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imageI’ve been back in the country less than 24 hours and it’s safe to say after four weeks of mad, fast, exciting travelling around Europe, of dancing until the sun comes up and  sightseeing for days – I’m glad to be home. I’ve had the most incredible few weeks road tripping across Bulgaria, exploring Berlin, relaxing in the stunning surroundings of Slovenia, diving into the beautiful baths of Budapest and partying it up in Amsterdam. It’s been epic from start to finish and went better than I ever could have hoped, all thanks to all my amazing friends I met up with along the way. The trip was a fantastic excuse to visit some of my friends from trips to Asia and Australia back in their own homes and to catch up on old times, while picking up some awesome new friends along the way. It felt so good to be on the road and completely independent again, travelling solo really is my favourite way to travel, and I feel so refreshed after  a break from working so much. Also a big thanks to everyone who has been following me on Instagram and has offered countless suggestions of place to eat, things to see and do along the way!

So what next? You all know I’m never one to stand still for long so of course I’ve already got lots of plans for the next few weeks and if you’ve been following me on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook, you’ll already know that in just one month I’ll be heading back to Australia for another year! While I was away my second year visa was granted and after waiting months for it to be approved I was beyond ecstatic, I can’t wait to get back there to start a whole new adventure and to see all my loves I have missed so much. With just a month to prepare, you’d think I’d need to take a few days off working to get everything in order, but actually I’ve ended up signing up to full time freelance hours until the date I leave! Plus I’ll be covering a lot of extra blogging events and reviewing a huge range of restaurants and hotels for you guys with all my top tips for weekends away and how to make the most of your time off work. And I’ve got some exciting collaborations with travel brands and opportunities coming up that I can’t wait to share with you.

It’s been lovely to take some time off from the blog over the last couple of weeks just to get some perspective and really appreciate how far I’ve come. This week my blog celebrated it’s third birthday and I actually cannot believe how much it has changed and grown in that time – from the very first blog post I published to the most recent collaborations and going on my first blogging press trip a week ago. I’m so proud of everything I have accomplished with this blog – from working with brands to helping readers plan their trips. I actually received an amazing message from a long-time reader this morning saying she was inspired by this blog post to quit her job and her relationship so she could buy a one-way ticket to Australia. It is just incredible to have any kind of influence on readers, but to have such a huge impact on her life is more than I could have dreamed of when I started Absolutely Lucy.14368820_10153777471112617_1681907711635110597_nWhen you love to write as much as I do, and you love to travel, getting to combine these passions in a way that helps others and helps you build a career is so precious, it is important to appreciate every second. Last week, the 10th edition of industry magazine Blogosphere published with the incredible In The Frow on the cover – one of the bloggers I have followed from the very beginning – and guess who was featured inside? One of my favourite travel bloggers, Vicky Flip Flop, chose to feature Absolutely Lucy among her favourite travel bloggers for the month. I haven’t yet had a chance to see it as I’ve been away, but I’ll be sharing it with you as soon as my copy arrives – I’m so excited to be a part of such a fabulous magazine, and such an incredible industry.14354903_10153777471157617_3487606775261715180_nThese last few weeks have been exactly the tonic I needed to come home feeling super inspired, with a brain and a camera packed full of amazing content that I just can’t wait to share with you. I’m planning on working my ass off at this laptop and bringing you a huge range of new posts on all my adventures and hope to inspire you to plan some of your own. I’m also on a serious health kick – after four weeks of drinking and eating all kinds of rubbish – I’m looking forward to getting in the gym again and eating healthily. It’s time to get this body in shape and to peak fitness before I get back to Australia and living in my bikini every day! I’m so pleased I finally found a gym in my small town that offers a huge range of classes, plus a well-stocked gym and a pool – actually, I’m going to wrap up this post now and head straight down there for a workout! So there you go guys, a little glimpse into a chaotic few weeks that have left me with a big smile on my face.

Have you traveled around Europe – what was your favourite place? Have you been in spired by my posts – tell me about it! What’s your workout regime – got any tips for me?

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imageI write a lot about budget travel – about how to make every dollar and very pound stretch that little bit further and how to make the most of what you have. Because that’s what we backpackers do, we make every penny count towards the incredible life we build on the road. I know people who have slept in parks, lived on instant noodles and even taken up questionable jobs to make ends meet and to keep the experience going just a little longer. We all do what we can, I’ve been the poorest I’ve ever been in my life while travelling and still managed to keep my dream alive instead of heading home. Those are the moments that define us, when travelling stops being easy and things go wrong, when you don’t know how you’ll afford a bed for the night or how you’ll pay for food for the week. This is when we really have to work for our travelling dream and damn, do we work. I’ve worked some of the hardest and most demanding jobs of my life since travelling, I’ve given them every hour of the day, every last bit of energy I had, and then some. I’ve worked two jobs when everyone else was partying, and in one job I was treated the worst I’ve ever been by another human. But it was all worth it, just to stay one more day and keep it going.

Whether you agree with us backpackers being able to claim back our tax or not, you need to realise that we don’t just do it on a whim. These claims come after a year of working our asses off and often being treated like crap – without any control over what was happening. Now I’m not saying all employers are like this in Australia – some are incredible and give you amazing opportunities, but there are also a lot who take advantage of the fact that we are travelers. The ones who give us no hours at all or refuse to give us time to sleep and when we ask for a day off, threaten us with the sack, or the ones who refused to pay friends of mine after they had completed the work. The fruit picking farmers who take advantage of the fact that you’re desperate for that second year visa by forcing you to work for an unfair wage, refuse to sign you off because they don’t like you or even try it on with you. My own experiences with farm work were pretty dire, I’ll talk about that more in a later post, I’ve had landlords refuse to pay back bonds and stop returning my calls. And don’t get me started on the hostel owner from hell who used to scream in the faces of my friends who worked there and treat them like dirt on his shoe. My point is, we as backpackers get messed around when we’re over there. I know it’s not the only side of the story and there are lots of businesses who have been messed around by bad workers who were backpacking, but after my experiences I don’t feel guilty for one second for claiming every cent back.

So when it comes to this time of year and you start getting those reminders through about claiming your backpacker tax back, oh boy do you smile. Because now more than ever, you realise how it was all worth it when the money you’re getting back will pay for your entire West Coast trip. Considering how much I managed to see and do while I was in Australia – a month in Sydney, six weeks on the East Coast, four months in Darwin, three months in central Queensland for farm work and three months in Melbourne – I also managed to work a lot. If you’ve worked in Australia and claimed your own tax back at any point, you’ll understand why I feel like I’ve had a bit of a windfall and am grinning from ear-to-ear. All that time when I was getting overtaxed for my sales job has paid off because now I can see it like an extreme savings scheme that has just paid out. It’s an amazing feeling to know that I already have a nice pot of money, plus my savings, waiting for me when I return and that I can start planning my incredible West Coast road trip straight away. There’s something very satisfying about paying for your whole trip yourself – I’m always proud of the fact that I’ve funded my entire adventure despite what some people might think. But it is lovely when you get a bit of a bonus like this, it’s like a pat on the back for all your hard work in making your dream come true. Because let’s face it, we all dream of winning the lottery, of picking the right scratch card or just getting plain lucky and coming into just enough money to pick up and take off without a second thought.image

What’s that quote? “If travel was free, you’d never see me again” and how true that is, if it wasn’t for the expense I would have probably traveled the entire way around the globe by now. There are so many countries on my bucket list but I know the one thing standing in my way right now is money, without it I’m just not free to achieve all I want in life. The truth is, when it comes down to it I don’t need much. These days I carry my life on my back and don’t have expensive tastes – I’ve spent much of my travelling time sleeping in wooden huts and travelling with the locals. The problem is that travel does add up when you’re jetting all over the world. Even if you’re staying in budget accommodation and eating from street markets, to keep it going for any length of time you’re talking thousands and if you have a taste for the more luxurious then you better start stacking the notes. Everyone at home has been talking about winning the lottery lately, it’s like some new version of the American Dream – as if a windfall would answer all of our problems and take us off to a new life of utter freedom. And who’s to say it wouldn’t, these days money spells freedom and that’s all any of us really want, freedom from the mundane, working life, freedom from the rubbish weather at home and freedom from expectation. Money buys you an escape, and therefore buys you freedom.

That’s why getting this tax back is so amazing and why it makes such a different for travelers – because it means that instead of the dream being over it can extend for just that little bit longer. For me, it means going back to Australia with dollar in my bank, enough to fund the next exciting part of my travels. For others, it means months of travelling Asia or South America, a boost to your New Zealand fund or even a chance to travel Europe. So many travelers I know are so grateful to get their tax back because it means they can continue living their dream just that little bit longer before returning home, to reality. It gives us freedom to continue living the backpacker life for as long as possible, and to make the most of every cent before we go back to a life of saving and living for payday. If you haven’t already applied for your tax rebate – why the hell not? I worked for about nine months of my first year and I’m getting more than the average tax back of around $2,600 – so it’s definitely worth doing. Don’t be put off by the paperwork – it doesn’t take long and it’s more than worth it for the cash! Either head to the Australian Government website to claim it back independently (super easy) or go through TaxBack.com if you want someone else to do the legwork for a small charge. Either way – don’t miss out on claiming back your money because you’re lazy – that’s your next travelling fund right there!

What are you spending your tax rebate on? How did you claim back your tax – can you recommend a way? Have you claimed from other countries?

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I’m not much of a city girl, being born and raised out in the English countryside seems to swing you one way or the other. My sister is the ultimate city girl living in London and working in the fashion industry, but while I’ve loved the crazy hustle and bustle of visiting cities like Bangkok, Siem Reap and Hanoi, I’m always glad to escape again to the coast, countryside or mountains. I crave space, open fields, endless ocean or the fresh mountain air, too long spent breathing in the fumes of the city, dealing with traffic and so many people drives me crazy. Living in Melbourne was the longest I have ever lived in the middle of a city other than Sydney, and I know the old rivalry between the two is still strong for good reason. Both are amazing cities but Melbourne is where my heart is, even before I left the UK I knew it would be and everything I experienced while I lived there for four months only further cemented my love for the city. Melbourne is a fantastic city to live in if you don’t really like cities – despite my apartment being in the most central part of the city I never felt trapped the way I do in London. The beach was just a short tram ride away and on either side of my apartment you would find beautiful Albert Park and the Botanic Gardens with running tracks, endless open space and huge lakes. It was perfect for me, but even with all of this natural beauty surrounding me, it did sometimes get a bit too much living directly in the city. I’d still feel the need to escape and get away.13043643_10153463041487617_1676119061737887273_n

Now I hadn’t even heard of Lysterfield Park, nor had many of my friends who had lived in Melbourne for a lot longer than I had, but it turned out to be the perfect pace to cycle away a hangover one Sunday. Around 30km out of the city, the park was created following the decommissioning of the reservoir that sits behind us in the photo above, which has left a beautiful woodland set against the banks of the lake. It was the venue for mountain biking events of the 2006 Commonwealth Games and features a wide array of trails suitable for beginners like myself or the more experienced rider. I was definitely feeling a little less enthusiastic at the thought of mountain biking on a hangover than Evan, but it turned out to be a really lovely day and perfect weather for escaping the city. We rode around the park and I attempted the mountain bike trails while he showed off. Wandering around the lake the banks were filled with families who had come well prepared with barbecues and all sorts of goodies. It was beautiful standing there as the sun was setting. We headed back into the woods to find the car and spotted some of the biggest kangaroos I’ve seen in the whole of Australia as we rode along the path towards the car park.

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We ended up having a rather entertaining drive home as the car decided to pack in and leave us stranded until we could get a lift, but it didn’t take the shine off what was a rather perfect day. It was just the death of fresh air I needed before heading back to work the following day – when you’re working 12 hour days six days a week, it becomes even more important to really make the most of your days off. It was really nice to have the opportunity to see another part of the city that I hadn’t yet explored. For anyone who hasn’t heard of Lysterfield, I would really recommend you head out there one weekend – whether you like biking, running or just fancy a nice stroll around beautiful park, it’s a lovely day out and well worth a visit. While you’re at it, why not check to some of the other stunning walks and parks scattered around Melbourne – check out my blog posts on Great Ocean Road, Cape Otway National Park and Grampians National Park. I can’t wait to visit the Wilson’s Promontory, Dandenong Ranges National Park and Philip Island when I return to Melbourne in a few months.

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Do you crave city life, or you prefer a country escape? Where are your favourite places to go to escape the hustle and bustle of the city?

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imageAs the clock ticked down on my final days in Melbourne, it struck me that there were still several things I had yet to do before leaving. All those touristy things we want to do but simply forget once we start working and life gets in the way. Well working 12 hour days six days a week definitely cut back the amount of time I had to give to such activities, but I was still determined to give it my best shot. So when the birthday of one of my best friends was approaching, I thought how better to celebrate than with a trip up the Eureka Skydeck to see our beautiful city twinkling in the moonlight followed by a night of cocktails by the river. We met at Ludlow’s, a bar along the river where loads of our friends who worked there were celebrating the boss’ birthday with drinks and food. The crowd that work at the bar are great, such a friendly bunch and they definitely know how to party. The company actually owns part of the Skydeck and when they heard we were going up there that evening, the bosses gave us free tickets to both the Skyjack and The Edge – we couldn’t believe it! It was so lovely of them and we really appreciated it. Normal prices at $20 for entrance to the Skydeck Experience and a further $12 for The Edge.imageWe walked over to the entrance and were given a warm welcome by the staff to ushered us into the lifts which carried us a whopping 285m above ground in just 38 seconds! No wonder my ears were popping. The fastest elevator trip in the Southern Hemisphere took us directly to the dizzying heights of the Eureka Skydeck – and I wasn’t sure how well this was going to go down. Heights have never bothered me in the slightest, but the birthday girl suffered terrible vertigo as we had found in the Grampians and I hoped she was going to be able to enjoy it. We walked around the Skydeck where we experienced Melbourne sightseeing at its finest, the whole city was alight and glowing against the dark skies. It was beautiful – take your breath away beautiful. I was so glad we hadn’t come up during the day, but also wondered what it would have been like to witness this spectacular view at sunset. We had an incredible 360 degree view of the Melbourne skyline thanks to the floor-to-ceiling windows. From the top it is possible to see Albert Park Lake, Port Phillip Bay, the Dandenong Ranges and beyond. There are also 30 viewfinders around the Skydeck, so you can take a closer look at some of Melbourne’s favourite landmarks such as the MCG, Federation Square and Flinders Street Station.imageAfter exploring the platform, we decided to enjoy a nice glass of wine with the view over the city – it really was a breathtaking sight. We all had to take a minute to breathe in the fact that this was our home, we lived in this amazing city. It was one of the moments I really found a true appreciation for how lucky I am. Then our buzzer went and it was our time to check out the second stage of the experience – The Edge – a glass cube that projects from the 88th floor of the Eureka Tower and suspends visitors almost 300 meters high above Melbourne. A world first, it gives you a chance to stand over the city and really experience the view from a whole new perspective. Now I know that it might not appeal to those who are scared of heights but with me were two of my best friends who were both nervous about the experience and worried they couldn’t cope with the height. Both came out with huge beaming smiles on their faces and not a hint of shaky legs. Even if you hate heights and ca’t usually deal with them, don’t write off this experience because my friends coped well and were so glad they had given it a chance. There really is no other way to see Melbourne like it and I will always remember seeing Melbourne twinkling below me.

For more details about the Skydeck Experience, prices, opening times or The Edge, check out the website for more details.

Have you been up the Eureka Skydeck? How did you find The Edge? What other top Melbourne attractions could you recommend?

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13227097_467600236762891_2670598566680473826_nI wrote this while I was floating high among the clouds somewhere between Australia and Malaysia, feeling like my life was some strange version of limbo caught halfway between two worlds – reality and the incredible life I’ve been living for the past 18 months. After quitting my job and deciding to travel the world solo, I set out on the adventure of a lifetime planning to return within a year and settle back into normal life. Well, that’s what I told everyone, even then I was planning to be gone much longer so it was never really a surprise to those closest to me when I skipped my flights and decided to follow my heart, instead exploring more of Australia than I ever dreamed I would and making plans for the future. I can’t even begin to put into words the effect the last 18 months has had on every aspect of my life – meeting such amazing people at every turn and seeing such incredible sights has really set my heart on fire and has opened me up to a whole new world that I could only fantasise about before now. But you see, the thing is, I felt totally unprepared for returning home. Yes that’s right, after the last 18 months of pure happiness I was finally headed back to the UK. It kind of snuck up on me, despite knowing for months my time in Melbourne would be ending and at some points really looking forward to my return simply to see my family and friends again after so long away. But when it finally came down to it, I just wasn’t ready.13241315_466927216830193_2112462883777615447_nI thought I could handle it, I thought I would be okay. I said my final goodbyes to the very closest of friends and refused to shed tears as I knew it was really just “see you later”, but later would sit in the bath and cry at the thought of leaving this amazing family I’ve found in Melbourne. It really has been home – a place I finally felt settled in and loved my lifestyle, with fantastic friends and regular haunts, a career I could build into something greater than I ever imagined in such a short space of time. A chance to really make something of myself. Melbourne really was the city of opportunity for me and I will never forget the final months I spent here, they were more than I ever hoped they could be. But the one thing that really made it special, was the fact that this was where I was when I realised I was totally healed. I left the UK with a broken heart but returned the happiest I’ve ever been – travel was the best possible thing that could have happened to me. It truly is the greatest healer for a broken heart and I tell you why, it’s because it makes you focus entirely on yourself and what makes you happy, it forces you to be self-reliant and to fall back in love with yourself as a person, to truly learn to be alone and to enjoy it. I learnt so much by travelling solo and it has honestly been the best and most valuable experience of my entire life.13139101_462393443950237_7458104603258956728_nEven though I know my journey is not at an end – I already have travel plans for the next few months across Europe before returning to Australia after the summer – I know that it is the end of an era. When I begin my travels again, I will no longer be a first-time solo traveller, I will know what I’m doing, I won’t a mess of butterflies figuring it out and hoping for the best. I’m proud of that because it shows how much I have learnt since travelling solo, but it also means starting afresh in a whole new way of travelling. I really feel the last 18 months are the best reason to celebrate that I could ever think of – much as we celebrate when we graduate university or marry, we should all celebrate the fact that not only did we survive travelling, we smashed it! I learnt more in the last 18 months than I did from three years at university or a nine year relationship. I am so grateful for every single person who has been with me, whether it was the very first group of friends I made in Bangkok, or the amazing group of Pioneers I found on the Thai islands, whether it was the Darwin Dingos – the greatest travelling family I have ever known, or the crazy beautiful people I found in Melbourne. You’re all so special in so many ways and you all brought such laughter and happiness into my life, you made my travelling experience.13238967_466927206830194_1731875816918540482_nNow that I am half a world away from everything I have known for the past 18 months, I find myself reminiscing over every forgotten moment, every tiny detail and loving every part of the experience for what it was. I can’t believe some of the things I have seen and done, and while a good rest was well-needed after working flat-out for so long, it just gets me even more excited for the next stage of travelling. So what am I doing back here? Well my plan is to be back for a few months, a couple spent working back at the newspaper before heading off to Europe to holiday with family and to visit friends before returning to Australia in September for Part II of my travelling adventure. I still have so many blog posts about Melbourne to share with you, plus any parts of Australia and Asia I may have forgotten to share with you all. Plus I have some exciting collaborations coming up and as always I’ll be keeping you up-to-date with my adventures in the UK – it’s been great having you guys along with me for every step of this adventure and I can’t wait to share the next part with you all!

How did you find returning home after travelling? What travel plans have you got for the summer?

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12742300_10153292964597617_7986843509108504989_nMelbourne goes all out when it comes to celebrating the culture that pours from its streets – from street parties to festivals, there’s always something going on and yet another amazing faction of the city to celebrate. (Check out my previous post on White Night and St Kilda Festival) There’s so much to get involved with and so many ways to feel a part of the city whether you prefer to celebrate the music, art, people or history of the city. These huge events bring people from all walks of life together in that magical way that only a festival can – and we all know how much I love my festivals. Whether it’s a four day bender in the heart of the English countryside, a weekend of acoustic performances, fields filled with art installations or the atmosphere of a heaving city event – all festivals have one thing in common. They bring people together to celebrate something we all love – creativity.imageFestivals are definitely something I’ve missed since travelling – if you’ve been reading for a while you’ll know I’m something of a festival queen after my work as editor of This Festival Feeling. So after managing to miss out altogether during my travels, I was so happy to find so much going on in the streets of Melbourne. If you’ve read my post on Piknic Electronik then you’ll have already had a taste of the vibes I’m talking about. While the festivals and parties I’ve found here haven’t been quite as wild as the ones back home or up in Darwin, they’ve been plenty of fun! I’m talking about the bush doofs just outside the city, and the warehouse parties in Footscray – all with a totally different atmosphere to those I’m used to but awesome in their own right.13083223_10153463041977617_2551648419583997879_nElsewhere in the city, I gathered a few friends and headed to the Lonsdale Street Greek Festival one sunny afternoon back in February. Melbourne’s biggest Greek street party filled the city’s historic Greek precinct with the sights, sounds and smells of Greek culture. From the delicious scent of freshly fried calamari with a squeeze of lemon juice, to the students Greek dancing in the streets, to the three stages crammed with entertainment, children’s rides and activities. The street was lined with over 60 food, drink and craft stalls and the space in-between was filled with hundreds of people. The atmosphere was fantastic and the musical performances were cheered on by the waiting crowd. Just down the road in Federation Square visitors could transport themselves across the globe at the Japanese Festival where over 15,000 people gathered to honour their ancestors and celebrate Japanese culture. With traditional dance performances, traditional dress on show, Taiko drumming and sumo shows, there was plenty to watch and get involved with. Plus plenty of Japanese delicacies including sushi and bento to whet your appetite for Japanese culture.12717955_10153324143872617_3408464075534223549_nElsewhere, over on Chapel Street one of my best friends in Melbourne dragged me out to what I thought was going to be a food festival one Sunday. We were both in recovery mode from the previous night out but couldn’t resist the promise of food and fun. We headed to Windsor Block Party, where I expected a small gathering of stalls but what I found was so much more. Food stalls with huge crowds gathered around them and the smell of sizzling goodness, further along the costumes of circus performers glittered in the late afternoon sunlight. They spun flaming poi and hula hooped to the beats of a DJ set-up – think Notting Hill Carnival street party vibes – everyone was dancing and cheering at the DJ. As the sun set, the music pounded and everyone was dancing together, a perfect Sunday evening if you ask me, all rounded off with an afterparty in a nearby bar. It was one of those events that brings everyone together in the best of spirits for all of the best things in life – good food, good music and good fun.12801640_10153324143887617_8742430497768825513_nAnother weekend we just happened to walk through Moomba Festival, yet another celebration in the centre of Melbourne that had brought out crowds of thousands to the Yarra riverbanks just off Federation Square for a weekend of music, food, entertainment, all rounded off with some amazing fireworks. If you love a festival as much as I do, you’ll definitely be headed for Melbourne at some point – I know when I head back i already have a whole list of festivals I simply have to experience – I can’t wait!

What’s been your favourite Australian festival experience? Are you headed to any UK festivals this summer?

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imageThe most liveable city in the world has been my home for the past four months and I don’t think I’ve ever been happier living in a city than I have been since I moved here. From the second you get off the plane you can feel the city is alive and buzzing with excitement at the arrival of yet another new face eager to unlock its hidden treasures. From bars hidden behind bookcases and acoustic performers lining the streets, to the regular festival takeovers and the incredible street art that lines alleyways across the city. Melbourne is a city of life and excitement with amazing discoveries hiding around every corner – even after four months I still have so much to learn about this city and feel like I have barely scratched the surface.imageWith just three weeks left here I guess I’m getting a bit emotional at the thought of leaving the place that has become home to me, the first home I’ve had in 18 months. I’ve loved every second of my life here and that’s exactly what it has been. I have built a life here over the past four months, more than just meeting friends before hitting the road again, this is a place where I have friends, family, a career and a home. I’ve met so many amazing people who have set my soul alight and I know that even when I fly to the other side of the globe, I’ll be leaving a big piece of my heart here. You all know who you are, every single one of you amazing people have made this one of the best experiences of my life and it’s you that makes the thought of leaving seem incomprehensible.imageimageBut if you know anything about me by now, you’ll know that I’m never one to dwell on the sad times, instead I have a series of posts lined up to celebrate Melbourne and all that has made this city incredible for me. All the reasons I’ll be returning in just a few short months, all the things that have made me live every single day with a smile on my face. And what better to start with than the amazing graffiti that lines the streets of Melbourne? I love art – walking around the city to see bold, colourful statements that reflect the consciousness of a passionate, exciting and creative city is one of my favourite parts of Melbourne. From the political and the poignant, to the current and the comic – there’s a piece for all tastes and the constant fluctuation of work is what keeps it exciting. You never know what will spring up next and what will disappear, this change is what keeps the walls of Melbourne alive in a way that other cities just cannot keep up with.imageMuch as you often find you stumble across incredibly relatable and poignant posts across social media that seem to be written especially for you and your emotions at that moment. Melbourne city walks are like a live feed of passion and emotion spread right across your eyes – it’s amazing what you will stumble across if you just take a second to look up from your phone as you wander the cobbled walkways. Of course, if you’re planning on exploring the city anytime soon you’ll need to know the best places to start so here’s the best places to venture if you fancy seeing some of the most awe-inspiring pieces on show. Start out at the famous Hosier and Rutledge Lanes, just off Federation Square, before heading to Caledonian Lane, off Little Bourke Street, then check out Union Lane, off Bourke Street Mall.imageimageIf that’s not enough for you, head for the rear of 280 Queen Street in Finlay Avenue, 21 Degraves Street, or the corner of Flinders Lane and Cocker Alley. Over towards Carlton there’s some amazing artwork at 122 Palmerston Street, and don’t forget Centre Place between Collins Street and Flinders Lane. All of these areas feature some of the best street art I have seen, and it’s so wonderful to see them displayed in a place where it is valued and considered art – Melbourne is such a modern city and I love the attitude that appreciates the art instead of squashing these amazing talents like in many cities. Another great area for checking out the art is Brunswick Street and the rest of Fitzroy where you’ll find some pretty spectacular scenes hidden amongst the streets.11390285_10152841231267617_5301555924944016490_n

 

What do you think about street art in cities – is it just graffiti or something much more? Where are your favourite places in Melbourne to spot the latest and best street art?

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imageLife has been pretty busy since I arrived in Melbourne and although it has meant blogging has taken a bit of a back seat, I wouldn’t change the last few months for the world. I’m now just three weeks away from returning home and I can’t help but reminisce over the last 18 months of travelling. I’ve learnt so much about myself on this journey and have had the opportunity to experience things I never dreamt I would. There have been ups and downs, bumps in the road, some of the wildest parties and some of the most sobering experiences of my life but every second of it has made me happier than my wildest dreams. My time spent flitting between Asian beaches and mountain ranges was incredible, as were the memories and friends found along the East Coast of Australia. But while the constant movement and escapism of travelling was exactly what I needed at some points – to truly lose myself in the whole experience – I have also found such happiness in staying put, in developing a life, a career and a base.

During my time in this amazing country, I’ve had the chance to explore career options I had never previously considered and that in itself has been an invaluable experience. I’ve done plenty of the usual hospitality work in bars and theatres over here, but it was my job as a nanny that was a real eye-opener. I’ll be posting more about that job in the future, but for now I really want to share the job that has taken over my life since moving to Melbourne. When I arrived back in February, I was so happy to have escaped outback life and to be reunited with my Darwin friends that I couldn’t resist a few weeks off work – I spent these job hunting and enjoying life after working so hard for seven months straight. It was wonderful, having all the time to explore the city and to really enjoy it. But then I started to get impatient, I was ready for a new challenge and wanted to work. I had originally been looking for journalism or writing work, or some kind of office job, but my visa stood in the way time and time again. It was difficult to find a job that would take me on with a working holiday visa – especially when I had decided I really wanted to avoid hospitality work.13092046_10153463041812617_1559144075203980058_nI applied for everything and then finally one job called me in for a meeting – I had no idea what the job was having applied for so many, but I figured I had nothing to lose by going. It turned out to be an information session for a sales job – door knocking to be precise – not something I would ever have applied for had I known what the job entailed. I always hated the idea of working in sales, all the targets and pressure, and the lack of creativity just didn’t appeal to me. But with no other job offers on the horizon I felt I ought to give it a day to see if it could be a short-term option, plus I instantly liked the rest of the staff and found it a pretty fun place to work. Despite having no experience, I managed to make over 100 sales every single day in my first four days leading to an instant promotion. Within a couple of weeks I was managing my own team of people which ranged from 12-18 people, training others to do the job and developing their skills to eventually branch out and run their own buses. It’s now two months later and I’m one of the most senior members of the channel and a team manager who has just launched another team branched from my own. Last week I also had the second top selling team in the entire country and became the highest ever paid team manager in the channel, earning $2,000 in a week.

Why am I telling you this? Not to boast I promise, I am very proud of what I have achieved since being in Melbourne – this job has given me a wealth of new experiences, skills and a fantastic reference. But my point in sharing my own experiences is to make others realise what I have – you should never judge a book by its cover, nor should you ever turn down an opportunity without good reason. Had I known what the job was before attending the information session, I never would have gone. I would have missed out on a invaluable two months and some amazing friends along the way. I always felt so stupid when I first started and had to tell people what my job was, but now I announce it with pride and happily recruit people from everywhere, even on nights out! I have people requesting to be in my team because it is the very best of all the teams, and I’m proud to lead a group of people who work their asses off, who are all filled with ambition and positivity. I never once thought I would end up working in sales and I may never do it again, but I will be forever grateful that I answered when opportunity came knocking on this occasion. This job has definitely taken over my life at times and has even brought me to the verge of breakdown because I was exhausted, but it’s also been the most rewarding experiences I could have had career-wise in such a short space of time.11822272_10152959995477617_5291704052004368303_nSo many people, myself included, let silly things stand in the way of opportunity. Letting things like pride, greed and urgency prevent you from trying something new or unexpected can life-changing, in all the wrong ways. No matter what point you reach in your life, it is so important to always remain open and accepting of all new ideas and to always try. The fact that you put yourself out there and tried in the first place sets you apart from the rest, it makes you brave and automatically more likely to succeed. Those individuals who let embarrassment or fear of failure stand in their way are just setting themselves up for a fall, or they just avoid even putting themselves out there. But if you never take a risk, you’ll never get that feeling of butterflies in your stomach, that excitement that you don’t know what will happen next. I’ll tell you something, that butterflies feeling is my favourite in all the world. Why? Because I associate it with all the happiest and most successful moments of my life. The moment when I met my first love, the moment I quit my job, the moment I hopped on that plane and the moment I realised I had achieved the life I dreamed of. I realised earlier that I’m the happiest I’ve felt since travelling and I’m putting it all down to following the butterflies.

Have you found a whole new career through a fleeting opportunity? What moments in your life have given you butterflies?

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944933_10153380782367617_1998659132700015645_nSo far life in Melbourne has proved to be everything I dreamed it would be and more. I finally have the perfect city/coast life balance, I’ve found a job I really enjoy, I have an amazing apartment and I’m surrounded by amazing friends both old and new. I’m a lucky girl and I feel so grateful every single day I wake up here and realise how amazing my life is. I’m appreciating every second because I know it won’t last forever and the clock is already ticking down on my time in this incredible city. Since starting my new job I’ve already been promoted and am now managing a sales team of 12+, I’m loving the job despite never having worked in sales before now. But it is very demanding on my time and I’m working long hours, so blogging is having to take a slight backseat and I will be posting a bit less frequently over the coming months. It’s a strange adjustment after having all the time in the world spend on writing, editing and creating for you guys, but it’s nice to have a new challenge. I will still be posting at least once or twice a week, so keep checking back here to stay up-to-date with my adventures.10400067_10153380767522617_881572232156142099_nWith working so much, I’m making sure I make the most of any downtime I get whether it’s having late-night catch-ups with friends over a bottle of wine or dinner, or getting tickets to the biggest event in the city! So I could hardly resist when I found out the Australian Grand Prix would be taking place, not only in Melbourne but just a five minute walk from my apartment! I’ve always loved watching Formula One, I’ll be honest and say I know very little about it all and would’t be able to tell you much about it as a sport, but I’ve always loved the atmosphere that surrounds it – the whole spectacle. It’s something that I would happily watch on a lazy Sunday afternoon, but probably never would have had the opportunity, or the drive, to buy tickets for and watch live in the UK. But halfway around the world, it was taking place right on my doorstep and it would be rude not to get involved. With one friend set to leave the city to return to Darwin the very next day, it was a great excuse to get loads of my mates together for one final hurrah and a fun day out together. We ended up with a gang of around ten of us and scooped up tickets for a bargain price of $99. I was really impressed at the price – for a backpacker it’s a good wad of cash but considering you get a full day of entertainment plus the chance to watch the race unfold in front of your eyes. You can’t put a price on the experience.1918870_10153380782112617_6096284248595701496_nWe rocked up around 11am, just an hour after the gates opened and already there was a steady stream of people arriving. Being typical backpackers, we were all doing our best to save money and brought along a picnic and snuck in some alcohol to avoid spending a fortune once inside the gates. Although prices weren’t actually too steep at the bars and food stalls, we were still glad we came prepared because it was nice having our lunch at the side of the track while everything was going on. There was so much to see and do around Albert Park, from live music stages and mini race tracks for the kids, to games and challenges, and loads of food and drink stalls. It was great just to walk around for a few hours and see everything that was going on, especially when you reached the collections of racing cars scattered around the grounds and had the chance to meet some of the drivers. All of this excitement was set against the stunning backdrop of Albert Park lake and the beautiful natural park. It was a perfect sunny day and we felt insanely lucky to have such good weather after the previous two days had brought nothing but cloud and rain – typical Melbourne bringing one extreme then another!1375641_10153380783182617_2022794838196627322_nFinally, after walking the whole way around the track and the grounds, we decided to head back to where we had entered around Gate 5. We were keen to secure a good spot to sit and watch the race when it finally kicked off at 4pm, and we had spotted a good place early on. We ended up with the most amazing view of the track – sitting right on a bend where we could see the cars approaching and zooming off into the distance, plus had a great view of TV screens to keep up with the rest of the race. Sitting on top of a hill meant we were looking down on the track and we didn’t have anyone blocking our view – I actually can’t believe how amazing our view was and how close we were to the main track. It really was something special. Just before the race, and during, there were constant flyovers from various jets and even an aircraft carrier from the airforce which sent eyes gazing into the skies with amazement and wonder. The race finally started to screams and cheers of excitement as the cars sped around the track and we became engrossed. The atmosphere was electric and you couldn’t help but be gripped by every passing moment. It was a dramatic race for sure.12821588_10153380785212617_2675939479977788319_nFor anyone who missed the drama – the whole race took a turn for the worst when the drivers headed into lap 17 and both McLaren’s Fernando Alonso and Esteban Gutierrez were involved in a pretty terrifying crash. As the BBC put it: “Trying to pass Gutierrez on the run down to Turn Three, Alonso’s front right wheel tagged the right rear of the Haas and he was launched into a barrel roll, coming to rest upside down in the barriers. The two-time champion was clearly shaken but, although he limped away from his car, he was uninjured.” It was bloody scary to watch, on TV you’re always so detached from these incidents as you’re too caught up in the drama, but being there just metres from the track when this happened really made you realise how dangerous the sport is. I was amazed to see Alonso walk away uninjured from the crash – it really took your breath away to watch the footage and to see the remains of the vehicle. It really is a testament to the quality and the strength of these cars that it can withstand such damage and still protect the individual inside. Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg won the event. The whole race was just incredible to watch and I feel so lucky that I had the opportunity to not only witness such an amazing event, but also to share it with such great friends. If you ever get the chance to go to the Grand Prix – whether you know a lot about racing or not – I would seriously recommend you go! It really is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and one I won’t forget in a hurry!1934345_10153380783277617_8964741843810786135_n

Have you been to the Grand Prix? What’s your favourite sporting event to attend across the world? When did you last have a great day out with friends?

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12801410_10153322204992617_812625605486026040_nI wrote a post last week about how social media really affects your travelling experience by bringing you closer to people you might never have crossed paths with otherwise. Well the other week I had the perfect example of this when I finally had the opportunity to meet up with someone who has been supporting my travels every step of the way. Starting out with a few comments on my blog and a passing tweet or Facebook comment, we soon started chatting regularly, providing each other with a wealth of travel information and a listening ear. I love the way we became much like modern-day pen-pals, always keeping in touch along our independent journeys through Australia. Finally the day came when we found ourselves in the same city and couldn’t resist meeting in person for a day of art, culture and chatting blogging, Amy and I headed to the National Gallery of Victoria for the incredible Andy Warhol and Ai Weiwei exhibition.1622071_10153879755861093_7085872547509599261_nThis major international exhibition has brought together the works of two of the most significant artists of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. It explores the huge influence of Warhol and Weiwei on modern art and contemporary life, focusing on the parallels and points of difference between the two. The NGV exhibition presents more than 300 works, including major new commissions, immersive installations and a wide representation of paintings, sculpture, film, photography, publishing and social media. As described on the website: “Presenting the work of both artists, the exhibition explores modern and contemporary art, life and cultural politics through the activities of two exemplary figures – one of whom represents twentieth century modernity and the ‘American century’; and the other contemporary life in the twenty-first century and what has been heralded as the ‘Chinese century’ to come.”12803150_10153322204432617_4795580638982975734_nWhether you know a lot about art or not – and I admit that while my interest and curiosity continually finds me poking around in galleries, I actually have very little knowledge about art – this exhibition is fantastic. I was so impressed with the cross-cultural diversity of the pieces and the way they made poignant comments on society, offering great similarities over huge periods of time. The historical significance and the cultural significance is the part that really interested me, learning about how these stunning pieces reflected the politics and state of society at the time of making. And how these beautiful installations were still so accurate decades later – it really highlighted how our concerns in society can become timeless, that they may appear in lightly different forms but essentially boil down to the same issues. Ones that particularly stood out were concerns over mass-production and commercialisation as it took over the world, others included communication – from the basic right up to social media, and another that really interested me was the mass production of food and whether we can trust those who provide us with it.12802700_10153322204922617_6607751453238181792_nI loved learning about Ai Weiwei, while Andy Warhol is someone everyone knows of, I hadn’t yet come across Weiwei and it was a fantastic opportunity to learn about his history and his life’s work. He was a fascinating man and I’ve actually found a documentary about him on Netflix that I’m looking forward to watching to find out more about him. I was really impressed with the interactive nature of the exhibition, it was brilliant to be able to get involved with some of the installations, to experiment with making your own pop art and to have all of your senses targeted by the pieces. It was easily the most diverse exhibition I have seen yet and it really appealed to all ages – I saw people of all ages and backgrounds there taking in the sights and sounds of the pieces. It was great to see such a mixed crowd and really showed the wide appeal of this exhibition, that it was something all could relate to and understand, that it spoke of issues still so poignant in our modern day society.12794576_10153322205037617_2327204439043988776_nSome of the highlights definitely helped draw in the crowds as the exhibition was also featuring a brand new suite of installations from Ai Wei Wei including an installation from the Forever Bicycles series, composed from almost 1500 bicycles; a major five-metre-tall work from Ai’s Chandelier series of crystal and light; Blossom 2015, a spectacular installation in the form of a large bed of thousands of delicate, intricately designed white porcelain flowers; and a room-scale installation featuring portraits of Australian advocates for human rights and freedom of speech and information. All fascinating pieces with interesting motivations behind them – definitely ones to make you think. Plus you’ll get to see classic pieces from Warhol including the famous Campbell’s soup paintings, his own self-portraits and the images he made of Marilyn Monroe and various other famous faces. The exhibition is running until April 24th, so there’s just over a month left to check it out – at just $26 entry I’d call that a bargain for getting to see some of the most famous pieces of modern art and some of the most current pieces by an internationally renowned artist. It’s well worth a look, and there are also a huge range of special events, tours and talks happening in the evenings including the popular Friday Nights at NGV. Find all details at the website.10391817_10153322204927617_2833230169451327107_n

Have you been to the NGV’s Warhol Weiwei exhibition – what did you think? Can you recommend any other galleries in Melbourne, or across the world?

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12742849_10153297889262617_2785038916657325425_nOne of the things I love the most about Melbourne is that there is always something going on. It’s a lively city full of hidden gems and quirky, unusual events and I’ve already lost track of how many unexpected treats I’ve found since exploring the city. From the tiniest little food festivals to the Mardi Gras-esque street parties, there is always something new to discover and where better than to prime your taste in Australian music than by attending St Kilda Festival? Australia’s largest free music festival, the event showcases a range of the country’s national and local talent on huge stages set against the natural beauty of St Kilda’s beach. The event attracts over 400,000 people each year and this year took place on Valentine’s Day, which also just happened to be right in the middle of three of my friends’ birthdays. A perfect time to celebrate.12729295_10153314611102617_352570379247041229_nGetting the whole gang together, we headed to St Kilda in the afternoon where we couldn’t wait to check out the huge range of performances set to take place across ten stages that day. Now we all know by now how much I love my festivals – whether they’re free or expensive, dance or reggae, camping or day events. I love them all and can always find something special at each of them. St Kilda Festival was great – a huge event that has obviously proven a great success by the crowds that poured through the streets. The performances I saw were great and the crowd were clearly enjoying themselves, who couldn’t with a main stage set against the backdrop of the ocean as the sun was setting? My favourite part of the event definitely had to be when I went down to the beach to sit and watch the sun set while listening to the performers on the main stage.12742176_10153314610592617_2808402488505373794_nBut much as we did all enjoy ourselves that day, I couldn’t help but feel the event could have done with being better organised for the of us who aren’t from the area. Being new to Melbourne, and especially to St Kilda, I found it very difficult to navigate between and even locate some of the stages and actually only ended up getting to watch performances on two of the ten stages because it took so long to find our way through the crowds. I saw little to no signs around to direct us and whenever I stopped to ask stewards they seemed to have even less idea what was going on than I did. Very late on we finally found a map of the area, but we had missed most of the things we had really wanted to see. After speaking to a few friends who went along to the event separately to us, it seems they shared some of our experiences and felt the event was a bit over-crowded. Regardless, we still made sure we had a good time, a few ciders in the sunshine and a lot of laughs.9861_10153314609857617_117124694456852418_nJust a few days later, it was White Night and the whole city was abuzz again as Melbourne CBD prepared to put on the biggest show of colour, light and music. Bigger and better than ever the radio and TV stations promised us, so after a quick drink with a friend in St Kilda, I couldn’t resist heading into the city to meet friends for a good look around at the projections. Despite spending six hours wandering around the city, I never actually saw a single one! But don’t worry, we had the time of our lives walking around and discovering the huge range of musical talents hidden around every street corner.12728787_10153314615482617_7942346077139755604_nWe actually ended up sticking around Flinders and Melbourne Central areas as every time we walked down the street we got sucked into watching another epic performance turn into a huge street party with people of all ages dancing in the streets. It was amazing and the atmosphere was electric, it kept me dancing my heart out until 6am despite being completely sober and starving hungry. I was so impressed with the quality of the performances and how diverse they were, on one corner we watched as an incredibly talented acoustic performer mixed DJ skills with guitar and even a touch of saxophone while talking to the crowd throughout. Then just down the road, a DJ had the whole street dancing and further along a fabulous group started a fiesta in the shopping mall with their Mardi Gras vibes. It was a fantastic night and even though I didn’t see what I set out to see, I found some fantastic performers along the way.

Have you been to either of these events – what did you think? Does your city have great local music events like these?

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12717599_10153287667397617_7100238901032237172_nNow it wouldn’t be Absolutely Lucy without some raving and staying up past bedtime would it? I’d been such a good girl and barely partied for three months – giving my liver and my wallet a rest after Darwin – but now I was ready to make up for lost time. The weekend after I arrived, a group of us headed to Piknik Electronik – a weekly summer series that celebrates electronic music in beautiful summer settings. First starting out in Montreal, now the event has expanded as far as Barcelona and Melbourne, where it runs every Sunday over around eight weeks. If you’re craving serious festivals vibes but can’t afford a weekend escape from the city, or can’t spare the time off work, this is the perfect answer! I went along to the fourth edition of the event which was featuring South London Ordnance, Secret Cinema, Dean Benson and Andy Hart, on Sunday, February 7, at The Paddock, off Federation Square.942805_10153287667417617_8534522980470638858_nAll of us were in the party mood and couldn’t wait to hit the event, it started at 1pm and was due to run until 9pm, so we headed there about 3pm. We are glad to arrive then because the day was baking hot and there was very little shade at the event – I ended up with the worst sunglasses tan line on my nose! The tickets were really reasonably priced with the top price at $30 but plenty of first, second and third release tickets starting from $15. Also – it’s worth hanging out near Flinders Backpackers and other hostels in the area because Piknic staff were handing out flyers that gave reduced price entry so getting in turned out to be a bargain! Once you’re in, they have a cash-card system for the bars which definitely helps make them less crowded – you just top up a card when you arrive and anything that is left on it at the end of the day, you can claim back. This was great because I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve had money left on cards like these because the bars have been so crowded at festivals and haven’t been able to claim the money back – such a waste!12687770_10153287667517617_1080769753234931222_nThe crowds were already there and we could tell we were in for a good afternoon from the moment we walked in the gates, people were already dancing and having a great time. The event had brought a complete range of people together; from businessmen to backpackers, from teenagers to parents, and the atmosphere was electric. It was fantastic to see such a varied crowd and to see how friendly everyone was, I lost count of the new friends I made that afternoon because everyone was so keen to make new friends and know your story. We had a great day spent dancing, chatting and laughing, a lot, it was a perfect event for the Dingo’s. And the mark of a good mini-festival in the city? When it really does feel like you’re a million miles away from the skyscrapers and bustling streets – with the park nestled against the Yarra riverbank it could’t have felt father away from the tourist trap that is Federation Square. It was great to be somewhere surrounded by all the colour and fun of festivals, but barely any distance from our home and without needing to take the day off work.12651074_10153287668277617_3427740945071616279_nPiknic caters for all tastes – so whether you’re there for the music, the drinks, the food or the fun, you’ll leave satisfied. Instead of stocking the usual rubbish drinks you get at festivals you can get craft beers and summer cocktails, although they were a touch expensive. Every week the event offers a new selection of Melbourne’s own delicious food trucks. And who can forget the little ones? Creating a fun, family environment, the organisers host Little Piknic – a designated children’s area with plenty of activities for them to take part in. I read that last year there were complaints over the lack of toilets and facilities but this year there must have been a big improvement as I didn’t find myself queueing for a toilet all day – a marked improvement on most festivals or music events! Running until 9pm, its the perfect place to see the sunset and to get you ready to rave all night – just a hop, skip and a jump from the CBD clubs – there’s plenty of places to head after to keep the party going.

Can you recommend any other great city events in Melbourne? Have you been to any other great city festivals around the world? 

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