It's taken a while to get to my final Bali post but here we are, and what better to write about than my time spent in the incredible jungle haven where Julia Roberts famously found love again in Eat Pray Love? Ubud is the spiritual centre of Bali and if you've visited the island without setting foot in this jungle paradise, you honestly haven't seen Bali. It was so different to every other place I visited while there and it was easy to see why so many expats had now chosen to call it home. Easily my favourite place on the island, Ubud is the perfect place to relax and really look after yourself for a while, especially if you've just come from partying in Seminyak or Kuta. I won't lie, I had been indulging a lot and partying pretty hard over there and on Gili T for a few weeks so I was more than ready for a rest and a chance to try out the alternative, yogi, health-food lifestyle for a while.
Planning your day trip
Earlier in my stay on Bali I had taken a day trip with a friend to Ubud where our taxi driver took us to visit the Monkey Forest, the Tegalalang Rice Paddies and Tegenungen Waterfall - as you'll see from some of the pictures in this post, they are all worth a visit! Ubud is an area of outstanding natural beauty, and while it takes you away from the sandy beaches the island is famous for, it offers something even more beautiful instead. The best way by far to explore the island is by motorbike which you can hire for almost nothing, but we found as there was a few of us it worked out pretty cheap to do a taxi as we managed to strike a deal for around 250,000RP for the day - the average day taxi costs around 3-350,000RP. Our driver was great and told us a lot about the different places we visited, plus it meant we could have a nap in the back of the car instead of driving all day. We visit from Kuta, if you do this make sure you set off extra early to beat the traffic as it gets pretty hectic mid-morning onwards.These three attractions are the most popular and well known for Ubud, plus they are great to combine even if you are just visiting for the day as they are the perfect distance from each other so you don't have to rush. I absolutely loved the rice paddies - you do have to pay to get in but it is worth it if you go early and pretty much have the place to yourself. We spent a few hours doing the sweatiest hike I have ever done across the fields which stretch as far as the eye can see. We joined a farmer for a cool refreshing coconut and played his musical instruments with him as we chatted with some Swedish guys we met. After, we headed to the Monkey Forest for a wander around an amazing temple that reminded me of King Louis' in The Jungle Book, monkeys scamper around the forest climbing on tourists and stealing food. It was pretty cool, but oh my gosh I still haven't got over my fear of monkeys so I was squealing a bit - especially when one stop a water bottle from my friend and started to stare him down!Finally a refreshing dip in Tegenungen Waterfall was a perfect end to the day - it was absolutely beautiful and a perfect place to be for sunset. Despite being quite busy, there was still plenty of space to swim/get photos/relax, and it is well worth paying a little bit to get up to the top! We drove back to Kuta in rush hour traffic which took ages but it was a great day, well planned and we had spent about six hours on the road and visiting the sights. We probably spent around 500,000RP altogether for the taxi, entry to the sights and meals for the day which is equivalent to around £30 - you could probably do it for a lot less if you went by motorbike.
Where to stay?
At the end of my trip, I couldn't resist joining some friends for a few days in Ubud. It's a bit cheesy but I really fancied a Julia Roberts experience - some yoga, some healing, some jungle life and some time to figure my next move out. Our friends had booked into the brand new Ons Hostel which they raved about, so I booked in to join them. On arrival with two other friends, myself and one of them were checked into a 14 bed dorm with no-one else in it! The place was so new they were just building up custom but it meant we had the whole place to ourselves. Imagine whitewashed walls, clean fresh dorms with the comfiest beds, luxury bathrooms with rain showers, a swimming pool with an area to sit and eat the freshly made pancakes and omelettes made to order for breakfast. It was like staying in a hotel - absolute luxury. I can't recommend staying there enough. It is positioned the other side of the Monkey Forest which although separate from the centre of Ubud, it gives you a lovely walk into the centre and a chance to see a different side to the area. Check out this HotelsCombined blog on the 7 Best Value Hotels to Relax in Bali to complete your Bali experience.
Where to eat?
I would really recommend dining at Laka Leke restaurant one evening - our hostel was just down the road so we gathered all 20 of our friends and booked in for the night's entertainment. The food was incredible, I had a traditional Indonesian curry which was mouth-wateringly good, and as we ate we watched a live performance of the Kecak and fire dance. It was a very interesting performance and there are several others they perform on different nights if you fancy something different. I believe the restaurant will also do pick-ups from your hotel/hostel if you are staying further away. Other favourites of mine included the amazing selection of vegetarian restaurants - I can't name them all here but there are so many that offer really high quality food. Also, the tiny Warungs - my favourites were the really small, local family run ones who would treat you like a daughter and cook you the best meal from scratch.
Where to yoga?
Everyone talks about Yoga Barn when it comes to Ubud, but after reading up, it sounded like there were a lot of people complaining about having to join huge classes of 60 people. As a bit of a beginner, I wasn't sure that was for me. But I did spot that Ubud Yoga Centre was just down the road so I signed up for a Bikram Yoga Class at the centre instead. It was cheap and the centre was really lovely, all brand new and very high quality. The class was hard and the heat was a lot to take, but I gave it my best shot and really enjoyed the class, it was lovely to have a good stretch out. Afterwards I was exhausted and spent the day sunbathing.
What to do?
You may have already seen the main sights, but there's lots more to do around Ubud. Your best bet is to hire a motorbike as we did and go off exploring local temples, rice paddies and villages for the day. We had a great day visiting local craftsmen, getting lost in the rice paddies barefoot in the pouring rain as we tried to find waterfalls and being blessed at the temples. We asked at our hostel who gave us a booklet of all the best places to visit and we worked out way through as many as we could cram into a day. Some to add to your list would include the Elephant Cave, Puri Saren Royal Palace and the Blanco Renaissance Museum. Also, if you get time, the Campuhan Ridge Walk is totally free and looks really beautiful - sadly I didn't get time.If you fancy sticking closer to the centre of Ubud, don't forget to check out Ubud Market for some of the best shopping I found in Bali. And head to one of the many salons for some cut price beauty treatments - my friend and I each had a massage, manicure/pedicure and facial for 200,000RP - just £12! And if you're a bit of a bookworm like me, make sure you take advantage of the many beautiful, relaxing places to snuggle up with a book and a fresh juice - either at a bar or your hostel. If you're planning a trip to Ubud and need help - let me know by leaving a comment below!
And if you're heading off on your first backpacking trip - don't forget to enter my competition to win a backpack to store all your precious possessions!
Ever since quitting life as I knew it and leaving home to take on the adventure of a lifetime, I have been the queen of seeking adventures from the everyday to the most outlandish. I've shared pretty much every exciting second of with you guys from the crazy raves to the heartbreak and amazing jungle experiences. Now Into The Blue have asked me to write about an #ImpossibleExperience that I would love to turn into an experience day if ANYTHING were possible. So here I am, sitting in my Melbourne apartment drinking cold coffee and reminiscing about the travel moments that have captured my imagination and have set my world alight. On this 2.5 year trip, I've realised that so much more than I ever dreamed is possible in this life and it just takes a bit of bravery and the right people to show you how to make it happen. Who would have honestly thought when I set out that I would be living on the other side of the world? I'm all about making the impossible possible.When I came travelling, I also broke off a nine-year relationship, which was one of the hardest things I've ever had to do. Since then, we've remained the best of friends and always encourage each other to get out there and enjoy single life. Travelling is the best way to life as a single girl - every new place has amazing new people to discover and exciting new dates to go on. Since travelling the globe I've had some of the most amazing and romantic dates I could experience - from picnics on the beach at sunset, to hiking mountains together, getting lost in a new city, wine tours and more. But one that really stood out and will always remain one of my favourites was the night spent stargazing in the back of a ute in central Australia. With someone who has turned into one of my best travelling friends, it was probably one of the most romantic and special nights of my life. We lost count of the number of shooting stars as we lay there for hours, and watched as the moon rose. We stayed until the dawn started to turn the sky pink and we realised the magic of the night was slipping away.That was a very possible experience and one that every traveller should experience at some point in their lives - but it ignited my imagination and made me dream of travelling experiences far beyond the possible. That night, anything was possible, we were brave beyond the life we knew and dared to dream of everything society tells us we can never have. While travelling the globe is entirely attainable for me, travelling beyond this universe and the next is not, but that night I dared to dream of experiencing other undiscovered worlds. The final frontier - space is the true unknown and I dream of exploring and discovering something new, untouched, like fresh snow. Imagine being able to hop on a rocket to the moon for lunch, of drinking champagne somewhere over the Milky Way before spending an afternoon chasing each other through wormholes. Anyone who could take me to another world, to disco dance on Saturn's rings and kick up dust at a rave on Mars, they would change my world. Whether it was just for an afternoon or for 10 lightyears of fun - it would be a date that brought magic into my life. Gliding through the skies spotting constellations up close that I had once gazed at through a telescope in the back of a ute in central Australia. If you ask me, that would be a pretty special way to see the world and to really gain perspective on all that you knew. Looking down on that past self of yours laying in the back of the ute in central Australia naively dreaming of escaping to new worlds and dancing among the stars. Realising how much you have grown as a person since that moment, despite any struggles and pain you've felt, the successes and the achievements, you've made it through and have once again transcended all you knew was possible. This experience would be so much more than just a date among the stars, it would be the reaffirmation that you are taking control of your life and that you, alone, are the one making it spectacular. That one day someone will read your story and say, I want to live that life.
Whether you dream of dancing among the stars or something much more achievable, dare to dream. There was a time when I would sit behind a desk and imagine travelling the world and exploring new countries but I got off my arse and made it happen. It's not that hard, you just need to believe in yourself and actually do something about it - the first step is the hardest, then it simply becomes your life. Dreaming big is never stupid, it's the only way to achieve great things whether you want to travel, find a new career or change your life.
How have you achieved your dreams?
*This was my entry to the #ImpossibleExperiences competition to win a £200 experience day - you can enter by following these instructions.
*Images by myself and my very talented friend Scott McDonald
I'm struggling lately. I'm not afraid to admit it. On the face of things, I have my shit together, I'm one of the most together people I know most of the time. Always sure of myself, always knowing my next step and what I want out of life. But these past few weeks, I've just found myself questioning everything. I don't know what set it off, perhaps it was the exhaustion of the post-festival comedown and working over 50 hours a week that has left me an emotional mess, perhaps it's just a mid-twenties crisis. But let's be honest, sometimes all it takes is the news of how everyone else is progressing around you - in their relationships, careers, travels and lives - to make you really question everything you are doing and have achieved. I'm not one to compare myself to others, I know I've chosen a very different path to most people, but it's easy to look at that without a heavy dose of perspective and think you're not doing as well as you should be.
I said in a previous post how I was struggling to find the words to put on the page and I was taking a short break from writing until I regained my mojo. But it was only the last few days when it suddenly hit me that perhaps the reason I had lost my mojo was because I wasn't writing as much. Spending so much time focusing on work, the gym, friends and enjoying Melbourne meant one of my biggest passions was pushed to the wayside and I was left with no real outlet for all those thoughts that swirl around in the back of my head. As a creative individual it's easy to not realise the huge impact that has on you as a person, the challenge of being a creative is always finding new, and more satisfying ways to express yourself. But if that mode of expression is taken away, all that creative energy can just eat you up inside. I can see it even now as my fingers fly across the keyboard, just how much I have missed writing and sharing every facet of my life with you wonderful people.So what sparked this huge realisation? Well, last week at work (I'm working at a rooftop bar in Melbourne CBD) I had a visitor - a lovely girl who had travelled all the way from Germany, apparently a huge fan of this blog, and just had to meet me in person on her last night in the city. I can't even begin to tell you what this meant to me, I've had a few real down days these last few weeks so to know that someone appreciated me and my work so much was an incredible boost. It hasn't automatically fixed everything, but it has brought me back to writing and it has made me realise my priorities. I love exploring the world around me and living life to the max - I will always be a workaholic who struggles to maintain a work/life balance that doesn't push my body to extreme exhaustion. But I also need to give myself time to reflect and enjoy, to appreciate the amazing experiences I have had rather than always surging ahead towards the next.
But, am I doing okay?
It's the question we all ask ourselves all the time, whether we say it out loud or we let it eat us up inside as more friends announce new homes, huge career progression, engagements, marriage and babies. It's so hard not to judge yourself by the standards of others, and it's so easy to forget your own individual huge achievements that others just can't compete with. Now several years down the line, I know that giving up my nine-year relationship to travel the world solo and build a freelance journalism and travel blogging career was the best decision I have ever made in my life. But I still can't help but compare it to friends who have done the opposite and gave up everything for the one they love - putting aside their career and life plans. Likewise, giving up my working life at a newspaper was something that was long-overdue but going freelance and travelling long-term has also thrown me back into a life of temporary hospitality and casual work. I can't help but both love the freedom and easiness of it while hating the transiency and the lack of progression. There is no future in it and it sometimes makes me crave the excitement of seizing career opportunities.I mean, technically I'm doing amazingly. I'm in a great job, earning good money, I'm complete independent, the fittest and physically happiest I've been for a long time. I have a great apartment, incredible friends and family on every side of the globe, and plans for the future. But right now, something just isn't sitting right with me, I can't put my finger on it but whether my life is missing something or I'm in need of something different, I know that something has to change. I'm not one of these people who mopes around and complains about the way things are, I prefer to be a little proactive and make things better. Being a solo traveller, you have to be willing to get off your arse and to do things for yourself instead of waiting for someone else to make you happy. I like to apply that attitude to every aspect of my life and so I always get impatient with myself when I'm having a few down days - I'm not a wallower, I'm a problem solver. So my next mission is getting myself out of this funk and finding my new happy, the change that will help me regain what I feel like I've lost lately.
So, how do I do this?
Well my first changes were pretty instantaneous, I cut a few toxic people out of my life in the last few weeks, people who were't bringing anything positive into my world. I came back to writing, determined to let it heal me and to find my way back to this blogging world. I took some time for me, I went treated my body well and allowed it to recover, I indulged in my passions without stressing about doing things for other people. I planned a much-needed escape to nature with amazing friends and I refused to feel guilty for putting myself first. It hasn't changed my world yet, but it has eased my mood and has given me hope for the upcoming weeks. Now all we can do is watch and wait.
Are you struggling at the moment - how do you cope with these feelings? Have you got any tips for getting back on track?
I can't actually believe how much time has passed since I was in Bali living it up with one of my best friends, with the serious lack of Melbourne sunshine I'm wishing more and more that I was back there! If you've read my Bumper Guide to Bali, you'll already know my highlights and top tips for planning a trip to the island, but now I want to focus on one amazing part that you simply cannot miss out on. Gili T is probably one of the most talked about Asian islands other than the party islands in Thailand. It's the place of tropical dreams and we've all dreamt of sitting on those beautiful sunset swings at one time or another. Just a short boat ride off the coast of Bali, it's just so close it wouldn't even make sense to not spend a few days exploring the island when visiting Bali - so here's my top 20 reasons to visit:
Gili T was an amazing week I won't forget in a hurry - right now sat here in Melbourne thinking about the 10 hour shift I'm working later, I'd give anything to be back there. If you're thinking of going on holiday to Bali, make sure you include time on Gili T as it was one of my highlights of the whole month I spent over there. When it comes to booking your trip, I would really recommend booking it on arrival - by booking the boat on the spot and just booking one night's accommodation ahead of time you can end up saving a lot of money which is just more beers! By booking the hostel (La Sister Boheme) when we arrived, we were given a discount island rate that others who had pre-booked online didn't get. Obviously if you are going peak season, it's more important to ensure you have a place to stay and that not everywhere is booked out. If you're planning a trip and have any questions - leave a comment below and I'll get back to you!
Have you been to Gili T? Where did you stay/eat? What tips would you give to future travellers?
As a solo female traveller, and a backpacker living on a budget, I'm often asked about the cheapest and easiest ways to reach various locations around the world. Now much as I love flying and train journeys, they are not always the most practical or cost-effective option and, as I have discovered myself, sometimes the best choice can actually be kicking back on a coach from A to B. Not only do you get to relax and catch up on some Zzz's, but you can often have saved a small fortune which can help you have the time of your life when you arrive at a destination. So many of us are put off by the thought of spending several hours on a bus for comfort reasons, but the truth is these days buses are some of the comfiest ways to travel with plenty of leg room, plug sockets available to charge your devices and even wi-fi. When you take into account all the rail disruptions we suffer in the UK these days and the price of internal flights - climbing aboard a coach really does start to sound like a great option.While it's been a few years since I travelled by coach in the UK, I've found all over the world that it is more often than not the best and most efficient option. From crossing the border between Croatia and Hungary during the summer as I arrived in Budapest, to travelling huge distances up the East Coast of Australia and deep into the outback. And don't let me forget those overnight journeys between Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia - up to 24 hours at a time but easily one of the best ways to travel so you don't miss a single second of adventure time. In Europe and Australia I was taken aback by the quality of the bus journeys available, not only were the buses comfier than most hostels but they had great wifi so I could spend the hours catching up on work uninterrupted. The highest ranked coach, bus and train service in the UK, NationalExpress.com, offers the best of the best when it comes to bus journeys - with coaches that are fitted with leather seats, toilets, power sockets and air conditioning. They asked me to write about what makes a good bus journey and what to take with you when you set off, so here is:
My top 10 things to pack for a long bus journey:
The more you pre-plan your journey, the better it will be! We've all had those trips where we spent the entire time thinking "oh man this would have been so much better with (insert item here)". I'm all for spontaneous and adventurous travel, but when it comes to actual movements, a bit of pre-planning can be the difference between the journey from hell and a peaceful cruise to your next destination. Be smart and prepare, you'll be giving yourself the opportunity to turn the journey into part of the adventure. If you're planning to travel across the UK whether to the airport, a festival or gig, or even into Europe - look no further than National Express for the best in coach travel. Head to nationalexpress.com to book, or for more information.
Have you travelled by coach in the UK - how did it compare to other forms of travel? What is your favourite way to travel on a budget?
I'm all about seizing life by the balls and making your dreams a reality, but I know so often things like money or worries about travelling solo can hold people back. It's can be so easy to make excuses and put things off but the long you leave it the harder it gets. I'm so happy that through this blog and living my life to the max I have inspired so many to pick up and travel the world, so achieve their dreams and do things they never imagined they could do. I've now been on the road for around two and a half years, and I have no plans to stop - I've already started planning the next few years of my travelling life and I couldn't be more excited about the path I've chosen. I've found it endlessly inspiring to meet so many of you along the way and to hear all about your own adventures.
So in the spirit of keeping your adventures and passion for travel alive, I've teamed up with Trespass to give you all the opportunity to win an Amin 70 Litre Rucksack to hold all your possessions as you head off gallivanting around the world making your dreams come true. It's the same size as the rucksack I used when I first set off travelling, and as the one I am currently using. And with adjustable, added shoulder and back straps - it's perfect for long term travels around Asia, Australia or further afield, with plenty of pockets to store everything you need. To anyone who is freaking out that they won't fit their things into a bag this size - stop worrying and start shedding - trust me, you don't need any more than will fit in this bag no matter where you are travelling.
So, how can you win?
Check out the box below and make sure you follow me on Twitter, like my Facebook page and then leave a comment at the bottom of this post telling me what adventures you want to take the rucksack on - easy peasy! This competition is only open to those from and currently living in the UK - sorry to all my readers scattered across the world. The winner will be announced around March 10.
Whether you're heading off on that much anticipated two week holiday or you're heading off on a huge backpacking trip, it's important not to get so carried away you forget to safeguard your home. So often it is the last thing we think about when we're going away, but it is actually the time when our homes and our possessions are most vulnerable. With thieves getting smarter and so much of our personal lives being available for the world to see on social media, it only takes one bad egg to take advantage of your trip to line their own pockets. But as ever with travelling, planning is key and can save you a lot of time, hassle and money. So when planning your next trip, why not put some of these suggestions in action and see how much of a difference they make. You can spend as much as you like on a luxurious resort, but if you don't have peace of mind that your home is safe, there's almost no point in being there. Treat yourself to full relaxation on your next holiday by making sure you've done everything in your power to give yourself a good homecoming.
What can you do to protect your home?
For city breaks/summer holidays:
For the long-term travellers:
Don't suffer from FOBA (Fear Of Being Away) - get out there and enjoy your travels by doing all you can to protect your home while you're away. Just as you padlock up your suitcase and buy travel insurance as a back up in case anything goes wrong - make sure you look after what's waiting for you at home. Also, stay safe abroad by checking out my safety tips for travelling solo.
Have you been a victim of theft while on holiday? What security do you put in place at your home while you travel?
We've all got those places on our bucket list, the ones that fire up our imagination and lose us in daydreams when we're at work. Mine is already never-ending, but there will always be certain places on there that stand out as ones that would be totally unforgettable. I've written about my top choices many times but this time it is more poignant than ever - by the time you read this I will be down in Tasmania. Going from Bali to Cairns, then down to Tasmania is around a 30 degree drop in temperature and don't get me started on the humidity. It's going to be a brutal shock to the system - so why am I doing it? Because it is exactly now that the Southern Lights are in full force with some of the strongest bursts seen in a long time. I only discovered that the Southern Lights were actually a real thing round a year ago and vowed I simply had to see them with my own eyes. You'll already know how desperate I am to visit Iceland and see the Northern Lights, but spending so much time in the Southern Hemisphere due to my travels I'm a bit restricted on opportunities. So I thought I'll put Iceland on hold, but the Southern Lights are an absolute must-see while I'm down here - that way when I finally get to Iceland I'll be able to say I've seen both!
Now I hate repeating myself and always want to bring you guys fresh new posts - so this time I've worked with Best Served Scandinavia to help you plan your trip to see the Northern Lights. There are so many different ways to experience them that it's important to find the perfect trip just for you.
Where to see them?
When you talk about the Northern Lights, everyone's mind jumps straight to Iceland but it's not the only place you can see this natural phenomenon. Heading up towards the Arctic Circle, you can also glimpse the famous green glow in the skies over Norway, Sweden, Finland or Greenland. You can even see them in Canada and Russia! Each of these places will die you that same opportunity to see the Lights but to perhaps get a little off the beaten tourist track and will give you the opportunity to visit somewhere a bit different. The best time to spot the Northern Lights at their brightest is between September and March as the darker and longer nights make them clearer to the naked eye.
Where to stay?
Once you've narrowed down a place, it's important to make sure you book a place to stay as early as possible. As you can imagine, resorts get booked up pretty quickly and if you want to score a night in one of the luxurious lodges with hot tubs and a glass roof to watch the lights from your bed, you better lock in the dates quick. I know when I eventually get to go, I would want to go all out and experience all the amazing luxuries that come with the Northern Lights trip. I've spent a lot of time daydreaming about staying in an igloo with a glass roof at so I can watch the Lights from my bed, or a snow hotel, or a safari camp like this one, or even a treehouse! There are so many incredible options available and you could even combine different ones to really give yourself some once in a lifetime experiences.
What kind of trip are you after?
It's also important when planning to decide what kind of trip you're after. Are you taking your partner for a weekend of romance under the Norther Lights, or are you in the mood for a luxury spa experience, or are you a bit of an adventure seeker like me? There are so many other amazing activities you can try out around light spotting, it's a good opportunity to fill your days with amazing memories as well as your nights. Depending on which country you choose there are options like dog sledding, horseback riding, visiting the Blue Lagoon, visiting volcanoes and waterfalls, sightseeing palaces and cathedrals, cruises and much more. It's worth bearing that in mind when you choose the country you want to visit.Once you've made all the big decisions, it's time to jet off and just enjoy your trip. Pack some warm layers and a good camera to capture the magic of every last moment - this will be a holiday to remember for years to come. If you need any help organising your trip to see the Northern Lights, look no further than Best Served Scandinavia to answer all of your questions and help you plan the perfect trip.
Have you been to see the Northern Lights, or the Southern Lights? How was your experience - can you give any tips for a first-timer?
It's official - tomorrow is the day, the day when I get to start living my dreams again. This last week has been the slowest of all time, I've been clock-watching and calendar-counting, just hoping the days would pass by a little quicker. If you read my rather personal post last week, you'll know I've been struggling a bit lately and that I really need to get away. Feeling like this was good in one way because it has prompted me to book my flights and get back out there, to put a limit on my time at home and actually go again. I've loved having these months at home, they have given me so many amazing opportunities to see my friends and family, to work as a journalist again and to dedicate real time to this blog. It's been incredible to work with so many UK and international brands, to be featured in an industry magazine and to get to review so many amazing places. I feel so lucky and so grateful, but at the same time, the whole time I have been home there has been this nagging little voice in my ear telling me this is not where I am supposed to be.
Perhaps that's what prompted me to travel around so much of Europe during my time back here, and that too has been incredible. I've visited so many amazing travelling friends, seen places I had only dreamed of before now and ticked off my 29th country. But still, it wasn't enough, I returned home and have had serious post-travelling blues since, then with everything I spoke about in my last post, I just realised it was time to go. It sounds horrible to say but I just struggle to spend any length of time in this town now, I love being at home but beyond that there is nothing really here for me. I've exhausted all career options and I'm a working girl at heart - I need something I can be passionate and excited about to keep me in a place. I've been incredibly lucky with the sheer amount of freelance work I've been able to source and that has given me the money to do amazing things over the last four months. But there comes a time when it is just not enough and I know I'm more than ready to move on again.
So what's next?
Well, that's the big question. With all the stuff that has happened lately, I wasn't quite ready to return to Australia and I think I'm long overdue for some serious relaxation time. All you guys see is fun and games from my travels but I can assure you I've been working A LOT since I've been back - my whole summer has been taken up with a huge amount of freelance work, running this blog and working with countless different companies. It's been amazing, but also exhausting especially when you try and combine it with having a social life and now, I'm done. I'm completely emotionally and physically exhausted from it all - told you I always overdo it!
But that's okay, because I think I've earned a week completely off from life. So I'm heading to - wait for it - my 30th country!! And I'm doing it with one of my best friends. I couldn't be more excited to be travelling to Bali - a place I've long since dreamed of - and to be doing it with one of my closest travelling pals. When you feel a bit fragile, there's nothing more important than surrounding yourself with people who mean the most to you and will bring nothing but happiness and laughter back into your life. I can't think of anyone I will laugh harder with or be happier with at this moment in my life. I'm about ready for a week of cocktails, partying Dingos-style and relaxing. I'll be taking a week off from blogging - but true to form, I've over-prepared and you'll still be getting two new posts this week and two next week.
And after that...?
The travelling dream will be back on track and I'll be heading back to Melbourne - the city that well and truly has my heart - to catch up with some amazing friends and start part two of my journey. I'll be honest and say that while my body may have come back to the UK back in May, the last four months my heart has definitely been elsewhere. Other travelers will know that feeling of being torn between your heart and your head, between the reality of day-to-day life and the dream you've been living. Well I've had an extreme version of this and just couldn't really settle at home, hence why I'm so excited to get back there and really feel free again. Right now my head is all over the place, but by the time I step back on Australia shores I hope to be a bit more ready to take on the next year of my life and live my dream again.
I remember the exact second I had my second year visa came through after weeks of angst and worry, I was in Amsterdam and celebrated with a friend I actually met the last time I was down under! It was the happiest feeling, knowing I was going back to a country that brought me so much happiness, so now I just hope it will do the same once again. Plans for this year of travelling include visiting the raw, natural beauty of Tasmania and road tripping the slightly more wild Western Australia, plus I'm sure I'll fit in some time in Darwin and Christmas in Melbourne with all the friends I was so dearly missing during the last festive season when I completed my farm work. I'm looking forward to being that travelling version of myself again, I feel like I've been a watered down version of myself since I've been home and it's time to get back to being the real me.
Here we go again!
Right now I'm spending the day packing and making last minute preparations and tomorrow I officially take to the skies for a delightful 20 hours of travelling (eek). I can't wait to be back in the air and on my next adventure, it's so much more special knowing some of my favourite people are waiting for me in Bali and Australia, but I also can't wait to just get lost in these countries. Bring on solo traveler life again and bring on my return to Asia - it's been far too long. Follow my adventures on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter - I'll be posting all of our misadventures!
Have you been to Bali - any recommendations? Have you experienced any of these feelings as a solo traveler returning home?
First of all, I want to thank all my lovely readers for their messages and emails lately. Especially to those who have pushed me to publish this post - it was the hardest one to publish for a very long time. It's amazing to get feedback on the posts I write and I feel honoured that so many of you come to me for advice on everything from travelling to relationships. It seems incredible to think this blog started out as a hobby and now it brings me close to people all over the world who are going through the same things, and who are inspired to do the same things I have been. One of my most popular posts has been drawing a lot of new readers to my blog lately and I've had a lot of requests to write more personal posts, it's something I've shied away from for a while because although I've had a lot to write about, sometimes it is difficult to find the words. But one topic that comes up again and again is "how do you cope with heartbreak?" It's ironic that this keeps coming up so often when I've just had a fresh wave of this to deal with, but when better to talk about it?
Having your heart broken hurts. There's no getting away from it. Even if you try to squash it down and pretend it's not happening, it always comes back and hits you with a fresh wave of pain. I remember being in such physical pain after I had my heart broken the first time, my heart actually ached and I couldn't get away from it, I couldn't get it out of my head. Now after this past week, I'm feeling that pain all over again and I remember how hard it was to cope with the first time. It's that hopeless feeling when you know there's nothing more you can do and you can't help but blame yourself. Last time it was in no way my fault, I had no regrets, but this time I can't help but feel I could have stopped this happening even though I'm sure that's not true. Heartbreak makes you question everything you thought you knew, including yourself. I hate that, that feeling that you can't trust your own decisions, that you should have done something to stop it happening. It hurts more than anything I've ever experienced and there isn't a painkiller strong enough to numb it. So right now, I'm officially worn out. My heart hurts and I've lost a lot of my fight and the excitement I had for life. But don't worry, it's not permanent - I've survived this before I sure as hell will again. I'm never one to mope for long and I'm already planning how I'm going to deal with this - two words, Bali & Australia!One thing I've noticed about myself - and I'm not sure what this says about my psychology - is that when things like this happen, when a relationship breaks up or things don't turn out the way I expect, my first instinct is to leave. When my nine-year relationship broke up and left me broken-hearted, my first thought was "I have to get out of here" and just like that, I booked a flight to the other side of the world. Just like now when I've just had my heart broken all over again and it's pushed me to book those flights and get back out there. It's an easy decision to head off into the unknown and I'm never scared at the prospect of travelling solo, let's face it, it couldn't be more painful than what I'm going through at home. It's something I still love about being a backpacker, that if things don't pan out - in relationships, work and life - then there was always the option to pack up and start again somewhere new. Perhaps that makes me sound flighty, or like I give in too easily, but I think actually it's because I know when things are a lost cause. I know when I'm done.
I've come to realise over the years that I have a pretty good gut instinct and that I can always trust it when it comes to making decisions. I know we're expected to stay and struggle through the hard times, that it will build character and something greater will come out of it in the long-run. Well I've done that, I've done it at work, in life, and in relationships. And yes, sometimes it is true, but also sometimes things are just lost for good and there is no saving them. The trouble is identifying whether there is anything left to fight for and knowing there is nothing wrong with just letting go. For me, I knew there was nothing left for me in my hometown both work-wise and relationship-wise so it was a no-brainer to start a new life somewhere else - it wasn't running away, it was the best decision I ever made. Likewise now, I ended up booking my flights to Bali and then back to Australia and have less than a week until I leave, it's not about escaping, it's about going back to my real life after this tiny break.My point is, we're made to feel that running away is wrong and that it is lazy or cowardly to cut ties and leave. But actually, I think it can sometimes be the hardest and strongest decision to make. To be strong enough to cut a toxic friendship or relationship out of your life is hard and you're brave for doing it. To cut and run from a job that is wearing you down is difficult and scary if you don't have a back-up, but this is how some of the most successful people have built an empire. To pack up your life into a backpack and move to the other side of the world where you don't know a single person is incredible. And for me, this was the biggest healer of all. Pushing myself far, far beyond the limits, taking myself out of my comfort zone and jumping in the deep end. Travel well and truly healed my heartbreak - it made me rely entirely on myself, it made me put my own happiness first, it taught me skills and scared me shitless. It brought countless new souls into my life - the kind of people that set my world alight and bring happiness into my world that I never knew existed. It gave me life-changing experiences that turned into stories, into memories that will last a lifetime. It gave me love, a much greater love for myself and for those around me.
Considering how much travel has given me, I don't see it as running away to be leaving again. I see it as running towards the life I should be living. For those who have contacted me lately to ask how they can know whether they should choose a relationship or travel - I can't tell you what to do. All I know is that travel has taught me more than any relationship ever has, it has introduced me to a life where I put myself first and where I'm driven by my needs, not empty wants. I may have less stuff than I have ever had, but my heart is fuller than ever and my head is full of thoughts that revolve around my passions, my ideas, my inspirations. Not about boys or worrying about others. It may sound selfish to some but after living for so many years always thinking of others before myself, it's refreshing to really see the world laying just ahead of me. No baggage. No stress. This is what travel teaches you, this is what healed my heartbreak, realising that you can only live for yourself and not to keep others happy. And realising how short life is, and how huge the world is - that sure puts things in perspective for you.Since having my heart broken I've traveled solo through 12 countries, covered three continents and am actually about to hit my 30th country. I've built a whole new career around a passion, I've sacrificed one phone, one camera and a lot of dignity. I've had epic wild nights out, long days at work, healed myself both inside and out on multiple occasions, nearly died three times, made so many incredible friends, been extremely badly behaved at times, and helped others through some pretty tough stuff, I even fell in love which I really didn't think was possible. I've been happier than I've ever been and discovered what I'm capable of, and what I'm not, and although my favourite word will always be YES, I've not been afraid to say no. In fact, I've not been afraid of any damn thing because life is for living and I'm doing just that. I'm a completely different person to the girl who went away to Thailand two years ago, and I've never been happier or stronger. So don't you try and tell me that travel isn't the greatest healer for heartbreak - I know it has changed my world. Let's just hope this time it will heal my heart as well as it did the last time.
Has travel helped heal your heartbreak? Tell me about your experiences. What are your best cures for a broken heart?
One of the highlights of visiting Big Berry is getting a real taste of the Slovenian lifestyle against the incredible backdrop of the untouched countryside that lies just beyond the camp gates. My week was spent there visiting several local producers of beer, gin, oil and chocolate amid visits to viewpoints, hidden lakes and abandoned mills. We took breaks for delicious meals made from local ingredients including some of the best trout and carp I have ever eaten, fresh from the river that runs through the camp itself. I even had the opportunity to take a peek into the past when I visited an old fashioned Slovenian home to see how the people of years gone by would have lived, and the crafts and memories that remain.It hit me when I was there, just how hard it is these days to find a landscape that is actually untouched and undamaged by commercialisation. There are few places left in this world you can truly escape the modern world and step back in time into a completely natural landscape where green forests and clear rivers stretch as far as the eye can see, and eagles soar across the sky. It sounds like something out of a movie because we just don't get a chance to see this very often without a fast food restaurant or some kind of brand getting in the way. But Eastern Europe is a very different matter, the Balkan countries just seem to have escaped the commercialisation that has dominated so many other places in Europe. There are still so many wide open areas you can get lost in and that makes them very precious to the modern day traveler.When it comes to local producers, Primostek and the nearby villages are a wealth of smaller companies that pack a punch with top quality products that kept me fed and watered throughout my stay. Everything from fruit, cheese and bread, to gin, wine and beer. There's plenty to keep your stomach full and a smile on your face knowing your stay is supporting the local companies, plus you get a chance to see the process behind the products. All of the companies allow for tours to see how their food, drink and even body products are made during your stay, which is a great way to meet the local people and see another side to Slovenia.My favourite tours had to be Berryshka - the liqueur and chocolate makers - and Vizir Pivovarna - the beer producers. The owners of both were so welcoming and took the time to talk us through the whole process of creating the products as they took us on a tour of the factory/brewery, before enjoying a tasting of the products. For me, the highlight of Berryshka was tasting the unusual lavender chocolate, a new product, and tasting their liqueurs served in a chocolate cup. Just delicious. Vizir Pivovarna had a great range of beers and were happy to explain the differences to a non-beer drinker, my favourite ones were definitely the dark beer and the stronger 10% beer they produce. Another huge highlight was getting to eat at the home of the delicious apple juice producers, Lamut, where we enjoyed a home cooked feast of fresh carp and trout washed down with apple juice, wine and a lot of Rakea.During the visit we also took the time to walk around local vineyards and taken some stunning views from the mills and local beauty spots. It was great being shown around by the team who knew all the best places to see and best things to do. If you're staying at Big Berry, I would recommend getting out and exploring the local producers and seeing more than just the camp, get a real taste of this part of Slovenia and you'll fall for the beautiful location just like I did. I mustn't forget my favourite activity, on the last day we went rafting down the river and I don't even have the words to describe how much fun and just how breathtaking the views were.
Have you been to Slovenia - what was your favourite part? Does the wide open landscape appeal to you? Have you visited local producers on other trips?
Eastern Europe has been on my must-see list for several years, there's something about it's wild, untouched beauty that really appeals to me especially when so many places in Europe are so overcrowded with tourists. I've long since wanted to travel to Romania but haven't yet had the opportunity after travel plans changed this summer and I found myself meeting friends in Bulgaria instead - more to come on that in a later post! But when I was invited to Slovenia on my first travel blogger press trip, I was beyond excited to experience the country for myself and at the hands of those who know the local area best. I was invited to stay at Big Berry, a new luxury glamping lifestyle camp on the banks of the river Kolpa in Primostek and the first of its kind in the country. Big Berry embraces the concept of enjoying total luxury for the whole family while getting back to grass roots and really experiencing the Slovenian countryside.I was lucky enough to be staying in a gorgeous mobile home which has been specially designed to satisfy every need and want - the design was sleek and absolutely beautiful offering complete luxury and the opportunity to enjoy self-catering if wanted. Sleeping six, the cabin gave me plenty of room to myself and I even had my own private jacuzzi - total luxury after staying in hostels for the week beforehand. Waking up in the morning, I could step into a stunning rain shower before heading to the terrace for breakfast which was hand-delivered each morning. Filled with local produce, from fruit and yoghurt to eggs, milk and bread, it was a perfect way to start the day as the sun shone over the Kolpa river. Just across the water was the Croatian border, giving you ample opportunity to swim between the two in the cleanest, purest water you can imagine. If you're after a complete digital detox, this is the perfect place for you and I relished the chance to get away from a screen and to really experience life in the Slovenian town, but it also provides great communal areas perfect for working online which could be well suited for the digital nomads among us.Mornings would start with a workout to get the blood racing - a former Slovenian boxer led the classes out on the grass overlooking the river, a perfect setting. Then later there was plenty of time to explore and relax in the grounds by swimming in the river or reading a book on the comfy sunbeds scattered around. There's also volleyball, bikes and canoes available if you fancy something a bit more active. The team behind Big Berry hope to give visitors an authentic experience of the Bela Krajina region by showing them how the locals live, giving them an insight into the Slovenian past and present with visits to historical houses, beauty spots and local producers to try everything from cheese and wine, to oils, beer and chocolates. There's a packed schedule available to visitors who want to get to know the area and to fully experience local life, or for those who want to just relax and take it in at their own pace, there is total freedom to dine and explore independently.The camp, which will be open from May to September from next year, is perfect suited to families who want to get outside with the kids and explore somewhere new - the camp is very safe for young children with plenty of space for them to run around. It would also be perfect for couples who fancy a romantic weekend away in the countryside - trust me there's nothing more romantic than watching the stars sparkle over the river from the comfort of your own hot tub. At 200 euros a night, it provides you with all the luxury you want while allowing you to get back to basics and to enjoy a simple few days enjoying Slovenia in its purest and most beautiful form. Plus being right on the Croatian border, it gives you a good opportunity to explore two countries in one trip if you're flying into Zagreb like I did. Check out my upcoming posts for more information about the trips available while staying at Big Berry. You can find more information about Big Berry and planning your trip to Slovenia here.
Have you been to Slovenia - what did you think? Does the Big Berry concept appeal to you? Tell me about your favourite luxury getaways.