*This dating in Norfolk post is a collaboration
Okay so a pandemic kinda stood in the way of most of us enjoying any romance in 2020. For those who are single (and might have been ready to mingle) it has sucked to not be able to get out and meet that someone special. But, as with anything, it's taken a little creativity to find ways to keep life going while we wait out the craziness. Being stuck at home or unable to go out doesn't mean you can't meet anyone or explore your options. It just might mean focusing on what's more important for a while. If you're only able to text or message at the moment, or are relying in dating apps – it could be a great test of character. Finally you can easily wheedle out the f***boys and see who can really hold a conversation. So, if you're looking for some quirky date ideas – both online and offline – here's some ways to drum up a little romance.
One of my favourite things about Norfolk is the endless options for getting outside. If they have a dog – even better! Why not go for a socially-distanced walk to spend some time together. It's also a lovely way to combine getting outside in the fresh air with actually seeing someone face-to-face. If you struggle to message all the time, this can really help you to see if the chemistry is real. Bonus points if you take along a picnic, or you could even sneak along a thermos with some mulled wine to get you in the festive spirit.
If you miss dressing up for a date and going out for dinner – this one is perfect for you. Why not take it in turns to choose a virtual dinner date? You can get dressed up as though you're going out, and take it in turns to order food for each other (pick the restaurant – why not support an independent restaurant?). You could even watch a movie together from your own homes and chat all the way through it! Norfolk dating doesn't have to mean going out if tier restrictions stand in your way!
These will be limited at the moment, but that just means you need a bit more creativity! What about an afternoon at crazy golf followed by a "substantial meal" at the pub? Support small local businesses and book something fun that will take your minds off the stresses of 2020. You could even go alpaca trekking, zip-lining or on a seals boat trip if you fancy getting adventurous! Or try an escape room, gin-tasting or visit a brewery!
Check out my blog posts on the best things to do in Norfolk for some ideas:
Normally visiting the cinema wouldn't be very quirky – but Norfolk has some lovely and very bouji cinemas. With several that are independent, it's an important time to support them. But also a great way to spend a cosy, indoor date when the weather outside is frightful. Check out the Majestic and Luxe for festive films, beautiful old buildings and cosy sofas!
If you're looking for a big gesture to impress your date, you could go all out and arrange a hot air balloon ride, a trip on the Norfolk Broads, or try dinner at a luxury country hotel. Everyone deserves a little extra romance after 2020 – so why not go all out? Dating in Norfolk has so many options – whether you're a city slicker or prefer the country air. So most importantly, choose a date that really shows your character.
What are your favourite quirky date ideas? What's the best date you've ever been on?
*This male pattern baldness post is a collaboration
Hair loss can be a hugely debilitating experience for men – and women – to go through. It can happen at various times in our lives due to stress or health reasons such weight loss or iron deficiency. But when it comes to male pattern baldness – it's a hereditary condition that affects men from as early as their 20's. It can affect over half of men to varying degrees, with some losing patches of hair and others ending up bald.
It's recommended that you visit your GP if you suffer from hair loss to get professional advice regarding treatment. Certain products are not suitable for women, so it's important to make sure you are getting the correct treatment. Often those suffering from hair loss will eventually see the hair grow back. But with male pattern baldness this is not the case and men suffering from hair loss for this reason may wish to seek stronger treatment.
Caused by a hereditary trait, it causes up to 95% of male baldness. It is believed to occur because of an excess of a male hormone that affects sensitive hair follicles. You can see the effects move from follicle to follicle which is what causes the "zone" effect where men may experience patches of baldness. This is clearest in those who suffer with a receding hairline or thinning around the crown.
It is a completely natural part of ageing and will not affect your overall health. However, it can affect the mental and emotional health of sufferers who may lose confidence or feel embarrassed at the loss.
There are two types of medication available for those suffering with male pattern baldness – Finasteride and Minoxidil. Finasteride is effective in 90% of men suffering with baldness. It is a treatment that is only suitable for men, and requires one pill daily for 3-6 months in order to see the full effect of the treatment. The product is a non-branded version of Propecia which means it is available to buy online with a prescription for less than 30% of the cost of the branded product which makes it more accessible for customers. The product can cause some side effects such as erectile dysfunction and reduced libido during the course, but this should stop once you stop taking the product. Always check the full list of potential side effects before taking medication, and see your GP if you suffer with any.
These are becoming ever-more popular and accessible and I actually know a few men who have had this procedure. For those who suffer baldness or hair thinning early in life, it can be a great way to boost confidence and that youthful look. It can be an expensive procedure, and I'm told it is painful and takes up to six months for the hair to grow in. But if it gives you that much-needed confidence boost then it is worth every penny.
More men are turning towards this option as having shading tattooed on your head can help to give the illusion of a fuller head of hair. Whilst you won't have the volume, it can mimic the look of a buzz-cut or shaved style. While an uncomfortable procedure, it doesn't leave any scarring. But it can be expensive at £3,000+.
There are many methods you can try to slow hair loss without resorting to more drastic measures. These could include washing hair with warm water and not using hot water on the scalp, also drying gently to protect the hair. It's also important to get eight hours of sleep as this is when growth hormones levels are at their highest.
If you don't want to take drastic steps to deal with your male pattern baldness, perhaps the best option for you is to embrace the bald life and to make it part of your look. After all - there are so many celebrities who rock the hairless look! Check out Samuel L Jackson, Bruce Willis, and Jude Law for inspo.
Do you suffer from male pattern baldness? What has helped you?
If you've ever dreamed of going shopping in Milan, this is the post for you! Milan is a beautiful city full of charm, quaint streets, incredible food, and it is known for fashion, craftsmanship and culinary art. This makes it one of the best shopping destinations in Europe (and somewhere that I really enjoyed visiting for my birthday last year.) With so much to see and do in Milan, those who want to do some shopping definitely want to come prepared. There are certain categories of items that people often focus on for purchases in Milan, and it is worth considering putting in some time to find pieces to go home with that you will love for years to come or perhaps over a lovely meal.
It is no secret that Milan fashion is well-known around the world, and just walking around the streets of Milan, you quickly understand that Milanese women and men just get fashion. So have some fun shopping while in this fashion capital, find some pieces to wear during your time in the city, and bring home some new favorites!
Among the stores to visit, here are a few to make sure to check out:
When it comes to craftsmanship, you will find the attention to detail and quality of products incredibly high coming from Milan. Items that are popular to buy in Milan include delicate china and umbrellas. Yes, umbrellas. The umbrellas made by Francesco Maglia are well-known in Milan. They put incredible detail into rain umbrellas, silk umbrellas, and creative umbrellas that are masterpieces. You’ll find Maglia’s umbrella shop at Scarazzini’s [Corso Genova, 28].
Food is often the first thing that comes to mind when someone thinks of Italy. So bringing home food that will bring you back to the memories of your trip or items for loved ones to experience the delicious Italian food makes for a great purchase in Milan. If you visit during Christmas, you can purchase panettone (a traditional bread loaf/cake) to bring home. Head to Grand Café & Tre Marie for the most traditional panettone available in Milan.
For coffee lovers, bring home a special blend that you loved on your trip. Or for a set gift, head to Moka Hodeidah to pick up a gift box with coffee, biscuits and more. For a little taste of specialty foods, a popular item to bring home is the Peck Gift Box, which includes ham, pasta, olives, cheeses, white truffles and more. Head to Peck, a food hall for incredible food baskets. Just be sure to first check on the restrictions for bringing food and items back to your home country!
With shops all around town, you will surely be able to find some favourites places and pieces. But the shopping arcades such as Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II and the department stores such as La Rinascente can always be your go-to places to find a bit of everything.
Have you visited Milan? Would you like to go shopping there?
*This sustainable jewellery post is a collaboration
This year more than ever has really shone a light on the fast fashion industry. So many of us are waking up to what is really going on to make those jeans, boots and bodysuits we so crave. More importantly, we're starting to realise the impact this has on marginalised people and communities around the world. When we buy a top, it's never "just" a top. With some brands selling clothes for as cheap as 4p over Black Friday weekend. It seems more important than ever that we are asking where exactly our clothes are coming from. But the buck doesn't stop at clothes. Fast fashion is an industry that also encompasses jewellery.
So many of us forget about our jewellery and where it is sourced. Plumping for 3-for-2 deals instead of raising an eyebrow. We need to ask ourselves how we can be getting items for such a cheap price and still pay a fair wage to the person making it. What about the effects the brand has on the environment? Now I hold my hands up and say I'm as guilty as the next person of mindlessly choosing the cheaper option. Over the last few years I've been shopping vintage far more, and I always wear items for years. But one of my New Year's resolutions for 2021 is to really start cracking down on myself and reduce shopping with fast fashion brands. So I thought, why not introduce you to one of the jewellery brands I really admire.
Wolf & Gypsy are a company that aim to empower and heal through jewellery that is created fairly and in a way that protects both the planet, and those involved in the process. I love their quirky and unique style. I've been admiring their products for years so getting the opportunity to work with the brand is amazing. Tori, the brand's founder, handpicks the gemstones used to ensure they perfectly fit each piece and that they are ethically-sourced and conflict free.
I could never find jewellery that I wanted to wear myself which was also high quality and long lasting. So I decided to create my own ‘forever’ jewellery and that’s where my brand, Wolf & Gypsy, was born; ethical and sustainable jewellery made with love. – Tori Shay, Founder
The brand create jewellery with a conscience. They use recycled sterling silver, gold vermeil, 14ct gold to create beautiful pieces that you will treasure for years. If, like me, you love to find more unique pieces of jewellery that tell a story. Wolf & Gypsy is perfect for you. They combine elements and nods to spirituality, culture, travelling and symbolism into each piece. The very name of the brand – Wolf & Gypsy – is derived from Tori's own love of travel and adventure. Which as you guys well know, aligns so perfectly with my own values.
As a member of 1% For The Planet – Wolf & Gypsy put a big focus on being environmentally responsible. The brand cares deeply about the environment which is clear from their use of recycled sterling silver and gold and eco-friendly packaging. They donate a minimum of 1% of annual sales to support environmental non-profit organisations such as WWF-UK, Tree-Nation and Plastic-Free Me. When you purchase a beautiful piece of Wolf & Gypsy jewellery, you know that 1% of the price goes to preserve the environment. So not only are you shopping ethically, but you are actively supporting organisations that are protecting the planet when you buy their jewels.
Priding themselves on being an ethics first brand. Wolf and Gypsy are focused on making positive changes – not just within the brand but within the industry. Their core goal is to create jewellery that has the lowest impact on our planet. While providing fair income for all those involved in their production. With a workforce spread across the UK and India, they enforce quality checks to ensure the products they receive are made from low-impact raw materials. They have a zero-tolerance approach to child labour, forced labour and modern slavery. Instead supporting their workers with more than a living wage. Wolf & Gypsy also provide private health insurance to all permanent staff. They also sponsor their children in education by paying for tuition fees, school uniforms and books. The brand is a gender-equal, non-discriminatory employer and most importantly, they remain entirely transparent about the working conditions and sourcing of products.
If you're shopping for Christmas gifts, why not skip the fast fashion brands this festive season and invest in a timeless piece that supports great causes.
What are your favourite sustainable fashion brands? Which ethical jewellery companies do you recommend?
This is important because it will change the way you are paid and entitle you to different benefits. Basically it means whether you create a company and then pay yourself a salary, or whether people pay you for your services. Make sure you read into both and the tax implications for each. Particularly during furlough, there were restrictions for LTD companies so those unable to work during the pandemic would have struggled.
It's so easy for freelancers to forget that with freedom comes responsibility and that comes in the form of organising your own national insurance and pension contributions. Without your workplace paying into your pension, you will be left to set it up and ensure you're paying into it consistently or you may regret it later. It's also a good idea to research pensions that are specifically designed for freelancers or self-employed people as they may come with specific benefits.
The least fun part of working for yourself – taxes! Everyone who is self-employed and earns over £1,000 per year is required by law to file a self-assessment tax return. Whether you do this yourself, or get an accountant/book-keeper, it is important that you keep records of everything. That means all your income, plus any expenditures, all need to be clearly logged with receipts. Trust me, future you will thank past you for doing it right from the beginning and keeping everything neatly organised.
We all go through big life changes at some point and when that happens, it's always good to be prepared with options for protecting and safely storing our stuff. Over the years, I've moved to and from university, lived in Australia and Germany. So I know a thing or two about stressful moves! But I'm a big believer that stressful situations only need to be stressful if you let them. Being prepared can make a huge difference and so I hope this post will help you to be prepared if you find you need to try self storage.
Moving house can be one of the most stressful experiences to go through, so why not make it easier on yourself? If you're moving to university or to a new home, you may find you have a lot of stuff. But you might not have space for everything in your new home. So why not put your non-essential items into storage? You can choose self storage which will give you access to Now Storage self storage in Reading and this will give you access to a storage container where you can safely store any items or furniture until you need them again. If you're moving into a student house, this can be a great way to downsize your "stuff" until you have space again. For those buying a house, it can be a good way to break up the move by splitting up your stuff.
As a traveller, I'm always limited to my backpack which means I always have stuff that I leave behind. While I'm lucky enough to be able to store my possessions at my family home – not everyone has the space to do this. Instead of paying extra for an apartment or home that you're not using. Why not place your stuff into personal storage? It can be a great way to store the rest of your wardrobe. Or stash any furniture or personal items until you're back in the country. It also means everything is locked and secure, it will also be monitored to prevent theft.
Maybe you're looking to grow your family, or you have a baby on the way. It's amazing how much space a child takes up with all of their toys and necessities. You may find you need to clear out some stuff. But you can't bring yourself to throw things away in case you want them later on. Storage facilities are a good way to clear out and make space in your home. While still holding on to your favourite things for later on.
When you're in the middle of messy building work or start decorating. It can instantly feel like chaos in your home. Suddenly everything is out of place and you can't swing a cat. Don't get me started on the dust created by home improvements. So why not skip the stress by popping your stuff in storage? You can keep it organised and clean until the coast is clear and you can once again fill up your home.
*This sexual harassment post is a collaboration
Travelling solo as a woman is by far the best decision I have ever made, but as with everything in life, there is always a negative side. Sexual harassment towards solo female travellers is something that isn't talked about enough. The Grace Millane case in New Zealand was a shocking wake-up call to mainstream media of the scale of the problem in attitudes towards women. And yet, instead of highlighting the male part in the problem, instead we were seeing huge media outlets publish scaremongering articles advising women not to travel, or to drastically change their behaviour to avoid danger.
Over the years, I've been subject to more than my fair share of unwanted advances, catcalling, proposals and generally gross behaviour. More often than not, you simply shrug it off and try to smile as you walk off, in hopes of not provoking them or encouraging them further. But there are some times when it does become too much, too invasive to your daily life, where you feel threatened or alone. I don't want this post to be yet another scaremongering article that puts the fear into wannabe solo female travellers. Instead, I want it to be a resource, a way for you to boost your confidence knowing you are prepared and have the tools to succeed safely.
Across six years of worldwide travels, it was inevitable that I would have some stories to tell about my experiences of sexual harassment. These really range in the level of aggression. From the easy breezy friendly and well-meaning flirtation of the men of Belize who can't seem to help themselves from flirting outrageously with every woman on the street. But the truth is, they can help themselves. While it didn't bother me too much, I know other women who felt nervous to walk alone. There was the guy who walked up to the bar and put his hand up my skirt in Bulgaria. In Thailand I woke up in the night and rolled over to see the guy in the next bed staring at me. Needless to say I checked out immediately.
Over in Guatemala, a traveller kept following me around a party and leering at me. He eventually pinned me in a corner and tried to kiss me. There was the guy in Romania who tried to follow me to my hotel room. Léon in Nicaragua was by far one of the worst places I have been. Here the men gathered in groups on the street and took up the entire pavement so you had no choice but to squeeze by them or face the busy traffic. They would leer and say disgusting things, sucking their teeth and making kissy noises. It was threatening and intimidating for a woman alone. It made exploring really difficult as I tried to plan a route that would help me avoid them. I think the worst by far was when a man jumped in the back of a tuk tuk in Cambodia with my friend and tried to rape her, she jumped out of a moving vehicle to get away.
Absolutely not! Yes attitudes towards women suck and we need a huge worldwide cultural shift. But even with all of the bad stuff that has happened, I wouldn't change my travels for the world. Travelling solo as a woman was the best decision I ever made. Bad things happen in this world no matter where you are. I've had just as many issues with inappropriate guys, catcalling, unwanted attention and sexual harassment in the UK as I have done abroad. It can be easy to let people put you off. It can be easy to let the media put you off!
Remember we live in a world that creates propaganda around outdated ideas of women staying at home where they belong. It's a method of control and we massively underestimate media pervasiveness and how much it affects the way we see the world. Foreign is always presented as "other" as something dangerous and unknown. But the truth is that when you travel you see only good in the world. For every "bad" person, there are 100 great ones who are kind and friendly and so welcoming. Don't let that 1% ruin your opportunity to travel solo.
I believe that knowledge is power and if you know what to expect, you can prepare for it and protect yourself from it. Gender-based violence comes in many forms. Some of the lesser ones can be precursors to much more aggressive behaviour. Identifying these early can give you the time to leave the situation before things escalate and put you at risk.
Quoting an article by Babbel, ‘violence against women begins with sexist language’. It's a key thing to look out for – anything that demeans you or tries to make you feel inferior or uncomfortable. Gender-based violence in language can include treating you as a possession, degrading you or damaging your self-esteem, and blaming the victim. Gaslighting is a huge problem. This is when someone makes you question your own mind and causes you to feel "crazy". Discriminatory language could include: “you asked for it”, “you’re prettier when you don’t speak”. Or “she wanted it for being dressed like that”, and “no one is going to believe you”. Perhaps guys might suggest sharing a room, comment inappropriately on your physical features or even say “I love (insert your country here) women”. It also includes catcalling – which is something so many women experience on an almost daily basis.
I had a terrible experience with a group trip leader when I was on a press trip! Visiting Romania for an English teaching programme, I was horrified to see the older man's sexist and inappropriate comments towards myself and many other members of the group. He would leer across the table at me and even suggested he put me to bed if I have too much wine.
This covers everything from an "accidental" boob graze to a full assault. Physical advances could be almost unnoticeable if you're walking through a crowd. Or if you're in busy place and someone gropes you, or a passer-by "bumps" into you. Sometimes they might be long gone by the time you even realise what has happened. That doesn't make it any less of an assault. It doesn't make it any less traumatic and it doesn't invalidate your feelings about it. You don't have to have reported an incident for it to have an impact on you.
Any unwanted physical touch is an infringement on you. That could be a guy touching the small of your back to pass you – would he do that to another man? It could be someone brushing your hair out of your face. If you don't want them to touch you, it's wrong. If things escalate further, it could include someone trying to kiss you, assault you, even rape you. But any physical contact can be a form os sexual harassment – the key is whether you wanted them to do that.
I don't know when this became a "thing" but guys, if you're reading, it's annoying and so unnecessary. So many men will attempt to build a fake "relationship" with you to make you feel uncomfortable. Perhaps that is not their intention, but often that is the effect it will have on you. Perhaps it's a random proposal in a bar. Maybe it's guys singing at you as you walk down the street. Or maybe a tout flirting and saying he's "had his eye on you". This singling you out and overloading you with unwanted attention is a childish way of getting your attention without any regard for your personal safety. These guys don't care if you feel intimidated. They don't care if you're an introvert who doesn't want the attention. Or if you have a partner or simply if you just don't want them near you. You don't have to have a reason to not want their advances.
First tip, and the most important one – ignore the crazy number of articles in mainstream media that advise women not to travel solo. Or that tell them to stay in at night, never drink or put themselves at risk in any way.
Confidence is key – but if you don't have it just yet, then the illusion of confidence will work wonders. Walk with your head held high, know where you're going and smile at people. If you look scared, you make yourself more of an easy target.
I will never tell a woman she can't go out at night alone, I do it ALL the time! The key is to do it smartly. Stick to well-lit streets, busier places and always have the option to take a taxi or Uber if needed.
Not only does arriving in darkness make you a huge target, it also colours the way you view a new location. Make it easy on yourself and arrange your travel so you feel safe and confident when you arrive.
I love spontaneous travel but the key to feeling safe and confident – especially when you're new to solo travel – is to research. Always know the distance of journeys, make sure you have a phone SIM and offline maps available. Have a plan for what you will do when you arrive and know the name of a hostel/hotel. Knowledge is power and it gives you the confidence to say no instead of being pressured.
I hate this one because I never feel we should have to change how we dress to detract unwanted attention, but the truth is we do. Dressing appropriately is so important when visiting new countries and cultures. This might mean covering up in more religious countries, but it also includes things like not wearing a bikini unless you're at the beach. Particularly in Asia, I often see people walking the streets in swimwear or even riding scooters. Just remember the country you are in and be respectful of the local people. Some women find it helpful to wear a fake wedding ring – I've never bothered and probably wouldn't bother.
Never be afraid to assert yourself and to be firm when you say no. Remember, you're travelling solo and you don't owe anyone anything. If you feel uncomfortable, just don't be there any longer. Make your excuses and leave, you don't have to explain why. I recommend being polite – I'm not always as I tend to be more blunt about it. But it can help stop things from escalating. If you're in a situation where someone is preventing you from leaving – make noise, scream, attract attention.
Never tell people where you are staying unless you feel happy and confident to do so. If someone is making unwanted advances or leering at you. Avoid the threat of sexual harassment and tell them you are meeting someone. It could be a boyfriend, husband or even a family member/friend. If someone won't let you go in the street, it can be helpful to pretend like you are not alone. For example, if someone is walking towards you on a busy street and giving you unwanted attention. You can wave at a pretend person far behind them, firmly nod, and walk at a brisk pace past them.
If you would like more tips on how to avoid unwanted advances when travelling solo, I have created an eBook called The Solo Female Handbook. It's the best friend every solo female traveller needs. It is packed full of tips and tricks to avoid situations and to empower you no matter where you travel! It’s about giving you the tools to feel safe and confident when travelling solo. Aimed at first-time or wannabe solo female travellers. This book contains every scrap of advice that I’ve learned the hard way. Sharing authentic travel experiences, fears and worries from real women. While providing expert advice for avoiding or coping with sticky situations.
Have you experienced sexual harassment while travelling solo?
*This post is a collaboration.
This post is one for the foodies among us – food is a huge part of the travel experience. Every flavour, every taste contributes to the memories we hold long after the visit is over. Whether we're visiting Thailand, Italy or Mexico – each location prides itself on the unique flavours that they have to offer. But we don't have to go abroad to enjoy amazing food, the UK has such a fantastic culinary scene with so many top chefs and amazing independent restaurants. Whether you're trying out a new bistro, visiting a food market or picking up street food. There's something to inspire all palettes and – most importantly – all budgets.
Britain's favourite tradition is the classic afternoon tea. Tiny sandwiches with smoked salmon, cream cheese and a dash of dill. Fresh scones, warm from the oven with clotted cream and strawberry jam. All washed down with endless cups of tea, or maybe even a glass of bubbles. It makes my tummy rumble just thinking about it. If a classic afternoon tea isn't quite your cup of tea – why not try one of the rather more creative interpretations that put a unique twist on the tradition? Over the years I've tried a Glam Rock inspired afternoon tea and a Peter Rabbit-themed one, but I've heard of lots of other amazing ones.
If you're visiting a new city, a great way to get the full foodie experience is to tour the best food markets. I had a fantastic day out when I took a foodie tour of London Bridge. My sister and I decided to explore some fab local places including the Metropolitan Market and Borough Market. They're some of my favourite places to explore and try new foods – they also have lots of great tasters available.
There are so many amazing ones to choose from across the UK, from those run by the top chefs, to little local bistros and cafés. Do your research before you travel and you could discover some little known gems. I always like to look up popular local haunts and read the restaurant reviews to gauge whether I will enjoy the food. Atmosphere and table service places a huge part in making a place memorable. Don't forget to take a look at the pubs – the UK is the only place where you can have a true pub experience with a roaring fire and hearty home cooking. Some of my favourite local foodie places in Norfolk include Cookie's Crab Shack and The Orange Tree.
There are so many fantastic street food stalls in the UK and this can be a great way to dine out on a budget. If your wallet can't stretch to Michelin stars, it doesn't mean you have to scrimp on flavour. Instead you can get creative by heading to street food parks or even food festivals as I mention below. Check out the ultimate Street Food Guide for the UK here.
Visiting a food festival is the perfect way to spend a day out and to get to try so many different food stalls. These could range from the budget cafes and stands, to stalls for high class restaurants and top chefs. They also often have entertainment such as life cook-alongs, meet the chefs and lots of tasters! I've been lucky enough to go to quite a few across Norfolk. London and at music festivals such as Secret Garden Party. Highly recommend! Check out the best UK food festivals in 2020 here.
*This renting a home post is a collaboration
Renting gets a very bad rep in the UK, and yet with housing prices skyrocketing, we're left with very few options these days for settling down. Gone are the days when we could buy a home in our twenties, now many of us will be lucky if we can ever afford to own our four walls, let alone our dream home. Despite this, it seems that all the more people are focused and worried about saving an extortionate amount of money in order to own a property of their own. I get it, we all have this longing to own a piece of the earth, a place to call our own. But at what cost? How much are we willing to sacrifice to achieve that goal?
I know that no-one wants to deal with a grumpy landlord, and sometimes you just want to be able to put nails in the wall and hang up your picture frames. You may even want to get a dog but have had to hold back because you were renting a home. But while everyone is quick to jump on the bandwagon and slate renting, while desperately trying to scrabble together a deposit. Perhaps we all need to take a breath and realise that there are also huge benefits to renting that are often forgotten. While it may not entirely change your mind about wanting to buy one day, it may help you realise that renting a home can actually be pretty great.
Moving house can be one of the most stressful experiences, even more so if you are buying a property. You have to take into account your budget, moving your entire life and all of it rests on how efficient others can be. You could spent months or even longer than a year waiting to complete or as part of a chain, just waiting with your life on hold. But if you're renting, moving can be quick and easy – it gives you the chance to find joy in your freedom to relocate stress-free and reclaim the experience.
Always wanted to live in a certain part of town but couldn't afford to even dream of buying there? That's true for a lot of people in major cities like London. But renting opens up a world of opportunity to live your dream life and rent a space in the neighbourhood you love. For many cities around the world, renting is the primary choice for residents and while it might not feel as secure as owning, it does give you access to a life you might not otherwise be able to live.
Life rarely goes to plan and sometimes things go wrong – whether that's a leaking water tank, a broken boiler or dodgy electrics. Often we haven't budgeted for these times and it can be a nasty shock to have to pay out hundreds to fix problems at home. But one huge benefit of renting is that your landlord is responsible for fixing these issues. That means no unexpected bills and gives you the security of having back-up when things go wrong.
If you're thinking of buying a property to rent out, it's worth taking these points into consideration and making sure you are offering your tenants a fair deal. It's a good idea to invest in insurance to make sure you are covered for every eventuality, you can compare landlord insurance here.
A lot of rental properties will offer fixed weekly or monthly rents (depending on where you are in the world) and this includes your bills. This can be a great way to enjoy consistent payments that allow you to budget and save because you know exactly what your cost of living is. This can also be a lifesaver if you're prone to long showers and love to have the heating on full whack. While it can sometimes work out cheaper to organise yourself if you're good at living frugally, you also have to take into account the amount of time it takes to organise.
Buying a property comes with it's fair share of unavoidable taxes and extra costs – these can quickly eat away at your bank account. But by renting, you avoid spending the extra and can put it towards the fun things in life.
If you're someone who moves around a lot and you don't have much furniture, you can save further money by renting a place that is furnished or taking on a long-term let of an Airbnb or rental property. If you plan to live abroad, this is a great way to save yourself the cost of furnishing the apartment only to have to sell or ship everything if you leave the country after your let. Likewise, if you already have a lot of furniture, you may be able to save money by choosing an unfurnished place.
When buying a property, you are limited by your budget which may box you into a certain level of quality or space. It may restrict you to certain areas or a particular standard of living. However, renting can give you access to types of properties that would otherwise be totally out of your budget. Much like I mentioned earlier about giving you access to live in nice locations and neighbourhoods. Renting could give you access to live in apartment buildings with access to amenities that you might not have otherwise.
Always remember, as a renter you are legally protected by certain regulations and laws. These give you rights to a certain standard of living and if your landlord is not abiding by these, you have the right to take things further. Obviously no-one wants to be in this situation, but it's good to have that extra level of protection. As a buyer, you are responsible for your own property which can cost you a lot more.
One huge thing that stands in the way of many people buying a house is managing to save up a deposit. It's a huge sum of money that can take years to amass. One big bonus of renting is that the deposit will be much more accessible and quick to save up, usually 1-2 months rent. It is usually refundable at the end of your tenancy as long as the property remains in good condition.
As I mentioned, renting a home – particularly within a complex or apartment building – can be a great way to get access to amenities that you might not otherwise afford. These could include a fitness centre, gym or pool, rooftop terrace, washing facilities, storage and car parking. Access to these facilities are not only a luxury, but they could save you a lot of money each month compared to paying for them individually.
One big concern for homeowners is property value and whether the property retains it's value, or whether it increases, over the years. For those who plan to sell later on and upsize to another property, this can massively affect your budget for the next place you move into. By renting, you avoid the worry over this!
Over the years, your living situation will change with your time or life and relationships. Your budget may change and you may decide to upsize or downsize. Renting a home gives you much more flexibility to do this over a shorter time period with less paperwork and stress. If you own a property, this can be a much more difficult and slow process if you have to sell the place.
If you are paying for home or contents insurance, or you pay for utilities independently, you could end up paying a lot less as a renter. If you are simply insuring your belongings and not the actual property, this could save you a lot of money overall.
One of the key things that needs to change is this negativity that surrounds the idea of renting. Particularly in the current economic climate, it is increasingly difficult to buy and has become a financially nonviable option for many. We need to remove the stigma surrounding renting, because so many of our generation will be forced to remain renters. It's time to change the idea that renting a home is dead money. Yes you might not be investing into ownership, but look at all the benefits you gain from simply renting instead of buying.
We seem to have the understanding that renting is only ever a temporary fix, with the long-term goal always being to buy. But we have this idea in our minds based on our parents and generations that came before us – and as we are well aware, the world has change significantly in the last few years. What was once the way of life is not a realistic goal for many of us now. But there's nothing wrong with choosing a different path, there's certainly nothing wrong with renting a home – it doesn't mean you are settling.
*This guest post is a collaboration
With the ongoing crisis, it is only right that you be kind to yourself! It is easy to forget taking care of yourself, especially with the pressure and anxiety arising from this pandemic. However, don't let this roller coaster of events kill your vibe! A little self-care and self-pampering go a long way in making you feel better. Furthermore, creating a positive aura just for you is essential to keep your serotonin high. Why don't you try a slight U-turn and shower yourself with love?
It gets overwhelming with the uncertainty of this pandemic, but I do consider appreciating myself a goal –and you should opt to take care of yourself too. Besides, coming out of this crisis while staying somewhat sane is the goal! Don't forget to celebrate your little wins, pamper yourself or even pop some champagne. Here are some of the self-compassion tips that might be what you need.
This one of my best self-care activities and you can do more with it. Why not try a house spa? This works perfectly fine even if you don't have a Jacuzzi! Shop for scented candles, light them and take a long hot shower or chill in your bathtub. You can include a pizza night after that. Moreover, setting luxury candles gives a cool ambience to meditate. It is a therapeutic self-care method to unwind your body, especially after a long day. The heavenly scents remind you of the beauty of life amongst all this mess!
Think about chilling on your balcony and catch the morning sunshine while enjoying the fresh morning breeze. Place an order for morning breakfast delivered to you from your favourite restaurant. Rather, have your breakfast in bed treat and bonus if you go for vegetarian desserts. You deserve all the good things in life and getting once a month self-treat is ideal. Food gives comfort, spoiling yourself is healthy. Take a day off and enjoy your time.
Even when you are feeling low, a slight makeover can enhance your esteem. It feels awesome to look good even when you not going out. Look good just for you, take selfies and don't forget to smile. Besides, make yourself a priority, pick on that beauty routine and try new makeup tutorials. Looking good eases your mind and makes you love yourself more and boosts your confidence.
Now that we are staying home, it is nice to have a safe space in your house that brings you peace. Declutter your space and put away any stuff you don't need. Furthermore, consider propping houseplants in the corner spaces. Indoor plants have a way of making a room look beautiful, taking time to work on your interior spaces is good for your wellbeing. Go for flowers they have a way of calming and creating a peaceful aura. Furthermore, you can turn your corner to a self-gallery and display your paintings or your favourite Picasso artworks.
This is the time to consider doing all those facials you didn't have time for! Korean facials are known to be therapeutic and make the skin glow. Besides, Korean masks are known to be used for skincare in various luxurious spas all over the world. Why not try your at-home spa treatment? Order the Korean masks for a good complexion makeover while enjoying your wine. They give the best home treatment for clean, clear skin. It is a fancy way of showing self-compassion!
Who doesn't love flaunting a new handbag? It is a mood brightener and spending a few pennies on self is just perfect. Maybe this time, don't stress on bills by busting the budget because there are so many beautiful, artisanal bags out there! You can check out sites like Mirta, that is a marketplace of Italian handbag brands and other leather goodies from the land of fashion (aka Italy). Furthermore, they come at an affordable price and they are shipped right to your doorstep from Europe! Seriously, this is just a self-treat that will make you fall in love with life and don't miss out on feeling good. Get one for yourself or a loved one.
Cook your favourite pasta and some sweets to share for your roommate, BFF, or yourself! Moreover, a glass of champagne and some sweets is a cosy way of treating yourself. In these stressful times, have a little self-treat to remind you that you matter. Nothing screams self-treat more than a sweet aroma of pasta. Besides, sharing the homemade sweets could be fun and showing love during these tough times can brazen your spirits and uplift your esteem.
Take a step further in practising self-compassion, take day outs for you and pour love into yourself. Inhale the fresh air and clap for yourself through the everyday grind. Little self-treats for your body are things you should constantly consider, even when you struggling, they have a way of making you feel great.
Showing you love, nurtures your soul and life perspective. This has a remarkable positive impact on your mental health. Have at-home relaxation and treat yourself to the best. It is just necessary.
Fancy a trip to Scotland once travel restrictions ease off?
We don’t blame you ̶ this beautiful country’s big blue skies, dramatic mountains, gorgeous glens, bottomless lochs, ancient forests and legendary hospitality offer the perfect tonic after a tough year.
Plus, it’s great for exploring by car and embracing the freedom of independent travel.
Sounds cool? Take a look at the following tips for planning the perfect Scottish road trip.
Scotland offers eclectic urban attractions and amazing countryside packed into one manageable space and the central location and connectivity of its elegant capital Edinburgh make it the ideal launchpad.
With attractions including a castle perched on a dormant volcano, a stunning neoclassical New Town, a fascinating Old Town oozing mystery and intrigue and a buzzing cultural scene, there are a million things to do in Edinburgh.
It’s also a short skip from gorgeous Glasgow with its green spaces and gregarious locals, close to fabulous Fife with its rolling countryside and pretty East Neuk fishing villages, and a few hours from the scenic majesty and Gaelic heritage of the Highlands and Islands.
With a strategic Edinburgh base, Caledonia is your oyster, and a range of diverse road trips are on offer.
For example, if you’re a fan of esoteric historical attractions, take a day trip that includes Rosslyn Chapel, the fascinating and mysterious site which featured in the Da Vinci Code, see the William Wallace Statue in the grounds of the Bemersyde Estate, which celebrates the icon of Scotland’s struggle for independence, and marvel at Melrose Abbey in the Borders, which houses the embalmed heart of King Robert the Bruce, the warrior king who defeated English forces at the Battle of Bannockburn.
But an alternative day trip could include Loch Ness (and some monster spotting!), beautiful Glencoe and Highland Perthshire ̶ the possibilities are endless!
Last but not least, you’ll need to choose a car that you’re comfortable with, which satisfies the demands of your travel group and suits the type of itinerary you’ve got planned.
If you want to save cash and pick from a choice of providers, compare car hire with Enjoy Travel for a vast selection of great rides in Edinburgh and book ahead to bag a bargain. Remember that you drive on the left here (as is the case across the UK) and pick your car carefully ̶ if you’re mainly sticking to city streets, a nippy car like a Fiat 500 is cute and convenient, but if you’re a family with kids heading further afield, a compact SUV like a Kia Stonic might feel more robust.
However, if you’re heading to Scotland with your own mini clan, a people carrier like a Mercedes Vito seats nine people and it’s ideal for a Highland fling!
Follow these basic tips and you’ve got a fab formula for exploring one of the world’s most beautiful countries!
What do you love about Scotland? Share your tips in the comments section!
It's been a hot minute since I wrote a blog post but I thought it was time to bring back the blog, and how better than by sharing the 35 best things to do in Southwold? As we navigate the stresses and worries of Lockdown 2.0, I'm sure a little light escapism to the seaside is just what the doctor orderer. My last day of freedom before Lockdown 2.0 was spent on a day trip down to the Suffolk coast and it was the best day out I could have asked for.
We had been hoping to score a day out down there since last summer but alas, life got in the way. But in spite of this, I actually think it worked out for the better. While in summer Southwold can be very busy, it was so peaceful on a sunny autumnal day and meant we could really enjoy it. It seems that staycations and UK trips are going to be a big thing for 2021. So understandably, you might be looking for a little inspiration for future travels. Don't forget to check out my posts on Norfolk:
After growing up on the Norfolk coast, it's been a real pleasure to create content for you guys to really showcase what the area has to offer. Now I'm happy to be extending that further to the Suffolk coast and hope to explore more in 2021. I know the future of travel is uncertain right now, but it's important to take this time to explore what is right on our doorstep and supporting local businesses. Travel doesn't have to mean far-flung destinations. It can mean travelling an hour down the road to explore a place we've never been before. Read on for all the inspiration for a cute little seaside escape for post-lockdown.
Stroll along the boardwalk to watch the fishermen at the end of the pier, check out the view of the lighthouse and beach huts that Southwold is famous for. Read the many plaques in memory of loved ones and marvel at the memories the pier holds for so many. Check out the crazy mirrors on your way back for a giggle or pick up some gifts in the craft shops.
The author of 1984 and Animal Farm spent time in Southwold in his youth and some amazing artwork has popped up in tribute. Literary buffs can check out the mural and plaque at the pier for quotes and references to his work.
Southwold Lighthouse is rather unusually located in the centre of lots of old cottages and a pub instead of perched on the edge of a cliff. Guiding boats since 1887, you can still visit this working lighthouse and climb up it on selected summer days.
Southwold is well known for the super cute beach huts that line the beaches. Take a wander along and try to guess which ones sell for £250,000. Often beach hut owners will rent out their huts for the day to tourists. It's a great way to add a bit of old fashioned seaside charm to your experience. Suffolk Secrets have lots of gorgeous beach huts to choose from starting from £40.
No day at the seaside is complete without sandy toes, so don't forget to pack your bucket and spade. A beautiful and long beach, it's perfect for dog walks, lazy afternoons or watching the sunset. There's also lots of space in the sand dunes if you prefer somewhere sheltered to sit. Check out The Denes Beach and Walberswick beach.
You can't visit Southwold without trying a local bevvy. Order a pint of Adnams Mosaic or a Copper House G&T for a taste of Suffolk's finest. Brewing in Southwold since 1872, you can head to The Swan to take tours of the Adnams brewery and distillery. One of the best things to do in Southwold, gin-lovers can even make their own juniper blend on-site!
If you love an old English pub as much as I do, you'll love exploring the locals in Southwold. One of the best things to do in Southwold – head for a pub lunch. There's some great places to eat including The Sail Loft – it's right by the beach and has a lovely garden overlooking the marshes, and floor to ceiling windows. Plus the food is amazing and with great deals – highly rate the fish & chips and the beetroot burger with goats cheese!
If you've got a love for all things retro, vintage and second-hand – don't miss Wow Vintage Southwold. It's full of clothing, interiors, accessories, crafts and all the knick-knacks you could ever want. They also have a great selection of vinyl.
If you have a love of all things nautical, you can pay a visit to the Alfred Corry Lifeboat Museum. This fascinating little museum is steeped in history, even the building has a tale to tell. Explore Southwold Museum for a peek into the local and natural history of the area. Or visit the Southwold Sailors Reading Room on the seafront for a peek into the fishing and maritime history.
For a rather bouji movie experience, head to the The Electric Picture Palace which hosts just 70 seats and an organ! The award-winning building shows a wide range of films and you can also become a member.
The town is home to Southwold Model Yacht Club which hosts a range of events throughout the year. Visitors can join in with some including the Southwold Model Yacht Regatta.
Did you know that you can find doppelgangers of a wooden soldier hidden around the town? St Edmund's Church is home to the original 15th century woodwork soldier fondly named Jack. But keep an eye out for his replicas as you walk around the town.
Suffolk is actually home to a lot of alpacas – would you believe it? There is an alpaca farm in Southwold where you can buy alpacas or go alpaca trekking if you're looking for a unique experience. Nearby Lings Meadow campsite also offers alpaca walks.
Why not take the family to explore Southwold Maize Maze? This 8 acre site is a mass of puzzling pathways that will keep you entertained for hours. It has a new theme each year and is open June to September.
Why stop at a day trip when you could stay for a weekend? There are lots of gorgeous old cottages to rent in Southwold. Or you could go off-grid and choose a more unusual and quirky accommodation such as the following:
Visit Southwold Books to pick up your latest read – it's a literary lover's dream! Or discover the treasure trove of homeware at Max Southwold. Wander the high street to explore the boutiques and pick up some unique gifts.
No trip to the seaside is complete without fish & chips. Head to Mrs T's Fish & Chips for the locals' favourite traditional fish & chips freshly cooked to order, or pop over to The Little Fish & Chip Shop for seafront views and a stroll along the prom. And look no further than the SoleBay Fish Company for a family-run fishmongers and restaurant by the harbour. They have the traditional favourites but also a choice of mixed seafood platters, oysters and lobsters.
The sleepy town of Southwold might not seem like the best place to find excitement, but it's here that you will find the Coastal Voyager. An exhilarating high speed boat ride, it's perfect for thrill-seekers and there are event options for boat trips to visit the local seals and wind farm.
Get the whole family involved and explore while joining in Southwold Murder Mystery Treasure Trail. It's a self-guided murder mystery walking trail that's perfect for kids aged six and above. The two mile loop trail takes around two hours to complete and if you solve the mystery, you can be entered into a prize draw of £100.
Whether you fancy yourself as the next Tiger Woods, or can barely hit the ball. Golf fans of all abilities are catered for in Southwold. From mini-golf for the family, to Southwold Golf Club.
Summer days at the beach are the perfect time for an ice cream – head to Beaches and Cream on the seafront. A perfect place to indulge your sweet tooth with ice creams, milkshakes, sweets and snacks.
Southwold is home to The Amber Shop, the only museum in the UK which tells the history and the story of amber. The oldest and largest specialist in Great Britain, you can find a selection of second-hand and antique amber, as well as modern amber. You can pick up souvenirs to take home with you.
Pop over to Southwold Arts Centre for regular shows and live music. Or head back to The Sail Loft, a modern and popular bar by the beach and harbour where they host live music nights. The Red Lion Pub also has live music on a Sunday afternoon.
Southwold Pier has so much more to offer than just a boardwalk. It's home to two restaurants, two cafes, shops, an "under the Pier show" which includes video games and arcades, and the famous water clock. There's lots to see and do, so why not stop for a bit longer?
Founded in 2008 following the success of a series of one-off concerts, Southwold Concert Series welcomes internationally-renowned artists each year. Hosted at St Edmund's Church, the event also welcomes several rising stars to the stage.
The summer brings festival season with Southwold Arts Festival taking place each June. Boasting an eclectic mix of events from poetry and visual arts, to music, talks, theatre and much more. Not your scene? Why not head back to Suffolk for popular music festival – Latitude Festival which takes place in nearby Henham Park each July?
Take in the view of Southwold from the sea as you catch the ferry to Walberswick where there is another lovely beach to explore.
During the summer, Southwold Summer Theatre plays a different show every fortnight. Book tickets before you go to avoid disappointment.
Stretch your legs and take in those sea breezes with a walk along the Suffolk Coast Path. Starting down in Felixstowe and running all the way up to Lowestoft, there's plenty of miles available, or you can just wander a short stint.
Just south of Southwold, you will find the National Trust's Dunwich Heath and Beach. An area of coastal lowland, it sits right next to the RSPB site and both provide a perfect place for a walk.
A 1,000 hectare site that is home to many breeds of bird including the bittern, stone-curlew, marsh harrier, nightjar and nightingale. It's a also a great place to spot other wildlife including deer, lizards and many more.
Delve into history on the Suffolk coast by visiting nearby Dunwich Greyfriars. One of the most important ancient monuments in the county, it's also home to the ruins of a monastery and picturesque woods.
Here you'll find a beautiful lake and huge parklands surrounding the castle where Mary Tudor was proclaimed Queen of England. Take the spectacular wall walk and enjoy breathtaking views from Framlingham Castle.
Nearby Orford is home to English Heritage site, Orford Castle which is a unique polygonal tower that sits right next to the town. There is also a port which was developed by King Henry II. One of the prettiest villages in the county, you'll also find Orford Ness National Nature Reserve nearby.
It's always important to be prepared for all weathers in the UK, even just an hour down the road the weather can change dramatically and there's nothing worse than being caught in the rain without your brolly. If visiting in the summer, it's worth packing the sunscreen, shorts and even your bikini. Yes, it does get hot enough in the UK for my non-UK readers! I never go on a day trip to the seaside without my trusty sarong and Kindle – I love to sit and listen the waves while I read my book. If you're visiting in autumn/winter, make sure to wear a warm jacket. I recommend either trying an insulated or waterproof style that will help to block the wind. It's great for blowing away the cobwebs, but you don't want to get cold when you go for a walk on the beach.
Trespass has a great range of weatherproof clothing including the amazing yellow raincoat I'm wearing in the photos in this post! They gifted me the waterproof jacket to try out and I'm so impressed with the quality. I sized up so I can fit a jumper underneath if needed, as you can see in the photos, and it was so cosy. We were lucky and there was barely any wind the day we visited Southwold, but it's always good to be prepared. I've got a lot of coats and jackets, but this is the only one I own that actually has a hood – so I'm looking forward to trying it out in the rain.
Paired with my trusty wellies, the Shoreline Women’s Lightweight Waterproof Jacket with Hood will be necessary over the winter months if I'm to continue my country walks. I also love the bright sunny yellow, not only does it stand out in a crowd, but it brings a little sunshine to even the dark and rainy days. Particularly in 2020, I think any way we can bring sunshine to our day is a win! If you want to purchase the jacket, you can find it here: https://www.trespass.com/women/jackets/waterproof-jackets
Have you visited Southwold or the Suffolk Coast? Would you like to visit?