Okay so my travels kind of ran away with me and writing has taken a bit of a back seat lately. The last six weeks since I left home have given me endless reams of adventures to share with you all, but I just haven't had enough time to sit with my laptop and actually write. It's frustratingly satisfying when your life is so full that you don't have time to share it, but I can't help but miss the process of writing and sharing every step with you guys. So I'm here, I'm back guys, and I bring endless amazing photos, anecdotes and reviews of all the fabulous places I've been over the last few weeks. I'm writing this from Sydney Airport, halfway between Cairns and Tasmania, but I want to take you back in time a few weeks to when I first arrived in Bali. I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to stay at Grandma's Hotels in both Kuta and Seminyak during my first week in Bali and I think it's about time I shared my experiences with you. I was invited along to review the two hotels and I was excited to check them out - as part of easing myself back into backpacker life it was nice to start out with all the luxuries of a hotel but perfectly aimed at business or budget travellers.
Grandma's Plus Hotel, Seminyak
We started off by spending a couple of nights at Grandma's Plus Hotel in Seminyak and it was a perfect place to kick off my time in Bali. The hotel is perfectly positioned to enjoy all the bars, restaurants and nightlife Seminyak has to offer while also being right next to the beach. Despite being so close to several big clubs, the hotel is very peaceful and you wouldn't even know that you were just down the road from some of the biggest nights out in the area. As we pulled up in the taxi, we were instantly impressed by the style and design of the hotel, unlike others on the street it looked almost as though it had been reclaimed by nature. The tropical greenery and vines wound through the walls and around the pathways throughout the building, it was such a unique look and I loved the way all of the interiors had been designed to fit with this natural theme. Combining natural jungle paradise vibes with a sleek, modern layout worked really well and set the hotel apart from the rest.
As we walked past the swimming pool and made our way up to our room, I was even more impressed by the high standard of comfort available for those on a budget. We had a twin room with an en suite, but doubles are also available, and my oh my, let me just tell you about the beds. Now beds are a big deal, especially when you're a budget traveler or backpacker, all too often I end up sleeping on springs or some lumpy mattress! So laying down on this incredible mattress was an absolute dream - I almost didn't get out of bed the whole time we were there! After spending a month in Bali I now know how often you get promised hot showers and actually find cold water running out of them, so the showers in the hotel were heaven - powerful and with endless hot water. The room was great, it had everything we needed and more, it was compact and well-designed so that it actually had those fun hostel vibes but with the privacy and comfort of a private room.
Grandma's Plus Hotel, Legian
After a couple of nights in Seminyak, we moved to the Grandma's Plus Hotel in Legian, not far away but in a whole other section of the popular stretch of Kuta. Streets lined with shops, boutiques, bars and restaurants awaited us, this section was far busier but proves a big draw for travellers of all ages who want to relax or party on their holidays. This hotel is designed along a similar theme of jungle greens and staff welcome you in to the towering structure through a leafy pergola. This hotel is set around the restaurant where breakfast is served, with huge, high ceilings and trailing vines dangling from the rafters, it's a beautiful place to start your day with a delicious breakfast included with the room price. You can choose from an Indonesian breakfast to Eggs Benedict and all plates come with fruit and treats from the bakery - a perfect meal to set you up for a day of sunbathing or exploring.
The hotel has the feeling of an oasis after stepping off the chaotic, busy street outside into the cool, calm atmosphere, it's soothing. Again the rooms are of the usual high standard and came with all the amenities we would need during our stay, and the beds were just as comfortable as the ones I had just left behind at the other hotel. The only thing we did notice with this hotel was that there was a bit of street noise despite us being seven floors up, but understandably we the hotel was in the middle of the busiest part of Bali. I can't fault the staff at both hotels, they were amazing and so helpful. Everything from moving us into our rooms to organising taxis and even trying to help me fix a SIM card for my phone. They made our stay go from good to excellent with their great attitudes and friendly manner.
While we were staying at the hotels, we were also invited along to try out their spas. At Grandma's in Seminyak we headed to De Nyuh Spa and Salon for a full body Balinese massage - my first in the country - then at the hotel in Legian we went to Rehat Massage and Reflexology. Both spas were located within the hotel building, so super convenient if you fancy a pamper but aren't ready to face the outside world yet. Both were beautiful designed and brought instant calm and peace to you as you walked in the door, the soothing music combined with the floral displays and the dark wood kept the spas cool and laced with gentle Balinese aromas. Having now had several Balinese massages, I can say that these two massages were actually two of the best I had while in Bali. If you're staying at either hotel, I would really recommend visiting the spa for a bit of me-time - you'll come away feeling like a new person and ready to really embrace your holiday.
Have you stayed at Grandma's Hotels - how was your experience? What kind of accommodation do you normally go for on holiday?
It's official - tomorrow is the day, the day when I get to start living my dreams again. This last week has been the slowest of all time, I've been clock-watching and calendar-counting, just hoping the days would pass by a little quicker. If you read my rather personal post last week, you'll know I've been struggling a bit lately and that I really need to get away. Feeling like this was good in one way because it has prompted me to book my flights and get back out there, to put a limit on my time at home and actually go again. I've loved having these months at home, they have given me so many amazing opportunities to see my friends and family, to work as a journalist again and to dedicate real time to this blog. It's been incredible to work with so many UK and international brands, to be featured in an industry magazine and to get to review so many amazing places. I feel so lucky and so grateful, but at the same time, the whole time I have been home there has been this nagging little voice in my ear telling me this is not where I am supposed to be.
Perhaps that's what prompted me to travel around so much of Europe during my time back here, and that too has been incredible. I've visited so many amazing travelling friends, seen places I had only dreamed of before now and ticked off my 29th country. But still, it wasn't enough, I returned home and have had serious post-travelling blues since, then with everything I spoke about in my last post, I just realised it was time to go. It sounds horrible to say but I just struggle to spend any length of time in this town now, I love being at home but beyond that there is nothing really here for me. I've exhausted all career options and I'm a working girl at heart - I need something I can be passionate and excited about to keep me in a place. I've been incredibly lucky with the sheer amount of freelance work I've been able to source and that has given me the money to do amazing things over the last four months. But there comes a time when it is just not enough and I know I'm more than ready to move on again.
So what's next?
Well, that's the big question. With all the stuff that has happened lately, I wasn't quite ready to return to Australia and I think I'm long overdue for some serious relaxation time. All you guys see is fun and games from my travels but I can assure you I've been working A LOT since I've been back - my whole summer has been taken up with a huge amount of freelance work, running this blog and working with countless different companies. It's been amazing, but also exhausting especially when you try and combine it with having a social life and now, I'm done. I'm completely emotionally and physically exhausted from it all - told you I always overdo it!
But that's okay, because I think I've earned a week completely off from life. So I'm heading to - wait for it - my 30th country!! And I'm doing it with one of my best friends. I couldn't be more excited to be travelling to Bali - a place I've long since dreamed of - and to be doing it with one of my closest travelling pals. When you feel a bit fragile, there's nothing more important than surrounding yourself with people who mean the most to you and will bring nothing but happiness and laughter back into your life. I can't think of anyone I will laugh harder with or be happier with at this moment in my life. I'm about ready for a week of cocktails, partying Dingos-style and relaxing. I'll be taking a week off from blogging - but true to form, I've over-prepared and you'll still be getting two new posts this week and two next week.
And after that...?
The travelling dream will be back on track and I'll be heading back to Melbourne - the city that well and truly has my heart - to catch up with some amazing friends and start part two of my journey. I'll be honest and say that while my body may have come back to the UK back in May, the last four months my heart has definitely been elsewhere. Other travelers will know that feeling of being torn between your heart and your head, between the reality of day-to-day life and the dream you've been living. Well I've had an extreme version of this and just couldn't really settle at home, hence why I'm so excited to get back there and really feel free again. Right now my head is all over the place, but by the time I step back on Australia shores I hope to be a bit more ready to take on the next year of my life and live my dream again.
I remember the exact second I had my second year visa came through after weeks of angst and worry, I was in Amsterdam and celebrated with a friend I actually met the last time I was down under! It was the happiest feeling, knowing I was going back to a country that brought me so much happiness, so now I just hope it will do the same once again. Plans for this year of travelling include visiting the raw, natural beauty of Tasmania and road tripping the slightly more wild Western Australia, plus I'm sure I'll fit in some time in Darwin and Christmas in Melbourne with all the friends I was so dearly missing during the last festive season when I completed my farm work. I'm looking forward to being that travelling version of myself again, I feel like I've been a watered down version of myself since I've been home and it's time to get back to being the real me.
Here we go again!
Right now I'm spending the day packing and making last minute preparations and tomorrow I officially take to the skies for a delightful 20 hours of travelling (eek). I can't wait to be back in the air and on my next adventure, it's so much more special knowing some of my favourite people are waiting for me in Bali and Australia, but I also can't wait to just get lost in these countries. Bring on solo traveler life again and bring on my return to Asia - it's been far too long. Follow my adventures on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter - I'll be posting all of our misadventures!
Have you been to Bali - any recommendations? Have you experienced any of these feelings as a solo traveler returning home?
It's now been a month since I touched down in the UK after 18 months of travelling. That's nothing in the grand scheme of things, but it feels like a painfully long time since I last saw my Melbourne home, and the people who make it so special to me. I keep having that moment when people ask how it feels to be home, and I think to myself that home feels 3,000 miles away right now. That's the hard part of being a traveler, leaving such big pieces of your heart all over the world that when you do finally come home it can feel a bit empty. That's why so many struggle to deal with the comedown from travelling. I've had it much better than most – I've come back and walked straight into a great freelance job that works with my schedule, and I've instantly started planning trips away with family and friends, knowing my plan is to travel long-term again from September. It makes it much easier to know my situation is temporary, because after a year and a half of utter freedom, the thought of being tied down to one place gives me chills. It's been quite easy for me to slip into the life that I'm living now - after working flat out in Melbourne, I finally have time to relax and catch up with friends. I have time to recuperate from the effects of long-term travel and I can still earn a good wage while I do it.
But as you guys will know, I've always been a bit of a workaholic, so it's difficult for me to adjust to this lifestyle after pushing myself 110% in all of my previous jobs. Especially being back in the UK, I've noticed this incredible pressure since I arrived home and I'm not sure whether it's coming from my own mind or society. My whole attitude to life was much healthier when I was travelling – I was relaxed and focused on having an incredible travelling experience rather than how much money I could earn or how many extra hours I could work. My priority was earning enough to live comfortably as a backpacker, so it never became more important than living my life. Before I went travelling, work took over my life in an unhealthy way and it was this that really pushed me to focus on something else that made me happy - travel. Since travelling, my bank account has been both the fullest and the emptiest it has ever been. But even when I was broke, I always found a way to make ends meet and to survive, even then I was happier than the times I was sitting on a stack of savings. So when I had learnt to live happily on so little, why do I find myself feeling this constant need to achieve since being home?I don't know whether it is just in my own mind, or whether this is a common feeling for travelers returning to the UK, but I constantly have this feeling that I haven't done enough. That I haven't worked enough hours, that I haven't sent enough emails, that I haven't got enough views on this blog, and that I haven't seen enough places in the world. I find myself plagued with worries that time is running out and I just don't have enough left to achieve everything that I want to do in life, that the success I have isn't quite enough. It's such a strange feeling, but one I remember from before I went away. While travelling it was pushed out of my mind by the happiness of living life in the present, by the success of achieving everything I did on a daily basis. So why have these feelings all come rushing back now I'm in the UK? It's easy to forget that everyone has insecurities, and it can be hard to identify our own. I never realised before I went away that I am my own worst enemy when it comes to enjoying success. Instead of relishing and enjoying the moment, I constantly push on to achieve the next thing, to push the next boundary. I love that about myself because it has driven me to make some huge changes in my life that led me to travel the world solo, and to leave a life that made me miserable. But at the same time, it can leave me feeling like what I do will never be enough.
While I was travelling, I focused on nothing more than living in the moment. I focused on the beautiful sunsets, the laughter at work, the nights we won't remember – I lived every second and everything else came after. I never stressed about work or money, just knew I would always figure it out. I didn't think about blogging, just enjoyed the natural progression of reminiscing about my experiences and writing them on the page at my own pace. Put simply, life came first. But since being back, I find mentally that I'm struggling to keep it this way. I've managed so far, but can always feel the pressure and stresses of thinking about money, stats and figures. It's true the UK is very financially driven when it comes to success, and I can only think this is mirrored in the way we view our own successes. I've only noticed this because I have been away from it and had to reintegrate myself, but how many others are left to feel this way without an escape? It's just so easy to get sucked into worrying about money and how successful you are when there are constant reminders of how much we are failing. Every time I look at a magazine or newspaper, listen to the radio or watch TV, there is a stark reminder that there is so much I haven't yet achieved, so much that I'm behind on.I shouldn't feel this way, in the last few months I have had countless successes that I need to learn to just celebrate. I worked as a sales manager and built my own team, ended up as the highest paid manager in my last job. I was a finalist in the travel section of the UK Blog Awards two years in a row. I have made it onto a list of the top 15 travel bloggers of 2016, and I'm even being featured by other bloggers I love as one to check out. I have another huge success tucked up my sleeve, but that one will have to remain a secret for now. All this, and yet I still feel that craving for more, it's soul destroying at times, endlessly frustrating. I just don't understand why I feel it so prominently when I'm in the UK compared to Australia, or Asia, does the distance really chip away at these feelings so much? Perhaps it's just something I'm better able to control when I travel, because it just becomes so much less of a priority for me, instead I use this drive to achieve great things in real life as well as on the screen. I guess when I'm in the UK, I use my laptop as a means for escape, by working on this little world I have created at www.absolutelylucy.com I can be transported to the worlds I have left behind. Work has always been the one escape for me when I don't want to deal with my feelings, so perhaps it's just my way of coping with coming home.
Speaking to some of my fellow travelers on the Girl vs Globe Facebook group, I found I wasn't the only one who has suffered from these feelings. Ro Lee, who blogs at The Travel Captain, said: "Having lived in both NY and Dubai, you're bombarded with constant reminders of how "important" financial success is. But as I've approached my mid thirties, I realize that true success is a measure of the strength of your relationship with others. Helping others succeed is equally important or "lonely at the top" is a saying which holds very true." While Yoanna Guerra-Cuevas, who vlogs here, added: "After doing some travel around Europe and living in Spain for a few months, my whole mindset has changed. In Spain they have a saying "no pasa nada". It basically means everything will be okay. I learned to stop worrying about expectations to succeed and just worry about being happy." Amrine Obermueller, who blogs at Dancing Around The World, said: "I think that if you're feeling the pressures then sooner or later you just have to realize what is right for your life and try not to live it based on how everyone else tells you to. It took me about 10 years to figure that out...but here I am, so happy that I finally know how I want to live my life." Great advice ladies, time I took a leaf out of your book and stopped stressing. Every time I start to feel like this, I'll think back to that traveler mindset and ask myself What Would Traveler Lucy Do? (WWTLD)
Have you felt the pressures of home closing in after returning from travelling? Do you find it hard not to slip into old ways? How does your traveler mindset differ from your home mindset?
For months on end you slog your guts out working crummy jobs to save as much money as possible. You while away the hours stacking shelves or getting groped as you pull pints in some bar, always thinking of the paradise waiting for you. After working a job you thought would never end, you're finally handing over your uniform and catching that flight to the other side of the world. The dream is finally becoming a reality and already you never want it to end, so how can you keep it going as long as possible? It all comes down to the money - all us backpackers say "if travel was free, you'd never see me again" and I can tell you it's true. Travellers are always looking for the best ways to cut corners and make sacrifices so we can have just one more adventure, just one more day in paradise. We'd rather sleep on someone's floor for a week than stay in a hotel if it means spending another week living a life of complete freedom and excitement. When you're starting out on your travels, it can be difficult to know how to save money and where you can cheat to make your cash last that little bit longer. After 18 months of travelling solo and backpacking across Asia and Australia - one of the cheapest and one of the most expensive places to backpack in the world - I think I've picked up some good techniques for saving money. After all, I planned to go for a year and managed to keep going an extra six months AND came back with lots of money saved! Here are my top tips for backpacking on a budget:
Like this post? Why not vote for me as the best budget travel blogger of 2016? It takes two seconds and all you have to do is follow this link. Thanks!
Looking for other ways to cut costs? Check out VoucherShops. Or, in case couch surfing, eating veggie or fruit picking gets boring - there's always the chance you'll marry a millionaire or get a royal flush in the World Series of Poker!