Last year was a busy one – a lot of travel, a lot of living and a lot of changes. It was an amazing year full of highs and lows, but in the midst of that it was hard to feel settled and to live my best life. I finished the year pretty exhausted from the constant movement, ill as all my adventures caught up with me, and eager to make some big changes for the year ahead. Now don't worry, it may be January but this isn't one of those "New Year, New Me" posts – instead of some health kick, I'm focusing on making some big lifestyle changes that will hopefully bring me happiness in 2018. I'm looking at the long-term rather than some quick fix. What's prompted all this? Well I've been travelling for over three years now and in that time I've done and seen a lot, but now I'm craving some stability and a different way of travelling, and of living my life. So what changes am I making this year?
Now I don't believe in diets, but I do believe in lifestyle changes and improving diet. I am focusing more on what I put in my body and some of the ways I can really feel my best. I remember when I felt healthiest and happiest during the year and it was when I was road tripping Western Australia and was eating purely vegan/vegetarian for months on end. I had endless energy and as soon as I stopped that diet I was exhausted all the time. I'm already eating vegetarian most of the time, but I've been incorporating more vegan food into my diet and it's making me feel great. I'm excited to move into my own place into a few months and then there will be nothing but vegetarian food in my cupboards. I don't do this because I don't like meat – my choice is based on the fact that I feel better when I don't eat meat, and the fact that I just don't think a meat-heavy diet is sustainable without damaging the environment. Likewise, I haven't forbidden myself from eating meat if I do want to, I don't think diet should be about restriction – more about introducing more things that are better for you like my mostly vegetarian diet.
I've already cut out as much dairy as possible from my diet – choosing soy, rice or coconut products instead which has helped my eczema-prone skin no end. I absolutely love the Alpro with Coconut instead of yoghurt, and always switch regular milk for Rice Milk as it's far more sustainable than Almond Milk. My favourite post-gym breakfast at the moment is Lizi's Granola mixed with Alpro and lots of fresh blueberries and raspberries, the granola is absolutely delicious and packed full of protein, fibre and all the goodness you need post-workout, plus its low sugar. Fancy a snack? I'm the worst for picking up the wrong things to snack on, so Soul Food Collective sent me some of what they think I should be filling up on and I'm more than impressed. This entirely fair trade, delicious, natural and organic range is just what you need to keep you going during the day, and oh my goodness they are the perfect snack. My favourites are the Amarena cherries and raspberries coated in dark chocolate and I always make sure I have a packet in my bag to stop me from snacking on the wrong foods. When it comes to dinners, I actually prefer using tofu and Quorn as meat replacements, the more I have eaten them the more my tastebuds have changed and I enjoy the texture of meat less.
I'm so happy to be back in a gym. I signed up as soon as I arrived back in the UK and I'm there most days now to attend classes or hit the gym. After travelling constantly for three months and indulging over Christmas, it feels really nice to be back in a routine and to challenge my body, to feel the aches that means you've pushed yourself further. I have always been a bit of a gym bunny when I get going but travelling makes it hard to keep up a routine when you're never in one place long enough. I love yoga, pilates and running, but I miss the weights, the machines and the challenges of classes when I'm on the road. I don't consider myself out of shape at the moment – my focus is more on getting stronger and building my energy levels. Also, adapting to British weather, I need all the help I can get in staying warm!
I'm focusing on trying to be active every day but in different ways. A couple of days a week I'm attending classes such as body combat (my fave!), yoga, or zumba depending on what my body is craving. On the other days, I'll either head to the gym and do my own HIIT workout or have a weights session. One thing I can tell from this is that I love variety and I get bored if I do the same thing every day, so on the days where I just don't fancy the gym, I like to get outside and either run or do huge walks on the beach or in the woods – perfect for when you need to blow away the cobwebs. Looking for new workout ideas? Why not try your hand at winter sports such as indoor skiing?
Encouraging yourself to get active in January is a lot of work, so it's important to invest in yourself and to get some nice workout clothes that you are excited to put on even when it's cold outside and you want to stay in bed. I have the comfiest workout leggings and sports bra from Australian brand Cotton On Body and they are genuinely the best workout clothes I have ever had plus very budget friendly. I'm lucky to have a sister who works as a personal trainer so I'm always getting her cast-offs when it comes to exercise gear and she recently sent me two (almost new) sets of trainers! It's definitely helped me to get in the right mindset for working out and working hard! This gorgeous sports bag from Hunkemoller Doutzen Sports range has helped the most, I was in need of a new gym bag and this one is fantastic – it's huge and has plenty of space to fit all my workout clothes, shoes and even swimming gear in. Plus the cute floral design helps make it feel really feminine and pretty, just what I need after a sweaty gym session. I'll also be using it as a weekend bag from time to time as it's the perfect size for taking away with me.
As someone who spent much of Christmas/New Year feeling very poorly with the flu, and who spent much of their month in Sri Lanka with food poisoning, it's been a rough time for my body. I've spent a lot of the year working too hard, working long hours, partying too much and not giving myself time to heal. I've been the sickest I've been in a long time and yet I haven't stopped or taken time out, it's a problem when you live a lifestyle like mine. I'm not very good at stepping back and looking after myself, but since being home I am focusing on my health so much more. I'm making sure I exercise daily, that I eat as healthy as possible, that I'm sleeping for long enough and deeply enough. And I feel so much better for it. When I had the flu recently, instead of pushing myself to get out of bed and make myself worse, I wallowed and I allowed myself time to get better. It was frustrating and went against all of my instincts but it worked and I feel so much better now. I'm also making decisions to adjust my diet and lifestyle based on information that has surfaced during a long course of treatment for an ongoing skin condition that is finally being taken seriously. After it being brushed aside all my life by doctors and myself, 2018 is the year of healing.
This can come in so many forms and all of the above can also be included. But in this case I want to focus on how I am putting less pressure on myself, how I am changing my habits and giving myself space to breathe. I'm taking more time for myself lately, more time to do the things that make me feel good like reading a good book, or spending a day in bed watching Disney movies when I'm having a rubbish time. I'm giving myself the time to pamper and treat my body well, to indulge and invest in myself by actually taking the time to appreciate myself. Lately I've really been trying to focus on appreciating the people around me, telling them what they mean to me and making the effort to get in contact with friends I haven't spoken to for a while. Caring for my support network is in turn caring for myself – you get out of it what you put in. Most importantly, I'm making plans for the future, that for the first time in a long time actually revolve around staying put and settling for a while. Last year was one for moving constantly and pushing myself, this year I want to focus on what makes me really happy and that is being closer to friends and family, having more of a base that can become my home, exploring different ways of fulfilling my travel needs and letting my relationship grow.
I'm a self-confessed workaholic. When I have a job, it tends to take over everything and even during the times when I don't and I'm travelling, I end up giving all my time to this blog like when I spent ages redesigning the whole thing from scratch while I was in Australia. For so long I've been taking jobs for convenience and money due to travelling, rather than focusing on my skills, interest and qualifications. Now my brain hurts from lack of use and I'm craving the chance of having job where I finally get to use all three – I'm in the process of applying for jobs and for the first time in a long time I'm focusing on quality. This year is the year where I develop my skills and really use my brain instead of running myself into the ground for a job I don't believe in.
What changes are you making this year? Are you focusing more on your health, your relationships or your career?
I wanted to take the time to write a post this Christmas about what I'm grateful for - there are so many things this year and after a rocky start to the year, I feel very lucky to be ending it this way. The last six months have been a total whirlwind in every aspect of my life, a lot has changed and I'm really happy that it has, but remembering how my life was before that really makes me appreciate every second of how it is now. Now I'm home for my first Christmas with the family in three years and despite it putting travel plans on hold, I couldn't be happier to be home. Sometimes you just need to spend a little time resting and catching up with the people who have always known you, not just spending time with those fleeting travelling friends. This last year, and especially the last six months has been filled with constant travel and it's about time I just took the time to sit, reflect and enjoy where I am. To reassess and make plans for the future before I make my next move, and to take some time off for once! So in this whirlwind year filled with highs and lows, with old friends who have come back into my life, and the new should who have passed through, what am I grateful for?
Once again, travel has given me one of the best years of my life and I couldn't feel more lucky to have experienced the places and people I have met along the way. I feel very privileged to be able to live this nomadic life and to be able to find happiness in it, and I really do appreciate every moment. This year I had the amazing opportunity to explore parts of Australia that have been on my bucket list for years - getting to road trip around Tasmania and all the way up the West Coast - an epic 4,000km trip. Drawing my two year working holiday visa to a close, I feel so happy to have made the most of my time in this amazing country and I left with a smile on my face and a lot of new friends close to my heart. Next up was a fleeting visit to Kuala Lumpur to set off a trip around Asia, before delving into the deaths of Sri Lanka for a month. Travelling the length and breadth of the country, I grabbed every opportunity to soak up the culture, the beauty and whatever adventures came my way. I completely fell in love with the people and the places we visited along the way and was sad to leave. But not quite ready to come home, a few weeks in the sunshine in Thailand was just what the doctor ordered and it was fantastic to return to the place where my travels began three years on - Thailand has changed so much and yet retains that familiarity it will always hold for me.
As I have mentioned, I am so happy to be home for Christmas, it really does mean the world to spend the festive period at home with my closest family and friends after so long away. So much has changed at home with friends getting new jobs, moving away, starting new relationships or even getting married, and one of my best friends in the world is now pregnant - there is so much to celebrate and I'm happy to be home to share in it all with them. But while I'm happy to be at home with the people who have known me from the beginning, I'm also so grateful to the friends and the families I've forged on all sides of the world. To the Melbourne family who absolutely made my experience there, who welcomed me with open arms time and time again, who were always there with endless laughs, a sofa to sleep on and were always ready to make more amazing memories together. I will be forever grateful to you, you made Melbourne home for me.
To Jack and Paul, who have proven again and again and again what amazing friends they are, I will be forever grateful to have met you back in Asia, little did we realise back then that we would be mates for life. The two of you have gone out of your way to fly cross country, and even across the world to visit me, and I was glad to repay with a visit this year. The pair of you will always be people I know I can count on. And of course, I cannot forget my West Coast crew - the beautiful souls I met down in Fremantle who filled my life with much-needed laughter and fun. The reunions with old friends along the way were a keen reminder that travelling friends aren't always temporary and you can have such a huge impact on the lives of others without even realising. And of course, my amazing group that I road tripped the West Coast with - all such different characters brought together by a love of travel and adventure. Every moment of that trip surpassed my expectations and I'm so grateful to have shared it with this motley crew - it will remain one of my best Australian memories.
One of the changes I am most grateful for this year. After spending three years on my own after the break up of my nine-year relationship, there were a lot of points where I thought I might be alone for good if I maintained this travelling lifestyle. I didn't mind, I actually preferred that to being constantly let down, so I focused on myself and all the things I wanted to do. No-one can say I didn't live life to the fullest and I guess it was only when I forgot to put up my guard because I was having too much fun, that I met someone special. It's an amazing feeling to meet someone as passionate about travelling as you are, and since getting together we've travelled half of Australia living in a car together. We've also spent a month backpacking Sri Lanka and a few weeks in Thailand. We're now on six countries together and when he comes over to visit next week, it will be our seventh. I don't know what the future holds, but for now I'm enjoying every second and I'm just grateful that the world saw fit to send someone like him into my life.
This year has been incredible for blogging and writing opportunities despite me taking more time off from the blog than ever before. I have worked with some amazing companies all over the world and have had the chance to live some of my wildest dreams such as a hot air balloon ride and safaris surrounded by wild leopards and elephants. I've stayed in some truly incredible accommodations from being the first blogger to visit the first gay-friendly luxury resort in Sri Lanka, to staying on the other side of the fence to a national park in luxury safari camping, and even sleeping in tree houses! Finishing the trip in a truly incredible 5* luxury resort in Thailand was an absolute highlight and the perfect way to end the holiday. I feel so grateful for these amazing opportunities, but I also feel grateful to my parents for instilling this work ethic into me, without being proactive, determined and hardworking, none of these opportunities would have happened.
Unless you're one of the people who have met me in person over the last 18 months, you won't know how bad my skin has been. Last May, I flew to the UK and on my flight the air hostesses sprayed a pesticide chemical inside the plane to kill any stray bugs. I instantly had the worst allergic reaction of my life, my eyes and face swelling up, my skin breaking out into open wounds on my arms. It was horrific. I should have claimed compensation, I should have followed it up but when I got home, I got the flu and was bedridden for weeks. When I finally turned a corner, all I wanted was to get out and have a life again, to forget it all, but I was left with huge scars on my arms and white patches where my skin had healed. Over the next year, these white patches spread to cover more and more of my arms and even my chest, back and face. I went to multiple doctors in the UK and Australia but no-one could tell me what it was, no-one could help me. The more sun I got and the more the rest of my skin tanned, the more noticeable the white patches were, it was always there and I couldn't hide it.
Complete strangers would come up to me at work and start talking to me about it on a daily basis, or they would make jokey comments about it. They hurt, it was horrible have to laugh and brush them off like they didn't affect me or I didn't hear them all day, every day. Everyone thought they were a dermatologist, everyone thought they knew the answer, the cure for my problems. They meant well, but I was sick of hearing it, sick of my skin always being the topic of conversation when it had nothing to do with these people. I've always suffered from eczema and skin allergies, but I never realised until this point how utterly debilitating it is to have such a noticeable skin problem. How you're constantly aware of the eyes glancing over your arms and lingering as they wonder what the hell is wrong with you, how you take photos with friends and then can't bear to look at them because all you can see is the patches. Without realising, it really does take over every aspect of your life, no matter how much you try and put on a brave face and how much you pretend it doesn't bother you.
So now I can tell you why being the sickest I've been since travelling while I was in Sri Lanka, was the best thing that could have happened to me. I went to the doctors because medicine wasn't helping my upset stomach and was given some homeopathic remedies that solved all my problems within an hour. But even better, the doctor, who spoke very good English and had previously worked in the UK, was a dermatologist and recognised immediately what the problem was with my skin. He recognised the infection and knew exactly how to get rid of it, he promised me he could prescribe homeopathic treatment - a mixture of pills and creams - that would see a noticeable difference within two weeks and if I kept it up for a few months the patches would be unnoticeable, and the pain and discomfort I suffered would go away. The words I had been desperate to hear for so long, and least expected to ever hear come from the mouth of a doctor after being let down by so many. I started the treatment - still very sceptical of whether it would work but praying it would - and within two weeks the patches were already significantly better. Now two months on, most of them are barely noticeable and the rest get better every single day. The patches on my face are gone, my arms are mostly better and my chest and back are back to normal. I can't tell you how grateful I am that the treatment worked, and that fate brought me to that doctor out of the various other medical centres on the street.
I feel very lucky the way this year has turned out, the way I feel now couldn't be more different to how I was at the beginning of the year. I've grown, I've changed and it's all because of the amazing experiences I've had and the people I've met along the way. I'm very excited about what the next year holds for me and I can't wait to share every moment with you guys. Thanks for being there every step of the way and I hope you all have a lovely Christmas.
I've just returned home after 18 months away for my first Christmas with the family in three years - it's a pretty great feeling to be home and to finally take a break from the constant shuffle of travelling. But of course, with the dramatic change from 35 degrees and humid of Asia and Australia, to freezing temperatures and frost on the ground - it's no surprise that I've picked up a cold! Every time I return home from travelling, I always seem to pick up some illness - last time it was the flu and an allergic reaction to something they sprayed on a plane.
But the ironic thing is that when I'm actually travelling I'm usually the healthiest of all - it's always when I stop or when I'm changing dramatically between temperatures that I really feel it. Whether you're a long-term traveller or you're just heading on holiday this winter, it's no fun to waste time feeling under the weather. You want to be outside living life to the fullest instead of hiding inside shivering and sniffing your way through the winter. This post is focusing on all the things I've learnt in my last few years of travelling and life about keeping healthy whether you're headed to sunny or snowy climates.
If you're heading off on winter travels, the best way to ensure you have the amazing trip you've been dreaming of is to prepare - packing smartly can change your whole experience. I never leave on a trip without packing a mega holiday health kit - it may sound a bit crazy but the amount of times this bag has saved me or others from having our trips ruined proves it is more than worth it. Each bag is pretty personal to the individual traveller and their needs, but after years of travelling I've definitely narrowed down the essentials. Just jetting off for a few weeks in the sun? One of the best places to head this winter for good weather is Asia, but with this can come a whole heap of medical complaints. Likewise, if you're heading off for a skiing holiday, the cold can play havoc with your body. Top things to include in your holiday health kit:
When you're off on your holidays, all you ca think about is eating and drinking all the things you dream of when you're back home. Every night is a treat, with cocktails and rich, unusual foods, and desserts that are normally too naughty to indulge in every night. If you're normally eating pretty healthily at home with lots of vegetables and juices, then head on holiday to indulge in lots of carb-heavy meals and sweet, sugary cocktails with not many vitamins - it's easy to see why you might be more prone to getting sick. Just being a bit more aware of what you're putting in your mouth could make all the difference.
Easily forgotten when you're on your holidays and just want to lay on the beach and tan but it's important to stay moving and keep your body active. Plus working up a sweat can be good for getting rid of any germs! It's a lot easier to stay active on a snowy holiday by taking part in activities like skiing or snowboarding.
Your worst nightmare happens and you get sick on your holiday, how do you cope? It happens to us all, and while it is such a shame when you've been looking forward to this trip, you don't have to let to ruin everything!
It's the worst if sickness or injury stands in the way of you having the trip you've been dreaming of, but don't let it dishearten you, it doesn't have to ruin the entire trip. Being prepared is the best way to salvage the holiday and make the most of every second by not wasting time looking for a chemist or doctor. So many less serious medical problems can be self-treated these days with over the counter remedies and first aid treatment which can save you valuable time on your trip. For the more serious illness or injuries, you should always be sure to take out a comprehensive insurance policy which will cover you for any medical care you might need - if taking part in winter sports activities be sure your policy covers any accidents. For any advice, look no further than specialists in holiday sickness claims, yourlegalfriend.com who offer a free call in service and will help with all the information you need to put in claims or request compensation. Wherever you are heading on holiday this winter, live life to the fullest and enjoy every second, just remember that a little preparation could help make it the best holiday yet!
Where are you headed on holiday this winter? What do you keep in your holiday health kit? Do you prefer sun or snow holidays?
Disclaimer: All advice given in this blog post is tried and tested by myself, it is based on what has worked well for me, but everyone is different and you should always seek medical advice if seriously ill.
A bit of a throwback today, a little break from all the Western Australia posts as we hop back to Victoria and all my lovely days out while I was living down in Melbourne. I've already written about Wilson's Promontory National Park, Phillip Island, bar crawling around the city and much more - but this post is all about a great little day trip you can take if you fancy escaping the hustle and bustle of the city for a few hours. When I lived in Melbourne at the beginning of the year, I returned there with gusto and a desire to see all the amazing places I missed out on the first time. Working long hours as usual, I was determined to make the most of my days off by getting out to explore the beaches or different nature parks for walks and a change of scenery. Check out my blog post for Wild Melbourne here about all the best places to escape into nature around Melbourne. The Dandenongs were one of the final places I visited before setting off on my travels again, and they were definitely a day well spent with two of my best friends from living down there.The three of us were inseparable, working together, living around the corner from each other, and spending our days off together - it's safe to say we had a blast down in Melbourne together. So when two of us had a day off, and the other decided to skive off work for the day, we decided to get out of the city and do something fun. Well I decided, and dragged the other two along with me for some exercise. We caught the train from Flinders Street along the Belgrave line to the Dandenongs and got off at Upper Ferntree Gully Station - the journey took around 50 minutes which we easily filled with silly banter. Once there, we had to walk east away from the station and alongside the railway tracks, then we turned off the main road and walked across the trainline, following the track. After about 15 minutes walking, we came to the entrance to the Dandenong Ranges National Park where we were surrounded by lush, green forest and that incredible fresh air smell that can only be found away from the city.As you walk in, head towards the beginning of the 1,000 Steps, Kokoda Track Memorial Walk where you will probably see lots of people running around - so many use it as a workout and spend hours running up and down the steps. It's pretty impressive, I definitely didn't run them, but it was a nice walk up and down, especially as you can take one route up and another down to change it up. The walk is around 3km overall and is quite steep in places so you will want to take water and wear trainers - also do take a warmer layer as it is quite misty and cool in the trees. It says online that it should take 1-1.5 hours to complete, but you can do it in a lot less if you are relatively fit and aren't stopping every five minutes. There is also a picnic ground at the top, but sadly no real view to enjoy - this was a bit of a disappointment after the climb up there, but we still managed to have a great day out.
It's a beautiful place and lovely for a walk or to work out if, like me, you get bored of working out in the city. You can also do this trip in just a couple of hours - I think we were only gone around 3-4 hours overall so we still had the day to enjoy in the city. Plus it's a complete change of scenery being in the misty hills after living in busy Southbank and working in a bar all week. Well worth a visit. If you like this, you should also check out Jacob's Ladder in Perth for a good workout and a great view at the end.
What's your favourite place to escape into nature around Melbourne? Can you recommend any good outdoor places to work out in Australia?
Whether you're backpacking or flashpacking, it can be hard to know how much to pack when you're heading out on your first big adventure. (Check out my girl's packing guide to Asia and Australia) It doesn't matter whether you're using a backpack or a suitcase, we all have limited space and you only want to take what you actually need. I used to be the worst for over-packing stuff I just didn't and wouldn't ever need on holiday, but since backpacking and realising that if I over-pack it is more weight for me to carry, I've found it much easier to cut down. One thing that is always very important to think about when packing is footwear - it's so easy to overpack when it comes to shoes and these quickly add weight to your bag. While you may want to take the prettiest shoes around - it's important to think more about long-term comfort. Your feet are your heroes when you travel, they carry you everywhere and go through a lot so it's important to look after them and to treat them to decent shoes that will help support them for longer.
If you're not planning on backpacking or travelling long-term, you can still be thinking about your upcoming summer holidays and festivals which always deserve a new pair of cute sandals. I don't know about you guys but whether I'm travelling or just at home, I'm pretty hard on my shoes and wear them to death, so I'm always in need of a new pair of trainers or flip-flops. I like to start my packing, or my summer by having a huge clear out - trying on all my old shoes to see what still fits and is still in good enough condition to wear - anything that doesn't gets thrown in the bin or taken to a charity shop. This gives me more space to store any new purchases and helps me work out my shopping list.
What shoes should I pack for my holidays?
A traveller's favourite - these are perfect for the beach, exploring a new place, partying the night away or even wearing in the scummy hostel showers. It's worth investing a little bit into these instead of going for the cheapest possible as the materials will last longer and they will support your feet more. I currently have some rubber ones from Billabong which have great support and are not damaged by the water. Straw ones look cute but they quickly begin to smell and go mouldy when damp, and super cheap ones will quickly fall apart and can strain your feet when walking.
My favourite shoes for travelling - these are so useful for so many things. If you have a nice pair they are perfect for daywear as well as nights out, plus if you're travelling in cooler places these are good for keeping your feet warm. If you're as active as me when you travel - they are also great for going running, for hiking, climbing, cycling and exploring. I tend to travel with a sporty pair of runners for outdoor activities - my current ones are Nike trainers - and I also like to keep a pair of nicer trainers with me for everything else - these were previously Converse and are now Adidas trainers. I can't recommend Converse enough for travelling - I spent two years travelling with a white pair which ended up filthy a lot but were always sparkling white again after the washing machine.
One summer essential you need to buy early is sandals. It's easy to forget when backpacking that you might end up in some pretty smart places - I've gone for cocktails at the Hilton in Thailand and been dancing in glamorous clubs in Sydney. So you always want to make sure you travel with one dressy/smart outfit and either a pair of nice sandals or heels to wear with them. The debate of sandals vs. heels is a long one so I'll summarise for you, but it's up to you what you choose. Sandals are great because they can be dressed up or down - most of my travels have been just with a nice pair of sandals mostly just to avoid wearing flip flops or trainers. However, I do currently have a pair of small heels with me after being based in Melbourne for 5-6 months and enjoying lots of nights out in fancy bars and clubs.
It entirely depends on where you are travelling and for how long - for Asia I would recommend just sandals as heels are never worn. For Australia, you may want a pair of heels for the cities but then again, if you're sticking to outback life and road trips you'll much prefer some small sandals. It's good to spend some time picking out the sandals you really want, make sure they are comfortable and have sturdy soles - I had some beautiful ones made for me in Santorini, Greece. Make sure you go for a neutral pair that work with everything from dresses and skirts to jeans and shorts - you want to create a capsule wardrobe that allows you to combine all elements in various combinations. Taking this approach will save you money, and reduce the clutter in your wardrobe.
Once you've picked out your favourite new footwear, make sure you spend some time breaking them in to avoid blisters when you're on the road. Remember that in hot weather your feet will swell slightly, so it may be a good idea to buy half a size up if your shoes are already slightly tight, or break them in wearing socks to stretch the material a little bit further. The strappier they are, the funkier your tan lines will look so always remember to put sunscreen on your feet once you're in the sunshine.
There's probably a lot of people out there who don't know that these days I eat mostly vegetarian. I don't shout it from the rooftops like some vegetarians and I don't take a fuss if meat is put in front of me by an unsuspecting host. I will fully admit now - because I know someone I've had burgers with is sure to comment - I am not the world's best vegetarian. But since this week is National Vegetarian Week, I thought it was a good time to talk about why I have chosen to eat mainly vegetarian and how travel has affected my choice of diet. While many people will focus on how cruel it is to hurt animals and to kill them in order to feed our ever growing obsession with steak - that's not my reason for choosing to live this way. I don't dispute it being a good reason, but for me there are just many other important reasons for doing this.
Why am I vegetarian?
It all started when I first went travelling, before I left I was a big meat-eater who loved a steak, but once I discovered the delights of South-East Asian cuisine and their remarkable vegetarian selection, I was sold. A few experiences with some questionable meat and I soon decided to stick purely with the amazingly fresh veggies and tofu - what a discovery! No longer was it the soggy, tasteless meat replacement, but instead a meal all in itself - never have I had tofu as well seasoned, as flavoursome and exciting as I did when I was in Thailand. It really set my tastebuds on fire and made me realise I didn't really even miss meat when I had such amazing veggie options on offer. The rest of my five months in Asia, I pretty much lived off a diet of veggies, rice, noodles and fruit - and to this day I have never felt healthier, happier or stronger.When I reached Australia I ended up travelling around so much and then working jobs with crazy hours so I never bothered to buy meat to cook in case it just went off and was a waste. Instead I would raid the amazing range of tofu and fresh veggies for healthy meals or salads. I've seen a real transformation in my diet over the last three years and it has been a natural transition as I've realised what really makes my body feel good and healthy, I don't need meat to feel strong - I can get my protein elsewhere and I actually prefer the tastes and textures to eating flesh. I feel better for not eating meat - I actually notice the difference immediately after eating a meal with meat and eating a vegetarian meal - meat makes me feel sluggish, bloated and overly full.
But what's a bad vegetarian?
I will admit that I'm not always religious with my vegetarianism - I do have slip ups and when you're travelling it's not always easy to eat as healthily or as strictly as it would be at home. In Melbourne I ate so healthily because I was able to prepare all my own meals but when you're travelling all the time or have rubbish hostel kitchens to work with it can be more difficult. Check out my top tips for staying fit and healthy when you travel here. Plus there is the fact that I don't actually dislike meat - I still enjoy the taste and smell of it and if my mates decide to have a barbecue or someone wants to go for a burger or a steak - if I crave it I'll eat it. So yes, I'm a bad vegetarian and some may even consider me not a vegetarian at all, but I don't really care. The fact is, I've gone from eating meat every day to often not even once a month.
Why should you try this?
It might sound like this is just something I have done purely for my own health reasons, but actually since making this change I've done a lot of reading and watched a lot of documentaries about vegetarianism and the environment. I've steered clear of the usual "don't hurt the baby animals" ones and instead looked more at the effect a carnivore diet has on the environment as a whole. If you haven't watched Cowspiracy (it's on Netflix) then you should definitely check it out - it is the documentary that has stayed with me the most. This one focuses on the effect farming cows for food has on the environment and particularly on climate change - the facts and figures it offers pretty much shows that farming meat has had much larger effect on global warming than pollution and use of fossil fuels which I find both fascinating and scary. This fact is just brushed under the carpet because of the sheer amount of money the industry makes for the economy and the governments.I'm not proposing any huge move to change the world, but I do think that we as individuals can do small things both to help ourselves and the planet. I personally feel that not eating meat has made me feel much healthier and better in myself, and I also like knowing that I am helping the environment at the same time. I don't feel guilty if I slip-up and have a bacon sandwich but I do know I won't do it all the time. Since it's National Vegetarian Week, I challenge you all to just try it for one week. If you can't stand the thought of full vegetarianism, why not just cut back on eating meat every day and just have it twice a week? Even that would make a huge difference - not only to your health and the environment, but also to your bank balance. Give it a try, it's just a week and it could change your life.
I've been back in the country less than 24 hours and it's safe to say after four weeks of mad, fast, exciting travelling around Europe, of dancing until the sun comes up and sightseeing for days - I'm glad to be home. I've had the most incredible few weeks road tripping across Bulgaria, exploring Berlin, relaxing in the stunning surroundings of Slovenia, diving into the beautiful baths of Budapest and partying it up in Amsterdam. It's been epic from start to finish and went better than I ever could have hoped, all thanks to all my amazing friends I met up with along the way. The trip was a fantastic excuse to visit some of my friends from trips to Asia and Australia back in their own homes and to catch up on old times, while picking up some awesome new friends along the way. It felt so good to be on the road and completely independent again, travelling solo really is my favourite way to travel, and I feel so refreshed after a break from working so much. Also a big thanks to everyone who has been following me on Instagram and has offered countless suggestions of place to eat, things to see and do along the way!
So what next? You all know I'm never one to stand still for long so of course I've already got lots of plans for the next few weeks and if you've been following me on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook, you'll already know that in just one month I'll be heading back to Australia for another year! While I was away my second year visa was granted and after waiting months for it to be approved I was beyond ecstatic, I can't wait to get back there to start a whole new adventure and to see all my loves I have missed so much. With just a month to prepare, you'd think I'd need to take a few days off working to get everything in order, but actually I've ended up signing up to full time freelance hours until the date I leave! Plus I'll be covering a lot of extra blogging events and reviewing a huge range of restaurants and hotels for you guys with all my top tips for weekends away and how to make the most of your time off work. And I've got some exciting collaborations with travel brands and opportunities coming up that I can't wait to share with you.
It's been lovely to take some time off from the blog over the last couple of weeks just to get some perspective and really appreciate how far I've come. This week my blog celebrated it's third birthday and I actually cannot believe how much it has changed and grown in that time - from the very first blog post I published to the most recent collaborations and going on my first blogging press trip a week ago. I'm so proud of everything I have accomplished with this blog - from working with brands to helping readers plan their trips. I actually received an amazing message from a long-time reader this morning saying she was inspired by this blog post to quit her job and her relationship so she could buy a one-way ticket to Australia. It is just incredible to have any kind of influence on readers, but to have such a huge impact on her life is more than I could have dreamed of when I started Absolutely Lucy.When you love to write as much as I do, and you love to travel, getting to combine these passions in a way that helps others and helps you build a career is so precious, it is important to appreciate every second. Last week, the 10th edition of industry magazine Blogosphere published with the incredible In The Frow on the cover - one of the bloggers I have followed from the very beginning - and guess who was featured inside? One of my favourite travel bloggers, Vicky Flip Flop, chose to feature Absolutely Lucy among her favourite travel bloggers for the month. I haven't yet had a chance to see it as I've been away, but I'll be sharing it with you as soon as my copy arrives - I'm so excited to be a part of such a fabulous magazine, and such an incredible industry.These last few weeks have been exactly the tonic I needed to come home feeling super inspired, with a brain and a camera packed full of amazing content that I just can't wait to share with you. I'm planning on working my ass off at this laptop and bringing you a huge range of new posts on all my adventures and hope to inspire you to plan some of your own. I'm also on a serious health kick - after four weeks of drinking and eating all kinds of rubbish - I'm looking forward to getting in the gym again and eating healthily. It's time to get this body in shape and to peak fitness before I get back to Australia and living in my bikini every day! I'm so pleased I finally found a gym in my small town that offers a huge range of classes, plus a well-stocked gym and a pool - actually, I'm going to wrap up this post now and head straight down there for a workout! So there you go guys, a little glimpse into a chaotic few weeks that have left me with a big smile on my face.
Have you traveled around Europe - what was your favourite place? Have you been in spired by my posts - tell me about it! What's your workout regime - got any tips for me?
There's nothing like a good day trip to break up a holiday, whether you go off to visit another nearby island or just another town, it's a perfect way to experience something totally different during your trip. We were in Santorini for two weeks so we made sure to organise plenty of day trips and activities - like climbing the mountain - to break up our time sunbathing on the beach. One of my absolute highlights of the holiday was a bargain day trip we took from Perissa to explore the nearby active volcano, to swim in natural hot springs and mud baths, and finish the day with a cruise around the Caldera. You'll see this trip on offer a lot when staying on the island in various different forms, but it can be difficult to ensure you don't get ripped off when booking without doing a little research. Luckily for you, I've done the research for you so you can sit back and enjoy the trip!
Booking the trip
We booked our trip at a Perissa travel agency after checking out several to compare prices, it's always worth comparing at least three and seeing if they can offer you a discount for group bookings. A few euros doesn't sound much, but it makes a huge difference to your pocket if you have a big group of people. We booked our trip with Star Travel, on the main street, who were great - they offered a full day trip with all three attractions for the same price other companies were charging for a half-day experience. At around 20 euros per person, we could be picked up from the agents in the morning and taken to hike up the active volcano, we would swim in the hot springs then break on the nearby island of Therissa where you can enjoy a peaceful lunch before heading home and cruising around Oia and the famous Caldera. A pretty busy day, but one worth experiencing. Not only do you get to tick some pretty amazing sights off your Santorini bucket list, but you also get to do it at a steady and enjoyable pace.
Climbing the active volcano
An amazing experience to see the volcanic, bare landscape set against a background of ocean and Santorini coastline. Just out in the bay from the island, it's just a short 5-10 minute boat ride before you land here and prepare to climb the volcano. I wore running shoes but you can easily do it in sturdy sandals, I saw some in flip-flops but I wouldn't recommend it. You have to pay a few euros each for entrance to the volcano, then it's off up towards the crater. The hike takes less than half an hour and isn't too strenuous but it is hot - make sure you have water and sunscreen - and be aware that it is at least five degrees hotter at the top. The walk up is incredible - take a second to appreciate the stark landscape - and when you reach the crater it's amazing to walk around. Annoyingly you will be surrounded by boat-loads of tourists and plenty of selfie sticks, but it is still worth a visit and it is possible to find a quiet spot. Listen out for your tour guide talking about the history of the volcano, it has an interesting past, and then stroll around the crater taking in the 360 degree panoramic view of ocean and island. Watch out for our pal Walle who sits up there 24/7 monitoring volcanic activity and serving as an early warning for the island to be evacuated in case of emergency.
Swimming in hot springs
Back on the boat and we cruise round the volcano and off towards the hot springs which sit in the shadow of a nearby island. As you approach, you'll see further in where the water changes colour to a deep rusty, brown colour, where the mud carries no end of minerals. The boat stops around 15-20 metres away from where you will be able to touch the ground but you do have to jump off and swim for it - if you're not a confident swimmer stay on the boat. A short swim across and you can swim/walk across the rocks to enter the hot springs, feeling the water warming your skin. It's only just above body temperature but you can feel the difference and it's lovely to sit there in the water. I recommend rubbing the mud all over your skin - everyone thought Mum and I were mad for doing this but it makes your skin incredible soft. I was aiming for five years younger but I don't know if I quite reached it. We have just half an hour to enjoy the mud baths before heading back to the boat, but it's the perfect amount of time as we were starving by this point. Swimming back you definitely feel the cold hit you as you leave the hot springs but luckily the clear sea water washes off any remaining mud before you climb back on board.
A relaxing lunch on Therissa Island
Next our journey took to to the island of Therissa, a step back in time to the Greece of years ago. You can walk up to the main village but it is a very steep climb and we weren't sure we would have time to squeeze that in with lunch. Instead we pottered along the shoreline to one of the restaurants and sampled the stuffed vegetables and freshly caught calamari - I've become addicted to calamari over the last few weeks. It was a perfect relaxed lunch with a beautiful view of all the boats and the crystal clear waters. All of the restaurants serve the freshest of fish and for roughly the same prices so choose any and enjoy the setting. After we ate, we decided to wander along the shore to the windmill at the other end of the beach so we could check out the views and shops along the way. It was a lovely little walk and with two hours there we had just enough time to see everything we wanted to see before heading back to the boat to get a good spot at the front for our Caldera cruise.
Oia and Caldera Cruise
How better to finish the day than with a peaceful cruise around Oia - a chance to finally view it from the ocean in all its splendour before making our way along the Caldera by boat. I'll be posting about my day spent in Oia at a later date - but you must without a doubt experience Oia from the ocean, within the town during the day and of course, at sunset, to get a real feel for the town. It's spectacular in all its forms and not at all overrated, every time I was in awe of the beauty and the magic of this stunning location. And of course, a boat cruise around the island in the afternoon sunshine is a perfect way to experience Santorini. There's something so peaceful about being out at sea, perhaps it's the mermaid in me but it just soothes my soul every time. Clear, endless waters, overlooked by centuries old white windmills - that's what Santorini is all about and that's what this trip will give you. All those dreamy island views you've been stalking on Instagram in the months leading up to your trip.I can't recommend the trip we went on enough - it gave us everything we wanted and more. You get to see a whole different side to the island, a natural and raw side to the landscape that often isn't associated with the more manicured beauty of Santorini. It's a perfect way to spend a day during your holiday to the island.
Have you been on this trip - what was your highlight? Do you love boat trips, where was your favourite one?
Having two weeks in a place is such a luxury when you travel. Holidays can be so expensive and I know so many who have had to sacrifice a second week this year due to costs. We're all familiar with that feeling that we never have enough time to squeeze everything in, well I'm definitely guilty of trying to squeeze too much into a break. I can't help myself, I just want to do, see, eat and experience everything a country has to offer, which doesn't often leave much time for relaxing! You'll know from my previous posts that I love keeping fit and active, even when I travel and so I'm sure you'll know that I'm game for trying any new ways of getting out there and pushing my body. So when I realised the amazing opportunity to try something a bit different that lay waiting in Santorini, I jumped at the chance. If you like to exercise this one is a great way to combine history and working out while taking in a spectacular view of the island.In the south-west of the island lies the biggest mountain of the island, Mesa Vouna. This stunning peak has the town of Perissa nestled against one side, while the town of Kamari can be found on the opposite side. At just 369m, it's only a baby in the mountain world, but it's still a worthy climb and well worth it for the experience. We set off at sunrise to try and find the path, which was just a few fields behind my apartments, along the way stumbling across some donkeys preparing for their huge climb over the peak. It was around 5.30am and barely touched by the light, we began our journey - why so early you ask? Well I quite enjoy an early start to the day anyway, and quite frankly it gets so damn hot there that you definitely wouldn't want to attempt this climb beyond 9am or you would be standing up there in 30 degree heat! With the incredible excavations and discovered ruins of Ancient Thira sitting at the top and just waiting to be explored, I wanted time to appreciate it.The walk is around 8km and if you're relatively fit it'll be a breeze, you can complete it in an hour or two - more or less depending on whether you stop along the way. We actually saw a couple of guys who were running up and down the mountain several times - so if you fancy a really grueling workout it's right there waiting for you. I wore running shoes when I took on the climb but my mum and dad managed it fine in sturdy sandals. We took breakfast and plenty of water along with us, you'll need both as the shop at the top is sometimes closed and you might not be able to buy anything for the climb down. I would really recommend hiking up the mountain from Perissa as you actually get the experience of walking up the rock face rather than a man-made path like the one waiting on the other side. It also means that in the morning you will walk in the shade which is a blessing when you're faced with bright, burning heat down the other side. Along the way look out for signs marking graves on the hillside and plaques explaining the history, these are worth a read if you're interested.When you finally reach the top - just stop and breathe it all in. The view is incredible across Kamari and Perissa with the ocean on either side and the volcano within view. It's definitely time to stop for a few photos before climbing the next short hill to Ancient Thira - the ruins cost 2 euros to enter and are more than worth it for the stunning views waiting from the top and a glimpse into a city of the past. The site is not open on Mondays and only opens unil 2.30pm on some days so be sure to check ahead of walking. The hilltop was first inhabited by the Dorians, whose leader was Theras, in the 9th century BC. Thira was later occupied in the Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine eras, with most buildings surviving today from the Hellenistic era (around 4th century BC). If you like history and visiting ancient ruins, you'll be in for a treat with remnants of the ancient houses, cemeteries and even a theatre overlooking the ocean waiting for you. It was amazing to what was found by German archaeologists between 1895 and 1902, and then later by N. Zapheiropoulos in 1961-1982. I personally love experiences like this, I love delving into the past and imagining the whole communities that might have lived in ruins such as Pompeii, Angkor Wat and Sukothai.When you're walking around it's worth checking out the boards that are placed around, they're all written in English and give you lots of information about the different buildings and what once would have laid there. Buildings from different periods are mixed together throughout the site along one main street, which is intersected by smaller streets. Sights worth checking out include the two agoras where you can see the ruins of several Greek temples, and don't miss out on seeing the Roman baths and stone church of Agios Stefanos. The arc of the theatre was one of my highlights with a panoramic view of the Aegean - to think Greeks long ago sat there watching theatre much like I watched movies at the open-air cinema later in the week was crazy. For a cheeky look into the past, you should check out the view over the site from the large Terrace of Festivals - in times gone by boys would have danced naked there to honour Apollo, and you can still find some nearby phallic graffiti.The climb is a great experience and was one of my highlights of the holiday, all three of us enjoyed it and the early start even meant that by the time we reached Kamari, we still had a whole day to top up our tans on the beach. The ocean at Perissa hides quite a strong current at times so be careful when swimming, Kamari on the other hand is much more sheltered and perfect for a swim or a snorkel. We spent a couple of days on the beach there, exploring the town and eating out at the many restaurants. And after such an early start and the steep walk up the mountain, I can't think of a better way to spend the afternoon than napping in the sun and swimming out to the nearby rocks. Just what the doctor ordered.
Have you climbed a mountain - where? What are your favourite ways to stay active when on holiday? Have you been to Santorini?
It can be hard as a backpacker to keep fit and healthy when you're constantly moving between places. That transient life of late nights and long bus journeys doesn't always translate to the bohemian vegan lifestyle you imagine for travellers, instead there can often be far too many beers and dirty 7/11 toasted sandwiches. It's easy when you keep moving between different groups of people to give into every treat meal and to lose track of what you're putting into your body. But, at the same time, it's more important than ever, because let's face it, no-one wants to get ill when they're travelling. Eating the wrong things, not getting enough sleep, drinking too much and not exercising is the perfect way to ruin your immune system and leave you vulnerable to whatever bugs are being passed around. If you're travelling in Asia, this can be even more of a problem when even the water and the food you eat could be carrying all sorts. If you want to be a smart traveller and keep going for the longest time, while still enjoying yourself and not feeling ill, it's important to look after yourself. I've written posts before about healthy eating and staying fit on the road, but this time I want to focus on some of my favourite fitness experiences I've had since travelling.
When I work out, I like to finish up completely exhausted and to feel that I have worked every single muscle in my body. After trying boxing back in the UK, then Thai boxing, Muay Thai, when I was passing through Hua Hin, in Thailand, I can safely say I have never had a workout that has left me so satisfied afterwards. Martial arts are great because they really do work every part of your body, they test your body in different ways and with so many different types, there really is a martial art for everyone. I love the focus you get as you perfect the moves, and the way you can quickly develop skills if you show dedication. In just one morning session, thanks to my amazing trainer, I had mastered several of the basic moves and had completely re-ignited my passion for working out - after weeks of partying it, this was no easy feat. One thing Thailand comes with is some amazing gyms, they may be basic but damn, they get the job done, and they come with some incredibly dedicated trainers who will push you until you get the results you were after. When I was taking boxercise classes back in the UK, I noticed the quickest changes to my body I have seen with any type of exercise and was impressed to see even the areas which can be more difficult to train were becoming more toned and a lot stronger. I could totally understand why so many people decide to take on week-long or even month-long intensive courses while they're travelling, I would love to have done the same, but sadly had too many other trips planned and not enough time to stay put.Martial arts are a great workout choice for travellers, whether male or female, it's a great full body workout that only needs a gym and a few pieces of equipment, it is also perfect to try in Asia where there are specialist centres on every corner. It's a fantastic workout for building confidence and perfect for solo travellers who appreciate knowing how to defend themselves - it may not ever be necessary to use but can give great peace of mind when you're on your own. For those who want to feel strong and need a workout that takes them further than the usual yoga and running, this is perfect for building muscle tone and for pushing your body. It's just what you need to give you focus when you travel and to pull you out of that backpacker slump. If you need to lose weight and get healthy again, it's a good opportunity to learn new skills while doing so, and will really help boost your immune system - it's hard to get ill when your body is fighting fit! If you fancy trying martial arts, wherever you are in the world, why not join Martial Tribes - it's a social hub for all martial arts and fitness enthusiasts to connect.
Always popular with travellers, yoga is a fantastic way to keep lean, fit and toned while travelling, but it also can be a great way to stay grounded. It's easy to get carried away with the excitement of your life, but taking the time to practice yoga, meditation and mindfulness can really make you focus on appreciating every second. I spent a life changing week at Hariharalya Yoga and Meditation Retreat in Siem Reap, Cambodia, and I don't think I've been the same person since. The week of peacefulness was just what I needed to take me from the lowest time I've had travelling, to one of the highest. Just days before I had nearly died in a bus crash, I was injured, aching and completely exhausted, but a week of nourishing my body and my mind with health, rest and gratitude gave me what I needed to love travelling again. Whether you take part in a retreat, take a quick yoga class or just follow tutorials on YouTube with your own mat in the sunshine, yoga is so freeing when you travel. It means taking a moment out of your busy day to reflect, then clear your mind and to stretch out your body. Just what all us backpackers need after rubbish hostel beds and overnight bus rides. It's worth having a look online and around where you're staying for free classes - I took part in an incredible sunset yoga session on a beach on Koh Lanta, Thailand, completely for free thanks to another traveller who wanted to share his knowledge with the world.
Running has become my go-to workout - no matter where I am in the world or what facilities are available, as long as I have my trainers in my bag and a sports bra to strap the girls down, I'm good to go! I love cardio workouts, I like to feel like I've exhausted myself and pushed myself further than the last time, so when I'm travelling, running is a great way to both experience the location and to stay fit. When I was in Asia, I'd get up early to run on the beach or around the city before the heat grew too fierce - beach running has always been my favourite because the sea is always such a perfect distraction and perfect for cooling off after. In Australia, I loved running - the country is made for runners with such a big focus on fitness. There's endless beautiful trails, paths and places to explore while you're working out. Particular highlights were runs along Bondi to Coogee coastal walk, Noosa National Park coastal walk, around the Royal Botanic Gardens in Sydney and Melbourne, and those sweaty runs along Darwin Esplanade in the dark. There are so many amazing places to go running, you'd be a fool not to!
I have a confession, before I went away travelling I had not been on a bike in about a decade. I used to love riding my bike as a kid, but just lost interest as I grew up and had no real reason to ride, but you'll be pleased to know they are right when they say "it's like riding a bike" - you never forget. When I was in Asia, bikes were terrible quality but cheap to hire and a perfect way to explore the countries at your own pace. I cycled around stunning old ruins in Sukhothai and Ayutthaya, Thailand, I cruised around Da Lat, Vietnam, exploring waterfalls, and through the Cambodian countryside in Siem Reap with friends. It's a fantastic way to see the country, you just see so much more when you cycle past the world than you would from the back of a tuk-tuk or motorbike plus you can stop whenever you want to explore. If you're not as confident on a motorbike, cycling can be a great - and much safer - alternative, just keep your wits about you when you're on busy roads. In Australia, there are so many beautiful places to cycle and explore - one of my favourite days in Melbourne was spent mountain biking around the trails in a beautiful reserve.
You walk a lot as a traveller and it's easy to forget that this in itself is a great workout. Whether you spend a day walking around exploring a new city, hiking through the jungle to waterfalls or climbing a mountain to watch the sunrise - it all counts. This is actually one of my favourite ways to workout because it doesn't actually feel like a workout, you're so busy looking at the amazing views or spotting creatures lurking in the woods or diving into waterfalls that you don't realise how much you are burning. I loved huge jungle hikes in Khao Sok, Thailand, we'd be covered in sweat and chased by monkeys, but it was all worth it when you reached the stunning gorge or lake at the end of it. I had friends who climbed huge peaks in Nepal or Bali and said it was the highlight of their trip - getting outside and getting active can be one of the best ways to experience a country. In Melbourne, I spent a weekend camping at Grampians National Park with friends, we spent two days hiking to viewpoints, climbing through gorges and walking through forests - it was incredible.
How do you like to keep fit when you travel? What are your favourite fitness experiences? What martial arts workouts can you recommend?
It's hard to match the high you get from travelling solo, that constant buzz of excitement and wonder at the world around you, and your own capabilities. Being back in the UK, it can leave some feeling a bit low without that constant adrenaline rush of living an untamed life. But if you ask me, one thing solo travelers learn is to be responsible for finding their own happiness, and just because you're home it doesn't mean you shouldn't still be looking for new ways to get that high you once had from travelling. I've been pretty happy to be home so far, but a lot of that is down to finding lots of amazing things to do with people I haven't seen for a long time, and taking up some awesome opportunities I missed out on through this blog while I was travelling. At the weekend, I was invited to try out Up At The O2 and to combine it with my love of all things fitness by trying out a Fitbit as I walked over the O2 Arena. You can't get much higher than that without stepping on a plane - so it was perfect for someone who usually gets their kicks several thousand feet above sea level. A perfect excuse to spend a weekend in London - my sister and I enjoyed two days of food, fitness and Fitbits.
Anyone who has read for a while will know I'm big on keeping fit and enjoying a healthy lifestyle, while I'm travelling my favourite ways to keep fit are walking, running, swimming and working out outside. Forget paying for gyms and classes when the sun is always shining and the beach beckons. But, it can be difficult to keep track of how much exercise you have done and quite how much distance you're covering when you're spending whole days walking around new cities or trekking through jungle. I tried out the Fitbit when I went running on the beach - something I've really missed since being away - and as somewhere I usually don't have phone signal to track my runs, it was a fantastic way to log my time and my distance, along with keeping track of my progress and goals.Now the idea of wearing a tracking device on my wrist does put me off slightly, it feels a little bit Big Brother to me. But wearing the wristband around the clock also means I've been able to use the app to track my sleeping patterns - something really useful when you're suffering jet lag! And I can keep track of whether I'm eating enough of the right foods, and how much water I've been drinking. I've got the Fitbit Flex, but there are lots of different styles and colours available depending on what suits your lifestyle. It really is a great addition for anyone who is interested in living a healthy lifestyle and keeping fit, or who wants to increase their fitness. I just wish I had it when I was travelling so I could keep track of the distance I covered by walking and cycling my way around Asia and Australia - particularly in Melbourne when I was working a job that had me walking a minimum of 25,000 steps a day! I'm already looking forward to taking it travelling with me again as a great way of keeping track of the distance I cover and quite how fit the lifestyle keeps me.
Up At The O2
I may not be much of a city girl, but I love a good trip to London. It's always a busy weekend packed full of catching up with friends and family, and lots of awesome events. Last weekend was no different, my sister and I crammed a ridiculous amount of food, fun and lots and lots of cocktails into two days, but it was all rounded off with a chance to see London from a different perspective. Travelling can be so much fun, whether you go to the other side of the globe, or you just take a chance to rediscover somewhere you know and see it in a whole new light. I've spent a lot of time in London over the years, and my sister lives there, so it was fantastic to try something a bit touristy and totally different. Up At The O2 takes you on walk like no other, straight over the top of London's O2 Arena, a venue that has housed performances by some of the world's greatest musical acts and has welcomed over 30 million people through its doors. The 365m walk stretches over the dome, reaching 52m in height at an angle of up to 30 degrees. Despite that, it's not a very steep walk and you don't need to be in peak physical fitness to complete it - that's the beauty of it - it really is an experience that anyone can enjoy!It's an amazing way to spend an afternoon, even if it's cloudy, gazing across the London skyline and getting some amazing photos from the 360 degree viewing platform at the top. The whole experience takes around two hours and is a perfect way to take in some of the sights of London from a different angle, we spotted lots of the city's most famous buildings while we were up there thanks to the labels around the platform to guide visitors. Walking over the dome is so much fun, you feel like you're moon-walking as you bounce over the tent-like surface up towards the platform and there's so much to look at along the way. I was so distracted by the view that I almost forgot I was wearing my Fitbit until after when I checked it and saw that I had completed a total of 1,260 steps going over the O2 - already over a tenth of my 10,000 steps a day target! I'm getting slightly obsessed with how many steps I complete each day, so I was shocked to see that my sister had taken 400 less steps than me during that time - just shows you how much longer her legs are than mine. We had a great afternoon at the O2 and all rounded off with a few cocktails at a bar inside, how better to round the day off?
Have you done Up At The O2? How was your experience? Can you recommend any other activities in London for a different experience of the city?
This was without a doubt one of my favourite trips of the whole East Coast, sitting happily alongside Fraser Island in my memories it was one of the most unexpectedly awesome trips I have done since travelling. Why? Well, when we booked it, we were just so excited about Fraser Island, Whitsundays and all the rest that the white water rafting trip kind of fell to the back of our minds, especially since we wouldn't be doing it until the end of our travels. The backpacker/travel agent who booked our trip for us raved about the trip after she had booked it for her and a friend, she really recommended the Xtreme trip. I was naturally cynical because I figured she was mainly just trying to sell us a trip, but when else would I get a chance to try Xtreme white water rafting? It made the final cut of our plan and off we went for four weeks of fun on the East Coast, but when we reached Cairns we were getting a bit bored of trips. Not so much the trips, but the 'organised fun' with these groups when we wold have preferred to be with the friends we had already made. It sounds a bit negative, but we'd had four weeks of intensive travel-party-trip-party-repeat and we were exhausted. Plus we went on two trips in Cairns alongside this one and they were both let-downs; our Great Barrier Reef trip as you read about in my previous post, and the upcoming Cape Tribulation.I was still really excited for the trip, and a little bit nervous, but my expectations were definitely lowered after the other two. Possibly a good thing, I love when that happens and you end up having an even more amazing time because you're not expecting as much.
We had been booked in with Raging Thunder Xtreme Tully Rafting for the day - sounds epic doesn't it? The trip is priced at $225, but again our price went down as part of booking a larger package. This included pick up from the hostel, a full day raft adventure plus all equipment, you can go from Cairns or Mission Beach, lunch, small groups of six and only about four boats, and lots of other adventures along the way like swimming through rapids, cliff jumping and raft surfing. The guys who ran the trip were brilliant, they were so much fun and really got us all enthused for what we were about to do - each group took it in turns to face along parts of the river and take on tricky areas while the others watched how they would handle it and who would fall in first. The whole day is set against the magnificent backdrop of the Tully River - and trust me, you couldn't feel further from the East Coast. We were lucky and the weather was perfect, just warm enough to dry you off after fall in the water, but cool enough that we weren't getting burnt to a crisp.I won't talk too much about what you do throughout the day because I loved that I had no idea what was coming next around each corner, but I will say this: without a shadow of a doubt, you should choose to do the Xtreme Tully Rafting. Unless you happen to be a really weak swimmer, you will want to experience this. It is scary in places but only because it gives you a chance to conquer fears of jumping from high places, swimming in rushing water and the like, while in as safe an environment as possible. The guides are great at giving advice and talking you through every step, but they also won't let you wuss out or take the easy route. I had done some cliff diving and rapid swimming back in Vietnam but after I injured myself doing it, it did make me a little nervous. But I was more than game for this, you couldn't hold me back from throwing myself off the highest points, diving into the rapid water and sliding around in the raft with the rest of my group. We had a great group and some hilarious moments including one when our guide played a trick on one of the guys and tipped the boat so it flooded on his side - we were all in hysterics while he was screaming in panic.
My favourite part? It had to be when we would go through the large sections where we had to all work together to navigate through the rocks jutting out across the water. It was brilliant fun and we all felt awesome after making it through first time on most of them - although there was a funny one were we all got stuck on a rock and had to climb off the boat to get it free. We made some good friends on the trip and had the best day - we went straight back to the hostel and raved about it to all of our friends who actually booked on to it the following week and said it was amazing! After trying white water rafting for the first time, I can say I am definitely going to be doing that again - it's such a fun adventure day out, a great adrenalin rush and a fantastic workout - we were exhausted after a day on the river. Plus it's so nice to see a different landscape to all those beaches, seeing mountains and river was just so refreshing. It was nice to be reminded that there is something in Queensland other than ocean and dust! Top tips for this trip: wear shorts not just swimwear and don't worry about a camera, you don't have a chance to take photos and they'll do it for you.
Have you been white water rafting? Where did you go and would you recommend it? Have you done this trip - what did you think? What was your favourite East Coast adventure?