Penguins, chocolate factories and beaches - if you ask me this sounds like one of the best trips of all! Phillip Island was definitely one I was looking forward to, especially since we were doing it independently. Many people go on organised bus trips to the island, but I was keen to hire a car and go it alone so I rounded up a few friends and booked a car. Naturally I went through Budget, my favourite hire car company to use, which cost us around $100 including full insurance for the day - pretty cheap when split between four of us. It takes around three hours to get to Philip Island from Melbourne CBD so you’ll want to set off as early as possible to have a full day on the island to explore. Located down on Mornington Peninsula you can bet there’s plenty of stunning nature to see.
We headed straight for Cape Woolamai when we arrived and with the sun blazing down on us it was the perfect place to be, looking out across Woolamai Surf Beach we watched the waves roll in. Down on the beach fishermen were catching fish right in the surf, while an elderly woman collected seaweed. It was beautiful and stretched as far as the eye could see, and I simply had to go dip my toes in the water. Afterwards we followed the road and stopped off at each beach along the way for more stunning views.
There are endless beach, bush and cliff walks across Phillip Island - use the maps you can find at visitor’s centres on the island, or just stumble across them. The Pinnacles Lookout comes highly recommended but sadly we didn’t make it to that one. We did however take some cute little bush and boardwalks through mangrove forests and bush land leading to lakes which were filled with wildlife including wallabies with babies in their pouches.
We headed to Cowes, one of the main towns on the island, for lunch and a wander along the pier. Like stepping back in time, the town is filled with old ice cream shops, cute little stores and lots of lovely places to eat. We headed for Isola di Capri, which was right on the seafront and overlooked the ocean. Sitting in the window, we had the sun beaming down on us as we enjoyed the view and tucked into a feast of pizza, risotto and calamari. Although out of a usual backpacker budget, we were treating ourselves - it was the last time I would see two of my friends and myself and the other friend had just quit out jobs and were also about to set off travelling again. Plenty to celebrate and how better than with good food and good friends? After lunch we took a walk along the pier to watch the fishermen.
The rest of our afternoon was spent over at the western tip of the island at Point Grant, where The Nobbies is located. Perfect for shark, dolphin and seal watching, the Nobbies ecotourism centre overlooks the huge boardwalk that takes visitors along the cliffs where they can view natural sights including Seal Rocks, The Nobbies and The Blowhole. This area is also home to Australia’s largest colony of fur seals, and if you’re lucky like we were, you may spot fairy penguins! It’s very windy up here so take a jumper with you, but definitely stroll along the boardwalk around sunset, the views are stunning and very photogenic.
Afterwards, of course, you have to head over to the Penguin Parade - the island’s biggest attraction. I had though it was definitely worth a look as you get the cute sight of lots of tiny penguins swimming into the beaches and running up them in time to roost. But to be honest, I was hugely disappointed. As you all know, I’m very environmentally conscious and yet I felt this whole “attraction” was done in a very unsafe way for the penguins. The sheer noise of the onlookers and the floodlights on the beach designed to highlight the penguins places them in more danger for predators and confused the birds. It was the most unnatural natural experience ever and it made me sad afterwards when you could see tourists shining cameras and lights in the faces of the birds as they ran up the boardwalks, they were confused and people crowding them didn’t help. The volunteers did very little to prevent this and instead just seemed concerned with people taking photos and videos as they were already selling these in the gift shop. All in all, I didn’t think this was worth the $20-30 spent and I just felt uncomfortable with the experience. I wouldn’t recommend it personally as I feel it is harmful to the environment and the animals, I actually preferred seeing the penguins over at The Nobbies because they were less crowded.
Overall, I loved Phillip Island, it’s a beautiful place to visit and definitely worth a day trip. But the Penguin Parade left a nasty taste in my mouth and I wouldn’t recommend it. I actually much preferred seeing the penguins at St Kilda because there were less people there and it seemed much more amazing. Plus its free and right on the beach so no travelling time.
Have you been to Phillip Island? What did you think of the Penguin Parade?
My two year working holiday visa for Australia is nearly at an end and I can't help but find myself reminiscing over the best times I've had in this amazing country. I've been lucky enough to live in the "most liveable city in the world" twice now and Melbourne has always been an incredible home from home for me. What is it that makes this city so great? For me, I always have my home-base of my closest travelling friends who live there permanently so it will always be the place I keep going back to. But even aside from that, I've always had amazing jobs there that have pushed me in new ways and have brought me amazing opportunities, I've always had great places to live and a huge group of mates that make saying goodbye the hardest it could possibly be. Living in Melbourne is a whole lifestyle that I haven't found elsewhere in cities around the world - it's festivals and events, it's health and fitness, it's eating out and partying, it's a whole attitude and a way of life.I loved every second I spent working and during my second year in Australia, I scored big when I managed to get a job cocktail waitressing at the number one rooftop bar in the city - Rooftop at QT. What at first seemed like just another bar job, soon proved to be so much more when I realised I would be working in such a high profile bar in the middle of the city at a 5* hotel serving celebrities on a daily basis. I hosted huge parties of up to 100 people almost nightly during the Christmas period from corporate functions to birthday parties and even later on working the Ferrari party for the Grand Prix, serving the likes of Nicole Kidman. It was a busy job, and a hard job at times. The hours were long and exhausting, I had to wear high heels and have my hair and make-up done for each shift. It was amazing, and I loved every second, but true to form I ended up working way too much and burning myself out as usual. So when it did come to my days off, I made sure to make the most of them and to get out exploring the city as much as possible.On one particular day off, a group of friends and I decided we deserved a chance enjoy the rooftop bars Melbourne has to offer, instead of always being the ones serving the drinks in them. We headed out on a bar crawl of the best rooftop bars in the city and this is my guide to the best ones I've visited.
The newest rooftop bar in Melbourne's CBD and already one of the most highly acclaimed, this is the best spot to enjoy a late afternoon drink in the sunshine and to spot celebrities. Rooftop at QT is a quirkier little sister brand of the hotel Rydges, expect ultimate luxury and a corporate feel, plus cocktails to die for.
Melbourne's third biggest rooftop bar, this is a great one to take a big group of mates to when you're all in the mood for good quality beers on tap and hearty meals like wings and nachos. Imperial Hotel is a great place to start a bar crawl if you fancy working your way down Bourke Street and visiting the huge number of rooftop bars along the way.
Famous for it's amazing view, you can't miss out on a visit to this fabulous rooftop bar in Fitzroy. The cocktails are delicious and the bar even have their own spirits on offer including a spiced rum that I absolutely loved. The view is incredible both during the day and at night - head into Naked for Satan and wait at the lift to be escorted up to the rooftop. There is sometimes a queue but trust me, it's worth the wait.
This cute little rooftop hideaway is easily missed from the street, but it's one you definitely want to know about because Loop Bar is one of the few bars that are fully kitted out to deal with Melbourne's crazy weather. Gas heaters and a large awning mean that even when it pours outside, you can still enjoy the rooftop experience surrounded by greenery and garden furniture.
After something a bit fancy for girls' night? Look no further than the kitsch decorations, the pink theme and fruity punchbowls to share at Madame Brussels. The cute little outdoors area will be perfect for all your Instagram shots, and it's definitely a bit different to all the other rooftop bars around.
I won't lie, Bomba had one of the most disappointing rooftop areas with no view and not much space for sitting but the menu downstairs more than makes up for this. Head upstairs for a quick drink then back downstairs for a delicious selection of Spanish tapas.
Head out of the CBD and over to South Yarra for a change of pace and a nice chilled out bar right by the train station. The Emerson rooftop is lovely and has umbrellas so you can enjoy it even in the pouring rain as we did when I went. It's right on Chapel Street so perfect for heading out afterwards.
Ferdydurke is not technically a rooftop bar, but this cool little bar is on the top floor and has a cool little smoking area that overlooks graffiti-covered walls and Section 8's awesome little container backyard bar, giving a taste of Melbourne's edgier, hipster side.
Find yourself in Richmond? Look no further than these two unexpected gems for a perfect rooftop experience - both used to be locals of mine for after work drinks and you can always expect a great atmosphere especially with regular gigs taking place downstairs from The Corner Hotel. Expect busy venues and a lively crowd, particularly on a Friday and Saturday night. Richmond Club Hotel also offers an incredible view over the train tracks and into the city - head here for sunset.
That old favourite will never leave my top list of rooftop bars - Carlton Club was just around the corner from Rooftop at QT so I was a regular there for after work drinks. It's always a guaranteed laugh with old school tunes on a Friday night and a busy dance floor, plus cheap drinks and a lovely outside rooftop area that is perfect for drinks day or night.
One I only finally visited just before leaving Melbourne but had spent a long time checking out from Rooftop at QT. You can see across the skyline to the other rooftop bars and this one always looked popular with a steady crowd up there drinking and enjoying the sunshine. Completely unpretentious, this bar doesn't even need a name, just Rooftop Bar, but for those who can't find it - you'll want to head to Curtin House on Swanston Street, the building that houses popular venue Cookie, then head to the top floor.
An awesome little find - I love Good Heavens for brightly coloured afternoon cocktails with friends - think refreshing beverages, live DJ sets and a party atmosphere. It's all set right above Fancy Hanks BBQ joint that serves all the smoked meats you could possibly eat - so head downstairs for some dinner after a few drinks.
Have you been to any of these rooftop bars? Which one is your favourite? Can you recommend any others that aren't listed?
Leaving Melbourne is always much harder than leaving any other place I've been to. I'm lucky enough to have the most amazing group of friends there that have become more like family over the last few years, and they make it very hard to move on. Right now I'm sat in the airport waiting to board my flight to Adelaide where I'll be spending a week catching up with an old friend, but as excited as I am to see him, there is part of me that is really sad to be leaving this city. It just holds so many amazing memories, so many incredible people that have meant the world to me. In my two six-month stints living here I've had some of my biggest travelling highs and lows - I've had great loves, found some crazy new careers to be successful in and made some new friends for life. So it seemed only right to leave with a bang and how better to finish my time here than with a weekend spent with some of the best people I've met here, and my closest friends, celebrating a joint birthday? Around 16 of us rented a house for the weekend in Ocean Grove, just past Geelong on Great Ocean Road, for a weekend of fun, partying and luxury. The house was amazing - more than we could have hoped for - with a heated outdoor swimming pool, a huge barbecue area, surfboards, a man cave with a pool table, karaoke and much more. Best of all? It overlooked the ocean with some amazing views of passing ships including the Spirit of Tasmania. At just $100 each for the weekend, it was a bargain with plenty of money left over for barbecue food and drinks.Driving up on the Friday evening, we were overwhelmed by the incredible home that awaited us for the weekend. Celebrating with birthday cakes, pizzas, a LOT of drinks and a LOT of crazy dancing ending with a pool party. It was so much fun and just what we all needed. The following day we headed down to check out the beach, some of the gang grabbing scooters and skateboards from the man cave. A blustery beach walk awaited us, and a lot of hilarity as one of the boys stripped off and dived into the freezing water. Afterwards we headed into the town for a pint and to buy more food for dinner, before heading back to the house for more pool time and a lot of girls vs guys games. It was so nice to have so much chill time together as a group, while getting drunk was fun, I will treasure the downtime we had just as much. Our last night was filled with barbecue, chilled drinks, games of pool and some bad karaoke. A perfect end to a perfect last weekend.
While I'm sad to be leaving, it has definitely reminded me how lucky I am - not only to have such amazing friends but also to have the freedom to live this traveller life. What is it Winnie-The-Pooh said?
"How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard" - A.A.Milne
What makes me luckiest of all is knowing I have this to come back to - if it doesn't work out on the West Coast, I have a family waiting here for me to return. That's what makes it easy to leave - knowing it doesn't have to be the end of this life or these friendships. Melbourne, you've been great to me these past few months, but it's definitely time to move on and see something new, something different that takes my breath away.
But for now, Melbourne, over and out.
Today marks the start of a brand new adventure. Yesterday, I sat in my apartment attempting to squeeze my life into my backpack and felt like I was standing on the edge of a precipice about to jump. Oh god how I've missed that feeling. I've missed the feeling of freedom and excitement at picking up and starting again somewhere new and different. I've been back in Melbourne for five months after living here for five months last year - don't get me wrong, Melbourne has turned into a home from home for me and remains one of my absolute favourite places in the world. But when you know it's time to go, it's time to go.
Living in the city, both times, has been a real challenge with surreal highs and some crazy lows that have left me questioning everything. Every time I come here, I seem to end up in jobs that push me to the very end of my tether and while I've loved my cocktail waitress gig and have had an amazing time working on a rooftop bar all summer - I am more than ready to move on and get back to traveller life. This last few months have been both amazing and exhausting - I've worked too much in my goal to save as much money as possible and I've had to sacrifice my writing due to lack of time and routine. But at the same time, I've made some amazing new friends and I've had some pretty special adventures in this city and beyond. I don't regret a single second of it, but I know that out there a healthier and happier life is waiting for me, so I think it's about time I went and found it.
This past week has been a flurry of goodbyes and leaving drinks, after living here for a total of ten months I've picked up a pretty special crowd along the way. I want to say a huge thank you to every single person, who no matter how short a time we spent together, really made my Melbourne experience. Now I plan to finish my time here with a bang, tonight I'm heading to a pretty incredible house I've rented with my friends for a joint-birthday celebration along Great Ocean Road. We'll be spending the weekend there and, just as it should be, I'll be finishing my time in Melbourne with the people who mean the most to me. Follow me on Instagram and check out my InstaStories for all the live updates.
So what's next for Absolutely Lucy?
On Monday I'll be flying to Adelaide, where I'll be catching up with an old friend and checking out the city for a week. I'm definitely going to need a chilled week after this hectic last few weeks in Melbourne! Then I'm heading to Perth, where I'm hoping to find some road trip buddies to start heading up the West Coast with - it's been a dream trip for a long time and I'm so excited to be on the road again. I can't wait for the sunshine and beaches after this last week of rain in Melbourne, get me tanned, fit and healthy again. I've slipped into so many bad habits lately, not sleeping enough, barely eating and drinking way too much - hospo life has definitely got the better of me - so now I'm looking forward to taking care of myself for a while.
I'm excited to get back to blogging and to be able to focus on my passion for a while instead of working the same repetitive job and having the same conversations over and over again. Being a waitress in the bar was fun but I'm so much more than that and I can't wait to pursue the things I really love, to have the time and the energy to be creative again. I'll miss my big city life, my cute little apartment all to myself with a gym downstairs, my local coffee shop and bars where the staff remember my orders, my work crew and how much they cared about each other. I'll miss the families I found in my neighbours, my work crew and my besties I've met all over Australia. Melbourne is an incredible city but it is always the people who make the place and I've been lucky enough to meet some amazing characters who I already can't wait to see again. Next week I'll have lots more to share with you all - trust me I have a lot of adventures to catch you all up on! But for now Melbourne, over and out.
As a backpacker who has now lived in Melbourne twice, I've loved getting out and exploring the city and far beyond. Not being much of a city girl, I've noticed Melbourne really has a fantastic balance of modern built up areas interweaved with beautiful sprawling parks that really help to make the skyscrapers feel less claustrophobic and imposing than they do in English cities. It's easy to wander around the city and quickly find yourself leaving the busy streets behind to get lost in lush, green woodland. Having lived in both South Melbourne and Southbank, I've been lucky enough to live with Albert Park right on my doorstep - a perfect place to run around the lake of an evening, or to gather with friends for barbecues or to watch the Grand Prix. Just behind sits the Royal Botanic Gardens, huge endless parks that stretch across the city with all kinds of treasures tucked just out of sight of the city.Fancy getting a bit further out of the city? There are so many amazing places right on your doorstop in Victoria that it would be a shame not to! Here are my top 5 places to escape into nature around Melbourne:
Wilson's Promontory National Park
Just a couple of hours drive down to Mornington Peninsula and you'll feel like you've entered another world. Wilson's Prom has everything from forest and mountain, to marshland, river, beaches and even sand dunes! You'll want a weekend to explore at your own pace so pack up the camping gear, the beers and bring your best mates for a weekend you won't forget. Definitely don't miss seeing the view from Mount Oberon Summit, sunset from the beach at Tidal River campsite and The Big Drift sand dunes.
Great Ocean Road
The absolute must-do when you go to Melbourne - Great Ocean Road is a perfect road trip to take with your buddies and is perfect whether you're on a budget or fancy a big blow out. There are plenty of luxury escapes to take your breath away, or do like my gang and just pack a tent, hire a car and take advantage of the many free things to see and do. There are so many hikes, beaches, viewpoints and more to explore - don't miss Bells Beach during the surfing competitions, Twelve Apostles at sunrise, the Round the Twist lighthouse if you're a 90's kid. Camp in Cape Otway National Park for an amazing experience and take a break from driving at Loch Ard Gorge for spectacular views. On your way home, take a detour through the Grampians National Park!
The Grampians National Park
A perfect trip to do on your way home from Great Ocean Road, you can see the highlights in 1/2 days. Taking you up into the mountains, don't forget a jumper for that fresh mountain air. Stay in the Hall's Gap campsites, they're perfect for a campfire and nice and sheltered from the wind. Don't miss the Pinnacle viewpoint - take the walk through the canyon - the Balconies, and Mackenzie Falls for those perfect photographs.
Dandenong Ranges National Park - 1,000 Steps
One I only ticked off my list last week, this national park is easily within reach for those without a car as you can get the train from Flinders to Upper Ferntree Gully and then walk from there. It takes just a few hours to get out there and complete the walk so perfect if you just fancy spending an afternoon in nature. The 1,000 Steps are the big attraction and although they'll definitely have you huffing and puffing, they're not as daunting as they sound. You'll see runners of all shapes and sizes taking them on over and over again as they sprint up and down. Pack a picnic to enjoy at the top then take a different path down to enjoy a different pace of walk.
The last one I had to tick off my list, I was so excited to finally be visiting Phillip Island to overdose on nature, especially seeing wild penguins down by the shore. One that can be done in a day either by organised day trip or by just hiring a car with your mates and heading off independently. Home to some seriously beautiful beaches and even a Grand Prix circuit, there is plenty to explore and it is a perfect day escape from city life.
This post previously featured on Wild Melbourne - see the original post here.
What are you favourite places to escape into nature around Victoria? Can you recommend any other places across Australia or the world?
Some people swear by snowy skiing holidays, some people can't live without fresh mountain air - for me it's beachy bliss and ocean dreams that fuel my travels. I've been a total water baby since I was a kid and I can't stand being far from the ocean - I've always lived no further than 20 minutes from the sea and it's always been the one thing to soothe me. From winter beach walks to summers running along the seafront and charing the waves, I just love the peace and simplicity of a life with sandy feet and salty hair. My farm work was possibly the hardest time of my travels - and some of that I put down to being the furthest away from the ocean I have ever been. 800km west of Brisbane, I was pretty much in the centre of Australia and a minimum of 12 hour driving away from the sea. It sounds silly, but we humans are 80% water and it seems crazy that being near or far from water cannot affect our mood.Since being back in Melbourne, I've been working like crazy sometimes 50/60 hour weeks and so it's become more important than every that I make the most of my time off by going to new places I haven't yet explored. For me, that means venturing in different directions to explore the best beaches and most beautiful places I haven't yet seen in this amazing city. I love Melbourne and there is so much more for me to discover so I've been on the buses, trains and trams to find my favourite new beachy destinations in the area. I've come up with my top 10 list of my favourite beaches I've been to in the area - all within easy reach of Melbourne CBD and well worth visiting if you fancy a change.
My top 10 beaches in Melbourne
St Kilda Beach
It goes without saying that St Kilda Beach is a lot of fun - it's far from the prettiest beach in Melbourne but it's the place to be if you want to enjoy beers in the sunshine, the odd festival or to warm up for a night out. I spent Christmas Day here with my nearest and dearest - we enjoyed a full Aussie Xmas Day from beers in the sunshine to water fights in the sea and a full rave on the beach - so much fun and always a good place to head to meet people. Plus, penguins... need I say more?!
My new favourite after visiting the other day, this one is perfect for escaping the city. Just 30 minutes on the train from Flinders, this beautiful untouched beach promises crystal clear waters and gorgeous golden sandy beaches. Endless rock pools and nature to explore, or you can just relax in your own little cove.
Half Moon Bay
Last time I was in Melbourne, I went on a lovely date with a guy to Half Moon Bay. It was a beautiful little cove attached to Sandringham Beach but also completely separate. We had the whole beach to ourselves and went swimming at sunset, it was beautiful to watch the sun hit the water and watch the ships sailing past. A perfect spot to romance anyone special in your life.
A home away from home, this little gem comes complete with an amazing view of the city from across the water and cute little beach reminiscent of those you'll find on quaint English beaches like those near my home. Plus, it's only 20 minutes by train! A lovely chilled beach and great for swimming as there isn't too many rocks in the water and it isn't quite as shallow as some of the beaches. While you're in the area you can also check out Elwood and Hampton beaches.
This has become my local beach of late -just 5 minutes on the tram from my apartment, it's my perfect escape for a sunny morning before work. on the same stretch of Port Phillip Bay as St Kilda, it couldn't be more different. Usually empty of people and very peaceful, this is more of a family beach and less party. It's a perfect place to take a book and relax for a few hours.
Halfway between a beach and a cliff face - this one is definitely worth a visit. The water was ice cold when I went but you couldn't miss the beauty of the place. Come here for cliff jumping and a good swim in crystal clear deep waters. On hot days the place turns into a party for the Mornington crowd!
Take a 25 minute train ride and a step back in time to Williamstown, a small seaside town with all the cuteness of a British seaside resort. I went on a windy day when it was perfect for sandy beach walks instead of sunbathing but still saw the beauty in the simple, untouched beach. Perfect if you fancy escaping the busy sands of St Kilda.
Escape the city for a day or overnight like I did, I went to visit a friend who lived down in Torquay, near the start of Great Ocean Road. This was a perfect excuse to head down to the gorgeous surfing beaches like Bells Beach to walk the dogs and catch up for a few days. While you're at it, why not hire a car for a few days and do the whole Great Ocean Road? Check out my posts for planning your trip here and here.
I just spent a few hours on one of the many Mornington Peninsula beaches during a stormy day, but it was very beautiful and the whole area is covered with gorgeous beaches to explore. Easy to get to in a day, they're worth exploring and if you have more time then Sorrento and the beaches down at Wilson's Promontory are also worth a visit.
Pretty far out of the city but worth a visit if you have more time, Frankston is full of lovely beaches to explore, most of them I saw during windy days so I enjoyed walks rather than sunbathing but they'd be beautiful on a hot day!
There's something so soothing about the ocean isn't there? If you love it as much as I do, why don't you check out Celebrity Cruises by Bolsover Cruise Club for their take on modern luxury while you explore the globe.
What's your favourite Melbourne beach? Can you recommend any others?
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.
There's no doubt about it, 2016 has been a pretty incredible year for me. I've had some soaring highs and felt pretty low at times, but I've also had the chance to experience some thing I never could have dreamed I would. I crossed three continents and ticked off my 30th country, worked with hotels, spas and restaurants either side of the globe for this blog, I said goodbye to love so that I could travel Europe solo and I made some incredible friends along the way. I've worked as a sales manager, a cocktail waitress, a journalist along the way and all the while I've been working on creating amazing content for this blog. 2016 has been a year of working hard and playing harder, and as it draws to a close I can't help but reminisce over the special times I've shared with amazing people. From the teary goodbyes at the airport, to the mates I've shared incredible road trips with this summer, to the incredible welcome home I got from some of my best friends when I arrived back in Melbourne. Getting the opportunity to celebrate a real Aussie Christmas surrounded by so many amazing friends was a perfect way to end the year. But what have the highlights been?
My top 5 travelling experiences of 2016:
Without a doubt, Melbourne is my number one for the year. Voted the Most Liveable City in the World six years running, it's no wonder I've just moved back here for the second time. I lived in Melbourne at the start of the year and it was the first place in nearly two years that had felt like home. I had an amazing flat, a great job as a sales manager, the most incredible friends and I completely fell for a great guy. Now I'm back for round two and I'm already well on my way with a great job at a rooftop bar and my own brand new apartment. Melbourne, you are well and truly my second home.
A city I had dreamed of visiting for years, Budapest was everything I had imagined and more. I loved the history, the beauty, the architecture and the people I met there. Part of my summer backpacking trip around Europe, it was a perfect opportunity to explore the city independently and to have some amazing experiences. One of my favourites was eating dinner in a traditional Hungarian restaurant with my newfound Aussie and Norwegian mates talking about the world under a blanket of stars. Visiting Budapest reminded me how much I love exploring a new city alone on foot, and it's a city I can't wait to revisit.
Slovenia was an amazing experience - not only did I get to explore some of Eastern Europe, a dream of mine for several years, but I was invited along on my first blogging trip. It was an amazing privilege and a reminder of how hard I have worked to build up this travel blog over the last few years. Spending a week at a luxury glamping site on the Slovenian/Croatian border was a fantastic way to see the country - from woodland hikes to swimming in the rivers, to visiting locals and eating feasts of freshly caught local fish. The people, and the place, made it unforgettable.
My second blogging trip of the year came about only as a last minute plan - I was at a low point and unsure of what my next move would be when one of my best travelling friends invited me to Bali. It was the best decision ever and led to my being invited along to review hotels, spas and restaurants on the island. What was supposed to be a week-long trip turned into a month and yet I still wasn't ready to leave. I explored the Bali countryside on motorbike, visited temples, explored monkey forests, swam in the waves, spotted manatees and swam with sea turtles. It was the holiday I had needed - not just travelling, it was a holiday and one of which I appreciated every second.
Definitely the most breathtakingly beautiful place I have been yet, by far. Tasmania was somewhere I had longed to visit since arriving in Australia and "mini-New Zealand" definitely lived up to the hype. I spent three weeks there staying in the best hostel I have found yet in Australia, exploring Hobart and road tripping around 11 national parks in just 10 days. I hiked for days on end, camped wild under the stars and the full moon, I climbed several mountains and spotted countless whales, kangaroos, wombats and wallabies. It was a magical experience and one I'm so glad I made happen, it was just what I needed. A true breath of fresh air.
After such an incredible year, it's hard to imagine just how 2017 could top 2016. I've travelled to eight different countries this year, I've lived in two of them long-term, I've gone from outback living to city slicker to beach babe and total mermaid. I've taken my clothes off on top of a mountain in the snow, I've changed my mind in 10 minutes and booked a spontaneous flight to the other side of the world. I've refused to stop living my dream for anyone other than myself and I've made a plan for the future. It's an exciting time to be Absolutely Lucy and it all starts again when the clock strikes 12 on New Years. Another fresh start, another exciting adventure and another dream come true. I'm ready, are you?
Where has been your favourite place to travel to this year? Have you enjoyed following my adventures? What are your travel plans for 2017?
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I'm not much of a city girl, being born and raised out in the English countryside seems to swing you one way or the other. My sister is the ultimate city girl living in London and working in the fashion industry, but while I've loved the crazy hustle and bustle of visiting cities like Bangkok, Siem Reap and Hanoi, I'm always glad to escape again to the coast, countryside or mountains. I crave space, open fields, endless ocean or the fresh mountain air, too long spent breathing in the fumes of the city, dealing with traffic and so many people drives me crazy. Living in Melbourne was the longest I have ever lived in the middle of a city other than Sydney, and I know the old rivalry between the two is still strong for good reason. Both are amazing cities but Melbourne is where my heart is, even before I left the UK I knew it would be and everything I experienced while I lived there for four months only further cemented my love for the city. Melbourne is a fantastic city to live in if you don't really like cities - despite my apartment being in the most central part of the city I never felt trapped the way I do in London. The beach was just a short tram ride away and on either side of my apartment you would find beautiful Albert Park and the Botanic Gardens with running tracks, endless open space and huge lakes. It was perfect for me, but even with all of this natural beauty surrounding me, it did sometimes get a bit too much living directly in the city. I'd still feel the need to escape and get away.
Now I hadn't even heard of Lysterfield Park, nor had many of my friends who had lived in Melbourne for a lot longer than I had, but it turned out to be the perfect pace to cycle away a hangover one Sunday. Around 30km out of the city, the park was created following the decommissioning of the reservoir that sits behind us in the photo above, which has left a beautiful woodland set against the banks of the lake. It was the venue for mountain biking events of the 2006 Commonwealth Games and features a wide array of trails suitable for beginners like myself or the more experienced rider. I was definitely feeling a little less enthusiastic at the thought of mountain biking on a hangover than Evan, but it turned out to be a really lovely day and perfect weather for escaping the city. We rode around the park and I attempted the mountain bike trails while he showed off. Wandering around the lake the banks were filled with families who had come well prepared with barbecues and all sorts of goodies. It was beautiful standing there as the sun was setting. We headed back into the woods to find the car and spotted some of the biggest kangaroos I've seen in the whole of Australia as we rode along the path towards the car park.
We ended up having a rather entertaining drive home as the car decided to pack in and leave us stranded until we could get a lift, but it didn't take the shine off what was a rather perfect day. It was just the death of fresh air I needed before heading back to work the following day - when you're working 12 hour days six days a week, it becomes even more important to really make the most of your days off. It was really nice to have the opportunity to see another part of the city that I hadn't yet explored. For anyone who hasn't heard of Lysterfield, I would really recommend you head out there one weekend - whether you like biking, running or just fancy a nice stroll around beautiful park, it's a lovely day out and well worth a visit. While you're at it, why not check to some of the other stunning walks and parks scattered around Melbourne - check out my blog posts on Great Ocean Road, Cape Otway National Park and Grampians National Park. I can't wait to visit the Wilson's Promontory, Dandenong Ranges National Park and Philip Island when I return to Melbourne in a few months.
Do you crave city life, or you prefer a country escape? Where are your favourite places to go to escape the hustle and bustle of the city?
As the clock ticked down on my final days in Melbourne, it struck me that there were still several things I had yet to do before leaving. All those touristy things we want to do but simply forget once we start working and life gets in the way. Well working 12 hour days six days a week definitely cut back the amount of time I had to give to such activities, but I was still determined to give it my best shot. So when the birthday of one of my best friends was approaching, I thought how better to celebrate than with a trip up the Eureka Skydeck to see our beautiful city twinkling in the moonlight followed by a night of cocktails by the river. We met at Ludlow's, a bar along the river where loads of our friends who worked there were celebrating the boss' birthday with drinks and food. The crowd that work at the bar are great, such a friendly bunch and they definitely know how to party. The company actually owns part of the Skydeck and when they heard we were going up there that evening, the bosses gave us free tickets to both the Skyjack and The Edge - we couldn't believe it! It was so lovely of them and we really appreciated it. Normal prices at $20 for entrance to the Skydeck Experience and a further $12 for The Edge.We walked over to the entrance and were given a warm welcome by the staff to ushered us into the lifts which carried us a whopping 285m above ground in just 38 seconds! No wonder my ears were popping. The fastest elevator trip in the Southern Hemisphere took us directly to the dizzying heights of the Eureka Skydeck - and I wasn't sure how well this was going to go down. Heights have never bothered me in the slightest, but the birthday girl suffered terrible vertigo as we had found in the Grampians and I hoped she was going to be able to enjoy it. We walked around the Skydeck where we experienced Melbourne sightseeing at its finest, the whole city was alight and glowing against the dark skies. It was beautiful - take your breath away beautiful. I was so glad we hadn't come up during the day, but also wondered what it would have been like to witness this spectacular view at sunset. We had an incredible 360 degree view of the Melbourne skyline thanks to the floor-to-ceiling windows. From the top it is possible to see Albert Park Lake, Port Phillip Bay, the Dandenong Ranges and beyond. There are also 30 viewfinders around the Skydeck, so you can take a closer look at some of Melbourne’s favourite landmarks such as the MCG, Federation Square and Flinders Street Station.After exploring the platform, we decided to enjoy a nice glass of wine with the view over the city - it really was a breathtaking sight. We all had to take a minute to breathe in the fact that this was our home, we lived in this amazing city. It was one of the moments I really found a true appreciation for how lucky I am. Then our buzzer went and it was our time to check out the second stage of the experience - The Edge - a glass cube that projects from the 88th floor of the Eureka Tower and suspends visitors almost 300 meters high above Melbourne. A world first, it gives you a chance to stand over the city and really experience the view from a whole new perspective. Now I know that it might not appeal to those who are scared of heights but with me were two of my best friends who were both nervous about the experience and worried they couldn't cope with the height. Both came out with huge beaming smiles on their faces and not a hint of shaky legs. Even if you hate heights and ca't usually deal with them, don't write off this experience because my friends coped well and were so glad they had given it a chance. There really is no other way to see Melbourne like it and I will always remember seeing Melbourne twinkling below me.
Have you been up the Eureka Skydeck? How did you find The Edge? What other top Melbourne attractions could you recommend?
Melbourne goes all out when it comes to celebrating the culture that pours from its streets - from street parties to festivals, there’s always something going on and yet another amazing faction of the city to celebrate. (Check out my previous post on White Night and St Kilda Festival) There’s so much to get involved with and so many ways to feel a part of the city whether you prefer to celebrate the music, art, people or history of the city. These huge events bring people from all walks of life together in that magical way that only a festival can - and we all know how much I love my festivals. Whether it’s a four day bender in the heart of the English countryside, a weekend of acoustic performances, fields filled with art installations or the atmosphere of a heaving city event - all festivals have one thing in common. They bring people together to celebrate something we all love - creativity.Festivals are definitely something I’ve missed since travelling - if you’ve been reading for a while you’ll know I’m something of a festival queen after my work as editor of This Festival Feeling. So after managing to miss out altogether during my travels, I was so happy to find so much going on in the streets of Melbourne. If you’ve read my post on Piknic Electronik then you’ll have already had a taste of the vibes I’m talking about. While the festivals and parties I’ve found here haven’t been quite as wild as the ones back home or up in Darwin, they’ve been plenty of fun! I’m talking about the bush doofs just outside the city, and the warehouse parties in Footscray - all with a totally different atmosphere to those I’m used to but awesome in their own right.Elsewhere in the city, I gathered a few friends and headed to the Lonsdale Street Greek Festival one sunny afternoon back in February. Melbourne’s biggest Greek street party filled the city’s historic Greek precinct with the sights, sounds and smells of Greek culture. From the delicious scent of freshly fried calamari with a squeeze of lemon juice, to the students Greek dancing in the streets, to the three stages crammed with entertainment, children’s rides and activities. The street was lined with over 60 food, drink and craft stalls and the space in-between was filled with hundreds of people. The atmosphere was fantastic and the musical performances were cheered on by the waiting crowd. Just down the road in Federation Square visitors could transport themselves across the globe at the Japanese Festival where over 15,000 people gathered to honour their ancestors and celebrate Japanese culture. With traditional dance performances, traditional dress on show, Taiko drumming and sumo shows, there was plenty to watch and get involved with. Plus plenty of Japanese delicacies including sushi and bento to whet your appetite for Japanese culture.Elsewhere, over on Chapel Street one of my best friends in Melbourne dragged me out to what I thought was going to be a food festival one Sunday. We were both in recovery mode from the previous night out but couldn’t resist the promise of food and fun. We headed to Windsor Block Party, where I expected a small gathering of stalls but what I found was so much more. Food stalls with huge crowds gathered around them and the smell of sizzling goodness, further along the costumes of circus performers glittered in the late afternoon sunlight. They spun flaming poi and hula hooped to the beats of a DJ set-up - think Notting Hill Carnival street party vibes - everyone was dancing and cheering at the DJ. As the sun set, the music pounded and everyone was dancing together, a perfect Sunday evening if you ask me, all rounded off with an afterparty in a nearby bar. It was one of those events that brings everyone together in the best of spirits for all of the best things in life - good food, good music and good fun.Another weekend we just happened to walk through Moomba Festival, yet another celebration in the centre of Melbourne that had brought out crowds of thousands to the Yarra riverbanks just off Federation Square for a weekend of music, food, entertainment, all rounded off with some amazing fireworks. If you love a festival as much as I do, you’ll definitely be headed for Melbourne at some point - I know when I head back i already have a whole list of festivals I simply have to experience - I can’t wait!
What's been your favourite Australian festival experience? Are you headed to any UK festivals this summer?