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?
This post has been a long time in the making. I've started writing it about a hundred times and scrapped several copies. It's just hard to know where to start, to even begin to find the words to describe the amazing group of people that have made your Australian experience complete. But it seems appropriate to post this at Christmas, a time when we are all thinking about family. I'll be honest and say that when I planned my trip I was really excited about Asia and New Zealand, but saw Australia mainly as a place to earn good money in-between as I was only expecting to stay five months. I didn't really have many expectations for the country as I didn't really know enough about it despite knowing so many travellers who have been here. Arriving in Sydney, visiting Melbourne, and then travelling the East Coast was amazing and I wouldn't trade a second of it, but I couldn't help feeling like I hadn't yet seen the real Australia, it was just partying your way along the beaches. But then I arrived in Darwin, it was hot and dusty and full of outback attitude. People drove around in pick-up trucks and there were drunk aboriginals laying in the streets, if you did anything that went against what was normally socially acceptable you'd just hear the locals cry "well fuck it you're in the Northern Territory now, everybody does what they want". It was clear from the start that anyone who lived there did it for the lifestyle - different to other parts of Australia, everyone just worked to pay for having a good time. There was no reason not to go out on any night of the week and the weekends were sacred.I was staying at Dingo Moon Lodge - which was great on the surface in the sense that it had a pool and wifi, free laundry and breakfast. But beyond that it was a bit of a dump, riddled with bed bugs and the owners were awful. They would spend hours in the office screaming at the staff - my friends - for nothing and often would come in and throw away people's possessions from the washing line or the kitchen for no reason. But you know what they always say, it's not the places you stay or the things you see that make the experience, it's the people you meet along the way. I'm a firm believer in this and it's one of my main reasons for travelling - I'm a journalist at heart and I'm driven to talk to people, to discover the world around me through people's stories. I want to know where they've been, their annoyances, their loves and deepest desires, I want to know what makes them tick and I want to know where they're going. So it makes sense that Darwin is where I met the most diverse and beautiful group of people yet in the whole of Australia, that this is what made my experience and my time at Dingos quite as special as it was. As the title of this post says, even now, nearly two months later and hundreds of kilometres further into the outback, my heart is still with the Dingos who are now scattered across the world with some in Melbourne, Sydney, Asia and Europe. But no matter what the distance, I know that all of us feel the same.So how did it all start? Well as I said in my job hunt post, a group of us all rocked up at around the same time and formed a pretty close-knit group as we hunted for work, but over the next week or two even more dingos arrived and became a huge part of our group. We were ever changing and ever growing, but all accepting as people from all over the world came to join our ranks. It was great to be surrounded by so many people from so many countries and one thing I loved was that there were actually very few English there. I was constantly surrounded by French, German, Irish, Swedish, Aussie and many more accents - this is what I came travelling for! Being in the hostel with so many incredible people meant I had a family right from the start, and other backpackers will know that in the right hostel you quickly become very close to those around you. You cook together, you eat together, drink together, work together, party together and sleep together. Before you know it, they've become the biggest part of your life and you can't remember what it was like without the family around you. It's a pretty special experience to go from being a solo traveller to feeling like you have the biggest family in the world but it seems to come at exactly the right time. It's easy to forget that even when you're travelling people are going through their own personal dramas and we had our fair share. We had everything from relationships, and even engagements, that were taking place with thousands of miles between the couples, we had work stresses and money worries, depression, we even had one guy who was fighting to get residency so he could stay in Australia with his child. But the important thing was that with our dingo family, not a single person went through anything alone. And I tell you, the day our friend got his residency approved was a big day of celebrations for everyone there, it meant the world to each and every one of us because we had been there every step of the way.Sure we partied a lot and some of the great memories I have are of nights when we were all drunk and rampaging the streets of Darwin or attempting to find our way home from a rave with one token naked guy. But there are also so many special memories of us all just hanging out, chatting shit and putting the world to rights. I lost count of how many nights were spent sitting around a long wooden picnic bench that we were just waiting to collapse beneath the weight of us all, drinking Whispers and laughing at one thing or another. Or the times we would cook up feasts for groups of us in the kitchen, or laze around the pool catching some rays. The times when we would scrape ourselves out of bed for the free breakfast and attempt to make conversation before heading back to bed until a normal hour, or those mornings when my roommates would wake me up by playing "Bitch Don't Kill My Vibe" for the millionth time. Those nights getting ready to go out when we would have the tunes playing and would make stupid music videos in the dorms or have photo shoots, the nights when I would finish work at 10pm and get thrown in the pool fully clothed as I walked in the gate. The days spent making up crazy competitive games with the boys in the pool, or attempting to climb the trees in the yard. All those spoon sessions, Sunday Sesh BBQ's, surprise birthday parties and don't forget the time Robin got my name tattooed on his bottom! Then there were the chilled nights when we would all veg out in the dorm watching various different movies but would all have to stop every five minutes to show each other something hilarious. Starting up art club when we were hungover and needed to colour something in mindlessly, or sunset walks to the park or beach, and midnight runs and workouts on the esplanade. My head, and my heart, are about ready to burst from all the memories.So here it is, my attempt to conclude a post that I don't even think I have done justice to. I want to thank every single member of the dingos - whether you were there from the very beginning or you came in right at the end - for being the best friends a backpacker could ask for. For picking me up when I felt down and for being as excited and happy about everything as I was the rest of the time. For making me laugh until it hurt, for making me dance until I could no longer stand, for making me party until I dropped. Everything about you made my Darwin experience more than I could ever have dreamed of, and for that I am grateful. Most of all, I want to thank you for making me fall in love with this country - you made me see the real Australia and you made it harder to leave than any other place has since I started travelling. And if ever there were a time to talk about #squadgoals I think this is definitely it! Here's to three months of going full bush like never before - best three months ever! For the travellers who have moved on to Asia or returned home, good luck and see you again! For those who are working their way down to Melbourne for our huge Dingos reunion, I'm counting the seconds until I see you again.
Have you found an incredible traveller family like the Dingos? Which place stands out in your memory because of the people you met along the way?
Some friendships break at the first sign of trouble - perhaps a boy gets in the way, or the distance becomes too great, or it's just not as easy peasy when you're not in the same class at school together. What it comes down to is often laziness when your lives start taking you in opposite directions, a shame, but often it is the best way to cut down your friends to the ones who really deserve to be on your Christmas card list. I'm talking about the ones who will pick you up in the middle of the night when it all goes wrong, who will sit out with you until the sun comes out talking about life and setting the world to rights. Those soulmates that you know you just can't live without, whose voices appear at the end of the telephone line at the slightest sniff of trouble and scream with excitement at any tiny piece of good news. They're the ones you want around and they're the ones who stick by you even when you make a life changing decision to jet off across the globe without any idea of when you will return.
I won't lie to you, it's not easy to maintain friendships and relationships over Skype and Whatsapp, many just won't make it. But the world we live in makes it easier than ever to keep in touch and there really isn't any excuse for not showing the people you love how you feel. Often I find friendships like these fall into one of two categories - there's the ones you speak to all the time, whether it's just a like or comment on a picture on Facebook, a long old chat on Whatsapp, or FaceTiming once a week to update each other on all the gossip. Then there's the friendships that seem untouched by time, the people you don't speak to for weeks, even months on end and yet you know that you could call on them any time of day for help, or even just a chat. Both types are just as important and I know my best friends fit into both of these categories and all of them are just as important to me while I'm out here, as I hope I am to them. When it comes to family, there's nothing more important than letting them know you are safe and well, and for you to know the same about them. Trust me, if you've ever had drama while travelling or felt unsafe at any point, you'll know the first thing you want to do is call home.
So how can you keep these friendships and relationships alive?
Compromise is key
They have to understand you are travelling and that you won't always have good wifi or the time to be on the end of the phone or message 24/7, just like you have to understand that life at home goes on without you and that family and friends have lives and jobs too. Try and organise a time that suits both of you to Skype or message, that way everyone is happy.
Sometimes you just need to talk to the other person even though it's the middle of the night, sometimes you're upset or things have gone wrong, or you're just plain homesick. Other times, your best mate's cat might have died, or his girlfriend dumped him - perhaps they need to talk. Or there could be a family crisis that doesn't fit in with your free time for skyping. Be flexible and open to talking when it doesn't suit, it might be necessary.
If something the other person has said or done has annoyed you, just come out with it. You know how they always say married couples shouldn't go to bed on an argument? Well it's the same principle even when you're thousands of miles apart. Often they don't even know you're annoyed but just saying it out loud can ease the problem.
Make the effort
There's no debating - relationships are built on the effort you make and the time and love you put into them, if you can't be bothered to call and catch up or to listen to their problems every now and again then you can't expect them to return the favour. Friendship and family are a two way thing, let down your end and you can't be sure the other end will still work.
Don't forget the small gestures
Sometimes it can just take a thoughtful tweet or Facebook message to make a person's day, things like wishing them a "Happy World Elephant Day" because you know it will make them smile. Or sending them a message to say how proud of them you are for passing an exam or coping with something big by themselves - remember to do the small things.
Don't go changing
Travel has a huge impact on your life and you can't deny it changes your priorities, but don't let it change who you are as a person. Remember the people who were with you from the start and don't forget to value them even when you're swept up in meeting new people and making new friends.
Have you lost touch with friends at home? What's your preferred way of keeping in contact with friends and family? Do you prefer to message all the time or save it for a big catch up?
Getting your heart broken is never fun, whether you're at school, you're working full time or whether you're off travelling the world - it hurts the same. What is different, is the way you deal with that pain. I remember the last time I had my heart broken in extraordinary detail, I remember every ache of my heart, every tear that threatened to spill down my cheeks, and every painful second of conversation as everyday life carried on around me. It was horrible, the worst pain I have every felt, because unlike a physical pain it wasn't something I could escape from. I still had to get up and go to work every single day, I still had to see people and to force myself to do things when all I really wanted was to run away or hide under my duvet. It's hard when you get your heart broken at home because you're still in close quarters with the person who did it. Even if you're not living together or right round the corner from each other - you're acutely aware of their presence, of their routine and knowing you could bump into them at any time. It makes it harder in many ways because you feel like you can't move on while they're still around you, while every memory of what you had with them haunts your journey to work.
I'm lucky, it's been a long time now since I had my heart broken, but what healed me was coming travelling. Escaping from my norm and going off in pursuit of the adventure I had been longing for all along. I spoke to a friend the other day who has just had her heart broken and who is being left to travel solo as a result - she's devastated, unsure of where to go next, or whether to even carry on, as you might expect. Talking to her about the situation inspired this post - it made me realise that so many of us travellers go through exactly the same. When you're away travelling, you constantly feel like you're on holiday and what comes with holidays? A holiday romance! It's a natural fit and seems only right that it is so much easier to fall head over heels for someone new, exotic and exciting in the heat of the moment. There's just something in the air that makes you fall a lot harder for people when you know that there is no pressure other than time pulling you in different directions. It's a special feeling when you know that you actually have the complete freedom to follow your heart - that if you want to change all your travel plans because you fell in love, you actually can do it at the drop of a hat. You don't get that in real life - back at home your alarm clock will always go off for work in the morning, distance will always be a problem and there will always be other demands on your time.
So say it all goes wrong and that guy, or girl, you're crazy about just decides they have to go in the opposite direction, or they're not quite ready to change their plans. What do you do? How do you get over the devastation? Here are my top tips for getting over travelling heartbreak:
Often travellers feel guilty for feeling sad when everyone says they should be having the time of their lives - but it's no different to being at home. Feeling the sadness will allow you to move on quicker.
Look after yourself
If you have friends or family you can go and visit, go and do it! Allow them to look after you and give you the moral support you need - travelling solo doesn't mean you have to go through it alone! If you can't, spend a lot of time catching up with family and friends on FaceTime, and pamper yourself! Look after yourself until you feel better.
Throw yourself into something
Working, playing or planning usually works for me. Focusing on work and saving up for your next adventure can be good, or if you have some money saved, spend it on going out and having fun, make new friends and distract yourself. Or just start planning your next adventure.
Don't give up
There will be times it all seems hopeless and you feel like packing it all in and going home to your mum - but you will regret it more than anything in the world. This is one of those character defining moments you will look back on and say, "that's when I changed, that's when I became stronger."
Prepare for your escape
Plan to get out of wherever you are as soon as you have healed. This place will stay in your head as the place you recovered after having your heart broken, why not have a fresh start somewhere else and get ready to take on travelling solo. That's the beauty of travelling, you're not tied to any one place.
Arrive somewhere new
Feeling stronger, but still hesitant, you're not sure you're ready for the next step. But you are, I promise. Throw yourself into your new life, tell yourself you're okay, tell yourself you're more than okay. Eventually you will believe it and by then you will have a whole bunch of new friends, a whole new story to tell.
Look back and realise it all was worth it
Months later, you'll suddenly realise you haven't thought on that guy, or girl, for ages. For a second you'll think back fondly on the memories as something reminds you. You'll realise you really have moved on and will only look back with a smile on your face. That's the traveller - he, or she, looks back with love in her heart on every person she meets, because they all helped shape the person she is and the memories she has made.
It might not feel like it now, but everyone recovers from a broken heart and comes out stronger on the other side - it takes time and it hurts like hell but it also helps you become the person you are. I've met so many people on my travels who were crazy in love with someone but sadly torn apart. I've met others who were crazy in love but their other half just didn't feel the same way - it's not easy But it happens. Just don't let it stand in the way of your travels being the best they can be.
Have you been heartbroken while travelling? What are your top tips for dealing with heartbreak?
I had a pretty intense chat with a friend recently, he was going through a bit of a tough time and had lost his travelling way for a little while. It happens to us all when we get settled in one place for too long - we get antsy, frustrated, feel the need to escape but don't know where to turn next which can leave some people feeling pretty alone. I know because I went through the same thing at around the same time - it's the trouble with having a travelling soul, you're always looking for the next adventure. Most of the time that's amazing, but if that feeling hits you when you're stuck working somewhere and have to wait to leave, it can be a killer to your mood. After several people I was really close with left Darwin to start their next adventure, I was pretty down and sick of life there - don't get me wrong, the city had been an amazing home for me for three months and is full of memories for me. But it was the longest I had spent in one place since starting travelling - while that was just what I needed to start with, it soon became suffocating as more and more people left. I know my friend felt much the same, he was struggling to see why he was still there because he too had never planned to stay as long - he had just fallen in love with the place and the people, as had I.
At the time, I found our conversation hard to hear and talk about, but now - since moving on, it keeps coming flooding back to me and I can't help but remember one phrase in particular. "When you're travelling, you're never alone, but you're always lonely." The way my friend came out with that really surprised me, he's the life and soul of the party and everyone loves him so much, he always puts in every effort and will do anything for his friends. But it just shows you that even the ones who are the centre of so many people's worlds can be lonely and struggle sometimes. I could totally understand what he was talking about after speaking to another close friend who said: "You form these intense and beautiful bonds with people, but you never really have a lasting connection with those around you because people always leave." I couldn't put it anymore perfectly myself - I've felt this so many times when I've met people and fallen in love with their character, personality and soul. I've fallen head over heels for the moments we've shared and the things we've experienced together. Then just days or even hours later, we part ways and sometimes never see each other again.It's a hard thing to adapt to and I think that's why me and my friend were feeling down - we were both so used to being the people who leave and go on to something more exciting to distract us from the sadness of what we have left behind. This time, we were some of the last ones of our gang there and we felt the pain and the loss of every single bright spark who made our time in Darwin as special as it was. I totally understand where my friends were coming from but I can't help but disagree about the part after people leaving - it can feel like that at times when you're constantly moving from place to place and don't get a chance to spend more than a few days together. But there have also been so many times where I have seen it proven how amazingly travellers can come together to create a family that cares for each other no matter what. I saw it when I was in the crash in Cambodia and friends who were scattered across Asia and beyond went out of their way to check I was okay and to even come and look after me until they were happy I was safe enough for them to move on. I saw it in Darwin when something awful happened to a friend of mine and the whole gang rallied around, they did so much by just being there and it just showed how close we all were after just days of knowing each other. I know that I could call on so many of my travelling friends day or night, if every I were in trouble, or just needed a chat, they would be there.
It's been nearly four months but I still speak to friends I met on the East Coast on a regular basis and am even making plans to be reunited with some of them soon. It's been nine months since I met one of my most special gangs back in Thailand and I still speak to them every few weeks and even FaceTime despite us all being scattered around the globe now. It's an amazing feeling to know you have so many connections across the world and is easily one of my favourite things about travelling - these friendships are so special and I treasure them so much. This morning I woke up to around 30 messages from old and new friends and it really showed me that even when I'm working in the middle of nowhere, these friends don't just forget you. Yes, there are lonely times when travelling - but they're also the times that really shape you as a person and teach you the important life skill of being on your own and actually enjoying it. There is no light without dark, and as much as there are times when you will feel completely alone, there are times when you will be overrun with people and friendships that will last a lifetime. The important thing is to recognise in other travellers what point they are at in their own journey - be kind and be what others need you to be. When we're on the road it is more important than ever to look after each other and to support each other - don't leave anyone lonely, don't push anyone away. We all need a little family sometimes. The sights are important, but it's the people that make the real memories.
Have you struggled with feeling alone while travelling? Have you found that perfect travelling gang of friends? Do you manage to stay in contact with other travellers along the way?
It's been a funny few weeks - I won't go into too many details but let's just say a few things have happened lately that have really forced me to step up and act like an adult. It's pretty easy when travelling to feel like you're 18 and invincible, that nothing can touch you and that somehow you're just evading all the bad things in life. Often you're just so overwhelmed by the goodness and kindness of people that you wonder if you had them all wrong when you were back home working that 9-5 job and getting stressed out constantly by the behaviour of others. I'm not going to deny that bad things ever happen when you're travelling, but to be honest they don't very often - at least nowhere near as often as people warn you that they do. But when they do, it's a shock, it brings you back down to earth with a bump after months of soaring along with your head in the clouds. Don't worry, everyone, including myself are okay - if anything, I'm being a bit dramatic. Why? Well it all goes back to a conversation I had the other week with a friend about the situation, something she said really struck me and made me think.
When asked about life back at home, I told her that I don't really get homesick - yes I miss the people, the moments and the history, but I don't think I have once spent a day pining for home. I know some find homesickness a real problem when travelling and I've had friends who can be down for days on end if something sets off those feelings, but that's just not me. I was never homesick when I went to university either, I think I'm just used to dealing with the feeling of being separate and I'm a very logical person who will always reason with herself that family and friends are always at the end of the phone. My friend, who does get homesick and has been missing home lately, commented on how independent I was and seemed surprised by it. Especially when she realised that I had travelled so far across the world by myself and was unafraid to tackle Asia and Australia solo. I've had this reaction multiple times since planning my travels and setting out - it's something that just seems odd to me and perhaps highlights that it is still thought of as unusual for a young woman to be "brave" enough to be on her own and to be completely independent. Don't worry - I'm not going to start quoting Beyoncé songs to you, but I do want to make the point that I think it is a huge compliment to say that someone is so very independent.
Independence is vastly underrated - whether is financial, emotional, physical or even mental, there is nothing more valuable than the ability to be on your own and still be happy. Too many people in this world are relying on the behaviour of others to make them happy, but wonder why they are always left disappointed. They don't seem to appreciate that you have no control over the behaviour of others, ultimately if they want to mess you around or treat you badly, you can't do anything about it except adjust your own attitude. I've forgiven people for some pretty horrid behaviour over the years and sometimes I'm asked why - I always respond, because it doesn't have any impact on me beyond being upset. That person has to live with the knowledge of how they have treated me and my hating them for it will only make me unhappy and bitter - why would I want to introduce that unhappiness into my own life? As I said on my Facebook page the other day - not relying on others to make you happy is the greatest power of all. By being able to make yourself happy through fulfilling your own goals, setting your own challenges and comforting yourself in times of strife, you give yourself the key to happiness. Solo travel is a great way to learn that, but it's something we should all learn in our own lives - other people can make your life better but only you can make it great.Of course we need others to bring light into our lives in other ways - to put a smile on our face after a hard day, to crack a joke when we're mad, or do thoughtful things, but what happens on the day when they aren't there? You need to be able to build yourself back up instead of just expecting others to do it for you. I've always been a very independent person, but before coming travelling I was a lot more emotionally dependent on others. Travelling solo has given me the space and the time to get to know myself better, it has meant learning to look after myself when times are tough and boy, have they been tough sometimes. I remember being pulled out of a crashed minibus which was half buried in a ditch, I'd been thrown against the windscreen and would have gone through it if it weren't for the driver grabbing hold of me. I stood on the side of the road with blood pouring from my legs, with a group of Cambodians who spoke barely any English, and remember thinking, I genuinely don't know if I'll make it out of this one. Being in a situation like that, being forced to look after yourself and to get yourself to safety in a city that is still a hundred miles away is quite a challenge. But I did it, and I'm a stronger person for it. Now I don't want anyone to go through anything like that, but there are ways to teach yourself the value of independence without putting yourself in danger.
Just taking a tiny step outside your comfort zone and doing it all by yourself is the most valuable experience of all - it can mean disappearing off one day and exploring a place you've never been before, forcing yourself to eat out alone, dealing with something complicated all by yourself instead of seeking help from parents or a partner. All of these are things I do on a daily basis now - I love to eat out alone, I love the satisfaction of managing to deal with a problem completely by myself or turning up in a place where no-one knows me and no-one in the world knows where I am. Some people call that brave, I call it just living my life one step at a time and taking chances. So far it's paid off better than I ever could have imagined and it could be the same for everyone. Being independent is one of the most empowering feelings I have ever known. Some say to love and be loved is the greatest thing of all, but I think that being brave enough to say "I got this shit" to yourself and to others every damn day and proving it again and again is the one to aim for. Don't ever think independence is a lonely place - I've never been surrounded by and had the support of quite so many amazing people who I know love me and would do anything for me as I have lately - what brought us all together is the fact that we all kick ass independently.
Do you consider yourself independent? How else can we gain independence? When's the last time you went off the grid?
People travel for all kinds of reasons, but often one that drives them to make the huge decision to go it alone is heartbreak. The desire to be independent and free after big changes in your personal life can be the perfect motivation to go and get lost in the wilderness somewhere and never return. Something that starts out as an escape from the harsh realities of life can soon blossom into something so incredible that you'll never believe you haven't been living like this all along. I've met so many people on my journey who had been forced to take a long hard look at the way they were living their lives after a long term relationship blew up in their faces. What really amazed me about it was how healing travelling could be for these situations - the combination of excitement, experience, culture and a reignited zest for life was the perfect way to get over heartbreak. Time passes so slowly and so quickly at the same time - simultaneously you will feel like you've been away for no time at all and yet so much will have happened, changed and affected you. It's a perfect way to get over someone.
For those whose trips aren't fuelled by the desire to escape the relationships dramas of back home, we all know the potential for a holiday romance is never higher than when you're young, free, single and backpacking on an extended trip. We may flat out deny it to our friends back home but the idea of a little holiday romance is one we all fantasise about while lazing on golden sandy beaches, or while cruising over ocean waves in one of the most romantic settings in the world. When all you meet are interesting people with a story to tell, a spark in their soul and an adventure underway, it's not surprising that most people seem to meet someone pretty amazing while on the road. I have actually met several couples since travelling who say they found each other along the way after setting out solo, fell madly in love and haven't looked back since. But whether that moment lasts for a night, a few week or months, or a lifetime, each fling is as special as the last. Those romances teach us so much more than relationships at home because they push us out of our comfort zone, takes off the pressure of society's eyes and gives us a freedom to be who we really wanted to be all along.
12 signs you've fallen in love while travelling:
This post was sponsored by Durex and if you liked this post, you'll love this list of the Mediterannean's top ten nudist beaches they created. Fancy something a little cheekier? Head to this one instead.
Have you fallen in love on your travels? Had a holiday romance that turned into something more?
All photos by Madeleine Ko.
I know many of you have been wondering what on earth has happened to Absolutely Lucy, I've had so many lovely emails and messages from you all, but there's no need to worry - I'm back! I took a little blogging break over the last two weeks because I had so much going on that it just became impossible to write anything down, plus the wifi has been so terrible here that I couldn't rely on it to upload new posts. In a big change from the party girl you all know and love, I'm now a responsible citizen with two jobs - and hopefully a third soon - who is looking for an apartment and getting settled for the next few months of working and saving in my new home of Darwin. After spending 10 days in Cairns celebrating the end of a fantastic East Coast trip - more to come on this soon - we flew to Darwin for the next stage of our trip when I would be settling down to live and save for a while. I actually can't believe how much I was craving routine, normality and a steady life after seven months of travelling but it's been lovely to get settled in a more homely hostel and to make a little family with the people here. We're all looking to stay and save for a few months and are getting settled in, which is lovely after having so many friends who passed through my life so quickly on the East Coast.
As I'm sure many of you know, I was travelling for two months with Mark, after we were reunited following six months apart. I'm not sure how many of you actually know that we broke up when I came travelling, but remain the best of friends, and it was amazing to be reunited and to have two months of travelling, partying and just doing what the hell we want. Sadly, all good things must come to an end and he left to fly to Thailand on Monday where he will spend the next three weeks before heading home to go to university. I always say that the worst part of travelling is saying goodbye, and although me and my best friends always say "it's not goodbye, it's just see you later", it doesn't make it any easier. It's hard enough saying goodbye to the friends you make on the road and have the most intense, crazy fun times with for a few weeks or days before parting ways. Having to say goodbye to someone who has been such a huge part of your life for ten years is the hardest thing in the world, and I've done it twice in the last eight months. Last time we knew it would be just six months until we would see each other again, but now we have to go even longer - perhaps seven or eight months at the very least - perhaps longer. It sucks, but sometimes you have to make sacrifices if you want to really live your dreams.
On a totally separate note, I was pretty excited to finally catch up on my emails and receive one that said Absolutely Lucy has been named one of the UK's top 100 Travel Blogs by DiscountMyFlights.co.uk! Read the full post here. I'm so honoured to be counted as one of the final 100 let alone to be listed first - it was such a boost after my blogging break and has really given me the motivation to get back into it. UK online travel website DiscountMyFlights.co.uk released the Top 100 UK Travel Blogs, a list compiled through crowdsourcing on social media sites. Bloggers were nominated from a variety of different sources including travel forums, bookmarking sites, travel communities. Nominees were then validated by the Travel Tips Editor Anna Murray. The company said: "This is a great accomplishment in a competitive and online sector that appears to be growing substantially." It's always so amazing to be recognised for something that started out as just a hobby and has gradually turned into a passion - especially when your passion fades for a while and needs reinvigorating. I'm really proud that AbsolutelyLucy.com has grown into something so special and so happy I could share it with all the amazing friends I've met travelling, who message me on a regular basis to say how much they love the posts, as well as all the people close to my heart I've left back at home. Thanks to all for being a part of this, and I'll be bringing more posts to you by the end of the week!
In my seven months of travelling I've been lucky enough to experience travelling with all types of people from all walks of life, many of them I know I never would have met if it weren't for my decision to travel. I've travelled with friends from home, I've travelled with friends I've just met, with natives of the countries I've visited, with two-week holidaymakers and long-term backpackers, and most importantly, I've travelled by myself. Now, after months of flitting between travelling with groups of friends and going it alone, I'm facing a whole new challenge of travelling with one other person for an extended period of time. It sounds crazy, but the longest I've travelled with anyone until now is just four weeks, not two whole months, and I always had the option to go off and do my own thing. Other backpackers will understand, it is different to travel with someone from home to travelling with people you meet on the road - there are greater expectations and more demands placed on you. Suddenly you are a travelling couple rather than the solo traveller you're used to being. It can be wonderful in so many ways to travel with another person, but you can't deny it takes a slight adjustment period when you are used to complete independence.
So say, like me, you've been travelling by yourself for six months, facing all kinds of situations head on, organising every visa, every ticket and every overnight bus alone. Then suddenly, you have someone else with you who wants to be involved with every decision and plan. It can be difficult at first to let someone else take control from time to time, but don't forget there can be so many bonuses from having someone else there to lighten the load and take the pressure of from time to time. All you need is a little voice in your head to remind you when you need to let things slide a little bit and let someone else take the reigns. I've spoken to a few backpackers in the same situation lately and the same things are brought up again and again. "I feel like I have to look after him all the time and introduce him to people" or "I just never have any space of my own", even "she doesn't want me to be friends with everyone, just her". While it's okay to get frustrated at times, it's always important to deal with the problem as soon as it crops up rather than letting it become an issue - but how do you do this?
Remember how awesome they are
It's easy to forget in the little annoyances how much you love your travel buddy - whether it's your boyfriend, girlfriend, best mate or someone you've known since university. Just remember when you're feeling irritated, because you will get annoyed at some point, that there is a reason you asked them to come and join you! Reminisce over all those times you laughed until a little bit of pee came out, about those crazy nights out - then go out and make some more memories!
Allow for their feelings too
Don't forget that they are coming out to meet someone who they think is super cool for having travelled by themselves for so long. It can be intimidating to join your mate in their group of buddies because you feel like you have to impress the group - don't put too much pressure on them, they'll already be doing it to themselves. Particularly if this is the first time they will have backpacked - remember how you felt when you first came away!
Appreciate that everyone needs their own space
This applies to both of you - always remember that just as much as you like to have some time to yourself to pluck your eyebrows and play Candy Crush on your phone, they probably want some time to flick through Tinder and listen to music. Everyone needs space - for me, I like to have some quiet time to write blogs for you lovely lot, while Mark likes to catch up on sport and the news. His stuff couldn't bore me more, and he's not very interested in blogging unless it's about him - so it works well.
If something the other person has said or done has bugged you for more than 24 hours, it might be a good idea to say something. Some people might think this causes more problems than it needs to, but I think it's always best to get it out of your system so you can get on and enjoy your day. Often the other person hasn't even realised you are bothered by what they said or did and will happily apologise. Be a grown up about it and it won't turn into a row.
Stop being a control freak
It's hard to stop taking control when it comes to planning and booking your trip, but just remember that as soon as the other person arrives it's no longer just your trip - now it's their trip too. You're so used to organising everything but this is one of the benefits of travelling with someone - they can take the pressure off and book flights for you or choose a hostel. It's fun to do it all together, and it can be lovely after six months of planning to sit back and let someone else do the work.
My best piece of advice - just enjoy every second, from sleeping in the airport together to dragging your sorry drunk arses home to bed just hours before a white water rafting trip. It's all important and will become some of the greatest travel memories you will have. Travelling with another person creates a bond closer than just friendship and you will remember your trip together as long as you live - remember it for all the right reasons, not because you were arguing over something silly. Trust me, you'll miss them when they're gone and you have to go back to doing laundry with strangers and have to make friends at every hostel.
Who is your favourite travel buddy and why? Have you travelled with a friend or partner - how did it go? Do you prefer travelling solo or with a buddy?
No matter where we go in life, no matter how far we travel or make it up the career ladder, it's impossible to escape the people who just drive us insane. I'm talking about the ones who are so annoying they make your teeth itch when they speak and the ones who you just can't seem to escape. When you're travelling, you're constantly meeting hundreds of new people each week and have to be open to making new friends at every turn. So what happens if you meet someone who just rubs you up the wrong way? Well I have to admit I've been pretty lucky so far and haven't really been annoyed by anyone I've met - bet all you travel friends were waiting to see if I'd pick on any of you haha - but I certainly know a few people who have been. It's definitely a lot easier out here to let things go and take a deep breath when you're surrounded by palm trees, sandy beaches and sunshine, but that doesn't eliminate the annoyance altogether.
Now you all know I'm not really one for negativity so this post isn't all about annoying people and how to deal with them. Instead, I thought I'd change it up by turning this into an advice post for all of us travellers to be a bit more mindful about our behaviours so that we aren't making life difficult for others. I always think it's so important to be aware of how we impact on the lives of others and that is especially true when you are behaving in certain ways around other cultures and personalities. It's very easy to forget that your friends at home have known you for years and have accepted your flaws, but new people along the road might be less forgiving if you're not respectful of their beliefs or choices. And let's face it, we all just want to make friends and meet people, so what should we avoid doing that could lose us this opportunity? So here are my top tips for avoiding being one of those travelling idiots nobody wants to hang out with:
Don't be... The one who does nothing but party
Did you come to see the world or have an extended lads-on-tour experience? You can do both in balance and have a great time partying with your newfound friends after a day sightseeing and soaking up the culture but people get bored of the person who never stops partying pretty quick. It's exhausting to be around someone who just wants to get on it all the time and you never get a real chance to experience the country around you - plus sharing a dorm with a roaring drunk is not fun when it's every single night. Don't use everything as an excuse to get wasted - from the Thai queen's birthday to managing to clip your own toenails. Some of the best travelling experiences I've had have been the more chilled out times spent with friends.
Don't be... The selfish one
This applies to all manner of traits and can appear in many different forms. All us backpackers have come across the traveller with a serious snoring problem who still insists on booking him or herself into the 18-bed dorm so they can keep everyone else awake all night. Those ones that even the most effective earplugs won't help with. Or there's the ones who rudely switch on all the lights when everyone else is asleep, the ones who come in rustling bags and packing up their stuff at 5am, and who could forget the ones who decide that is the perfect time to have a loud conversation about ragging some ladyboy or something equally polite? We all have to make allowances when sharing a room with up to 20 other people but there is a limit.
Don't be... The dirty one
There's always one person who just doesn't seem to wash and whose clothes smell far beyond the usual backpacker standard. The one who leaves the shared bathroom in a gag-worthy state. The one whose quick-drying traveller towel smells like something died on it. The one who only seems to ever wear that same pair of socks that must have once been white and are now a sickly grey colour with various stains you're scared to identify. The traveller who stopped at a place and loved it so much they stayed to work on the bars, party all day every day and steadily look more and more run down and unwashed.
Don't be... The naked one
This is something that has totally astonished me since arriving in Asia - the sheer number of travellers, backpackers and holiday makers who think it is acceptable to walk down the street in what are predominantly Buddhist, Hindu and Muslim countries in nothing more than a bikini/shorts. Usually accompanied by a hideous sunburn, these individuals are not only offending my eyes, but they are also hugely offending a whole other culture and way of life, and they are giving a bad name to the rest of us. I have to say that Brits are pretty bad with this, but it's not just us. I just think that if you are pulling up to a religious icon or temple on a scooter wearing just enough to cover your nether regions, you really need to reassess your priorities in life and learn some respect. Walking down the street is no different, think about what you are doing and do some research on the culture.
Don't be... The know-it-all
Sharing knowledge and tips acquired along your travels is a great part of travelling - I love meeting other travellers and having the chance to recommend hostels, activities and bars. Likewise, I love meeting travellers who have just come from my next destination - it's the best way to get up-to-date and accurate advice on where to stay and what to do. This is how I planned my whole journey through Laos and Vietnam. The problems start when you meet some individuals who love to talk about their experiences but don't seem to listen when you share yours - often they are the ones who are busy planning what they will say next. Not listening to people, or thinking you know best because you are older is really rude and definitely won't make people want to hang out with you.
Don't be... The worrier
Some of us are naturally more inclined to worry and overplan than others. I used to be like that, always organising. But then I realised that no matter how well you plan and worry about something, it can still go tits up at the last moment and you just have to accept it. Worrying causes you a whole lot of extra stress and affects those around you. Now while it is hard to eliminate this trait entirely, it is possible to cut back on allowing yourself to stress over every tiny thing, which will also allow you to enjoy yourself more. Things like worrying about getting sick are pointless - yes you can be careful with food and drink and you can be cautious about using the water, but you can get sick from so many things and it is a fact of life for backpackers - deal with it when it happens. Don't stress about getting robbed or taken advantage of - yes, take precautions but there is no point worrying all the time as you may end up making yourself more of a target.
The most important message of this post is be yourself, that's the person people will love. But just be aware of how you come across - don't make life harder or less fun for anyone else, or for yourself. It's amazing how easily certain things can become a part of our character, but travelling demands you be the best you can be - so why not take the opportunity to work on developing yourself as a person?
Have you struggled to get along with anyone while travelling? How did you deal with the situation? Can you offer any other advice for being a good and conscientious traveller?
Phuket Town really started to feel like home for me. Why? Why this place in particular? Out of all those beautiful tropical islands? Well it's because this is the first place, and the first time in nearly a month that I had good enough wifi to be able to actually catch up with friends and family from home. It's amazing how quick the time goes here, and with rubbish Internet, I've just kept busy and coped with the odd email to catch people up on what I've been doing. Even sending pictures of what I had been doing to my family had been impossible! Thankfully it had been a busy few weeks and I'm lucky, I'm not the sort of girl who gets homesick. I can honestly say I haven't once pined for home during my time here, but I have missed telling my friends and parents about all the exciting and cool things I've seen and done. I love sharing the experiences with them and it makes things all the more amazing by doing so, I enjoy reliving the experience and excitement through telling them about it.
So you can imagine my excitement, when with the seven hour time difference, I finally managed to get get hold of my best friends from home on FaceTime after attempting for several days in a row. It's so difficult when I am seven hours ahead, I means I either try to contact when they are at work, or I have to wait until after a night out, when it is the early hours of the morning for me and all I want is to go to bed and get away from the mosquitoes. Plus with my phone out of action, it's even harder to reach them quickly, thank god I brought my iPad along with me - it's been a saviour! So after spending a few hours FaceTiming my two best friends in the world, it was amazing to relive every step of my trip with them from the beginning. They've been reading, but it's not the same and I was excited to tell them about all the bits I haven't blogged about as well as all the temples, people and food.The following night, I finally managed to get hold of my parents after trying constantly for weeks with no success - it was so good to see them and to share my trip with them. It was also good to reassure them that I am okay, I am coping and having a great time, because you know how parents worry. Even better, it was good to hear about what they had been doing, just stuff like work and going to the cinema, hearings out the snow and what my grandad had been doing... To realise that normal life is still going on back at home, everyone is still living their lives - it's so easy to feel like life at home has just stopped because you're so far apart from it all. But it's so nice to know that everyone is well and happy, it becomes all the more important to you when you're around 10,000 miles away, those connections are all the more important for both sides, and you realise how precious some of those relationships really are.
It's like when you go away to university and it really makes or breaks friendships - suddenly having to put in the time and effort to nurture the relationship is something that you either want to put the time I to or you don't. If you don't, that relationship is fucked, pardon my French. Friendship and love is a two way thing, without both sides putting in their all, you can't expect it to be a success. When I went to university, I found this great, finally there was a filter on my friendships and the ones that were less good for my life ended up dropping away naturally, while the ones that were steadfast and true ended up blossoming into full blown friendships that I know will last for life. I'm talking about the girls who will stand beside me in bridesmaid dresses at my wedding, the guys who will laugh and hit festivals with me until we're in nursing homes, I'm talking about the ones who love you know matter what.
Distance is a great tool for telling which relationships are worth it, which people are as crazy about you as you are about them, and it can be the best thing for you to get space sometimes to realise quite how much you value those in your life. Every single day I have several moments where a new friend reminds me of someone from back home who means the world to me, every day I see and experience amazing things that I immediately want to share with you guys back at home and that is why I love this blog - because I can share with so many of you exactly what I'm thinking, feeling and experiencing. FaceTime means just as much, because it means maintaining all those friendships and loves on a more personal note, telling all those deepest darkest thoughts and knowing that even if things go wrong, I have an army of people back home rooting for me. Thanks guys.
What does it mean to you to have contact with home while away travelling? How do you keep in contact with your loved ones while away?
As you read this, my travels will have already started and I thought it was important to write this post and share what has probably been the hardest part of my decision to leave. The first thing everyone has asked me upon finding out I was going travelling was "are you going with your boyfriend?". When I replied no on each occasion, I saw the same surprised blank faces in front of me - particularly when I announced I was going it alone. I'm not sure why it is such a shock to people as I've always been quite an independent person - but clearly it seems quite odd to a lot of people that we would be able to go without each other for any length of time. To paint a picture for those who don't know us, me and Wolfy have been together for well over eight years. We've survived all sorts, including me moving away for university for three years, and defied all those who said we'd never last or that we weren't suited - amazingly there were a lot of people who felt that way. But we made it this far and we seem to be doing better than okay. So I can totally understand why people think "they love each other, therefore they must not be able to live without each other".
Relationships always face difficulties at some point - a hurdle that pops up out of nowhere, whether a problem between the two of you, or interference from outside sources. But when you've been together as long as we have, and from as young an age, sometimes the problems that crop up are actually just dreams that pull you in opposite directions. We've all got dreams, big ideas and hopes for the things we want to achieve, see and do - but what happens when they clash with those of the one we love? Well we're faced with a big decision about what to do. This is actually something that's been playing on my mind a lot lately because I have a few friends who, although in slightly different situations, have struggled with similarly big decisions. I guess it is a common theme in our twenties that we will be faced with big choices over our relationships - our teens are the easy time, although they may not feel like it, when nothing really tests us other than ourselves. Even the separation of university is something that can be easy to live with because to an extent we still have a choice over distance and whether we want to go the distance. But by the time we hit our twenties, we are looking at careers, new homes, marriage and babies in some cases, and travel. There are so many more factors that will affects our relationships and we will be forced into difficult decisions.I'm not the only one who has found this, I actually know several people who have found lately that they have had to choose one aspect of their life over another. One friend has chosen to move two-and-a-half hours away from all of her friends and family, leaving behind a job she had worked her way up to, in order to follow her boyfriend. He was moving to a much better job and she had to take a pay cut in order to be with him, but for her the decision was the right one for her because she loves him and wants to be with him. Now they are able to live together, instead of breaking up or living hours apart. A couple I know came to an end after the subject of travel was broached, they had been together for years but he didn't want to travel and she passionately did - so they finished and she started planning her trip. I know of another couple who broke up because the guy wanted to settle down together, with big plans for marriage and babies, but she wanted to keep her freedom and to work on her career first, so they broke up and moved on. What do all of these couples have in common? They're all in their twenties and their lives are ever changing and evolving - sometimes couples are on different wavelengths and that can mean different directions.
For me and Wolfy, I know that we are on the same wavelength but that after eight-and-a-half years we are being pulled in different directions. For me, I'm in a job that I just can't do any longer and I've reached a point in my life where I want to experience something new. It was a choice between moving away for work or travelling, and that decision was a simple one for me. For Wolfy, he regrets not putting in the time and effort for his studies and has realised he needs a change of career, so for him, the move is to retake his A-levels and go to university. The timing for us isn't great and we don't want to be apart, but we also both realise that we have to follow our individual dreams in order to be happy together. Neither of us should have to put our individual dreams on hold at this age, surely we will only end up resenting each other if we try? I'm not saying it's going to be easy - because I know it won't be. Saying goodbye earlier this week was the hardest thing I have ever done. But for us, this isn't a break up, more like hitting pause on things until we can resume play. We hope that it will be just six months until we are reunited in Australia - that might be naive on our part, or it might be a mature decision that works out really well. Either way, all we can do is hope that things work out for us. I've always believed that everything happens for a reason - I'm not always sure what that reason is but I know that it will all work out in the end. And I'm treating this just like that - it doesn't mean being separated is any easier, but it does mean we can hope that if we are meant to be together that it will work out.
I'd love to hear your stories of when you've been forced to choose between love and your career, or family, or even travel, like I have. Did it work out for you? Or do you still regret the one that got away?