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.