[GIFTED items featured] There's no denying 2018 was a rough year for my wellbeing and happiness. I threw myself in at the deep end and gave 150% for months on end, completely forgetting to look after myself. It's not surprising after such an emotional roller-coaster that I crawled into 2019 feeling more than a little burnt out. In a society that seems to pride itself on how busy, how dedicated and how motivated it is, it can be easy to feel like you're under-performing, or like you just need to try a bit harder. But honestly, I'm so over this idea that we need to be constantly doing and achieving in order to be our best selves.
We all want to be the best version of ourselves, but when we're always trying to be great at everything, we often feel like we're falling short at every hurdle. That's why I'm declaring 2019 as the year for focusing on wellness, self-care and happiness. It seems the team at Whittard agree and they've sent me this lovely [GIFTED] wellbeing hamper filled with all sorts of goodies to help me start looking after myself. From special teas to help you sleep and tasty snacks, to gorgeous peppermint soap and even a mindfulness colouring book to help de-clutter my mind. It's made me slow down and take a breath to think about what is really important to me – what will make me happy this year.
We've all got dreams, but sometimes life gets in the way and you're forced to push them aside. Well I think it's time we stop waiting for tomorrow and we get focused on those crazy goals! Always wanted to start a new career, learn a language, move abroad, write a book, travel, buy a new car, go self-employed? Who says 2019 can't be the year you make this come true? The longer you wait, the harder it becomes to make this become a reality.
I saw this great line the other day about how there are countless people out there who are less qualified than you to do what you want to do, and yet they've done it through positive thinking and confidence. There's a lot of power in having a great mindset and just trying. Taking that first step is the hardest part, and you have nothing to lose by giving it a shot. If you don't you'll spend your life wondering what could have happened. Every goal is attainable if you make a plan, take one step at a time, and work hard.
This is such an important one and I know I'm not alone in needing to put certain friendships and relationships in the past. 2018 was a year when i was exposed to some toxic people. I'm glad to have said goodbye to a few friendships that were bringing nothing but negativity into my life, and I don't feel bad for cutting them out. After all, your vibe attracts your tribe. So if someone is bringing bad vibes into my life, it's only going to attract more negativity, and that's something I'm leaving in 2018.
Most importantly, we do not exist to fix other people's problems. We do not exist to heal others. we are all responsible for ourselves. If someone has their own issues that are impacting our happiness and wellbeing, then I'm afraid it's time to say goodbye to that person. If they're not making effort or pulling their weight as a friend, there's no shame in holding your hands up and saying that someone is simply not good for you anymore.
For those feeling a little run-down or overworked and exhaustion has become your middle name. What has really helped me is changing my priorities. For me, a big issue was my long commute and working hours which left me no time for anything else. I hated the wasted time traveling, so I filled it with books and podcasts to make the most of every second. It's so easy to learn with so much information at our fingertips, so why not use travel time or your evenings to boost your brain power?
It gives you such a confidence boost to know you're learning a new skill or language, or you're listening to podcasts on major issues. Since leaving Hamburg, I've rediscovered my love of books, art, music, podcasts, documentaries – I'm using every second to learn and grow. It's amazing the effect reading books and listening to podcasts has on your mental health compared to scrolling through social media. Use your "wasted time" wisely and you can make a huge difference to your well-being.
This one is so important. There's a whole world out there waiting to question and criticize you, so why do it to yourself? It's so easy to forget about that inner monologue you have with yourself, but it's one of the most powerful voices you'll ever hear. If all you do is judge yourself, of course you're going to feel crappy! I'm a strong believer that you need to be your own cheerleader.
I always say you should speak to yourself how your best friend does. Always be supportive, always been a cheerleader and celebrate even the smallest successes. Importantly, just like your true bestie would always do, don't be afraid to straight talk yourself, to put yourself back in your place when you need it. Just watch how your mindset changes when you start turning every negative into a positive.
For some people self-care is long hot baths, candles and a good book. It's taking time for yourself and allowing yourself to relax. For others, it's facing up to home truths, cutting toxic people out of your life and allowing yourself to feel pain so you can move on. Whether your self-care is face masks or starting a difficult healing process, find the one that works for your wellbeing. Find a new set of values and take control of your life.
My self-care process has been allowing myself to take a time out from writing and social media to heal. It has meant investing in myself and my true passions, working towards new goals and dreams. Most importantly, it has meant cutting out all negativity and toxicity. By taking these steps – not all of them easy ones – I'm setting myself up for a year of healing and getting back to happiness.
Staying fit and healthy is always a good goal to have, but so many people do it for aesthetic reasons. Instead of trying to lose weight, why not shift the focus to boosting your mental health and wellbeing? I love to workout but I do it mostly for my mind. I love the rush of endorphins, group classes put smile on my face and yoga is great for soothing my soul.
There are so many different ways to workout and stay fit – make 2019 the year you find the one that suits you. Don't just go to the gym if you're bored of it, why not sign up for classes for the social side, or head out on beach walks with the dog for some fresh air? Why not workout with your bestie and combine catch-ups with a session? There's so much more to fitness than fitting in those Lululemon leggings.
For the goodies from the lovely wellness hamper:
How are you improving your wellbeing this year? What are you doing to invest in yourself?
Change. It's a big word, it can be terrifying but it can also lead us to some of the most transformative times of our lives. Before I get started, let me be clear, this is not one of those New Year New Me posts. Instead, I want this to be an honest life update on why my life has completely changed in the last few weeks and why I want 2019 to be all about chasing happiness.
It seems apt that I'm writing this on the four year anniversary of when I first started my solo traveling journey around the world and one of the happiest times of my life. It's a strange feeling when you're finding inspiration from the person you used to be, but if there's anything I want to aspire towards right now, it's being the real Lucy once again.
I can honestly say, I have never worked as as hard as I have in the last year. Sacrificing travel for a new home and life in a new country, a new job, a new language, the list goes on. It was a year of huge changes and ones that I was really excited to throw myself into. After a few months of saving, I moved to Hamburg and started setting myself up in the new life I had been waiting for. It wasn't easy, but I did it, I didn't just survive, I thrived as best I could. Finding a great job, friends and even amazing blogging opportunities.
My Hamburg adventure has now come to an end, for many reasons. It's a place that I have loved and hated in equal measure, but I will always be proud that I made a life there. There are some times when you have to take a good look around you, and if you're not happy, it's okay to call it a day and make a real change. It doesn't make you a quitter, it doesn't make you weak for not trying. It means you're honest and true to yourself, and what's really in your heart. And at the end of the day, the only person you have to answer to is yourself.
I hadn't realised until the last few weeks, but the last eight months have really changed me as a person. The last eight months have put my mind, and my body, under a lot of stress and that's why in 2019, I want to focus on putting myself first for once. Spending two hours a day commuting to and from work, plus long hours, a real lack of daylight and total exhaustion really took its toll after a while. I pushed my body to its limits, and while I'm amazed at what it has withstood this year and how it has coped and still kept me as a functioning human being, I know that I have been half the person I normally am.
2018 has been a difficult year for my friendships. While I started the year more invested in my friendships than ever, the move made life difficult. It became harder and harder to keep in touch with those at home, and making friends in Germany was much harder than I anticipated. But I did make friends, I have made some amazing friends over the last six months and I am so grateful to them for being a part of my Hamburg life.
As 2018 has come to an end, so have a lot of things in my life and it's become clear that 2019 is a year for change. A change in location, a change in lifestyle, in the people I invest in and where I invest my time. After spending so long putting others first and suffering as a result, I'm long overdue for a shift in focus. So for a start, I'm going off-grid for a while, I'll still be working on the blog and I'll still be online, but I'm taking more time for myself. After such big life changes, it's important to take time to reflect and heal and there's no shame in taking time out to get your head together. I'm setting goals for the year ahead and they involve a lot more focus on spending time with the people who mean the most to me and actually allowing them to look after me for once. Let's hope 2019 brings happiness.
Harsh words, I know, but I've always been the kind of person who prefers honesty no matter how brutal it seems. Not just with friends and family but also with myself – because if you're not honest with yourself, then how can you expect anyone else to be? The other night I finally said the words out loud, the ones that have been playing on my mind for the past six weeks. "I don't blog anymore. I'm failing as a blogger. I'm the worst at blogging that I've ever been." It pained me to say it because I love blogging, I love writing and I always have. I still remember so clearly the first moment I set up this blog and the solace and happiness I have found in it ever since, the successes and struggles. This blog has been with me through so many of the biggest moments of my life from studying and relationships, to careers, travel and more. And so have all of you, the amazing people who read this blog and support me every step of the way. But as much as it pained me to admit it, I have another, even more shocking confession to make.
I can't apologise for taking a step back from blogging because I don't feel sorry that life got in the way. I'm not sorry that I decided to prioritise other things and that actually it was the best decision I could have made. Because sometimes we have to accept that we can't be everything. We can't be superwoman. We can't all be amazing in our careers, our relationships, learn a new language and run a blog and keep a clean house. Eventually something has to give and it's always better we make that decision ourselves rather than have it forced upon us later on. As you guys know, I went on a 3-week road trip around Europe and on my return I started my new job alongside taking on various other roles. It soon became clear that I needed to sacrifice something in order to be able to give 110% in all my other roles.
It would have been easy for me to feel like I was failing as a blogger, failing at life. That not being able to do all the things meant I wasn't as dedicated as I should be – but that wasn't the case. I was just reprioritising which is one of the most valuable things you can do if you care about the quality of your work. It was much more important to me to deliver high quality work in my job, to give my friends my undivided attention, and to really genuinely enjoy my trip without guilt. My blog has always been about having a life and making the most of every second – well, sometimes to do that you have to know when to hold back.
It's easy to forget how much you have already achieved, but 9 months into the year is always a great time to think back. Instead of looking at how I'm failing as a blogger, I should remember that my big goals for this year were to focus on pushing forward in my career. Well, now it's September and I can say how proud I am of myself for such a huge year. 2018 was the year I moved to Germany without speaking the language but still managed to land a job as a content manager working in SEO without any formal training. It was the year I had a home of my own for the first time in nearly 5 years. It was the year I travelled around Europe in a van and scored some of my biggest blogging collaborations yet. And alongside this I managed to make some amazing new friends in a brand new city. To say it's been a pretty amazing year would be an understatement and failing as a blogger is such a small thing in the wake of such success. Sacrificing this blog for a short time has brought so much happiness into my life and I can't apologise for that.
But the great thing about failing as a blogger and getting out there and grabbing life by the you-know-whats is that I've got some pretty great stories and blog posts just waiting to be shared with you all. So I'm back, tap-tap-tapping away at my keyboard and excited to be back sharing my life with you all. So let's start with last weekend when I had the best Sunday soaking up the last of the summer sunshine over a few cheeky cocktails and a Japanese feast. Sporting my fab new sunglasses gifted by Toyshades, a unique London brand who create both classic vintage eyewear styles and contemporary designs. I'm wearing the Rudge 2018 - Matte Tortoise Frame with Rose Amber Pentoptic Lens (£38) which I absolutely love and will be wearing until the very last rays of sunshine have disappeared this winter. After such an amazing summer, I'm really clinging on to those last remaining sunny days and how better to spend them than eating and drinking with your favourite person? We started at beach bar StrandPauli for drinks – one of my fave bars overlooking the river – then headed to Momo Ramen in Sternschanze for the most amazing meal of ramen, sake and gyozo.
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A final note on this post – a reminder that failure isn't always a bad thing. It's okay to be failing as a blogger, at your job, as a friend, as a girlfriend or even as a daughter sometimes. Because you're not super-human – I know I'm definitely not! It's time we stopped expecting everyone to give 110% in every aspect of their life all at the same time. It's okay to say no, it's okay to cut back and it's okay to fail. What's important is what you learn from it – how you grow and change. I'm placing less expectations on myself, I will always work my ass off but I'm going to stop taking on so much and feeling guilty when I have to say no. The rest of 2018 is about finding balance that works for me.
What have been your big successes this year? How have you failed – and what have you learned from it? How do you find balance in your life?
Summer is without doubt my favourite time of year. I was made for long summer days in the sunshine, for sandy toes and sun kissed noses, for salty skin from the ocean and fresh fruits. I felt my happiest when travelling in tropical countries, in the depths of Asia, and I put that down to soaking up endless Vitamin D and bathing in a whole lot of Vitamin SEA. It makes perfect sense that when we are made up of two thirds water, that being close to the ocean should heal us in some way, soothe our souls. Well ever since I was a kid, I was a bona fide water baby, and even now, I miss the ocean now living a few hours from the coast, but that doesn't stop me from making the most of every second of this summer. After arriving back in the UK in time for Christmas and the worst winter I can remember in Europe, with temperatures hitting -10 and even lower, it has really made me appreciate every second of sunshine we are getting now. I'm so happy to see if isn't just Germany that is getting the most amazing weather, the UK actually seems to be getting a heatwave too! So I thought this post was right on schedule – let's talk about all the ways I love to celebrate summer and make the most of every second.
My favourite way to celebrate anything is with food and what better excuse than a sunny day for a good old barbecue? We actually had our first barbecue since Australia this weekend and it was amazing, we went to a gorgeous park in Hamburg and set out our picnic blankets and fired up the BBQ ready for our feast. We've actually gone vegetarian, the pair of us, so this was our first attempt at a fully veggie BBQ and I can confirm it was delicious! I'm a big fan of the veggie burgers and sausages, and love throwing veggies on there too. We've previously done stuffed mushrooms, veggie skewers and baked fish on the barbecue before and all of them have been amazing. I love how creative you can get with what you barbecue and how quick and easy it is to do. We picked up a great little disposable barbecue for a few euros and it was perfect for us, and even better, didn't leave scorch marks on the ground. We don't have anywhere to store a BBQ at the moment, so a disposable works best for us. My top tip for BBQs, take the time to whip up some good sides, perhaps minty potatoes with butter or a fresh salad with quinoa or cous cous and veggies, and don't forget the sauces!
There's nothing quite like getting out on the water and feeling that cool breeze wash over you when it's hot outside, I love being anywhere near water when it's a hot day whether it's the beach, river or even just a swimming pool. In Hamburg, we have the river Elbe right on our doorstep which is great if you fancy a boat trip with ferries crossing from one side to the other and countless harbour boat tours on offer. Back in Australia we would take a friend's boat out on the lake or the ocean for the afternoon, here in Hamburg, I'm happy to hop on a ferry from one side of the river to another, or even to head to the parks where there are some lovely lakes to chill near, such as Planten Und Bloomen. Last week a friend and I caught the ferry from the Elbphilharmonie to Landungsbrücken, just a short ride but it was heaven on a very hot day, saved our legs the walk and was included in our day ticket for the public transport in the city, so great value for money. You can read all about my experience of punting in Cambridge here.
I hold my hands up, I am a total sun worshipper and always love laying outside soaking up the sunshine. I sometimes question whether I was a cat in a previous life, because I have a knack for finding the most sun-soaked spots and lazing in them all afternoon. However, one thing I am always really careful of is sun damage and protection against UVA and UVB rays, I've seen first-hand the worry and the devastation cancer can cause and I don't see any reason to take risks like that. People might be surprised considering my tan, but I always wear factor 30 or even 50, and I am obvious proof that wearing sunscreen does not stop you from tanning. So for all those people wearing factor 5 tanning oil, please stop, and realise the unnecessary risks you are taking. I've been testing out Altruist Dermatologist Sunscreen which has been specially formulated to provide a sunscreen which offers the finest UV protection in a fragrance free and non-sticky cream – great for those of us with sensitive skin. It's such a refreshing change to find a sunscreen which is so budget-friendly and non-greasy, I hate the way they usually make my skin feel so oily and shiny, so Altruist was such a lovely, light cream to wear on your skin.
Best of all, it is budget friendly and puts the focus on the importance of everyone having access to sunscreen. Altruist founder Dr Birnie said: "Cost should never be a factor when deciding whether or not to wear sunscreen, or how much or how often to apply it. Everyone should have a basic right to take the necessary precautions to reduce their risks of developing skin cancer." As someone who spent years travelling Asia and living in Australia in 35 degree heat every day, I know exactly how important wearing sunscreen is to protect your skin, but I also know how expensive sunscreen can be. There have been plenty of times when buying it in both the UK and Australia when I have been shocked to find I'm being charged £15 for one bottle! Those who simply cannot afford to regularly buy sunscreen at these prices now have the option to pick up a spray sunscreen for just £5 for 200mls for both SPF 30 and 50 thanks to Altruist, and for those who prefer a cream, these are available for just £4, with all available exclusively from Amazon.
An absolute favourite of mine and something I'm loving about living in Europe is how popular it is to have restaurants spilling out on to the streets and the pavements filled with diners making the most of every second of summer. These long European evenings are bliss after travelling in Australia and Asia where darkness fell every evening at 6pm, and how better to enjoy this extra time than to take your dinner outside? The boyfriend and I have really discovered a love for hitting the Sternschanze area in Hamburg where every restaurant has a huge outdoor area filled with tables and chairs, even tv screens showing the World Cup and lots of delicious food. It's such a great, festive atmosphere and you can feel the happiness in the air at being able to experience moments like this, together. Can't afford the restaurants? No problem, why not pack up a little picnic and hit the parks or the beaches? My mum and I always used to pack up a lovely dinner and then head to the beach to breathe in the sea breezes and enjoy a relaxed evening. Here, I love that we have parks at either end of our road and so many huge ones in the city, when I was in one the other evening there were loads of people rocking up with their hampers filled with snacks, takeaways from the nearby shops and bottles of bubbly or cans of beer. Join the fun!
Truly English and something I haven't really found in any other country, I love that we Brits have this attitude that as soon as the sun is shining, it calls for a cheeky Pimms and Lemonade in the beer garden. It's always so much fun to get a gang of mates together, or meet up with your bestie for a lovely long evening catch up in the beer garden mid-week. Brits always seem so happy when the sun hits and you can see how the old seasonal affective disorder affects us all the rest of the time, well it's always so lovely to take that friendly, happy attitude outside for a drink in the sunshine. My fave place to hit the beer gardens has to be Cambridge, nearby where I am from, which has the best pubs and beer gardens overlooking the river – especially The Anchor pub which is a personal favourite of mine. Over here in Hamburg, there are lots of great bars with lovely sunshine-filled outdoor spaces to enjoy, but it's not the same as the UK. I do love all the cute little beach bars along the river Elbe though, check out StrandPauli and Dock 3 Beach Club for some lovely river views and tasty cocktails.
For me, summer is all about getting outside and getting active. When I was living in the UK, I would head out for morning and evening runs along the river near my house, or would head out to the beach for a sunset beach walk and picnic. Norfolk is such a fab area for getting outside and making the most of the countryside. When I was in Australia, weekends were filled with camping trips to national parks or the beach, evenings were filled with hikes and trails, I loved the outdoorsy lifestyle that came with the territory. Now, living in Hamburg, I'm filling my evenings with strolls to the parks, walks in the woods or along the river, and even the odd run in the sunshine. I like to use this time to clear my head, to lose the stress of the day and any worries, either listening to a good playlist or just the sounds of birdsong. Its amazing how quickly a good dose of nature will wash all your cares away. Even if you don't live somewhere surrounded by beaches and forest, why not just take a walk to a nearby park or stroll through a neighbourhood you haven't visited before, sometimes just a change of scenery can work wonders.
What are your favourite ways to celebrate summer? How are you making the most of the sunshine?
*This sunscreen was gifted, but my opinions remain my own and I would never share a product with you guys unless I really loved it!
One thing the last few years of travel has really taught me, is the importance of well being. The truth is, when you're travelling solo, there is no-one else to look after you and if you don't learn to take good care of yourself, you're not going to get the most out of every experience. I've really taught myself to slow down a bit over the last year, I've accepted that I don't have to do and achieve everything, that sometimes it's okay to sit back and just appreciate life instead of giving 110% and exhausting myself. I'm still learning, every single day, but I definitely have a better appreciation for what makes me happy both mentally and physically than I did when I was first travelling. What helps me be my best self? Lots of exercise, tasty, healthy food, a wide open horizon and lots of time spent outdoors. I've realised that being online is my job and to a certain extent, is a hobby, but that I can't let it dominate in any way because it really does impact on my mental health.One thing that has really helped me to stay balanced over the years is gifting myself time. We're always so busy rushing around trying to do everything in our careers, relationships and in our free time, but sometimes we just need to give ourselves time to breathe. I was so guilty of never giving myself time to just be still, and I still am, but I'm trying my best to improve. And so, when an opportunity came up to review an Inner Peace Retreat with Psychologies Magazine, I jumped at the chance to spend a day deep in the countryside and really getting to know myself. Taking place at West Lexham Manor, near Norwich, the retreat offered a weekend spent focusing on psychology, mindfulness, creativity, meditation and movement set against the backdrop of the stunning grounds. What more could a girl want?Driving up to West Lexham Manor through frozen fields and breathing in the crisp morning air, I instantly felt refreshed and ready for restoration of my mind, body and soul. The stunning grounds were the perfect place for that and I couldn't wait to explore more later on. On arrival, the organisers gave a warm welcome and ushered us into morning tai chi in the beautifully restored barn which has been purposefully created for group events and weddings. With sunshine beaming through the windows and birdsong in the background, we started the day by warming up our aching bodies and minds led by neuroscientist Dr Tamara Russell, who was definitely one of the most memorable characters from the weekend. After the session, we went for breakfast in the sun-drenched hall, and it was clear to see the emphasis on well being from the delicious, healthy meal of locally sourced ingredients that awaited us.We were back in with Dr Tamara for our first session of the day, Practical Models for Exploring Body and Mind, which was a fascinating insight into neuroscience and psychology, but with a real life context that made it easily accessible for anyone new to the topic. Tamara used various exercises to look at the way we relate to ourselves and how that affects us in our daily life when we make decisions or react to situations. After studying a bit of neuroscience and psychology at university, I've always been fascinated by models like these and how they can be used to understand why we are the way we are. We all found this workshop so interesting and helpful that it actually ran over into the break and later I could hear many of those attending the retreat continuing the discussion over lunch.Later on we had another workshop, this time with Suzy Greaves, editor of Psychologies Magazine, which was one I was really excited for. Being a journalist, I'm always looking to develop my skills in any way I can, so a journaling/writing workshop with Suzy seemed perfect for me. This time we had an opportunity to get outside and breathe in the fresh air and to take in the sights, sounds and smells as we wandered around the grounds. Nature is so soothing, and despite being based in North Norfolk, I find that lately I haven't had a chance to just get outside and appreciate it, something that I'm sure has caused me to feel a bit stressed out. We were told to just write freely, uninterrupted by others and uninterrupted by thoughts of how we should write. I let my hand glide across the page and all of us taking part felt our innermost thoughts and feelings pour out on to the page. I was amazed at what came out, what I'd been holding in and finally just had to explode across the page, pure stream of consciousness.We enjoyed a leisurely lunch - let me tell you the food was just incredible - followed by a chance to explore the grounds with owner Edmund Colville, as he discussed the retreat and the lay-lines around his family home. Later that afternoon, we had our final workshop of the day, which was easily my favourite and really left an incredible impression on me. The 5 Rhythms Movement workshop with meditation teacher Chris Connors forced the group to throw away all inhibitions, stresses and worries, and to really let loose. We're talking 90 minutes of dancing freely as a mass and an individual to various pieces of music, and by the end of the session, everyone was exhausted but liberated, making their way out of the barn with smiles on faces and a new sense of peace. I thought I was pretty relaxed before I walked into that workshop, but I can tell you I felt like a completely different person by the time I walked out of it and I know every single person in that room felt exactly the same. Sadly I had to leave after this workshop and didn't get a chance to chat to the others over dinner, but the whole experience was beyond anything I could have hoped.Whether you need stillness, a chance to slow down or if you are searching for inner peace, these workshops give you a chance to take a time-out in the unspoilt beauty of West Norfolk. If this sounds like something that would be right up your street, there will be many other retreats taking place this year which focus on yoga, mindfulness and body confidence, and another Psychologies Inner Peace Retreat is in the pipeline. Both men and women attended and while some were more interested in the psychology, others were going through some huge life changes, but all felt just as welcome and came away with a genuine sense of inner peace. Find out more and book at www.westlexham.org
*Images provided by West Lexham Manor
Have you been to a retreat? Would you like to attend one? How do you find peace in your daily life?
Last year was a busy one – a lot of travel, a lot of living and a lot of changes. It was an amazing year full of highs and lows, but in the midst of that it was hard to feel settled and to live my best life. I finished the year pretty exhausted from the constant movement, ill as all my adventures caught up with me, and eager to make some big changes for the year ahead. Now don't worry, it may be January but this isn't one of those "New Year, New Me" posts – instead of some health kick, I'm focusing on making some big lifestyle changes that will hopefully bring me happiness in 2018. I'm looking at the long-term rather than some quick fix. What's prompted all this? Well I've been travelling for over three years now and in that time I've done and seen a lot, but now I'm craving some stability and a different way of travelling, and of living my life. So what changes am I making this year?
Now I don't believe in diets, but I do believe in lifestyle changes and improving diet. I am focusing more on what I put in my body and some of the ways I can really feel my best. I remember when I felt healthiest and happiest during the year and it was when I was road tripping Western Australia and was eating purely vegan/vegetarian for months on end. I had endless energy and as soon as I stopped that diet I was exhausted all the time. I'm already eating vegetarian most of the time, but I've been incorporating more vegan food into my diet and it's making me feel great. I'm excited to move into my own place into a few months and then there will be nothing but vegetarian food in my cupboards. I don't do this because I don't like meat – my choice is based on the fact that I feel better when I don't eat meat, and the fact that I just don't think a meat-heavy diet is sustainable without damaging the environment. Likewise, I haven't forbidden myself from eating meat if I do want to, I don't think diet should be about restriction – more about introducing more things that are better for you like my mostly vegetarian diet.
I've already cut out as much dairy as possible from my diet – choosing soy, rice or coconut products instead which has helped my eczema-prone skin no end. I absolutely love the Alpro with Coconut instead of yoghurt, and always switch regular milk for Rice Milk as it's far more sustainable than Almond Milk. My favourite post-gym breakfast at the moment is Lizi's Granola mixed with Alpro and lots of fresh blueberries and raspberries, the granola is absolutely delicious and packed full of protein, fibre and all the goodness you need post-workout, plus its low sugar. Fancy a snack? I'm the worst for picking up the wrong things to snack on, so Soul Food Collective sent me some of what they think I should be filling up on and I'm more than impressed. This entirely fair trade, delicious, natural and organic range is just what you need to keep you going during the day, and oh my goodness they are the perfect snack. My favourites are the Amarena cherries and raspberries coated in dark chocolate and I always make sure I have a packet in my bag to stop me from snacking on the wrong foods. When it comes to dinners, I actually prefer using tofu and Quorn as meat replacements, the more I have eaten them the more my tastebuds have changed and I enjoy the texture of meat less.
I'm so happy to be back in a gym. I signed up as soon as I arrived back in the UK and I'm there most days now to attend classes or hit the gym. After travelling constantly for three months and indulging over Christmas, it feels really nice to be back in a routine and to challenge my body, to feel the aches that means you've pushed yourself further. I have always been a bit of a gym bunny when I get going but travelling makes it hard to keep up a routine when you're never in one place long enough. I love yoga, pilates and running, but I miss the weights, the machines and the challenges of classes when I'm on the road. I don't consider myself out of shape at the moment – my focus is more on getting stronger and building my energy levels. Also, adapting to British weather, I need all the help I can get in staying warm!
I'm focusing on trying to be active every day but in different ways. A couple of days a week I'm attending classes such as body combat (my fave!), yoga, or zumba depending on what my body is craving. On the other days, I'll either head to the gym and do my own HIIT workout or have a weights session. One thing I can tell from this is that I love variety and I get bored if I do the same thing every day, so on the days where I just don't fancy the gym, I like to get outside and either run or do huge walks on the beach or in the woods – perfect for when you need to blow away the cobwebs. Looking for new workout ideas? Why not try your hand at winter sports such as indoor skiing?
Encouraging yourself to get active in January is a lot of work, so it's important to invest in yourself and to get some nice workout clothes that you are excited to put on even when it's cold outside and you want to stay in bed. I have the comfiest workout leggings and sports bra from Australian brand Cotton On Body and they are genuinely the best workout clothes I have ever had plus very budget friendly. I'm lucky to have a sister who works as a personal trainer so I'm always getting her cast-offs when it comes to exercise gear and she recently sent me two (almost new) sets of trainers! It's definitely helped me to get in the right mindset for working out and working hard! This gorgeous sports bag from Hunkemoller Doutzen Sports range has helped the most, I was in need of a new gym bag and this one is fantastic – it's huge and has plenty of space to fit all my workout clothes, shoes and even swimming gear in. Plus the cute floral design helps make it feel really feminine and pretty, just what I need after a sweaty gym session. I'll also be using it as a weekend bag from time to time as it's the perfect size for taking away with me.
As someone who spent much of Christmas/New Year feeling very poorly with the flu, and who spent much of their month in Sri Lanka with food poisoning, it's been a rough time for my body. I've spent a lot of the year working too hard, working long hours, partying too much and not giving myself time to heal. I've been the sickest I've been in a long time and yet I haven't stopped or taken time out, it's a problem when you live a lifestyle like mine. I'm not very good at stepping back and looking after myself, but since being home I am focusing on my health so much more. I'm making sure I exercise daily, that I eat as healthy as possible, that I'm sleeping for long enough and deeply enough. And I feel so much better for it. When I had the flu recently, instead of pushing myself to get out of bed and make myself worse, I wallowed and I allowed myself time to get better. It was frustrating and went against all of my instincts but it worked and I feel so much better now. I'm also making decisions to adjust my diet and lifestyle based on information that has surfaced during a long course of treatment for an ongoing skin condition that is finally being taken seriously. After it being brushed aside all my life by doctors and myself, 2018 is the year of healing.
This can come in so many forms and all of the above can also be included. But in this case I want to focus on how I am putting less pressure on myself, how I am changing my habits and giving myself space to breathe. I'm taking more time for myself lately, more time to do the things that make me feel good like reading a good book, or spending a day in bed watching Disney movies when I'm having a rubbish time. I'm giving myself the time to pamper and treat my body well, to indulge and invest in myself by actually taking the time to appreciate myself. Lately I've really been trying to focus on appreciating the people around me, telling them what they mean to me and making the effort to get in contact with friends I haven't spoken to for a while. Caring for my support network is in turn caring for myself – you get out of it what you put in. Most importantly, I'm making plans for the future, that for the first time in a long time actually revolve around staying put and settling for a while. Last year was one for moving constantly and pushing myself, this year I want to focus on what makes me really happy and that is being closer to friends and family, having more of a base that can become my home, exploring different ways of fulfilling my travel needs and letting my relationship grow.
I'm a self-confessed workaholic. When I have a job, it tends to take over everything and even during the times when I don't and I'm travelling, I end up giving all my time to this blog like when I spent ages redesigning the whole thing from scratch while I was in Australia. For so long I've been taking jobs for convenience and money due to travelling, rather than focusing on my skills, interest and qualifications. Now my brain hurts from lack of use and I'm craving the chance of having job where I finally get to use all three – I'm in the process of applying for jobs and for the first time in a long time I'm focusing on quality. This year is the year where I develop my skills and really use my brain instead of running myself into the ground for a job I don't believe in.
What changes are you making this year? Are you focusing more on your health, your relationships or your career?
I wanted to take the time to write a post this Christmas about what I'm grateful for - there are so many things this year and after a rocky start to the year, I feel very lucky to be ending it this way. The last six months have been a total whirlwind in every aspect of my life, a lot has changed and I'm really happy that it has, but remembering how my life was before that really makes me appreciate every second of how it is now. Now I'm home for my first Christmas with the family in three years and despite it putting travel plans on hold, I couldn't be happier to be home. Sometimes you just need to spend a little time resting and catching up with the people who have always known you, not just spending time with those fleeting travelling friends. This last year, and especially the last six months has been filled with constant travel and it's about time I just took the time to sit, reflect and enjoy where I am. To reassess and make plans for the future before I make my next move, and to take some time off for once! So in this whirlwind year filled with highs and lows, with old friends who have come back into my life, and the new should who have passed through, what am I grateful for?
Once again, travel has given me one of the best years of my life and I couldn't feel more lucky to have experienced the places and people I have met along the way. I feel very privileged to be able to live this nomadic life and to be able to find happiness in it, and I really do appreciate every moment. This year I had the amazing opportunity to explore parts of Australia that have been on my bucket list for years - getting to road trip around Tasmania and all the way up the West Coast - an epic 4,000km trip. Drawing my two year working holiday visa to a close, I feel so happy to have made the most of my time in this amazing country and I left with a smile on my face and a lot of new friends close to my heart. Next up was a fleeting visit to Kuala Lumpur to set off a trip around Asia, before delving into the deaths of Sri Lanka for a month. Travelling the length and breadth of the country, I grabbed every opportunity to soak up the culture, the beauty and whatever adventures came my way. I completely fell in love with the people and the places we visited along the way and was sad to leave. But not quite ready to come home, a few weeks in the sunshine in Thailand was just what the doctor ordered and it was fantastic to return to the place where my travels began three years on - Thailand has changed so much and yet retains that familiarity it will always hold for me.
As I have mentioned, I am so happy to be home for Christmas, it really does mean the world to spend the festive period at home with my closest family and friends after so long away. So much has changed at home with friends getting new jobs, moving away, starting new relationships or even getting married, and one of my best friends in the world is now pregnant - there is so much to celebrate and I'm happy to be home to share in it all with them. But while I'm happy to be at home with the people who have known me from the beginning, I'm also so grateful to the friends and the families I've forged on all sides of the world. To the Melbourne family who absolutely made my experience there, who welcomed me with open arms time and time again, who were always there with endless laughs, a sofa to sleep on and were always ready to make more amazing memories together. I will be forever grateful to you, you made Melbourne home for me.
To Jack and Paul, who have proven again and again and again what amazing friends they are, I will be forever grateful to have met you back in Asia, little did we realise back then that we would be mates for life. The two of you have gone out of your way to fly cross country, and even across the world to visit me, and I was glad to repay with a visit this year. The pair of you will always be people I know I can count on. And of course, I cannot forget my West Coast crew - the beautiful souls I met down in Fremantle who filled my life with much-needed laughter and fun. The reunions with old friends along the way were a keen reminder that travelling friends aren't always temporary and you can have such a huge impact on the lives of others without even realising. And of course, my amazing group that I road tripped the West Coast with - all such different characters brought together by a love of travel and adventure. Every moment of that trip surpassed my expectations and I'm so grateful to have shared it with this motley crew - it will remain one of my best Australian memories.
One of the changes I am most grateful for this year. After spending three years on my own after the break up of my nine-year relationship, there were a lot of points where I thought I might be alone for good if I maintained this travelling lifestyle. I didn't mind, I actually preferred that to being constantly let down, so I focused on myself and all the things I wanted to do. No-one can say I didn't live life to the fullest and I guess it was only when I forgot to put up my guard because I was having too much fun, that I met someone special. It's an amazing feeling to meet someone as passionate about travelling as you are, and since getting together we've travelled half of Australia living in a car together. We've also spent a month backpacking Sri Lanka and a few weeks in Thailand. We're now on six countries together and when he comes over to visit next week, it will be our seventh. I don't know what the future holds, but for now I'm enjoying every second and I'm just grateful that the world saw fit to send someone like him into my life.
This year has been incredible for blogging and writing opportunities despite me taking more time off from the blog than ever before. I have worked with some amazing companies all over the world and have had the chance to live some of my wildest dreams such as a hot air balloon ride and safaris surrounded by wild leopards and elephants. I've stayed in some truly incredible accommodations from being the first blogger to visit the first gay-friendly luxury resort in Sri Lanka, to staying on the other side of the fence to a national park in luxury safari camping, and even sleeping in tree houses! Finishing the trip in a truly incredible 5* luxury resort in Thailand was an absolute highlight and the perfect way to end the holiday. I feel so grateful for these amazing opportunities, but I also feel grateful to my parents for instilling this work ethic into me, without being proactive, determined and hardworking, none of these opportunities would have happened.
Unless you're one of the people who have met me in person over the last 18 months, you won't know how bad my skin has been. Last May, I flew to the UK and on my flight the air hostesses sprayed a pesticide chemical inside the plane to kill any stray bugs. I instantly had the worst allergic reaction of my life, my eyes and face swelling up, my skin breaking out into open wounds on my arms. It was horrific. I should have claimed compensation, I should have followed it up but when I got home, I got the flu and was bedridden for weeks. When I finally turned a corner, all I wanted was to get out and have a life again, to forget it all, but I was left with huge scars on my arms and white patches where my skin had healed. Over the next year, these white patches spread to cover more and more of my arms and even my chest, back and face. I went to multiple doctors in the UK and Australia but no-one could tell me what it was, no-one could help me. The more sun I got and the more the rest of my skin tanned, the more noticeable the white patches were, it was always there and I couldn't hide it.
Complete strangers would come up to me at work and start talking to me about it on a daily basis, or they would make jokey comments about it. They hurt, it was horrible have to laugh and brush them off like they didn't affect me or I didn't hear them all day, every day. Everyone thought they were a dermatologist, everyone thought they knew the answer, the cure for my problems. They meant well, but I was sick of hearing it, sick of my skin always being the topic of conversation when it had nothing to do with these people. I've always suffered from eczema and skin allergies, but I never realised until this point how utterly debilitating it is to have such a noticeable skin problem. How you're constantly aware of the eyes glancing over your arms and lingering as they wonder what the hell is wrong with you, how you take photos with friends and then can't bear to look at them because all you can see is the patches. Without realising, it really does take over every aspect of your life, no matter how much you try and put on a brave face and how much you pretend it doesn't bother you.
So now I can tell you why being the sickest I've been since travelling while I was in Sri Lanka, was the best thing that could have happened to me. I went to the doctors because medicine wasn't helping my upset stomach and was given some homeopathic remedies that solved all my problems within an hour. But even better, the doctor, who spoke very good English and had previously worked in the UK, was a dermatologist and recognised immediately what the problem was with my skin. He recognised the infection and knew exactly how to get rid of it, he promised me he could prescribe homeopathic treatment - a mixture of pills and creams - that would see a noticeable difference within two weeks and if I kept it up for a few months the patches would be unnoticeable, and the pain and discomfort I suffered would go away. The words I had been desperate to hear for so long, and least expected to ever hear come from the mouth of a doctor after being let down by so many. I started the treatment - still very sceptical of whether it would work but praying it would - and within two weeks the patches were already significantly better. Now two months on, most of them are barely noticeable and the rest get better every single day. The patches on my face are gone, my arms are mostly better and my chest and back are back to normal. I can't tell you how grateful I am that the treatment worked, and that fate brought me to that doctor out of the various other medical centres on the street.
I feel very lucky the way this year has turned out, the way I feel now couldn't be more different to how I was at the beginning of the year. I've grown, I've changed and it's all because of the amazing experiences I've had and the people I've met along the way. I'm very excited about what the next year holds for me and I can't wait to share every moment with you guys. Thanks for being there every step of the way and I hope you all have a lovely Christmas.
That's a really sad sentence isn't it? It's amazing how much our appearance really does affect the way we feel about ourselves, and how easily it can be damaged without us even realising. I wrote a post a few weeks ago about finding balance in your own life as you get older - read it here. And, well, I've got to tell you guys that I'm failing at the moment, big time. I've just finished working over 40 hours in just four days and I'm beyond exhausted, I haven't been eating enough and I've barely had time to sleep let alone relax. It would be okay if this was a one-off, but to be honest these last few weeks it has become more and more common. I'm working too much, I'm too desperate to save money and plan for the next exciting adventure to think about my health and it's not good for me.
My days are spent biking to work in 35 degree heat, rushing around for 10+ hour shifts until I'm almost dizzy for not eating enough or waiting eight hours for my next meal. Then I bike home to collapse into bed for a few hours, getting to spend a precious five minutes with my boyfriend, and then I get up and do it all again. I'm a sweaty mess most of the time, I pile on the make-up to cover the bags under my eyes and pull on the same manky uniform I've been wearing for days on end. Travelling isn't always as glamorous as you think, is it? Don't get me wrong, I don't mind this life - it takes it's toll and I'm terminally exhausted at the moment but I know it will be worth it when in three weeks I go travelling again and get to spend all my time relaxing, enjoying and appreciating my relationship.
But in the meantime, it really hit me lately that I barely remember the last time I made an effort, or when I honestly felt glowing and happy and healthy. It was weeks ago, when I was off exploring a national park and spent my days hiking, swimming and eating healthily. I wore no make-up and lived in my bikini, and I was confident and happy, really happy. Before that, I remember the West Coast road trip, when I was living off nuts and avocados, when my body was strong and fit from exercise and fresh air. I was always smiling and full of energy because I rose with the sun and went to sleep under the stars. I miss that life. Back then it took nothing to make me feel beautiful but now, living in the city and not getting the chance to make an effort, or dress up or feel pretty, it takes its toll.
It's interesting how physical health and mental health play such a big part in our understanding of beauty. At the moment I'm mentally and physically exhausted, I'm run down and don't have time to look after myself, and I'm finding it hard to feel positive about my own body image. It's silly, because my body is the healthiest and strongest it has been in a long time from being outside and working out at the gym. I know deep down I'm happy with the way I look, but exhaustion can have a big effect on the mind and when you don't appreciate yourself, you often end up making it impossible for others to appreciate you. You don't realise until you've been sucked into that pattern of behaviour of not taking the time to look after yourself and then feeling down because you look and feel rubbish. It's so easily avoided, if only you can notice the signs before it is too late to prevent it - and sadly, that's what I'm always rubbish at.
We may be on different sides of the world, but I'm sure you can all relate to feeling like all you do is work. Feeling like life is getting on top of you and it's just not fun any more. You don't get time to look after yourself, then before you know it you're exhausted and run down, your attitude towards yourself is less than forgiving and you don't know how to get out of the hole that you've dug for yourself. It's a slippery slope - but I don't want this to be a post about feeling down and not loving yourself enough. I want to talk about how to fix things and how to change your attitude towards yourself.
It's not easy, but you start with the basics. Are you eating and drinking enough? When was the last time you had a good night's sleep? Are you getting sick, or have you lost/gained too much weight? Are you stressed out from work or life? Ask yourself all these questions and figure out what your pattern is so you can identify it earlier next time. I know that every time I end up overworked, I find I'm not eating enough which affects my weight, my sleeping patterns and stress levels - more often than not I get sick as a result. Other people overeat to deal with stress, or indulge too much in coffee to keep them going which messes up their sleep pattern even more. It's important to identify your own individual pattern of behaviour so you can break it and notice it earlier next time you do this.
Why are you letting yourself get in this state? Do you have an unachievable goal looming in front of you? Or are you unhappy with something else in your life so you're throwing yourself into work to escape? Whatever the answer, you need to tackle the problem - remove the obstacles from your life and everything will slot happily back into place.
You might not be able to escape the workload or the job, you might not be able to get out of the stressful situation, but you can change how you react to it and how much you let it affect you. Take charge and focus on boosting your body image and positivity, give yourself time to appreciate what you have. Pamper yourself - paint your nails or dye your hair, have a long bath and do your make-up how you like it, then pop on an outfit that makes you feel fabulous and go out. You could try one of these gorgeous party outfits from SimplyBe for the festive season. Whether it's out for cocktails or just to the supermarket, just know that you look and feel amazing, then hold on to that feeling and remember it when you're next working and feeling run down.
After three much-needed days off spent relaxing at the beach, sleeping in and eating properly, I'm feeling so much better. Still not 100%, I don't think I'll feel that until I quit this job and start travelling again, but I'm definitely on my way. Sometimes all we need is to look after ourselves a bit.
What makes you feel body positive? Have you got any tips for dealing with body issues and exhaustion?
There's no denying the last few years of my life have been all about excess. I've been throwing myself in 100% to grabbing life by the balls, to traveling solo and to having the experience of a lifetime. But there comes a time when that becomes exhausting to maintain 24/7. I'm not ashamed to admit my life has changed a LOT in the last three years of traveling, and particularly during my second year in Australia – I've changed. My priorities are different and my goals are taking me in a different direction, and that's okay.
It's been two years since I first arrived in Darwin, and don't get me wrong, I still love it up here but this time I'm doing things very differently to the last time I was living up here. My last Darwin experience was full of wild parties, traveler friends, hostel life and raving until dawn. I loved every second, I really did. It was one of my best traveling experiences with some of the most amazing friends, and it was exactly what I needed at that moment in my life. But this time in Darwin, I feel like I've purposefully done everything the total opposite to not end up ruining good memories - I started working at a different bar, got out of the hostel and moved into a house, stopped partying as much to save money and have been trying to live pretty healthily. I feel like a completely different person to the girl who arrived here two years ago, so it feels strange to come back and find Darwin as unchanged as ever, totally familiar and yet completely different.
I have just two months left on my Australian visa and I'm very aware of the clock ticking down - I'm trying to use my time wisely around working to make sure I see anything I've missed because I probably won't be back in Australia for a long time. For me, that isn't partying with the same old crowd, it's seeing the national parks and the parts of the Northern Territory I missed previously. I'm also trying to work as much as possible while I'm still on a good Australian wage with plenty of dollars rolling in so I can save for my next trip.
For the first time in a long time, I actually have a home that feels like a home. I moved into a house with my boyfriend - yes, that's right, I have a boyfriend - and we're really happy with our amazing new home that even comes with a dog! After moving around so much over the last six months and feeling as though my life was very temporary, it's nice to have somewhere, and someone, you can't wait to go home to at the end of the day.
After spending months hiking, climbing and exploring the coast of Western Australia and living off the healthiest food - I'm full of energy and was excited to get back in the gym. I feel like my body is stronger and fitter than ever, my skin feels great and I'm enjoying eating healthily thanks to my lovely kitchen. Because of all this, it hits me 10x worse when I'm hungover or feel rubbish for drinking. I'm still drinking and going out, but I'm drinking less and trying to reduce how often I go out partying, instead preferring to make the most of my days.
I've been spending a lot of my time working on this blog and after several months away and even more out of the blogging loop, it's been nice to spend time working on my true passion. I've been redesigning my blog, working with new brands and creating a whole series of amazing new content. It's felt great to dive back into it and right now that is what I want to dedicate my energies towards. I've also been thinking about my next career move - it's been fun working hospitality and various other jobs over in Australia but I miss my work as a journalist and writer.
Perhaps it's me getting older, perhaps I'm past this stage in my life, or perhaps it's just a phase - after all, I can still party as hard as the rest when I want to. I think I've just found there is so much more to life than getting shit-faced every night with the same crowd of people. There's sleeping under the stars, watching the sun rise and set with the one you love, there's throwing yourself into your passion and seeing the satisfaction of your own success. There are workouts where you aren't hungover and saving money towards a goal that will be a lot more epic than any night out you've already lived 100 times over. Now I don't know if you can identify with any of what I'm saying here, or whether I'm just warbling on, but if you find yourself nodding along with what I'm saying, this next section is for you.
Don't be so hard on yourself if it doesn't work out in your career or relationship - we all have these moments when things don't pan out as we expected and it throws us off course. But the important thing to remember is each failure teaches us and makes us stronger for our next attempt. If the path was easy, reaching the end wouldn't be worth it.
How do you find balance in your life? Have you changed as you've hit your late-twenties? Do you find it difficult to balance your career, relationship and having fun?
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 been over three months since my last post on Absolutely Lucy, the longest break I have ever had from blogging. I needed it, I needed time to live and grow and experience away from the screen. Three months ago I was really struggling, I let myself become overworked and exhausted, I was feeling pretty low about a few things and was starting to question everything. I kept trying to force myself to write but it just wasn't working. I couldn't find my flow. So I made an unconscious decision to take a big step back. I quit my job, made travel plans and decided to take some time for myself. Since we last spoke, I have traveled thousands of kilometers by car across Australia with the most unexpected bunch of people, I have explored so much of the country that has been my home for nearly two years and I've experienced a dream trip come true. I've lived out of a car, walked barefoot through national parks, bathed in icy cold waterfalls and swam with the most incredible deep-sea creatures. I've hiked and climbed, I've laughed and sang. This road trip truly was the one I've been waiting a lifetime for, but more about that at a later date.
Taking this trip without any pressure on myself to document, write or photograph every moment was just what I needed - I did it because I loved it, not to write or force myself to create. Instead of the posed photographs, I have a memory card full of candids of laughing faces and make-up free smiles - it's full of soul and that is more precious than anything. It's so easy for me to forget that although I run this blog as a hobby and a passion, I also treat it like a business and work just as hard at it - if not harder - than I do in my job. Travel blogging, or blogging generally, is much harder than you all think. So often I will work a full 9-11 hours, spending my breaks at the gym or running errands, then I'll head home and spend several hours writing and curating the pieces you read. It's hard work and so often I will let that get the better of me and push me into exhaustion - it's silly I know, but I'll never be one of those girls who settles.I have so much to catch you all up on, but for now I want to focus on this blog makeover. I have spent the last few weeks coding and building a brand new website that I feel reflects the newer, more grown up, Absolutely Lucy. You see, I started this blog over three years ago and a lot has changed in that time - my whole life in fact. My relationships with friends, family and loved ones, my career choices, my lifestyle and travel plans, they couldn't be more different. When you first met Absolutely Lucy, I was a 24-year-old girl who had just come out of a nine-year relationship and was on the brink of quitting my job in journalism to travel the world. Now, almost four years later, I'm a 27-year-old woman who has been traveling solo for three years across Asia, Australia and Europe, has set up an online business single-handedly, and who has completely fallen for someone amazing who has made her question whether solo travel is for her anymore. That's a pretty big life change in just four years and while I still have the spirit of the old Absolutely Lucy hidden inside - the girl who just wants to live life to the fullest and experience all the world has to offer - I also have a whole new view on the world.
We all change and grow as we learn more about ourselves and the world around us, so this blog should be no different. Since I started blogging for fun, I have won awards, been commended and mentioned in magazines and online articles, and more recently have worked with some amazing companies including Emirates, Thompson and Durex. This blog should reflect how Absolutely Lucy has grown since that very first blog post and how the writer behind the blog is changing as the years go by. This will still always be the blog for first time or inexperienced travelers seeking an adventure beyond their wildest dreams. I plan travel for every budget and time-scale from weekends away, to festivals and longer holidays, to gap years. Nothing is outside your reach, just as I have achieved so many amazing experiences - so can you, with my help. As the clock ticks down on my final months in Australia and my Eastern adventure comes to an end, it seems right to reinvent Absolutely Lucy to fit with her future plans.
To everyone who has been messaging me to ask where I've disappeared to, it's lovely to have been missed. Absolutely Lucy is back in business and I can't wait to share my West Coast adventure, and future travel plans, with you all.
Let me know what you think of my blog makeover - what do you love about the new look?
It's my birthday tomorrow. I've celebrated a lot of birthdays with friends lately and while some have been ecstatic start the year ahead, others have approached their milestone with trepidation and dread of getting older. It's different for everyone and so many can't stand the thought of getting older, of creeping closer and closer to the big 3-0. I've never understood this, I love celebrating my birthday and being with all my friends and family, I love celebrating all I have achieved in the previous years and getting excited for all that is yet to come. This one feels like a particularly special birthday because not only does it mark two-and-a-half years travelling solo but after being ill for my birthday last year it feels like it should be a double celebration!
These past three years have quite seriously been the best years of my life - you know when you're 18-21 and everyone says make the most of every second because these are your best years? Well I couldn't disagree more. Yes, 18-21 was a lot of fun and I will never forget those years, but if you ask me, my years just get better with age. My priorities are different, I'm capable and know exactly what I want out of life. I have disposable income and complete financial independence, I have goals, I have a business I have created out of nothing. Much as those years were special in their own way, I was only just starting to become the person I am now, but if you ask me, it was the events that happened in my mid-twenties that really turned me into the woman I am today.So many people fear getting older but if you ask me, we just get better, wiser, more creative, interesting and vibrant as individuals as we grow and change. Sometimes when travelling I go through phases where I'll be spending a lot of time with younger first-time travellers and I will feel the difference in our ages. But instead of feeling like the old gal who should have settled down by now, instead I feel like celebrating because I have so much more freedom than these travellers. I have finished my studies, I've set up an online business that will support my travels around the world, I have no-one to tell me what to do and I am in control of my own life. I am a traveller who has seen over 30 countries in my life and I have no plans to stop just yet - while this life may not be forever, it is for now and I'm a very lucky girl to have taken it on in the way I have.
So while I will be spending this weekend celebrating with the amazing friends I have made at my hostel in Perth, thousands of miles away from home where I spent my last birthday, my heart will be with all the amazing people whose support has helped get me to this point of my life. I couldn't have done it without any of you. But in true Absolutely Lucy style, I'll be drunk as a skunk at a bush rave somewhere this weekend before setting off on my outback adventure up the West Coast next week. A pretty perfect way to celebrate if you ask me - I may be getting on a bit but I'll always be a party girl at heart so it seems only right to enjoy the day before setting out on the trip of a lifetime.