you want to do a little more research to find which country is the most appealing to you, check out Spirited Pursuit's blog for in-depth articles that tell you everything you need to know including general travel tips for Africa. Her blog is more than just information about traveling Africa, she tells a story of African life and the true beauty of the continent.

Have you been to Africa – which countries have you visited? What parts of Africa are on your bucket list?

Absolutely Lucy sign off

It's been over four years since I first visited this amazing island, but Koh Lanta still remains my favourite part of Thailand. This amazing place stole my heart at the beginning of my solo travels and just a few weeks ago, I was lucky enough to return and take my parents on their first visit to Asia. It was such a lovely experience to finally show them where I started my solo traveling adventure, for them to finally see why I had raved so much about the country. There's something about Thailand that holds a certain magic for me, and for so many others who have visited. The land of the smiles welcomes you with open arms whether it's your first, third, or thirtieth visit, and each time has a whole new experience awaiting you.

Why visit Koh Lanta?

For those who don't know, Koh Lanta is one of the most south-westerly islands dotted around the bottom of the country. Just 60-90 minutes ferry ride from neighbouring party island, Koh Phi Phi, and a 2.5 hour minibus ride from Krabi Airport – it's easily accessible. And yet, so few travelers seem to make it down here, even during peak season, Koh Lanta always remains somewhat quieter than the other islands. Herein lies the island's charm – expect only those who really want to be there and none of the party vibes of the other islands. If you're the kind of traveler who craves buckets and full moon parties, save yourself the journey. But if you're interested in beautiful nature, peace and quiet, gorgeous deserted beaches and an endless supply of fresh coconuts – this will be right up your street.

Koh Lanta National Park

25 best things to do in Koh Lanta

Stay in a beachfront bungalow

One of my favourite traveling experiences will always be going to sleep and waking up to the sound of the waves outside my little beach hut. Constant sandy toes and salty hair that smelt like the ocean and that first feeling of real freedom. I can't recommend it enough – I stayed in both Lanta Palm Beach Resort and Blue Wave Koh Lanta (which doesn't have a website but is great if you fancy just turning up!) Both times I had a bungalow overlooking the ocean for budget-friendly prices whether you're backpacking or on holiday.

Eat authentic local food

The food on Koh Lanta is fantastic with such a broad range to suit all tastes, but don't forget to indulge your taste-buds with some real, authentic Thai food. It doesn't always have to be sunset bars on the beach, you'll actually find the best local food at the restaurants on the main streets. Check out Green Restaurant and Krua Kritsana Restaurant on the main road behind Long Beach for true Thai flavour.

Spend your nights at the reggae bars

When I first went to Koh Lanta, I actually stayed in a little hut by a reggae bar (Blue Wave Ko Lanta) and it was amazing. The people who ran the place were the best, the music was perfection for beach life and I don't think I've ever felt so relaxed in my life. The island is littered with reggae bars that will give you the full island life experience.

Absolutely Lucy and lighthouse view

Take a boat trip

If you fancy testing your sea legs, how better to explore the area than with a boat trip? There are two main boat trips from Koh Lanta – the 4 Islands and Koh Rok. Both involve snorkeling and a full day of activities but if you only have time for one, I would recommend the 4 Islands. It takes you to four different island stops, the first a paradise beach, followed by a snorkeling spot, these followed by lunch on another beautiful island with more snorkeling, and a final stop at the Emerald Cave where you swim through a dark cave to find a secret beach. The official price is 1500bt per adult but if you barter with the travel agents, you can get the price down as low as 1000bt (£24 per person). These prices are for the Pattesia Speedboat Tour.

Other boat trips available from Koh Lanta include Koh Rok which involves several snorkeling spots and lunch. Or head to Phi Phi and Bamboo Island for a trip with several other snorkeling spots including the famous Maya Bay (The Beach). Speak to a travel agent to find out about the various options, including longtail boat vs speedboat, and current pricing.

Koh Lanta National Park

Don't make the mistake of going to Koh Lanta and not visiting the National Park. It's a stunning southerly tip of the island that is well worth the drive for an afternoon exploring, walking up to the lighthouse, enjoying the beach, monkey-spotting and jungle walks. If you fancy a little day-trip but don't want to go on a boat tour, this is a great way to explore the island at your own pace. It costs 300bt (£7) per person and a small amount for the vehicle to enter the national park, tuk tuks can't drive here due to the roads but to hire a taxi and driver for the day will cost you between 1000-1500bt (£25-30) depending on where you are staying. (All pics in post taken at National Park)


Go snorkeling or diving

With the shallow waters surrounding the Thai islands and endless coral, tropical fish and amazing underwater scenes, it's a great place to snorkel or learn to dive. There are dive schools everywhere, so if you're interested in learning, just ask at your hotel or at a nearby travel agent to find out what is available.

Horse riding on the beach

Close by where we stayed there were riding stables with some beautiful horses that were available for riding on the beach. If you love horse riding, what better place to do it than on the beach at sunset?

Visit Koh Lanta old town

Step back in time when you visit Lanta Old Town and get a taste of what life was like with the traditional Thai houses and beautiful streets. This is a great place to spend the afternoon shopping and dining by the water.

Absolutely Lucy cartwheel beach

Sunset cocktails on the beach

On the west coast of the island, there are countless sunset bars worth checking out. Two I can recommend are Sans Sunset Bar (Long Beach) which has a perfect view of the sunset, half price cocktails at happy hour and amazing food (try the hot plates!) plus a fire show every night. Down in Relax Bay, there is Fusion Bar which has cocktails and a great fire show every night.

Check out the markets

From the night markets at Walking Street with an abundance of food, clothes and gifts to buy, to the more authentic weekend markets near Long Beach. There's plenty to choose from if you fancy picking up presents or even just some delicious fresh fruit.

Enjoy live music every evening

A lot of the local bars have live music in the evenings – it's worth looking out for signs as you drive around. I recommend Irie Restaurant and Bar for evening entertainment and good cocktails.

View of the bay

Watch or train in Muay Thai

There's only one gym on the island, but 2/3 places where you can go and watch Muay Thai live. If you're into it, or fancy doing something different, you can book tickets to go and see a live match or even book in for a training session. This was one of my favourite things I did when I was first traveling Thailand.

Hire a scooter and explore Koh Lanta

Koh Lanta is the perfect place to learn to ride a scooter, the roads are quite and big so a lot less intimidating than other parts of the country. There are so many tiny deserted beaches to explore and beautiful spots to find. Taxi and tuk tuk costs can quickly add up, so this is definitely a place where I recommend getting a scooter.

Visit the waterfalls and caves

The island has a waterfall, a viewpoint and two caves – the Tiger Cave and Mai Kaeo Cave – to explore. But be careful to do your research before you go – the waterfall is beautiful but completely dries up in dry season! Ask the locals to know if it's worth a visit.

National Park

Get a massage on the beach

My favourite massage of all time was still the first one I had in Koh Lanta – the sun was setting over the ocean as the smell of coconut oil mixed with the warm breeze. True paradise. Get a beach massage, you won't regret it.

Eat amazing vegetarian and vegan food

I was so impressed to return to Koh Lanta and find some incredible vegan and vegetarian restaurants – it can be difficult to find a range of vegan food when you travel but Koh Lanta has it down to a tee! I'll be writing a full blog post on the best vegan/veggie and general restaurant guide to the island so watch out for that!

Relax on the beaches

My favourite beach is without doubt Long Beach – after visiting a lot of beaches around the island it's the best place to stay with great access to all other areas. The beach is huge so it never feels crowded and it has the best sunset views of the island. Definitely get out and explore the other beaches and areas, but it's lovely to stay at Long Beach.

Hermit Crab

Support a good cause

Koh Lanta has the cutest, friendliest animals from beach dogs to kittens that come to make friends in the streets. If you're an animal over like me, it's bliss to make so many animal friends during your trip. If you watn to go one step further, visit Lanta Animal Welfare to meet the animals, cuddle the kittys, walk the dogs and help out.

DON'T do elephant trekking

I'm sad to see that despite it being over four years since my first visit, Koh Lanta still offers an elephant trekking trip. While it's easy to want to do all the trips and to see these amazing creatures – remember to travel responsibly. If we continue to spend money on these things, they were continue to be an industry. Vote with your money and actively choose not to take part in riding elephants during your trip.

Take a boat to Malaysia

I was amazed to realise that you can actually visit Malaysian island Langkawi from Koh Lanta. It does take around 8 hours for the boat there, but the island is meant to be beautiful and great for snorkeling and diving.

Koh Lanta National Park

Join a beach clean-up

I was so happy to see a real change in environmental attitudes in Thailand and this is clear from the signs warning against use of single use plastics, and those advertising beach clean ups! If you want to help support sustainability on the island, join the Sunday beach clean-ups.

Celebrate Songkran or other Thai festivals

I was lucky enough to be in Thailand during Songkran and I can tell you that it was epic! Even in Koh Lanta, spirits are high as the main street fills with people with water guns, buckets, hoses and determined to soak you! Always check before you travel if there are any celebrations taking place during your stay.

Sunrise or sunset yoga

What a perfect way to start and end your day – with yoga on the beach, overlooking the ocean.

Absolutely Lucy lighthouse view

Watch a fire show

So many of the beach bars host fire shows in the evenings, you'll be spoiled for choice! Again, look for the signs to find out the times and check out a few different ones during your trip – there are so many wacky, crazy and spectacular ones to see!

Get to know the locals and practice your Thai

The locals in Koh Lanta are so friendly and welcoming, they're always keen for a chat and to get to know you. Take the time to talk with them, practice your Thai and ask about their culture – trust me, you'll get a whole new experience.

Have you been to Koh Lanta – what was your favourite thing to do? Would you like to visit Thailand?

Absolutely Lucy sign off

There's nothing like planning your next big road trip and the last few years have given me a real taste for the open road. Last summer saw me working to convert a van into an awesome camper for an epic three week road trip around Europe and while I've shared a few posts on where we visited, I wanted to explain the route we chose. It can be so intimidating to plan a big trip, especially when you have to think about camping spots, food, fuel and lots of other factors. But honestly, taking a road trip is one of my favourite ways to travel and it's super cost effective if you're traveling on a budget. I've taken road trips all over the world and I've found it to be one of the most fun, and affordable, ways to travel.

When it comes to traveling Europe, it's a perfect way to explore when so many countries are so easily accessible. At the time of my trip, I was living in Germany, so it seemed a perfect opportunity to take our van on an epic trip to lots of new countries and cities we had never visited before. We wanted to choose a blend of city and countryside, of lakes and mountains, to ensure we had the best possible experience. It still remains one of the best road trips I've ever done and I can't recommend the route we took enough. We ended up traveling just under 3,600km in a loop through Germany, Czech Republic, Austria, Liechtenstein and Switzerland, even spending a night in France along the way.

Road Trip Austria/Switzerland

Our three week road trip itinerary

Hamburg – Saxon Switzerland National Park – Dresden – Prague (800km, 3 days)

This stretch was one of my favourites but also included a lot of driving. We drove seven hours overnight from Hamburg to Saxon Switzerland National Park and arrived there for sunrise, after a kip in the van, we headed out exploring and spent a day in the park. We found a place to park up for the night and slept at the park, before spending some time hiking and exploring. Once we had seen everything, we headed to Dresden. An afternoon was a perfect amount of time to see all the sights in Dresden and to catch some afternoon sunshine before driving to Prague.

Prague – Vienna – Attersee – Salzburg – (830km, 4 days)

We spent a full and busy day exploring Prague and while we could have easily spent longer there, it was enough time to see the sights and enjoy the city. We spent another night at a campsite just south of the city, but enjoyed cocktails with friends who were also visiting there. The next day, we took a lazy drive to Vienna, stopping off to see some sights in the Czech countryside. Then we spent the next day walking around beautiful Vienna in the sunshine and gorging ourselves on Viennese desserts and pastries. After a lazy afternoon by the river, we hit the road and arrived late at night in Attersee where we camped out by a lake and spent much of the next day sunbathing and picnicking by the water. A slow afternoon drive to Salzburg to check out the city before heading on to Munich.

Munich – Zugspitze – Neuschwanstein Castle (210km, 5 days)

It was a packed itinerary until now, but our goal was to get to Munich where we were visiting family and had a place to stay for a few days. Cue parking up the van and heading out on bikes exploring the city of Munich from the gardens and the architecture, to the breweries and food markets. After that, we headed on our way towards the border of Germany, Austria and Switzerland where the mountain ranges stood, and we visited Zugspitze. Taking cable cars up into the mountains where there was snow at the top, but it was 30 degrees down at the base. We spent an afternoon there before camping for the night and heading the next morning to Neuschwanstein Castle – best to get here early to beat the crowds.

Road trip in Liechtenstein, mountain view

Neuschwanstein Castle – Liechtenstein – Zurich (350km, 3 days)

Leaving behind the beautiful castle, it was time to take an unplanned detour through Liechtenstein which turned out to be the best part of our trip! A tiny country and easy to road trip in a day, it's perfect to add to your itinerary. We drove to Vaduz and then through the winding mountain roads (read about our day in Liechtenstein here). Then we headed on to Zurich where we spent an afternoon walking the lakes and city, trying delicious hot chocolate and cheese fondue.

Zurich – Basel – France – Black Forest – Frankfurt – Hamburg (1070km, 4 days)

From Zurich, it was a few hours to Basel and well worth planning this charming city into your trip. Plus you can easily head over the border and into France from here, we actually spent a night in France on our trip. Just a few hours is plenty to see Basel and indulge in a few treats from the various chocolate shops around. We camped for the night at a beautiful lakeside campsite – definitely look out for these and try to book in advance as they get very booked up during the summer months. The next day, after a few hours by the lake, we drove to the Black Forest where we headed to Triberg for the waterfalls and some Black Forest Gateaux. We spent the night camping at another lovely campsite before starting our drive to Frankfurt the next day, taking a slow drive and stopping off at lakes to swim along the way. Our final day was spent driving the long stretch back up to Hamburg – this could easily be broken up by stopping along the Fairytale Road to see castles along the way.

Road Trip liechtenstein

How can this road trip itinerary work for you?

The beauty of this road trip itinerary is that it can so easily be changed and modified to suit you. In our case, we had a fast paced journey at the beginning with lots of driving so we could spend more time relaxing in southern Germany. But you could easily spend more time in Prague and Vienna, and spend just a day or two in Munich before heading to Switzerland. You could even skip one of the countries to spend more time in the ones that you're most excited to explore.

The beauty of a road trip is that the world is your oyster, you can chop and change your route, you can plan it out completely, you can make it up as you go along. It's up to you! We planned out a lot of our route before we went, we had names saved for campsites just in case, but we also changed a lot of our route along the way. We ended up staying at totally different campsites, we even sneakily free camped in a few spots, and we added in a few extra places along the way.

If you fancy combining the open road with a boat holiday or yacht charter, you could extend your trip and book Zizoo boat rental across several European destinations, including Croatia, Greece, Spain, France, Italy and many more. It could be the perfect way to take a break from driving, while still enjoying a relaxing holiday.

Van by lake, Absolutely Lucy

What do you need to know for this route?

For those who work while traveling and require safe browsing whether they're on the road, or staying in hotels, I'd suggest using a virtual private network (VPN). Nobody wants their banking info or credit card numbers to get stolen by hackers when they're on holiday, so protect yourself against risk. For more information about how VPNs work and which one is the best one for you, check out this beginner's guide: https://proprivacy.com/

Have you been on a road trip around Europe? Which countries would you like to visit? What are your best road trip tips?

Absolutely Lucy sign off

Life after travelling is a big topic – because everyone talks about how amazing travelling is and how much it changes you as a person. But what happens when you come home? What happens when every fibre of your soul feels different, but everything about home feels unchanged? It's no wonder so many travelers end up traveling again when adapting to life at home is so tricky. But it doesn't have to be.

This is yet another hotly requested post and one I've been meaning to write for a long time. It's one I've had in my drafts folder for years but have struggled to find the words until now. But in my 4-5 years of full time travel, I've fluctuated between being on the road constantly, to moving abroad and setting up a new home, to moving back to my hometown with potentially no future travel plans. It's been a real yo-yo of a few years and I've loved every second, but there's no denying that coming home is always a bittersweet experience.

Absolutely Lucy Life After Travelling

How does it feel to come home after traveling?

Don't get me wrong – I love coming home and I am blessed to live in a beautiful part of the world and to have amazing people to come home to. But it doesn't matter how great your set-up is, it doesn't make you immune from the extreme feelings of displacement you feel when stepping back into your old life. Because at some point, the novelty and excitement of being home will wear off and normality will kick in. Suddenly you're faced with the realisation that actually, life did go on without you, people did continue living their lives and start moving on.

Despite this, everything about your life at home feels unchanged. It feels like stepping into a time capsule of your own life, as though you hit pause but somehow you kept on living. It's hard to come home and feel like your very soul has shifted, and yet to feel like you've stepped straight back to square one. It's easy to be surrounded by supportive friends and family and yet feel incredibly alone. To feel that no-one understands this enormous event that just took place in your life, that they treat you just the same as before.

And yes, I'm well aware that this could sound like incredibly entitled Gap Yah wanker rubbish – but knowing how much travel has changed me as a person, I don't see how anyone can invalidate these feelings. If anything, it's important to acknowledge them and to deal with them if you are ever going to overcome them. It's normal to feel the anti-climax after traveling, it's normal to feel waves of joy to be home, and at times to hate it with every fibre of your being. It's normal to feel lonely and isolated, it's normal to question why you stopped traveling, and it's normal to want to run away and travel forever. For some that is an option, but for most it is not.

Absolutely Lucy Norfolk

The five stages of life after travelling

For those who are finishing travelling or struggling with being home – I've created this cute little infographic that I feel really sums up the five stages of adjusting to life after travelling. You may not experience the process in this order, you may not experience all of these stages. But much like a break-up or the end of any major part of your life, it's okay to treat it a bit like a grieving process you have to go through. And most importantly – I want to stress that it's okay to not be okay.

Absolutely Lucy infographic life after travelling


Top tips for adjusting to life after travelling

Don't try to slip back into your pre-travelling life

Whatever you do, don't try and squeeze your new self into the life you had before travelling. It's like trying to squeeze a square block into a round hole – it's never going to work. Acknowledge that you have changed and that's okay. Realise your life before was small and you've grown beyond it. Don't go back to the same job, don't live in the same place, don't do the same things. You might enjoy the comfort of this in the short term, but before long you'll feel trapped or left behind and you'll just want to run away and travel again.

Remember that life has gone on without you

The world doesn't revolve around you. Your friends and family moved on while you were away and got new jobs, bought houses, got married, had babies. Their lives changed and their new lives might not have as much space for you. You have to respect this and not be petulant about it, don't feel hard done by. Instead, change your attitude and realise you have to make strides in order to catch up.

Invest in your friendships & relationships

This one is so important – realise that while you were away you might have neglected friendships and relationships. It happens, don't feel bad, but use the time you are home to make sure everyone around you feels so valued and loved. Be there for them and support them as you couldn't when you were in a different timezone. Feel like everyone has forgotten you? They might have become used to not being able to reach you – you might have to be the person to reach out first if things are going to change.

Absolutely Lucy Walsingham

Keep the travelling magic and spontaneity in your life

Remember how fun it was to constantly be seeing new places and meeting new people? Variety is the spice of life and just because you're home, it doesn't mean that excitement for life will disappear. If you want to stop the boredom of life at home creeping in after all your adventures – the best cure is to make life at home an adventure! Make your life spontaneous by stepping outside your comfort zone, do different things, join groups, get hobbies, meet new people. Don't spend all your time in the same routine you had before traveling – it's a recipe for disaster. Make a new routine that has huge blank spaces in it where you just go out and have adventures, meet new souls, and connect with home like you connected with every new destination on your travels.

Find a place of your own & stay independent

After travelling, you may not have the money to go out and get your own place or immediately start a new life. You may even crave the comfort of home. There is nothing wrong with crashing in your old bedroom at your parent's place (if they'll have you) but this is not a long-term solution. Trust me, it can be pretty depressing to try and cram your new, grown self back in your teenage bedroom. After being so independent for so long, coming back to a world where you parents want to look after you can seem strange. So take control of the situation – stay independent! Whether that means doing all your own cooking and laundry, or it means saving a deposit for your own place, or even moving into a house-share with friends. You have options and you have to choose the one that is right for you.

Make a plan for the future & build a new life

Just because traveling is over, it doesn't mean your life is. After all, this post is about adjusting to life after travelling! If I can advise you of one thing when you get home – it's to make two lists. Make one list of all the amazing things you saw/did during your time away, all the achievements along the way. This one will remind you when you're feeling low that you have done something incredible and you should be proud. The second list should be all your goals, hopes for the future and how you plan to achieve them. Making a plan for the future – from short-term goals like unpack your backpack and get a job, to longer-term goals like buy a house or get a new car. What you're doing here is setting your intentions to not just "adjust" to your old life, but to "build" a new life worth sticking around for.

Absolutely Lucy Snowdrops

It doesn't matter if you were travelling for three months or three years – if you're struggling to adjust to life at home, try out these tips to help you take back control of your life. Don't feel alone, it's a topic that often isn't talked about because no-one wants to deal with the harder sides of traveling. It's not all dream Insta filters and sun-kissed bodies – sometimes travelling is bloody hard both when it's going on, and after. But as ever, it doesn't matter how hard the situation – what matters is how YOU choose to deal with it. Don't wallow and live in your memories, instead build a future you're excited for and start creating new memories.

How did you cope with coming home after travelling? What helped you settle in at home?

Absolutely Lucy sign off

With the blogging industry still finding its feet, so many seem to feel a bit lost when it comes to pitching to brands and setting your blogging rates. After a lot of chatter across Twitter and Instagram, I had a lot of requests to put together this post based on my own experiences. After nearly five years in the industry, I've learnt a lot and while it's a never-ending learning curve. It's good to know I can pass on what I've learned to those just starting out. Community is such a big part of why I love the blogger industry because I never would have become a blogger in the first place without huge support from friends I made along the way.

My experience of working with brands

I've been extremely lucky during my time blogging and have had the opportunity to work with some amazing brands. I came from a journalistic background and having already worked freelance, I knew the value of my work early on and was confident setting my rates from the beginning. I want to stress the fact that despite all the amazing opportunities that come my way, I still turn down around half of what is offered purely because it doesn't align with my blog, my audience and my own brand.

During my nearly five years of blogging, I've worked with brands in the UK, Europe, across Asia and Australia. I've had some amazing freebies including free accommodation in hostels, budget hotels and even luxury 5* resorts. I've had hot air balloon rides, jungle safaris, boat trips, culture visits, walking tours and dining experiences. But most importantly, I've been paid for featuring brands on my blog and social media – from sponsored posts and photography, to social posts and even creating content for brand websites.

Some of these amazing opportunities have been offered to me, but the majority of them have come out of my pitching to brands and showing them what I can do. By knowing how to market my skills and my own brand, I have created some incredible opportunities that hadn't previously existed. Now I'm not the biggest blogger in the world, not by a long shot, but I want this post to show you that no matter what size your following, your blog has so much potential. All you need is an engaged audience and a little bit of confidence to ask the question.

Absolutely Lucy pitching to brands

When can you start working with brands?

You can start working with brands from day one! There is no right or wrong, there are no rules. I was working with brands within a few months of starting blogging and I earned my first paycheck within less than a year of blogging – I could have probably done it earlier! I would recommend having a self-hosted blog and having a few thousand followers across your social media channels before starting to reach out to brands. But if you can prove to brands that you have an audience who will engage with your content - and with their product - then there is no reason you can't get work.

Gifted vs. Ad – A bit of clarification

When you are a new blogger - as your audience picks up, you will start to get contacted by brands who might want to gift you products in exchange for content. This will often start to happen before you get paid (ad) work from brands and can seem super exciting at first - who doesn't love a freebie! But it's important to keep some perspective when it comes to Ad and Gifting – only accept those that align with your own brand.

To clarify for new or non-bloggers – gifted products are given to influencers usually with the expectation of some coverage across your channels but no payment. Ad is used on campaigns when the influencer has been paid to create sponsored content. Sometimes you will work on both gifting and payment basis, sometimes brands will expect a lot and will not offer a fair pay/gift for the amount of work involved. It's up you to set your own rates. Read the full ASA Influencer Guidelines here.

Knowing your market and picking your campaigns wisely

Before you even consider pitching to brands, it's worth sitting down and making a plan. First, ask yourself what your niche (genre) is – for example, Absolutely Lucy is solo female adventure travel – and what your target audience is. My blog is aimed at 20-35 year old women who want to travel solo and prefer adventurous travel/budget travel – so I will only pitch to brands that align with this audience. I also have a big focus on sustainable travel/living and health and wellness – so I would focus on brands that support these values.

It can be really valuable to make a list of 10-15 brands that do align with your values and would be total goals to work with. Whether they're attainable right now or far beyond reach, setting up your parameters for blog work is essential if you're going to get the most out of your collaborations. By focusing on specific brands instead of targeting all of them, you can really show the brands more of a personal and individual approach which often leads to long-term relationships.

Absolutely Lucy pitching to brands

How do you pitch to brands?

Pitching to brands takes confidence, and it takes planning. But there is absolutely no reason why every blogger out there can't be doing it. I'm certainly no expert, I'm just sharing what has worked for me because I believe there is space for all of us in this industry. Here is my checklist for how to pitch a brand:

  1. Do your research and know the brand, and their values. It's important to be able to show them why you want to work with them.
  2. Draft a template for a pitch email – this won't be the one you send out but it's worth having a model style you are happy with which you can adapt and edit to suit each individual pitch.
  3. Have an awesome media kit! I'll cover this a lot more in the next section but this is a huge part of securing great collaborations!
  4. Choose your pitch style – sometimes you can pitch by sending an introduction email asking if they have opportunities available. But it's far better to pitch with a specific idea, or even several, when contacting a company. It shows your creativity and confidence which is what sells you to the brand.
  5. Track down the PR's email address - if you can't find it, try tweeting the brand to ask for it and establish a conversation early, or email the press contact.
  6. Put together your final pitch – this should introduce yourself and your blog, should talk about why you love the brand and how you feel they align with your own values. Then pitch your ideas and always attach your media kit. Make sure your email is perfect - no mistakes - and always be polite and friendly.
  7. If you get it - AMAZING! If you don't, always reply thanking them for their time and asking to be considered for future opportunities. I've had no's that have become yes' a few months down the line!

Absolutely Lucy pitching to brands

Creating an awesome media kit

This is SUCH an important factor in you succeeding at pitching brands and getting your dream collaborations. I remember when I first created my media kit. I didn't have a clue where to start so muddled something together. I've actually just given my media kit it's most recent makeover and I've never felt prouder of it. Your media kit is like your portfolio - a snapshot glance at what your blog is about. It tells a brand who you are, about your values, stats and engagement. And what both brands and your readers think of your blog. It's invaluable when contacting brands. If I can recommend you do one thing, it's spend time curating a media kit you are proud to send out.

Two top tips for creating a great media kit:

  1. Use Canva – it's free and amazing for creating great graphic design when you have very little skill in this area. There are lots of awesome templates already available and it's very easy to use.
  2. Read this amazing blog post by The Travelista - it taught me so much about what a media kit should include and how to create the best one you can.

Make sure your media kit is styled to represent your blog. Mine is colourful and showcases my photography. Always write a personal section about why you love blogging and creating. Include your important stats – social media following across channels, unique monthly users, DA. Plus it's worth putting a breakdown of male/female, age, location of your audience. I include a logo section of the top brands I have worked with previously. Followed by a testimonials section with comments from brands on why they loved working with me. Then testimonials from readers about how my blog has helped them.

Absolutely Lucy pitching to brands

Setting your blogging/influencer rates

Now this is the tricky one because everyone's rates and standards are different. But if there's one thing this industry really needs, is a clearer idea of what is fair. So many bloggers are seriously undercharging, or worse still, not charging at all for their services. I want to make it clear here and now. If a brand is gifting you a product or experience in exchange for featuring on your blog or social media you have a right to ask for payment. The question then arises – how much payment can you ask for?

This depends on a lot of factors. How much coverage the brand are asking for – whether just words, images, social media posting, whether a link is involved. The brand will take into account your blog following, your social media stats, your engagement, DA. As well as various other stats to measure your reach and influence. It's important to know your worth in terms of stats. Have your media kit ready to prove it – and to be ready to stick to your guns. A sponsored post could range anywhere from £50-500 and beyond depending on the size of your following. You could even be paid for reviews and writing articles and features for brand websites. You could charge for social posts, links, basically anything where you are featuring a brand.

Absolutely Lucy pitching to brands

Don't be fooled by low-paying "PRs"

Be aware there are a lot of dodgy "prs" or "seo outreach" workers. They may contact you offering terribly low amounts in exchange for links etc – they might offer £20-30 a post. You have to set your own worth because there will always be someone trying to undercharge you. I personally refuse to work for this low an amount – why? Because I have to take into account the time spent writing and creating a post. The time spent on photography, the money spent on equipment. The time spent building my blog following and social media presence. That is worth something and it took a bloody lot of time and hard work. Working for the lowest rates going doesn't pay my bills. It doesn't satisfy my own mind when I know how much my work is worth.

Stick to your guns and know your worth

Don't be afraid to turn down work because they offer too low a price for your standards. Brands always have a budget, they just have to decide where they want to spend it. Last month I turned down a job because it paid too low and this month the same company came back and met my price. If you don't set and stick to your rates, you'll never get paid your rates. Remember, for each time a blogger works for free, a brand will refuse to pay another blogger for the next job. Everything we do in the industry has a knock-on effect. We all have a duty to push the industry towards fair payment for all.

How did I set my rates?

Honestly? Trial and error. I was lucky and knew a bit from freelancing for newspapers. But I still had to figure it out on my own. Speak to blogger friends with the same size following to get an idea of what they ask for. Set a guideline rate and then add 10-20%. I always ask for a bit more than I will settle at so there is room to negotiate. This gives space to find a price that works for both the brand and myself. Remember, you have to get it wrong a few times to figure out your own standard. But practice makes perfect and the only way to learn, is by trying!

What are your top tips for pitching to brands? How did you set your rates?

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