I've always very firmly believed that fresh air, a good dose of nature and time spent by the ocean can cure just about anything. It doesn't matter how stressed I've been over the years, or how frustrated, I've always found solace in spending a few days away from everything, getting back to basics and enjoying life in it's purest form. Over the years I've spent weekends camping in the Lake District, Peak District, in the shadow of Mount Snowdon in Wales, and around my home in Norfolk. I've stayed in campsites ranging from a full-on Glamping experience complete with champagne and pink wellies, to the most basic, wild campsites you can find, and I've done it in all weathers. Later on, as I discovered my love of festivals, I quickly realised that I was a much bigger fan of the four-day weekend camping events that allowed you to truly lose yourself in the music. I teamed up with Yelloh! Village, who offer the world's finest open-air hotels and camping rentals, to write about what makes the perfect camping experience.There's something about getting back to basics with a group of your closest friends that just spells out a lot of fun. Whether you're heading off to explore an untouched wilderness and can't wait to get away, or you simply fancy going a bit wild in the woods, it's a perfect way to actually spend time together with no distractions. It's easy to forget that every second we spend with friends these days is dictated by the myriad of text messages, Snapchats, Facebook updates and Tweets that dominate our existence these days. Once all of those are done, often your time together is up and all you have to remember it is what is documented online. I was out with friends the other night and even dancing in a bar, every second of our moves was being photographed and snap-chatted by the pair for social media. It's funny and it's become an inherent part of our lives now but sometimes it is nice to just switch everything off and talk surrounded by nothing but nature. I guess I'm a country girl at heart, but I just find it so soothing to be away from the stresses of everyday life and there's something about open space that just heals me.Some of my best camping memories are of the Glamping weekend I spent with my two best friends, the time spent camping in national parks in the Tasmanian wilderness as part of an epic 10-day roadtrip, and the hilarious times we've had setting up our tents and lounging round the campsite at festivals. Everyone was just present, laughing at each others' jokes and experiencing every second together rather than thinking about how they would record it for social media. Every camping experience I've had boils down to the same factors whether we're raving at a festival, getting lost in the woods or out on the moors - it's the same few things that really make a camping trip a success, and a hell of a lot of fun. If you're sat reading this thinking camping is so not for you, then think again - I never used to think I would enjoy it but it's now become one of my favourite travel experiences. Plus it's a great way to explore the world around you when you're travelling on a budget, whether locally or on the other side of the world, the basic components of camping remain the same, it's just the weather that gets better!
What makes the perfect camping experience?
This is definitely something you want to invest in - buying a £5 tent from the supermarket and expecting it to withstand all weathers is just stupid. Even if you're going to a festival - if it rains and becomes windy, your tent is going to flood and collapse and you won't be able to get dry and warm. A camping trip can quickly become miserable if you have no way of getting dry. Look for great deals in the sales - I picked up my beauty of a tent in the Halfords sale a few years ago and it has seen me through countless amazing festivals and trips - it's huge and easy to put up, and it was reduced to less than half price when I got it.
Choose your pitch wisely - there's nothing worse than putting your tent up in a rush and finding out later when you're trying to sleep that you've camped on a 45 degree slope or there's a massive rock right where you're laying. Trust me, as someone who did a four day camping festival sleeping at a 45 degree angle because we arrived too late and couldn't find a better spot - it's absolutely bloody awful. Don't do it. Always feel for rocks and lay down inside before you peg it to the ground.
Plan the food you take well and it can change your whole experience, forget instant noodles and soup, its easy to cook up a good and healthy meal on a little gas stove. On my 10-day road trip around Tasmania we planned heavy meals of chilli and rice, and pasta to refuel after days of climbing mountains. It was quick and easy to prepare for four people so don't be put off by the thought of it. There's nothing better than a good, filling, hot meal at the end of a day camping.
There are some incredible places to camp in the world - under the stars in central Australia, on the beaches in Tasmania, and in the shadow of mountains all over the world are just some of my favourites. Choosing your location well can take a regular camping trip to the next level. Yelloh! Village has some amazing locations scattered across France which give you the opportunity to explore the landscape, towns and villages. Choosing a campsite where you can have a campfire also makes all the difference.
Camping is a great way to travel if you're on a budget. Especially for groups or families where accommodation could be expensive - there are so many free and cheap options available for campsites, and if you're planning on repeating the experience your camping equipment is an investment rather than an expense.
Always look out for the skies above you - I've been lucky enough to camp in some amazing places with incredible views of the super moons, specific constellations, shooting stars. Sometimes the most beautiful sights are the ones that are totally free. There's nothing better than a spectacular sunset, or making it up for sunrise.
The one thing that really makes the experience complete has to be the people you share it with. I say it all the time but it never becomes any less true, even in the most dire situations and the worst accommodations, the people are what shine through your memories long after the trip has finished. Taking your best friends who will make you laugh until you cry is the best way to approach a trip - no matter what goes wrong you'll still make it an experience to remember.
One of the things I love the most about Melbourne is that there is always something going on. It’s a lively city full of hidden gems and quirky, unusual events and I’ve already lost track of how many unexpected treats I’ve found since exploring the city. From the tiniest little food festivals to the Mardi Gras-esque street parties, there is always something new to discover and where better than to prime your taste in Australian music than by attending St Kilda Festival? Australia’s largest free music festival, the event showcases a range of the country’s national and local talent on huge stages set against the natural beauty of St Kilda’s beach. The event attracts over 400,000 people each year and this year took place on Valentine’s Day, which also just happened to be right in the middle of three of my friends’ birthdays. A perfect time to celebrate.Getting the whole gang together, we headed to St Kilda in the afternoon where we couldn’t wait to check out the huge range of performances set to take place across ten stages that day. Now we all know by now how much I love my festivals - whether they’re free or expensive, dance or reggae, camping or day events. I love them all and can always find something special at each of them. St Kilda Festival was great - a huge event that has obviously proven a great success by the crowds that poured through the streets. The performances I saw were great and the crowd were clearly enjoying themselves, who couldn’t with a main stage set against the backdrop of the ocean as the sun was setting? My favourite part of the event definitely had to be when I went down to the beach to sit and watch the sun set while listening to the performers on the main stage.But much as we did all enjoy ourselves that day, I couldn’t help but feel the event could have done with being better organised for the of us who aren’t from the area. Being new to Melbourne, and especially to St Kilda, I found it very difficult to navigate between and even locate some of the stages and actually only ended up getting to watch performances on two of the ten stages because it took so long to find our way through the crowds. I saw little to no signs around to direct us and whenever I stopped to ask stewards they seemed to have even less idea what was going on than I did. Very late on we finally found a map of the area, but we had missed most of the things we had really wanted to see. After speaking to a few friends who went along to the event separately to us, it seems they shared some of our experiences and felt the event was a bit over-crowded. Regardless, we still made sure we had a good time, a few ciders in the sunshine and a lot of laughs.Just a few days later, it was White Night and the whole city was abuzz again as Melbourne CBD prepared to put on the biggest show of colour, light and music. Bigger and better than ever the radio and TV stations promised us, so after a quick drink with a friend in St Kilda, I couldn’t resist heading into the city to meet friends for a good look around at the projections. Despite spending six hours wandering around the city, I never actually saw a single one! But don’t worry, we had the time of our lives walking around and discovering the huge range of musical talents hidden around every street corner.We actually ended up sticking around Flinders and Melbourne Central areas as every time we walked down the street we got sucked into watching another epic performance turn into a huge street party with people of all ages dancing in the streets. It was amazing and the atmosphere was electric, it kept me dancing my heart out until 6am despite being completely sober and starving hungry. I was so impressed with the quality of the performances and how diverse they were, on one corner we watched as an incredibly talented acoustic performer mixed DJ skills with guitar and even a touch of saxophone while talking to the crowd throughout. Then just down the road, a DJ had the whole street dancing and further along a fabulous group started a fiesta in the shopping mall with their Mardi Gras vibes. It was a fantastic night and even though I didn’t see what I set out to see, I found some fantastic performers along the way.
Have you been to either of these events - what did you think? Does your city have great local music events like these?
I had a pretty intense chat with a friend recently, he was going through a bit of a tough time and had lost his travelling way for a little while. It happens to us all when we get settled in one place for too long - we get antsy, frustrated, feel the need to escape but don't know where to turn next which can leave some people feeling pretty alone. I know because I went through the same thing at around the same time - it's the trouble with having a travelling soul, you're always looking for the next adventure. Most of the time that's amazing, but if that feeling hits you when you're stuck working somewhere and have to wait to leave, it can be a killer to your mood. After several people I was really close with left Darwin to start their next adventure, I was pretty down and sick of life there - don't get me wrong, the city had been an amazing home for me for three months and is full of memories for me. But it was the longest I had spent in one place since starting travelling - while that was just what I needed to start with, it soon became suffocating as more and more people left. I know my friend felt much the same, he was struggling to see why he was still there because he too had never planned to stay as long - he had just fallen in love with the place and the people, as had I.
At the time, I found our conversation hard to hear and talk about, but now - since moving on, it keeps coming flooding back to me and I can't help but remember one phrase in particular. "When you're travelling, you're never alone, but you're always lonely." The way my friend came out with that really surprised me, he's the life and soul of the party and everyone loves him so much, he always puts in every effort and will do anything for his friends. But it just shows you that even the ones who are the centre of so many people's worlds can be lonely and struggle sometimes. I could totally understand what he was talking about after speaking to another close friend who said: "You form these intense and beautiful bonds with people, but you never really have a lasting connection with those around you because people always leave." I couldn't put it anymore perfectly myself - I've felt this so many times when I've met people and fallen in love with their character, personality and soul. I've fallen head over heels for the moments we've shared and the things we've experienced together. Then just days or even hours later, we part ways and sometimes never see each other again.It's a hard thing to adapt to and I think that's why me and my friend were feeling down - we were both so used to being the people who leave and go on to something more exciting to distract us from the sadness of what we have left behind. This time, we were some of the last ones of our gang there and we felt the pain and the loss of every single bright spark who made our time in Darwin as special as it was. I totally understand where my friends were coming from but I can't help but disagree about the part after people leaving - it can feel like that at times when you're constantly moving from place to place and don't get a chance to spend more than a few days together. But there have also been so many times where I have seen it proven how amazingly travellers can come together to create a family that cares for each other no matter what. I saw it when I was in the crash in Cambodia and friends who were scattered across Asia and beyond went out of their way to check I was okay and to even come and look after me until they were happy I was safe enough for them to move on. I saw it in Darwin when something awful happened to a friend of mine and the whole gang rallied around, they did so much by just being there and it just showed how close we all were after just days of knowing each other. I know that I could call on so many of my travelling friends day or night, if every I were in trouble, or just needed a chat, they would be there.
It's been nearly four months but I still speak to friends I met on the East Coast on a regular basis and am even making plans to be reunited with some of them soon. It's been nine months since I met one of my most special gangs back in Thailand and I still speak to them every few weeks and even FaceTime despite us all being scattered around the globe now. It's an amazing feeling to know you have so many connections across the world and is easily one of my favourite things about travelling - these friendships are so special and I treasure them so much. This morning I woke up to around 30 messages from old and new friends and it really showed me that even when I'm working in the middle of nowhere, these friends don't just forget you. Yes, there are lonely times when travelling - but they're also the times that really shape you as a person and teach you the important life skill of being on your own and actually enjoying it. There is no light without dark, and as much as there are times when you will feel completely alone, there are times when you will be overrun with people and friendships that will last a lifetime. The important thing is to recognise in other travellers what point they are at in their own journey - be kind and be what others need you to be. When we're on the road it is more important than ever to look after each other and to support each other - don't leave anyone lonely, don't push anyone away. We all need a little family sometimes. The sights are important, but it's the people that make the real memories.
Have you struggled with feeling alone while travelling? Have you found that perfect travelling gang of friends? Do you manage to stay in contact with other travellers along the way?
I've always been part of a travelling family - we've always had our base in little old Norfolk but have been constantly dreaming of holidays in countries far and wide, dreams that have then become reality. I'm very lucky to have grown up that way and I think a lot of my curiosity about the world has stemmed from my parents' attitude to travel. At just 18 years old, my dad boarded a plan and flew halfway around the world from his home in Mauritius - leaving behind all his friends and family - to train and work as a nurse in the UK. My mum, for as long as I can remember has always needed to be by the sea and to have a holiday planned and booked so she doesn't go stir crazy - I was never built to stay in one place. From the moment I was born, I was holidaying across Europe, Africa and the US, but I've always had plans for bigger and crazier places, stories and moments. I'm always looking for the next adventure and when I decided to come travelling, my parents were so excited for me to head out on a brand new one. Their support and encouragement meant I never really worried about doing it on my own, it meant I just looked forward to it until it was too late to turn back. That was just what I needed to not feel the fear, to not second guess myself. It was just what I needed to realise that adventure is in my blood and jetting off to the other side of the world is just another step in the rollercoaster of my life.
The more I travel, the more I want to travel. It's addictive - the people, the sights, smells and sounds - once you start it's impossible to imagine stopping and going back to what you knew before. Whether you're backpacking long-term or just on holiday for two weeks, we all have that moment where we ask ourselves - what would happen if we just stayed, if we never went back? But what about those people that never do it? You know the ones I mean - the ones who daydream about sipping cocktails on the beach or walking the Great Wall of China but leave it at that. The ones who talk about doing amazing things and falling in love on a desert island somewhere in the Pacific or dancing until dawn on a beach in Thailand but allow themselves to be put off by stories in the media, or worse, money. I can't stand when people talk to me about the money of travelling - when they assume that I managed to travel for nine months without working because of daddy. When they don't realise that I actually worked my arse off for a full year in five jobs and saved every penny, so I could live the dream. When they don't realise that I haven't had a full day off from work in weeks because I never turn down a shift in either of my two jobs while I save for my next adventure. I read something interesting the other day about how people who don't go travelling blame the money for not going, but they also buy lunch for work every day and how this can add up to around £2-300 a month. By saving that money and taking a packed lunch, in around three months you could already afford to buy a plane ticket to almost anywhere in the world. That these people are just too lazy to make lunch.
Most of the backpackers I know are some of the poorest people in dollar but they make up for it in the richness of their character and stories. They will happily live off instant noodles and sleep in bedbug infested hostels to save the money to do amazing things like trek up a mountain or party on a Thai beach. They spend their days working every hour available and all the while are envisioning sunbathing on a gorgeous beach or swimming in waterfalls somewhere, dreaming big gives them the motivation to work and save hard. It's how I can stand to go and live in the middle of nowhere for three months to complete my regional work so that I get my second year visa - I'm thinking about the long term when I can return to Australia and the road trip I get to do after I finish. It doesn't matter whether you're a backpacker or holidaymaker - you should always dream big when you think about your next destination. Whether you fancy stunning Asian beaches, dusty African deserts, the skyscrapers of the US or the quirky history of Europe - there's something for everyone and it can all be tailored to suit the kind of trip you really want. My dream trip would be to travel around either Africa or South America, discovering the different cultures, foods and traditions that each individual country has to offer. In Africa, I have always dreamt of that hot air balloon ride over the savannah at sunrise or sunset, while South America conjures up visions of improving my salsa skills and spicy food. Both would be incredible and I'm sure that they will happen one day, travelling has made me all the more determined to keep exploring the world around me.
In need of some travel inspiration for your next big trip? Look no further than Wexas! They can tailor the perfect trip just for you, you family or friends - plus they have some great articles from the best last minute deals to the most incredible worldwide trips! Check them out and see where you fancy going next!
What is your dream trip? If you could go anywhere in the world and do anything - what would you choose?
This is was a collaboration with Wexas.
It's been a funny few weeks - I won't go into too many details but let's just say a few things have happened lately that have really forced me to step up and act like an adult. It's pretty easy when travelling to feel like you're 18 and invincible, that nothing can touch you and that somehow you're just evading all the bad things in life. Often you're just so overwhelmed by the goodness and kindness of people that you wonder if you had them all wrong when you were back home working that 9-5 job and getting stressed out constantly by the behaviour of others. I'm not going to deny that bad things ever happen when you're travelling, but to be honest they don't very often - at least nowhere near as often as people warn you that they do. But when they do, it's a shock, it brings you back down to earth with a bump after months of soaring along with your head in the clouds. Don't worry, everyone, including myself are okay - if anything, I'm being a bit dramatic. Why? Well it all goes back to a conversation I had the other week with a friend about the situation, something she said really struck me and made me think.
When asked about life back at home, I told her that I don't really get homesick - yes I miss the people, the moments and the history, but I don't think I have once spent a day pining for home. I know some find homesickness a real problem when travelling and I've had friends who can be down for days on end if something sets off those feelings, but that's just not me. I was never homesick when I went to university either, I think I'm just used to dealing with the feeling of being separate and I'm a very logical person who will always reason with herself that family and friends are always at the end of the phone. My friend, who does get homesick and has been missing home lately, commented on how independent I was and seemed surprised by it. Especially when she realised that I had travelled so far across the world by myself and was unafraid to tackle Asia and Australia solo. I've had this reaction multiple times since planning my travels and setting out - it's something that just seems odd to me and perhaps highlights that it is still thought of as unusual for a young woman to be "brave" enough to be on her own and to be completely independent. Don't worry - I'm not going to start quoting Beyoncé songs to you, but I do want to make the point that I think it is a huge compliment to say that someone is so very independent.
Independence is vastly underrated - whether is financial, emotional, physical or even mental, there is nothing more valuable than the ability to be on your own and still be happy. Too many people in this world are relying on the behaviour of others to make them happy, but wonder why they are always left disappointed. They don't seem to appreciate that you have no control over the behaviour of others, ultimately if they want to mess you around or treat you badly, you can't do anything about it except adjust your own attitude. I've forgiven people for some pretty horrid behaviour over the years and sometimes I'm asked why - I always respond, because it doesn't have any impact on me beyond being upset. That person has to live with the knowledge of how they have treated me and my hating them for it will only make me unhappy and bitter - why would I want to introduce that unhappiness into my own life? As I said on my Facebook page the other day - not relying on others to make you happy is the greatest power of all. By being able to make yourself happy through fulfilling your own goals, setting your own challenges and comforting yourself in times of strife, you give yourself the key to happiness. Solo travel is a great way to learn that, but it's something we should all learn in our own lives - other people can make your life better but only you can make it great.Of course we need others to bring light into our lives in other ways - to put a smile on our face after a hard day, to crack a joke when we're mad, or do thoughtful things, but what happens on the day when they aren't there? You need to be able to build yourself back up instead of just expecting others to do it for you. I've always been a very independent person, but before coming travelling I was a lot more emotionally dependent on others. Travelling solo has given me the space and the time to get to know myself better, it has meant learning to look after myself when times are tough and boy, have they been tough sometimes. I remember being pulled out of a crashed minibus which was half buried in a ditch, I'd been thrown against the windscreen and would have gone through it if it weren't for the driver grabbing hold of me. I stood on the side of the road with blood pouring from my legs, with a group of Cambodians who spoke barely any English, and remember thinking, I genuinely don't know if I'll make it out of this one. Being in a situation like that, being forced to look after yourself and to get yourself to safety in a city that is still a hundred miles away is quite a challenge. But I did it, and I'm a stronger person for it. Now I don't want anyone to go through anything like that, but there are ways to teach yourself the value of independence without putting yourself in danger.
Just taking a tiny step outside your comfort zone and doing it all by yourself is the most valuable experience of all - it can mean disappearing off one day and exploring a place you've never been before, forcing yourself to eat out alone, dealing with something complicated all by yourself instead of seeking help from parents or a partner. All of these are things I do on a daily basis now - I love to eat out alone, I love the satisfaction of managing to deal with a problem completely by myself or turning up in a place where no-one knows me and no-one in the world knows where I am. Some people call that brave, I call it just living my life one step at a time and taking chances. So far it's paid off better than I ever could have imagined and it could be the same for everyone. Being independent is one of the most empowering feelings I have ever known. Some say to love and be loved is the greatest thing of all, but I think that being brave enough to say "I got this shit" to yourself and to others every damn day and proving it again and again is the one to aim for. Don't ever think independence is a lonely place - I've never been surrounded by and had the support of quite so many amazing people who I know love me and would do anything for me as I have lately - what brought us all together is the fact that we all kick ass independently.
Do you consider yourself independent? How else can we gain independence? When's the last time you went off the grid?
People travel for all kinds of reasons, but often one that drives them to make the huge decision to go it alone is heartbreak. The desire to be independent and free after big changes in your personal life can be the perfect motivation to go and get lost in the wilderness somewhere and never return. Something that starts out as an escape from the harsh realities of life can soon blossom into something so incredible that you'll never believe you haven't been living like this all along. I've met so many people on my journey who had been forced to take a long hard look at the way they were living their lives after a long term relationship blew up in their faces. What really amazed me about it was how healing travelling could be for these situations - the combination of excitement, experience, culture and a reignited zest for life was the perfect way to get over heartbreak. Time passes so slowly and so quickly at the same time - simultaneously you will feel like you've been away for no time at all and yet so much will have happened, changed and affected you. It's a perfect way to get over someone.
For those whose trips aren't fuelled by the desire to escape the relationships dramas of back home, we all know the potential for a holiday romance is never higher than when you're young, free, single and backpacking on an extended trip. We may flat out deny it to our friends back home but the idea of a little holiday romance is one we all fantasise about while lazing on golden sandy beaches, or while cruising over ocean waves in one of the most romantic settings in the world. When all you meet are interesting people with a story to tell, a spark in their soul and an adventure underway, it's not surprising that most people seem to meet someone pretty amazing while on the road. I have actually met several couples since travelling who say they found each other along the way after setting out solo, fell madly in love and haven't looked back since. But whether that moment lasts for a night, a few week or months, or a lifetime, each fling is as special as the last. Those romances teach us so much more than relationships at home because they push us out of our comfort zone, takes off the pressure of society's eyes and gives us a freedom to be who we really wanted to be all along.
12 signs you've fallen in love while travelling:
This post was sponsored by Durex and if you liked this post, you'll love this list of the Mediterannean's top ten nudist beaches they created. Fancy something a little cheekier? Head to this one instead.
Have you fallen in love on your travels? Had a holiday romance that turned into something more?
All photos by Madeleine Ko.
The incredible natural beauty of Noosa has made it a highlight of the east Coast for me, even now after having finished the trip I still look back on it as one of my favourite places. I wasn't expecting much after Brisbane, if anything my expectations had been lowered but I was blown away by how much I loved Noosa. It helped that we were back by the ocean and were staying with a National Park right on our doorstep - I'm definitely less of a city girl and more of a nature lover. We were unfortunately staying at Nomads hostel which not only was one of the dirtiest hostels I've ever stayed on - throughout Asia and Australia - but it was at the bottom of a huge hill we had to climb every day to get to the beach. Any of my Norfolk readers will understand my aversion to hills after being raised in the flattest part of the UK. The hostel was horrible - the kitchen was unusable and the staff were not very helpful - I don't mind if they want to get stoned all the time but it would be great if they could actually function in their job instead of staring at you blankly and giving you the wrong keys twice.The hostel might have been rank, but we barely spent any time there. Up first in the morning, we were out running through the national park and discovering more and more beautiful viewpoints, sunbathing on the beach, walking through the woods and up to the sunset viewpoint, and just discovering the area. On our first day, we did a big walk at sunset through the coastal path of the National Park, it was gorgeous. The ocean on one side and the woods on the other, koala bears clinging to eucalyptus trees, so many viewpoints to stop and and enjoy watching dolphins playing in the waves. It was stunning and obviously a popular route from the numbers of people walking along with us and running the path. We decided to try a run the next day and explore the other paths through the woods - there were several to choose from and I don't know how anyone could ever get bored of them.We spent our days sunbathing on the beach or exploring the town which was filled with places to eat and shop - sadly I had no money to enjoy the shopping! One evening we walked up to the sunset viewpoint to watch the sun go down and this is definitely worth a look - offering a beautiful view across the whole of Noosa bathed in a golden glow, it's one of the best things to see there. Although it was pretty chilly on the walk down, as soon as the sun set in Noosa you started to feel the difference in temperature. Our nights were pretty fun too, especially when we returned to the hostel for a night after our Fraser Island trip with the entire gang and partied the night away. It was a hilarious night filled with way too many drinks and laughs, and we even managed to win some pretty awesome prizes! Nomads at Noosa had the best prizes on offer of any backpackers hostel I have seen so far so definitely get in on them! The boys managed to score a free Whitsundays trip and I won a free North Island Kiwi Experience Pass for New Zealand for doing nothing other than putting my name in a raffle!
What did you think of Noosa? Do you prefer cities or being out in nature?
Now I'm sure many people are going to seriously disagree with me over this one but that's fine, I'm just sharing my experiences of this city. We arrived after a few hours on the bus and were already feeling blue after leaving the Surfers gang behind, hungover after last night's drunken antics and exhausted from travelling. We arrived at the hostel - we were staying at Bunk - and were surprised to see how huge it was after staying in such a small place in Surfers. To be honest - I much prefer the smaller hostels, they're so much more personal and welcoming, the bigger ones always seem to remind me of a slobby version of a Travelodge - functional and impersonal. I was pretty unimpressed when the girl on the counter said our room was ready but we couldn't check in until 2pm - it was 9am. I know the hostels have their rules but considering the room was ready and clean it seemed a bit rubbish we couldn't be allowed up there for a shower and some sleep. Instead we had to wander round the city waiting to be allowed to check in.Now we only had three days in the city, which I know doesn't give you much of a chance to get a first impression - particularly as I've found most who love Brisbane are the ones who have ended up living and working there. But I was pretty disappointed, it was such an unattractive city after the likes of Melbourne and Sydney, it seemed so unexciting after the previous places we had been. On our first full day there, we decided to go for a long walk around the city, through the harbour and botanical gardens, around the city and beyond. We spent hours exploring the city and by the end of it we felt no different about Brisbane - we found no hidden gems, we found no really stunning views across the city and we met no one exciting along the way. It was such a shame and I so wanted to find more in this city, to find something I loved, but it just wasn't for me. It seemed strange, although we made the best of it, I couldn't find anything I loved about Brisbane like I did about Sydney and Melbourne. That night we went out for drinks at a great bar down the road which had a live band on, that was probably the best part of our time in the city, but it was quickly followed by the worst.You may have already read about what happened that night in this previous post - about how we met this young lad who was staying in our room, how he was pilled up to the eyeballs, and how he ended up pissing all over our dorm while we slept. How we woke up to find puddles of piss everywhere. Not impressed was a serious understatement. Luckily that day we had already planned to vacate the hostel early and head to Australia Zoo for the day - thank goodness as it gave the cleaners chance to work their magic. Australia Zoo is a fantastic day out - I don't normally agree with zoos but this one is great as it really looks after the animals better than many. We caught the train first thing from a station round the corner and after about an hour and a half of napping we arrived and climbed on to a bus to reach the park. I had bought us discount tickets using the Groupon App and would really recommend it as they were about half price! It was so easy and quick to get there, and we must have spent about a good six hours walking around, watching shows and visiting the animals. We could have easily stayed longer but the skies were starting to look stormy.In the end we treated Brisbane like our recovery time between Surfers and our next destination, Noosa. I think the city would have made more of an impression if I went there to work, or if we weren't so exhausted, but we'll have to leave that for another time as we were already packed and ready for our Greyhound and ready to get the hell out of there. Excited for the next few days in Noosa before we were due to head on our Fraser Island tour!
What did you think of Brisbane? Did you stay for a short or long time? What did you love or hate about the city?
We had the most amazing time in Surfer's Paradise, but make no mistake, it was one of the least amazing places we visited on the East Coast. The actual town was reminiscent of Blackpool or equally flash seaside towns, but the hostel we stayed at remains one of my favourites in Australia. It really proves just how important the people you meet affect your experience of a place - they make it or break it - and how different your experiences of travelling can be as a result. I've been very lucky and met some amazing people on my travels - but the highest concentration of awesome people in one hostel had to be in Surfers Paradise Backpackers Resort and has only just been recently beaten by my new home at Dingo Moon Lodge in Darwin. The only difference? I've had over a month here to develop this family, back at Surfers it was just three days! When you're this far away from home though, it becomes more important than ever to form these bonds with people and to create your own family on the road.I loved the hostel instantly, we had a warm welcome from the staff who were also all staying there, and were invited to join the 6pm volleyball game that took place every day - it was a great way to get everyone together and having fun. We met pretty much everyone instantly and the motel vibe of the hostel was great for providing places to hang out, with a bar, shared kitchen and seated area right by the volleyball court and a pool tucked away in the corner. Our days were spent lazing at the beach which was a ten minute walk away - although I wouldn't get your hopes up too much for this beach, it's definitely nothing compared to Byron Bay. And when we were there it was pretty windy and we struggled to find a sheltered spot where we wouldn't get sand blown into our faces. But it was nice to spend a few hours down there with the gang, playing games in the sand and tanning.The nights were when the hostel came alive, everyone would cook huge dinners together, play volleyball, and then have drinks around the table. Sometimes we ended up going out in the town which was full of okay bars - but we always had a fantastic night because of the people we were with. Our best night out had to be the final one together when we all joined in the weekly pub crawl on the same night of the New South Wales vs Queensland State of Origin match. Now for someone who isn't usually into watching sport, I was getting very over excited about State of Origin, the last match I had seen was when I was in New South Wales so naturally I had supported them and been bitterly disappointed. Now I was over the border, I decided to switch alliances and we had the whole pub crawl and the rest of Vanity bar going crazy over the game. It was a brilliant atmosphere and we had so much fun, after seeing Queensland smash New South Wales, we moved on to a series of other bars eventually ending up in Sin City. As usual, the bars were distinctly average but it was the huge gang of people we were with that made the night completely hilarious. Sadly the next day we all parted ways as Mark and I headed further up the coast to Brisbane and they moved on to new places.
Have you found the perfect hostel family? Why do you think we forge such close bonds so quickly when on the road?
After a long overnight bus ride - the longest I had been on since that horrible crash in Cambodia - I was exhausted from being unable to sleep and glad to arrive in Byron Bay. As we arrived in the seaside town, the sun was rising over the ocean and gave us a stunning first look at the place that would be our home for the next few days. After a few hours passed out and recovering at our hostel, Backpackers Inn, we hit the beach and wandered up to the town. There are many great hostels to choose from in Byron, and so many go for Arts Factory or Aquarius, but to be honest, I loved our little hostel - it was the only one that led straight to the beach and it was small and cosy. The others were much further back in the town and meant a bit of a trek to see the beach or visit the lighthouse. It was great to be a two minute walk from the beach and we spent many hours laying out down there, sunbathing and swimming in the chilly waters. We even spotted dolphins right by the shore on our very first day there - I swear my heart stopped for a second when I realised what I was seeing and how close they were.There was so much to do in Byron, we had about four or five days which allowed us plenty of chill time and plenty of activities. My favourite day was when we did the walk up to the lighthouse and spotted countless dolphins playing in the surf, it was amazing and so beautiful up there. It's about a two hour walk to the top, but we took our time and stopped off a lot to watch the dolphins. When facing the ocean, you head as far down the beach to the right as possible then check out the first viewpoint and watch the body boarders and surfers for a bit. After, head up the path and keep on going through the woods, past Watego's Beach and up towards the lighthouse. There are lots of smaller beaches to check out along the way so take a towel and a book if you fancy stopping. You'll also want to take water, and we took a picnic for when we reached the top. We went back in July and if was still pretty windy and chilly at the top so you might want to take a jumper like I did, but also pack on the sunscreen as it does get hot. My favourite part was a path that led off the easterly point of Australia where you could go right down to the sea - this is where we sat and watched the dolphins at sunset.Another day was spent taking to the waves and attempting to stand up in our first surf lesson - it was booked through Backpacker's Inn and cost around $60 each - a bit pricey but worth it as we were really taught how to master the waves and could all stand up by the end of it. We had a great group and spent about three hours out in the water with wetsuits and surfboards included. Being a small group of eight, we had plenty of one-to-one coaching from the two teachers and were given loads of help and support along the way. We did our lesson in the afternoon which I was glad about as the sun had warmed the sea slightly - I was dreading getting in the water but it was much warmer in there than on the beach. After a 15 minute water break, we were begging to get back in the ocean to warm up! Don't expect to come back with no injuries - my whole body was aching the next day and I had bruises all over my legs and elbows from breaking my fall each time the waves knocked me down, but it was a fantastic workout and lots of fun. Especially when we got to watch the sunset from the ocean.We were both very keen to spot more wildlife after seeing so many dolphins, so we decided to go on a Go Sea Kayak trip which promised we would spot dolphins, whales or turtles or our money back. It was a great trip, despite us being very hungover, and we spotted so many more dolphins which swam just metres away from us. It was a great few hours spent out on the water and was so easy to paddle the kayaks - anyone could do it. Unfortunately, despite staring at the horizon we didn't see any whales and only one of the group spotted a sea turtle, but it was still worth the $60-odd dollars for the day, especially knowing that we had been on such an ecologically sound tour. Byron Bay is all about protecting the environment and the animals within it which I love. The town of Byron is beautiful - a great place filled with live music, great food and a fantastic chilled out atmosphere. It's not a party place which is nice, as it was so cold going out at night when we were there, but we still made it out for dinner and some fun. I loved going to the edge of town for the sunset drumming circle in the evenings, it sounds a but hippy dippy but it was great watching the beautiful sunsets with this musical background. We ate out a few times, at a cafe in the town, a Thai restaurant and a tapas restaurant - all delicious and I would highly recommend - especially the Thai restaurant which I believe was called Lucy's. It was definitely one of those places where there is so much more to do in the day and the nights are spent chilling and recovering. But one of my great memories from the nights had to be sitting with an aboriginal guy on the pavement at 3am, peeling oranges for him as he played me the guitar. Definitely not a place to be missed on your East Coast trip!
What was your favourite activity in Byron Bay? Where did you stay?
Whether you're writing it just for yourself, for your family and closest friends, or an audience of thousands every month - writing a travel blog can provide you with a home for all your previous memories, photos and experiences. All those amazing moments you had while travelling through the jungles, mountains, cities and deserts spread across the globe are combined into one amazing story, with you as the main character. So many travellers I meet carry with them a travel journal, as do I, which is a lovely way to keep note of thoughts and moments along the way, but in today's modern age, a blog is an even easier way to combine all your photos, words and videos into a multimedia collage of your time on the road. For those who haven't been following Absolutely Lucy for as long, I actually started this blog as a lifestyle blog around a year before deciding to come travelling, I then developed it into a travel blog as well so I could capture every moment and share it with my readers along the way.
Travel blogging along my journey has been one of the best things about travelling - not only because I get to share it with you guys, but simply because I love to write and doing this has given me a reason to. I love that I can look back over my time in Asia and Australia, and find all my pics, videos and stories in one place, I love that I can share it with friends who were there at the time and others who would have loved to be. Even better, my stories and experiences have given me the opportunity to reach out and help advise or inspire others to face their fears and to go out and do the same. I've heard from so many fellow travellers who have read my blog and been inspired to start their own, or who wanted advice on how to go about doing it, and it's great to be a part of. So many say to me they wish they could write, that they are jealous of those who can, but that should never stand in your way when it comes to blogging. In blogging you don't have to write a certain way, it's all about your unique voice and how you express yourself. If that comes in the form of a picture diary, or homemade videos then who cares?
10 reasons to keep a blog while you travel:
Why did you start a travel blog? If you haven't already - would you?
When we think of backpackers, we definitely have two very different images in our minds - some of us might have a rather rose-tinted view of sun kissed limbs stretched out on the beach in skimpy bikinis watching on as muscly guys play football on the beach in their shorts. Those who have actually been backpacking will know there are usually big bags under our eyes from late nights, that we're all a bit soft around the edges and around 20lbs heavier than we were before travelling thanks to indulging in too much pizza and beer. It's pretty difficult to keep with any kind of fitness routine, or to maintain healthy eating while backpacking - often the easiest and cheapest options are the least beneficial for your body. (Read my top tips on how to try and stay fit and healthy while travelling here)
Despite the fact that you might not always be at your absolute peak of physical fitness while backpacking, I think it is fair to say that many people feel the most body confident they ever have. Body confidence is something that plagues us all, whether we want to admit it or not. Some of us have it in bucket loads, others barely have enough to keep them going for a two week holiday in the sun. But something I've noticed about backpackers is that despite them coming in all shapes, sizes and colours, they all have this radiant glow of sheer confidence and knowledge of their fabulousness that shines through. When you look at them, you don't notice their love handles, cellulite, beer belly or stretch marks. All I see is the huge smile on their faces, the golden brown glow of their skin and the fun that sparks out of them. Where does it come from? Well it's all down to confidence. But why are they so confident?
This post was originally published on the Base Backpackers blog and won me a free bed for the night in a Base Hostel! Find the original here.
What do you think makes backpackers so beautiful? Do you feel the most confident and happy you've ever been?