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.
I've just arrived in Perth after an amazing week in Adelaide, and although I will be posting all about my time there at a later date, I first wanted to talk about the worst part of my trip. It's been praying on my mind ever since Saturday night and the more I tell people about what happened, the less I understand how it could possibly have happened. To put it in context, I have travelled all over the world solo to countries considered dangerous and unsafe for a girl to travel by herself. I've been stranded at the side of the road in Vietnam and Laos, I've been in seemingly dodgy tuk-tuk rides in Thailand and Cambodia, I've been lost in Hungary. But not once have I ever felt so unsafe in the middle of a city in a Westernised country, surrounded by people and with police patrolling the streets.
So what happened?
I was visiting a good friend of mine, who I met when I was in Asia, but sadly he had to work all week. Our one time to really hang out was Saturday night when we went out for dinner and drinks with his friends, and the Sunday when we had planned to go on a tour of the wineries. We went out for dinner as planned and then had drinks and found a place we could have a dance, eventually we all decided to call it a night. We didn't want to be too wrecked for the next day so we decided to get a taxi home, on the way my friend wanted to show me Adelaide Oval so we took a detour to the taxi rank. As soon as we wandered down the side street, three lads looked over and shouted "slut" at me, naturally my friend told them to leave me alone.
You would have thought that would be the end of it since they were just teenagers, but if anything it spurred them on. Suddenly, all three of them launched themselves at us. My friend pushed me out of the way and I hit the deck, but all of them, plus another five lads who appeared out of nowhere went for him. Now my friend is probably around twice or three times my bodyweight, he's a wall of pure muscle and soon to be a personal trainer. He's not someone you pick a fight with, but when you're drunk and eight guys attack you out of nowhere, there's little you can do to stop them. After they all threw their punches and ran off, he was left with a huge lump on his head, a busted nose with blood pouring all over his clothes and the street, swollen lips and cuts and scratches. It was horrible.
But the worst thing?
I can appreciate that it all happened so quickly that perhaps people didn't have time to react, but not one single person tried to jump in and help. Not one except me, I'm sure I would have just ended up hurt too so it's probably a good thing a guy dragged me back, but at least my basic instinct was to help someone who was in danger. Afterwards, I took my friend across the street to get help, I walked into a shop to ask if the guy in there had any tissues or could help at all. He just looked at me like I was crazy and told me I could buy a packet of tissues. If this is the reaction a girl covered in blood gets on a Saturday night, it's disgusting. I managed to steal tissues from a takeaway in the end and then on our way to jump into a taxi, I saw the police.
I headed across the road to tell them what had happened and they proceeded to interview my friend, despite the fact that he had no idea what had happened. They wouldn't listen to what I had seen as a witness, we had to force them to listen when I could identify one of the lads who attacked my friend. It was terrible to see firsthand how little the police really care in Australia when it comes to a brutal attack like that on a busy street with witnesses everywhere, compared to traffic policing. It didn't even seem to matter that much to the police that several other people were attacked immediately after, the lads went on a rampage up the street beating up three guys in suits, and several other small groups further along. It was clear they were just out to hurt people that night, it didn't matter about race, gender or sexuality for once, but it did matter if you were in the wrong place at the wrong time.
So why am I writing about this?
Therapy mainly, this is my way of making peace with the incident even though I'm still really upset that this could happen in the middle of a well-policed Australian city. It was the most brutal, vicious, nasty attack I have seen firsthand, done in cold blood and for the stupidest reason. My friend was beaten to a pulp for trying to protect me from being verbally abused, he poured blood on the street because he was a gentleman and a good person. He is the kind of person who wouldn't hurt a fly despite being more than capable, and it makes me incredible sad to think there are people out there who would take advantage of that simply for kicks.
I'm not naive enough to think this doesn't happen anywhere in the world, but I do think that things like this shouldn't be happening to innocent people just trying to make their way home in Adelaide. Perhaps nothing could have been done to stop this from happening, but the complete lack of support and help we were shown after the incident was an embarrassment to the police service in South Australia and the local people who refused to help us. Bad things happen, there's nothing we can do about that, but we can do something about the way we react and support those who are victims. The same thing happened in the Bourke Street incident in Melbourne - so many preferred to stand and watch, or record on their phones than actually help those in need. It really is heartbreaking to think that human instinct for so many has become a spectator's sport instead of a desperation to help preserve human life.
Wow, this ended up being quite a long post. Apologies if you're bored reading this but well done for making it to the end, I know it's very different to my normal posts. But the important thing for me is to show both sides of travelling - the fun, exciting side and the scary side as well. Don't take this as a warning not to travel to Adelaide - my friend said himself it's the first time in his whole life that he has seen an incident like this there. As far as I'm concerned this could have happened anywhere in the world and it sounds much like what happened every Saturday night at home. But what really got to me was the way people just didn't seem to care - don't be that person.
I'm struggling lately. I'm not afraid to admit it. On the face of things, I have my shit together, I'm one of the most together people I know most of the time. Always sure of myself, always knowing my next step and what I want out of life. But these past few weeks, I've just found myself questioning everything. I don't know what set it off, perhaps it was the exhaustion of the post-festival comedown and working over 50 hours a week that has left me an emotional mess, perhaps it's just a mid-twenties crisis. But let's be honest, sometimes all it takes is the news of how everyone else is progressing around you - in their relationships, careers, travels and lives - to make you really question everything you are doing and have achieved. I'm not one to compare myself to others, I know I've chosen a very different path to most people, but it's easy to look at that without a heavy dose of perspective and think you're not doing as well as you should be.
I said in a previous post how I was struggling to find the words to put on the page and I was taking a short break from writing until I regained my mojo. But it was only the last few days when it suddenly hit me that perhaps the reason I had lost my mojo was because I wasn't writing as much. Spending so much time focusing on work, the gym, friends and enjoying Melbourne meant one of my biggest passions was pushed to the wayside and I was left with no real outlet for all those thoughts that swirl around in the back of my head. As a creative individual it's easy to not realise the huge impact that has on you as a person, the challenge of being a creative is always finding new, and more satisfying ways to express yourself. But if that mode of expression is taken away, all that creative energy can just eat you up inside. I can see it even now as my fingers fly across the keyboard, just how much I have missed writing and sharing every facet of my life with you wonderful people.So what sparked this huge realisation? Well, last week at work (I'm working at a rooftop bar in Melbourne CBD) I had a visitor - a lovely girl who had travelled all the way from Germany, apparently a huge fan of this blog, and just had to meet me in person on her last night in the city. I can't even begin to tell you what this meant to me, I've had a few real down days these last few weeks so to know that someone appreciated me and my work so much was an incredible boost. It hasn't automatically fixed everything, but it has brought me back to writing and it has made me realise my priorities. I love exploring the world around me and living life to the max - I will always be a workaholic who struggles to maintain a work/life balance that doesn't push my body to extreme exhaustion. But I also need to give myself time to reflect and enjoy, to appreciate the amazing experiences I have had rather than always surging ahead towards the next.
But, am I doing okay?
It's the question we all ask ourselves all the time, whether we say it out loud or we let it eat us up inside as more friends announce new homes, huge career progression, engagements, marriage and babies. It's so hard not to judge yourself by the standards of others, and it's so easy to forget your own individual huge achievements that others just can't compete with. Now several years down the line, I know that giving up my nine-year relationship to travel the world solo and build a freelance journalism and travel blogging career was the best decision I have ever made in my life. But I still can't help but compare it to friends who have done the opposite and gave up everything for the one they love - putting aside their career and life plans. Likewise, giving up my working life at a newspaper was something that was long-overdue but going freelance and travelling long-term has also thrown me back into a life of temporary hospitality and casual work. I can't help but both love the freedom and easiness of it while hating the transiency and the lack of progression. There is no future in it and it sometimes makes me crave the excitement of seizing career opportunities.I mean, technically I'm doing amazingly. I'm in a great job, earning good money, I'm complete independent, the fittest and physically happiest I've been for a long time. I have a great apartment, incredible friends and family on every side of the globe, and plans for the future. But right now, something just isn't sitting right with me, I can't put my finger on it but whether my life is missing something or I'm in need of something different, I know that something has to change. I'm not one of these people who mopes around and complains about the way things are, I prefer to be a little proactive and make things better. Being a solo traveller, you have to be willing to get off your arse and to do things for yourself instead of waiting for someone else to make you happy. I like to apply that attitude to every aspect of my life and so I always get impatient with myself when I'm having a few down days - I'm not a wallower, I'm a problem solver. So my next mission is getting myself out of this funk and finding my new happy, the change that will help me regain what I feel like I've lost lately.
So, how do I do this?
Well my first changes were pretty instantaneous, I cut a few toxic people out of my life in the last few weeks, people who were't bringing anything positive into my world. I came back to writing, determined to let it heal me and to find my way back to this blogging world. I took some time for me, I went treated my body well and allowed it to recover, I indulged in my passions without stressing about doing things for other people. I planned a much-needed escape to nature with amazing friends and I refused to feel guilty for putting myself first. It hasn't changed my world yet, but it has eased my mood and has given me hope for the upcoming weeks. Now all we can do is watch and wait.
Are you struggling at the moment - how do you cope with these feelings? Have you got any tips for getting back on track?
I haven't posted in a while. I'll be honest and say I've just been working so much and haven't had time to sit and write, but it's not just that, I've lost my motivation a bit lately. While my life is almost full to bursting with exciting stories to tell, I'd kind of hit a wall with inspiration. It happens every now and again, life gets busy and gets in the way of writing, but when it happens I don't try and fight it because I know that I'll always regain my mojo in the end, it just takes time. You can't force yourself to be inspired and to write beautiful things, it comes naturally or not at all. While I was struggling to express the beautiful sides of life through this blog, something awful happened, something painful and sad and devastating. I may have been struggling with the words to express the happier situations in my life, but once I started typing my feelings of anger and hurt at the dangerous assault on my favourite city and it's people last week, the words just wouldn't stop.
For those who don't know what happened, on Friday five people including a baby boy died in a horrific incident in Melbourne's busiest shopping centre. A man went on a rampage around the city after allegedly stabbing his brother, mowing people down with his car and leaving 31 people in hospital. For those who were around the shopping centre at the time - including myself and several friends of mine - it was a scary, confusing and devastating experience. I was just about to start work and was walking past the incident as around 20-30 police cars went tearing along the tramlines in the pedestrianised areas to try and stop the man. Police helicopters were circling and police were screaming at onlookers to get away as quickly as possible. Luckily I worked nearby so I could find shelter in the hotel, at this point we had no idea what had happened with vague reports of a shooting/stabbing and a lot of misinformation. My first fear when I saw the police reaction was that it could be a bomb or some kind of terrorist attack, lack of information put this fear straight into my mind.
But I don't want to dwell too much on what happened, instead I want to focus on what really horrified me that day. While the man's actions were terrifying and have left the whole city unnerved, it was the actions of the onlookers that really showed me a dark side of humanity. As I ran up the street towards work I was dodging between people who preferred to stand on their phones recording every second of the incident, ignoring police advice to move to safety and choosing instead to share it on social media. A friend of mine was right in the middle of the incident and dived straight into help the injured people - he was brave and selfless in that moment, ending up covered in blood and just grateful he could help stop the bleeding from a man's head injury. He was kind and patient despite his fears for his own safety and I find that incredibly inspiring. As with all the people who stepped up and helped save lives or to protect their fellow man that day - the ones who stopped and cared. My friend has since received word that the man he helped is safe and recovering in hospital.But less inspiring was the man who stood right behind my friend and videoed the whole thing - instead of helping to stop the bleeding and to tend to those who were seriously injured he preferred to stand there and capture what was happening. I know we live in a modern age where camera phones open up the world to all of us to be the journalists and to share every bit of news at a flick of a button. But just as I always felt uncomfortable reporting the news from a desperate situation when I felt I could be helping to ease the pain and suffering of others, I find it disgusting that people would prioritise social media sharing and Snapchatting attacks on mankind over helping to save lives. Have we really reached a point where sharing an experience is more important that protecting a human life? While this experience may have inspired me to write about my anger and pain, I still don't see how sharing it could ever be more important than protecting lives. Since Friday, countless people have flocked to Bourke Street Mall to lay flowers and messages of strength, love and compassion. This really makes you see the other side of humanity - the warmth that helps the world to move on and heal after such an incident.
It's times like these when people need to put down their smart phones and to come together, because that's what is really important. The love you feel from the other side of the world when friends and family message to check you are okay, the love you share when your best friend's safety is your first thought as an incident happens, the love you feel from co-workers who rant and cry and understand the pain of others. It's so easy to get caught up in the modern world we live in and to forget to break it down to the most basic and most important things - those around us who make our lives worth living, those individuals whose lives and presence we treasure more than anything. After hearing about the death of a Lynn legend - Juggling Jim - back at home, it shows more than ever the love for this character. The outpourings of sadness on social media at his death, he brought light into the lives of others and will be sadly missed. His spot on Lynn High Street will never be filled and his memory will be treasured.
I'm a bit of a romantic at heart, just like most girls I love being swept off my feet and can find something beautiful in the smallest gestures. When you're travelling, it's easy to be caught up in the romance of your very existence, the transient nature of your life brings romance to the simplest moments. With tropical temperatures, sandy beaches and stunning sunsets at every turn, Asia is the perfect setting for a travelling romance, while Australia provides the incredible landscape to get lost with your newfound love. Europe is just perfect for those warm summer evenings drinking wine together or exploring a city of culture, there's romance of years gone by haunting the streets you walk. When you travel it's easy to fall for people and to fall hard and fast, you get swept away by the romance, the freedom and the excitement of it all. Add in the ticking time limit of that plane ticket home and things can get pretty intense. The important thing for travelling girls to remember when things come to an end, is not to feel broken-hearted over the love you lost but to enjoy the memories of what you had. Every single perfect second of your time together whether it was just one night, a few weeks or months together. Those precious memories of your fleeting romance will stay with you in years to come and will shape your travelling stories.
When travelling I love meeting couples who met on the road, couples who have managed to make things work beyond travelling. I love seeing people in the grips of romance who cannot imagine a life without the person they just met two nights ago. It's beautiful and pure, it's love in it's own right and even if it doesn't last, it doesn't mean you didn't feel it at the time. I was lucky enough to meet an amazing couple who have become my very good friends, they met while volunteering together in South America and now several years later they have traveled the world together. In Thailand, I met an Australian girl who was crazy in love with an English guy and two years later they are still travelling the world together. It's amazing when you hear these stories and so lovely to know that travel doesn't have to stand in the way of finding love. But for every success story, there are a hundred stories of heartache and of lost loves – so for all of these, here is my list of the 10 romantic moments you need to experience when you are travelling:
Don't get caught up in why it didn't work, just make beautiful memories with that person and enjoy every moment of your time together. In twenty or thirty years would you rather remember bitter heartbreak from the guy you met on that beautiful Thai beach, or would you prefer to remember that night you held hands and watched the perfect sunset together?
Tell me about your most romantic travelling moments – what is your favourite memory? Which country holds the most romance for you?
It's official - tomorrow is the day, the day when I get to start living my dreams again. This last week has been the slowest of all time, I've been clock-watching and calendar-counting, just hoping the days would pass by a little quicker. If you read my rather personal post last week, you'll know I've been struggling a bit lately and that I really need to get away. Feeling like this was good in one way because it has prompted me to book my flights and get back out there, to put a limit on my time at home and actually go again. I've loved having these months at home, they have given me so many amazing opportunities to see my friends and family, to work as a journalist again and to dedicate real time to this blog. It's been incredible to work with so many UK and international brands, to be featured in an industry magazine and to get to review so many amazing places. I feel so lucky and so grateful, but at the same time, the whole time I have been home there has been this nagging little voice in my ear telling me this is not where I am supposed to be.
Perhaps that's what prompted me to travel around so much of Europe during my time back here, and that too has been incredible. I've visited so many amazing travelling friends, seen places I had only dreamed of before now and ticked off my 29th country. But still, it wasn't enough, I returned home and have had serious post-travelling blues since, then with everything I spoke about in my last post, I just realised it was time to go. It sounds horrible to say but I just struggle to spend any length of time in this town now, I love being at home but beyond that there is nothing really here for me. I've exhausted all career options and I'm a working girl at heart - I need something I can be passionate and excited about to keep me in a place. I've been incredibly lucky with the sheer amount of freelance work I've been able to source and that has given me the money to do amazing things over the last four months. But there comes a time when it is just not enough and I know I'm more than ready to move on again.
So what's next?
Well, that's the big question. With all the stuff that has happened lately, I wasn't quite ready to return to Australia and I think I'm long overdue for some serious relaxation time. All you guys see is fun and games from my travels but I can assure you I've been working A LOT since I've been back - my whole summer has been taken up with a huge amount of freelance work, running this blog and working with countless different companies. It's been amazing, but also exhausting especially when you try and combine it with having a social life and now, I'm done. I'm completely emotionally and physically exhausted from it all - told you I always overdo it!
But that's okay, because I think I've earned a week completely off from life. So I'm heading to - wait for it - my 30th country!! And I'm doing it with one of my best friends. I couldn't be more excited to be travelling to Bali - a place I've long since dreamed of - and to be doing it with one of my closest travelling pals. When you feel a bit fragile, there's nothing more important than surrounding yourself with people who mean the most to you and will bring nothing but happiness and laughter back into your life. I can't think of anyone I will laugh harder with or be happier with at this moment in my life. I'm about ready for a week of cocktails, partying Dingos-style and relaxing. I'll be taking a week off from blogging - but true to form, I've over-prepared and you'll still be getting two new posts this week and two next week.
And after that...?
The travelling dream will be back on track and I'll be heading back to Melbourne - the city that well and truly has my heart - to catch up with some amazing friends and start part two of my journey. I'll be honest and say that while my body may have come back to the UK back in May, the last four months my heart has definitely been elsewhere. Other travelers will know that feeling of being torn between your heart and your head, between the reality of day-to-day life and the dream you've been living. Well I've had an extreme version of this and just couldn't really settle at home, hence why I'm so excited to get back there and really feel free again. Right now my head is all over the place, but by the time I step back on Australia shores I hope to be a bit more ready to take on the next year of my life and live my dream again.
I remember the exact second I had my second year visa came through after weeks of angst and worry, I was in Amsterdam and celebrated with a friend I actually met the last time I was down under! It was the happiest feeling, knowing I was going back to a country that brought me so much happiness, so now I just hope it will do the same once again. Plans for this year of travelling include visiting the raw, natural beauty of Tasmania and road tripping the slightly more wild Western Australia, plus I'm sure I'll fit in some time in Darwin and Christmas in Melbourne with all the friends I was so dearly missing during the last festive season when I completed my farm work. I'm looking forward to being that travelling version of myself again, I feel like I've been a watered down version of myself since I've been home and it's time to get back to being the real me.
Here we go again!
Right now I'm spending the day packing and making last minute preparations and tomorrow I officially take to the skies for a delightful 20 hours of travelling (eek). I can't wait to be back in the air and on my next adventure, it's so much more special knowing some of my favourite people are waiting for me in Bali and Australia, but I also can't wait to just get lost in these countries. Bring on solo traveler life again and bring on my return to Asia - it's been far too long. Follow my adventures on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter - I'll be posting all of our misadventures!
Have you been to Bali - any recommendations? Have you experienced any of these feelings as a solo traveler returning home?
First of all, I want to thank all my lovely readers for their messages and emails lately. Especially to those who have pushed me to publish this post - it was the hardest one to publish for a very long time. It's amazing to get feedback on the posts I write and I feel honoured that so many of you come to me for advice on everything from travelling to relationships. It seems incredible to think this blog started out as a hobby and now it brings me close to people all over the world who are going through the same things, and who are inspired to do the same things I have been. One of my most popular posts has been drawing a lot of new readers to my blog lately and I've had a lot of requests to write more personal posts, it's something I've shied away from for a while because although I've had a lot to write about, sometimes it is difficult to find the words. But one topic that comes up again and again is "how do you cope with heartbreak?" It's ironic that this keeps coming up so often when I've just had a fresh wave of this to deal with, but when better to talk about it?
Having your heart broken hurts. There's no getting away from it. Even if you try to squash it down and pretend it's not happening, it always comes back and hits you with a fresh wave of pain. I remember being in such physical pain after I had my heart broken the first time, my heart actually ached and I couldn't get away from it, I couldn't get it out of my head. Now after this past week, I'm feeling that pain all over again and I remember how hard it was to cope with the first time. It's that hopeless feeling when you know there's nothing more you can do and you can't help but blame yourself. Last time it was in no way my fault, I had no regrets, but this time I can't help but feel I could have stopped this happening even though I'm sure that's not true. Heartbreak makes you question everything you thought you knew, including yourself. I hate that, that feeling that you can't trust your own decisions, that you should have done something to stop it happening. It hurts more than anything I've ever experienced and there isn't a painkiller strong enough to numb it. So right now, I'm officially worn out. My heart hurts and I've lost a lot of my fight and the excitement I had for life. But don't worry, it's not permanent - I've survived this before I sure as hell will again. I'm never one to mope for long and I'm already planning how I'm going to deal with this - two words, Bali & Australia!One thing I've noticed about myself - and I'm not sure what this says about my psychology - is that when things like this happen, when a relationship breaks up or things don't turn out the way I expect, my first instinct is to leave. When my nine-year relationship broke up and left me broken-hearted, my first thought was "I have to get out of here" and just like that, I booked a flight to the other side of the world. Just like now when I've just had my heart broken all over again and it's pushed me to book those flights and get back out there. It's an easy decision to head off into the unknown and I'm never scared at the prospect of travelling solo, let's face it, it couldn't be more painful than what I'm going through at home. It's something I still love about being a backpacker, that if things don't pan out - in relationships, work and life - then there was always the option to pack up and start again somewhere new. Perhaps that makes me sound flighty, or like I give in too easily, but I think actually it's because I know when things are a lost cause. I know when I'm done.
I've come to realise over the years that I have a pretty good gut instinct and that I can always trust it when it comes to making decisions. I know we're expected to stay and struggle through the hard times, that it will build character and something greater will come out of it in the long-run. Well I've done that, I've done it at work, in life, and in relationships. And yes, sometimes it is true, but also sometimes things are just lost for good and there is no saving them. The trouble is identifying whether there is anything left to fight for and knowing there is nothing wrong with just letting go. For me, I knew there was nothing left for me in my hometown both work-wise and relationship-wise so it was a no-brainer to start a new life somewhere else - it wasn't running away, it was the best decision I ever made. Likewise now, I ended up booking my flights to Bali and then back to Australia and have less than a week until I leave, it's not about escaping, it's about going back to my real life after this tiny break.My point is, we're made to feel that running away is wrong and that it is lazy or cowardly to cut ties and leave. But actually, I think it can sometimes be the hardest and strongest decision to make. To be strong enough to cut a toxic friendship or relationship out of your life is hard and you're brave for doing it. To cut and run from a job that is wearing you down is difficult and scary if you don't have a back-up, but this is how some of the most successful people have built an empire. To pack up your life into a backpack and move to the other side of the world where you don't know a single person is incredible. And for me, this was the biggest healer of all. Pushing myself far, far beyond the limits, taking myself out of my comfort zone and jumping in the deep end. Travel well and truly healed my heartbreak - it made me rely entirely on myself, it made me put my own happiness first, it taught me skills and scared me shitless. It brought countless new souls into my life - the kind of people that set my world alight and bring happiness into my world that I never knew existed. It gave me life-changing experiences that turned into stories, into memories that will last a lifetime. It gave me love, a much greater love for myself and for those around me.
Considering how much travel has given me, I don't see it as running away to be leaving again. I see it as running towards the life I should be living. For those who have contacted me lately to ask how they can know whether they should choose a relationship or travel - I can't tell you what to do. All I know is that travel has taught me more than any relationship ever has, it has introduced me to a life where I put myself first and where I'm driven by my needs, not empty wants. I may have less stuff than I have ever had, but my heart is fuller than ever and my head is full of thoughts that revolve around my passions, my ideas, my inspirations. Not about boys or worrying about others. It may sound selfish to some but after living for so many years always thinking of others before myself, it's refreshing to really see the world laying just ahead of me. No baggage. No stress. This is what travel teaches you, this is what healed my heartbreak, realising that you can only live for yourself and not to keep others happy. And realising how short life is, and how huge the world is - that sure puts things in perspective for you.Since having my heart broken I've traveled solo through 12 countries, covered three continents and am actually about to hit my 30th country. I've built a whole new career around a passion, I've sacrificed one phone, one camera and a lot of dignity. I've had epic wild nights out, long days at work, healed myself both inside and out on multiple occasions, nearly died three times, made so many incredible friends, been extremely badly behaved at times, and helped others through some pretty tough stuff, I even fell in love which I really didn't think was possible. I've been happier than I've ever been and discovered what I'm capable of, and what I'm not, and although my favourite word will always be YES, I've not been afraid to say no. In fact, I've not been afraid of any damn thing because life is for living and I'm doing just that. I'm a completely different person to the girl who went away to Thailand two years ago, and I've never been happier or stronger. So don't you try and tell me that travel isn't the greatest healer for heartbreak - I know it has changed my world. Let's just hope this time it will heal my heart as well as it did the last time.
Has travel helped heal your heartbreak? Tell me about your experiences. What are your best cures for a broken heart?
I wrote this on A level results day, a whopping eight years after I collected my own results and found out I was going to my first choice university to study English. After all the hard work I put in, my dreams had come true and I couldn't wait to start my new life. Now eight years later, I can't believe where my life has taken me - never could I have known that the next few years would see me interning at a fashion magazine, writing a column for a newspaper, gaining a 2.1 BA Hons, changing my career plans and becoming a journalist, working for six different newspapers, becoming the editor of an online festival magazine, starting a blog that would later win an award and feature in an industry magazine, travel round the world solo working with brands that are household names. It's been a whirlwind few years and I can't believe half the stuff I've done in that time, but that's just my point, none of the students who have just collected their results have any real idea of what an amazing point they are at. Their whole world is about to change and they have no concept of what lies ahead. It's exciting and terrifying, my favourite combination of feelings.
Anyone who has made a big decision in their life whether to do with relationships, careers, or even travel, will understand the feeling. That moment when you're about to take the leap from all you have ever experienced into the unknown, but have no idea what will happen next. As a traveler and a bit of a risk-taker, I've experienced this feeling a lot - when I quit my job, when I broke off my nine-year relationship and traveled to the other side of the world solo. All of these moments have been absolutely terrifying and have filled me with a heart-stopping fear, but underneath the fear was excitement for what would come next. For a new challenge and a new way of life, for new people, sights and sounds. I remember sitting in the airport when it finally hit me that I had quite literally quit everything I knew to go to the other side of the world, by myself. It was nuts and totally overwhelming, I can't deny a few tears were shed as I read the messages from family and friends, but then my flight was called. I pulled myself together, downed my wine and headed to the gate, and the rest is history.I'm currently in Berlin on my second solo trip, this time heading around Europe. But before I left I was getting that feeling again, like this little time in my life is over. I'm only off for a month but it's the end of my time here at home and the start of something new, a whole new trip and a whole new way of travelling. I seem to get this overwhelming feeling that I need to leave every now and again, it plagues me, I never know when it will hit. Sometimes I can be perfectly happy in a place for six months, other times it creeps up on me after a few days, but when it hits I know I have to get gone. That it's time for a new adventure. A lot of my friends aren't travelers but they've experienced the same feeling - that desperation for a career change or eagerness to get out of a relationship that has gone sour. One of my friends has always had a "cut and run" theory that I share with her, when her gut instinct tells her she's not happy she cuts her losses in relationships and gets gone. Another has found her passions overwhelmingly taking her away from her career and pushing her towards self-employment - a scary prospect but the most exciting thing to ever happen to her career-wise.
My point is we all have that thing that sets us tightrope walking along the very fine line between completely terrified and beyond bloody excited. But it's whether we take that leap of faith that everything in front of us is just as magical as what lies behind, that is what decides our course in life. I read this quote the other day:
“You get a strange feeling when you're about to leave a place, like you'll not only miss the people you love but you'll miss the person you are now at this time and this place, because you'll never be this way ever again.” — Azar Nafisi
It just seemed so perfect for describing this feeling, the fear that you will never again experience this moment - I know I've had it a lot when I've formed incredible bonds with groups of people along my travels. That fear that by letting go of that perfect moment things will never be the same again. But more importantly, because every decision you make is shaping you as a person, everything changes you as a person. My decision to quit my job, relationship and life as I knew it changed me. Travel changed me. Just like the relationships and career choices of my friends have changed them. We are all learning and growing with every step we take in this world and it can be scary to let go of everything we know, but it's only by doing that and leaping into the unknown that some of the best experiences of our lives will happen. So here it is, if you're standing on the pinnacle of a life-changing decision, afraid that you will lose something precious, just take a second and think about what you could gain. By deciding to take the leap and grow as a person, you open yourself up to so many more incredible experiences - trust me, I'm a poster girl for this. Go for it and stop worrying, you have so much more to gain than you ever could lose.
Have you made a life-changing decision? How did you push yourself to take a risk? What is the scariest choice you've had to make?
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.
Ever had one of those moments in your life where you feel like everything is falling down around you? Those times when you suddenly realise that you’re nowhere near where you hoped you would be in life and yet everyone else seems to be giant strides ahead of you. We’ve all been there, we’ve all felt like shit because we don’t think we’re doing as well as everyone else looks like they’re doing on social media. But that’s okay, it’s okay to feel like you’re failing a bit. Why? Because it’s these moments that help us to really view our lives clearly, to make cut-throat decisions about where we want to be, what we want to achieve and who we want beside us. I definitely had a moment like this just before deciding to come travelling - it was one of the hardest times of my life and yet now I look back on it as the deciding moment that changed my life. My career, relationship, home were all gone in a second and yet I’m now happier than I’ve ever been - it took rejecting all I knew to achieve all I never knew I wanted. But trust me, that’s the hardest decision to make. It’s so much easier to carry on as you are and bury your head in the sand.
It’s been almost eighteen months since I left the UK to travel Asia and Australia, and it’s now been over two months since I arrived in Melbourne. For the first time in a while, I actually feel really settled and like I’ve actually got my shit together. It’s an amazing feeling after living such an unsettled existence for the last two or three years. I have a home, a steady job that challenges me, a great group of friends and a plan for the next six months - its an odd feeling but a great one. For a long time all I wanted was a life of excitement and uncertainty, of adventure and of freedom. But now, after over a year on the road it’s really nice to be able to live a different way and to have a whole new adventure - living abroad - and to tick another item off the bucket list. Finally having a routine again and being in that familiar cycle of work/fun/sleep/repeat really gives me the opportunity to reflect on my 18 months away and to think about how far I’ve come, what I’ve experienced and where I’m going in life. I feel like I’ve got my shit together and it’s a great feeling - so now I want to share all the tiny things that help me feel like I’ve got it together. Tiny changes can really make a difference to your whole outlook on life.
What tiny things help you feel like you have your life in order? When you’re struggling, what helps you stay on course?
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 Valentine’s Day approaches, I can’t help but remember just two years ago when I was crazy in love and whisked off my feet with all the hearts and roses that come with the holiday. A romantic dinner for two and a year later, who knew that I would spend my next Valentine’s Day at a Half Moon Party in Thailand more single than I had been in a decade, that two years on I would be preparing to spend the day at a festival with good friends. It’s amazing how much your life can change with your relationship status and it’s only been since I left my nine year relationship to come traveling that I have really noticed how much others really let their relationships rule their lives and their decisions. Even now, when I tell people I left behind such a long-term relationship to travel the world solo, they look at me incredulously and think I’m slightly crazy - but then I ask, wouldn’t it be crazier to put your dreams on hold and end up resenting the person you love the most? Begrudgingly they nod in agreement, but then you seem them do it again, and again, and again. Sacrificing their studies, their hobbies, their families and homes, all for a love that changes their world but not always for the better.
Two years ago, for Valentine’s, I wrote a blog post entitled “Relationships | What’s it really like to have a boyfriend at university?” which has still remained one of my most popular posts. It seems that the title of this post was something that several young women found themselves typing into Google as they tried to plan a future with their loves, tried to make a decision about their own education and future, and tried to keep the balance between what their head and heart were screaming. Over the last two years, this post has probably received the most comments and messages above all of my others, and it seems to be a bit of a hot topic for young ladies who are about to advance to this stage of their lives. Sixth Form and College is around the time when many young couples start pairing off and often you’ll find your first love, I certainly did. It’s a great time, when you’re learning what it’s like to first love another person, to be part of a real adult relationship and to be regarded as a “real” couple instead of foolish young teenagers. It’s easy for this love to take over your life a bit and we all went through that phase where we didn’t want to leave each others’ side, but then comes the pressures of university - whether you decide to go or not, often this can be the decider for whether many couples will survive. Often one half of the couple will have a longing to continue their studies as I did, while the other half will have a plan to either study elsewhere, or not at all. So what do you do when this happens?
So many girls have written to me explaining how worried they are that their relationship will not withstand the pressures of university and separation. I’ve had some asking whether I think they will make it when their other half already spends his time eying up other girls or flirting, I’ve had others ask whether the distance will be a problem, and I’ve had far too many asking whether I think they should change their lifelong university preference to attend the same school as their boyfriend. Something I want to make clear is that I have always been a very independent person, so has my ex-boyfriend and thats part of the reason we loved each other so much - we both trusted each other to give as much space as needed throughout the nine years and I think that’s why we were so happy throughout. When it came to me choosing my university and course, he had no input into my choice. I told him all about the universities I visited and about what my options were, but that was the extent of his influence. I made my choice of university based wholly on the course content, the campus, the people and the feeling of the place - from the moment I stepped on to the campus at University of Hertfordshire, I knew this was the place I had to spend the next three years of my life. Because that’s what it was - my life. Not his, although he was a huge part of my life after three years. But I knew that regardless of where I was, what I studied or how far apart we were, if we truly loved each other we would make it work. And if it didn’t work, I certainly didn’t want to be anywhere but my first choice of university.
The same happened when I came traveling - I made the decision separately that this was what I wanted to do, just like my other half decided he wanted to go to university to study. Independently we knew what was right for each of us, and mutually when we discussed it, we came to a decision that we both had to go our separate ways in order to be happy. Whether it was a permanent or temporary decision is another matter, but we both knew we had to do this otherwise we would end up resenting each other. It was easily the hardest decision of my life, but now, over a year after I left, I can tell you it was the best decision I ever made. Much like my choice of university, it has led me to one of the happiest times of my life, and yes, it does mean I’ve had to say goodbye to an incredible relationship but it also means I’ve chosen to invest in myself. Because being single doesn’t mean being lonely - if anything, since being single I’ve never been surrounded by such love, light and laughter, I’ve actually made some of the best friends and family of my life. So many seem to stay in a relationship because they are scared of the alternative, but what are you really afraid of - not having anyone’s shadow to stand in? I look around and see so many young women in relationships that make them feel insecure, afraid or unhappy, and I wonder why they stay. I’m entirely independent and alone at this point in my life and I’ve never felt stronger, braver or happier. Being single has made me fearless, given me incredible confidence and made me really value myself as an individual.
I’m not saying that every woman out there should go dump her boyfriend this Valentine’s Day (that would be a bit mean wouldn’t it?!), I’m just saying that it is important to celebrate being independent and single as well as celebrating retaining your individual identity when you’re in a relationship. Don’t be afraid to make independent decisions within a relationship, especially when it will have a huge impact on your own life. It’s easy to get swept up in coupledom, to let your loins take over your thought processes but don’t forget that when it comes to things like education and travel - these are things that change the way you view the life you live. If you already fear that the change will challenge your relationship beyond repair, then perhaps that relationship was not as strong as you first thought. But that’s okay, some people are destined to dip in and out of our lives gently influencing us along the way, while others exist to shake our worlds to the very core, changing and rebuilding them in ways we never expected. It’s easy to get them mixed up and sometimes a big change like university or travel is needed to show one from the other. But whichever type of relationship you have, it’s not as important as the one you have with yourself - that is the one you should be investing the real time, effort and love into, because its the only one you can guarantee will last for life.
How do you remain independent within your relationship? Can you think of a time when you have put yourself above the relationship? What have you sacrificed for love - and was it worth it?