I'm obsessed with outdoor spaces. I don't know if I was an escape artist in a previous life, but I always have this urge to just throw all the windows wide open and feel the fresh air on my face. Perhaps it's the traveller in me who just loves the endless possibilities of the world outside. But I've found that bringing that outdoor world into my everyday life help keep a little of the magic of travelling alive. Anywhere I go, I love finding special places that combine the beauty of outside with our inside lives. Whether that means exploring beautiful greenhouses filled with exotic plants and getting lost in a butterfly house. Or even just bringing plants into your home – there are so many ways to keep this magic alive.
On one of my very first visits to Hamburg, I remember going inside the gorgeous greenhouses at Planten Un Blomen and discovering the amazing tropical plants. The cacti and succulents in particular caught my eye. I even remember saying to the boyfriend that when we had our own apartment, we should fill it with plants like these. I loved the idea of bringing lots of plants inside, of them filling our home with oxygen, with life, and their soothing qualities. When we moved into our apartment, sadly we don't have a garden or balcony, but we made do with our window ledges. We filled these with a mixture of plants, including my favourite Aloe Vera, which has made the place feel so much more homely. It can so easily be forgotten, but the personal touches you add to your home are just as important as the furniture. We couldn't have outdoor spaces, so we brought the outdoors indoors.
When we were in Vienna, we visited the most beautiful indoor "outdoor space" and were left in awe of this incredible, tropical space. Schmetterling Haus is right in the heart of Vienna and just metres from the Opera House. This unique attraction is well worth a visit when you head to the city, the palm-filled building alone is the most Instagrammable sight. And don't get me started on the graceful creatures which fill the air with vivid colours of the rainbow. With over 400 live butterflies to view all year round, it makes a great visit no matter what time of year. As you can see, we took these images while visiting, and had a lot of fun trying to capture the butterflies on camera. (I will clarify that we didn't seek to touch any of the butterflies, they landed on us curiously and we stayed as still as possible so not to disturb them)
If you’re someone who loves to add a personal touch to your home, creating your own unique planters is the perfect project for you. Replace those basic terracotta pots with some beautiful planters that will enhance and brighten up your garden. Put your own personal stamp on your garden and create something that no-one else will have. This is a great way to make the interiors of your home special to you, and to create exactly the look YOU want.
The easiest and cheapest DIY planter to create is one from the plain pots that you can get from the local garden centre. Pick up a few of these pots for the garden, the herbs growing in the kitchen or plants in the conservatory. Using some paint, you can get to work on transforming your plain plant pots into colourful planters that will stand out on any window ledge or outdoor step. Cover the pot itself in a durable base coat, then you can get to work on transforming your pots and making them your own. You can find a great selection of plant pots here, providing you with plenty to get your project started!
Over the last year or so, there has been a huge demand for Mason jars – quirky glass jars that add character and style to any space. I have a friend who makes these for weddings, designing them individually with candles, flowers and beautiful decorations. From storing the spices in your kitchen, to planting your favourite flowers, you can use the Mason jars for any kind of storage. By gathering half a dozen Mason jars and positioning them in a line, you can fill them with your favourite seeds and some soil. You can either display your mason jars side by side on the ground, or in amongst your flower bed. Or you could hang them with some durable string to add a little extra character to your garden and add solar fairy lights to make your garden extra magical.
Do something wonderful for the environment and start recycling your used tins and cans, by turning them into planters for your outdoor spaces. Once you’ve finished with your baked beans can or your tomato soup tin, remove the label from the outside and ensure there are no sharp edges that could cause any harm. Once you’ve got your clean metal can or tin, you can get really creative. Whether you choose to glue some string around the tops of the cans to add a little extra detail, or paint some pretty patterns on the sides, you can create a cute little planter that will hold your plants beautifully, whilst recycling used items at the same time.
One way that seems so beautifully British, is to make use of your old wellies to create a unique planter for your garden. This may sound like a crazy idea, but there’s something adorable about having a pair of wellies stuffed to the brim with a bold flower display. Fill your wellington boots with soil and plant your favourite flowers in the top. This will look great positioned on your doorstep, by the pond or even just in the corner of your garden. The quirkier the pattern the better!
Hopefully this post has left you feeling inspired to create your perfect outdoor space, whether you have a garden or simply make do with a window ledge. Get creative and use what space you have to create a home and garden you love to come home to. Are you a traveller stuck in one place for a while? Nothing will make it easier like creating a place you love to spend time in – capture the magic of your travels in your outdoor spaces.
Have you found a way to bring outdoor spaces into your home? Would you prefer a balcony or a garden? What other ways can you think of creating planters for your home?
On Friday, I sat back at my old desk, in my old office, back doing the job I was doing before my whole adventure began. For a split second I could have easily been fooled into thinking the last 18 months never actually happened, that it was just my overactive imagination daydreaming about abseiling down waterfalls, sunset romances and sandy beaches. I wasn't sure whether it was a good idea for me to return to my old job when I headed back to the UK - sure it was convenient and in my actual industry. But it could also have been so easy to slide back into the rut I was in before I left - that painful, stressful and lonely place I was in. It wasn't all down to the job, but a lot had changed in my office and combined with the break-up of my nine-year relationship, life became pretty miserable. I found myself at my lowest point, but even when I was frantically climbing the walls in an attempt to stop from being buried under the remnants of my old life, I still couldn't see the light at the end of the tunnel. It was only when I hit breaking point that I could finally see a way out, losing so much so quick helped make things seem incredibly clear - it was time to go.
So after such an abrupt decision to leave in such a rocky state of mind, you can imagine how strange it felt to be back among the stacks of newspapers after two years away. But sitting back at that computer, I couldn't have felt any more different to how I did two years ago, it was like my whole perspective had shifted. Back then I was a workaholic who was driving herself into the ground working five jobs and stressing about giving 110% to each, now I've realised how that goes and it doesn't end well. This time I'm in control of the situation, I'm working the hours that I want to work and working freelance means not taking on a ridiculous workload that will leave me overwhelmed. I'm not going to lie, I'm still a workaholic and get called that all the time by friends and family, but I like to think I've learnt my limits. It was so refreshing to be able to work in the office and feel happy, to truly enjoy journalism and the construction of a story instead of worrying about covering 100 stories at once. Just like it was refreshing to come back to this town without stressing over a relationship that had run its course. I'm back to basics now, just focusing on me and doing the job I loved - just the way it should be.Travelling is incredible in so many ways, but what is really invaluable is what it leaves you with days, months or even years after you have stepped off the plane. Perspective, knowledge and an understanding of the way you want to live your life - not the way anyone else thinks you should be living it. I came back with all three of these and it made me determined that I would not get caught up in work while I was back, it is important for me to earn money for my trip around Europe and my return to Australia, but it is more important for me to enjoy my time here and to make the most of the opportunity to see all the people I have missed so much over the last 18 months. It can be so hard to come home after travelling - I had read about it so many times and spoken to friends just after their return, but you never understand unless you experience it. I now understand the struggle, the heartbreak that comes with leaving so many memories and amazing people behind you, the pangs when you've left a piece of your heart on the other side of the planet. The difficulty in adjusting to the life you left behind, to the friends, the family who have moved on and yet stay entirely the same, unchanged. That moment when you step back into your time capsule of a bedroom to be met by the unblinking eyes of the past staring down at you from the photos on your wall.
It's not easy to fit into a life that has moved on without you and yet stays strangely, and even irritatingly, familiar. But we do it because deep down, this is home. It doesn't matter how far we travel or how many amazing things we see, a part of us is always here in this funny little town filled with charity shops and old age pensioners. I didn't have to come back, I came back because I wanted to and because I missed my family, my friends and my home. So many can mistake travellers coming home and finding it difficult to readjust for them not actually not wanting to be here, that's not it at all, it's just a culture shock and we need time to adjust. That first intense burst of excitement of seeing everyone can soon fade as reality hits and between job-hunting and bad weather it can soon feel like a bit of an anti-climax to be here. For me, I feel like I never even had a chance to really enjoy that first moment of seeing everyone again because I was ill for the first two weeks of being home and couldn't really make the most of it, only now am I starting to feel a bit more settled.But what needs to be understood by the traveller returning home is that it is okay not to feel at home in the place that you once couldn't imagine a life outside of. It's okay to always feel a sense that you shouldn't be here, that you no longer belong here. It's called growth, it means you've changed and grown as a person in your time away and it just means that you take up a little bit more space in the world, perhaps this town you once called home can no longer contain the person you have become. Likewise, what needs to be understood by those welcoming home the traveller is that this is no longer the person you waved off at the airport - they still look the same and share all those amazing memories with you. But something deeper has shifted, something stronger than personality or opinion, their very core has been shaken by all that they have seen and experienced. So don't put it down to them being a wanky traveller who can't stop talking about their gap year, perhaps it's more than that. Perhaps it's more that their whole world has changed and if that's not something to talk about and share with the people who mean the most to you, I don't know what is.
How did you find returning home from travelling? How did travelling affect you? Did you struggle to settle back in at home?
I wasn't very excited for my birthday. Now if you know me well, you'd know that's pretty odd for me, I'm the sort of girl who likes to celebrate her birthday by going big with all the people I love, I'm the sort of girl who likes to stretch out her birthday for weeks and even months. So for me to not be excited for my birthday, that was a bit strange. My birthday fell a week after I was due to arrive back in the UK after 18 months of travelling the globe - a year ago I was celebrating in Melbourne with good friends and without knowing, in the place I would come to love the most in Australia. I had a birthday/leaving party in Melbourne the weekend before I flew which was amazing - everyone dressed up in shit shirts and celebrated with me in my flat in Melbourne - two incredible friends I met in Asia even flew over from Adelaide especially for the party. I couldn't have been more touched by the amazing turnout and the effort people went to, it really showed me what incredible friends I have found since travelling, and especially in Melbourne. So returning home and leaving that all behind has been hard, I'm not great with goodbyes and it kind of put a damper on my excitement for celebrating.For the first time in my life, I woke up feeling completely unexcited about my birthday. Not a feeling I'm used to, but I think the fact that it was supposed to be a day of celebration really highlighted that some people who really mean the most to me were on the other side of the globe and wouldn't be here to share the day with me. It's one of the hard parts of coming home from travelling, suddenly you feel a world away from the people who have been your entire world for the last few months. But I'm not a girl to sit around feeling sorry for myself, so instead I got up and made a delicious batch of fluffy pancakes. Then the messages started rolling in, and the phone calls and the texts... It was overwhelming to see how many amazing people both here in the UK and scattered cross the world, in Asia, Australia, Europe and even South America took the time to message me and wish me a happy birthday. People I hadn't spoken to in almost a year were messaging to find out how my travels were going, or to see how I was celebrating the day. Again, the effort people went to really touched my heart and made me realise how lucky I am to have made such incredible friends with such amazing humans since I've been travelling.Not just since I've been travelling, but far beyond that, the people I've known since I was a little girl, the people I've grown up with and the people I've studied alongside.It turned my day around, hearing from so many wonderful people on this day and made me realise how lucky I am to have made so many amazing connections in my life. How lucky I am to be so loved. So many float through life and miss out on so many opportunities for friendship and love, I feel so grateful that I have found so many throughout my life and to constantly be surrounded by so much love. I'm so astonished by some of the longest standing and greatest friendships I've found - many of them were ones I expected to fizzle out as our paths separated and headed in different directions. So many of these friendships have been the most unexpected and perhaps that's what makes them so precious to me, the fact that they could have so easily been missed along the way. I'm the kind of girl who falls hard for people, whether it's relationships or friendships - if I feel that spark with someone I'll very quickly make them a huge part of my life. It's meant that I've been hurt in the past by people who took advantage of that, but it doesn't mean I'll ever give it up. If you ask me, the only way you ever discover those real friendships - the ones you'd do anything for - and the relationships that really touch your soul, is to fall hard and hope they catch you.So now, as I sit here on the evening of my birthday with a belly full of Greek barbecue and prosecco, with the long weekend stretching ahead of me, I'm reenergised and ready to celebrate. A weekend filled with some of the most precious souls in my life and celebrating everything we have accomplished. My past 18 months of solo travel and everything I have experienced along the way, for my friends it's new studies, apartments, houses, relationships and even engagements. After so long apart, its more important than ever to take a long hard look at how far we have come. I know so many people are funny about getting older, about getting closer to 30. Well I'm officially 26, closer to 30 than I've ever been and yet instead of feeling like it's something to dread, I want to celebrate every single moment, every thrilling moment of the years that have led me to this point. The passion, the bravery, the fearlessness and the jokes that have kept me laughing and happy to my very core. Even the moments that made me lose my breath, the moments that scared me beyond belief, the moments I thought I wouldn't come back from, every single one brought me to this point of my life. And if that isn't worth celebrating, I don't know what is. So with that, let's raise a glass - to everything I've survived so far and to all you angels who have pushed me to keep on going. I can't thank you enough.
I wrote this while I was floating high among the clouds somewhere between Australia and Malaysia, feeling like my life was some strange version of limbo caught halfway between two worlds - reality and the incredible life I’ve been living for the past 18 months. After quitting my job and deciding to travel the world solo, I set out on the adventure of a lifetime planning to return within a year and settle back into normal life. Well, that’s what I told everyone, even then I was planning to be gone much longer so it was never really a surprise to those closest to me when I skipped my flights and decided to follow my heart, instead exploring more of Australia than I ever dreamed I would and making plans for the future. I can’t even begin to put into words the effect the last 18 months has had on every aspect of my life - meeting such amazing people at every turn and seeing such incredible sights has really set my heart on fire and has opened me up to a whole new world that I could only fantasise about before now. But you see, the thing is, I felt totally unprepared for returning home. Yes that’s right, after the last 18 months of pure happiness I was finally headed back to the UK. It kind of snuck up on me, despite knowing for months my time in Melbourne would be ending and at some points really looking forward to my return simply to see my family and friends again after so long away. But when it finally came down to it, I just wasn’t ready.I thought I could handle it, I thought I would be okay. I said my final goodbyes to the very closest of friends and refused to shed tears as I knew it was really just “see you later”, but later would sit in the bath and cry at the thought of leaving this amazing family I’ve found in Melbourne. It really has been home - a place I finally felt settled in and loved my lifestyle, with fantastic friends and regular haunts, a career I could build into something greater than I ever imagined in such a short space of time. A chance to really make something of myself. Melbourne really was the city of opportunity for me and I will never forget the final months I spent here, they were more than I ever hoped they could be. But the one thing that really made it special, was the fact that this was where I was when I realised I was totally healed. I left the UK with a broken heart but returned the happiest I've ever been - travel was the best possible thing that could have happened to me. It truly is the greatest healer for a broken heart and I tell you why, it’s because it makes you focus entirely on yourself and what makes you happy, it forces you to be self-reliant and to fall back in love with yourself as a person, to truly learn to be alone and to enjoy it. I learnt so much by travelling solo and it has honestly been the best and most valuable experience of my entire life.Even though I know my journey is not at an end - I already have travel plans for the next few months across Europe before returning to Australia after the summer - I know that it is the end of an era. When I begin my travels again, I will no longer be a first-time solo traveller, I will know what I'm doing, I won't a mess of butterflies figuring it out and hoping for the best. I'm proud of that because it shows how much I have learnt since travelling solo, but it also means starting afresh in a whole new way of travelling. I really feel the last 18 months are the best reason to celebrate that I could ever think of - much as we celebrate when we graduate university or marry, we should all celebrate the fact that not only did we survive travelling, we smashed it! I learnt more in the last 18 months than I did from three years at university or a nine year relationship. I am so grateful for every single person who has been with me, whether it was the very first group of friends I made in Bangkok, or the amazing group of Pioneers I found on the Thai islands, whether it was the Darwin Dingos - the greatest travelling family I have ever known, or the crazy beautiful people I found in Melbourne. You're all so special in so many ways and you all brought such laughter and happiness into my life, you made my travelling experience.Now that I am half a world away from everything I have known for the past 18 months, I find myself reminiscing over every forgotten moment, every tiny detail and loving every part of the experience for what it was. I can't believe some of the things I have seen and done, and while a good rest was well-needed after working flat-out for so long, it just gets me even more excited for the next stage of travelling. So what am I doing back here? Well my plan is to be back for a few months, a couple spent working back at the newspaper before heading off to Europe to holiday with family and to visit friends before returning to Australia in September for Part II of my travelling adventure. I still have so many blog posts about Melbourne to share with you, plus any parts of Australia and Asia I may have forgotten to share with you all. Plus I have some exciting collaborations coming up and as always I'll be keeping you up-to-date with my adventures in the UK - it's been great having you guys along with me for every step of this adventure and I can't wait to share the next part with you all!
How did you find returning home after travelling? What travel plans have you got for the summer?
After writing last Friday’s post, I really got to thinking about my life now compared to a year ago and how happy I am. To put things in perspective, this time last year I was living it up in Thailand with a bunch of great mates and partying my arse off. Now, I’m writing this from my new home of Melbourne while my roommate snores his head off, and yet, I think over the last two weeks I’ve reached new levels of happiness I didn’t think were possible. So I decided to start a list, of all the moments I’ve had recently that have made me feel grateful to be alive and happy I made the decisions that have led me to this point. Because, if you read my last post - you’ll know that this Valentine’s Day I’m taking the time to celebrate being single, independent and the happiest with myself I’ve ever been. Forget giving out roses and chocolates, I’m taking the time to think about and be thankful for all the things that are giving me the rosy glow of happiness.
So what has made me realise i’m in love with my life?
So there we go, the 20 things that have helped me realise why I’m so in love with my life and if you ask me, that’s by far the most important love you will have. Whether you were in a relationship or not this Valentine’s, take a moment to think about whether you are happy with yourself and your life - its something that is so easily brushed over in the busy day-to-day. Why not take 15 minutes out of your day to make a list like this one about all the positive reasons you are in love with you life, and why you are happy with your lot. You might find that actually you have a lot more love for the way things have turned out than you think - or it might just highlight a change you know you need to make! Either way - take the time to love yourself, your life and everything in it.
Tell me what you love mot about your life - what are you most thankful for?
As you read this, my travels will have already started and I thought it was important to write this post and share what has probably been the hardest part of my decision to leave. The first thing everyone has asked me upon finding out I was going travelling was "are you going with your boyfriend?". When I replied no on each occasion, I saw the same surprised blank faces in front of me - particularly when I announced I was going it alone. I'm not sure why it is such a shock to people as I've always been quite an independent person - but clearly it seems quite odd to a lot of people that we would be able to go without each other for any length of time. To paint a picture for those who don't know us, me and Wolfy have been together for well over eight years. We've survived all sorts, including me moving away for university for three years, and defied all those who said we'd never last or that we weren't suited - amazingly there were a lot of people who felt that way. But we made it this far and we seem to be doing better than okay. So I can totally understand why people think "they love each other, therefore they must not be able to live without each other".
Relationships always face difficulties at some point - a hurdle that pops up out of nowhere, whether a problem between the two of you, or interference from outside sources. But when you've been together as long as we have, and from as young an age, sometimes the problems that crop up are actually just dreams that pull you in opposite directions. We've all got dreams, big ideas and hopes for the things we want to achieve, see and do - but what happens when they clash with those of the one we love? Well we're faced with a big decision about what to do. This is actually something that's been playing on my mind a lot lately because I have a few friends who, although in slightly different situations, have struggled with similarly big decisions. I guess it is a common theme in our twenties that we will be faced with big choices over our relationships - our teens are the easy time, although they may not feel like it, when nothing really tests us other than ourselves. Even the separation of university is something that can be easy to live with because to an extent we still have a choice over distance and whether we want to go the distance. But by the time we hit our twenties, we are looking at careers, new homes, marriage and babies in some cases, and travel. There are so many more factors that will affects our relationships and we will be forced into difficult decisions.I'm not the only one who has found this, I actually know several people who have found lately that they have had to choose one aspect of their life over another. One friend has chosen to move two-and-a-half hours away from all of her friends and family, leaving behind a job she had worked her way up to, in order to follow her boyfriend. He was moving to a much better job and she had to take a pay cut in order to be with him, but for her the decision was the right one for her because she loves him and wants to be with him. Now they are able to live together, instead of breaking up or living hours apart. A couple I know came to an end after the subject of travel was broached, they had been together for years but he didn't want to travel and she passionately did - so they finished and she started planning her trip. I know of another couple who broke up because the guy wanted to settle down together, with big plans for marriage and babies, but she wanted to keep her freedom and to work on her career first, so they broke up and moved on. What do all of these couples have in common? They're all in their twenties and their lives are ever changing and evolving - sometimes couples are on different wavelengths and that can mean different directions.
For me and Wolfy, I know that we are on the same wavelength but that after eight-and-a-half years we are being pulled in different directions. For me, I'm in a job that I just can't do any longer and I've reached a point in my life where I want to experience something new. It was a choice between moving away for work or travelling, and that decision was a simple one for me. For Wolfy, he regrets not putting in the time and effort for his studies and has realised he needs a change of career, so for him, the move is to retake his A-levels and go to university. The timing for us isn't great and we don't want to be apart, but we also both realise that we have to follow our individual dreams in order to be happy together. Neither of us should have to put our individual dreams on hold at this age, surely we will only end up resenting each other if we try? I'm not saying it's going to be easy - because I know it won't be. Saying goodbye earlier this week was the hardest thing I have ever done. But for us, this isn't a break up, more like hitting pause on things until we can resume play. We hope that it will be just six months until we are reunited in Australia - that might be naive on our part, or it might be a mature decision that works out really well. Either way, all we can do is hope that things work out for us. I've always believed that everything happens for a reason - I'm not always sure what that reason is but I know that it will all work out in the end. And I'm treating this just like that - it doesn't mean being separated is any easier, but it does mean we can hope that if we are meant to be together that it will work out.
I'd love to hear your stories of when you've been forced to choose between love and your career, or family, or even travel, like I have. Did it work out for you? Or do you still regret the one that got away?
Sometimes university isn't quite what you expected - perhaps you don't make the friends you thought you would, or your accommodation isn't the best. Or sometimes it all works out and you have the best university experience possible with great friends, a fantastic course and the best accommodation going. It can all turn out very differently depending on where you are, who you meet and how you do things - but one thing that can hit all of us at times is homesickness. Even the strongest, most independent individual can feel homesick at times and just want to catch the first train home to mum and their own bed. When Freshers Flu strikes, we all just want to curl up in a ball under the duvet and have our mum bring us chicken soup - so how do we deal with this when mum is hundreds of miles away?
Here's my top tips for combating homesickness while at university:
What helped ease your homesickness the most? Have you got any other top tips to share?