I've been desperately trying to hold myself back from posting this one until now, but now it's finally time to share our exciting travel plans with you all! I've hinted on social media but held back the final itinerary while we finalised our plans, but now it's official, I have left Hamburg on a three week road trip across Europe and I couldn't be more excited to share this with you all. Those of you who follow this blog will have seen the renovation of our Sprinter van into a camper van for road tripping. Now I can tell you the reason we worked on it so quickly was because we were already planning this amazing trip!
The plan is to drive around 3,000km during the three weeks and to see as many new places as possible and we really wanted to make sure to really take in the amazing German countryside along the way. It will be the first time I have ever visited any of these places, and I'm excited to be taking in a real mixture of stunning European countryside and beautiful old cities. I love culture, heritage and history and it's something I've really missed after spending so long in Australia. While Oz has it's own kind of history and heritage, it doesn't compare to the beauty of Europe's old charm, winding streets and beautiful architecture. By having Hamburg as a home base, it really has opened opportunities to travel while keeping things budget and time-friendly.
First I'll be driving from Hamburg to Saxon-Switzerland National Park on the border of the Czech Republic where I plan to spend two days exploring the stunning park. I will then drive on to visit Prague, a city I have always wanted to visit especially since my trip to Budapest. Then from Prague to Vienna, we'll spend a few days in each city before heading into the countryside. Driving through Austria, I'm also hoping to stop off in some beautiful places outside of the cities, taking in some of the gorgeous Austrian countryside. After this, we will drive to Munich where I'll be based for around a week. Time will be spent taking day trips to nearby Neuschwanstein Castle, Bavaria and the Austrian lakes.
Around this time I also plan to travel to Switzerland for two days to hopefully see Zurich and some of the countryside – I've always wanted to see Switzerland so I'm really excited for this – and possibly to Liechtenstein as well. The final week of the trip will see me driving back up towards Hamburg via The Black Forest and the legendary Fairytale Road which I can't wait to see after a magical trip to the forests on Rügen Island in May. I even studied fairytales as part of my literature course at university, so seeing the places that inspired such stories will be amazing. I'll be stopping in Frankfurt on the way back up to Hamburg before I start work.
As you read this, I will already be on the road and hopefully somewhere near Prague or Vienna! Naturally I'll be capturing every moment on camera and will be sharing it all with you later on, but you can keep up to date with our adventures by following me on social media – Facebook, Twitter or Instagram – where I will still be posting updates from every step of the journey. I will still be posting twice-weekly on this blog while we are away – thanks to being super organised and managing to put together lots of lovely posts for you all – so be sure to keep checking on here for all the latest from my travels. In the meantime, I'm looking forward to a few weeks on the road with no laptop – sometimes it's so necessary to just switch off for a while and to enjoy the world around you. So that's exactly what I'm going to do. Out of office on. Engage holiday mode. See you in three weeks!
Wild camping can be a scary prospect for those who are not used to the great outdoors. But as someone who has always chased adventures – I'm here to tell you the truth about wild camping and why you should try it. I've created this first-timers' guide to getting out under the stars and into the heart of nature. Everything you need to know – from where to go and what to pack, to personal hygiene and those infamous bush poos. Throughout my 5+ years of travelling solo, I've wild camped across the world, from the UK and Europe, right over to Australia.
The truth is I've always loved a bit of luxury as much as the next girl. But when it comes down to it, I would always much rather be walking barefoot around a national park and bathing in waterfalls. Although I had tried wild camping before I ever went travelling – it was only when I tried it in Asia and Australia that it really stole my heart. There's nothing quite like the simple life, of sleeping under the stars in the outback, of cooking dinner on the beach and waking up to the ocean. It's a freedom you just can't beat.
People are often shocked by how much I love camping and getting outside. But it's got to be the Norfolk lass in me – I'm just made for that outdoor life. Before I ever tried going wild, I had been camping a lot through volunteering programmes, challenges and of course, lots of festivals. I was a pro at putting up a tent and things like cooking dinner outside or the chilly run to the toilets never fazed me. But over the last few years, my whole perspective of camping really changed thanks to my travels.
For me it was the moments when I was road tripping across Western Australia that really sealed the deal. I spent over a month driving, sleeping in a car and camping wild in beautiful spots without ever seeing a soul. It was everything I had ever dreamed of in Australia and showed me how much is possible, and how happy you can be with so little. My squad spent our nights watching the stars above cattle ranches, smoke spiralling into the sky from our camp fire. Each day we woke up to the sounds of the ocean lapping against the shore and the excitement of exploring a new place.
The questions I get asked the most when it comes to camping – so let's answer these ones first. My best tip for first-timers who aren't sure about camping whether wild or not. Get over the grime. The quicker you do this, the more you will enjoy your experience. Yes the toilets are not always that nice, and sometimes there won't be any at all. You might have to have a few bush wees and maybe even a bush poo if you're in the middle of nowhere. But if you just accept the wet wipe baths and stop thinking about it, you'll soon adjust to a simpler life.
I spent six weeks living off wet wipe baths, shaving my legs with baby oil and pooing on the side of the road in the dustiest place on earth. Trust me, if I can do that and still have an epic time – you can certainly handle a weekend. If it's your first time trying out wild camping – the main thing is be prepared. Ladies, I would recommend not planning a trip for when you are on your period. It's definitely doable but just not very nice to not be able to have a shower. If you do decide to go anyway, I recommend a moon cup instead of tampons – then you don't have to worry about disposing of products.
The main thing to remember if you're camping wild is that you need to be entirely self-reliant. That means planning ahead, having everything you need and emergency kit in case anything goes wrong. The more you plan and have ready, the more you will enjoy your trip.
I've been a very lucky girl to have experiences camping wild all over the globe – but my favourite stand-out experiences have to be in these top 3 locations:
While it's nice to tell you about how amazing wild camping can be, I also want to be honest about the less fun experiences. Camping is super weather dependent and a trip can quickly go downhill if you're not prepared for bad weather. My worst camping experiences have always been due to extreme rain. In the Yorkshire Dales, UK, on my Duke of Edinburgh final expedition, we were hit by severe storms and flooded out of any potential campsites before our van broke down. Over in Melbourne, Australia, a trip to Wilson's Prom was cut short by heavy rain that flooded the campsite and all the tents.
The key to enjoying your trip no matter what the weather is preparation. Do your research before each trip and check the temperatures for day and night, predicted weather, and anything else that could affect you. If you're going to a very exposed place or somewhere at higher altitudes, you'll need to prepare for wind and cooler temperatures. Remember to take into account warmer temps in the day and cooler temps at night, and to be prepared for all extremes.
I love the freedom that comes with it. It's a simple life, where all you need is a shelter, food, a campfire and the stars. You can disappear into the outback, or to some deserted beach and not a soul will know where you are. You can turn your phone off and really switch off. Something that is so important when you work a lot and desperately need some downtime. There's something really romantic about the idea of traveling the world by van and being entirely self-reliant. You have everything you need and can escape into the world for a little while.
What kind of camper are you - luxury, festival or wild? What advice would you give to first-time wild campers?
It's official - tomorrow is the day, the day when I get to start living my dreams again. This last week has been the slowest of all time, I've been clock-watching and calendar-counting, just hoping the days would pass by a little quicker. If you read my rather personal post last week, you'll know I've been struggling a bit lately and that I really need to get away. Feeling like this was good in one way because it has prompted me to book my flights and get back out there, to put a limit on my time at home and actually go again. I've loved having these months at home, they have given me so many amazing opportunities to see my friends and family, to work as a journalist again and to dedicate real time to this blog. It's been incredible to work with so many UK and international brands, to be featured in an industry magazine and to get to review so many amazing places. I feel so lucky and so grateful, but at the same time, the whole time I have been home there has been this nagging little voice in my ear telling me this is not where I am supposed to be.
Perhaps that's what prompted me to travel around so much of Europe during my time back here, and that too has been incredible. I've visited so many amazing travelling friends, seen places I had only dreamed of before now and ticked off my 29th country. But still, it wasn't enough, I returned home and have had serious post-travelling blues since, then with everything I spoke about in my last post, I just realised it was time to go. It sounds horrible to say but I just struggle to spend any length of time in this town now, I love being at home but beyond that there is nothing really here for me. I've exhausted all career options and I'm a working girl at heart - I need something I can be passionate and excited about to keep me in a place. I've been incredibly lucky with the sheer amount of freelance work I've been able to source and that has given me the money to do amazing things over the last four months. But there comes a time when it is just not enough and I know I'm more than ready to move on again.
So what's next?
Well, that's the big question. With all the stuff that has happened lately, I wasn't quite ready to return to Australia and I think I'm long overdue for some serious relaxation time. All you guys see is fun and games from my travels but I can assure you I've been working A LOT since I've been back - my whole summer has been taken up with a huge amount of freelance work, running this blog and working with countless different companies. It's been amazing, but also exhausting especially when you try and combine it with having a social life and now, I'm done. I'm completely emotionally and physically exhausted from it all - told you I always overdo it!
But that's okay, because I think I've earned a week completely off from life. So I'm heading to - wait for it - my 30th country!! And I'm doing it with one of my best friends. I couldn't be more excited to be travelling to Bali - a place I've long since dreamed of - and to be doing it with one of my closest travelling pals. When you feel a bit fragile, there's nothing more important than surrounding yourself with people who mean the most to you and will bring nothing but happiness and laughter back into your life. I can't think of anyone I will laugh harder with or be happier with at this moment in my life. I'm about ready for a week of cocktails, partying Dingos-style and relaxing. I'll be taking a week off from blogging - but true to form, I've over-prepared and you'll still be getting two new posts this week and two next week.
And after that...?
The travelling dream will be back on track and I'll be heading back to Melbourne - the city that well and truly has my heart - to catch up with some amazing friends and start part two of my journey. I'll be honest and say that while my body may have come back to the UK back in May, the last four months my heart has definitely been elsewhere. Other travelers will know that feeling of being torn between your heart and your head, between the reality of day-to-day life and the dream you've been living. Well I've had an extreme version of this and just couldn't really settle at home, hence why I'm so excited to get back there and really feel free again. Right now my head is all over the place, but by the time I step back on Australia shores I hope to be a bit more ready to take on the next year of my life and live my dream again.
I remember the exact second I had my second year visa came through after weeks of angst and worry, I was in Amsterdam and celebrated with a friend I actually met the last time I was down under! It was the happiest feeling, knowing I was going back to a country that brought me so much happiness, so now I just hope it will do the same once again. Plans for this year of travelling include visiting the raw, natural beauty of Tasmania and road tripping the slightly more wild Western Australia, plus I'm sure I'll fit in some time in Darwin and Christmas in Melbourne with all the friends I was so dearly missing during the last festive season when I completed my farm work. I'm looking forward to being that travelling version of myself again, I feel like I've been a watered down version of myself since I've been home and it's time to get back to being the real me.
Here we go again!
Right now I'm spending the day packing and making last minute preparations and tomorrow I officially take to the skies for a delightful 20 hours of travelling (eek). I can't wait to be back in the air and on my next adventure, it's so much more special knowing some of my favourite people are waiting for me in Bali and Australia, but I also can't wait to just get lost in these countries. Bring on solo traveler life again and bring on my return to Asia - it's been far too long. Follow my adventures on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter - I'll be posting all of our misadventures!
Have you been to Bali - any recommendations? Have you experienced any of these feelings as a solo traveler returning home?
First of all, I want to thank all my lovely readers for their messages and emails lately. Especially to those who have pushed me to publish this post - it was the hardest one to publish for a very long time. It's amazing to get feedback on the posts I write and I feel honoured that so many of you come to me for advice on everything from travelling to relationships. It seems incredible to think this blog started out as a hobby and now it brings me close to people all over the world who are going through the same things, and who are inspired to do the same things I have been. One of my most popular posts has been drawing a lot of new readers to my blog lately and I've had a lot of requests to write more personal posts, it's something I've shied away from for a while because although I've had a lot to write about, sometimes it is difficult to find the words. But one topic that comes up again and again is "how do you cope with heartbreak?" It's ironic that this keeps coming up so often when I've just had a fresh wave of this to deal with, but when better to talk about it?
Having your heart broken hurts. There's no getting away from it. Even if you try to squash it down and pretend it's not happening, it always comes back and hits you with a fresh wave of pain. I remember being in such physical pain after I had my heart broken the first time, my heart actually ached and I couldn't get away from it, I couldn't get it out of my head. Now after this past week, I'm feeling that pain all over again and I remember how hard it was to cope with the first time. It's that hopeless feeling when you know there's nothing more you can do and you can't help but blame yourself. Last time it was in no way my fault, I had no regrets, but this time I can't help but feel I could have stopped this happening even though I'm sure that's not true. Heartbreak makes you question everything you thought you knew, including yourself. I hate that, that feeling that you can't trust your own decisions, that you should have done something to stop it happening. It hurts more than anything I've ever experienced and there isn't a painkiller strong enough to numb it. So right now, I'm officially worn out. My heart hurts and I've lost a lot of my fight and the excitement I had for life. But don't worry, it's not permanent - I've survived this before I sure as hell will again. I'm never one to mope for long and I'm already planning how I'm going to deal with this - two words, Bali & Australia!One thing I've noticed about myself - and I'm not sure what this says about my psychology - is that when things like this happen, when a relationship breaks up or things don't turn out the way I expect, my first instinct is to leave. When my nine-year relationship broke up and left me broken-hearted, my first thought was "I have to get out of here" and just like that, I booked a flight to the other side of the world. Just like now when I've just had my heart broken all over again and it's pushed me to book those flights and get back out there. It's an easy decision to head off into the unknown and I'm never scared at the prospect of travelling solo, let's face it, it couldn't be more painful than what I'm going through at home. It's something I still love about being a backpacker, that if things don't pan out - in relationships, work and life - then there was always the option to pack up and start again somewhere new. Perhaps that makes me sound flighty, or like I give in too easily, but I think actually it's because I know when things are a lost cause. I know when I'm done.
I've come to realise over the years that I have a pretty good gut instinct and that I can always trust it when it comes to making decisions. I know we're expected to stay and struggle through the hard times, that it will build character and something greater will come out of it in the long-run. Well I've done that, I've done it at work, in life, and in relationships. And yes, sometimes it is true, but also sometimes things are just lost for good and there is no saving them. The trouble is identifying whether there is anything left to fight for and knowing there is nothing wrong with just letting go. For me, I knew there was nothing left for me in my hometown both work-wise and relationship-wise so it was a no-brainer to start a new life somewhere else - it wasn't running away, it was the best decision I ever made. Likewise now, I ended up booking my flights to Bali and then back to Australia and have less than a week until I leave, it's not about escaping, it's about going back to my real life after this tiny break.My point is, we're made to feel that running away is wrong and that it is lazy or cowardly to cut ties and leave. But actually, I think it can sometimes be the hardest and strongest decision to make. To be strong enough to cut a toxic friendship or relationship out of your life is hard and you're brave for doing it. To cut and run from a job that is wearing you down is difficult and scary if you don't have a back-up, but this is how some of the most successful people have built an empire. To pack up your life into a backpack and move to the other side of the world where you don't know a single person is incredible. And for me, this was the biggest healer of all. Pushing myself far, far beyond the limits, taking myself out of my comfort zone and jumping in the deep end. Travel well and truly healed my heartbreak - it made me rely entirely on myself, it made me put my own happiness first, it taught me skills and scared me shitless. It brought countless new souls into my life - the kind of people that set my world alight and bring happiness into my world that I never knew existed. It gave me life-changing experiences that turned into stories, into memories that will last a lifetime. It gave me love, a much greater love for myself and for those around me.
Considering how much travel has given me, I don't see it as running away to be leaving again. I see it as running towards the life I should be living. For those who have contacted me lately to ask how they can know whether they should choose a relationship or travel - I can't tell you what to do. All I know is that travel has taught me more than any relationship ever has, it has introduced me to a life where I put myself first and where I'm driven by my needs, not empty wants. I may have less stuff than I have ever had, but my heart is fuller than ever and my head is full of thoughts that revolve around my passions, my ideas, my inspirations. Not about boys or worrying about others. It may sound selfish to some but after living for so many years always thinking of others before myself, it's refreshing to really see the world laying just ahead of me. No baggage. No stress. This is what travel teaches you, this is what healed my heartbreak, realising that you can only live for yourself and not to keep others happy. And realising how short life is, and how huge the world is - that sure puts things in perspective for you.Since having my heart broken I've traveled solo through 12 countries, covered three continents and am actually about to hit my 30th country. I've built a whole new career around a passion, I've sacrificed one phone, one camera and a lot of dignity. I've had epic wild nights out, long days at work, healed myself both inside and out on multiple occasions, nearly died three times, made so many incredible friends, been extremely badly behaved at times, and helped others through some pretty tough stuff, I even fell in love which I really didn't think was possible. I've been happier than I've ever been and discovered what I'm capable of, and what I'm not, and although my favourite word will always be YES, I've not been afraid to say no. In fact, I've not been afraid of any damn thing because life is for living and I'm doing just that. I'm a completely different person to the girl who went away to Thailand two years ago, and I've never been happier or stronger. So don't you try and tell me that travel isn't the greatest healer for heartbreak - I know it has changed my world. Let's just hope this time it will heal my heart as well as it did the last time.
Has travel helped heal your heartbreak? Tell me about your experiences. What are your best cures for a broken heart?
On Friday, I sat back at my old desk, in my old office, back doing the job I was doing before my whole adventure began. For a split second I could have easily been fooled into thinking the last 18 months never actually happened, that it was just my overactive imagination daydreaming about abseiling down waterfalls, sunset romances and sandy beaches. I wasn't sure whether it was a good idea for me to return to my old job when I headed back to the UK - sure it was convenient and in my actual industry. But it could also have been so easy to slide back into the rut I was in before I left - that painful, stressful and lonely place I was in. It wasn't all down to the job, but a lot had changed in my office and combined with the break-up of my nine-year relationship, life became pretty miserable. I found myself at my lowest point, but even when I was frantically climbing the walls in an attempt to stop from being buried under the remnants of my old life, I still couldn't see the light at the end of the tunnel. It was only when I hit breaking point that I could finally see a way out, losing so much so quick helped make things seem incredibly clear - it was time to go.
So after such an abrupt decision to leave in such a rocky state of mind, you can imagine how strange it felt to be back among the stacks of newspapers after two years away. But sitting back at that computer, I couldn't have felt any more different to how I did two years ago, it was like my whole perspective had shifted. Back then I was a workaholic who was driving herself into the ground working five jobs and stressing about giving 110% to each, now I've realised how that goes and it doesn't end well. This time I'm in control of the situation, I'm working the hours that I want to work and working freelance means not taking on a ridiculous workload that will leave me overwhelmed. I'm not going to lie, I'm still a workaholic and get called that all the time by friends and family, but I like to think I've learnt my limits. It was so refreshing to be able to work in the office and feel happy, to truly enjoy journalism and the construction of a story instead of worrying about covering 100 stories at once. Just like it was refreshing to come back to this town without stressing over a relationship that had run its course. I'm back to basics now, just focusing on me and doing the job I loved - just the way it should be.Travelling is incredible in so many ways, but what is really invaluable is what it leaves you with days, months or even years after you have stepped off the plane. Perspective, knowledge and an understanding of the way you want to live your life - not the way anyone else thinks you should be living it. I came back with all three of these and it made me determined that I would not get caught up in work while I was back, it is important for me to earn money for my trip around Europe and my return to Australia, but it is more important for me to enjoy my time here and to make the most of the opportunity to see all the people I have missed so much over the last 18 months. It can be so hard to come home after travelling - I had read about it so many times and spoken to friends just after their return, but you never understand unless you experience it. I now understand the struggle, the heartbreak that comes with leaving so many memories and amazing people behind you, the pangs when you've left a piece of your heart on the other side of the planet. The difficulty in adjusting to the life you left behind, to the friends, the family who have moved on and yet stay entirely the same, unchanged. That moment when you step back into your time capsule of a bedroom to be met by the unblinking eyes of the past staring down at you from the photos on your wall.
It's not easy to fit into a life that has moved on without you and yet stays strangely, and even irritatingly, familiar. But we do it because deep down, this is home. It doesn't matter how far we travel or how many amazing things we see, a part of us is always here in this funny little town filled with charity shops and old age pensioners. I didn't have to come back, I came back because I wanted to and because I missed my family, my friends and my home. So many can mistake travellers coming home and finding it difficult to readjust for them not actually not wanting to be here, that's not it at all, it's just a culture shock and we need time to adjust. That first intense burst of excitement of seeing everyone can soon fade as reality hits and between job-hunting and bad weather it can soon feel like a bit of an anti-climax to be here. For me, I feel like I never even had a chance to really enjoy that first moment of seeing everyone again because I was ill for the first two weeks of being home and couldn't really make the most of it, only now am I starting to feel a bit more settled.But what needs to be understood by the traveller returning home is that it is okay not to feel at home in the place that you once couldn't imagine a life outside of. It's okay to always feel a sense that you shouldn't be here, that you no longer belong here. It's called growth, it means you've changed and grown as a person in your time away and it just means that you take up a little bit more space in the world, perhaps this town you once called home can no longer contain the person you have become. Likewise, what needs to be understood by those welcoming home the traveller is that this is no longer the person you waved off at the airport - they still look the same and share all those amazing memories with you. But something deeper has shifted, something stronger than personality or opinion, their very core has been shaken by all that they have seen and experienced. So don't put it down to them being a wanky traveller who can't stop talking about their gap year, perhaps it's more than that. Perhaps it's more that their whole world has changed and if that's not something to talk about and share with the people who mean the most to you, I don't know what is.
How did you find returning home from travelling? How did travelling affect you? Did you struggle to settle back in at home?
Wow, I can't believe 2015 is finally at an end. It's been a hell of a year and I still can't quite believe I didn't dream some of it. It's safe to say, this has been the best year of my life yet and I am happier than I've ever been before - if you knew how I was feeling at the end of last year you'd realise what an incredible change a year has had on my life. I ended 2014 with my life totally up in the air, I'd just quit a good, steady job, I'd put all my money into a plane ticket to the other side of the world, and I'd just broken off a nine year relationship. Pretty dramatic eh? So although I was beyond excited about my plans for travelling across Asia, Australia and New Zealand, I was also questioning whether I had made the right decision, whether I could really do this. Whether I could do this all by myself. I had a bit of a wobble in the airport over a glass of wine when I read all the amazing messages of support from friends and family, but then I realised it didn't even matter if it all went tits up - I had the best people at home to pick up the pieces. Knowing that gave me all the strength I needed to realise it would all be fine and I was going to have an incredible adventure. So that was exactly what I did. In just five days it will be a year since I boarded that plane and set out on the trip of a lifetime, which should have been ending in just a few days but instead is still going strong with no real end in sight.
In the last 12 months I've been through so much - I've met the most incredible people and seen the most beautiful things, I've stayed up all night to watch the sunrise in the most amazing places, I've faced my own mortality and I've realised so much about myself and what I want out of life. It sounds cheesy, but getting away from life as I knew it has really taught me a lot about the way I want to live my life and it definitely doesn't fit into any boxes society has carved out for me. The last 12 months has been about breaking all the rules, setting new ones and living the dream. Looking back, all the pain leading up to my decision to travel was more than worth it now because it led me to this part of my life and I wouldn't trade this for the world. I've never felt freer and being trapped at home while I raised the cash to come and do this was totally worth it because I have appreciated every second since then all the more. I feel so incredibly proud of myself for doing this all alone - it's the first time I've done anything truly independent of friends, family and a boyfriend so that is a huge achievement and it has been the biggest boost to my confidence. I know now that if I can survive a year of travelling solo and not only smash it, but have the most incredible time, then I can do anything!
I've done so many amazing things in the last year; from racing round Bangkok in tuk tuks to trekking through jungle to waterfalls, I've volunteered with elephants and gone hill tribe trekking in Northern Thailand, I've partied insanely hard down on the Thai islands and eaten copious amounts of curry and pad Thai. I've swam through caves and kayaked out on a lake in the centre of a 180 million year old rainforest at sunrise, I've hiked up to a temple to watch the sun rise over Phuket, I've bartered at markets and lived my days in tie-dye, I've clung to my friend as we raced around on motorbikes and persuaded friends not to ride elephants. I've spent two days on a slow boat to Laos singing annoying songs, I've swam through waterfalls pretending to be a mermaid, I've gone bowling in weird places in Laos and been tubing with a load of nut cases as we drank our way down the river bars and created chaos. I've fallen in love with Vietnam from the history to the food, I've been on cycling tours, visited waterfalls, worked out on the beach, explored markets, had clothes made for me, abseiled down waterfalls and jumped off cliffs.I've seen the beauty in rural Cambodia and the genuine kindness of the locals, I've been healed by yoga, meditation and the beautiful people around me, I've been pampered and massaged by experts, I've learnt all about a history I never knew happened and I've watched the sun rise over Angkor Wat. I've celebrated my 25th birthday surrounded by friends old and new in a brand new country, I've realised what Australia has to offer, I've seen cities like Sydney, Melbourne and Darwin and I've travelled for two months with another person. I've seen what the East Coast has to offer; I've 4WD around Fraser Island, I've swam with sea turtles on Whitsundays and been white water rafting, I've kayaked with dolphins, surfed in Byron Bay and been whale spotting, I've cuddled a koala and fed a kangaroo. I've found the best travelling family a girl could ever ask for and spent three months partying and raving my heart out with the best friends you could find. I've experienced the outback in Darwin and seen the Northern Territory. I've travelled solo across the country to live in the bush and work alone for three months.
Don't get me wrong, it hasn't all be amazing - there have been rough bits too. But as one of my best friends always says, "you take the rough with the smooth". There have been times I've been scared and felt horribly alone, when it's all gone wrong and I didn't know what to do. I've been robbed by taxi drivers and had to punch my way out of an argument, I've had to look after more than one friend after they were attacked in the most unlikely places, I've had to look after another friend when all of her money was stolen out of her bank account by someone we thought we could trust, and I've faced my own mortality three times. It's not all smiles and sunlight when you travel and in particular those three serious crashes left me pretty shaken up. Until that point I think I always thought in the back of my mind that everything would be okay and that I was invincible but suddenly I realised that it could all come to an end quicker than you can say bye. But all of these experiences have taught me quite how important it is to live every second like it's your last. I always have done anyway, but now it seems even more important than ever. I've realised that even when you're thousands of miles away from your friends and family that there are people, good friends you meet along the way, who will come drop everything and come running to save you. And most importantly, I've learnt how to save myself and not rely on anyone else to do it for me.
2015 has been a year of growth, a year of triumph and success. I've never been prouder of myself for all I've achieved, and I've never been more excited about what the future holds. I've already changed my plans countless times and instead of heading home in a few days like I was supposed to, I'm staying in Australia to keep living the dream. I've already made travel plans for the following 18 months and I can't wait to start living them. Instead of being the end of an incredible year and the beginning of reality kicking in, I've made this my reality and it feels like just the beginning of another incredible adventure. It might be egocentric but I don't really care, this last year has shown me how amazing, strong and brave I am and it seems only right that someone who possesses these qualities would want to take on the world - so I shall. Thank you all for being with me every step of the way and I hope you'll be sticking around for the long haul as we've got a long way left to go!
Yesterday marked a year since the day I officially quit my job to travel the world. It was without a doubt the most freeing moment I have experienced yet, and the point at which my entire life changed. Yes I had already made the decision to leave and yes I had already been saving for several months - but this was the moment it all became real, when there really was no going back. Telling my boss I was leaving was the point at which I took back control of my life and that was something I had been needing to do for a while. I remember walking out of that office and not quite believing the conversation I had just had, I remember being overwhelmed by the support and kind words from my boss, I remember feeling like I was about to explode with happiness. That was how I knew instantly that I had made the right decision. I still worked in that office for around two months, but the knowledge that I was about to embark upon the biggest adventure of my life did wonders to remove the stress and worry the job had held previously for me. Suddenly realising it didn't matter anymore allowed me to put my heart and soul into the job I loved while ignoring the, sometimes unfair, demands the job placed on me and others.
Now I have been travelling for nearly ten months and after so long spent constantly switching between places and on the move, I have actually settled and found a home in Darwin, Australia. The two months I have spent here have been the longest I have had anywhere since leaving on January 6. I've found amazing friendship, family and even some romance over here, I've worked my arse off to save and partied hard, and it's been two of the best months I've had since travelling. I'm planning to leave soon, but Darwin will always remain in my heart, as will every other place I've visited, from Thailand and Vietnam to Byron Bay and Fraser Island. There's been something special and magical about every place and every moment I have visited along the way - I can't imagine what my life would be like now if I hadn't made this choice - actually, I can, it would be exactly the same except I would be even more unhappy. The best advice I can offer? If you have even a teeny tiny part of you that wants to explore the world - just do it! Forget all these fears about finding work or losing your job, or money, or love or anything like that. Do something for you and you'll never regret it. Travelling was the best decision I ever made and even if I eventually return home in debt and alone, it won't matter because my heart will be full of the memories I've made and the people I've met - that's priceless.In the last ten months I've had the chance to experience so many amazing things - from travelling by myself to with huge groups, abseiling down cliffs to jumping down waterfalls, from tasting amazing delicacies to eating cockroaches in the street, from the best massages to the least comfortable beds, from dancing my heart out on the beach to being invited to party with the locals, from watching the sunrise to watching the sunsets, from being adopted by the locals and talking about art with famous painters, from hiking through rainforests to swimming with sea turtles and dolphins, and so much more I can't even think of right now. The other week I suddenly realised that even on my very worst days here, I walk around with love in my heart and a smile on my face - even when everything goes wrong, I'm still grateful for every second of every day. I don't know if it's all that vitamin D or if it's just feeling safe in the knowledge that I made the right decision and that it wasn't such a big risk after all. If perhaps it's partly the knowledge that anyone who thought I was crazy to do it was in fact the crazy one for not realising I could do it.
Being out here has given me the opportunity to focus on things I love - like this blog for one thing, and it's made me so proud to see how many have responded to it, and how well it has done. Absolutely Lucy started off as a hobby, a side project, and has grown into a huge passion of mine, I pour my soul into it and it's amazing when you start to see that rewarded. Travelling has given me a chance to tell my story and to tell the stories of others - the journalist in me loves that - and to work on capturing moments in photography. It fills me with pride when people comment on how beautiful my photos are or how well I write because for the first time in a long time, I've had the opportunity to work on things I love just for me, not for an employer. Growing up is all about self-development and exploring the person you want to be, I can't think of a better way to do that than by educating yourself in whichever way you see fit - whether a degree or college course, teaching yourself to build a business or even reading everything you can find. But then following that with travel - a chance to learn how the world really works and what people are really like - education makes you cocky and knowledgeable but travel makes you wise and forgiving. The combination of these, plus having time to find out who you are and what you love, is a great way of creating a strong and amazing character.
If there is anyone out there who is reading this and unsure whether to travel or can't quite bring themselves to say the words "I quit" - just think about this. We are on this planet for between 80-100 years and while 18 of them might be tied up in education and childhood, the rest are our own to do with them what we please. Who really wants to get to the end of their life and say they stayed in a 9-5 until they retired? Going off and embracing adventure will not hold you back in your career, it will not hold you back in life, if anything it will push you further than you ever dreamed, it will give you ideas and inspiration you never had before. So many who didn't know what they wanted to do have found purpose and a future through travelling, so many who were stuck in a rut - like myself - have found new drive and motivation, a new focus. Stop using excuses like money, bills and safety - if you want to make it happen, you will make it happen regardless of all of these. And you won't regret it.
Have you reached any travelling milestones? How did they make you feel? How long have you been travelling for, and did you struggle to make the leap to quit your job?
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?
As you read this, my travels will have already started and I thought it was important to write this post and share what has probably been the hardest part of my decision to leave. The first thing everyone has asked me upon finding out I was going travelling was "are you going with your boyfriend?". When I replied no on each occasion, I saw the same surprised blank faces in front of me - particularly when I announced I was going it alone. I'm not sure why it is such a shock to people as I've always been quite an independent person - but clearly it seems quite odd to a lot of people that we would be able to go without each other for any length of time. To paint a picture for those who don't know us, me and Wolfy have been together for well over eight years. We've survived all sorts, including me moving away for university for three years, and defied all those who said we'd never last or that we weren't suited - amazingly there were a lot of people who felt that way. But we made it this far and we seem to be doing better than okay. So I can totally understand why people think "they love each other, therefore they must not be able to live without each other".
Relationships always face difficulties at some point - a hurdle that pops up out of nowhere, whether a problem between the two of you, or interference from outside sources. But when you've been together as long as we have, and from as young an age, sometimes the problems that crop up are actually just dreams that pull you in opposite directions. We've all got dreams, big ideas and hopes for the things we want to achieve, see and do - but what happens when they clash with those of the one we love? Well we're faced with a big decision about what to do. This is actually something that's been playing on my mind a lot lately because I have a few friends who, although in slightly different situations, have struggled with similarly big decisions. I guess it is a common theme in our twenties that we will be faced with big choices over our relationships - our teens are the easy time, although they may not feel like it, when nothing really tests us other than ourselves. Even the separation of university is something that can be easy to live with because to an extent we still have a choice over distance and whether we want to go the distance. But by the time we hit our twenties, we are looking at careers, new homes, marriage and babies in some cases, and travel. There are so many more factors that will affects our relationships and we will be forced into difficult decisions.I'm not the only one who has found this, I actually know several people who have found lately that they have had to choose one aspect of their life over another. One friend has chosen to move two-and-a-half hours away from all of her friends and family, leaving behind a job she had worked her way up to, in order to follow her boyfriend. He was moving to a much better job and she had to take a pay cut in order to be with him, but for her the decision was the right one for her because she loves him and wants to be with him. Now they are able to live together, instead of breaking up or living hours apart. A couple I know came to an end after the subject of travel was broached, they had been together for years but he didn't want to travel and she passionately did - so they finished and she started planning her trip. I know of another couple who broke up because the guy wanted to settle down together, with big plans for marriage and babies, but she wanted to keep her freedom and to work on her career first, so they broke up and moved on. What do all of these couples have in common? They're all in their twenties and their lives are ever changing and evolving - sometimes couples are on different wavelengths and that can mean different directions.
For me and Wolfy, I know that we are on the same wavelength but that after eight-and-a-half years we are being pulled in different directions. For me, I'm in a job that I just can't do any longer and I've reached a point in my life where I want to experience something new. It was a choice between moving away for work or travelling, and that decision was a simple one for me. For Wolfy, he regrets not putting in the time and effort for his studies and has realised he needs a change of career, so for him, the move is to retake his A-levels and go to university. The timing for us isn't great and we don't want to be apart, but we also both realise that we have to follow our individual dreams in order to be happy together. Neither of us should have to put our individual dreams on hold at this age, surely we will only end up resenting each other if we try? I'm not saying it's going to be easy - because I know it won't be. Saying goodbye earlier this week was the hardest thing I have ever done. But for us, this isn't a break up, more like hitting pause on things until we can resume play. We hope that it will be just six months until we are reunited in Australia - that might be naive on our part, or it might be a mature decision that works out really well. Either way, all we can do is hope that things work out for us. I've always believed that everything happens for a reason - I'm not always sure what that reason is but I know that it will all work out in the end. And I'm treating this just like that - it doesn't mean being separated is any easier, but it does mean we can hope that if we are meant to be together that it will work out.
I'd love to hear your stories of when you've been forced to choose between love and your career, or family, or even travel, like I have. Did it work out for you? Or do you still regret the one that got away?
It finally happened. The moment I've been counting down to, that has never seemed quite real, and that I've been waiting for all year. The moment when my travelling dreams finally became a reality. This time last week...
I QUIT MY JOB.
Holy shit. I can't actually believe I finally did it. It still hasn't sunk in despite everyone at work wanting to know all about my plans - where I'm going, how long for and who with. I keep repeating the same combination of words: solo, Thailand, Cambodia, Australia, hostels, seven months, saving money, so excited... but no matter how many times I say them, I really cannot believe that they make up my plans for the next year. It just seems odd to me that this could finally be here, that my adventure is nearly within a fingertip's grasp, that I can almost taste the Thai spice and salty sea air on my lips. You see, I've spent the best part of my life day dreaming about where I would go, what I would do and the people I would meet if I ever made my travel dreams a reality. I've spent the last year dreaming of a future that I couldn't quite piece together, and I've spent the last 11 months saving, planning and booking the trip of a lifetime. And now, I have 10 weeks left until I board that plane all by myself and finally make that leap to full independence and take on a scary solo journey.I won't lie, I'm pretty terrified. But I'm also more excited than I have ever been about any decision in my life, and that is what tells me I'm doing the right thing. It's something I've dreamt of all my life and it is something I have more than earned the opportunity to do after working so hard for so many years. I have been working four jobs on and off this year, I have done everything asked of me and gone beyond the call of duty at all four jobs. I have put the time into setting the groundwork for a great career, put endless time into friendships and relationships. Now I deserve to take some time for myself. To enrich my own life, steal some real independence and strike out on my own. Don't get me wrong, I am a very independent gal and anyone who knows me well enough will tell you the same. But the truth of the matter is, I have always been lucky enough to be surrounded by amazing friends, family, colleagues and to have a fantastic boyfriend by my side. This means I have never really had the chance to do anything by myself - university was the one thing where I struck out on my own but I had a huge group of great mates from the first day so it never seemed a challenge. This is something that will test me in every way possible - it will terrify me, make me rely on myself to keep me out of trouble, to take chances, to meet people, to find my way, to make a plan and all the rest. It is a big challenge when you have always had someone to help out along the way. That is the exciting part. I'm also really looking forward to finally having time to really reassess my life. I'm at a point where I think it would really do me good to take a step back and take a look at things, before making my mind up about my next move. I want time to indulge myself and to discover new passions, interests and loves. I want time to really dedicate to blogging and writing what I love, and I really want time to discover more of the world and more of myself. It is so easy to get caught up in the day-to-day rush of working so much and never really taking time to smell the roses - well now I want to smell the roses, and the spices, and the flavours the world has to offer. Yes it means leaving behind friends, family, and a boyfriend that means the world to me, but in the grand scheme of things, it is a short-term sacrifice for a lifetime of happiness. That is the best way of explaining it to those who I know don't understand how I can leave behind these things. Adventure and risk are the best way to discover what you really what to be doing, by stepping outside of your comfort zone, you find out where your boundaries really lie.So how did I do it? Quit my job I mean. I know there are a lot of people who have been asking me how I went about it, so I though this post could explain the few steps I took to quitting my job. It was one of those things that seemed like a huge task, but when it came down to it, it was so simple and so easy. I had lots of friends and family joking about how I would do it - would I go in and slam down my resignation letter? Would I just storm out in a dramatic moment? Would I just not bother turning up any more? Haha of course not. So how did I do it?
Seven simple steps that took me from being a full time employee of the company to an unemployed traveller who is set to embark on a huge trip across the world early next year. It may seem really daunting to quit your job and a bit scary to have to basically reject the company after your time there, but you must remember you are completely entitled to leave at your will and move on whether to develop your own career or try something different. Don't feel guilty for quitting your job, but remember to be respectful and grateful for what you have gained by being a part of the company. You never know when you will need a good reference, or when that job will affect your future or give you the right contacts for your next move. Don't underestimate the power of a thank you and the importance of keeping things polite and civil to the bitter end - even if you have really hated your time in that job.It's an exciting time - that's for sure. I'm slap-bang in the middle of a couple of courses of jabs, I'm working every hour going to save more money and trying my hardest to see as many friends as possible. I still have so much to do and so little time to do it in. If any of you are planning your travels - don't let fears of quitting your job stand in your way. It is one of the most freeing things you can do.
How did you go about it when you quit your job to take up another or travel the world? Any tips you would like to add from your own experiences?
I write this with incredibly sore arms after starting a course of jabs ahead of next year's travels, and I felt it was about time for another post about my plans. This one is about a question I've been asked a lot since making my decision and starting to plan my getaway for next year. It's strange, because it doesn't seem a big deal to me - just a natural choice, but it is a pretty huge decision to pack your life up, move to the other side of the world, give up your job and take a chance. It's not something that comes easy to all of us, and for me, this decision was a long time coming. So, for those who are having those niggling thoughts, who catch themselves daydreaming about the life they wish they had, this post is all about how I made one of the biggest decisions of my life.
It happened over Christmas 2013. For the first time since finishing university, I had a full two weeks off work for Christmas and after just a week, I knew I didn't want to go back. I'd had these thoughts in the back of my mind for a long time that my job was no longer what I wanted it to be, and it was just a case of working out if I wanted to move to a big city like London and start afresh, or whether to follow my dreams of travelling the world. This was more a daydreaming stage and I never thought I would actually make my travelling dreams a reality. I'd been stuck in a sort of limbo for the past few months, the previous summer had been amazing and I'd been so busy having fun that my job had become just that, a job. But when the summer drew to a close, I realised without all those fun distractions, I was a bit bored and wanted to escape.
I don't want to sound ungrateful, I love my job and it has given me huge opportunities and a great basis for a career, but it had become stale for me after three years of working in the same office and I was ready for a change. I plodded on, not really thinking about it as other distractions popped up, but that voice in the back of my head grew louder and louder. My relationship was going through a bit of a rough patch and so I threw myself into a family Christmas and loved every second. But early January, something happened. Something that I'm still not really ready to talk about, but it suddenly threw everything into place for me. Something snapped inside of me and I realised that there was nothing holding me to my town, that actually, at that point, there was more driving me away than pinning me down. You've all had those moments when life gets a bit much and you have to get away? Well I couldn't escape it all, so I started to plan and I made a decision. I decided to travel.
You might worry I was running away, but actually my problems at the time were just a catalyst for something much bigger that was already in motion. This was the answer to my melancholy, to my feelings of being trapped inside my own body. I told a few people, close friends and family about my decision, but I'm not sure they really took me seriously, they just thought I had an idea but wouldn't actually end up going. Of course there are many who make the plans and never end up going, many who talk about it but never find the courage to up sticks and travel. But I was determined. So what did I do?
It was as easy as that, once I snapped everything just started to slot into place and suddenly it all made sense. I felt so free to have made the choice and to have a plan, a goal to work towards and that has seen me through the last nine months where I have been saving and working. I had several commitments that meant I couldn't leave any earlier in the year, which was hard for me for a while as circumstances had me wanting to up and leave straight away. But I'm glad I waited as I wouldn't have been in the right mindset to really enjoy my travels at that point. Plus the time I've had has given me the chance to save at a realistic rate, and to enjoy spending time with all my loved ones before leaving, which makes me feel less guilty in case I decide to stay longer.
For me it was slightly easier as I was living with my parents, which meant I had no ties to a mortgage or home, plus I was working in a job that I had already milked clean of all experiences and potential.
I totally understand for others it might be more complicated, but I genuinely believe that making the initial decision to jump is the hardest part and after that it all starts to fall into place.
What sparked your decision to give up life as you knew it and travel? Did you have a similar experience to me?