Well, I can't believe I'm saying this after you've been my home for two years, but Australia, it's time for me to go. It's been one hell of a wild rollercoaster ride from start to finish and I've lived some of the highest of highs over here, as well as some of my lowest moments. I feel so privileged to not only have had a chance to travel here, but to have actually lived here, I've become a part of the community several times over and I've built several amazing lives for myself and found family at every turn. In my two years over here I've been lucky enough to call so many exciting new places home – to find so many families waiting to welcome me with open arms, warmth and kindness at every stop on my travels.
Australia, you've taken the solo travelling girl from across the globe, who was fiercely independent and so sure of what she wanted out of this world, and you've changed everything for her. I arrived a little bit broken with a heart that still ached, but every experience and every person I met along the way has helped shape me into the happy, confident woman I have grown into. In those precious two years of my working holiday visa, I have achieved so much this side of the world despite being away from everyone, and everything I know. Whether in my career, my friendships, my relationships or even in this blog - it's been a big two years for growing as a person and realising what I want out of life. I may have been a bit unsure of myself when I arrived, but I'm leaving Australia the happiest I've been in a long time, with a new purpose, a whole heap of exciting plans for the future, and someone amazing by my side who can't wait to begin our life together.
There have been so many amazing moments in these past two years, like partying my way up the East Coast and meeting friends who would become some of my best and closest friends in Australia. Getting my first taste of Australia on the Great Barrier Reef, Fraser Island, Whitsundays, learning to surf in Byron Bay and swimming with dolphins. For a girl who had originally planned to stay just five months, my decision was quickly changed as I realised how much more I wanted to see of this incredible country. New Zealand was put on hold for adventures up in the Northern Territory where I had my first taste of outback life and a true hostel experience - still my best in Australia as I became one of the Dingos and found a family I never knew I was missing. We went through everything together, forged a bond for life, raved until dawn at bush doofs and then went our separate ways to all corners of the globe.
Then it was time to knuckle down and get those three months of farm work done if I wanted to make sure I had that second year visa under my belt. Off to Central Queensland I went, 800km west of Brisbane to a tiny outback town where there was nothing but dust and giant kangaroos. I spent three months working on a cattle station, looking after children and even helped out during lambing season - it was a real culture shock, hard work and I loved the experience. Then it was time to head to the city I would come to know as my home away from home – Melbourne. The next few months saw me becoming a sales manager and managing a team of 15-20 people who became the highest selling team in the country. I had an apartment, great friends, a great guy and so much to be grateful for.
After going home for six months to travel around Europe, I felt the call from Down Under, we weren't finished yet, there was so much left to see and do. Dropping into Bali for a month beforehand, I headed back to Australia and landed in Cairns before making my way down to the fresh air and mountains of Tasmania. A real highlight of the year, I explored Hobart before setting off on a two-week road trip around the island. Climbing mountains, camping wild, sleeping under the stars, hiking national parks – it really was a dream trip. Then it was time to head home to Melbourne for Christmas, the next few months would be filled with festivals, epic nights out, camping trips, beach days and countless adventures. Picking up a job as a cocktail waitress at a 5* hotel, I was working as a hostess at high class parties held by Ferrari and GQ Magazine and served celebs like Nicole Kidman. But just like that, it was time to move on. So I flew to Adelaide to catch up with an old friend and make special new ones, but a week was short and then it was time to go again.
I touched down in Perth and quickly found a home in Fremantle with the Pirates, for weeks of reminding myself what it was like to be a backpacker and live a hostel life. It was a precious time of laughter, new faces, crazy nights, sunset dates and a new family I never expected. I even celebrated my birthday surrounded by amazing people, three special birthday cakes and one new person by my side who I didn't realise had already been written into my story. Sad goodbyes later, it was time to head off on the road trip of a lifetime, the epic journey I had been waiting to experience. Leaving with a group of four in two cars, our convoy covered over 4,000km and grew to 10 people across six cars. We made memories that will last a lifetime, spent every waking second together, learned about the world, grew as individuals and some of us even fell in love. It was a road trip that genuinely has changed my life and I couldn't be more grateful for the people I shared it with – from the girl who invited me to travel with her, to the guy who drove over 1,000km overnight to experience the trip with me.
Now I'm saying goodbye to the second life I have built for myself in Darwin – it feels right for my Australian journey to end here, in the place where I have felt the most love and friendship both times around. While I'm sad to say goodbye, it feels so right to leave. Always go out on a high I say, and I don't think I could reach much more of a high if I tried. Now it's time to take on the next adventure and see where life takes me. Thanks to everyone who has been a part of these past two years in Australia, thanks for making it special whether we spent months together or just a few hours. I hope you'll all be right by my side in the next chapter of Absolutely Lucy's travels.
I'll be spending the next month back in Asia, a place that has held my heart since I first set foot in Thailand. This time I'll be living my dreams as I'll be travelling around Sri Lanka! On a trip that is much needed for some serious relaxation time for myself and my boyfriend after we've been working every hour possible in Darwin, this could also be the biggest trip for this blog yet! I have been invited to work with and review five luxury and budget adventure accommodations while over in Sri Lanka - from incredible resorts to magical treehouses. For some of these, I will be the first blogger to have ever worked with the companies, so I'm very excited for this opportunity. It gets even better, I am such a lucky girl because I have even been invited to review two safaris and a hot air balloon ride – this really is a dream come true trip. I've had some tough moments this year that have really affected my blogging and even had me thinking about giving it up, but instead I persevered and even spent weeks redesigning my entire website and designing a brand new media pack. My hard work really has paid off and the opportunities I'm getting now show it was all worthwhile. I can't wait to share this trip with all of you who supported me through the toughest times.
One of the most common messages I receive from readers asks about how to budget for backpacking. I write about saving money and how to plan trips a lot on this site, but one thing I really want to focus on is how you can possibly know how much you will spend on a long-term trip. After all, at home you've been living month-to-month rinsing those paycheques dry until you're watching the days creep by towards pay day. The thought of not having a steady income and relying entirely on your savings can be scary for some - so it's important to budget correctly and plan realistically if you want to have the best time. I'm all about making the most of your money and every possible experience - I don't want to miss out on a single trip, meal or massage. BUT, I aways manage to do it on a budget because let's be honest - I'd rather keep travelling as long as possible than indulge in a week of full luxury.
So how do you budget for a long-term trip?
First of all you need to establish how long you want to travel for and where you plan to go - weighing up the cost of living/travelling in each country. For instance - travelling in Asia is the cheapest travelling I have found and I could easily do a year there on the money I would need for 5-6 months in Australia. But when travelling Australia I have been working along the way and earning a small fortune compared to what I could save at home in the UK. If you're on a break from work and only have a month - perhaps consider Europe which although expensive is a great way to see a lot of countries in a very short space of time. If you're looking to travel for six months on a tight budget, Asia is fantastic - you can see so many different countries and the cost of living well is very low. If you're looking to work abroad and fancy doing a year abroad - why not go for a working holiday visa in Australia, New Zealand or Canada and try a combination of working and travelling?
What kind of trip?
What are your priorities when you travel - are you looking for a full cultural experience of staying with locals? Are you planning to party your way around the world? Or are you a thrill seeker who wants to try every adventure trip going? You need to factor in the cost of trips/alcohol/food/living costs and be realistic. Always over-compensate - what's that quote?
"When preparing to travel, lay out all your clothes and all your money. Then take half the clothes and twice the money."
I couldn't agree more - take as much money as possible by giving yourself enough time to save and cutting costs wherever you can (check out my top tips here). I worked five jobs for a year before going away the first time - it was worth every miserable second when it meant I saved £10,000, didn't have to work for nine months and lived like a queen! I personally like a balance of cutting costs, partying a lot and adventure trips so I always think about how I can balance them. Sometimes I will stay in the cheapest accommodation possible and live off instant noodles so that I can justify an amazing road trip or island cruise. Other times I won't be interested in trips and will spend all my money on cocktails and my own private hut on the beach. When I budget for my trip I take that into account and over budget my living costs. I always try and budget roughly £1,000 a month no matter where I am - then I know that in Asia I will hugely underspend which balances out in Australia when I definitely overspend, likewise with Europe I budgeted more because I knew I was travelling around a lot very quickly which costs more - best way to cut costs when you travel? Stay still for a while in a cheap place and just live simple.
We all have those times when we accidentally splash too much cash, when we shop too much in the markets or take our card on a night out then look at our account the next day with horror. I know I'm definitely guilty of that at home and since I've ben travelling - but it's good to acknowledge it. If you admit you are possibly going to do it, budget for it and give yourself a cushion of cash to keep yourself out of the red.
Remember to account for any home costs while you're away - if you're still paying rent on a house or phone bills/credit cards you need to make sure you have the money available in the correct accounts at all times. You need to make sure you can afford to do this and don't end up in more debt as a result of messing up your money or under-budgeting.
Don't let budgeting put you off
Remember you will never have as much money as you would like. It would be great to live in that dream world where you have a constant supply to keep you going, but it may never happen. Don't let that stop you from travelling - I know people who have gone away with £1-2000 for a long trip and who have just figured it out along the way. I always think the less money we have, the better we are with it. And always remember - there are so many amazing options for working abroad these days - those working holiday visas I mentioned earlier, see if your own current working company can transfer you abroad, study abroad, teach English around the world, volunteer, work for accommodation. The options are endless and there is always a way to make your travelling dreams a reality. I've been both the richest and the poorest I've ever been since travelling and I can assure you I've lived the dream throughout both. If you're determined and committed to making it a reality, you will always find a way.
Need budget tips for your upcoming trip - leave a comment below with any questions! What are your best budget tips for preparing for a long-term trip?
In my seven months of travelling I've been lucky enough to experience travelling with all types of people from all walks of life, many of them I know I never would have met if it weren't for my decision to travel. I've travelled with friends from home, I've travelled with friends I've just met, with natives of the countries I've visited, with two-week holidaymakers and long-term backpackers, and most importantly, I've travelled by myself. Now, after months of flitting between travelling with groups of friends and going it alone, I'm facing a whole new challenge of travelling with one other person for an extended period of time. It sounds crazy, but the longest I've travelled with anyone until now is just four weeks, not two whole months, and I always had the option to go off and do my own thing. Other backpackers will understand, it is different to travel with someone from home to travelling with people you meet on the road - there are greater expectations and more demands placed on you. Suddenly you are a travelling couple rather than the solo traveller you're used to being. It can be wonderful in so many ways to travel with another person, but you can't deny it takes a slight adjustment period when you are used to complete independence.
So say, like me, you've been travelling by yourself for six months, facing all kinds of situations head on, organising every visa, every ticket and every overnight bus alone. Then suddenly, you have someone else with you who wants to be involved with every decision and plan. It can be difficult at first to let someone else take control from time to time, but don't forget there can be so many bonuses from having someone else there to lighten the load and take the pressure of from time to time. All you need is a little voice in your head to remind you when you need to let things slide a little bit and let someone else take the reigns. I've spoken to a few backpackers in the same situation lately and the same things are brought up again and again. "I feel like I have to look after him all the time and introduce him to people" or "I just never have any space of my own", even "she doesn't want me to be friends with everyone, just her". While it's okay to get frustrated at times, it's always important to deal with the problem as soon as it crops up rather than letting it become an issue - but how do you do this?
Remember how awesome they are
It's easy to forget in the little annoyances how much you love your travel buddy - whether it's your boyfriend, girlfriend, best mate or someone you've known since university. Just remember when you're feeling irritated, because you will get annoyed at some point, that there is a reason you asked them to come and join you! Reminisce over all those times you laughed until a little bit of pee came out, about those crazy nights out - then go out and make some more memories!
Allow for their feelings too
Don't forget that they are coming out to meet someone who they think is super cool for having travelled by themselves for so long. It can be intimidating to join your mate in their group of buddies because you feel like you have to impress the group - don't put too much pressure on them, they'll already be doing it to themselves. Particularly if this is the first time they will have backpacked - remember how you felt when you first came away!
Appreciate that everyone needs their own space
This applies to both of you - always remember that just as much as you like to have some time to yourself to pluck your eyebrows and play Candy Crush on your phone, they probably want some time to flick through Tinder and listen to music. Everyone needs space - for me, I like to have some quiet time to write blogs for you lovely lot, while Mark likes to catch up on sport and the news. His stuff couldn't bore me more, and he's not very interested in blogging unless it's about him - so it works well.
If something the other person has said or done has bugged you for more than 24 hours, it might be a good idea to say something. Some people might think this causes more problems than it needs to, but I think it's always best to get it out of your system so you can get on and enjoy your day. Often the other person hasn't even realised you are bothered by what they said or did and will happily apologise. Be a grown up about it and it won't turn into a row.
Stop being a control freak
It's hard to stop taking control when it comes to planning and booking your trip, but just remember that as soon as the other person arrives it's no longer just your trip - now it's their trip too. You're so used to organising everything but this is one of the benefits of travelling with someone - they can take the pressure off and book flights for you or choose a hostel. It's fun to do it all together, and it can be lovely after six months of planning to sit back and let someone else do the work.
My best piece of advice - just enjoy every second, from sleeping in the airport together to dragging your sorry drunk arses home to bed just hours before a white water rafting trip. It's all important and will become some of the greatest travel memories you will have. Travelling with another person creates a bond closer than just friendship and you will remember your trip together as long as you live - remember it for all the right reasons, not because you were arguing over something silly. Trust me, you'll miss them when they're gone and you have to go back to doing laundry with strangers and have to make friends at every hostel.
Who is your favourite travel buddy and why? Have you travelled with a friend or partner - how did it go? Do you prefer travelling solo or with a buddy?
Yes, that's right, I know your name. You might not remember me very well as you were two pills to the wind when we first met properly. Eyes rolling back into your head, slurring your words and generally embarrassing yourself. But I remember you, I remember sitting outside while my friend was having a cigarette and laughing at how ridiculous you looked and how wasted you were at barely 12am. I was laughing at you when you said the bar had been turning you away for an hour, but you refused to give up. I told you you were better off going to bed and riding it out, then laughed some more. I was pleased to see you took my advice and headed to bed, but when I went up to the dorm and went to the bathroom, I definitely wasn't laughing anymore.
Why is that Jacob? Well it's because I walked in the toilet to find you had pissed all over the floor! Thank goodness for you that I still had shoes on, because if your warm, smelly piss had touched my naked feet, I'm pretty sure you wouldn't still be living. 23 years old and travelling the world independently - something to be proud of right? But still pissing all over the floor at your age? Not so much. I thought that was it and I could cope until the cleaners came in the morning, but just an hour or two later I was woken up by the sound of you crashing around and staggering around the room to the toilet again, ignoring you and rolling over I closed my eyes. Sleeping peacefully until my ridiculously early wake-up call, I awoke in a rush and hurriedly got dressed. As I walked to the bathroom with my toothbrush in hand, I had the nastiest shock yet to find puddles of piss on the dorm floor outside the bathroom. It seems yet again, you hadn't quite made it.
Not impressed was an understatement. Perhaps this is acceptable in Denmark, but in my six months of travelling, I have never seen such disgusting and quite frankly, humiliating behaviour. Living in dorms for that long, you're exposed to some gross sights and smells. From the damp, sweaty dorm smell to unwashed towels, mould and stray pubes in the plug holes... But this was the most disgusting of all. Waking up to a room that smells like piss, having to jump across puddles and try not to gag as you brush your teeth - that's not what I signed up for. I think you could benefit from reading my post on how not to be a total douche while backpacking.
I was lucky until now, thinking of this as a bit of an urban backpacking legend. I always heard stories of the guy who pissed all over everyone's suitcases and backpacks in the dorm, or the other one who pissed himself in a top bunk and the poor girl who was sleeping below him. But, I'll be honest and say I never really thought of this as something that really happened. I mean, I've been pretty wasted but I've never managed to piss my pants, I just don't understand how it could happen. Jacob, you and these other guys really need to bear in mind when getting off your faces that you have to share a room with several other people who deserve a basic standard of hygiene and respect. I'm sure no one goes out with the intention of pissing their pants, but when you're popping multiple cheap pills of some random guy on the street until your eyes roll back in your head... You have to be prepared to lose some basic functions I guess.
Whatever your excuses, whatever your apologies Jacob, just don't do it again. You're lucky you checked out before we could come face to face, but next time you might not get away with it so easily. Hopefully next time you think of hitting the pills, you'll think of the poor cleaner who had to clean up your mess, and the dorm mates who had to put up with your stink.
Hopefully, there won't be a next time.
Have you had to deal with any situations like this? Heard any horror stories? Leave a comment below and tell us all about it...
You were supposed to be reading a completely different post today from My time in Vietnam, but just a few hours ago I sat in the lobby of my hostel thinking about how amazingly everything had just fallen into place and how I was about to embark on a whole new adventure. It seemed only right to mark this moment with a special post on how far I've come and how much further I have left to go! Many of you wonderful people have been following, supporting and cheering me on since January when I set out on the trip of a lifetime, planning to spend a year travelling around Asia, Australia and New Zealand, and I'm so happy you've come along for the ride. Others have joined us along the way, either after we met somewhere in Asia or you just stumbled across my blog and happened to like it - but all have been so welcome. Today marks the end of my Asia adventure and I'm finding it really hard to believe my time on this amazing continent has come to a temporary end - I say temporary because quite frankly I can't bare the thought that I wouldn't be here again in the future! It's been an amazing five months and I don't think I've ever been as happy as I have while travelling Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia. Even when times were tough and I was robbed or nearly died in horrible crashes - it was still an amazing experience that has helped shape me as a person and has taught me something. I've come to realise I'm more capable than I ever thought I was and for that I can only be grateful.
I sit here with such mixed feelings - on the one hand I'm so sad to leave behind all the amazing people, places and memories I have collected along the way, but on the other hand, the last few weeks have really helped me realise that I have itchy feet and am eager for a new adventure. I never thought this feeling would hit, but I'm ready to close the book on this chapter of my life and start afresh in Australia from tomorrow morning - I'm ready for all the amazing places I'm going to go, the people I'm going to meet and the experiences we'll share along the way. Those of you who follow me on Twitter and Facebook will know I've had a rough couple of weeks in Cambodia and I think that really helped me to look at Asia more objectively and to see the things I won't miss. I'm talking squat toilets, cockroaches, sleazy tuk tuk drivers, petty thieves, bed bugs and some really rather questionable food in some places. Of course there is so much I will miss - things like watching the sun rise over a deserted temple, the moment when you get lost and discover the real kindness of the locals, the amazing richness and spice of the food, the entertainment of trying - and failing - to speak the local language, the colours, flavours and smells of the countries, and so much more. So today is a strange day, a day of mourning in many respects mixed with feverish excitement over what is yet to come. I fly tonight and will wake up in the land down under for a fresh start.Again, those of you who follow me on social media may have gathered I was a bit stressed out over the last few weeks after my working travel visa took a while to arrive. Two weeks in fact despite it being supposed to take just five days - it definitely made me nervous and I was bombarding the Australian embassy in Bangkok and the Australian Immigration Department with email after email to find out what the hold up was. Well I never found out what the hold up was, but thankfully when I woke up this morning it had arrived! Thank god, but talk about cutting it fine with just 12 hours until my flight! So to be honest, in my head I kind of hadn't accepted I was flying to Australia today, I was certain I'd have to move my flight, and now it's really happening I just can't believe it. I'm so excited to be surrounded by western culture again, although I think it will be a bit of a culture shock, and I have to be honest and say I can't wait to get working and settle somewhere for a while after a hectic two months blasting through also, Vietnam and Cambodia. At the moment my plans seem to be sticking around in Sydney for a few weeks then heading up to the north and working my way down the east coast with friends but who knows what will happen when I get there! I'm just going to see where the wind takes me and love every second - that's certainly been working for me over the last five months.
One thing I'm pretty excited about is that it is my 25th birthday in just a week - now I know some people get a bit funny about hitting their quarter of a century, but I'm so ready to celebrate. It's a huge milestone in my life and one that marks the end of what easily started out as the hardest and worst year of my life, but which has definitely finished as the best. In the space of 12 months my whole life has changed and it has only done so because I have taken control of my future. I took the initiative to cut out the loose ends, the idiots who were holding me back, and now I'm out travelling the world and living the dream. It's the best decision I ever made and I'm so proud of myself for being one of those people who made it happen instead of just talking about it. If that's not something to celebrate then I don't know what is! I've never felt more ready or more excited to take on the next five years with as much gusto as I have taken on the last 12 months - bring it on and here's to making them even more amazing! You guys can help with that by sticking by my side at every stage of the journey - and if you've been loving my posts then why not cast a quick vote for me in the travel section of the Simply Hike Blogger Awards? There's just one week left to vote and it only takes a second!
Any advice on what to see and do in Sydney? Have you been enjoying reading about my journey - what posts have you loved? How did you feel when you hit the big 2-5?