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As soon as I arrived in Germany I was excited to start planning trips, to start living again in my new home. Last month for my birthday – Rügen Island. It was somewhere I had never heard of before moving to Germany, but shortly after arriving here, a very kind travelling friend offered me her family's beautiful holiday home for a weekend and I thought what better timing than to go for my birthday! So the final weekend in May, we packed up the van and hit the road for a lovely long weekend at the seaside.

We had the most amazing weekend filled with ice cream on the beach, walking in the national park, exploring tiny towns and beautiful parks, and of course, stuffing ourselves with yummy food! I really wish I could go back and do that whole weekend all over again, I really wouldn't change a thing, it was a perfect way to spend my birthday. In this post I'm going to share all of the things we did and what I would recommend if you happen to be visiting, hopefully it will help you have a special trip and to make the most of your time there.

What to do?

There is so much to do on Rügen Island, you'll be spoilt for choice! The best thing is that there is something for everyone, so whether you're away for a romantic weekend for two, or a big group holiday, everyone is sure to enjoy themselves. From the chilled beach bars and viewpoints, to the more active hikes and bike rides, you can design the holiday you want and do everything at your own pace.

Why you shouldn't miss a trip to Rügen Island & planning your stay | Germany

Beaches

There are so many lovely beaches to check out – hopefully you have good weather like we did – although I will warn you it is the Baltic Sea so don't start getting excited about swimming! We were staying in Sassnitz so we spent the most time on the east side of the island where we found some gorgeous beaches waiting for us. We had a day of beach-hopping starting from Binz and working our way through to Sellin, Baabe, Göhren and all the way south to Theissow. If you have the time on your trip, I really recommend visiting a few different beaches to get away from the crowds and see a different side to the island. Binz and Sellin are gorgeous beaches with all the cute charm of  an old-fashioned seaside town, comparable to Brighton in the UK. Expect pricier accommodation and lots of bars and restaurants, as well as lots of people – these were the busiest places we visited – but they are very pretty and great for the evenings when you want to go out for dinner. The other beaches further round, especially Baabe and Göhren, are much quieter and its lovely to sit on the beach and enjoy a picnic and the uninterrupted views of the bay. Check out this article for a more detailed guide to the individual beaches.

Steam Train

For a really unique way to see the island, why not hop aboard the old fashioned steam train and power along the Rügensche Kelinbahn, a nostalgic nod to days gone by, from Putbus to Göhren on a 24km ride. Taking in everything from lush green forests to huge beach resorts, you'll get an eyeful when you take a ride on the fondly known, Racing Roland.

Villages & Parks

It's definitely worth taking some time to explore all the little villages and parks spread around the island during your stay. In Bergen, you'll find some pretty spectacular panoramas across the ocean, plus colourful old buildings including Benedix-Haus in the market place. Gary is close by and as the tiniest and oldest town on the island, you'll visit just to se the amazing views from the Ernst Moritz Arndt Tower. Putbus was our favourite village – originally we went there to see the beautiful palace I had read about online only to find that it had been torn down years ago – but we were pleasantly surprised by the gorgeous Insel Vilm eco-park that was waiting for us there and spent hours wandering around. If you get time to drive all the way north, I really recommend visiting Kap Arkona which is the northernmost tip of the island and boasts amazing views, a gorgeous beach and lighthouses you can climb to the top for even better panoramas.Why you shouldn't miss a trip to Rügen Island & planning your stay | Germany

Jasmund National Park & Königsstuhl

One of my favourite parts of visiting the island was Jasmund National Park which completely took my breath away and was easily one of the most memorable places I have spent my birthday. Read all about our visit and my top tips for visiting, here.

Walk/Bike

If you love getting outside and being active, you'll be in your element at Rügen, hit the trails and go walking in Jasmund National Park or from beach to beach, or hire bikes and feel the wind in your hair as you cycle the island. There are also walking and bike tours available if you would prefer to join a group when you explore the island, or if you travel with a group and would prefer a guide to lead you around.

Sunset spots

Everyone loves a sunset and on Rügen Island there are two places I found that will provide you with the best views in the evening. Sellin Pier is one sight you don't want to miss, so make sure you get there before the sun dips over the horizon to see it all light up. Imagine an old-fashioned, Brighton-esque pier bathed in the sun's last rays of the day and gently sparkling as its lights start to twinkle. It was a beautiful sight and a perfect place for a sunset walk before dinner. I also found out about another place called Panorama Hotel Lohme, which was up in the very north above Jasmund National Park, and boasts gorgeous panoramic views over the ocean. We didn't go to this one sadly as the weather was very cloudy and foggy on our second night on the island, but I've read great reviews and seen some beaut pics.Why you shouldn't miss a trip to Rügen Island & planning your stay | Germany

Eating Out

We came prepared and filled up the van with food for the whole weekend so we could have more of a self-catering experience and save a bit of money – we didn't know if it might be more expensive on the island. We ate our own food for breakfasts and lunches, but actually ended up eating out on both the Saturday and Sunday nights we were there. On the Saturday night, we decided to go and see Sellin Pier at sunset and realised we were both starving after a busy day, after checking out the menu for Seebrücke Sellin, we couldn't resist going in for a bite to eat. I was very impressed to find that it was actually very reasonably priced, I had expected it to be a lot more expensive, and that the food was absolutely delicious. We went for a goats cheese starter, then had the burger and a mushroom pasta, all of which were absolutely amazing and the service was great considering we walked in five minutes before they were due to shut the kitchen!

On my birthday night, we went on the recommendation of our friend who told us we had to go and eat at Rialto, an Italian restaurant in Binz which has the best pizza and ice cream. After thoroughly taste-testing, I can tell you that the pizza and ice cream are amazing!

Where to stay?

We stayed at our friend's place in Sassnitz which was perfect – this side of the island has all the best beaches and sights, plus we were right at the entrance to Jasmund National Park. There are lots of hotels and holiday homes all over this side of the island for varying levels of luxury and price tags. I personally would recommend renting a holiday home or somewhere self-catering where you can cook your own meals or can even have barbecues in the long summer evenings. We loved having a bit more space and a place to prepare breakfast and lunches. Sassnitz is also a great way to stay close to all the action without actually having to be in busy Binz, it's still a cute little seaside town but with more of a cosy feel.Why you shouldn't miss a trip to Rügen Island & planning your stay | Germany

When to go?

We went to visit at the end of May and the weather was gorgeous, but being close to the Baltic Sea, it is understandably harder to predict the weather. I would recommend visiting May to September for the best weather, but keep an eye on weather reports because if the weather is bad, there isn't much to do that doesn't rely on you being outside all day. Also, avoid school holidays as it is clearly a big holiday destination for families/elderly and can get busy.

Transport

There are buses and trains on the island which connect each of the little towns to each other, these are great if you don't have access to a car plus there are lots of bike paths and hiking trails if you like to keep fit. You also can access the island by bus or train from Hamburg. We drove to the island (around 3.5 hours) and throughout the weekend we used the van to get everywhere which was really helpful to make the most of our weekend. I would recommend hiring a car or driving to the island because it gives you so much more freedom to stay in more budget-friendly places and to be independent and spontaneous about your day. We would decide at a moment's notice our plans and easily went off to a new beach or town. If you rely on public transport you would be much more restricted on how much you get to see and how quickly.

Have you been to Rügen Island – what are your recommendations? Are you more of a beach or forests-lover? What summer travels have you got planned?

Why you shouldn't miss a trip to Rügen Island & planning your stay | Germany

As a backpacker who has now lived in Melbourne twice, I've loved getting out and exploring the city and far beyond. Not being much of a city girl, I've noticed Melbourne really has a fantastic balance of modern built up areas interweaved with beautiful sprawling parks that really help to make the skyscrapers feel less claustrophobic and imposing than they do in English cities. It's easy to wander around the city and quickly find yourself leaving the busy streets behind to get lost in lush, green woodland. Having lived in both South Melbourne and Southbank, I've been lucky enough to live with Albert Park right on my doorstep - a perfect place to run around the lake of an evening, or to gather with friends for barbecues or to watch the Grand Prix. Just behind sits the Royal Botanic Gardens, huge endless parks that stretch across the city with all kinds of treasures tucked just out of sight of the city.IMG_2059Fancy getting a bit further out of the city? There are so many amazing places right on your doorstop in Victoria that it would be a shame not to! Here are my top 5 places to escape into nature around Melbourne:

Wilson's Promontory National Park

Just a couple of hours drive down to Mornington Peninsula and you'll feel like you've entered another world. Wilson's Prom has everything from forest and mountain, to marshland, river, beaches and even sand dunes! You'll want a weekend to explore at your own pace so pack up the camping gear, the beers and bring your best mates for a weekend you won't forget. Definitely don't miss seeing the view from Mount Oberon Summit, sunset from the beach at Tidal River campsite and The Big Drift sand dunes.IMG_2627

Great Ocean Road

The absolute must-do when you go to Melbourne - Great Ocean Road is a perfect road trip to take with your buddies and is perfect whether you're on a budget or fancy a big blow out. There are plenty of luxury escapes to take your breath away, or do like my gang and just pack a tent, hire a car and take advantage of the many free things to see and do. There are so many hikes, beaches, viewpoints and more to explore - don't miss Bells Beach during the surfing competitions, Twelve Apostles at sunrise, the Round the Twist lighthouse if you're a 90's kid. Camp in Cape Otway National Park for an amazing experience and take a break from driving at Loch Ard Gorge for spectacular views. On your way home, take a detour through the Grampians National Park!IMG_2024

The Grampians National Park

A perfect trip to do on your way home from Great Ocean Road, you can see the highlights in 1/2 days. Taking you up into the mountains, don't forget a jumper for that fresh mountain air. Stay in the Hall's Gap campsites, they're perfect for a campfire and nice and sheltered from the wind. Don't miss the Pinnacle viewpoint - take the walk through the canyon - the Balconies, and Mackenzie Falls for those perfect photographs.12809706_10153417103997617_2184495225173723966_n

Dandenong Ranges National Park - 1,000 Steps

One I only ticked off my list last week, this national park is easily within reach for those without a car as you can get the train from Flinders to Upper Ferntree Gully and then walk from there. It takes just a few hours to get out there and complete the walk so perfect if you just fancy spending an afternoon in nature. The 1,000 Steps are the big attraction and although they'll definitely have you huffing and puffing, they're not as daunting as they sound. You'll see runners of all shapes and sizes taking them on over and over again as they sprint up and down. Pack a picnic to enjoy at the top then take a different path down to enjoy a different pace of walk.IMG_2103

Phillip Island

The last one I had to tick off my list, I was so excited to finally be visiting Phillip Island to overdose on nature, especially seeing wild penguins down by the shore. One that can be done in a day either by organised day trip or by just hiring a car with your mates and heading off independently. Home to some seriously beautiful beaches and even a Grand Prix circuit, there is plenty to explore and it is a perfect day escape from city life. 17634702_10154322029987617_6507020851842610414_n

This post previously featured on Wild Melbourne - see the original post here.

What are you favourite places to escape into nature around Victoria? Can you recommend any other places across Australia or the world?

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imageYesterday marked a year since the day I officially quit my job to travel the world. It was without a doubt the most freeing moment I have experienced yet, and the point at which my entire life changed. Yes I had already made the decision to leave and yes I had already been saving for several months - but this was the moment it all became real, when there really was no going back. Telling my boss I was leaving was the point at which I took back control of my life and that was something I had been needing to do for a while. I remember walking out of that office and not quite believing the conversation I had just had, I remember being overwhelmed by the support and kind words from my boss, I remember feeling like I was about to explode with happiness. That was how I knew instantly that I had made the right decision. I still worked in that office for around two months, but the knowledge that I was about to embark upon the biggest adventure of my life did wonders to remove the stress and worry the job had held previously for me. Suddenly realising it didn't matter anymore allowed me to put my heart and soul into the job I loved while ignoring the, sometimes unfair, demands the job placed on me and others.

Now I have been travelling for nearly ten months and after so long spent constantly switching between places and on the move, I have actually settled and found a home in Darwin, Australia. The two months I have spent here have been the longest I have had anywhere since leaving on January 6. I've found amazing friendship, family and even some romance over here, I've worked my arse off to save and partied hard, and it's been two of the best months I've had since travelling. I'm planning to leave soon, but Darwin will always remain in my heart, as will every other place I've visited, from Thailand and Vietnam to Byron Bay and Fraser Island. There's been something special and magical about every place and every moment I have visited along the way - I can't imagine what my life would be like now if I hadn't made this choice - actually, I can, it would be exactly the same except I would be even more unhappy. The best advice I can offer? If you have even a teeny tiny part of you that wants to explore the world - just do it! Forget all these fears about finding work or losing your job, or money, or love or anything like that. Do something for you and you'll never regret it. Travelling was the best decision I ever made and even if I eventually return home in debt and alone, it won't matter because my heart will be full of the memories I've made and the people I've met - that's priceless.imageIn the last ten months I've had the chance to experience so many amazing things - from travelling by myself to with huge groups, abseiling down cliffs to jumping down waterfalls, from tasting amazing delicacies to eating cockroaches in the street, from the best massages to the least comfortable beds, from dancing my heart out on the beach to being invited to party with the locals, from watching the sunrise to watching the sunsets, from being adopted by the locals and talking about art with famous painters, from hiking through rainforests to swimming with sea turtles and dolphins, and so much more I can't even think of right now. The other week I suddenly realised that even on my very worst days here, I walk around with love in my heart and a smile on my face - even when everything goes wrong, I'm still grateful for every second of every day. I don't know if it's all that vitamin D or if it's just feeling safe in the knowledge that I made the right decision and that it wasn't such a big risk after all. If perhaps it's partly the knowledge that anyone who thought I was crazy to do it was in fact the crazy one for not realising I could do it.

Being out here has given me the opportunity to focus on things I love - like this blog for one thing, and it's made me so proud to see how many have responded to it, and how well it has done. Absolutely Lucy started off as a hobby, a side project, and has grown into a huge passion of mine, I pour my soul into it and it's amazing when you start to see that rewarded. Travelling has given me a chance to tell my story and to tell the stories of others - the journalist in me loves that - and to work on capturing moments in photography. It fills me with pride when people comment on how beautiful my photos are or how well I write because for the first time in a long time, I've had the opportunity to work on things I love just for me, not for an employer. Growing up is all about self-development and exploring the person you want to be, I can't think of a better way to do that than by educating yourself in whichever way you see fit - whether a degree or college course, teaching yourself to build a business or even reading everything you can find. But then following that with travel - a chance to learn how the world really works and what people are really like - education makes you cocky and knowledgeable but travel makes you wise and forgiving. The combination of these, plus having time to find out who you are and what you love, is a great way of creating a strong and amazing character.

If there is anyone out there who is reading this and unsure whether to travel or can't quite bring themselves to say the words "I quit" - just think about this. We are on this planet for between 80-100 years and while 18 of them might be tied up in education and childhood, the rest are our own to do with them what we please. Who really wants to get to the end of their life and say they stayed in a 9-5 until they retired? Going off and embracing adventure will not hold you back in your career, it will not hold you back in life, if anything it will push you further than you ever dreamed, it will give you ideas and inspiration you never had before. So many who didn't know what they wanted to do have found purpose and a future through travelling, so many who were stuck in a rut - like myself - have found new drive and motivation, a new focus. Stop using excuses like money, bills and safety - if you want to make it happen, you will make it happen regardless of all of these. And you won't regret it.

Have you reached any travelling milestones? How did they make you feel? How long have you been travelling for, and did you struggle to make the leap to quit your job? 

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Photo by Mikhail Koninin

Photo by Mikhail Koninin

Yesterday marked an official milestone ahead of my travels. My resignation was finally officially passed over to the big bosses (I handed it in a month early to help give them time to replace me before Christmas) - so that means there's really no going back now. Not that there was even a chance of me cancelling. My leaving party is on the horizon, I'm planning in lots of visits to see people before I go and I'm making sure I fill my boots with all those yummy Christmas foods in case I'm not back by next Christmas. It's all starting to become a bit real now and I can't quite believe how little time I have left at work - by the time you read this I will have just four Mondays left on the job! Everyone in the office is really excited for me, they're all counting down for me as well. It's such an amazing feeling to know how hard I've worked and for how long, and to now finally see that light at the end of the tunnel - that tropical sunlight beaming down at me. I've got just one more round of jabs left and everything else is finally falling into place, my plans are made and I've even started organising my travel wardrobe. So I thought it was about time I gave you guys an update on my plans for travelling:

My trip kicks off on January 6 when I fly out to Bangkok. After a couple of days sightseeing, shopping and eating in the city, I will head to the beaches and islands off south Thailand. Of course I'll be taking in the standard backpacker route via Ko Pha-Ngan, Ko Samui, Krabi and Ko Phi-Phi. I'm looking forward to a lot of time spent snorkelling, swimming and pretending to be a mermaid. I'm meeting some friends when I arrive, so I'm sure there will be a lot of partying and fun to be had - the perfect way to start the new year if you ask me, and I'm looking forward to starting my trip with a bang. I'll be spending a month and a half covering this ground, then for a complete change of pace, and to get my visa renewed, I'll be heading to Vietnam for two weeks where I plan to travel as much of the country as possible - a LOT of food will be consumed here and I'm looking forward to visiting Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. Halong Bay looks beautiful and I would love to go on one of the river tours.

Photo by Jessica Morales

Photo by Jessica Morales

When I head back to Thailand, I'm heading straight to Chiang Mai in the North, where the experience of a lifetime awaits me. I have booked to spend a week volunteering at an elephant sanctuary where I will be caring for, feeding and bathing elephants for the week. It is a dream come true to get to do this and I am beyond excited. I've not even set out yet and already I know this will be a highlight of the trip for me! My week there will be followed by another week or two in Chiang Mai, followed by a trip further north to Pai. I'm really looking forward to Pai - I know already from everything I have read and seen of the place that it is definitely somewhere I will be wanting to stay for a while. The next leg of my journey will be to visit Laos for a week or two spent relaxing, taking in the scenery, visiting temples and dolphin spotting. After Laos, I'll be heading to central Thailand, particularly the national parks and Sukhothai Historical Park. And then I might give myself some more time in Bangkok before heading to Cambodia for a few weeks for another huge highlight of my trip. I'm planning on staying at a yoga, meditation and health retreat for 10 days where I will be trying out a vegan diet, will be visiting the Cambodian temples, spending a bit of time just looking after myself and treating myself to a few massages. I'm really looking forward to this part of the trip and I'm pleased that there will be opportunities for me to explore the country further. I'll have to head back to Thailand to catch my flight to Oz for the next leg of my journey - at the moment I plan for this to be around May but that is open to change.

Australia is very unplanned at the moment, but I know I have a lot of friends to meet and catch up with - plus I have several people coming out to meet me for stages of my trip here so it's going to be a busy few months! I'm planning to travel around as much of the country as possible, and I'm hoping my friends will be quite scattered so I can use them as a guide for my travels. I'm really looking forward to checking out the surfing - my goal is to learn to stand up on a surfboard without help. I'm also looking forward to spending some time in the cities, particularly Melbourne, and of course the beaches - Bondi looks amazing! And I do have a little dream in the back of my mind of doing a bit of a Golden Coast road trip, but I'll definitely need some friends to keep me company. I haven't decided yet if I will need to work while I am in Oz - I will assess my funds along the way and will see if I want to pick up some more cash. I had planned for three months there, but I already know I'll be extending it to at least four months.

bondi

In New Zealand, I will again be visiting a few people, old family friends, but I'm also looking forward to having some time to myself to explore. I haven't got a plan yet, but I've definitely got a few things I really want to do - like visiting the glow-worm caves, whale and dolphin spotting, I would love to see the Southern Lights, I fancy a lot of outdoor activities, so more surfing, walking and climbing would be good. While I'm in NZ, I've also decided that I simply have to get a flight and go to Fiji, no matter how much it costs me. It just looks like paradise and I think I need a little taste of heaven. I have an idea in my head that if I can find a job in Oz or NZ to raise some more cash - I would love to raise enough to stay the full year and to fly back to Australia for new year to watch the fireworks at Sydney Harbour before catching my flights back to the UK via Dubai on January 6. Whew. Quite a trip huh?

I'm still researching places and working out my exact route, so if you have any suggestions or advice, please do leave a comment!

Ab Lucy sign off

PS. I'd love if you would vote for me in the UK Blog Awards by clicking here and here.

festDeciding to go backpacking is one of the most exciting decisions you will make in your life. You're giving up everything you know to venture across the world and live a life of freedom and exploration for months on end. All those daydreams are finally becoming a reality. For me, finally booking my flights and quitting my job after months of saving and waiting was pretty special. It meant it really was finally happening - that it wasn't just a pipe dream or something I talked about with my friends. I walked around for a week or two with a real rosy glow, and nothing could touch my good mood. And then reality hit. I couldn't go travelling and spend my days visiting temples and lounging by the pool unless I first organised a huge list of REALLY BORING stuff. Dammit. So close. Nobody tells you when you daydream about a gap yah quite how complex it all is to organise, especially if you're doing it alone!

Doing it all by myself has been hugely exciting so far and I'm really glad that I am because it means I have to take responsibility for everything. But that doesn't make it any less complicated and long-winded. Thankfully doing a lot of reading of books, blogs and travel websites, and talking to some experts has really helped me to make sure I do all the boring things I just wouldn't have thought of on my own. There are so many things you don't even realise you have to do until you start researching, and it is easy to not even realise how much work, effort and time goes into planning your trip. Of course it all pays off in the end, but it can be a lot of work in the meantime, and it all stands between your and the trip of a lifetime. So what exactly do you need to remember? Well I've created the boring backpacker to-do list - no bikinis and fancy flip-flops here - just the things you are might forget in your excitement:

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 RESEARCH

I can't stress this enough. The more you read and speak to backpackers or travel specialists - the more you will be prepared. They will be able to tell you where to find the best deals, give you recommendations etc. Preparation is key and will make your life a lot easier and a LOT more relaxing on your trip.


 VISAS 

If you book your flights through a company like Trailfinders (like I did) you will find they have a visa department. Speak to them and find out all you need to know about the different types of visas available - in case you want to work or stay for an extended period - when you need to apply for them and what you need in order to apply for them. All information is available online if not - get these sorted early.


 BANK ACCOUNTS

Make sure you have a card you can use abroad that won't charge you the earth to use. Also, set up a back-up account with another card and make sure you split your funds between them in case your card ends up being nicked or frozen. Make sure the bank are aware you are leaving the country for some time and that they have a log, so your card will not be frozen. Get a credit card, if you can be trusted, and use it for emergencies.


 INSURANCE

This is a biggie. Your life will be on your back and I'm sure you'll be carrying some precious cargo in things like cameras, phones, laptops/iPads - so it is important to make sure they are all covered in any situation. You never know when you're going to be pick-pocketed and it's always best to be prepared. Also make sure you are covered health-wise, especially if you are planning on any extreme or winter sports which are often separate.


 BACK-UP

Make sure all those photos, documents, blog posts and books are all backed up online. It is so easy these day to back then up not only online but between devices as well just to be safe. For example, I have two cameras, an iPad and my phone - all are connected through WiFi and will automatically copy across everything without me needing to worry. That will save me from any terrible losses.


 HEALTH 

Make sure you contact your doctors surgery as soon as possible to speak to the travel or vaccinations nurse - they will be able to make an appointment and plan what jabs you need according to your travel plans. The earlier you do this the better as for some jabs you have to have a course of injections - like I did for rabies and hepatitis. They will also be able to advise on and prescribe malaria pills - very important if travelling to parts of Asia.


SECURITY

When packing, make sure you take basic security items - a doorstop under the inside of the door can help you feel safe while you sleep, as can padlocks on your locker and bag. Give family your intended route, keep them updated of changes as you travel, and set up contact (Skype or Facetime, or even email). & a rough schedule - say you'll check in once a week unless otherwise stated - that will put their minds at rest and keep you safe if anything happens.


travel

So now I've thought of all the boring bits for you, you're free to plan in those jungle treks, yoga retreats, elephant rides and all the rest of the exciting fun stuff you really want to be thinking about...

Can you think of anything I've forgotten? Why not comment below and add to the to-do list?

Ab Lucy sign off

 PS. I'd love if you would vote for me in the UK Blog Awards by clicking here and here.

quitIt finally happened. The moment I've been counting down to, that has never seemed quite real, and that I've been waiting for all year. The moment when my travelling dreams finally became a reality. This time last week...

I QUIT MY JOB.

Holy shit. I can't actually believe I finally did it. It still hasn't sunk in despite everyone at work wanting to know all about my plans - where I'm going, how long for and who with. I keep repeating the same combination of words: solo, Thailand, Cambodia, Australia, hostels, seven months, saving money, so excited... but no matter how many times I say them, I really cannot believe that they make up my  plans for the next year. It just seems odd to me that this could finally be here, that my adventure is nearly within a fingertip's grasp, that I can almost taste the Thai spice and salty sea air on my lips. You see, I've spent the best part of my life day dreaming about where I would go, what I would do and the people I would meet if I ever made my travel dreams a reality. I've spent the last year dreaming of a future that I couldn't quite piece together, and I've spent the last 11 months saving, planning and booking the trip of a lifetime. And now, I have 10 weeks left until I board that plane all by myself and finally make that leap to full independence and take on a scary solo journey.memoriesI won't lie, I'm pretty terrified. But I'm also more excited than I have ever been about any decision in my life, and that is what tells me I'm doing the right thing. It's something I've dreamt of all my life and it is something I have more than earned the opportunity to do after working so hard for so many years. I have been working four jobs on and off this year, I have done everything asked of me and gone beyond the call of duty at all four jobs. I have put the time into setting the groundwork for a great career, put endless time into friendships and relationships. Now I deserve to take some time for myself. To enrich my own life, steal some real independence and strike out on my own. Don't get me wrong, I am a very independent gal and anyone who knows me well enough will tell you the same. But the truth of the matter is, I have always been lucky enough to be surrounded by amazing friends, family, colleagues and to have a fantastic boyfriend by my side. This means I have never really had the chance to do anything by myself - university was the one thing where I struck out on my own but I had a huge group of great mates from the first day so it never seemed a challenge. This is something that will test me in every way possible - it will terrify me, make me rely on myself to keep me out of trouble, to take chances, to meet people, to find my way, to make a plan and all the rest. It is a big challenge when you have always had someone to help out along the way. That is the exciting part. lifeisanadventureI'm also really looking forward to finally having time to really reassess my life. I'm at a point where I think it would really do me good to take a step back and take a look at things, before making my mind up about my next move. I want time to indulge myself and to discover new passions, interests and loves. I want time to really dedicate to blogging and writing what I love, and I really want time to discover more of the world and more of myself. It is so easy to get caught up in the day-to-day rush of working so much and never really taking time to smell the roses - well now I want to smell the roses, and the spices, and the flavours the world has to offer. Yes it means leaving behind friends, family, and a boyfriend that means the world to me, but in the grand scheme of things, it is a short-term sacrifice for a lifetime of happiness. That is the best way of explaining it to those who I know don't understand how I can leave behind these things. Adventure and risk are the best way to discover what you really what to be doing, by stepping outside of your comfort zone, you find out where your boundaries really lie.Travel-quote-4So how did I do it? Quit my job I mean. I know there are a lot of people who have been asking me how I went about it, so I though this post could explain the few steps I took to quitting my job. It was one of those things that seemed like a huge task, but when it came down to it, it was so simple and so easy. I had lots of friends and family joking about how I would do it - would I go in and slam down my resignation letter? Would I just storm out in a dramatic moment? Would I just not bother turning up any more? Haha of course not. So how did I do it?

  1. I took some time to look over my contract and our company's intranet to see what options were available to me and what notice I would have to work.
  2. I wrote a short and simple letter of resignation, stating my reasons for leaving and what date would be my last working day.
  3. I decided to ask about a career break, but had my back-up resignation ready if needed.
  4. I asked for a meeting with my boss and did so two months ahead of my leaving date, despite my notice period only being a month - to help the company source a replacement.
  5. In the meeting, I explained my plans to my boss, mentioned how grateful I was for my time at the company and the experience I had gained, and said that in future I would be keen to write pieces on a freelance basis if needed.
  6. I spoke to HR and tracked down any missed holiday time that needs to be taken before I leave, and booked it quickly.
  7. I made a plan to contact all of my regular contacts with the news and to direct any future communication to a colleague.

Seven simple steps that took me from being a full time employee of the company to an unemployed traveller who is set to embark on a huge trip across the world early next year. It may seem really daunting to quit your job and a bit scary to have to basically reject the company after your time there, but you must remember you are completely entitled to leave at your will and move on whether to develop your own career or try something different. Don't feel guilty for quitting your job, but remember to be respectful and grateful for what you have gained by being a part of the company. You never know when you will need a good reference, or when that job will affect your future or give you the right contacts for your next move. Don't underestimate the power of a thank you and the importance of keeping things polite and civil to the bitter end - even if you have really hated your time in that job.travel-bugIt's an exciting time - that's for sure. I'm slap-bang in the middle of a couple of courses of jabs, I'm working every hour going to save more money and trying my hardest to see as many friends as possible. I still have so much to do and so little time to do it in. If any of you are planning your travels - don't let fears of quitting your job stand in your way. It is one of the most freeing things you can do.

How did you go about it when you quit your job to take up another or travel the world? Any tips you would like to add from your own experiences?

Ab Lucy sign off

weddingThe long weekend in Ireland got off to a fantastic start with gorgeous sunshine blazing across blue skies, giving us the perfect opportunity to explore the island and to see its beauty. After lots of hugs, chat, a few drinks and some delicious food at the Gold Club, we all made sure to have an early night so we were all refreshed and ready for the wedding the next day. Me and the boyfriend, his mum and step-dad in particular had been up for a really long time by this point after catching our flight from Stansted first thing that morning and having to set out at around 4am. We were very glad to crawl into bed and dream of lucky four-leaved clovers and all the Guinness that was to follow.

We awoke early and refreshed the next morning, me and Mark were contemplating heading out for some fresh air but the weather was playing chicken with us. Just as predicted, the skies were cloudy, dark and threatened with rain, but with patches of blue sky dotted about, we were optimistic that they day wouldn't be too bad - as long as the wind didn't play silly buggers with my hair anyway... Finally after a lot of debating, and a short shower of rain, we headed out and were glad we did as the sun came out for a short while as I took Mark on the scenic route walk from the day before - check out the previous post for pics - which he loved. We even spotted a load more deer along the way - again they were totally unbothered by us and just carried on about their day.deerSuddenly realising the time, we quickly headed back to the lodges where the rest of the family had been preparing breakfast and sat down for a delicious fry up, which we were glad of later. I hate how normally when attending a wedding you often are in such a rush you don't get to eat properly in the morning when it is such a long time to wait until the wedding meal. After being left starving hungry at a few weddings and then annoyingly drunker than I plan because of my empty stomach later on, I now make sure I get the chance to eat a proper meal in the mornings - not everyone had as much sense though and there were a few rumbly tummies! We all got ready and it was lovely to have the time and space to not have to rush, I was so excited to get the chance to finally wear my amazing ASOS dress that I bought a month or so ago, I've been dying to wear it ever since!

For the wedding ceremony, we went to a little church just outside Waterford where Uncle Richard (boyfriend's great uncle) conducted the service, he travelled all the way from South Africa to be part of Siobhan and Nathan's special day. With lots of readings from family and friends, a special musical interlude by Mark's uncle Joe on the fiddle, and blessings for Siobhan's late parents - particularly an emotional one for her mother Kathleen who sadly died just a few months ago. It was such a beautiful, family wedding and really epitomised why I love attending weddings in their family - they all go to so much trouble. Nathan's side of the family were all from New Zealand and many had travelled over for the occasion, which really made it even more special. Uncle Richard gave a beautiful sermon, and although I am not Roman Catholic, I really can appreciate the more philosophical side of his part in the service. He's one of these people who can turn something so simple into a really profound statement that will leave you thinking about it much later on. Just because it is not my religion does not mean I don't get involved, and the family always take me up for communion, where Uncle Richard gives me a blessing - which, I'm not gonna lie, makes me feel slightly invincible and pretty darn holy.wedding 2One of the cutest parts of the ceremony had to be the gorgeous flower girl, Alana, who is Mark's little cousin, and she made a beautiful flower girl with her curls and sweet little dress. She actually took the whole thing so seriously when walking down the aisle that she forgot to smile! Following her down the aisle in the safe grip of a family member, Niall, the little terror, was making all kinds of crazy faces at the family and friends trying to snap pictures as they made their way into the church. Cue a lot of laughs and sniggers at him as we all tried to keep a straight face. Later in the service he had to be plied with sweets to stay quiet and proceeded to run around the church, even putting his hand up to interrupt the priest - it was hilarious and everyone had a good laugh. Bless him - definitely more spirited than when Mark and I went to stay with his parents and spent a week looking after and playing with him, but a good giggle.

One of my favourite parts of the ceremony had to be the beautiful wedding poem, The One, being read by a friend of the family. I love the words of this poem, and although I have no idea who it is by, it always touches my heart.

When the one whose hand you’re holding
is the one who holds your heart,
When the one whose eyes you gaze into
gives your hopes and dreams their start,
When the one you think of first and last
is the one who holds you tight,
And the things you plan together
make the world seem just right,
When the one whom you believe in
puts their faith and trust in you,
You’ve found the one and only love
you’ll share your whole life through.

wedding 3After the service, we all headed back to Waterford Castle, where we were greeted with a glass of Prosecco, a roaring fire and a pair of musicians. Shortly after, when all of the guests had arrived, we were served delicious canapés and had time to chat amongst ourselves - a great opportunity to catch up with old friends and family members we hadn't seen since the last family wedding. The time flew by and before we knew it the family were having wedding photos, unfortunately by this time the heavens had opened and these had to be taken inside to avoid soaking the happy couple. Absolute chaos of trying to get the kids to all face the same way and smile, trying to get all the Broderick sisters lined up together and trying to keep everyone together long enough for a photo to be taken! Thank goodness they managed to get some lovely pics and we all headed in for dinner.

We had been put on a table adjoining the main room, and we were so glad because it was so much cooler in there - people were coming out to cool down after the food was served and the wine was poured. Several glasses of wine later, some delicious mojito sorbet, Irish beef, and a dessert platter later, the speeches were in full flow. They kicked off with some lovely words from Mark's uncle, Michael, in place of Siobhan's father who died several years ago, who spoke of Shiv's life, achievements, with a few embarrassing moments in there for good measure. It always brings a tear to my eye to hear families talking so lovingly and so proudly of each other - it's beautiful and sad at the same time that often these things are left unsaid until weddings or funerals. The best man gave a cracking speech that had us all laughing our heads off and finished with a toast to the bride and groom. After coffee and chocolates, we all headed to the reception room where the bride and groom were ready to cut the cake and share their first dance.usThe rest of the evening passed in a blur of more wine, wedding cake, energetic dancing, a great band, good catch-ups with family and friends, making new friends, a spectacular performance of the Haka by the best man, a lot of laughs, some sausage sandwiches and a rainy walk back to the lodges. It was an amazing wedding and I feel so lucky to have been able to attend a wedding in a real castle - a perfect day for the bride and groom, and for all those of us lucky enough to join them. The weather may not have been great, but spending the day inside meant we weren't too bothered - it just made it extra cosy by the fire.

Do you love weddings as much as I do? What makes them so special for you? Have you ever been to an Irish wedding?

Ab Lucy sign off

Image by Andrew Smith

Image by Andrew Smith

I write this with incredibly sore arms after starting a course of jabs ahead of next year's travels, and I felt it was about time for another post about my plans. This one is about a question I've been asked a lot since making my decision and starting to plan my getaway for next year. It's strange, because it doesn't seem a big deal to me - just a natural choice, but it is a pretty huge decision to pack your life up, move to the other side of the world, give up your job and take a chance. It's not something that comes easy to all of us, and for me, this decision was a long time coming. So, for those who are having those niggling thoughts, who catch themselves daydreaming about the life they wish they had, this post is all about how I made one of the biggest decisions of my life.

It happened over Christmas 2013. For the first time since finishing university, I had a full two weeks off work for Christmas and after just a week, I knew I didn't want to go back. I'd had these thoughts in the back of my mind for a long time that my job was no longer what I wanted it to be, and it was just a case of working out if I wanted to move to a big city like London and start afresh, or whether to follow my dreams of travelling the world. This was more a daydreaming stage and I never thought I would actually make my travelling dreams a reality. I'd been stuck in a sort of limbo for the past few months, the previous summer had been amazing and I'd been so busy having fun that my job had become just that, a job. But when the summer drew to a close, I realised without all those fun distractions, I was a bit bored and wanted to escape.

Image by Dennis Skley

Image by Dennis Skley

I don't want to sound ungrateful, I love my job and it has given me huge opportunities and a great basis for a career, but it had become stale for me after three years of working in the same office and I was ready for a change. I plodded on, not really thinking about it as other distractions popped up, but that voice in the back of my head grew louder and louder. My relationship was going through a bit of a rough patch and so I threw myself into a family Christmas and loved every second. But early January, something happened. Something that I'm still not really ready to talk about, but it suddenly threw everything into place for me. Something snapped inside of me and I realised that there was nothing holding me to my town, that actually, at that point, there was more driving me away than pinning me down. You've all had those moments when life gets a bit much and you have to get away? Well I couldn't escape it all, so I started to plan and I made a decision. I decided to travel.

You might worry I was running away, but actually my problems at the time were just a catalyst for something much bigger that was already in motion. This was the answer to my melancholy, to my feelings of being trapped inside my own body. I told a few people, close friends and family about my decision, but I'm not sure they really took me seriously, they just thought I had an idea but wouldn't actually end up going. Of course there are many who make the plans and never end up going, many who talk about it but never find the courage to up sticks and travel. But I was determined. So what did I do?

Image by Daniel Panev

Image by Daniel Panev

It was as easy as that, once I snapped everything just started to slot into place and suddenly it all made sense. I felt so free to have made the choice and to have a plan, a goal to work towards and that has seen me through the last nine months where I have been saving and working. I had several commitments that meant I couldn't leave any earlier in the year, which was hard for me for a while as circumstances had me wanting to up and leave straight away. But I'm glad I waited as I wouldn't have been in the right mindset to really enjoy my travels at that point. Plus the time I've had has given me the chance to save at a realistic rate, and to enjoy spending time with all my loved ones before leaving, which makes me feel less guilty in case I decide to stay longer.

adventure

 

For me it was slightly easier as I was living with my parents, which meant I had no ties to a mortgage or home, plus I was working in a job that I had already milked clean of all experiences and potential.

I totally understand for others it might be more complicated, but I genuinely believe that making the initial decision to jump is the hardest part and after that it all starts to fall into place.

 

What sparked your decision to give up life as you knew it and travel? Did you have a similar experience to me?

Ab Lucy sign off

Ireland 3As you read this, I'm packing and getting ready to go to the airport for a wedding in Ireland with the boyfriend's family. I'm so unbelievably excited about this wedding, there has been one every autumn for the last few years, but this is the last one for a while and it's a very special one. This wedding is taking us to a tiny island in the centre of Waterford, where the wedding will take place in a castle! I visited the castle last September and it was just beautiful, like something out of a fairytale, and covered in trailing red flowers. Looking at it, I half expected Rapunzel to lean out of the turrets and pour down her golden hair. We're actually staying on the island in lodges as well so we won't have far to stumble back to bed after the wedding, but in true Irish style, the celebrations will continue for three days of partying, drinking, eating and being very merry. So, this post is all about celebrating the 10 things I love the most about Ireland, and what has kept me going back every autumn for the last few years.Ireland 1

THE PEOPLE

Everyone I have met in Ireland has been friendly, welcoming and has gone out of their way to make you feel at home. I wouldn't want to generalise but if you walk down the street in England, you will be met with more frowns and grumpy faces than you can cope with, but in Ireland, everyone has always been happy to see me and chat. Everyone I have ever met on my visits has been warm and kind, plus quick to help if you are lots of need a recommendation. Plus, THAT accent gets me every time.

THE LANDSCAPE

Ireland is a beautiful country with everything to offer, inland there are rolling hills and lush green fields full of cows and sheep. On the coast there are stunning beaches, cute seaside towns and choppy waves. So many towns look like time forgot them and they still hold that quaint appeal in the tiny churches and hole-in-the-wall pubs with warm fires and great music.Ireland 4THE FOOD

You guys know by now, I love my food and anywhere that can promise me a good meal is going high up in my estimations. Well Ireland certainly delivers, and particularly at last year's wedding where we had some amazing freshly caught seafood in the coastal town where we were staying, and had the gorgeous prime Irish beef as the main wedding meal. Yum. Looking forward to seeing what food we'll get this time!

THE PARTIES

Every single time we go to an Irish wedding it is a pretty legendary night - the last one saw us partying with the bride to an epic soundtrack she had picked herself and downing beers until the sun came up - the bride and groom actually carried on and yet still beat us to breakfast! Another one we went to was pretty manic and ended up with me locked out of the hotel room and having to bunk in with some cousins! These events always involve a lot of booze, dancing and fun so I'm sure I'll have some tales to tell after this one!Ireland 5 THE FAMILY

I really love getting to spend time with the boyfriend's extended family - my family, although big, are spread across the globe and we don't often see each other. When we do, we are not particularly close, so it is lovely to spend time with a family who make such an effort to get together and to celebrate even the tiniest occasions. It is a lovely thing to be a part of and they do make me a big part of it. At this wedding, a member of the family will be travelling from South Africa to ordain the ceremony, and there are lots of others travelling from America.

THE HOLIDAY

As you guys know, I've been working constantly for a long time now and have been saving hard for backpacking in a few months, I haven't really had a proper break because all my holiday time has been spent at festivals which are just as crazy! So this will be a nice relaxing break as well, a chance to regroup and get away from work for a bit. I have long needed a break - that's for sure! Ireland is the perfect place for a break because although you feel a million miles away from home, it is super convenient to get to.Ireland 2THE ACTIVITIES

Every time I've visited Ireland, we've had no end of fun things to do, see and try. Previously we've had big family meals, gone walking around the coast, watched family take part in a 10k run, taken the kids to the funfair, visited a monastery and family graves, and even gone to the races! This time, there is a big golfing game to join in and, obviously the wedding, but we also have a huge family do the day after at a well-known pub, which will give us lots of time to spend together. There's so much to do!

Have you been to Ireland? What did you think of the country and what has made it a special place for you?

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