Change. It's a big word, it can be terrifying but it can also lead us to some of the most transformative times of our lives. Before I get started, let me be clear, this is not one of those New Year New Me posts. Instead, I want this to be an honest life update on why my life has completely changed in the last few weeks and why I want 2019 to be all about chasing happiness.
It seems apt that I'm writing this on the four year anniversary of when I first started my solo traveling journey around the world and one of the happiest times of my life. It's a strange feeling when you're finding inspiration from the person you used to be, but if there's anything I want to aspire towards right now, it's being the real Lucy once again.
I can honestly say, I have never worked as as hard as I have in the last year. Sacrificing travel for a new home and life in a new country, a new job, a new language, the list goes on. It was a year of huge changes and ones that I was really excited to throw myself into. After a few months of saving, I moved to Hamburg and started setting myself up in the new life I had been waiting for. It wasn't easy, but I did it, I didn't just survive, I thrived as best I could. Finding a great job, friends and even amazing blogging opportunities.
My Hamburg adventure has now come to an end, for many reasons. It's a place that I have loved and hated in equal measure, but I will always be proud that I made a life there. There are some times when you have to take a good look around you, and if you're not happy, it's okay to call it a day and make a real change. It doesn't make you a quitter, it doesn't make you weak for not trying. It means you're honest and true to yourself, and what's really in your heart. And at the end of the day, the only person you have to answer to is yourself.
I hadn't realised until the last few weeks, but the last eight months have really changed me as a person. The last eight months have put my mind, and my body, under a lot of stress and that's why in 2019, I want to focus on putting myself first for once. Spending two hours a day commuting to and from work, plus long hours, a real lack of daylight and total exhaustion really took its toll after a while. I pushed my body to its limits, and while I'm amazed at what it has withstood this year and how it has coped and still kept me as a functioning human being, I know that I have been half the person I normally am.
2018 has been a difficult year for my friendships. While I started the year more invested in my friendships than ever, the move made life difficult. It became harder and harder to keep in touch with those at home, and making friends in Germany was much harder than I anticipated. But I did make friends, I have made some amazing friends over the last six months and I am so grateful to them for being a part of my Hamburg life.
As 2018 has come to an end, so have a lot of things in my life and it's become clear that 2019 is a year for change. A change in location, a change in lifestyle, in the people I invest in and where I invest my time. After spending so long putting others first and suffering as a result, I'm long overdue for a shift in focus. So for a start, I'm going off-grid for a while, I'll still be working on the blog and I'll still be online, but I'm taking more time for myself. After such big life changes, it's important to take time to reflect and heal and there's no shame in taking time out to get your head together. I'm setting goals for the year ahead and they involve a lot more focus on spending time with the people who mean the most to me and actually allowing them to look after me for once. Let's hope 2019 brings happiness.
Sustainable fashion is the topic on everyone's lips at the moment. With the world in chaos around us, it's no surprise that individuals are starting to take a closer look at how we can find ways to reduce our impact on the environment. It's a topic that I've always been very interested in, but even more so since I started traveling. When you live out of a backpack and constantly move between places, it really opens your eyes to the amount of waste in the world and the focus on materialism.
I won't lie, I'm very guilty of giving into the latest high street fashions and cheap clothing that was made in some factory in Asia. But just as I have done with my vegetarian diet, using less plastic and recycling, I'm trying to make small changes in my life which could make a big impact on the world around me. I'm over all this preaching nonsense, I think making good decisions comes down to education and allowing people to make mistakes and educate themselves, not shaming them.
I'm so excited to share this collaboration with a new fashion brand, Wool&, and had so much fun shooting the pictures for this feature. How did I know that this was a brand I wanted to share with you? Well very simply, their values centre around the ideas of "Live simply. Consume carefully. Do good." Exactly my motto for life! Wool& have created the most practical, and most wearable dress in my wardrobe which I find very exciting because it is the perfect dress for travel. I've always loved fashion, but my adventurous side always calls for practicality and to finally have a dress that can keep up with my travels is amazing! The Rowena Swing dress is made of merino wool, which means it's naturally wrinkle resistant, odor resistant, breathable, temperature regulating and quick drying. Could a dress be any more practical? Oh yeah, and it has pockets. (That's right, you heard me ladies!)
Just like the idea that travelers should leave nothing but footprints behind them, I've always tried to lead my life along the idea that we should have as little impact on the world around us as possible. There are so many ways to reduce our carbon footprint, from eating less meat, to traveling in a sustainable way to support responsible tourism and local communities instead of bigger corporations. We can limit the amount of plastic and packaging we use, try to use cruelty-free products and invest in a reusable water bottle. I'm not perfect by a long shot, but I really do try to do my bit and look at the bigger picture. But how does this apply to the clothes on my back?
Instead of giving in to every fast fashion craving, I take a step back and ask myself if I really need the item and whether it will last. Because sustainable fashion is about more than just wearing clothes made of bamboo – it's about choosing classic investment pieces that will transcend the seasons and will last for years. It's about buying clothes made of good quality, natural materials that don't harm the environment and will be loved time and time again. I'm a huge fan of vintage and second-hand shopping, when traveling, this is my main source of clothes. It's also about supporting businesses that don't take advantage of their workers for cheap labour and realising that with every penny we spend, we are casting a vote.
Read this post: The Trouble With Being An Ethical Traveler
I know we live in a world of fashion bloggers and models, where every girl on Instagram seems to have a new outfit in every photo. But I'm here to bust this idea that we need to constantly be buying new things to look good. Honestly, who has the time or the money to spend on this? Because those girls on Insta who are always wearing the latest fashions and styles, quite often, they are being sent clothes for photos and are making money from the links they share! There is absolutely nothing wrong with this, but if you're not an influencer, it's not always the most attainable lifestyle.
The happiest I've ever been was when I was living in the same manky old bikini and beach dress combo every day. I didn't care what I looked like, I cared how I felt, and I felt happy. So let's take a step back from this idea that we constantly need new clothes to feel and look good. Re-wearing and re-styling clothes is cool and I love to keep repeat featuring clothes on my posts because I really love them and genuinely wear them all the time. I don't see the point in having endless wardrobes of clothes that never get worn, I'd much rather have a few choice sustainable fashion items that I love to put on.
Dresden is such an easily forgotten Baroque gem when it comes to exploring Germany. Often overshadowed by the showier Munich and and edgier Berlin, so many don't realise the city offers a whole new side to the country. Dresden is a city steeped in history, heritage and beauty. It was the first place I have been in Germany where I truly felt like I had stepped back in time with some of the most beautiful architecture and streets I have found in Europe. Comparable to Vienna and Prague, the city is a perfect weekend escape, or even a day trip from another nearby city.
While we decided to drive through and spend an afternoon in the city on our way from Saxon Switzerland National Park to Prague, it would be a great place to visit if you were staying in any of the nearby cities, or to head for a whole weekend. Dresden was everything I had been missing about Europe while living in Australia, its streets are filled with stories from times gone by and it is a great place to indulge your love of the arts, music and theatre. While it was gorgeous in the summer sunshine, now is actually the perfect time to visit with it being the German capital of Christmas and boasting some of the most beautiful Christmas markets designed to make your winter sparkle.
With easy access by plane, train, bus and even by car, there's honestly no reason not to pay the city a visit. As I've said, it's a great place to spend a day while passing through to your next destination. Or you could spend a whole weekend there exploring at your own pace and enjoying the Christmas markets. If you've been exploring the nearby countries, there is also great international rail connections to Aarhus, Budapest, Bratislava, Prague, Vienna and Zurich. Once you arrive, you have your pick of exploring on foot or by bike, or using the public transport network by using buses, trains, trams and ferries. You can find out more about this, plus timetables and prepaid travel cards here.
If you love cities bursting with history and beauty, prepare to be wowed by Dresden. One of the few cities in Germany that wasn't destroyed or devastated by the wars, it rose majestically from the ashes and remains beautifully preserved today. Previously the seat of the Saxon rulers, it is clear that they lavished their attention on the city and blessed it with amazing architectural treasures in glittering palaces and stunning gardens and soaring churches that dominate the skyline. My best advice for exploring the city? Take your time. Don't rush and really take it all in. It's an amazing city and one worth appreciating.
This one was spectacular in the sunshine and perfect for walking around in the afternoon. Enjoy magnificent Baroque architecture at this 18th century palace on the banks of the river Elbe. Designed by court architect Matthäus Daniel Pöppelmann, it is considered one of the finest examples of Baroque architecture in Germany. With grounds filled with trickling fountains and statues of mythological figures, it's worth walking around the outside of the palace to really appreciate it's beauty. It served as the orangery, exhibition gallery and festival arena of the Dresden Court, but now houses the Dresden State Art Collections.
My favourite building in Dresden and one that will honestly take your breath away. I'm so sad I didn't get more photos there, but I managed to capture the stunning ceiling. This incredible reconstruction project saw the Dresden Frauenkirche transform from a Catholic to Protestant church during the Reformation, before being replaced in the 18th century by a larger Baroque Lutheran building.
Destroyed during Allied bombing in 1945,the ruins were kept and stored to be reconstructed following the reunification of Germany in 1990, with the church eventually reopening in 2005. Whether you're interested in history and architecture or not, this one will blow you away by it's fine embellishment and decoration, with gold and pink adorning the walls and the most intricately painted ceilings.
For fans of the arts, the Semperoper is a must-see in the historic centre of Dresden. Nestled on the west side of Dresden's Theaterplatz, one of Germany's finest public squares, is the city's opera house which is also home to the Semperoper Ballett. Built in the style of the Italian High Renaissance, explore the gardens at your leisure, or, to experience the magnificent interiors, attend a performance or take a tour.
One of the oldest buildings in Dresden, the Royal Palace was the seat of the kings of Saxony of the Albertine line of the House of Wettin. With over 800 years of history lying in its walls, it is known for the different architectural styles employed, from Baroque to Neo-renaissance and is beautiful to explore, especially in the evening.
Perfect for sunny afternoon stroll, "The Balcony of Europe" stretches alongside the city and high above the banks of the river Elbe. We were amazed that we were overlooking the same river as we do back in Hamburg, but I will say that Dresden's Brühls Terrace is a touch prettier than Hamburg's more industrial style. This historic architectural ensemble begins at the Schlossplatz on the site of the old city ramparts where you head up the steps.
Stroll along the promenade to find the Dolphin Fountain, the College of Art, The Moritz Monument, and below find the Terrassenufer, the main landing stage for cruise boats. If I can give you one tip for exploring this section, make sure you go into the College of Art and explore, cut straight through the entrance hall and go out the opposite doors to the courtyard. It was one of my favourite secret finds when exploring Dresden, like a secret garden time forgot and some seriously beautiful hidden archtecture.
This Baroque palace in Moritzburg, is about 13km northwest of the Saxon capital, Dresden, and makes a perfect day trip from the city. This stunning palace features an island, lakes and an 18th-century hunting lodge in the grounds. All feature the stunning designs, detail and luxe interiors.
Another spectacular sight, Dresden Cathedral, or the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity, is another building with an imposing character. Looming across the square, it makes an impression as you wander down from Brühls Terrace. We couldn't go inside straight away due to a service ongoing, but we're so glad we went back later on because honestly, the building was breathtaking from the inside. So detailed and so much interesting history.
This amazing wall is quite a sight and luckily we stumbled across it when exploring the city. It was the original city exit to the Elbe Bridge and the first of the city's many Renaissance buildings. The famous Fürstenzug, the Procession of Princes, is a 102-meter-long portrait of the Dukes, Electors, and Kings of the house of Wettin, together with leading German figures from the arts and sciences.
Are you planning a visit to Germany? Dresden is such a great city for exploring history, heritage and the true beauty of Europe. Plus it's much quieter and smaller, so perfect for exploring on foot and for a more relaxed visit. After seeing how good the Christmas Markets are up in Hamburg, I can't even imagine how amazing they are over in the "home of Christmas".
Have you been to Dresden? How was your experience? What is your favourite European city?
I've been desperately trying to hold myself back from posting this one until now, but now it's finally time to share our exciting travel plans with you all! I've hinted on social media but held back the final itinerary while we finalised our plans, but now it's official, I have left Hamburg on a three week road trip across Europe and I couldn't be more excited to share this with you all. Those of you who follow this blog will have seen the renovation of our Sprinter van into a camper van for road tripping. Now I can tell you the reason we worked on it so quickly was because we were already planning this amazing trip!
The plan is to drive around 3,000km during the three weeks and to see as many new places as possible and we really wanted to make sure to really take in the amazing German countryside along the way. It will be the first time I have ever visited any of these places, and I'm excited to be taking in a real mixture of stunning European countryside and beautiful old cities. I love culture, heritage and history and it's something I've really missed after spending so long in Australia. While Oz has it's own kind of history and heritage, it doesn't compare to the beauty of Europe's old charm, winding streets and beautiful architecture. By having Hamburg as a home base, it really has opened opportunities to travel while keeping things budget and time-friendly.
First I'll be driving from Hamburg to Saxon-Switzerland National Park on the border of the Czech Republic where I plan to spend two days exploring the stunning park. I will then drive on to visit Prague, a city I have always wanted to visit especially since my trip to Budapest. Then from Prague to Vienna, we'll spend a few days in each city before heading into the countryside. Driving through Austria, I'm also hoping to stop off in some beautiful places outside of the cities, taking in some of the gorgeous Austrian countryside. After this, we will drive to Munich where I'll be based for around a week. Time will be spent taking day trips to nearby Neuschwanstein Castle, Bavaria and the Austrian lakes.
Around this time I also plan to travel to Switzerland for two days to hopefully see Zurich and some of the countryside – I've always wanted to see Switzerland so I'm really excited for this – and possibly to Liechtenstein as well. The final week of the trip will see me driving back up towards Hamburg via The Black Forest and the legendary Fairytale Road which I can't wait to see after a magical trip to the forests on Rügen Island in May. I even studied fairytales as part of my literature course at university, so seeing the places that inspired such stories will be amazing. I'll be stopping in Frankfurt on the way back up to Hamburg before I start work.
As you read this, I will already be on the road and hopefully somewhere near Prague or Vienna! Naturally I'll be capturing every moment on camera and will be sharing it all with you later on, but you can keep up to date with our adventures by following me on social media – Facebook, Twitter or Instagram – where I will still be posting updates from every step of the journey. I will still be posting twice-weekly on this blog while we are away – thanks to being super organised and managing to put together lots of lovely posts for you all – so be sure to keep checking on here for all the latest from my travels. In the meantime, I'm looking forward to a few weeks on the road with no laptop – sometimes it's so necessary to just switch off for a while and to enjoy the world around you. So that's exactly what I'm going to do. Out of office on. Engage holiday mode. See you in three weeks!
Summer is without doubt my favourite time of year. I was made for long summer days in the sunshine, for sandy toes and sun kissed noses, for salty skin from the ocean and fresh fruits. I felt my happiest when travelling in tropical countries, in the depths of Asia, and I put that down to soaking up endless Vitamin D and bathing in a whole lot of Vitamin SEA. It makes perfect sense that when we are made up of two thirds water, that being close to the ocean should heal us in some way, soothe our souls. Well ever since I was a kid, I was a bona fide water baby, and even now, I miss the ocean now living a few hours from the coast, but that doesn't stop me from making the most of every second of this summer. After arriving back in the UK in time for Christmas and the worst winter I can remember in Europe, with temperatures hitting -10 and even lower, it has really made me appreciate every second of sunshine we are getting now. I'm so happy to see if isn't just Germany that is getting the most amazing weather, the UK actually seems to be getting a heatwave too! So I thought this post was right on schedule – let's talk about all the ways I love to celebrate summer and make the most of every second.
My favourite way to celebrate anything is with food and what better excuse than a sunny day for a good old barbecue? We actually had our first barbecue since Australia this weekend and it was amazing, we went to a gorgeous park in Hamburg and set out our picnic blankets and fired up the BBQ ready for our feast. We've actually gone vegetarian, the pair of us, so this was our first attempt at a fully veggie BBQ and I can confirm it was delicious! I'm a big fan of the veggie burgers and sausages, and love throwing veggies on there too. We've previously done stuffed mushrooms, veggie skewers and baked fish on the barbecue before and all of them have been amazing. I love how creative you can get with what you barbecue and how quick and easy it is to do. We picked up a great little disposable barbecue for a few euros and it was perfect for us, and even better, didn't leave scorch marks on the ground. We don't have anywhere to store a BBQ at the moment, so a disposable works best for us. My top tip for BBQs, take the time to whip up some good sides, perhaps minty potatoes with butter or a fresh salad with quinoa or cous cous and veggies, and don't forget the sauces!
There's nothing quite like getting out on the water and feeling that cool breeze wash over you when it's hot outside, I love being anywhere near water when it's a hot day whether it's the beach, river or even just a swimming pool. In Hamburg, we have the river Elbe right on our doorstep which is great if you fancy a boat trip with ferries crossing from one side to the other and countless harbour boat tours on offer. Back in Australia we would take a friend's boat out on the lake or the ocean for the afternoon, here in Hamburg, I'm happy to hop on a ferry from one side of the river to another, or even to head to the parks where there are some lovely lakes to chill near, such as Planten Und Bloomen. Last week a friend and I caught the ferry from the Elbphilharmonie to Landungsbrücken, just a short ride but it was heaven on a very hot day, saved our legs the walk and was included in our day ticket for the public transport in the city, so great value for money. You can read all about my experience of punting in Cambridge here.
I hold my hands up, I am a total sun worshipper and always love laying outside soaking up the sunshine. I sometimes question whether I was a cat in a previous life, because I have a knack for finding the most sun-soaked spots and lazing in them all afternoon. However, one thing I am always really careful of is sun damage and protection against UVA and UVB rays, I've seen first-hand the worry and the devastation cancer can cause and I don't see any reason to take risks like that. People might be surprised considering my tan, but I always wear factor 30 or even 50, and I am obvious proof that wearing sunscreen does not stop you from tanning. So for all those people wearing factor 5 tanning oil, please stop, and realise the unnecessary risks you are taking. I've been testing out Altruist Dermatologist Sunscreen which has been specially formulated to provide a sunscreen which offers the finest UV protection in a fragrance free and non-sticky cream – great for those of us with sensitive skin. It's such a refreshing change to find a sunscreen which is so budget-friendly and non-greasy, I hate the way they usually make my skin feel so oily and shiny, so Altruist was such a lovely, light cream to wear on your skin.
Best of all, it is budget friendly and puts the focus on the importance of everyone having access to sunscreen. Altruist founder Dr Birnie said: "Cost should never be a factor when deciding whether or not to wear sunscreen, or how much or how often to apply it. Everyone should have a basic right to take the necessary precautions to reduce their risks of developing skin cancer." As someone who spent years travelling Asia and living in Australia in 35 degree heat every day, I know exactly how important wearing sunscreen is to protect your skin, but I also know how expensive sunscreen can be. There have been plenty of times when buying it in both the UK and Australia when I have been shocked to find I'm being charged £15 for one bottle! Those who simply cannot afford to regularly buy sunscreen at these prices now have the option to pick up a spray sunscreen for just £5 for 200mls for both SPF 30 and 50 thanks to Altruist, and for those who prefer a cream, these are available for just £4, with all available exclusively from Amazon.
An absolute favourite of mine and something I'm loving about living in Europe is how popular it is to have restaurants spilling out on to the streets and the pavements filled with diners making the most of every second of summer. These long European evenings are bliss after travelling in Australia and Asia where darkness fell every evening at 6pm, and how better to enjoy this extra time than to take your dinner outside? The boyfriend and I have really discovered a love for hitting the Sternschanze area in Hamburg where every restaurant has a huge outdoor area filled with tables and chairs, even tv screens showing the World Cup and lots of delicious food. It's such a great, festive atmosphere and you can feel the happiness in the air at being able to experience moments like this, together. Can't afford the restaurants? No problem, why not pack up a little picnic and hit the parks or the beaches? My mum and I always used to pack up a lovely dinner and then head to the beach to breathe in the sea breezes and enjoy a relaxed evening. Here, I love that we have parks at either end of our road and so many huge ones in the city, when I was in one the other evening there were loads of people rocking up with their hampers filled with snacks, takeaways from the nearby shops and bottles of bubbly or cans of beer. Join the fun!
Truly English and something I haven't really found in any other country, I love that we Brits have this attitude that as soon as the sun is shining, it calls for a cheeky Pimms and Lemonade in the beer garden. It's always so much fun to get a gang of mates together, or meet up with your bestie for a lovely long evening catch up in the beer garden mid-week. Brits always seem so happy when the sun hits and you can see how the old seasonal affective disorder affects us all the rest of the time, well it's always so lovely to take that friendly, happy attitude outside for a drink in the sunshine. My fave place to hit the beer gardens has to be Cambridge, nearby where I am from, which has the best pubs and beer gardens overlooking the river – especially The Anchor pub which is a personal favourite of mine. Over here in Hamburg, there are lots of great bars with lovely sunshine-filled outdoor spaces to enjoy, but it's not the same as the UK. I do love all the cute little beach bars along the river Elbe though, check out StrandPauli and Dock 3 Beach Club for some lovely river views and tasty cocktails.
For me, summer is all about getting outside and getting active. When I was living in the UK, I would head out for morning and evening runs along the river near my house, or would head out to the beach for a sunset beach walk and picnic. Norfolk is such a fab area for getting outside and making the most of the countryside. When I was in Australia, weekends were filled with camping trips to national parks or the beach, evenings were filled with hikes and trails, I loved the outdoorsy lifestyle that came with the territory. Now, living in Hamburg, I'm filling my evenings with strolls to the parks, walks in the woods or along the river, and even the odd run in the sunshine. I like to use this time to clear my head, to lose the stress of the day and any worries, either listening to a good playlist or just the sounds of birdsong. Its amazing how quickly a good dose of nature will wash all your cares away. Even if you don't live somewhere surrounded by beaches and forest, why not just take a walk to a nearby park or stroll through a neighbourhood you haven't visited before, sometimes just a change of scenery can work wonders.
What are your favourite ways to celebrate summer? How are you making the most of the sunshine?
*This sunscreen was gifted, but my opinions remain my own and I would never share a product with you guys unless I really loved it!
As soon as I arrived in Germany I was excited to start planning trips, to start living again in my new home. Last month for my birthday – Rügen Island. It was somewhere I had never heard of before moving to Germany, but shortly after arriving here, a very kind travelling friend offered me her family's beautiful holiday home for a weekend and I thought what better timing than to go for my birthday! So the final weekend in May, we packed up the van and hit the road for a lovely long weekend at the seaside.
We had the most amazing weekend filled with ice cream on the beach, walking in the national park, exploring tiny towns and beautiful parks, and of course, stuffing ourselves with yummy food! I really wish I could go back and do that whole weekend all over again, I really wouldn't change a thing, it was a perfect way to spend my birthday. In this post I'm going to share all of the things we did and what I would recommend if you happen to be visiting, hopefully it will help you have a special trip and to make the most of your time there.
There is so much to do on Rügen Island, you'll be spoilt for choice! The best thing is that there is something for everyone, so whether you're away for a romantic weekend for two, or a big group holiday, everyone is sure to enjoy themselves. From the chilled beach bars and viewpoints, to the more active hikes and bike rides, you can design the holiday you want and do everything at your own pace.
There are so many lovely beaches to check out – hopefully you have good weather like we did – although I will warn you it is the Baltic Sea so don't start getting excited about swimming! We were staying in Sassnitz so we spent the most time on the east side of the island where we found some gorgeous beaches waiting for us. We had a day of beach-hopping starting from Binz and working our way through to Sellin, Baabe, Göhren and all the way south to Theissow. If you have the time on your trip, I really recommend visiting a few different beaches to get away from the crowds and see a different side to the island. Binz and Sellin are gorgeous beaches with all the cute charm of an old-fashioned seaside town, comparable to Brighton in the UK. Expect pricier accommodation and lots of bars and restaurants, as well as lots of people – these were the busiest places we visited – but they are very pretty and great for the evenings when you want to go out for dinner. The other beaches further round, especially Baabe and Göhren, are much quieter and its lovely to sit on the beach and enjoy a picnic and the uninterrupted views of the bay. Check out this article for a more detailed guide to the individual beaches.
For a really unique way to see the island, why not hop aboard the old fashioned steam train and power along the Rügensche Kelinbahn, a nostalgic nod to days gone by, from Putbus to Göhren on a 24km ride. Taking in everything from lush green forests to huge beach resorts, you'll get an eyeful when you take a ride on the fondly known, Racing Roland.
It's definitely worth taking some time to explore all the little villages and parks spread around the island during your stay. In Bergen, you'll find some pretty spectacular panoramas across the ocean, plus colourful old buildings including Benedix-Haus in the market place. Gary is close by and as the tiniest and oldest town on the island, you'll visit just to se the amazing views from the Ernst Moritz Arndt Tower. Putbus was our favourite village – originally we went there to see the beautiful palace I had read about online only to find that it had been torn down years ago – but we were pleasantly surprised by the gorgeous Insel Vilm eco-park that was waiting for us there and spent hours wandering around. If you get time to drive all the way north, I really recommend visiting Kap Arkona which is the northernmost tip of the island and boasts amazing views, a gorgeous beach and lighthouses you can climb to the top for even better panoramas.
One of my favourite parts of visiting the island was Jasmund National Park which completely took my breath away and was easily one of the most memorable places I have spent my birthday. Read all about our visit and my top tips for visiting, here.
If you love getting outside and being active, you'll be in your element at Rügen, hit the trails and go walking in Jasmund National Park or from beach to beach, or hire bikes and feel the wind in your hair as you cycle the island. There are also walking and bike tours available if you would prefer to join a group when you explore the island, or if you travel with a group and would prefer a guide to lead you around.
Everyone loves a sunset and on Rügen Island there are two places I found that will provide you with the best views in the evening. Sellin Pier is one sight you don't want to miss, so make sure you get there before the sun dips over the horizon to see it all light up. Imagine an old-fashioned, Brighton-esque pier bathed in the sun's last rays of the day and gently sparkling as its lights start to twinkle. It was a beautiful sight and a perfect place for a sunset walk before dinner. I also found out about another place called Panorama Hotel Lohme, which was up in the very north above Jasmund National Park, and boasts gorgeous panoramic views over the ocean. We didn't go to this one sadly as the weather was very cloudy and foggy on our second night on the island, but I've read great reviews and seen some beaut pics.
We came prepared and filled up the van with food for the whole weekend so we could have more of a self-catering experience and save a bit of money – we didn't know if it might be more expensive on the island. We ate our own food for breakfasts and lunches, but actually ended up eating out on both the Saturday and Sunday nights we were there. On the Saturday night, we decided to go and see Sellin Pier at sunset and realised we were both starving after a busy day, after checking out the menu for Seebrücke Sellin, we couldn't resist going in for a bite to eat. I was very impressed to find that it was actually very reasonably priced, I had expected it to be a lot more expensive, and that the food was absolutely delicious. We went for a goats cheese starter, then had the burger and a mushroom pasta, all of which were absolutely amazing and the service was great considering we walked in five minutes before they were due to shut the kitchen!
On my birthday night, we went on the recommendation of our friend who told us we had to go and eat at Rialto, an Italian restaurant in Binz which has the best pizza and ice cream. After thoroughly taste-testing, I can tell you that the pizza and ice cream are amazing!
We stayed at our friend's place in Sassnitz which was perfect – this side of the island has all the best beaches and sights, plus we were right at the entrance to Jasmund National Park. There are lots of hotels and holiday homes all over this side of the island for varying levels of luxury and price tags. I personally would recommend renting a holiday home or somewhere self-catering where you can cook your own meals or can even have barbecues in the long summer evenings. We loved having a bit more space and a place to prepare breakfast and lunches. Sassnitz is also a great way to stay close to all the action without actually having to be in busy Binz, it's still a cute little seaside town but with more of a cosy feel.
We went to visit at the end of May and the weather was gorgeous, but being close to the Baltic Sea, it is understandably harder to predict the weather. I would recommend visiting May to September for the best weather, but keep an eye on weather reports because if the weather is bad, there isn't much to do that doesn't rely on you being outside all day. Also, avoid school holidays as it is clearly a big holiday destination for families/elderly and can get busy.
There are buses and trains on the island which connect each of the little towns to each other, these are great if you don't have access to a car plus there are lots of bike paths and hiking trails if you like to keep fit. You also can access the island by bus or train from Hamburg. We drove to the island (around 3.5 hours) and throughout the weekend we used the van to get everywhere which was really helpful to make the most of our weekend. I would recommend hiring a car or driving to the island because it gives you so much more freedom to stay in more budget-friendly places and to be independent and spontaneous about your day. We would decide at a moment's notice our plans and easily went off to a new beach or town. If you rely on public transport you would be much more restricted on how much you get to see and how quickly.
Have you been to Rügen Island – what are your recommendations? Are you more of a beach or forests-lover? What summer travels have you got planned?
I caught up with a fellow traveler at the weekend, she has just come back from travelling the world for a year with her young family - total family travel goals! She was thanking me for a travel tip I gave her about visiting an ethical elephant sanctuary in Thailand because she had realised once there the sheer number of places out there clinging on the surge in popularity for ethical care of elephants by claiming to be good. Spending so much time in Thailand, I took care to research thoroughly and to ensure I was only supporting causes I was certain were benefiting the environment and animals. Talking about her step-daughter's experience in India where she signed up to volunteer at an elephant sanctuary and found it to be mistreating the creatures, we realised how easy it is to do the wrong thing when all you are trying to do is the right thing. And isn't that the problem we are all facing in trying to be ethical these days?
I consider myself a pretty good human, I like to keep my carbon footprint low, to support and build up my friends, to smile at strangers and help out at a homeless shelter. Everywhere I travel I try my best to be ethically-minded and research every location, every day trip I go on and all the companies along the way, only supporting causes I know are genuinely helping local people. But somehow I still feel like I'm fucking it all up.
Much like trying to be vegan or only eating ethically-sourced food, using only beauty products that haven't been tested on animals or wearing clothing that hasn't encouraged slavery or mistreatment of those in third world countries. What is boils down to is we're all just trying our best to be damned good people and to try and help everyone, to support all the causes. We get to a point when we think, hell yeah, I'm doing pretty darn good at this! We're able to help educate others and feel like we're actually making waves, like we're making a change.
And it all comes out that we were doing it wrong all along.
Like the time I switched to almond milk after learning about the harmful impacts of the dairy farming industry, but then found the problems caused due to water sourcing and insecticides were just as bad. Or when I signed a petition over the closure of a factory that had been mistreating workers in a third world country for cheap clothes, but then heard so many were unable to feed their families because they were out of work. And the time I switched make-up brands to avoid animal testing then found the company uses the services of another company that does employ animal testing!
It's a constant battle and for anyone who tries to be ethically-minded, it can be a bit of a roller coaster - one minute you're up and feeling great for all the good you are doing for the world around you. Then next, you hit rock bottom when you realise actually by trying to help you may be doing more harm than good.
One of the problems - there are too many opinions out there and too many facts, but so often thanks to Twitter and various other social media outlets - the two become almost indistinguishable. It's so easy to read one thing and to make a change in your life, then a week later to see an news article damning the opinion you just read elsewhere. I don't know about you but I'm overwhelmed with information and I'm finding it hard to know which advice to take. To feel certain that I am actually making informed decisions that really are doing the best for everyone and the world around us. We've gone full circle from struggling to get the truth from companies over their ethical policies, to now being swamped with information and unsure of the facts.
Another aspect of this is the bloggers, social media stars and the celebrities who so often pick a cause to back and legions of fans follow in their wake. The fact is these influencers have a huge impact on the decisions of people across the world and the ethical nature of the decisions they make can cause huge waves. Just look at how many more people seem to care and know about global warming effects since Leonardo DiCaprio started talking about it, and Emma Watson must be one of the best-known faces for using her platform to really highlight key issues from women's rights and climate change to sustainable fashion. But likewise, this can be used in a negative way, such as when some figures make questionable decisions such as wearing real fur, encouraging their fans to follow suit. The constant fight for change and for attention means it's hard to know who is really trying to make a difference, and who is just jumping on the bandwagon for likes.
As someone who has been travelling for over three years and has no plans to stop anytime soon, being ethical in my travel will always remain at the forefront of my mind. After all, what was that quote?
Take only pictures, leave only footprints, kill nothing but time. - Aliyyah Eniath
I've always felt the one thing that really touches my heart and stays with me a long time after my travels, it's not the places. It's not sunrise at Angkor Wat or exploring waterfalls of Laos, it's not doing yoga in Thailand or learning to work on a farm in outback Australia, or even getting lost in the ruin pubs of Budapest. It's the people you met along the way. The amazing souls who helped you when you were struggling, the ones who showed you a world you never dared dream of, the ones who gave you enough laughs to last a lifetime. Those people are the ones I hold close in my heart, they're the stories I tell about my travels, they are the memories.
So if that is the case, then it's so important to make sure your travel is benefiting the people who have given you the experience of a lifetime and the environment you've been lucky enough to explore:
These are just examples and there are so many other ways to be ethical in your travel, to make informed decisions. And that is the most important thing, like me, you may be struggling with knowing if you are truly being ethical. But when it comes down to it, just the fact that you care enough to inform yourself is the first step to really doing something good in the world. Don't listen to all the judgement over social media, it's too easy to get swept away in throwaway comments instead of investing your time in making a change.
This has turned into a pretty mega blog post considering I had writer's block just a few days ago, but I think this is such an important issue to be raised. Can you identify with feeling confused over traveling and living ethically? It's okay if you do, we're in it together. As long as we're all doing our darnedest to make a difference, that's all we can do.
How do you ensure your travel is ethical? Do you ever worry your 'ethical' decisions are less ethical than you would hope? What ethical changes have you made in your life?
After spending a month exploring the wild landscape of Sri Lanka, we were keen to relax and spend the next two weeks on the beach soaking up every last bit of sun before heading back to a European winter. It had been a month of constant movement and amazing adventures, but after a while you really start to need some time to just chill and we were long overdue for an actual holiday. Originally we had planned to spend two weeks exploring the Maldives but sadly bad weather put paid to those plans. So when the team at Ammatara Pura Pool Villas invited us along to stay with them in Thailand where we were promised a lovely 30 degrees, we quickly snapped up their offer. Now if you guys remember correctly, I was actually in Thailand three years ago so it felt amazing to be returning to the country that started off my three years of travelling and to be doing it with my boyfriend who was visiting for the first time. I couldn't wait to share my experiences with him and to relive some of my favourite moments with him by my side.The last time I was in Thailand - despite spending three months exploring the country - I never made it to Koh Samui and always wondered if I had missed out. Arriving on the island, we were glad to see the sun shining after a particularly stormy few days on Koh Tao where the roads had been flooded more thank ankle-deep with rainwater. I couldn't believe the sheer size of the island, compared to Koh Tao and Koh Phanang it seemed huge and a lot more commercialised, but we quickly moved out of the busiest areas as our minibus made it's way to the resort. The island is very much made up of resorts from the budget-friendly to the utmost in 5* luxury, but there is a trip to suit all. We were excited for our next adventure to be taking us to quieter area of Lamai Beach, where the extreme luxury of the Ammatara Pura Pool Villas awaited us. Arriving at the gates, we were instantly bowled over by the incredible palatial buildings and knew we were in for a real treat. As you can see from the photos, it really was an absolutely beautiful place, a real oasis in the midst of busy Koh Samui.Imagine waking up in the morning in your enormous princess-worthy bed then wandering out of your own private garden villa to find your own private pool with jacuzzi waiting just outside. Just metres away you can glimpse white sandy beaches, palm trees and fresh coconuts, and the sounds of the ocean wash over you. Styled after a 1,200 year old Thai palace, the villas and restaurant are set around a stunning temple, swimming pool and gardens for the exclusive use of the guests. With just 18 of these incredibly luxurious private villas on the property, the boutique resort offers complete privacy and a chance to really unwind on the holiday of your dreams. After so long spent on the road, we were very much in need of a real treat and a chance to just relax and we couldn't have found a better place to do it. This amazing getaway gives visitors the chance to live like royalty during their stay, designing their perfect holiday with an attentive staff who are always on hand to make it a reality.I won't lie, I felt like an absolute princess during our visit. The enormous villas are the epitome of luxury and have everything you need and everything you never dreamed you might have. From the beautiful outdoor rain shower and the huge jacuzzi bath, to the walk-in wardrobe and the gorgeous bed draped in the softest sheets which overlooks the swimming pool. With a choice of the sea view villas or the garden view, each had it's own private area complete with a patio, balcony, swimming pool with jacuzzi. We spent our days basking in the sunshine, splashing around in our own private pool overlooking the ocean or dining in the resort's beachfront restaurant on the most delicious Thai cuisine. Can we just talk about the food for a second? We're talking not just some of the most delicious Thai food I have eaten, but amazing Western options, plenty for vegetarians and even halal. We were greeted with fresh juices and breakfast each morning was an international feast of delectable delights from all over the world.The Thai owners pride themselves in the resort remaining a truly independent hotel and ensure the friendly staff are there for your every need during your stay. For guests who are looking to be pampered, the resort boasts a stunning open air yoga centre, complete with a panoramic ocean view, a fitness room equipped with state of the art machines and a spa with a huge range of treatments. The resort lies just a short and complimentary tuk-tuk ride away from the centre of Lamai, which is filled with restaurants, bars and entertainment. We had a great night when we went to watch Thai boxing at a bar in town for free, and there are plenty of opportunities to book tours or trips from the travel agents. For those who wish to explore further afield, the island lies just a couple of hours by ferry to nearby Koh Phanang and Koh Tao.It really was a perfect way to round off our time spent travelling around Asia and I can't imagine a more luxurious place to treat yourself, and your partner, to a romantic few days by the ocean. Fancy a taste of luxury? You can book a villa for your next visit to Thailand here.
Where is the most luxurious place you have stayed? Where was your favourite place in Thailand? Did you like Koh Samui?
I'm all about seizing life by the balls and making your dreams a reality, but I know so often things like money or worries about travelling solo can hold people back. It's can be so easy to make excuses and put things off but the long you leave it the harder it gets. I'm so happy that through this blog and living my life to the max I have inspired so many to pick up and travel the world, so achieve their dreams and do things they never imagined they could do. I've now been on the road for around two and a half years, and I have no plans to stop - I've already started planning the next few years of my travelling life and I couldn't be more excited about the path I've chosen. I've found it endlessly inspiring to meet so many of you along the way and to hear all about your own adventures.
So in the spirit of keeping your adventures and passion for travel alive, I've teamed up with Trespass to give you all the opportunity to win an Amin 70 Litre Rucksack to hold all your possessions as you head off gallivanting around the world making your dreams come true. It's the same size as the rucksack I used when I first set off travelling, and as the one I am currently using. And with adjustable, added shoulder and back straps - it's perfect for long term travels around Asia, Australia or further afield, with plenty of pockets to store everything you need. To anyone who is freaking out that they won't fit their things into a bag this size - stop worrying and start shedding - trust me, you don't need any more than will fit in this bag no matter where you are travelling.
So, how can you win?
Check out the box below and make sure you follow me on Twitter, like my Facebook page and then leave a comment at the bottom of this post telling me what adventures you want to take the rucksack on - easy peasy! This competition is only open to those from and currently living in the UK - sorry to all my readers scattered across the world. The winner will be announced around March 10.
Something a bit different for you today, one of the best things about my travelling lifestyle is the people I meet along the way. People doing all kinds of jobs and living completely differently to keep their life as nomadic as possible. Travelling up in the Northern Territory of Australia, I met a new friend who alternates her travelling lifestyle with working for Thomas Cook Airlines as a flight attendant - a job that seems so glamorous and full of travel that I just had to find out more about what was involved - read on for my interview with a flight attendant:
Which company do you work for and for how long have you worked for them?
I work for Thomas Cook Airlines and I have been with the company for a year now. The contract is only seasonal so I work the summer season and have the winters off.
What attracted you to the job?
Following my passion for travel. When I got back from a 12 month trip I started back with two companies I was with previously before I went away. I was working full time at a dental practice and part time on the weekends in the local night club. As much as I love working I wasn't settled being back in the same routine. My Canadian friend said one day ''if you love travelling so much why don't you work in the travel industry'' and that was when the light bulb went off in my head. I started applying for airlines and I got the job! I truely love everything about it and it is perfect for me in this stage of my life.
How long did it take to train for the job? What was involved in the training?
The training period lasted for 5 weeks and the typical working hours of 9am-5pm. It involved both practical and theory. They were 7 exams in total and it was a very intense 5 weeks of my life but I learnt so much in that time. Not only did I learn all about the aircraft type I was trained on but all the equipment the aircraft has onboard to ensure the safety of the passengers. We learnt the company's procedures for first aid, fire, emergency landings in and out of water, decompression, hijacking, disruptive passengers and many more.
In the training we also had to have a practical swimming test with our clothes on followed by a life rafts practical and the use of life vests to make it as realistic as it could be. In the training centre we had fake fire drills and we had to follow the procedure of finding the fire, using the right equipment to fight the fire and the what the role is of each cabin crew to ensure the safety of our passengers. In an emergency landing we had to prove that we had the knowledge of how to handle the situation which was tested upon us by our amazing trainers that work with the company.
What are the best/worst things about being a flight attendant?
Being a flight attendant is unlike any other job. A lot of people assume we just waitress on a plane but it is so much more than that and the knowledge we hold involving the safety of the passengers is vital to offering the best service. Working with new people everyday, greeting passengers and going that extra mile to make there holiday experience that bit better and being rushed off your feet then looking out of the window at the Alps mountain range just puts a huge smile on my face. I would say one of the best things about being cabin crew would be the long haul but I have yet to experience that in the new year. I will be trained on the A330 which flies regulary to the USA and the Carribean. With that you get to stay in the company's hotel and explore new destinations.
I dont really have any negative points about working on a airline other than it is exhausting! The days go really quick, you are constantly busy from start to finish but driving on the motorway back home after a 16 hour shift to have a couple of hour sleep then back to work for the next shift is an experience! My body quickly got used to it though which was good. It is not a ordinary 9/5 career, you could be on standby from 1am in the morning and be called out for work at anytime. You really need to be organised and punctual for this career. My life out of work is very different too, because of my random working hours and working weekends, bank holidays ect it is harder too have a ordinary social life but I do make it work.
What are the perks of the job?
I feel that when I experience long haul shifts I will get more perks as you travel to new destinations with work and get paid for it. Within the company we get a discount for holidays and flights if we choose to book with Thomas Cook. We also get other discounts with entertainment companies such as Go Ape or Alton Towers, gym memberships and other little perks that I need to find out more about.
What is the highlight of being a flight attendant?
Other than travel, my personal highlight is having the opportunity to sit in the flight deck on my break time and admiring the view at 38,000 feet in the air. One of my best memories would have to be a night shift I was doing. I was on my way back from Tenerife and I sat in the flight deck on my break and the view was breathtaking. The moon was behind the aircraft, with the blanket of clouds below and thousand of stars in the dark blue sky twinkling away is a image I will never forget. It made me really appreciate life.
What is the average day like for you? How do you adjust to long-haul flights/time zones?
This is related to short/mid haul flights where I fly there and back in a day. An average day consists of getting ready for work, driving a hour to work then after I have parked up and got the staff bus into the airport grounds I make my way to the crew room. In the crew room we have a briefing with involves checking out money floats, briefing of the aircraft type/ flight time/ destination/location of each crew member/passenger profile ect. Then we have safety and procedure questions that need to be answered correctly. After we have done our briefing we make our way to the aircraft.
Once we are on the aircraft we have to do all of our safety and equipment checks, when completed we pass them on to the cabin manager. The passengers will then start to board. Once everyone is happy and seated and we are in the air we can start our outbound services. Depending on the time of day we usually do the bar service first, after follows inflight meal then duty free. If we have enough time we do another bar service before landing. After landing when the passengers have disembarked the cleaners will come on then we need to do seat pockets and the appropriate checks before passengers start to board again. Inbound flight is the same routine of services before landing back in the UK.
Once everyone has disembarked after landing we then need to make our way back to the crew room for a debriefing which involves cashing up, talking about any events that went on during the shift and how we could improve on anything. Then I make my way back to the carpark and drive 1/2 hours home depending of the time of day and traffic.
Can you see yourself doing it long-term?
I have a very busy lifestyle but I like it that way. Long term maybe. Depends on what opportunities the future has to hold for me.
What's your favourite place you've been to/fave cities?
With work the only city I have stayed over is Glasgow which isn't that exciting comparied to long haul flight destinations.
How much time do you get to explore the places you visit?
This all depends on which destination you go too. Some can be a night and clear day in New York or 4 nights in Las Vegas. It completely varies depending on how many flights go out to that destination each week.
What advice would you give to anyone who wants to start a career as a flight attendant?
If you have a strong desire or passion for travel and have experience with customer service I would recommend this career path for you. It is a great way to see the world, meet new people and it is a career like no other. I also like the glamour side of it too as I feel very feminine at work comparied to when I used to wear scrubs at the dentist haha. Be happy in what you do as work takes up most of your life in the bigger picture. Life is too short to regret the choices you make.
Infographic created by Opodo.
We've all got those places on our bucket list, the ones that fire up our imagination and lose us in daydreams when we're at work. Mine is already never-ending, but there will always be certain places on there that stand out as ones that would be totally unforgettable. I've written about my top choices many times but this time it is more poignant than ever - by the time you read this I will be down in Tasmania. Going from Bali to Cairns, then down to Tasmania is around a 30 degree drop in temperature and don't get me started on the humidity. It's going to be a brutal shock to the system - so why am I doing it? Because it is exactly now that the Southern Lights are in full force with some of the strongest bursts seen in a long time. I only discovered that the Southern Lights were actually a real thing round a year ago and vowed I simply had to see them with my own eyes. You'll already know how desperate I am to visit Iceland and see the Northern Lights, but spending so much time in the Southern Hemisphere due to my travels I'm a bit restricted on opportunities. So I thought I'll put Iceland on hold, but the Southern Lights are an absolute must-see while I'm down here - that way when I finally get to Iceland I'll be able to say I've seen both!
Now I hate repeating myself and always want to bring you guys fresh new posts - so this time I've worked with Best Served Scandinavia to help you plan your trip to see the Northern Lights. There are so many different ways to experience them that it's important to find the perfect trip just for you.
Where to see them?
When you talk about the Northern Lights, everyone's mind jumps straight to Iceland but it's not the only place you can see this natural phenomenon. Heading up towards the Arctic Circle, you can also glimpse the famous green glow in the skies over Norway, Sweden, Finland or Greenland. You can even see them in Canada and Russia! Each of these places will die you that same opportunity to see the Lights but to perhaps get a little off the beaten tourist track and will give you the opportunity to visit somewhere a bit different. The best time to spot the Northern Lights at their brightest is between September and March as the darker and longer nights make them clearer to the naked eye.
Where to stay?
Once you've narrowed down a place, it's important to make sure you book a place to stay as early as possible. As you can imagine, resorts get booked up pretty quickly and if you want to score a night in one of the luxurious lodges with hot tubs and a glass roof to watch the lights from your bed, you better lock in the dates quick. I know when I eventually get to go, I would want to go all out and experience all the amazing luxuries that come with the Northern Lights trip. I've spent a lot of time daydreaming about staying in an igloo with a glass roof at so I can watch the Lights from my bed, or a snow hotel, or a safari camp like this one, or even a treehouse! There are so many incredible options available and you could even combine different ones to really give yourself some once in a lifetime experiences.
What kind of trip are you after?
It's also important when planning to decide what kind of trip you're after. Are you taking your partner for a weekend of romance under the Norther Lights, or are you in the mood for a luxury spa experience, or are you a bit of an adventure seeker like me? There are so many other amazing activities you can try out around light spotting, it's a good opportunity to fill your days with amazing memories as well as your nights. Depending on which country you choose there are options like dog sledding, horseback riding, visiting the Blue Lagoon, visiting volcanoes and waterfalls, sightseeing palaces and cathedrals, cruises and much more. It's worth bearing that in mind when you choose the country you want to visit.Once you've made all the big decisions, it's time to jet off and just enjoy your trip. Pack some warm layers and a good camera to capture the magic of every last moment - this will be a holiday to remember for years to come. If you need any help organising your trip to see the Northern Lights, look no further than Best Served Scandinavia to answer all of your questions and help you plan the perfect trip.
Have you been to see the Northern Lights, or the Southern Lights? How was your experience - can you give any tips for a first-timer?