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imageWhen it comes to planning a huge trip like that standard backpacker route up the East Coast of Australia, it can be a pretty daunting task. Taking anywhere between two weeks to six months to complete, and with such a huge range of trips, activities, adventures and sights to take in – where on earth do you begin? There are so many questions to answer – what will we do, where will we stay, how will we get there? And so many options from sailing trips and four wheel driving expeditions, to waterfall tours and white water rafting. It’s no easy task, but one thing I’ve learnt since being in Australia is quite how much it pays off to plan your trip in advance. A complete contrast to Asia where it usually works out cheaper and easier to be spontaneous and just book everything individually as you go along. Here in the land down under its a much better idea to book all your transport, accommodation and trips as a whole to save big time on cash. It’s a shame to take the spontaneity out of backpacking and I’m still not used to it, but booking our trip this way saved us a small fortune.

I didn’t realise at the time, but our booking agent gave us huge discounts which seriously cut back our spending and allowed us to save our money for goon. After meeting and talking to so many other backpackers, many of whom booked things individually, we have now realised how good our deal was. All of our Greyhound buses from Sydney to Cairns, all our accommodation and all of our trips were included in a £1,300 package per person with several free meals thrown in and lots of upgrades. During our trip we stopped off at Byron Bay, Surfer’s Paradise, Noosa, Fraser Island, Airlie Beach, Whitsundays and Magnetic Island before finishing in Cairns. We stayed in fantastic hostels the whole way, met so many amazing people – you all know who you are – who had us laughing the whole way. We had the chance to take part in lots of amazing trips from kayaking with dolphins and surfing in Byron Bay, to driving four wheel drives around Fraser Island and whale watching, to cruising around the Whitsundays on a catamaran and swimming with sea turtles, to cuddling koalas and driving Barbie cars around Magnetic Island, finishing with white water rafting and a trip to the rainforest in Cairns.imageTo say it was amazing is an understatement – with just two months of travelling together, Mark and I wanted to make sure we crammed in as much as possible and really made the most of our time. By heck we did, we were exhausted and broke by the time we finished the East Coast, but had the biggest smiles on our faces and made some amazing friends for life, some we’re still travelling with now almost a month later in Darwin. My best advice? Research and plan everything – think carefully about your money and you can make it go so much further. By reading up about trips and talking to people before you book, you can be sure whether the trips are worth doing, whether they are worth the money, or if you can perhaps get a better deal elsewhere. It’s boring to do, but worth it in the long run when you can party a few extra nights or afford an extra trip somewhere along the way. It’s also worth thinking about whether you want to drive up the East Coast in a camper van or car, or whether you want to take the bus – in the end it often comes down to experience vs. efficiency – we chose efficiency because we wanted to be hungover on the buses and travel on the cheap but we had friends who travelled in a group in a van and had an amazing time.

There are so many choices and options, just be sure to make informed decisions and always shop around when booking! I’ll be posting individually on each place we visited and each trip we took so you can get a better idea of what you might enjoy, but in the meantime I can definitely tell you our absolute highlights were our Fraser Island Trip, Airlie Beach and white water rafting trip – all were amazing and I highly recommend them. Other places we loved included Magnetic Island and Noosa because of the sheer natural beauty of the places, but we also had a blast in Surfer’s Paradise thanks to an awesome hostel and crowd we met there.

Have you travelled the East Coast? What was your favourite trip or memory?

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imageOne of my favourite places in Sydney was Manly – I only went there twice in the month I spent in the city, but both times I fell in love with the seaside town. It’s one of the places you could just see yourself living long-term, and I know many backpackers who moved there despite working in the city and facing a bit of a commute every day. My first time there was actually the first Sunday I spent in Australia, just two days after I arrived. A group of us caught the ferry over from Circular Quay (an easy free bus ride on the 555 from the top of the CBD, and just $2.50 on the ferry as all travel prices are capped on Sunday’s) and after just 30 minutes we arrived at the small harbour there. As you walk out, you come to a little Boardwalk that takes you past a selection of bars and restaurants which look out right across the water. Don’t be put off thinking they are really expensive, actually a couple are really well priced and I had a lovely meal in one of them. Once you get to the road, it’s just a short walk through the town centre towards the main beach, with lots of places to eat, drink and shop along the way.imageThe main beach is heavenly – the golden sand goes on for miles and as far as the eye can see there are surfers riding the waves. Up and down the beach you can see groups playing volleyball or runners making their way along the sand, picnics and children playing. It’s just perfect, although be sure to get there in the morning or early afternoon because the sun actually sets on the harbour side and the beach is cast in shadow from the late afternoon thanks to the buildings. But I’m sure the sunrise is gorgeous there, and I know the sunsets are absolutely stunning over on the harbour side. There are lots of walks for those who want to explore further along the coastline, or to find somewhere a bit more secluded. I think what I loved most about Manly was that the beach and town felt like a place where people live, not just where people go on holiday or visit to pose like they do at Bondi and some of the others along the East Coast.imageAnother beach I visited, which is definitely worth a visit, was Maroubra. Sadly the day I went it was absolutely chucking it down and I got soaked through, but even then the surfers were out in full force and you could tell it would be a beautiful beach on a sunny day. Even in the rain it was pretty awesome, just miles of open sand and more of a deserted feel than the others. If there’s one thing Sydney boasts a lot of, it’s miles of gorgeous coastline with endless sandy beaches, waves packed with surfers and that beachy Aussie lifestyle we all come here looking for. Definitely try and fit a visit into some of the beaches into your stay. I’m already looking forward to heading back when the weather is better for a chance to sun myself on that golden sand.image

 

Have you checked out Sydney’s beaches – which is your favourite? Are you a beach bum, or do you prefer city life?

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imageI know many of you have been wondering what on earth has happened to Absolutely Lucy, I’ve had so many lovely emails and messages from you all, but there’s no need to worry – I’m back! I took a little blogging break over the last two weeks because I had so much going on that it just became impossible to write anything down, plus the wifi has been so terrible here that I couldn’t rely on it to upload new posts. In a big change from the party girl you all know and love, I’m now a responsible citizen with two jobs – and hopefully a third soon – who is looking for an apartment and getting settled for the next few months of working and saving in my new home of Darwin. After spending 10 days in Cairns celebrating the end of a fantastic East Coast trip – more to come on this soon – we flew to Darwin for the next stage of our trip when I would be settling down to live and save for a while. I actually can’t believe how much I was craving routine, normality and a steady life after seven months of travelling but it’s been lovely to get settled in a more homely hostel and to make a little family with the people here. We’re all looking to stay and save for a few months and are getting settled in, which is lovely after having so many friends who passed through my life so quickly on the East Coast.

As I’m sure many of you know, I was travelling for two months with Mark, after we were reunited following six months apart. I’m not sure how many of you actually know that we broke up when I came travelling, but remain the best of friends, and it was amazing to be reunited and to have two months of travelling, partying and just doing what the hell we want. Sadly, all good things must come to an end and he left to fly to Thailand on Monday where he will spend the next three weeks before heading home to go to university. I always say that the worst part of travelling is saying goodbye, and although me and my best friends always say “it’s not goodbye, it’s just see you later”, it doesn’t make it any easier. It’s hard enough saying goodbye to the friends you make on the road and have the most intense, crazy fun times with for a few weeks or days before parting ways. Having to say goodbye to someone who has been such a huge part of your life for ten years is the hardest thing in the world, and I’ve done it twice in the last eight months. Last time we knew it would be just six months until we would see each other again, but now we have to go even longer – perhaps seven or eight months at the very least – perhaps longer. It sucks, but sometimes you have to make sacrifices if you want to really live your dreams.

On a totally separate note, I was pretty excited to finally catch up on my emails and receive one that said Absolutely Lucy has been named one of the UK’s top 100 Travel Blogs by DiscountMyFlights.co.uk! Read the full post here. I’m so honoured to be counted as one of the final 100 let alone to be listed first – it was such a boost after my blogging break and has really given me the motivation to get back into it. UK online travel website DiscountMyFlights.co.uk released the Top 100 UK Travel Blogs, a list compiled through crowdsourcing on social media sites. Bloggers were nominated from a variety of different sources including travel forums, bookmarking sites, travel communities. Nominees were then validated by the Travel Tips Editor Anna Murray. The company said: “This is a great accomplishment in a competitive and online sector that appears to be growing substantially.” It’s always so amazing to be recognised for something that started out as just a hobby and has gradually turned into a passion – especially when your passion fades for a while and needs reinvigorating. I’m really proud that AbsolutelyLucy.com has grown into something so special and so happy I could share it with all the amazing friends I’ve met travelling, who message me on a regular basis to say how much they love the posts, as well as all the people close to my heart I’ve left back at home. Thanks to all for being a part of this, and I’ll be bringing more posts to you by the end of the week!

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imageTwo of my favourite parts of Sydney were Surry Hills and Newtown, both I ended up in time and time again for food, nights out, music, comedy and more and I can’t recommend them enough for those passing through. While I was staying at Wake Up Hostel in Central, Surry Hills was less than a five minute walk through a tunnel under the train station, and Newtown was just a couple of stops away on the bus so as you can imagine, I ended up spending a lot of time in both. Particularly since the drinking laws in the Central Business District (CBD – basically the centre of Sydney) are a bit of a curb for fun nights out when you’re actually capable of behaving yourself after a few drinks. This just pushed us backpackers to look for other venues that weren’t too far away but offered cheap-ish drinks and no restrictions – don’t worry, we found them!

When I first arrived in Sydney, I ended up in Newtown quite a bit, whether it was for food, drinks or just a wander around the vintage shops. I liked it because it seemed a little less mainstream than central Sydney, it had a touch more personality and quirkiness which lured me in. Every time I went there, I seemed to meet really interesting people, eat delicious food and have a fantastic time which always kept me coming back for more. Around this area you’ll find a huge number of Asian restaurants from all corners of the continent from Korean and Japanese, to Thai and Vietnamese cooking. Naturally I wasn’t really in the mood for Asian food after five months of it, so we plumped for Italian or Greek when we visited, which were absolutely delicious. There are so many restaurants down the main street of Newtown which all offer deals and tasty fare, there’s no point me even recommending any because from what I’ve heard many of them are really good. One restaurant I had recommended to me again and again, but haven’t yet made it to, is Mary’s, a burger joint which has a huge reputation for the best burgers in the whole of Sydney! I’m saving that toothy when I return there later in the year.imageAlso lining the street are a range of cocktail bars, pubs and bigger bars that almost double as clubs later in the night. Later in the evening, you’ll find these packed with locals, travellers and all kinds of characters. I’ve often ended up there at the end of the night because you can still get into these bars until much later after the lockouts have occurred in the CBD and Kings Cross. The music is a bit hit and miss at some of these, but that seems to be a running theme in Australia so far, I’m still waiting for a good night out with the perfect soundtrack but they seem very few and far between. Either way, the drinks are average price for Australia, at least for Sydney, and you’re almost guaranteed a good night in my experience. Don’t forget to check out the wealth of charity and vintage shops here that are all worth a look, particularly the charity shops as many of the vintage shops hike up the price of items just for adding the work “vintage”.

Over in Surry Hills, there’s much more to keep you occupied from comedy nights and live music, to film screenings, quality food and cocktails. My favourite part of Sydney, I’m pretty jealous of friends living there, they just have the entirety of Sydney right on their doorstep and quite frankly, Surry Hills has so much within a few streets that you almost don’t need to venture out. One of my favourite places was The Soda Factory, which I returned to several times for various events – they regularly screen movies, hold trivia quizzes, have cheap food nights and more at this vintage American 50’s style venue. The staff are in braces and some in flat caps as a nod to the Grease-style era we all know and love, and the menu includes a range of hot dogs and sides, with other goodies to keep you munching. My particular favourite is the Mac’n’Cheese with Brie – absolute perfection! Plus there’s cocktails galore. I first went on a night when they happened to screening The Breakfast Club and holding a “coming of age” movie trivia quiz which we epically failed but had an awesome time taking part in. I returned for a screening of Zoolander and other cheap food nights which were great and I’ll definitely be checking out what else they have on when I head back to Sydney.imageAlso worth a look is Venue 505, a jazz club which holds events almost every night where talented bands and singers come to perform, and there’s also some free entry nights with a house band on as well. We went along to one of the free nights and with a cheeky glass of wine, it was one of the best evenings I’ve had in Sydney. If you love a laugh, why not check out some of the comedy nights advertised on Time Out website, I found one for just $10 where a bunch of amateurs were putting themselves under the spotlight and it was actually a really fun night – Cafe Lounge hosted the event I went to and regularly holds them on Monday nights. For food, there are endless streets of restaurants, breakfast bars and takeaways offering all kinds of food imaginable, but with plenty of space for the hipsters. A lot of the restaurants are unmistakeable aimed at hipsters, but who cares when the food they serve is that damn tasty? Head to Reuben Hills for breakfast with a friend like I did and enjoy eating soft baked eggs with chorizo and kale while sunshine pours through the windows. Pump yourself full of vitamins and health food at Organic Produce – a fabulous and really busy little restaurant, which is the city’s first organic cafe, and caters for all dietary requirements. I could go on for days about all the amazing things to do, eat and explore in Surry Hills, but instead, why don’t you guys go off and have fun finding your own favourites?

Have you been to Surry Hills or Newtown? What restaurants or bars can you recommend? Have you been to The Soda Factory for a vintage night of fun? 

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imageIn my seven months of travelling I’ve been lucky enough to experience travelling with all types of people from all walks of life, many of them I know I never would have met if it weren’t for my decision to travel. I’ve travelled with friends from home, I’ve travelled with friends I’ve just met, with natives of the countries I’ve visited, with two-week holidaymakers and long-term backpackers, and most importantly, I’ve travelled by myself. Now, after months of flitting between travelling with groups of friends and going it alone, I’m facing a whole new challenge of travelling with one other person for an extended period of time. It sounds crazy, but the longest I’ve travelled with anyone until now is just four weeks, not two whole months, and I always had the option to go off and do my own thing. Other backpackers will understand, it is different to travel with someone from home to travelling with people you meet on the road – there are greater expectations and more demands placed on you. Suddenly you are a travelling couple rather than the solo traveller you’re used to being. It can be wonderful in so many ways to travel with another person, but you can’t deny it takes a slight adjustment period when you are used to complete independence.

So say, like me, you’ve been travelling by yourself for six months, facing all kinds of situations head on, organising every visa, every ticket and every overnight bus alone. Then suddenly, you have someone else with you who wants to be involved with every decision and plan. It can be difficult at first to let someone else take control from time to time, but don’t forget there can be so many bonuses from having someone else there to lighten the load and take the pressure of from time to time. All you need is a little voice in your head to remind you when you need to let things slide a little bit and let someone else take the reigns. I’ve spoken to a few backpackers in the same situation lately and the same things are brought up again and again. “I feel like I have to look after him all the time and introduce him to people” or “I just never have any space of my own”, even “she doesn’t want me to be friends with everyone, just her”. While it’s okay to get frustrated at times, it’s always important to deal with the problem as soon as it crops up rather than letting it become an issue – but how do you do this?image

 

Remember how awesome they are
It’s easy to forget in the little annoyances how much you love your travel buddy – whether it’s your boyfriend, girlfriend, best mate or someone you’ve known since university. Just remember when you’re feeling irritated, because you will get annoyed at some point, that there is a reason you asked them to come and join you! Reminisce over all those times you laughed until a little bit of pee came out, about those crazy nights out – then go out and make some more memories!

Allow for their feelings too
Don’t forget that they are coming out to meet someone who they think is super cool for having travelled by themselves for so long. It can be intimidating to join your mate in their group of buddies because you feel like you have to impress the group – don’t put too much pressure on them, they’ll already be doing it to themselves. Particularly if this is the first time they will have backpacked – remember how you felt when you first came away!

Appreciate that everyone needs their own space
This applies to both of you – always remember that just as much as you like to have some time to yourself to pluck your eyebrows and play Candy Crush on your phone, they probably want some time to flick through Tinder and listen to music. Everyone needs space – for me, I like to have some quiet time to write blogs for you lovely lot, while Mark likes to catch up on sport and the news. His stuff couldn’t bore me more, and he’s not very interested in blogging unless it’s about him – so it works well.

Be honest
If something the other person has said or done has bugged you for more than 24 hours, it might be a good idea to say something. Some people might think this causes more problems than it needs to, but I think it’s always best to get it out of your system so you can get on and enjoy your day. Often the other person hasn’t even realised you are bothered by what they said or did and will happily apologise. Be a grown up about it and it won’t turn into a row.

Stop being a control freak
It’s hard to stop taking control when it comes to planning and booking your trip, but just remember that as soon as the other person arrives it’s no longer just your trip – now it’s their trip too. You’re so used to organising everything but this is one of the benefits of travelling with someone – they can take the pressure off and book flights for you or choose a hostel. It’s fun to do it all together, and it can be lovely after six months of planning to sit back and let someone else do the work.image

My best piece of advice – just enjoy every second, from sleeping in the airport together to dragging your sorry drunk arses home to bed just hours before a white water rafting trip. It’s all important and will become some of the greatest travel memories you will have. Travelling with another person creates a bond closer than just friendship and you will remember your trip together as long as you live – remember it for all the right reasons, not because you were arguing over something silly. Trust me, you’ll miss them when they’re gone and you have to go back to doing laundry with strangers and have to make friends at every hostel.

Who is your favourite travel buddy and why? Have you travelled with a friend or partner – how did it go? Do you prefer travelling solo or with a buddy?

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imageOne of my least planned days in Sydney was one rainy afternoon where I reached the final straw after staring out at the blackened, stormy skies all morning. I’d already been up since first thing, had been to the gym and washed my clothes, caught up on emails. Now I was bored and needed some fresh air, one of the girls was complaining about the rain stopping her from seeing the city, but being a true English girl, I wasn’t about to let a bit of rain dampen my day. I decided to skip the free bus and walk instead for some exercise, down through the CBD to Circular Quay where it was just a short walk to The Rocks and up to Sydney Observatory. The Rocks is a lovely area of the city which is full of food, drink and live music, plus on the weekends the markets are worth a look. I wandered through, following Google Maps on my phone to find the road leading to Observatory Park where an amazing view across the city lay waiting. Even if you have no interest in space or visiting the Observatory, I would really recommend walking up to the park just to check out the view, it’s beautiful and a really special way to see the city. A friend from university was actually lucky enough to have her fiancé propose to her there, it’s such a romantic place to watch the sunset.imageThe actual Observatory is brilliant – free entry so a great money saver for the backpackers – and it’s a really cool building. You are given a little guide to the museum but a lot of it is self-explanatory thanks to signs, but it is also a bit of an interactive experience as you can watch videos, take tours of the telescope and more. Definitely worth a visit, and if you like history, the tours available at The Rocks museum are worth a look – they tell you all about the area’s criminal past. I mean, it’s up to you whether you’re interested in more than just boozing and the obvious sightseeing, but I found these were a great way to spend a rainy day in the city. After a good look round the building, I headed back down towards The Rocks, but followed a different path this time and found myself at the end of Sydney Harbour Bridge. Looking up at the skies which threatened rain at every turn but had yet to actually open, I decided to risk it and finally walk across the bridge.imageWalking the bridge is a rite of passage for backpackers in Sydney, I can’t believe that anyone would come to the city and not want to tick it off their list. Not only do you get to see the city from a different perspective, but you also get a chance to visit Luna Park, a vintage fairground which lies just across the other side. I had definitely planned to do it at some point but never thought it would be today, it just seemed silly not to when I was in the mood for walking and already at one end of the bridge. It didn’t take long to get across the bridge, but I took my time and stopped to take photos and chat to people along the way. I definitely didn’t wear the right shoes for all the walking I did that day, so if you do decide to do this day of walking, bear in mind it ends up with you covering up to 10k and for that you do need proper shoes. Halfway across the bridge you can get some great photos of the Opera House and city, and when you reach the other side, you can take the steps down, walk under the overpass and find yourself at Milson’s Point near the entrance to Luna Park.imageLuna Park is a restored 1930’s amusement park that sits on the banks of Sydney Harbour and is filled to the brim with nostalgia for times gone by, from the carnival favourites of hot dogs, candy floss and ice cream, to rides including the Ferris wheel and giant slides. It is one of the most iconic sights of the city, everyone knows the clown’s face and it can be seen from right across the harbour, even at night when it is lit up rather spectacularly. I actually had a bit of a different experience of the park, because when I went over that day it was actually closed to visitors. The gates were still left open however, so I had the very odd experience of walking through what felt like an abandoned 1930’s amusement park just as a storm looked like it was about to hit. It was a bit creepy, I won’t lie, but a cool experience to see the place without any screaming children or bustling crowds. I would definitely say it is worth a visit, whether you go just to check it out or actually fancy a day on the rides.imageAfter a walk round the park, I decided to head back before the storms hit and started walking back across the bridge. By this point I figured I’d walked this far and might as well carry on all the way home, so I ended up walking all the way back to Circular Quay and up through the CBD to my hostel – an app on my phone told me the walk had come to just over 10k altogether and my legs were feeling it! But it was a good way to get out and see the city, and a little exercise never hurt anyone. I was pretty amazed I managed to walk for hours and only felt a few drops of rain the whole time considering how dark the skies were – it was definitely worth the risk.image

 

Have you walked Sydney Harbour Bridge? Do you tend to visit museums and galleries when staying in a city – any you can recommend?

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imageTwo of the most iconic images we hold of Australia are the Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge, the third? Ayers Rock, which I still have yet to see but am making my way towards slowly. Within five hours of my flight arriving in Sydney I had seen both of these and it was a pretty strange sight after a nine hour flight and no sleep. I couldn’t believe I was finally standing there staring at two of these incredible landmarks that I had only ever seen on TV before now, but what a welcome to the city. I was lucky enough to see them on my first day both bathed in glorious sunlight which really made it special. I felt sorry for friends who I later saw had posted photos of the two on an overcast, cloudy day which just didn’t have the same effect. I’m sorry to say that the Opera House just looks like a lump of concrete to me when it’s not sunny, and the bridge is just a load of metal on a miserable day. They just look so much less impressive without sunlight glinting off them.

I was very lucky while I was in Sydney and picked up some good weather despite it being a bit chilly on some days. So a lot of my days there were spent walking miles and miles around the city – at one point I was using an app which told me I was walking an average of 10k a day as I made my way round the city running errands and sightseeing. One of my favourite walks was down through the CBD until I reached the harbour, then walking either towards the bridge and across The Rocks, or heading the opposite way towards the Opera House and Royal Botanical Gardens. Anyone who follows me on Instagram will know that I spent quite a lot of time in the gardens, reading, contemplating my travels and making plans for the next few months in Australia. I have now been to botanical gardens all over the world and I can definitely say that I have never seen any as beautiful, well-maintained and idyllic as those in Sydney. They were a natural haven on the edge of the city – often it caught me by surprise as I lay on the grass facing the water to turn around and see skyscrapers not far from where I lay.imageThe gardens are filled with walks that take you around the lakes and through smaller sections of the beautiful layout. I would recommend to anyone who finds themselves with spare and sunny day to make their way to the gardens with a picnic, a book and time to walk to their hearts content. I found my favourite spot in the gardens pretty early on and it was somewhere I headed back to again and again to enjoy. I was even lucky enough to share it with someone special when Mark came out to join me travelling for two months and we had a sunny day of travel planning ahead of us. Our East Coast trip was actually the result of a day spent at my favourite spot and pouring over books and websites for the best possible trip. I think perhaps this is one of the things that made me love Sydney so much – the fact that it had so much green and natural space as well as the shiny buildings and concrete – it never felt stifling because you were always need open space and water.imageI’ve noticed since being in Australia that every Australian, and most travellers, seem to have a strict preference for either Sydney or Melbourne. It’s one of the first things they state and one of the first things they question me on when they realise I have been to both, but they are always baffled by my answer. I went to Melbourne for a few days with a friend at the end of May for my birthday and absolutely loved the city – I had already planned to move there in January when the weather improves but going there confirmed for me even more that I would live living there. But Sydney well and truly provided me with an amazing home I still miss even though I’m all the way up the East Coast – it’s such a great city and I completely fell in love with it but for totally different reasons. I can understand why many people seem to prefer one city over the other. But I just can’t see why people don’t seem to I’ve both, like I do, for different reasons. Both cities are fabulous and have so much to offer – I’ve been describing them to people back at home and my only way of comparing them is to say that Sydney is very much the mainstream, international sister of quirky Melbourne which has so much character is reminds me of Camden at home. Both offer a totally different experience but one that every traveller should experience for themselves.

Have you visited the Royal Botanical Gardens? What do you prefer – Melbourne or Sydney – and why?

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imageAfter a crazy five months in Asia, I was sad to say goodbye but pretty excited for the next part of my travels which would take me straight to the land down under for some Aussie good times. I was pretty excited to be heading back to somewhere more western, I’d loved my time in Asia but I’d had my fill of dodgy toilets and humidity for a while and was ready for something new. I nearly didn’t make it to Australia when I was supposed to fly back at the end of May – I had applied for my work travel visa about three weeks beforehand but for some reason it hadn’t dropped into my emails. Now most people I know have received theirs in a matter of hours or just days, I don’t even know anyone whose application for a work travel visa has taken the full week to come back. So as you can imagine, I started to be a bit concerned when it hadn’t dropped in after a week, but thought I’d give it another week to be safe as my internet was so unreliable in Cambodia.

By the time I reached Thailand, a week before I was due to fly, it still hadn’t arrived and I was starting to worry so I contacted the embassy by email and by phone to check up on it. Cue a week of frustrating, panicked emails and phone calls as I try to establish what the hell has happened to my application. Long story short, I think my application must have slipped through the system because it was finally approved just six hours before I was due to fly – I was actually about to move my flight because I didn’t think I would make it. By this point I think I had already convinced myself I wouldn’t make it to Australia before my birthday, I had accepted I would be staying in Thailand for a bit longer – so you can imagine how ecstatic I was to finally get it through! I was crazy excited to be moving to a new continent to start my new Aussie adventure and breezed through the airport with the biggest smile on my face. I couldn’t even sleep on the nine hour flight, I just stayed up buzzing with excitement and enjoying having three seats to lay across while I watched movies for the first time in six months!imageAfter my long flight and arriving in Sydney, I was a dizzy mess of sleep deprivation and felt terrible – I stumbled through the airport and collected my bag then headed on the train to Central where Wake Up Hostel was waiting for me. I chose the hostel after lots of great recommendations from friends who had stayed there when they travelled through and wasn’t disappointed. It’s a great hostel, although very expensive for a night at $37, while you do appreciate paying for a really clean and well-run hostel that is dead centre of Sydney, you can’t help but resent paying so much and having to pay an extra $15 a week for wifi which isn’t always reliable. Despite this, the hostel has a great social life and lots of events on every single day and night to encourage people to make friends and mix with each other – in my time there I took part in a walk around VIVID, a light show that brought the city to life at night, which was great and helped me to meet lots of new friends. The evenings saw pool competitions, wine and cheese nights, beer pong tournaments and much more filling up Side Bar, which lay below the hostel. It was great, but I have to say I did feel the hostel was missing just a nice chill out room with sofas for those who didn’t want to sit in the kitchen or reception. Plus, it had a hell of a lot of rules for someone who had just spent five months in Asia where the only rule is there is no rules!

Despite this, I have to say, I stayed in the hostel for a month when I first arrived in Sydney – I had a great time there and made lots of friends I’m still in contact with now, and really enjoyed myself. Sydney was just what the doctor ordered, walking out of the hostel after some sleep was a pretty strange experience. All these skyscrapers and glossy shops were a far cry from the dusty roads and street markets of Asia, but a welcome change. Sydney really is a beautiful city and despite not being much of a city girl, I loved it there – I loved how much effort had been put into the tiniest details, how clean it was, how calm a city it was. It was just lovely and never felt so big it was going to swallow you up, other cities like London or New York have a habit of being quite overwhelming but Sydney was just right. Staying in central was amazing because everything was right on my doorstep and I found myself flitting between days at the beaches of Bondi and Manly, to nights in Surry Hills and Newtown – but more about that in posts to come. For now, just enjoy some of my first pics captured in the city – and the moment I first laid eyes on the Royal Opera House and Harbour Bridge, less than 24 hours after being convinced I was stuck in Bangkok. Trust me, it was a pretty surreal first day there…image

Have you been to Sydney – what were your first impressions of the city? Any other hostel recommendations for me – or what did you think of Wake Up Hostel?

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imageTravelling can have one of two very different effects on your body – half the backpackers out there seem to lose weight from not eating properly while the other half watch their beer bellies grow from night after night on the booze. It’s a difficult feat, maintaining that lifestyle while not piling on the pounds, particularly when you are constantly on the move and unable to get into a routine for working out. I loved working out when I was at home and could be found at the gym at least three times a week, sometimes more. I definitely got a bit addicted at times and loved the way it made me feel stronger, fitter and healthier. So as you can imagine, the gyms is something I’ve missed hugely since travelling, not just the physical part but the mental side as well. It’s great for giving you goals and keeping track of achievements, it’s great for de stressing (granted, not something a backpacker really needs) and it’s great for giving you more energy. The lethargy among backpackers can sometimes become quite contagious – I’ve noticed in certain hostels it can become easy for everyone to just do nothing and to have no energy to even organise a cycle to a waterfall or temple. Of course, this can be nice for a few days, but when you’re travelling long-term it’s important to realise the effects this will have on your body, and in turn your health. And nobody wants being ill to stand in the way of a good time!image

 

So what can you do to avoid becoming a bloated, beer-bellied backpacker? How can you eat healthy while on the road? Here are my top tips:

– Don’t forget your fruits and vegetables – in Asia, enjoy a fresh fruit juice or smoothie a day and fresh pineapple or watermelon, even a fresh coconut! The fruit is so good and so fresh, there’s no excuse!
– Eat spicy. A spicy curry cures all and kills all germs as my dad always says!
– Eat a varied diet – it’s difficult when cooking for one and you often end up eating the same thing for days but it is important to make sure your body gets all the different vitamins and nutrients it needs.
– Make sure you are eating enough and aren’t just getting your nutrients from alcohol, it’s easy to not feel hungry when in the heat all day but it’s important to get enough food inside you and don’t skip breakfast – it really is the most important meal of the day!
– Line your stomach before going out by eating a good dinner of pasta or curry and rice – something that will fill you up so you are less likely to binge later on greasy street food
– Remember that what you eat directly affects how you feel – if you eat greasy chips and fried food you will feel and look like crap. If you’re eating fresh and healthy food full of vitamins, your skin will be glowing and you will be full of energy.
– If you’re cooking in a hostel in Australia, throw some fresh veggies in your standard pasta
– If you’re eating veggie to save some money, or because you actually are veggie, remember you need protein as well or you will become sick so make sure you’re getting plenty from other sources
– Drink plenty of water – I felt really under the weather when I first arrived in Australia because I was too cold to be drinking enough water after Asia – dehydration affects you hugely
– Avoid beer, cocktails and fizzy drinks – instead drink white spirits with juice as a mixer
– Don’t always give in to yourself over burgers on a night out and hangover fry-ups the next day
– Avoid pot noodles and 7/11 toasted sandwiches like the plague – they’re packed full of salt, sugar and lots of other nastiesimage

Staying fit while on the road – top tips!

– Walk everywhere – also great for those on a budget
– Get out and get active – you might not be able to get to a gym but the great outdoors is waiting and it’s free! Hike to a temple or waterfall, spend a day exploring the city on foot, surfing or kayaking.
– Don’t be afraid to have a night in – you’ve got plenty of time to party and your body needs a rest sometimes. Willpower – remember how much time you have to live the dream
– Can’t resist the pull of the bar? Head to a club and dance the night away, drink less and burn off those calories while having a blast
– Take advantage of free gym trials everywhere you go. I spent a month in Sydney using the gym every other day and always for free, I even scored free boot camp classes twice a week and all because I took advantage of the deals that are always on offer.
– Use the hostel facilities – many of the hostels have stayed in have had some kind of sports facilities available – whether it’s bikes or surfboards to rent or borrow, a basketball hoop, or volleyball and a tennis net, some even have a pool! Why not get a gang together for an evening game of volleyball? A great way to bond and stay fit, or play tennis one sunny afternoon.
– Going to Asia? Do what I did and invest in some cheaper running shoes, then use them to death! Running is something you can do anywhere so take advantage of that. Another great one is yoga – just get yourself a little yoga mat.
– Do a week of volunteering at an animal sanctuary – you’re so busy working hard all day long that the love handles simply melt away and you don’t even realise how hard you’re working because you love it so much.
– Sign up for a yoga retreat or boot camp and give it your all, focus on fitness for a week or two.
– Workout somewhere beautiful – a friend and I headed to the beach for an intense cardio workout by the sea, and let me tell you, the beautiful setting definitely eased my pain!imageI could go on listing top tips and ideas for staying healthy, but there are so many. Once you start making changes to your lifestyle, it becomes easier and easier to see ways of improving. Don’t be heard on yourself, it is hard when you are a backpacker and temptation lies all around you. You always tell yourself, it’s okay, I’m on holiday! But five months down the line, you’re still using that excuse and you can’t understand why you’re exhausted, you’re getting sick and you have no energy or drive to explore and see the country you’re visiting. Backpacking is a lifestyle, and it’s important to strike a balance that suits you and the way you want to live – if that means having a fresh coconut when everyone else is on the beers then that is okay. If you fancy a salad when everyone else is snacking on greasy noodles then that’s fine too. Your body relies entirely on what you put into it, so if you put rubbish into it, you will find it a bit rubbish when you’re relying on it for a good time. Treats are most definitely not off limits, but they remain just that – treats.image

What are your best healthy backpacker tips? How do you manage to stay fit while travelling? What are your favourite healthy backpacker meals?

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imageTravelling is one of the greatest learning curves you will ever have. You learn so much from heading outside your comfort zone, and doing it solo is one of the biggest character tests you can face in life. There is so much out there to experience, see and feel, and it really can change you as a person by bringing out that version of you that has always been waiting in the wings for your time to shine. There are so many reasons not to travel – money, commitments, relationships… The list goes on. But what about all those reasons to pack your bags and leave? What will you gain from it that you just won’t get from staying at home and working that 9-5? I know travel isn’t for everyone, and it holds no appeal for some people, but I do think that the values and personal lessons you gain from that time spent independently chasing your dreams are crucial to becoming the best version of yourself – however you choose to do this. So what do you learn? Well here are 10 things travellers have told me they have gained from heading off into the great unknown:

  1. Confidence – the ultimate confidence boost comes from realising how capable and strong you actually are, from wearing a bikini every day and being happy with what you see in the mirror, from knowing you can handle anything that is thrown at you.
  2. Wisdom – travelling makes you wise beyond your years very quickly because when backpacking, it is vital to learn fast and to be sure in your decisions. It means facing some of your worst nightmares and learning how to cope with them and avoid them in future, what takes months in backpacking would take years of living at home.
  3. Awesomeness – meeting reams of new people and seeing yourself through their eyes makes you realise how awesome you are and how much other people want to know you – it’s hard to learn that surrounded by a safety net of people you’ve known all your life.
  4. Humility and gratitude – seeing how big the world is and how the rest of the world lives really helps to pierce the bubble, it makes you really grateful for what you have and it helps you learn your place in the world.
  5. Losing the fear – so many are afraid of things they have never ever seen, things that have never even happened. Travelling helps you lose your fear of what might happen and makes you deal only with what actually happens.
  6. That kindness fills the hearts of most. Getting lost or stuck in the middle of nowhere and having to rely on the local people of the country you are in can be a scary prospect, but it can also help you see that the first instinct of most is to go to the ends of the earth to help you.
  7. That travelling isn’t as big, or scary, or brave as everyone makes out, it’s actually the easiest and most natural thing I’m the world, and once you start, it soon becomes hard to imagine retuning to life before it.
  8. The value of everything – experiencing different cultures and currencies forces you to learn the value of everything and how that translates. Everything from toothpaste to flights has a price, but only you can say whether the price is right. It also means you get really good at managing money and knowing what us worth splurging on. Memories over possessions.
  9. The true value of friendships and relationships at home – this is a sure fire way to find out whether your friends are true and will stick with you until the end, put 6,000 miles between you and see how much effort you all make. Many fall by the wayside, but others will stand the test of time.
  10. The person you want to be – without society pressures, friends or family influencing your choices – you can finally really know how you want to live your life and the person you want to become. When at home it is easy to get caught up in being the person you are expected to be.image

What have you learnt from travelling? What else have you gained from your travelling experiences? Tell us about the greatest learning curve you’ve faced on your travels…

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imageI love to read. I’ve blogged about books I’ve loved before and writers who have fascinated me. I’ve made it more than clear that despite Kindles being so much more efficient in this day and age, that I really can’t bear the thought of losing the suspense of turning the page to find out what happens next. I love the feeling when you reach that final page, the satisfaction of slamming the book closed on the table and that temporary feeling of not knowing how you’ll fill the void now it’s over… Until you pick up the next book in the pile. Perhaps it’s something to do with studying for a degree in English that really makes me a traditionalist when it comes to reading. Whether it’s a crisp new copy from a bookshop, or a battered old classic from the library – they each have their place and are all welcome on my bookshelves. It was a pretty sad thing to say goodbye to a whole box of books before coming travelling – I sold them at car boot sales and online to pay for my trip – a worthy swap to get them a new home – but I do always feel sad to say goodbye to books. I’m a bit of a hoarder and I can’t lie, I’ve always had a dream of having a library of my own one day. A place of peace and tranquility to escape the madness of everyday life in the pages of a good novel.

The only problem is, loving books in paper form just isn’t very practical for travelling when you only have a backpack to hold all your worldly possessions. When packing I had to be realistic about how many books I could justify slipping in my bag when I knew how much I would have to carry it around in Asia – in the end I packed just three books including my Thailand travel guide. It was a heartbreaking decision for a girl who used to pack half a suitcase of books for a two week holiday, but I comforted myself in the knowledge that I would have my iPad and could read online if I became desperate. I made myself read slowly, which wasn’t hard with so much going on around me to distract me from the books, and for a while it didn’t bother me whether I had books with me or not. But once I settled into travelling life and started having all this time to fill, I dived straight back into the pages of my books for entertainment. But when I ran out of books, that was the moment I panicked.

The good thing is that there are so many other travellers out there in the same position, so, if like me you are a bit of a traditionalist when it comes to holding a good novel in your hands – don’t worry! If you’re planning a big trip to Asia you’ll find countless books piled up in hostels that have been left behind by travellers past and you’ll find book shops all over with huge collections of books available for purchase, or even for book swaps. There are lots of options for refreshing your collection and as well as picking up books from these sources, you’ll also meet lots of travellers along the way who will be looking for other travellers to swap books with, or even those who just want to give books to a new home to save from carrying them further. I found that I met several travellers along the way who were about to visit countries I had just spent weeks passing through, while they had just come from my next destination – often we swapped travel guides and provided each other with top tips and hostel recommendations to go with them.imageWhen my books came to an end, I was in Thailand and desperate for something new to read so I swapped one of my books and picked up a new one, which I later left at hostel for someone else to read. Another time, when I was in Vietnam, I spotted a book I had wanted to read for ages in a hostel and got so excited about it that the guy who ran the place told me I could have it. My best book swap actually happened when I was in Cambodia and stumbled across a tiny little bookshop attached to a cafe and couldn’t believe my luck. I struck gold and found copies of Hunter S. Thompson’s The Rum Diary and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas – both books I had been wanting to read for a while and just days after I had been reading an article about the man himself. Then after a bit more digging, I found a perfect copy of Shantaram, which is based on a true story and is one of the most beautifully written books I have read for a while. It’s my book of the moment and one I had been eager to read ever since chatting to a guy in Vietnam who was reading it and hearing his rave reviews. I’m just a few hundred pages into it and I’m gripped by the amazing use of language and imagery, and it even has me curious about what it would be like to visit India, a country which hadn’t really been on my radar before now.

Having these books has been a bit of a lifeline for me on long journeys and lazy days, and I know many other travellers who feel the same. I always feel that the mark of a good traveller comes in the form of the book he or she is reading – often it is easy to misread people at a first glance. But a look at the cover of the book they are reading tells me all I need to know about a person. While travelling it is so easy to get lost in a repetitive lifestyle of laying in the sun all day and drinking all night, but never really stretching yourself, or challenging your mind. Just like it’s important to exercise your body, it’s so important to keep your mind active and how better to do that than by reading and delving into a whole new world in the pages you hold in your hands? Other travellers are a fantastic source of book recommendations – I now have a whole list of books I need to read and will have to pick up a couple soon. I’m intrigued to see how book swaps work in Australia – or if they are even a thing out here!

What are you reading at the moment? Any good travel book recommendations? What do you prefer – a real book or a Kindle?

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To Jacob,

Yes, that’s right, I know your name. You might not remember me very well as you were two pills to the wind when we first met properly. Eyes rolling back into your head, slurring your words and generally embarrassing yourself. But I remember you, I remember sitting outside while my friend was having a cigarette and laughing at how ridiculous you looked and how wasted you were at barely 12am. I was laughing at you when you said the bar had been turning you away for an hour, but you refused to give up. I told you you were better off going to bed and riding it out, then laughed some more. I was pleased to see you took my advice and headed to bed, but when I went up to the dorm and went to the bathroom, I definitely wasn’t laughing anymore.

Why is that Jacob? Well it’s because I walked in the toilet to find you had pissed all over the floor! Thank goodness for you that I still had shoes on, because if your warm, smelly piss had touched my naked feet, I’m pretty sure you wouldn’t still be living. 23 years old and travelling the world independently – something to be proud of right? But still pissing all over the floor at your age? Not so much. I thought that was it and I could cope until the cleaners came in the morning, but just an hour or two later I was woken up by the sound of you crashing around and staggering around the room to the toilet again, ignoring you and rolling over I closed my eyes. Sleeping peacefully until my ridiculously early wake-up call, I awoke in a rush and hurriedly got dressed. As I walked to the bathroom with my toothbrush in hand, I had the nastiest shock yet to find puddles of piss on the dorm floor outside the bathroom. It seems yet again, you hadn’t quite made it.

Not impressed was an understatement. Perhaps this is acceptable in Denmark, but in my six months of travelling, I have never seen such disgusting and quite frankly, humiliating behaviour. Living in dorms for that long, you’re exposed to some gross sights and smells. From the damp, sweaty dorm smell to unwashed towels, mould and stray pubes in the plug holes… But this was the most disgusting of all. Waking up to a room that smells like piss, having to jump across puddles and try not to gag as you brush your teeth – that’s not what I signed up for. I think you could benefit from reading my post on how not to be a total douche while backpacking.

I was lucky until now, thinking of this as a bit of an urban backpacking legend. I always heard stories of the guy who pissed all over everyone’s suitcases and backpacks in the dorm, or the other one who pissed himself in a top bunk and the poor girl who was sleeping below him. But, I’ll be honest and say I never really thought of this as something that really happened. I mean, I’ve been pretty wasted but I’ve never managed to piss my pants, I just don’t understand how it could happen. Jacob, you and these other guys really need to bear in mind when getting off your faces that you have to share a room with several other people who deserve a basic standard of hygiene and respect. I’m sure no one goes out with the intention of pissing their pants, but when you’re popping multiple cheap pills of some random guy on the street until your eyes roll back in your head… You have to be prepared to lose some basic functions I guess.

Whatever your excuses, whatever your apologies Jacob, just don’t do it again. You’re lucky you checked out before we could come face to face, but next time you might not get away with it so easily. Hopefully next time you think of hitting the pills, you’ll think of the poor cleaner who had to clean up your mess, and the dorm mates who had to put up with your stink.

Hopefully, there won’t be a next time.

Yours,
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Have you had to deal with any situations like this? Heard any horror stories? Leave a comment below and tell us all about it…

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