I'm just days away from my one year travelling anniversary and I'm not going to lie, I've missed some pretty important things in that time. From birthdays and anniversaries, to my sister's graduation, and my best friends making huge life changing decisions about their careers and love lives that force them to move across the country. The world doesn't stand still when you jet off to the other side of the world, it's easy to forget that life as you knew it carries on and the people you leave behind continue to grow and change. And it's okay, most of the time, because we're so damn distracted by the beauty and epic nature of the travelling life we have chosen, we kind of forget about what's going on at home. We have our moments when we get a rush of homesickness as we sit in a hostel hallway on the phone to mum and dad, or catching up with our best friends over FaceTime - and we do, we really do feel it. But then, more often than not, that fleeting feeling is gone, dancing away on a warm breeze like it was never there. You see, it's not that we don't care, it's just that our life as a backpacker is all about living in the present, and pining for what once was just doesn't have much of a place here. Yes we all have days where we wallow and we miss home, but you'll notice those were the days when we didn't have much on, when we were a bit bored and allowed ourselves the time to think of home uninterrupted.
There will always be certain times that bring up a wave of emotions for backpackers - perhaps it's the birthday or the anniversary of the death of a loved one, perhaps it's a certain holiday or something happens at home. For others it can be as simple as the first time they spend Christmas away from their families on the other side of the world. I've seen countless articles posted on backpacker Facebook groups lately about all the awesome things about spending Christmas in Australia but I wanted to talk about the other side of this experience. It's not rosy and lovely for everyone who is away, and I think it is important for backpackers to realise that it's okay if they don't have an amazing time. Everyone at home always thinks we're out here having the most incredible time 24 hours a day, and most of the time that is true, but there are rubbish bits as well. There are times when it rains, we feel like crap, get ill, break down and have rubbish moments just like we would at home - and when we have to spend the holiday that is all about family half a world away from everyone we love most, it can be a bit pants. Every moment is what you make it and while some people will have the time of their life celebrating this Christmas away from home, others will find it a little harder.I had no idea where I would be spending my first Christmas away from my family, I didn't know who I would be with or what I would be doing. For all I knew it could have been anything from a BBQ on the beach to a homemade roast with friends - the reality will be a little different. You see, I'm still living and working in the outback to get my second year visa. I took this job knowing full well it would mean spending Christmas and New Year away from my friends, mainly because I was so desperate to make sure I had my visa days sorted early and could really relax for the final five months of my first year. I don't regret that decision because I only have six weeks left to work out here and then I will be reunited with all of my amazing Darwin and East Coast pals, and we will more than make up for lost time. But in the meantime that does mean I'm feeling a bit lonely this Christmas and because I'm not surrounded by all my closest friends it's making me think of what I'm missing out on at home. I'm pretty close with my family and between them and all my friends at home, we have a mountain of Christmas traditions that I know I'm missing out on. But don't worry, there's no chance I'm going to let it ruin my Christmas in the outback because when on earth will I ever get the chance to experience this again?
10 things I really missed about a UK Christmas:
1. The build-up: from the UK's Christmas adverts to Christmas shopping and finding the perfect present for someone special. From hearing festive songs played in the supermarket, to planning the food for Christmas Day and the countdown to finishing work.
2. The weather - it's rubbish, cold, wet and miserable outside. It's dark at 3pm and much as we all complain about it, that's part of Christmas. It gives us an excuse to wear extra sparkle when it's dark outside and that chill in the air gives all the more reason to get all snuggled up inside.
3. Nights spent drinking and laughing with friends in boiling hot pubs with steamed up windows, not thinking about work the next day or how cold it is outside.
4. Family traditions - putting up the Christmas tree and decorations with my dad while we blast the Christmas songs, festive baking with mum, a trip to Winter Wonderland with my sister, the Royals on Christmas day.
5. Family gatherings - when family from all over the country get together for a day of food, wine and fun at their annual Christmas party. A chance to catch up and have everyone together.
6. Festive food - the mince pies and puddings, the roast lamb and beef, Yorkshire puds and roasties, and cheeseboards, oh god, the cheeseboards. It's too hot out here to really gorge like we do at home and the stuff they sell just isn't the same.
7. Christmas TV in the UK is great - from soap specials to period dramas like Call the Midwife, comedy shows like Gavin and Stacey and The Royle Family, classics like The Snowman and all those great movies from Elf to Home Alone and Cool Runnings.
8. Christmas jumpers! What is Christmas without wearing the worst jumper you can find, or a snuggly onesie that makes you look like a reindeer, or great big wooly socks? It's just not the same on a bikini.
9. The actual day - getting drunk with your family, seeing the surprise on someone special's face when they open their gift, the aftermath when you can't move because you ate so much...
10. The bit when your head feels like it's going to explode - too many people, too many parties, too much food, too many hangovers - you're almost glad to see the back of the holiday season.
I do have to just add to this post that I did still have a pretty fun Christmas thanks to some really good friends I've made here in Charleville and a huge thanks to them for not leaving me alone. I ended up having a turkey roast at a friend's house with her family, spent the day enjoying drinks followed by two Christmas parties. Boxing Day followed with more drinks with friends and a party at the Bowls Club with everyone in town and a lot of fun was had. It was better than I could ever have expected and that's all down to the wonderful people in this town who have made me feel so welcome.
What's your favourite thing about a UK Christmas? Have you had a lovely Christmas? What was your first Christmas away from your family like?
It's been a while since I wrote a fitness post and to be honest, although I've still being going to the gym - it's been a while since I felt very enthusiastic about it. I go through serious phases when it comes to working out, for a while I'll be really into it and working towards a goal, almost to the point that I'm overdoing it. Then suddenly I'll lose all motivation and barely be able to muster up the energy to bother. I always push myself to carry on, but when you can't be bothered, you sort of wonder what is even the point. My last phase like this happened after the summer, I had a busy couple of months of trips all over the place (including my visit to Ireland for a wedding) which meant my routine was all over the place and I couldn't get there as much as I would like. Plus the fact that I was spending a lot of time eating rich foods and drinking meant I really didn't have the energy to work out.
After a few months of going through the motions rather than enjoying my workouts, I seem to be back on top of my game and raring for action. I think perhaps my fitness lull was caused by the weather - when things started getting autumnal, I instantly wanted to spend all my time in bed with a hot chocolate and watching Netflix. Now the weather actually seems to have warmed up again and I'm finding I have more energy to do stuff - either I've got used to winter or I'm more affected by the weather than I think! For some, December is all about letting the flab spread and digging into the mince pies. I won't lie - I love Christmas food. I love mince pies, Christmas cake, turkey sandwiches, loads of gravy and Yorkshire puds - and don't get me started on the cheese! (hyperventilates) So as you can tell - I'm not the sort of girl to give up these delicious foods and I don't see the point in diet versions to be honest. But I do believe in upping your fitness game to match what you are eating.
If you want to eat twice as much as usual - which, let's face it is VERY likely at this time of year - then you need to get to the gym a bit more and build more exercise into your daily routine if you want to fit into that dress for the Christmas party. There's absolutely nothing wrong with putting on a few extra pounds at Christmas time, and I know I certainly will. But my main goal is reducing how bloated and sluggish I feel after eating so much. I hate that feeling when you've done nothing but eat for a week without working up a real appetite - so I make sure I work out, walk, dance, jog and exercise along the way as well. I'm usually not too concerned with how big my belly is over Christmas because quite frankly I love jumpers and scarves so it's never on show. But bear in mind, I will be spending January on a beach in my bikini in 2015 so having a huge bloated belly is not high on my Christmas list this year. After a request from a reader, I thought it was about time I shared my latest fitness routine!
So what is my latest workout?
I like variety so I'm enjoying mixing up my cardio workout, but most importantly I've managed to get my mojo back with running. Now I'm trying to run for around 30 minutes, or do interval stints of a minute walking and four minutes of sprinting for the same length of time. I alternate this with half an hour on the crosstrainer using different programmes which target different areas of my body - either the interval or the gluteal ones are my favourites.
Once I've completed one of these, I tend to add on a bit of cycling or rowing - usually around 15 minutes. I like to go until I have jelly legs.
A weights workout is very individual and I use a personalised programme courtesy of my friend who is a personal trainer. As I have improved and moved up weight groups I have changed it accordingly. I start my leg workout doing two reps of 12 on the Leg Adductor followed by the same again on the Leg Abductor. This is followed by the Leg Press on which I either do two reps of 12 where I stack the entire weight (proud of that I am) or I do pyramid training. Plus a few squats thrown in for good measure - I like to use a weight when doing mine.
My arms workout is made up of two reps of 12 each on the chest press, bicep curl, shoulder press, tricep dip and lat pull-down. All of these are on various weights but yours will depend entirely on what you can lift. I do also sometimes swap these for free weights to change it up a bit.
My abs workout is my favourite. I start with side crunches off an exercise ball - doing 25-50 on each side depending on how much time I have. This is followed by long arm crunches off the ball using a 10 weight, plus 40 Russian Twists on the ball using the same weight. After that, I move to a mat on the floor where I start by doing around 20 long arm crunches with the same weight, 20 regular crunches, 20 crunches where I reach for my knees and 20 where I reach through my legs. After this, I do 40 twist crunches (not sure of the name for these but each elbow reaches to the opposite knee) followed by 20 crunches with a leg extension for the lower stomach. This is all finished off with another 40 Russian Twists using the weight, but this time on the floor, and some leg extensions off a bench.
I always finish off with some stretches for my back, legs, arms and particularly my shoulders. I do a few pilates stretches I learnt when I used to do classes, and the rest is done on one of the stretch frames we have in the gym.
I like to have a gym workout at least twice a week or I feel lazy - it just shows how used to my routine I am! I'm also managing to fit another smaller workout, or a swim, in on the weekends now as well. I really am enjoying going to the gym again, and I enjoy it even more because it justifies eating lots of lovely food. I refuse to feel guilty for having an extra slice of cake and I never feel like I have to go work it off, because I generally am very healthy and I go to the gym enough to burn it off. I'm looking forward to finishing work in a few weeks so I can have more time to enjoy the pool and sauna at my gym over the coming weeks as well. Love food as much as I do but don't want to have to buy bigger clothes for the Christmas party? Why not do what I do and balance all that food out with a few workouts? Don't forget that you don't have to hit the gym to burn off some calories - go dancing with the girls, or go for a long walk with the family... or why not just spend a few hours under the covers with your other half and burn the calories off that way?
What's your fitness routine like over Christmas? Any workout tips you'd like to share?