During the summer I headed home to the UK for a short while but it wasn't long until I started getting itchy feet, and I thought why not take advantage of Europe being right on my doorstep? Living in the UK, we are so lucky to have so many countries and cultures so close and accessible, it's important to take advantage of that EU passport while we still have it eh! I've travelled quite a lot of Europe over the years but there were still so many places I longed to visit and since making so many new international friends on the other side of the world, it seemed a perfect time to go and visit them all at home for the ultimate Eurotrip! One of the top places on my list was Amsterdam - I've wanted to visit for years and have planned trips several times but ended up never quite making it. I would only have about 48-72 hours in the city but it was the perfect opportunity to experience it for the first time and to visit a good friend of mine at her home - from Australia to Amsterdam.I flew in from Budapest and after a fairly chilled few days spent in the stunning baths and exploring the city at a gentle pace, I was ready to take things up a gear to cram in sightseeing and partying into just a few hours. I was staying just outside the city with my friend, Lisa, and I have to give a huge shoutout to her for not only putting me up at her amazing apartment, but for helping me to make the absolute most of my Amsterdam experience. As soon as I arrived we cycled into the city in true Amsterdam fashion to check out the parks which were filled with the scent of barbecue and the chatter of friends. We sat in the sunshine at a little man-made beach along the river having drinks and pizza with friends, and spent the evening bar hopping along the canals. It was a perfect first evening there and gave me a chance to meet a lot of people, we even stumbled across a fashion festival happening in the streets with all of the high class shops hosting DJ sets and bars.The next days, I headed into the city first thing to make the most of my sightseeing time by taking one of the brilliant free walking tours. I first heard about Sandeman's free walking tours from a friend when I was in Berlin and after experiencing one there and another in 'Dam, I would seriously recommend them to anyone visiting a European city. The tours are fantastic quality and are led by energetic, knowledgeable and passionate individuals who bring history and heritage to life through their delivery. The walks last just a few hours and take in the main sights of each city plus there are several specialised ones including tours of the Red Light District, beer tours, history tours, graffiti tours etc. The best thing about these tours? They're technically free despite being such amazing quality. The people giving the tours make their money through tips - they just ask that you pay what you feel the tour was worth at the end - you can give nothing or you show how much you value the experience. It calls for the tour leader to really work hard to show you the city and it calls for you to give an honest and fair review of the services. I can't fault the company or the system. The Amsterdam tour was fantastic and our guide was really friendly and knowledgeable.Once we'd spent a few hours wandering through the busy streets and along the canals for the tour, I headed back to the apartment for a quick change and glam up. Then Lisa and I were straight out the door and off to Magneet Festival - a bit of a trip affair, the festival would feature some of Lisa's friends who were DJing on the most amazing stage overlooking the whole festival. It was an incredible night, amazing music and a fantastic group of people made for a pretty special experience. We danced and partied our way around the festival, even checking out hardcore and rock tents and watching some entertaining karaoke. It was such a fun night and pretty epic to experience a festival in Amsterdam. After the gates closed, we headed into the city and ended up at De School - a converted school which has become a club where must-lovers can rave in a dark, smokey basement until the sun comes up. Such a good club, we had a fantastic night! The next day, dying of hangover, I packed up and headed out to catch my train up to the north where I was visiting another amazing friend for just one night before heading home.It was such a flying visit but my goodness I crammed a LOT in, Amsterdam is a fantastic city which makes it hard not to want to cram everything into the quickest visit. Before even leaving I knew I already wanted to return for another visit - there is still so much I didn't have time to do, like the Anne Frank House and the museums. And I would love a chance to spend more time exploring the city at a slower pace. I will definitely return in the future but I was so happy to not only get to experience the city for the first time but to share the experience with such amazing people. I'm a lucky girl and travelling the world definitely has opened me up to some incredible cross-continent friendships. Getting to reunite with friends in a completely new land is definitely one of my favourite things about travelling the world.
Have you been to Amsterdam - what was your favourite experience? Can you recommend any other walking tours?
It's about time I gave you guys a little life update - those of you who follow me on Instagram or Twitter may already know about my plans, but for those who don't I'm sure you can guess they include travel! When I came back from Australia, the first question everyone asked me was 'What next?' - they just knew how incredible my experiences had been and couldn't imagine I could settle back into life at home. At the time, I had no immediate plans but knew I would be returning to Australia in the autumn, this gave me just long enough to spend time with all the people I've missed so much over the last year-and-a-half and to take on some freelance work at the newspaper to earn a few £££ while I was back in the UK. I started out at a relaxed pace with a few days freelance work each week - plenty to pay the bills and save - and plenty of time to work on this blog and catch up with friends. If I had only thought about the kind of person I am, I would have realised there was no way things would remain this chilled.
Instead I've ended up taking on so much extra freelance work that I'm working full time hours across six newspapers lately - this is great money but it has eaten into my time to spend with friends and family. Typical me, especially when you add in that I've been trying to squeeze in as many blog reviews/events and working with as many brands as possible during my time in the UK. I've never been a stand still and let life happen to you kind of gal, I prefer to go out and seize the day in any way I can. While I was away I was contacted with so many amazing opportunities, but they were all based in the UK so I wanted to make the most of them while I was back over here. It's a really exciting time for this blog and I'm so happy to see how it has grown since I first started travel blogging. Some of my most incredible news yet is that I have been invited on my first press trip as a blogger - more to come on that later - and I couldn't be more excited about it! To actually be recognised enough as a travel blogging brand to be approached for a press trip is amazing and more than I could have ever dreamed of at this stage.I've been pretty busy in the last two years despite travelling and, often, working full time along the way. I've worked with some incredible brands during this time including some well-known names such as Durex and The Flight Centre, with plenty more coming up. I hosted an Instagram takeover for Travelex UK and have worked with some amazing travel and technology brands plus I've featured in a lot of articles by brands and bloggers alike. I've recently guest posted on some amazing websites and written pieces for brands including Base Backpackers. I've been invited to some amazing events such as the Blogosphere Magazine Summer Party, and reviewed some incredible restaurants and hotels. I also have one very exciting announcement coming up that cannot be revealed until September, and some very exciting partnerships for later in the year - all very hush-hush at the moment but I can't wait to share them with you. It's safe to say all my hard work is really paying off and I'm so happy to see more people enjoying my content than ever before.
So what is my big news?
Well despite having just returned from two weeks in Santorini, it's just a few days until I'm off again! I've currently waiting for my second year visa for Australia to be approved, so in the meantime I've decided to explore some parts of Europe I haven't yet had the chance to while catching up with some of my travelling friends. I was already planning a trip to Bulgaria for a reunion with some of the best travelling friends I have made - trust me, we have matching tattoos to prove it! The five of us made some serious memories after we all crossed paths back in February last year when we were all exploring Thailand - two amazing weeks spent on Koh Phanang and Koh Tao together. We're talking a lot of partying and the infamous Half Moon Party, boat trips, markets, food, ladyboy shows and a LOT of fun. I can't wait to reunite with the others in a whole new country and explore together, despite having been to Bulgaria years ago I'm looking forward to experiencing a bit more of the local culture.
When we started planning the trip, I had in my mind I would Euro-hop a bit by myself after, not expecting to be invited on a press trip to Slovenia a few days later. In the end, my trip almost planned itself. From Monday, I'll be spending around a month away, starting with just under a week in Bulgaria then a few days in Berlin, heading to Slovenia for the press trip for five days. Then I'll move on to Budapest - a place I have long wanted to visit - before finishing up in the Netherlands, with a few days staying with a friend in Amsterdam followed by a visit up north to see my Melbourne flatmate. It's going to be a pretty amazing trip mixed between catching up with a group of friends, travelling solo, experiencing my first press trip with other bloggers and visiting both friends from home and those I have met around the globe. A perfect combination if you ask me. And I'll round it off nicely with a few days in London which will be spent reviewing hotels and restaurants. It'll be totally different to my previous trip and I'm looking forward to trying something new and experiencing a whole new world. I'm quite excited for the feeling of rocking up in a hostel in a new city and not knowing a soul - after making so many friends in Australia that became hard to do after a while!
Thanks so much to everyone who has offered me a place to stay, a tour guide, recommended places to stay/eat and things to do - you're all getting me so excited! If you have any other suggestions please leave a comment and I'll add them to my list! And of course, I hope you'll join me every step of the journey right here!
Have you traveled Europe - what were your highlights? Any ultimate hostel experiences to share or unusual activities to try?