[GIFTED items featured] There's no denying 2018 was a rough year for my wellbeing and happiness. I threw myself in at the deep end and gave 150% for months on end, completely forgetting to look after myself. It's not surprising after such an emotional roller-coaster that I crawled into 2019 feeling more than a little burnt out. In a society that seems to pride itself on how busy, how dedicated and how motivated it is, it can be easy to feel like you're under-performing, or like you just need to try a bit harder. But honestly, I'm so over this idea that we need to be constantly doing and achieving in order to be our best selves.
We all want to be the best version of ourselves, but when we're always trying to be great at everything, we often feel like we're falling short at every hurdle. That's why I'm declaring 2019 as the year for focusing on wellness, self-care and happiness. It seems the team at Whittard agree and they've sent me this lovely [GIFTED] wellbeing hamper filled with all sorts of goodies to help me start looking after myself. From special teas to help you sleep and tasty snacks, to gorgeous peppermint soap and even a mindfulness colouring book to help de-clutter my mind. It's made me slow down and take a breath to think about what is really important to me – what will make me happy this year.
We've all got dreams, but sometimes life gets in the way and you're forced to push them aside. Well I think it's time we stop waiting for tomorrow and we get focused on those crazy goals! Always wanted to start a new career, learn a language, move abroad, write a book, travel, buy a new car, go self-employed? Who says 2019 can't be the year you make this come true? The longer you wait, the harder it becomes to make this become a reality.
I saw this great line the other day about how there are countless people out there who are less qualified than you to do what you want to do, and yet they've done it through positive thinking and confidence. There's a lot of power in having a great mindset and just trying. Taking that first step is the hardest part, and you have nothing to lose by giving it a shot. If you don't you'll spend your life wondering what could have happened. Every goal is attainable if you make a plan, take one step at a time, and work hard.
This is such an important one and I know I'm not alone in needing to put certain friendships and relationships in the past. 2018 was a year when i was exposed to some toxic people. I'm glad to have said goodbye to a few friendships that were bringing nothing but negativity into my life, and I don't feel bad for cutting them out. After all, your vibe attracts your tribe. So if someone is bringing bad vibes into my life, it's only going to attract more negativity, and that's something I'm leaving in 2018.
Most importantly, we do not exist to fix other people's problems. We do not exist to heal others. we are all responsible for ourselves. If someone has their own issues that are impacting our happiness and wellbeing, then I'm afraid it's time to say goodbye to that person. If they're not making effort or pulling their weight as a friend, there's no shame in holding your hands up and saying that someone is simply not good for you anymore.
For those feeling a little run-down or overworked and exhaustion has become your middle name. What has really helped me is changing my priorities. For me, a big issue was my long commute and working hours which left me no time for anything else. I hated the wasted time traveling, so I filled it with books and podcasts to make the most of every second. It's so easy to learn with so much information at our fingertips, so why not use travel time or your evenings to boost your brain power?
It gives you such a confidence boost to know you're learning a new skill or language, or you're listening to podcasts on major issues. Since leaving Hamburg, I've rediscovered my love of books, art, music, podcasts, documentaries – I'm using every second to learn and grow. It's amazing the effect reading books and listening to podcasts has on your mental health compared to scrolling through social media. Use your "wasted time" wisely and you can make a huge difference to your well-being.
This one is so important. There's a whole world out there waiting to question and criticize you, so why do it to yourself? It's so easy to forget about that inner monologue you have with yourself, but it's one of the most powerful voices you'll ever hear. If all you do is judge yourself, of course you're going to feel crappy! I'm a strong believer that you need to be your own cheerleader.
I always say you should speak to yourself how your best friend does. Always be supportive, always been a cheerleader and celebrate even the smallest successes. Importantly, just like your true bestie would always do, don't be afraid to straight talk yourself, to put yourself back in your place when you need it. Just watch how your mindset changes when you start turning every negative into a positive.
For some people self-care is long hot baths, candles and a good book. It's taking time for yourself and allowing yourself to relax. For others, it's facing up to home truths, cutting toxic people out of your life and allowing yourself to feel pain so you can move on. Whether your self-care is face masks or starting a difficult healing process, find the one that works for your wellbeing. Find a new set of values and take control of your life.
My self-care process has been allowing myself to take a time out from writing and social media to heal. It has meant investing in myself and my true passions, working towards new goals and dreams. Most importantly, it has meant cutting out all negativity and toxicity. By taking these steps – not all of them easy ones – I'm setting myself up for a year of healing and getting back to happiness.
Staying fit and healthy is always a good goal to have, but so many people do it for aesthetic reasons. Instead of trying to lose weight, why not shift the focus to boosting your mental health and wellbeing? I love to workout but I do it mostly for my mind. I love the rush of endorphins, group classes put smile on my face and yoga is great for soothing my soul.
There are so many different ways to workout and stay fit – make 2019 the year you find the one that suits you. Don't just go to the gym if you're bored of it, why not sign up for classes for the social side, or head out on beach walks with the dog for some fresh air? Why not workout with your bestie and combine catch-ups with a session? There's so much more to fitness than fitting in those Lululemon leggings.
For the goodies from the lovely wellness hamper:
How are you improving your wellbeing this year? What are you doing to invest in yourself?
One thing the last few years of travel has really taught me, is the importance of well being. The truth is, when you're travelling solo, there is no-one else to look after you and if you don't learn to take good care of yourself, you're not going to get the most out of every experience. I've really taught myself to slow down a bit over the last year, I've accepted that I don't have to do and achieve everything, that sometimes it's okay to sit back and just appreciate life instead of giving 110% and exhausting myself. I'm still learning, every single day, but I definitely have a better appreciation for what makes me happy both mentally and physically than I did when I was first travelling. What helps me be my best self? Lots of exercise, tasty, healthy food, a wide open horizon and lots of time spent outdoors. I've realised that being online is my job and to a certain extent, is a hobby, but that I can't let it dominate in any way because it really does impact on my mental health.One thing that has really helped me to stay balanced over the years is gifting myself time. We're always so busy rushing around trying to do everything in our careers, relationships and in our free time, but sometimes we just need to give ourselves time to breathe. I was so guilty of never giving myself time to just be still, and I still am, but I'm trying my best to improve. And so, when an opportunity came up to review an Inner Peace Retreat with Psychologies Magazine, I jumped at the chance to spend a day deep in the countryside and really getting to know myself. Taking place at West Lexham Manor, near Norwich, the retreat offered a weekend spent focusing on psychology, mindfulness, creativity, meditation and movement set against the backdrop of the stunning grounds. What more could a girl want?Driving up to West Lexham Manor through frozen fields and breathing in the crisp morning air, I instantly felt refreshed and ready for restoration of my mind, body and soul. The stunning grounds were the perfect place for that and I couldn't wait to explore more later on. On arrival, the organisers gave a warm welcome and ushered us into morning tai chi in the beautifully restored barn which has been purposefully created for group events and weddings. With sunshine beaming through the windows and birdsong in the background, we started the day by warming up our aching bodies and minds led by neuroscientist Dr Tamara Russell, who was definitely one of the most memorable characters from the weekend. After the session, we went for breakfast in the sun-drenched hall, and it was clear to see the emphasis on well being from the delicious, healthy meal of locally sourced ingredients that awaited us.We were back in with Dr Tamara for our first session of the day, Practical Models for Exploring Body and Mind, which was a fascinating insight into neuroscience and psychology, but with a real life context that made it easily accessible for anyone new to the topic. Tamara used various exercises to look at the way we relate to ourselves and how that affects us in our daily life when we make decisions or react to situations. After studying a bit of neuroscience and psychology at university, I've always been fascinated by models like these and how they can be used to understand why we are the way we are. We all found this workshop so interesting and helpful that it actually ran over into the break and later I could hear many of those attending the retreat continuing the discussion over lunch.Later on we had another workshop, this time with Suzy Greaves, editor of Psychologies Magazine, which was one I was really excited for. Being a journalist, I'm always looking to develop my skills in any way I can, so a journaling/writing workshop with Suzy seemed perfect for me. This time we had an opportunity to get outside and breathe in the fresh air and to take in the sights, sounds and smells as we wandered around the grounds. Nature is so soothing, and despite being based in North Norfolk, I find that lately I haven't had a chance to just get outside and appreciate it, something that I'm sure has caused me to feel a bit stressed out. We were told to just write freely, uninterrupted by others and uninterrupted by thoughts of how we should write. I let my hand glide across the page and all of us taking part felt our innermost thoughts and feelings pour out on to the page. I was amazed at what came out, what I'd been holding in and finally just had to explode across the page, pure stream of consciousness.We enjoyed a leisurely lunch - let me tell you the food was just incredible - followed by a chance to explore the grounds with owner Edmund Colville, as he discussed the retreat and the lay-lines around his family home. Later that afternoon, we had our final workshop of the day, which was easily my favourite and really left an incredible impression on me. The 5 Rhythms Movement workshop with meditation teacher Chris Connors forced the group to throw away all inhibitions, stresses and worries, and to really let loose. We're talking 90 minutes of dancing freely as a mass and an individual to various pieces of music, and by the end of the session, everyone was exhausted but liberated, making their way out of the barn with smiles on faces and a new sense of peace. I thought I was pretty relaxed before I walked into that workshop, but I can tell you I felt like a completely different person by the time I walked out of it and I know every single person in that room felt exactly the same. Sadly I had to leave after this workshop and didn't get a chance to chat to the others over dinner, but the whole experience was beyond anything I could have hoped.Whether you need stillness, a chance to slow down or if you are searching for inner peace, these workshops give you a chance to take a time-out in the unspoilt beauty of West Norfolk. If this sounds like something that would be right up your street, there will be many other retreats taking place this year which focus on yoga, mindfulness and body confidence, and another Psychologies Inner Peace Retreat is in the pipeline. Both men and women attended and while some were more interested in the psychology, others were going through some huge life changes, but all felt just as welcome and came away with a genuine sense of inner peace. Find out more and book at www.westlexham.org
*Images provided by West Lexham Manor
Have you been to a retreat? Would you like to attend one? How do you find peace in your daily life?
Last year was a busy one – a lot of travel, a lot of living and a lot of changes. It was an amazing year full of highs and lows, but in the midst of that it was hard to feel settled and to live my best life. I finished the year pretty exhausted from the constant movement, ill as all my adventures caught up with me, and eager to make some big changes for the year ahead. Now don't worry, it may be January but this isn't one of those "New Year, New Me" posts – instead of some health kick, I'm focusing on making some big lifestyle changes that will hopefully bring me happiness in 2018. I'm looking at the long-term rather than some quick fix. What's prompted all this? Well I've been travelling for over three years now and in that time I've done and seen a lot, but now I'm craving some stability and a different way of travelling, and of living my life. So what changes am I making this year?
Now I don't believe in diets, but I do believe in lifestyle changes and improving diet. I am focusing more on what I put in my body and some of the ways I can really feel my best. I remember when I felt healthiest and happiest during the year and it was when I was road tripping Western Australia and was eating purely vegan/vegetarian for months on end. I had endless energy and as soon as I stopped that diet I was exhausted all the time. I'm already eating vegetarian most of the time, but I've been incorporating more vegan food into my diet and it's making me feel great. I'm excited to move into my own place into a few months and then there will be nothing but vegetarian food in my cupboards. I don't do this because I don't like meat – my choice is based on the fact that I feel better when I don't eat meat, and the fact that I just don't think a meat-heavy diet is sustainable without damaging the environment. Likewise, I haven't forbidden myself from eating meat if I do want to, I don't think diet should be about restriction – more about introducing more things that are better for you like my mostly vegetarian diet.
I've already cut out as much dairy as possible from my diet – choosing soy, rice or coconut products instead which has helped my eczema-prone skin no end. I absolutely love the Alpro with Coconut instead of yoghurt, and always switch regular milk for Rice Milk as it's far more sustainable than Almond Milk. My favourite post-gym breakfast at the moment is Lizi's Granola mixed with Alpro and lots of fresh blueberries and raspberries, the granola is absolutely delicious and packed full of protein, fibre and all the goodness you need post-workout, plus its low sugar. Fancy a snack? I'm the worst for picking up the wrong things to snack on, so Soul Food Collective sent me some of what they think I should be filling up on and I'm more than impressed. This entirely fair trade, delicious, natural and organic range is just what you need to keep you going during the day, and oh my goodness they are the perfect snack. My favourites are the Amarena cherries and raspberries coated in dark chocolate and I always make sure I have a packet in my bag to stop me from snacking on the wrong foods. When it comes to dinners, I actually prefer using tofu and Quorn as meat replacements, the more I have eaten them the more my tastebuds have changed and I enjoy the texture of meat less.
I'm so happy to be back in a gym. I signed up as soon as I arrived back in the UK and I'm there most days now to attend classes or hit the gym. After travelling constantly for three months and indulging over Christmas, it feels really nice to be back in a routine and to challenge my body, to feel the aches that means you've pushed yourself further. I have always been a bit of a gym bunny when I get going but travelling makes it hard to keep up a routine when you're never in one place long enough. I love yoga, pilates and running, but I miss the weights, the machines and the challenges of classes when I'm on the road. I don't consider myself out of shape at the moment – my focus is more on getting stronger and building my energy levels. Also, adapting to British weather, I need all the help I can get in staying warm!
I'm focusing on trying to be active every day but in different ways. A couple of days a week I'm attending classes such as body combat (my fave!), yoga, or zumba depending on what my body is craving. On the other days, I'll either head to the gym and do my own HIIT workout or have a weights session. One thing I can tell from this is that I love variety and I get bored if I do the same thing every day, so on the days where I just don't fancy the gym, I like to get outside and either run or do huge walks on the beach or in the woods – perfect for when you need to blow away the cobwebs. Looking for new workout ideas? Why not try your hand at winter sports such as indoor skiing?
Encouraging yourself to get active in January is a lot of work, so it's important to invest in yourself and to get some nice workout clothes that you are excited to put on even when it's cold outside and you want to stay in bed. I have the comfiest workout leggings and sports bra from Australian brand Cotton On Body and they are genuinely the best workout clothes I have ever had plus very budget friendly. I'm lucky to have a sister who works as a personal trainer so I'm always getting her cast-offs when it comes to exercise gear and she recently sent me two (almost new) sets of trainers! It's definitely helped me to get in the right mindset for working out and working hard! This gorgeous sports bag from Hunkemoller Doutzen Sports range has helped the most, I was in need of a new gym bag and this one is fantastic – it's huge and has plenty of space to fit all my workout clothes, shoes and even swimming gear in. Plus the cute floral design helps make it feel really feminine and pretty, just what I need after a sweaty gym session. I'll also be using it as a weekend bag from time to time as it's the perfect size for taking away with me.
As someone who spent much of Christmas/New Year feeling very poorly with the flu, and who spent much of their month in Sri Lanka with food poisoning, it's been a rough time for my body. I've spent a lot of the year working too hard, working long hours, partying too much and not giving myself time to heal. I've been the sickest I've been in a long time and yet I haven't stopped or taken time out, it's a problem when you live a lifestyle like mine. I'm not very good at stepping back and looking after myself, but since being home I am focusing on my health so much more. I'm making sure I exercise daily, that I eat as healthy as possible, that I'm sleeping for long enough and deeply enough. And I feel so much better for it. When I had the flu recently, instead of pushing myself to get out of bed and make myself worse, I wallowed and I allowed myself time to get better. It was frustrating and went against all of my instincts but it worked and I feel so much better now. I'm also making decisions to adjust my diet and lifestyle based on information that has surfaced during a long course of treatment for an ongoing skin condition that is finally being taken seriously. After it being brushed aside all my life by doctors and myself, 2018 is the year of healing.
This can come in so many forms and all of the above can also be included. But in this case I want to focus on how I am putting less pressure on myself, how I am changing my habits and giving myself space to breathe. I'm taking more time for myself lately, more time to do the things that make me feel good like reading a good book, or spending a day in bed watching Disney movies when I'm having a rubbish time. I'm giving myself the time to pamper and treat my body well, to indulge and invest in myself by actually taking the time to appreciate myself. Lately I've really been trying to focus on appreciating the people around me, telling them what they mean to me and making the effort to get in contact with friends I haven't spoken to for a while. Caring for my support network is in turn caring for myself – you get out of it what you put in. Most importantly, I'm making plans for the future, that for the first time in a long time actually revolve around staying put and settling for a while. Last year was one for moving constantly and pushing myself, this year I want to focus on what makes me really happy and that is being closer to friends and family, having more of a base that can become my home, exploring different ways of fulfilling my travel needs and letting my relationship grow.
I'm a self-confessed workaholic. When I have a job, it tends to take over everything and even during the times when I don't and I'm travelling, I end up giving all my time to this blog like when I spent ages redesigning the whole thing from scratch while I was in Australia. For so long I've been taking jobs for convenience and money due to travelling, rather than focusing on my skills, interest and qualifications. Now my brain hurts from lack of use and I'm craving the chance of having job where I finally get to use all three – I'm in the process of applying for jobs and for the first time in a long time I'm focusing on quality. This year is the year where I develop my skills and really use my brain instead of running myself into the ground for a job I don't believe in.
What changes are you making this year? Are you focusing more on your health, your relationships or your career?
That's a really sad sentence isn't it? It's amazing how much our appearance really does affect the way we feel about ourselves, and how easily it can be damaged without us even realising. I wrote a post a few weeks ago about finding balance in your own life as you get older - read it here. And, well, I've got to tell you guys that I'm failing at the moment, big time. I've just finished working over 40 hours in just four days and I'm beyond exhausted, I haven't been eating enough and I've barely had time to sleep let alone relax. It would be okay if this was a one-off, but to be honest these last few weeks it has become more and more common. I'm working too much, I'm too desperate to save money and plan for the next exciting adventure to think about my health and it's not good for me.
My days are spent biking to work in 35 degree heat, rushing around for 10+ hour shifts until I'm almost dizzy for not eating enough or waiting eight hours for my next meal. Then I bike home to collapse into bed for a few hours, getting to spend a precious five minutes with my boyfriend, and then I get up and do it all again. I'm a sweaty mess most of the time, I pile on the make-up to cover the bags under my eyes and pull on the same manky uniform I've been wearing for days on end. Travelling isn't always as glamorous as you think, is it? Don't get me wrong, I don't mind this life - it takes it's toll and I'm terminally exhausted at the moment but I know it will be worth it when in three weeks I go travelling again and get to spend all my time relaxing, enjoying and appreciating my relationship.
But in the meantime, it really hit me lately that I barely remember the last time I made an effort, or when I honestly felt glowing and happy and healthy. It was weeks ago, when I was off exploring a national park and spent my days hiking, swimming and eating healthily. I wore no make-up and lived in my bikini, and I was confident and happy, really happy. Before that, I remember the West Coast road trip, when I was living off nuts and avocados, when my body was strong and fit from exercise and fresh air. I was always smiling and full of energy because I rose with the sun and went to sleep under the stars. I miss that life. Back then it took nothing to make me feel beautiful but now, living in the city and not getting the chance to make an effort, or dress up or feel pretty, it takes its toll.
It's interesting how physical health and mental health play such a big part in our understanding of beauty. At the moment I'm mentally and physically exhausted, I'm run down and don't have time to look after myself, and I'm finding it hard to feel positive about my own body image. It's silly, because my body is the healthiest and strongest it has been in a long time from being outside and working out at the gym. I know deep down I'm happy with the way I look, but exhaustion can have a big effect on the mind and when you don't appreciate yourself, you often end up making it impossible for others to appreciate you. You don't realise until you've been sucked into that pattern of behaviour of not taking the time to look after yourself and then feeling down because you look and feel rubbish. It's so easily avoided, if only you can notice the signs before it is too late to prevent it - and sadly, that's what I'm always rubbish at.
We may be on different sides of the world, but I'm sure you can all relate to feeling like all you do is work. Feeling like life is getting on top of you and it's just not fun any more. You don't get time to look after yourself, then before you know it you're exhausted and run down, your attitude towards yourself is less than forgiving and you don't know how to get out of the hole that you've dug for yourself. It's a slippery slope - but I don't want this to be a post about feeling down and not loving yourself enough. I want to talk about how to fix things and how to change your attitude towards yourself.
It's not easy, but you start with the basics. Are you eating and drinking enough? When was the last time you had a good night's sleep? Are you getting sick, or have you lost/gained too much weight? Are you stressed out from work or life? Ask yourself all these questions and figure out what your pattern is so you can identify it earlier next time. I know that every time I end up overworked, I find I'm not eating enough which affects my weight, my sleeping patterns and stress levels - more often than not I get sick as a result. Other people overeat to deal with stress, or indulge too much in coffee to keep them going which messes up their sleep pattern even more. It's important to identify your own individual pattern of behaviour so you can break it and notice it earlier next time you do this.
Why are you letting yourself get in this state? Do you have an unachievable goal looming in front of you? Or are you unhappy with something else in your life so you're throwing yourself into work to escape? Whatever the answer, you need to tackle the problem - remove the obstacles from your life and everything will slot happily back into place.
You might not be able to escape the workload or the job, you might not be able to get out of the stressful situation, but you can change how you react to it and how much you let it affect you. Take charge and focus on boosting your body image and positivity, give yourself time to appreciate what you have. Pamper yourself - paint your nails or dye your hair, have a long bath and do your make-up how you like it, then pop on an outfit that makes you feel fabulous and go out. You could try one of these gorgeous party outfits from SimplyBe for the festive season. Whether it's out for cocktails or just to the supermarket, just know that you look and feel amazing, then hold on to that feeling and remember it when you're next working and feeling run down.
After three much-needed days off spent relaxing at the beach, sleeping in and eating properly, I'm feeling so much better. Still not 100%, I don't think I'll feel that until I quit this job and start travelling again, but I'm definitely on my way. Sometimes all we need is to look after ourselves a bit.
What makes you feel body positive? Have you got any tips for dealing with body issues and exhaustion?
There's no denying the last few years of my life have been all about excess. I've been throwing myself in 100% to grabbing life by the balls, to traveling solo and to having the experience of a lifetime. But there comes a time when that becomes exhausting to maintain 24/7. I'm not ashamed to admit my life has changed a LOT in the last three years of traveling, and particularly during my second year in Australia – I've changed. My priorities are different and my goals are taking me in a different direction, and that's okay.
It's been two years since I first arrived in Darwin, and don't get me wrong, I still love it up here but this time I'm doing things very differently to the last time I was living up here. My last Darwin experience was full of wild parties, traveler friends, hostel life and raving until dawn. I loved every second, I really did. It was one of my best traveling experiences with some of the most amazing friends, and it was exactly what I needed at that moment in my life. But this time in Darwin, I feel like I've purposefully done everything the total opposite to not end up ruining good memories - I started working at a different bar, got out of the hostel and moved into a house, stopped partying as much to save money and have been trying to live pretty healthily. I feel like a completely different person to the girl who arrived here two years ago, so it feels strange to come back and find Darwin as unchanged as ever, totally familiar and yet completely different.
I have just two months left on my Australian visa and I'm very aware of the clock ticking down - I'm trying to use my time wisely around working to make sure I see anything I've missed because I probably won't be back in Australia for a long time. For me, that isn't partying with the same old crowd, it's seeing the national parks and the parts of the Northern Territory I missed previously. I'm also trying to work as much as possible while I'm still on a good Australian wage with plenty of dollars rolling in so I can save for my next trip.
For the first time in a long time, I actually have a home that feels like a home. I moved into a house with my boyfriend - yes, that's right, I have a boyfriend - and we're really happy with our amazing new home that even comes with a dog! After moving around so much over the last six months and feeling as though my life was very temporary, it's nice to have somewhere, and someone, you can't wait to go home to at the end of the day.
After spending months hiking, climbing and exploring the coast of Western Australia and living off the healthiest food - I'm full of energy and was excited to get back in the gym. I feel like my body is stronger and fitter than ever, my skin feels great and I'm enjoying eating healthily thanks to my lovely kitchen. Because of all this, it hits me 10x worse when I'm hungover or feel rubbish for drinking. I'm still drinking and going out, but I'm drinking less and trying to reduce how often I go out partying, instead preferring to make the most of my days.
I've been spending a lot of my time working on this blog and after several months away and even more out of the blogging loop, it's been nice to spend time working on my true passion. I've been redesigning my blog, working with new brands and creating a whole series of amazing new content. It's felt great to dive back into it and right now that is what I want to dedicate my energies towards. I've also been thinking about my next career move - it's been fun working hospitality and various other jobs over in Australia but I miss my work as a journalist and writer.
Perhaps it's me getting older, perhaps I'm past this stage in my life, or perhaps it's just a phase - after all, I can still party as hard as the rest when I want to. I think I've just found there is so much more to life than getting shit-faced every night with the same crowd of people. There's sleeping under the stars, watching the sun rise and set with the one you love, there's throwing yourself into your passion and seeing the satisfaction of your own success. There are workouts where you aren't hungover and saving money towards a goal that will be a lot more epic than any night out you've already lived 100 times over. Now I don't know if you can identify with any of what I'm saying here, or whether I'm just warbling on, but if you find yourself nodding along with what I'm saying, this next section is for you.
Don't be so hard on yourself if it doesn't work out in your career or relationship - we all have these moments when things don't pan out as we expected and it throws us off course. But the important thing to remember is each failure teaches us and makes us stronger for our next attempt. If the path was easy, reaching the end wouldn't be worth it.
How do you find balance in your life? Have you changed as you've hit your late-twenties? Do you find it difficult to balance your career, relationship and having fun?
It's now been a month since I touched down in the UK after 18 months of travelling. That's nothing in the grand scheme of things, but it feels like a painfully long time since I last saw my Melbourne home, and the people who make it so special to me. I keep having that moment when people ask how it feels to be home, and I think to myself that home feels 3,000 miles away right now. That's the hard part of being a traveler, leaving such big pieces of your heart all over the world that when you do finally come home it can feel a bit empty. That's why so many struggle to deal with the comedown from travelling. I've had it much better than most – I've come back and walked straight into a great freelance job that works with my schedule, and I've instantly started planning trips away with family and friends, knowing my plan is to travel long-term again from September. It makes it much easier to know my situation is temporary, because after a year and a half of utter freedom, the thought of being tied down to one place gives me chills. It's been quite easy for me to slip into the life that I'm living now - after working flat out in Melbourne, I finally have time to relax and catch up with friends. I have time to recuperate from the effects of long-term travel and I can still earn a good wage while I do it.
But as you guys will know, I've always been a bit of a workaholic, so it's difficult for me to adjust to this lifestyle after pushing myself 110% in all of my previous jobs. Especially being back in the UK, I've noticed this incredible pressure since I arrived home and I'm not sure whether it's coming from my own mind or society. My whole attitude to life was much healthier when I was travelling – I was relaxed and focused on having an incredible travelling experience rather than how much money I could earn or how many extra hours I could work. My priority was earning enough to live comfortably as a backpacker, so it never became more important than living my life. Before I went travelling, work took over my life in an unhealthy way and it was this that really pushed me to focus on something else that made me happy - travel. Since travelling, my bank account has been both the fullest and the emptiest it has ever been. But even when I was broke, I always found a way to make ends meet and to survive, even then I was happier than the times I was sitting on a stack of savings. So when I had learnt to live happily on so little, why do I find myself feeling this constant need to achieve since being home?I don't know whether it is just in my own mind, or whether this is a common feeling for travelers returning to the UK, but I constantly have this feeling that I haven't done enough. That I haven't worked enough hours, that I haven't sent enough emails, that I haven't got enough views on this blog, and that I haven't seen enough places in the world. I find myself plagued with worries that time is running out and I just don't have enough left to achieve everything that I want to do in life, that the success I have isn't quite enough. It's such a strange feeling, but one I remember from before I went away. While travelling it was pushed out of my mind by the happiness of living life in the present, by the success of achieving everything I did on a daily basis. So why have these feelings all come rushing back now I'm in the UK? It's easy to forget that everyone has insecurities, and it can be hard to identify our own. I never realised before I went away that I am my own worst enemy when it comes to enjoying success. Instead of relishing and enjoying the moment, I constantly push on to achieve the next thing, to push the next boundary. I love that about myself because it has driven me to make some huge changes in my life that led me to travel the world solo, and to leave a life that made me miserable. But at the same time, it can leave me feeling like what I do will never be enough.
While I was travelling, I focused on nothing more than living in the moment. I focused on the beautiful sunsets, the laughter at work, the nights we won't remember – I lived every second and everything else came after. I never stressed about work or money, just knew I would always figure it out. I didn't think about blogging, just enjoyed the natural progression of reminiscing about my experiences and writing them on the page at my own pace. Put simply, life came first. But since being back, I find mentally that I'm struggling to keep it this way. I've managed so far, but can always feel the pressure and stresses of thinking about money, stats and figures. It's true the UK is very financially driven when it comes to success, and I can only think this is mirrored in the way we view our own successes. I've only noticed this because I have been away from it and had to reintegrate myself, but how many others are left to feel this way without an escape? It's just so easy to get sucked into worrying about money and how successful you are when there are constant reminders of how much we are failing. Every time I look at a magazine or newspaper, listen to the radio or watch TV, there is a stark reminder that there is so much I haven't yet achieved, so much that I'm behind on.I shouldn't feel this way, in the last few months I have had countless successes that I need to learn to just celebrate. I worked as a sales manager and built my own team, ended up as the highest paid manager in my last job. I was a finalist in the travel section of the UK Blog Awards two years in a row. I have made it onto a list of the top 15 travel bloggers of 2016, and I'm even being featured by other bloggers I love as one to check out. I have another huge success tucked up my sleeve, but that one will have to remain a secret for now. All this, and yet I still feel that craving for more, it's soul destroying at times, endlessly frustrating. I just don't understand why I feel it so prominently when I'm in the UK compared to Australia, or Asia, does the distance really chip away at these feelings so much? Perhaps it's just something I'm better able to control when I travel, because it just becomes so much less of a priority for me, instead I use this drive to achieve great things in real life as well as on the screen. I guess when I'm in the UK, I use my laptop as a means for escape, by working on this little world I have created at www.absolutelylucy.com I can be transported to the worlds I have left behind. Work has always been the one escape for me when I don't want to deal with my feelings, so perhaps it's just my way of coping with coming home.
Speaking to some of my fellow travelers on the Girl vs Globe Facebook group, I found I wasn't the only one who has suffered from these feelings. Ro Lee, who blogs at The Travel Captain, said: "Having lived in both NY and Dubai, you're bombarded with constant reminders of how "important" financial success is. But as I've approached my mid thirties, I realize that true success is a measure of the strength of your relationship with others. Helping others succeed is equally important or "lonely at the top" is a saying which holds very true." While Yoanna Guerra-Cuevas, who vlogs here, added: "After doing some travel around Europe and living in Spain for a few months, my whole mindset has changed. In Spain they have a saying "no pasa nada". It basically means everything will be okay. I learned to stop worrying about expectations to succeed and just worry about being happy." Amrine Obermueller, who blogs at Dancing Around The World, said: "I think that if you're feeling the pressures then sooner or later you just have to realize what is right for your life and try not to live it based on how everyone else tells you to. It took me about 10 years to figure that out...but here I am, so happy that I finally know how I want to live my life." Great advice ladies, time I took a leaf out of your book and stopped stressing. Every time I start to feel like this, I'll think back to that traveler mindset and ask myself What Would Traveler Lucy Do? (WWTLD)
Have you felt the pressures of home closing in after returning from travelling? Do you find it hard not to slip into old ways? How does your traveler mindset differ from your home mindset?
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?
Christmas and New Year are definitely some of those times when people really start to think about their relationship status - a bit like the post-Christmas bloat, it's something that hangs over every festive party and moment under the mistletoe. It can suck a bit to be single at Christmas, to not have someone special to keep you warm and to get you that extra special present. But it can also be great to be single at Christmas - you don't have to feel guilty when you sit there and eat an entire cheeseboard in one sitting then spend the night farting in bed, and no awkward decision about whose family you'll spend the day with. When it comes to New Year, this was my first as a single girl for nine years - which seems crazy to me. Basically as long as I've been old enough to go out drinking I've been in a relationship, more than a third of my life. And it was a good relationship, a great one in fact, but 2015 was all about the start of something new, about taking control of my life and doing something for me. I broke off my relationship and left to travel the world solo, a year later I should be heading home but have decided I'm not ready for my adventures to finish yet. Last December 31st I was surrounded by good friends and spent the night celebrating with my other half. But this year, it felt right to celebrate independently after the year I've had. I've conquered all sorts and I've done it all by myself, so I was more than happy to be a single girl as I took my first steps into 2016.
This time of year it's easy to get caught up in the romance of the season - all those engagement rings popping up on my newsfeed, all those cute couple photos in matching Christmas jumpers, and all those New Year kissing photos. We're blasted in the face with the expectation and the pressure to be in a happy relationship or left to feel like failures, but I have to ask, isn't it more important at this time of year to be looking inwardly and thinking more about the relationship we have with ourselves? New Year is always a great time to look back over the year as it comes to a close - at what we've achieved and suffered, learnt and lost over the last 12 months. We're all planning and making goals for the year ahead, but so many are setting goals, more like ideals for where they see themselves in 12 months. They're thinking about things like relationships statuses, job goals, having their own homes. All of these are great in their own way, but why not take the time to think about how mentally healthy and happy you are. Two Christmases ago I took a two week break from work and from life - I finally had headspace to think and after the two weeks was up I realised I didn't want to go back to that life. That was when I realised that how I was working and living was not making me healthy or happy - it was time to plan an escape and my next moves. That was when I began saving, when I bought a plane ticket. A year later, I hopped on that plane and never looked back.
It's not the answer for everyone and I'm not saying this to tell you to go do the same. Travel might not be your way of healing but starting 2016 on your own could provide you with a good opportunity to really look closely at your life. Are you happy? Are you on your way to achieving what you want out of life? If not, why not? This is your chance to claim 2016 as your year to work on you - do what I did, step back and reassess. Our goals change as we grow as people and sometimes the ones you set a while ago will no longer fit the person you have become - if you no longer want something why work towards it? Evolve your goals and you will find happiness in working towards what you truly want. If a job no longer makes you happy, look elsewhere and find one that does. Feel like work is taking over your life? Take a step back and explore your passions in your free time. Unsure whether a relationship is still giving you what you need - make a change, end it or go in search of something new. It doesn't matter how trapped you feel, even if it feels like there is no way out, there always is. But you have to be willing to make the first move - once you've taken that first step it turns into the easiest and most natural thing in the world, but first you have to take a leap of faith.
It can be a huge change that all your family and friends talk about, or it can be something tiny that just makes a world of difference to you. Either way, having the courage to examine your life and really think about where you want it to go can be simultaneously the scariest and most valuable thing you do this January. Why? Because it will help give you focus and goals for the year ahead - to find the happiness you've been searching for. 2015 was my happiest and freest year yet - it was so amazing that I skipped my flight home and chose to stay and carry on for as long as possible. I'm looking forward to seeing what 2016 brings - I'm just hoping for more happiness, the love of many new friends I have yet to meet and even more opportunities to follow my passions. Most importantly, I'm not sitting around and waiting for life to happen to me, I'm out there making it happen for myself.
Have you made any New Years resolutions? What are your goals for this year? Is travel in your plans for 2016 - where are you heading?