The last seven days have been a total whirlwind and I can't believe it is only now that I am getting the chance to write this post and share it with you guys. If you follow me on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram there's a good chance you already know about this but if not - after a long three months in the outback I completed my regional work for my second year Australian visa just an hour before finding out Absolutely Lucy had once again made it into the finals of the travel section of the UK Blog Awards! An amazing day - I was completely elated to find out that I had made the shortlist for the second year in a row. Last year this blog was awarded a highly commended award after just six months of being a travel blog, who knows what this year will bring! This year, Absolutely Lucy was shortlisted out of 2,000 blogs and the awards received total of 73,352 votes - a HUGE thank you for all the ones that were for me! Whether this year brings success or not, I am already over the moon at the fact that so many of you amazing people took time out of your day to vote for me, that you've been there every step of the way - liking, commenting and sharing my posts. This blog was started as a way of sharing with my friends and family what I had been up to, now that crowd has grown beyond anything I could have expected and it's giving me the opportunity to work with amazing companies and brands, all thanks to your support.
If the last year of travelling, and especially the last three months in the outback, have taught me anything, it's gratitude. I have never been more grateful for my life, for all the opportunities I get, and for the people who surround me. After completing my regional work on Friday, I moved across the country to Melbourne - something I have been looking forward to for months on end - and was finally reunited with some of the best friends I have made since travelling. Yes, that's right, the Dingos are back together and I could not be happier about it. I've spent the last three months missing my Darwin family more than I could ever put into words, we went through so much in such a short space of time and were closer than any group I have met. So to suddenly be parted from them all - the people I spent every second of every day with - and be completely on my own was pretty hard. What got me through were great friends in Charleville and the thought that soon I would be reunited with my gang - arriving in Melbourne and seeing my family again was the most amazing feeling. It's made arriving in Melbourne feel just like coming home.Spending three months in a place where there were no shops, no distractions, and the nearest McDonald's was three hours away has really made me appreciate all that I now have on my doorstep. I had forgotten how much fun it is to explore a city even if you're completely alone - I always remember the Sex and the City episode where Carrie talks about New York as her date. Now that's exactly how I feel, I have a whole city to explore whether I'm walking graffitied alleyways, checking out the sights, museums or cinemas. Some of my friends here are already working so I had a perfect opportunity to spend a day with myself - I went shopping, had my hair done, ate out and even went to the cinema. So many people hate doing these things alone but I can never understand why - it was a fantastic day and I always think if you can't stand to spend time with yourself then why should anyone else want to? Before coming travelling alone I had never really had to do anything by myself - there was always a friend, boyfriend or family member to keep me company - but ever since, I've really started to value the time I spend alone just as much as the time I spend with the ones I love. You should try it. Set yourself the challenge of doing something every day for a week completely alone - go eat out by yourself, grab a coffee, go to the cinema, go for a walk. Don't be self-conscious or care what others think - just do it and embrace the solitude. It feels strange at first but soon you start to crave those moments and really enjoy them. It gives you the confidence to put yourself out there and be proud of what you have to offer, it gave me the courage to enter the UK Blog Awards and to end up a finalist!
Have you tried going it solo lately? What are you too scared to do by yourself? What's the greatest thing you have achieved by yourself?
When I was born, I was a little unexpected. For a start, I was a "mistake". My parents were expecting a boy when suddenly out popped this little girl that looked a bit like Mowgli from The Jungle Book and couldn't sit still. From the start I was a very independent child, unlike my sister who had to be sat on my mother's hip at all times, I was running around and causing havoc from the very beginning. I was going to be called Jack until this creature who was very obviously a "Lucy" arrived. It makes me wonder, if I had been born a boy what would have been different - would I still have become a journalist and quit my job to travel the world? Would I still have an unhealthy love for cheese and wine? Or would I be a completely different person? I feel like my entrance into the world helped set the tone for the rest of my life, which so far has taken some pretty unexpected turns. I remember when I first announced to friends that I was coming travelling, some were shocked I was giving everything up and going it alone. Others, who knew me well, were unsurprised. More than one of them actually said they kind of expected something like this from me, that I'd always been a bit of a free spirit even when I was working full time and in a long-term relationship. I guess not much has changed about me since then, I just cast off all the shackles that were keeping me tied to one place so that I could experience total freedom for a while.
Growing up, I was always more of a boy's-girl than a girl's-girl, I always had my gang of close girlfriends but would always find myself spending more time with the guys. Back then I struggled with the bitching and "girl talk" that came with one particular gang and it kind of put me off female friendships a bit. I've never had any interest in people who want to talk about others negatively - I love the kind of people who want to build each other up and celebrate each other. But then some amazing women came crashing into my life that changed all that - I'm a very lucky girl to have a pretty special group of female friends both at home and on the road and they have completely changed my opinion. My friends at home are these amazing, creative, independent and exciting women who have an opinion on everything and will stand by you until the end. They're the kind of women who will never make you feel bad about yourself, won't make you judge other people and won't make you feel insecure. Instead they bring light into your life, and colour, lots of it. A night with them is well spent whether you're debating over a glass of wine, setting the world to rights over dinner, or dancing like fools in the club. They're wild women, they're passionate and have dreams. They don't sit around waiting for a guy - they go out and work hard to earn their own money and they make their own dreams come true. They're fearless and bold, they're brave and they inspire me.While nothing will ever replace those incredible creatures that keep cheering for me and supporting me even when I'm the other side of the world, I've met some pretty amazing souls since travelling as well. The kind of women who make you feel like you can take on the world and do anything you set your mind to, the ones who will be your cheerleaders, who will be your shoulder to cry on, your tough love when you need it and the kind of women you will be friends with for life. I feel like when you meet people travelling it is so different to making new friends at home, it's like you see their soul laid bare from the very beginning and people aren't afraid to dive in the deep end. I've lost count of the amount of times I've met these beautiful characters who have laid their cards on the table from the first day and by the end of it we've been declaring our love for each other. People aren't afraid to be exposed, if anything they're more willing to be themselves no matter what. I love that, I love when people are unapologetically themselves. It's refreshing to meet people who are fearless in expressing their ideas and opinions, who don't try to fit in with any crowd or way of thinking. They're free spirits and wild women and they're everywhere. I saw a quote the other day and it really summed up what I'm trying to say in this post:
There is no competition between wild women. Their spirits are too free to be caught in a tiny space of envy. Instead they dance together and allow the good to flow abundantly amongst each other.
I love this. This is something to be celebrated. Not just among women, but I wanted to use this excuse to focus on the incredible women I have met in my life. We should always make it our business to be as wild and free as the world will allow - to follow our hearts and to dream big. And, even more importantly, we shouldn't allow envy or jealousy to make us judge the achievements of others. At the end of the day, life is tricky sometimes and we all need a bit of help and support along the way, we should do our best to give this to all the women in our lives because we never know when we'll need it returned to us. To all those who live their lives meekly and afraid of what others will say - stop. Live loudly and proudly, be excited and passionate and chase what you want out of life. Be one of those women that inspires you, be one of those women that inspires others. Whether your free spirit travels the world, creates something amazing or loves with great abandon - go full throttle on life and you'll never look back with regret. I've spent the last three months living in the outback and it's made me more grateful than ever before for my tribe: the girls here in town who have got me through, the girls across Australia who have kept cheering me on, and the gang at home who have been a ear when I needed to vent. Every single one of you have kept me inspired, supported and excited about life even after the toughest day at work. Thanks to you, I made it through. So I'll end on this note, make it your business today to think about the women in your life, the ones who are wild and free and inspire you at every step. Let them know what a big part they play in your life.
Have you got an amazing gang of girlfriends? How have your girls inspired you?
Don't forget to vote for me in the UK Blog Awards! Click here and select travel!
Christmas and New Year are definitely some of those times when people really start to think about their relationship status - a bit like the post-Christmas bloat, it's something that hangs over every festive party and moment under the mistletoe. It can suck a bit to be single at Christmas, to not have someone special to keep you warm and to get you that extra special present. But it can also be great to be single at Christmas - you don't have to feel guilty when you sit there and eat an entire cheeseboard in one sitting then spend the night farting in bed, and no awkward decision about whose family you'll spend the day with. When it comes to New Year, this was my first as a single girl for nine years - which seems crazy to me. Basically as long as I've been old enough to go out drinking I've been in a relationship, more than a third of my life. And it was a good relationship, a great one in fact, but 2015 was all about the start of something new, about taking control of my life and doing something for me. I broke off my relationship and left to travel the world solo, a year later I should be heading home but have decided I'm not ready for my adventures to finish yet. Last December 31st I was surrounded by good friends and spent the night celebrating with my other half. But this year, it felt right to celebrate independently after the year I've had. I've conquered all sorts and I've done it all by myself, so I was more than happy to be a single girl as I took my first steps into 2016.
This time of year it's easy to get caught up in the romance of the season - all those engagement rings popping up on my newsfeed, all those cute couple photos in matching Christmas jumpers, and all those New Year kissing photos. We're blasted in the face with the expectation and the pressure to be in a happy relationship or left to feel like failures, but I have to ask, isn't it more important at this time of year to be looking inwardly and thinking more about the relationship we have with ourselves? New Year is always a great time to look back over the year as it comes to a close - at what we've achieved and suffered, learnt and lost over the last 12 months. We're all planning and making goals for the year ahead, but so many are setting goals, more like ideals for where they see themselves in 12 months. They're thinking about things like relationships statuses, job goals, having their own homes. All of these are great in their own way, but why not take the time to think about how mentally healthy and happy you are. Two Christmases ago I took a two week break from work and from life - I finally had headspace to think and after the two weeks was up I realised I didn't want to go back to that life. That was when I realised that how I was working and living was not making me healthy or happy - it was time to plan an escape and my next moves. That was when I began saving, when I bought a plane ticket. A year later, I hopped on that plane and never looked back.
It's not the answer for everyone and I'm not saying this to tell you to go do the same. Travel might not be your way of healing but starting 2016 on your own could provide you with a good opportunity to really look closely at your life. Are you happy? Are you on your way to achieving what you want out of life? If not, why not? This is your chance to claim 2016 as your year to work on you - do what I did, step back and reassess. Our goals change as we grow as people and sometimes the ones you set a while ago will no longer fit the person you have become - if you no longer want something why work towards it? Evolve your goals and you will find happiness in working towards what you truly want. If a job no longer makes you happy, look elsewhere and find one that does. Feel like work is taking over your life? Take a step back and explore your passions in your free time. Unsure whether a relationship is still giving you what you need - make a change, end it or go in search of something new. It doesn't matter how trapped you feel, even if it feels like there is no way out, there always is. But you have to be willing to make the first move - once you've taken that first step it turns into the easiest and most natural thing in the world, but first you have to take a leap of faith.
It can be a huge change that all your family and friends talk about, or it can be something tiny that just makes a world of difference to you. Either way, having the courage to examine your life and really think about where you want it to go can be simultaneously the scariest and most valuable thing you do this January. Why? Because it will help give you focus and goals for the year ahead - to find the happiness you've been searching for. 2015 was my happiest and freest year yet - it was so amazing that I skipped my flight home and chose to stay and carry on for as long as possible. I'm looking forward to seeing what 2016 brings - I'm just hoping for more happiness, the love of many new friends I have yet to meet and even more opportunities to follow my passions. Most importantly, I'm not sitting around and waiting for life to happen to me, I'm out there making it happen for myself.
Have you made any New Years resolutions? What are your goals for this year? Is travel in your plans for 2016 - where are you heading?
It's been a funny few weeks - I won't go into too many details but let's just say a few things have happened lately that have really forced me to step up and act like an adult. It's pretty easy when travelling to feel like you're 18 and invincible, that nothing can touch you and that somehow you're just evading all the bad things in life. Often you're just so overwhelmed by the goodness and kindness of people that you wonder if you had them all wrong when you were back home working that 9-5 job and getting stressed out constantly by the behaviour of others. I'm not going to deny that bad things ever happen when you're travelling, but to be honest they don't very often - at least nowhere near as often as people warn you that they do. But when they do, it's a shock, it brings you back down to earth with a bump after months of soaring along with your head in the clouds. Don't worry, everyone, including myself are okay - if anything, I'm being a bit dramatic. Why? Well it all goes back to a conversation I had the other week with a friend about the situation, something she said really struck me and made me think.
When asked about life back at home, I told her that I don't really get homesick - yes I miss the people, the moments and the history, but I don't think I have once spent a day pining for home. I know some find homesickness a real problem when travelling and I've had friends who can be down for days on end if something sets off those feelings, but that's just not me. I was never homesick when I went to university either, I think I'm just used to dealing with the feeling of being separate and I'm a very logical person who will always reason with herself that family and friends are always at the end of the phone. My friend, who does get homesick and has been missing home lately, commented on how independent I was and seemed surprised by it. Especially when she realised that I had travelled so far across the world by myself and was unafraid to tackle Asia and Australia solo. I've had this reaction multiple times since planning my travels and setting out - it's something that just seems odd to me and perhaps highlights that it is still thought of as unusual for a young woman to be "brave" enough to be on her own and to be completely independent. Don't worry - I'm not going to start quoting Beyoncé songs to you, but I do want to make the point that I think it is a huge compliment to say that someone is so very independent.
Independence is vastly underrated - whether is financial, emotional, physical or even mental, there is nothing more valuable than the ability to be on your own and still be happy. Too many people in this world are relying on the behaviour of others to make them happy, but wonder why they are always left disappointed. They don't seem to appreciate that you have no control over the behaviour of others, ultimately if they want to mess you around or treat you badly, you can't do anything about it except adjust your own attitude. I've forgiven people for some pretty horrid behaviour over the years and sometimes I'm asked why - I always respond, because it doesn't have any impact on me beyond being upset. That person has to live with the knowledge of how they have treated me and my hating them for it will only make me unhappy and bitter - why would I want to introduce that unhappiness into my own life? As I said on my Facebook page the other day - not relying on others to make you happy is the greatest power of all. By being able to make yourself happy through fulfilling your own goals, setting your own challenges and comforting yourself in times of strife, you give yourself the key to happiness. Solo travel is a great way to learn that, but it's something we should all learn in our own lives - other people can make your life better but only you can make it great.Of course we need others to bring light into our lives in other ways - to put a smile on our face after a hard day, to crack a joke when we're mad, or do thoughtful things, but what happens on the day when they aren't there? You need to be able to build yourself back up instead of just expecting others to do it for you. I've always been a very independent person, but before coming travelling I was a lot more emotionally dependent on others. Travelling solo has given me the space and the time to get to know myself better, it has meant learning to look after myself when times are tough and boy, have they been tough sometimes. I remember being pulled out of a crashed minibus which was half buried in a ditch, I'd been thrown against the windscreen and would have gone through it if it weren't for the driver grabbing hold of me. I stood on the side of the road with blood pouring from my legs, with a group of Cambodians who spoke barely any English, and remember thinking, I genuinely don't know if I'll make it out of this one. Being in a situation like that, being forced to look after yourself and to get yourself to safety in a city that is still a hundred miles away is quite a challenge. But I did it, and I'm a stronger person for it. Now I don't want anyone to go through anything like that, but there are ways to teach yourself the value of independence without putting yourself in danger.
Just taking a tiny step outside your comfort zone and doing it all by yourself is the most valuable experience of all - it can mean disappearing off one day and exploring a place you've never been before, forcing yourself to eat out alone, dealing with something complicated all by yourself instead of seeking help from parents or a partner. All of these are things I do on a daily basis now - I love to eat out alone, I love the satisfaction of managing to deal with a problem completely by myself or turning up in a place where no-one knows me and no-one in the world knows where I am. Some people call that brave, I call it just living my life one step at a time and taking chances. So far it's paid off better than I ever could have imagined and it could be the same for everyone. Being independent is one of the most empowering feelings I have ever known. Some say to love and be loved is the greatest thing of all, but I think that being brave enough to say "I got this shit" to yourself and to others every damn day and proving it again and again is the one to aim for. Don't ever think independence is a lonely place - I've never been surrounded by and had the support of quite so many amazing people who I know love me and would do anything for me as I have lately - what brought us all together is the fact that we all kick ass independently.
Do you consider yourself independent? How else can we gain independence? When's the last time you went off the grid?