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13892178_10153669370592617_5126173372115806732_nThose of you who follow me on Instagram and Twitter have been berating me over the last two weeks for teasing you all with photos from my rather lust-worthy holiday. Sorry, I’m so not sorry about it. It was without a doubt one of the best holidays I have ever had and oh my, have you seen how crazy beautiful Santorini is? I’m not lying when I say the Greek island has been on my Must Visit list for years, and now having spent two weeks there I can officially say it is just as incredible as I dreamed. All those times I scrolled infinitely down websites and Instagram feeds taking in every dreamy image and every scrap of information about the island, and finally I had the chance to see it with my own eyes. I am such a lucky girl. Even more so, because I wasn’t supposed to be going! My parents had booked themselves a holiday, not knowing when I would be back in the country, but when they realised I would be home, they booked me on to the holiday with them as my birthday present. Officially the best parents and the best birthday present I could ever dream of.image

Where to stay

We stayed on the south-east of the island in the popular resort of Perissa – it’s a good choice if you find the prices a bit steep in Oia and fancy actually being on the beach. After visiting both Oia and Perissa, I would say that for a week or longer holiday, Perissa is a perfect place to stay, but if you’re just going for a few days you would probably want to stay in Oia. Perissa is nestled at the bottom of the mountain and it’s the only place in the world I have seen the mountains meet the ocean on a beach of black, volcanic sand. Even in peak season, Perissa has a relaxed and quiet feel to it and the beaches are never overcrowded, nor are the restaurants. It’s a good place to stay if you want a mixture of relaxing, exploring and activities during your stay – we found it a great base for visiting the rest of the island and enjoying trips. The buses give you great, reliable access to other areas such as Fira, Kamari and Oia, or you could hire and car or bike. Most places in Perissa come with a pool and there are a lot of self-catering apartments available which is great for those that have children or prefer to do their own thing.13872700_10153669383307617_2571551292654911782_nI stayed in a self-catering apartment at Sandy Villas, this place was great with huge rooms, private bathrooms and balconies for each apartment. My room also came with a small kitchen including a hob, fridge and basic items. It had a bar and lounge area with wifi (although rubbish) and offered the largest swimming pool in the area. It was set back from the main strip and closer to the mountain, but I loved that it was a short walk away from everything and it meant having a stunning view of the mountain and the ocean from my balcony, and getting woken up by the donkeys in the morning. A true Greek experience. The owners were very welcoming and friendly, all of the staff were so lovely, especially when they realised I was staying alone. I was really impressed with the place and would definitely recommend it for others travelling as a group, a couple or independently. With a shallow pool, this place is well-suited to young children and many of the groups staying had children with them.13906680_10153669381897617_6894478547748232475_nIf you’re looking for something a bit more adult, try Anezina Villas, it’s much more suited to a couple on holiday with smaller rooms and more of a hotel feel. It was a lovely apartment for my parents with a private bathroom and balcony, although they did find the rooms a little stuffy. It came with a small kitchen area with a fridge and all that was needed to make simple foods if you preferred to have breakfast at the apartment. The outside area was the absolute highlight – the bar and seating around the pool was gorgeous and for sunbathers, you were treated to the most comfortable sunbeds I have ever laid on. Short of being a waterbed, I don’t think they could have been better quality. Likewise, the pool was fantastic for adults, very deep and large enough to enjoy a good swim – not great for children due to the depth.The apartments also come with a swing and play area, a hot tub, and sit nicely in the centre of the town, perfect for strolling to the beach or out to dinner. Both places were fabulous and we would really recommend them if you’re planning a trip to the island.13906635_10153669347502617_1002783273706622821_n

Where to eat

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If you’re heading to Perissa, have a wonderful time. It’s a fantastic place to stay and perfect for a holiday in Santorini. If you have any questions about the area or planning your trip, leave a comment and I’ll do my best to help you out!

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11150847_10152762051527617_3820638610166569824_nWhen you’re travelling, something you realise very quickly is what is important to take away from every stage of your journey. When all you’re carrying around with you is a 65litre backpack with your whole life compressed into it, that doesn’t leave much space to pick up things along the way. It becomes so much more important to store away all the precious memories from all the places you visit and the things that you see. For me, it’s always been more important to capture the emotions, the colours, smells and tastes of each moment rather than actually having some cheesy souvenir from a market stall. The only real souvenirs I have now are clothes and jewellery I bought along the way, and a dinky little carved elephant from the sanctuary where I volunteered. It seems a poor representation of the incredible 18 months I’ve spent exploring extraordinary countries and the amazing sights I’ve seen. I have nothing physical to link me to the beautiful souls I met along the way, and yet I still feel so inextricably linked to them no matter what the distance, all because of the memories in this little diary.

Read: How to get more out of your travel snaps

imageAs I said my goodbyes to friends and family before I left to go travelling, there were gifts and cards wishing me well on my journey, but none meant as much as the one from my workmates. They had clubbed together to buy me a few little goodies, including a beautiful little travel journal to take with me and write all my memories as I traveled around the world solo. The red patterned leather book was the perfect place to store every thought, feeling and experience as I set out on my adventure. It was such a thoughtful gift, and one I treasured as I traveled across Asia and Australia, writing in it became a nightly treat as I reminisced over the day’s events. I’m a traditionalist when it comes to the delights of reading actual books instead of screens and hand writing notes, there’s something so beautiful about actually holding something in your hand rather than sending an email or downloading an e-book. I love blogging, it has been a huge part of my travelling experience and I would heartily recommend any traveler keep a blog so they have an easily accessible journal to store their memories and photographs that they can share with the world. Doing so has meant sharing every beautiful experience with friends, family and countless strangers through the internet, it’s been amazing to know I could help other travelers by advising them on locations I had already visited.18237_10152752290777617_375494848472286630_nBut, as amazing as blogging is, there is still a lot of my world and my heart that I don’t share on www.absolutelylucy.com. For my own sanity and privacy, it is important to me to have a part of my life that is separate, and that part is even more special to me. That’s the part that is hidden in the pages of my travel journal, of the book that is just for me, filled with tales of love, hopes and dreams, of the experiences that are etched on my soul and the stories I simply cannot repeat. Whether you’re a writer, an artist or a musician, creative souls have a need to express their big ideas and as a traveler, the exposure to so many amazing places and people is the perfect driving force for putting pen to paper. For me, writing was addictive when I was away, I just couldn’t write fast enough to get all my thoughts out. Some people struggle to spend time alone, but I can’t help wondering if that is actually because they don’t have a satisfying way of expressing themselves when they do. I craved time alone to write both in my travel journal, and on here, it was therapeutic and even writing the tiniest details would often work as a catalyst for creating the posts that you ended up reading. It was amazing how much one would influence the other, often I would start writing in my journal, then halfway through I would have to grab my laptop and start typing a new blog post to share with you guys. Travel is inspiration in its purest form.11224543_10152762050452617_3879807044485580878_nAfter working as a journalist, it was so freeing to be able to spend my days and nights writing purely for myself, the more I wrote, the more the words flowed on to the pages. It’s addictive. Even as the moments were happening, I was experiencing them as I would write them on the page, always thinking of how I would immortalise every person I met as though they were a character in a story I was writing. I loved that feeling, and I feel lucky to have experienced a world that excited me enough to write like this. But whether you write for a living or you just want to keep a momento of your travels, keeping a travel diary is such beautiful way of storing your memories and keeping them close to your heart when you move on. You just don’t get the same experience when you clutch your laptop close to you as you remember those you left behind, but there’s something comforting about having a little book that is just for you. It doesn’t have to be words, I knew so many travelers who incorporated music, art and poetry into their own books, each inspired in different ways to create something, a memory of each stage of their journey.11223868_10152762052357617_6382879823733307420_nI’ll always remember a friend, Phoebe, who I met in Pai, Thailand, who had started holding “art club” with new friends as she traveled around. She was a beautiful soul who traveled with a tiny collection of paints, pens and gathered a group around to create something amazing together in the pages of her little journal. This way everyone had to contribute something and years later she would look at it and remember every single person who was there. When I was on the slow boat between Thailand and Laos, there was a woman who used her artistic skills to capture each moment – she actually started to sketch and paint the scene in front of her as a group of us played games and chatted. Her work was beautiful and it was incredible to see the finished piece against the live scene, our trip is now captured forever and it’s all thanks to her amazing talents. Another friend of mine wrote a mixture of poems and prose inspired by the place he was in, he loved to read aloud to us in the evenings and share the words he felt compelled to write. And I’ll never forget the guy I met who said art and words were not his forte but said each place had a song, a sound that was distinctive, he spent his time trying to capture the essence of each location in music, in lyrics he created. The results were beautiful.imageI still have my travel journal from my first 18 months of travelling, it sits proudly on my shelf which I’m surprised doesn’t bow under the weight of all those memories. With just a few months at home and a few trips around Europe planned, my thoughts are already on preparing for my return to Australia as I sort out visas, tax returns and insurance. But something that had slipped my mind until the team at Pen Heaven sent me a beautiful hand made leather travel journal by Laurige to be my “trusty companion to help with all my creative thoughts, memos and notes.” Made by French artisans, my journal arrived in a stunning deep red, with Absolutely Lucy embossed in gold lettering on the bottom right corner. It was the ultimate in luxury for a writer, and gives me the perfect place to keep track of every precious travelling moment. The journal makes the perfect gift for a traveler, because no traveler wants something they cannot take with them – what’s the point in leaving things locked up in storage? This is something personal that they will treasure forever, even more so because the leather case is refillable – you can replace the writing paper within as it runs out and start afresh for each voyage. At £47 it is a little pricey for a journal, but as a gift that will never grow old, it is perfect for any adventurers in your life, a timeless keepsake they will treasure forever, and a perfect place to store their big ideas. It’s available in a range of gorgeous colours and you can choose whether you prefer lined paper for writing, or fancy getting creative with plain paper. I’ll be using mine to write all those beautiful memories, and to make big plans for the future.

Find the full range of Laurige products here to order your personalised travel journal.

Have you kept a travel journal – what does yours mean to you? How do you keep track of your memories? Do you regret not keeping a journal?

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imageFor months on end you slog your guts out working crummy jobs to save as much money as possible. You while away the hours stacking shelves or getting groped as you pull pints in some bar, always thinking of the paradise waiting for you. After working a job you thought would never end, you’re finally handing over your uniform and catching that flight to the other side of the world. The dream is finally becoming a reality and already you never want it to end, so how can you keep it going as long as possible? It all comes down to the money – all us backpackers say “if travel was free, you’d never see me again” and I can tell you it’s true. Travellers are always looking for the best ways to cut corners and make sacrifices so we can have just one more adventure, just one more day in paradise. We’d rather sleep on someone’s floor for a week than stay in a hotel if it means spending another week living a life of complete freedom and excitement. When you’re starting out on your travels, it can be difficult to know how to save money and where you can cheat to make your cash last that little bit longer. After 18 months of travelling solo and backpacking across Asia and Australia – one of the cheapest and one of the most expensive places to backpack in the world – I think I’ve picked up some good techniques for saving money. After all, I planned to go for a year and managed to keep going an extra six months AND came back with lots of money saved! Here are my top tips for backpacking on a budget:

PREPARE

TRAVEL

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STAY

EAT

DRINK

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ACTIVITIES

WORK

Like this post? Why not vote for me as the best budget travel blogger of 2016? It takes two seconds and all you have to do is follow this link. Thanks!

Looking for other ways to cut costs? Check out VoucherShops. Or, in case couch surfing, eating veggie or fruit picking gets boring – there’s always the chance you’ll marry a millionaire or get a royal flush in the World Series of Poker!

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Treehouse, Costa RicaI’ve been travelling since I was barely a few months old and throughout a lifetime of travelling I’ve collected endless precious memories of exotic sights, sounds, smells. From a young age one of my favourite memories was always of getting to know the locals, whether that meant being taught to fish then barbecuing up the catch of the day with them, watching morning prayers and being blessed by priests or drinking rum on the beach. Getting to know the true culture of a country is only possible by spending time talking to and living with the locals – seeing the world through their eyes. When I was backpacking across Asia and Australia solo, it was just as important to try and have a truly authentic experience alongside all the fun and games that comes with backpacker culture. I don’t choose one over the other, I think we have so much to gain by experiencing both when we travel. The more I experience of one, the more I crave of the other.Mountain Home, Zakopane, PolandThinking back over the last 18 months, some of my most incredible memories come from the experiences I had when I truly immersed myself in the culture of the amazing countries I was exploring. When I got lost in the old town of Phuket and stumbled into a famous artist’s gallery where I spent the evening talking art and painting with his daughters. The time when I spent a week living with a group of Thai Rastafarians who taught me about their favourite jazz musicians and how to crack coconuts. When I was almost adopted by an incredible woman who treated me like a daughter, introduced me to all her friends and taught me all about the ruins of temples dotted around her city. In Vietnam, the elderly gentleman who told me all about what it was like to live through the Vietnam War and how his family survived. Crossing oceans and desert to outback Australia, the amazing friends who helped me cope with three months of farm work with lazy days at the river and long nights laying in a ute under the stars. I feel so lucky to have experienced such things.Temple, Gianyar, IndonesiaThen I heard about Homestay – an alternative accommodation choice to hotels and hostels where guests rent a room in the home of a local – sounds amazing right? It offers you a totally different experience and a chance to really experience the culture, and daily life in the area you visit. Homestay.com is running in over 150 countries globally, with 25,000 live hosts ready to welcome guests and some incredible accommodation opportunities just waiting to be explored. While many of my friends have recommended trying out Couchsurfing or Airbnb for a more authentic experience when travelling, I haven’t yet had the opportunity to try any of these schemes. But already Homestay has proven popular with solo travellers and backpackers who want to take the opportunity to try something a bit different and experience some magnificent properties around the world. I love the idea of getting away from hotels, which can feel so impersonal, and hostels, which can sometimes be overwhelmed by backpackers who are more interested in getting drunk. This is a great way of getting to enjoy a night in your own room, while getting to experience the life of the natives.Lakeside Retreat, Halifax, CanadaThere are so many amazing affordable options worth exploring, including a traditional Balinese house just steps away from Pulagan Rice Field UNESCO World Heritage Site, with its very own family temple for just $14 a night. In Costa Rica, travellers can stay in a treehouse surrounded by flowers and fruit orchards in the hills of San Antonio de Escazu from just $71 a night. Or stay on an organic farm in a jungle village in Northern Thailand where they grow everything from bok choi and lemongrass to longan and lychee, and guests can learn the art of Karen weaving, bamboo rafting and bathe in waterfalls for $29 a night.Romantic Villa, Mykonos, GreeceFor those who fancy testing their sea legs, there is even an option to sail from one Greek Island to another on a 50ft yacht with Steph and Andy, and their two ship cats Puss and Fluff, for $213 a night. Or if you really need to get away from it all, you can experience that real millionaire lifestyle for the tiny price tag of $169 a night when you stay on your own 75,000 sq ft private island of Zopango, Nicaragua. Head to a lakeside retreat in Halifax, Canada, to experience a one-of-a-kind home with stunning scenic lake views from $64 a night, or New Zealand offers a converted barn overlooking Mount Taranaki, an active volcano, from $73 a night. Mountain lovers will be in their element  with the wooden chalet awaiting guests in Poland from $23 a night, at the base of the Tatras Mountains it draws skiers, mountain climbers and hikers all year round.  16th C Artist's Cottage, Avignon, France

What an amazing experience to stay in any of these unique locations – I’d love to try out Homestay on one of my next trips across Europe. If you fancy doing the same, click here to book online.

Have you tried staying with the locals – what your best native experience? What was the most unique accommodation you have ever stayed in?

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10486213_10153380797622617_6969181813338259486_n-1On Friday, I sat back at my old desk, in my old office, back doing the job I was doing before my whole adventure began. For a split second I could have easily been fooled into thinking the last 18 months never actually happened, that it was just my overactive imagination daydreaming about abseiling down waterfalls, sunset romances and sandy beaches. I wasn’t sure whether it was a good idea for me to return to my old job when I headed back to the UK – sure it was convenient and in my actual industry. But it could also have been so easy to slide back into the rut I was in before I left – that painful, stressful and lonely place I was in. It wasn’t all down to the job, but a lot had changed in my office and combined with the break-up of my nine-year relationship, life became pretty miserable. I found myself at my lowest point, but even when I was frantically climbing the walls in an attempt to stop from being buried under the remnants of my old life, I still couldn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. It was only when I hit breaking point that I could finally see a way out, losing so much so quick helped make things seem incredibly clear – it was time to go.

So after such an abrupt decision to leave in such a rocky state of mind, you can imagine how strange it felt to be back among the stacks of newspapers after two years away. But sitting back at that computer, I couldn’t have felt any more different to how I did two years ago, it was like my whole perspective had shifted. Back then I was a workaholic who was driving herself into the ground working five jobs and stressing about giving 110% to each, now I’ve realised how that goes and it doesn’t end well. This time I’m in control of the situation, I’m working the hours that I want to work and working freelance means not taking on a ridiculous workload that will leave me overwhelmed. I’m not going to lie, I’m still a workaholic and get called that all the time by friends and family, but I like to think I’ve learnt my limits. It was so refreshing to be able to work in the office and feel happy, to truly enjoy journalism and the construction of a story instead of worrying about covering 100 stories at once. Just like it was refreshing to come back to this town without stressing over a relationship that had run its course. I’m back to basics now, just focusing on me and doing the job I loved – just the way it should be.1924125_10153380769882617_7066957380580364048_nTravelling is incredible in so many ways, but what is really invaluable is what it leaves you with days, months or even years after you have stepped off the plane. Perspective, knowledge and an understanding of the way you want to live your life – not the way anyone else thinks you should be living it. I came back with all three of these and it made me determined that I would not get caught up in work while I was back, it is important for me to earn money for my trip around Europe and my return to Australia, but it is more important for me to enjoy my time here and to make the most of the opportunity to see all the people I have missed so much over the last 18 months. It can be so hard to come home after travelling – I had read about it so many times and spoken to friends just after their return, but you never understand unless you experience it. I now understand the struggle, the heartbreak that comes with leaving so many memories and amazing people behind you, the pangs when you’ve left a piece of your heart on the other side of the planet. The difficulty in adjusting to the life you left behind, to the friends, the family who have moved on and yet stay entirely the same, unchanged. That moment when you step back into your time capsule of a bedroom to be met by the unblinking eyes of the past staring down at you from the photos on your wall.

It’s not easy to fit into a life that has moved on without you and yet stays strangely, and even irritatingly, familiar. But we do it because deep down, this is home. It doesn’t matter how far we travel or how many amazing things we see, a part of us is always here in this funny little town filled with charity shops and old age pensioners. I didn’t have to come back, I came back because I wanted to and because I missed my family, my friends and my home. So many can mistake travellers coming home and finding it difficult to readjust for them not actually not wanting to be here, that’s not it at all, it’s just a culture shock and we need time to adjust. That first intense burst of excitement of seeing everyone can soon fade as reality hits and between job-hunting and bad weather it can soon feel like a bit of an anti-climax to be here. For me, I feel like I never even had a chance to really enjoy that first moment of seeing everyone again because I was ill for the first two weeks of being home and couldn’t really make the most of it, only now am I starting to feel a bit more settled.12670585_10153273974532617_8029664788022203933_nBut what needs to be understood by the traveller returning home is that it is okay not to feel at home in the place that you once couldn’t imagine a life outside of. It’s okay to always feel a sense that you shouldn’t be here, that you no longer belong here. It’s called growth, it means you’ve changed and grown as a person in your time away and it just means that you take up a little bit more space in the world, perhaps this town you once called home can no longer contain the person you have become. Likewise, what needs to be understood by those welcoming home the traveller is that this is no longer the person you waved off at the airport – they still look the same and share all those amazing memories with you. But something deeper has shifted, something stronger than personality or opinion, their very core has been shaken by all that they have seen and experienced. So don’t put it down to them being a wanky traveller who can’t stop talking about their gap year, perhaps it’s more than that. Perhaps it’s more that their whole world has changed and if that’s not something to talk about and share with the people who mean the most to you, I don’t know what is.

How did you find returning home from travelling? How did travelling affect you? Did you struggle to settle back in at home?

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imageAs the clock ticked down on my final days in Melbourne, it struck me that there were still several things I had yet to do before leaving. All those touristy things we want to do but simply forget once we start working and life gets in the way. Well working 12 hour days six days a week definitely cut back the amount of time I had to give to such activities, but I was still determined to give it my best shot. So when the birthday of one of my best friends was approaching, I thought how better to celebrate than with a trip up the Eureka Skydeck to see our beautiful city twinkling in the moonlight followed by a night of cocktails by the river. We met at Ludlow’s, a bar along the river where loads of our friends who worked there were celebrating the boss’ birthday with drinks and food. The crowd that work at the bar are great, such a friendly bunch and they definitely know how to party. The company actually owns part of the Skydeck and when they heard we were going up there that evening, the bosses gave us free tickets to both the Skyjack and The Edge – we couldn’t believe it! It was so lovely of them and we really appreciated it. Normal prices at $20 for entrance to the Skydeck Experience and a further $12 for The Edge.imageWe walked over to the entrance and were given a warm welcome by the staff to ushered us into the lifts which carried us a whopping 285m above ground in just 38 seconds! No wonder my ears were popping. The fastest elevator trip in the Southern Hemisphere took us directly to the dizzying heights of the Eureka Skydeck – and I wasn’t sure how well this was going to go down. Heights have never bothered me in the slightest, but the birthday girl suffered terrible vertigo as we had found in the Grampians and I hoped she was going to be able to enjoy it. We walked around the Skydeck where we experienced Melbourne sightseeing at its finest, the whole city was alight and glowing against the dark skies. It was beautiful – take your breath away beautiful. I was so glad we hadn’t come up during the day, but also wondered what it would have been like to witness this spectacular view at sunset. We had an incredible 360 degree view of the Melbourne skyline thanks to the floor-to-ceiling windows. From the top it is possible to see Albert Park Lake, Port Phillip Bay, the Dandenong Ranges and beyond. There are also 30 viewfinders around the Skydeck, so you can take a closer look at some of Melbourne’s favourite landmarks such as the MCG, Federation Square and Flinders Street Station.imageAfter exploring the platform, we decided to enjoy a nice glass of wine with the view over the city – it really was a breathtaking sight. We all had to take a minute to breathe in the fact that this was our home, we lived in this amazing city. It was one of the moments I really found a true appreciation for how lucky I am. Then our buzzer went and it was our time to check out the second stage of the experience – The Edge – a glass cube that projects from the 88th floor of the Eureka Tower and suspends visitors almost 300 meters high above Melbourne. A world first, it gives you a chance to stand over the city and really experience the view from a whole new perspective. Now I know that it might not appeal to those who are scared of heights but with me were two of my best friends who were both nervous about the experience and worried they couldn’t cope with the height. Both came out with huge beaming smiles on their faces and not a hint of shaky legs. Even if you hate heights and ca’t usually deal with them, don’t write off this experience because my friends coped well and were so glad they had given it a chance. There really is no other way to see Melbourne like it and I will always remember seeing Melbourne twinkling below me.

For more details about the Skydeck Experience, prices, opening times or The Edge, check out the website for more details.

Have you been up the Eureka Skydeck? How did you find The Edge? What other top Melbourne attractions could you recommend?

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12742849_10153297889262617_2785038916657325425_nOne of the things I love the most about Melbourne is that there is always something going on. It’s a lively city full of hidden gems and quirky, unusual events and I’ve already lost track of how many unexpected treats I’ve found since exploring the city. From the tiniest little food festivals to the Mardi Gras-esque street parties, there is always something new to discover and where better than to prime your taste in Australian music than by attending St Kilda Festival? Australia’s largest free music festival, the event showcases a range of the country’s national and local talent on huge stages set against the natural beauty of St Kilda’s beach. The event attracts over 400,000 people each year and this year took place on Valentine’s Day, which also just happened to be right in the middle of three of my friends’ birthdays. A perfect time to celebrate.12729295_10153314611102617_352570379247041229_nGetting the whole gang together, we headed to St Kilda in the afternoon where we couldn’t wait to check out the huge range of performances set to take place across ten stages that day. Now we all know by now how much I love my festivals – whether they’re free or expensive, dance or reggae, camping or day events. I love them all and can always find something special at each of them. St Kilda Festival was great – a huge event that has obviously proven a great success by the crowds that poured through the streets. The performances I saw were great and the crowd were clearly enjoying themselves, who couldn’t with a main stage set against the backdrop of the ocean as the sun was setting? My favourite part of the event definitely had to be when I went down to the beach to sit and watch the sun set while listening to the performers on the main stage.12742176_10153314610592617_2808402488505373794_nBut much as we did all enjoy ourselves that day, I couldn’t help but feel the event could have done with being better organised for the of us who aren’t from the area. Being new to Melbourne, and especially to St Kilda, I found it very difficult to navigate between and even locate some of the stages and actually only ended up getting to watch performances on two of the ten stages because it took so long to find our way through the crowds. I saw little to no signs around to direct us and whenever I stopped to ask stewards they seemed to have even less idea what was going on than I did. Very late on we finally found a map of the area, but we had missed most of the things we had really wanted to see. After speaking to a few friends who went along to the event separately to us, it seems they shared some of our experiences and felt the event was a bit over-crowded. Regardless, we still made sure we had a good time, a few ciders in the sunshine and a lot of laughs.9861_10153314609857617_117124694456852418_nJust a few days later, it was White Night and the whole city was abuzz again as Melbourne CBD prepared to put on the biggest show of colour, light and music. Bigger and better than ever the radio and TV stations promised us, so after a quick drink with a friend in St Kilda, I couldn’t resist heading into the city to meet friends for a good look around at the projections. Despite spending six hours wandering around the city, I never actually saw a single one! But don’t worry, we had the time of our lives walking around and discovering the huge range of musical talents hidden around every street corner.12728787_10153314615482617_7942346077139755604_nWe actually ended up sticking around Flinders and Melbourne Central areas as every time we walked down the street we got sucked into watching another epic performance turn into a huge street party with people of all ages dancing in the streets. It was amazing and the atmosphere was electric, it kept me dancing my heart out until 6am despite being completely sober and starving hungry. I was so impressed with the quality of the performances and how diverse they were, on one corner we watched as an incredibly talented acoustic performer mixed DJ skills with guitar and even a touch of saxophone while talking to the crowd throughout. Then just down the road, a DJ had the whole street dancing and further along a fabulous group started a fiesta in the shopping mall with their Mardi Gras vibes. It was a fantastic night and even though I didn’t see what I set out to see, I found some fantastic performers along the way.

Have you been to either of these events – what did you think? Does your city have great local music events like these?

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12642819_10153831469220535_5654254995325141544_nThe world of travelling has changed immensely in the last twenty years – not only has tourism completely changed the cultural experience we have in certain parts of the world, but we are simultaneously more connected and yet further separated from each other than ever before. Travelling twenty years ago, there was still the opportunity to get completely lost without ever straying far from the beaten track. Now it has become far more difficult – but not impossible – to get away from it all and really switch off from the world around us. When people are planning a trip away, whether for a weekend break, a two-week holiday or a year long expedition, their main reason for doing so is usually because they want to get away from it all and experience something new. “Getting away from it all” is such an interesting phrase – I used it myself when I was planning my travels. I needed to get away from everything I knew; from my job, my relationship, my life. I needed to gain space, to give myself time and to escape the world that was keeping me pinned. Now, over a year late, I’ve had everything I dreamed of and more – I’ve completely lost myself over and over again in beautiful landscapes, fascinating culture and incredible moments.

It’s interesting to look back now with fresh eyes, with perspective, and to think about how much I wanted to escape everything I left behind. And yet, my biggest project since travelling has been this blog – I’ve finally had the time, energy and inspiration to throw into turning this into something greater than I ever envisioned. And despite my claims that I wanted to cut myself off from all that I knew at home, I have put all of my energies into communicating every moment of this journey through writing, blogging and social media. It’s a passion of mine and I think it has had a huge impact on my travelling experience. Don’t get me wrong – I’ve given myself plenty of time away from the screen and the internet – I think that’s something that screams out of the pages of my blog. It’s all about fun – about life coming first and the amazing things that happen when you switch off the laptop and leave the phone at home. That’s what I love to document, the moments that happen when you truly switch off from your old life and open yourself up to these amazing new experiences. For me, capturing it all in my memories and camera is made all the more special when I sit down to write about it and get to relive it as my thoughts come pouring out of my fingertips.12790884_10153322205697617_5531639679795986980_nI’ve had those amazing moments when I’ve called a tiny hut on a beach in Cambodia home, when I’ve sat watching the sunset all by myself and realised that no-one in the world knows exactly where I am at the moment. It’s an incredibly empowering feeling to be entirely alone and know that it’s nothing to be afraid of, to know that you have only yourself to rely on but that’s okay. I’ve loved those moments of feeling completely lost in the world and I’ve also had moments when I’ve felt more connected with the people I love at home than ever before. I stay in constant contact with my family and speak to them almost every day thanks to social media and the huge range of communication options available. If I had been travelling twenty years ago it would be reduced to a phone call, or perhaps an email every now and again, but now, they can be with me every step of the way. Knowing that my mum is at the other end of a WhatsApp message, that my sister will always tweet me back or my dad’s emails can be relied on like clockwork completely changes the travelling experience and perhaps thats why I never get homesick. Because there’s nothing to miss when you’re just as close to the ones you love as you were before you stepped on the plane – because they’re never far away and you can have the everyday conversations with them whenever you want.

Social media doesn’t stop at family and friends on the other side of the globe – I’ve lost count of the amazing new friendships that I have developed over Facebook, Twitter and Instagram since travelling. Some have been random meets that have led to travelling advice, recommendations for accommodation, places to eat or trips. Others have been a comfort in a time of struggle – my own gang of cheerleaders that kept me going, inspired me to write and travel, made me see the amazing things Ive achieved through their eyes. And then there are those that started out on social media but grew into something more, the ones who I have been lucky enough to cross paths with along the way. I can’t tell you how amazing it is to have the opportunity to meet up with people I have only spoken to online, to explore a city halfway around the world and to build an actual, human friendship. I have made so many amazing new friends since travelling – many of them started out as fans of my blog and the next thing we know, we’re perusing the markets or exploring the sights in some far off land. It’s extra special because I often wonder whether our paths would have crossed were it not for our online presence. When you hear so many negative things about social media on a daily basis, it’s so lovely to see such huge positives come out of it. This is what social media was invented for – to bring people from all walks of life closer together.11138129_10153831391510535_3163373187428997590_nFor backpackers, social media has completely changed our concept of travelling and our attitude towards it. Backpacking culture seems more accessible than ever before because now it is all available at the touch of a button. Particularly when it comes to Facebook groups for those travelling Asia and Australia – I’ve found these amazing for when you are travelling solo. They are packed full of tips, advice, recommendations, friend requests, invitations to join trips, opportunities to buy or sell items ranging from camping gear to vehicles, the list goes on. I’m sure backpackers managed twenty years ago without the conveniences we have now, but I just love the way these channels open direct communication from backpackers cross the globe. The Australia groups I’m currently a part of have an open dialogue between travellers who are currently scattered across the country, those travelling Asia and heading this way, others in New Zealand, and many who can be found across the rest of the world – with eagerly anticipating their trip or happy just reminiscing about travels gone by. It’s a beautiful mix of people and really does help bring people together – I’ve seen many travelling groups formed for road trips or even to head overseas, I’ve seen many people organising meet-ups and nights out, and I’ve seen so many inspire others to step outside their comfort zone.12803150_10153322205417617_6528009646211249083_nIt’s so important to let yourself switch off from Facebook and Twitter (and Snapchat for all you addicts!) when you’re travelling. To not let your status updates stand in the way of your fun – trust me, no-one will notice if you switch off for a while! But at the same time, social media can have a fantastic impact on your travels. Manage it well and it can really help to nurture precious relationships while encouraging you to build new ones. After all, we’re all just here for a good time so why not have a good time together?

How has social media shaped your travelling experience? How do you use social media to make your backpacking life easier? Has social media had a negative impact on your travels?

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12651181_10153273974582617_3498586136591330772_nAfter the longest three months of my life drew to a close, it was time to get excited and to start thinking about packing up my life again to start afresh in a new city. I had been planning to end up in Melbourne before I even arrived in Australia, from everything I had heard about the city I knew it was the kind of place I wanted to get lost in so I was worried that if I went there to start with that I would never see the rest of the country. It was a good decision, Melbourne is an incredible city and within just a few days I had fallen completely in love with the place, the people and the lifestyle. Had I come here when I first arrived, I’m not sure I would have seen so much in such a short space of time – I certainly don’t think I would have got to spend the four amazing months I had up in Darwin and I wouldn’t give up those memories for the world. As the clock wound down, I became more and more excited, not only about seeing a new city and somewhere busier, but about being reunited with some of my closest travelling friends who had also traveled down from Darwin.

The Dingo’s were set to be reunited in the big city – away from the dry, dusty landscape of the Northern Territory, away from the bush raves, hostel life and the serious party lifestyle. It was a strange thought, imagining us all in a big, busy city full of businessmen, but it was a pretty exciting thought that not only would I get to see these amazing people again, that we would also get to explore a whole new place together! I’ve been travelling for quite a long time now so I don’t really tend to get the nervous feeling when I’m heading to a new place, but I definitely still get the excitement butterflies and when the day finally dawned it felt like they were quickstepping in my stomach. I knew that two flights, two baggage carousels, five random conversations with strangers and a whole heap of goodbyes later, I would finally be where I belonged. Two of the Dingos came to meet me at the airport and I can’t tell you how happy I was to see their faces after what felt like the longest time.12670619_10153831469375535_5679238298340959587_nIt was the biggest weight off my shoulders to know that my rural work was done and dusted, and to know that life could begin again with nothing standing in the way. Naturally it was time to celebrate both that and finding out I had just been shortlisted in the UK Blog Awards for the second year running! A completely unplanned night out (the best ones always are!) followed where I was reunited with some of my greatest loves – my former roomies from Darwin, my biggest party pals and even some of my old workmates – it was amazing. I felt completely transported back to all the great times from Darwin and yet so excited about the future that lay ahead of us in Melbourne. I was staying at a friend’s apartment on Chapel Street – and I didn’t realise quite how lucky I was until I arrived and saw the apartment was right in the centre of all the bars, clubs, shops and cafes. I was so lucky to have this as my introduction to the city and I’m so glad I did, it meant a lot of partying at the bars up and down the street over the next week.

That first night out we went to a whole host of bars and clubs across the CBD and Chapel Street – I just went where I was told but had the best night back with the gang. It just shows you that it really doesn’t matter that much about the place – it’s always the people that make or break your experience and the fact that we had been reunited the other side of the country but nothing had changed meant everything. It felt like not even a day had passed since we were last together and that is something so special about friendships when you are travelling. Whether it’s friendships with people back home or those you meet on the road, because sometimes you do lose touch for a while but knowing you can get back to bliss again with these people is what makes them the best of friends. Barely any time had passed since i arrived in Melbourne and it already felt like home, knowing my family were there made it home for me. It wasn’t necessarily about what Melbourne had to offer, it was that from the second I stepped off the plane I already felt welcome. It was already my home sweet home.12661840_10153273974212617_6215594254282419684_nThat in itself was a pretty big deal. I haven’t had a home for a very long time. Over a year to be precise – travelling Asia I was never in one place for more than a week, then with the East Coast I was constantly moving. Darwin was the closest I got to home and it will always be a home in one sense, but living in a hostel the whole time meant I never felt completely settled with my own space, the same in Charleville – hating the job made it hard to feel completely comfortable. So when I came to Melbourne I was determined to find an apartment and a job, to settle and really unpack all of my stuff, to feel comfortable and at home in this amazing city. The thought of having a base for a while, even just a few months, was so attractive after being constantly on the move for over a year, and I was finally happy to indulge myself after seeing and experiencing so many amazing things around the globe. One of my huge bucket list items was to live abroad and to really experience living in a city in Australia – while I did that in Darwin, this time I wanted to experience it out of a hostel and in a home of my own. And let me tell you, it’s been four weeks now since I arrived and I’m loving my life in the city, my apartment and my friends – it’s everything I dreamed it would be and more.

Have you lived abroad – where and for how long? Have you craved a home and routine after travelling for a long time? Have you been to Melbourne?

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imageThis 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.imageimageI 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.imageimageSo 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.imageimageSure 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.imageimageSo 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.image

 

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? 

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imageI’m just days away from my one year travelling anniversary and I’m not going to lie, I’ve missed some pretty important things in that time. From birthdays and anniversaries, to my sister’s graduation, and my best friends making huge life changing decisions about their careers and love lives that force them to move across the country. The world doesn’t stand still when you jet off to the other side of the world, it’s easy to forget that life as you knew it carries on and the people you leave behind continue to grow and change. And it’s okay, most of the time, because we’re so damn distracted by the beauty and epic nature of the travelling life we have chosen, we kind of forget about what’s going on at home. We have our moments when we get a rush of homesickness as we sit in a hostel hallway on the phone to mum and dad, or catching up with our best friends over FaceTime – and we do, we really do feel it. But then, more often than not, that fleeting feeling is gone, dancing away on a warm breeze like it was never there. You see, it’s not that we don’t care, it’s just that our life as a backpacker is all about living in the present, and pining for what once was just doesn’t have much of a place here. Yes we all have days where we wallow and we miss home, but you’ll notice those were the days when we didn’t have much on, when we were a bit bored and allowed ourselves the time to think of home uninterrupted.

There will always be certain times that bring up a wave of emotions for backpackers – perhaps it’s the birthday or the anniversary of the death of a loved one, perhaps it’s a certain holiday or something happens at home. For others it can be as simple as the first time they spend Christmas away from their families on the other side of the world. I’ve seen countless articles posted on backpacker Facebook groups lately about all the awesome things about spending Christmas in Australia but I wanted to talk about the other side of this experience. It’s not rosy and lovely for everyone who is away, and I think it is important for backpackers to realise that it’s okay if they don’t have an amazing time. Everyone at home always thinks we’re out here having the most incredible time 24 hours a day, and most of the time that is true, but there are rubbish bits as well. There are times when it rains, we feel like crap, get ill, break down and have rubbish moments just like we would at home – and when we have to spend the holiday that is all about family half a world away from everyone we love most, it can be a bit pants. Every moment is what you make it and while some people will have the time of their life celebrating this Christmas away from home, others will find it a little harder.imageI had no idea where I would be spending my first Christmas away from my family, I didn’t know who I would be with or what I would be doing. For all I knew it could have been anything from a BBQ on the beach to a homemade roast with friends – the reality will be a little different. You see, I’m still living and working in the outback to get my second year visa. I took this job knowing full well it would mean spending Christmas and New Year away from my friends, mainly because I was so desperate to make sure I had my visa days sorted early and could really relax for the final five months of my first year. I don’t regret that decision because I only have six weeks left to work out here and then I will be reunited with all of my amazing Darwin and East Coast pals, and we will more than make up for lost time. But in the meantime that does mean I’m feeling a bit lonely this Christmas and because I’m not surrounded by all my closest friends it’s making me think of what I’m missing out on at home. I’m pretty close with my family and between them and all my friends at home, we have a mountain of Christmas traditions that I know I’m missing out on. But don’t worry, there’s no chance I’m going to let it ruin my Christmas in the outback because when on earth will I ever get the chance to experience this again?

10 things I really missed about a UK Christmas:

1. The build-up: from the UK’s Christmas adverts to Christmas shopping and finding the perfect present for someone special. From hearing festive songs played in the supermarket, to planning the food for Christmas Day and the countdown to finishing work.
2. The weather – it’s rubbish, cold, wet and miserable outside. It’s dark at 3pm and much as we all complain about it, that’s part of Christmas. It gives us an excuse to wear extra sparkle when it’s dark outside and that chill in the air gives all the more reason to get all snuggled up inside.
3. Nights spent drinking and laughing with friends in boiling hot pubs with steamed up windows, not thinking about work the next day or how cold it is outside.
4. Family traditions – putting up the Christmas tree and decorations with my dad while we blast the Christmas songs, festive baking with mum, a trip to Winter Wonderland with my sister, the Royals on Christmas day.
5. Family gatherings – when family from all over the country get together for a day of food, wine and fun at their annual Christmas party. A chance to catch up and have everyone together.
6. Festive food – the mince pies and puddings, the roast lamb and beef, Yorkshire puds and roasties, and cheeseboards, oh god, the cheeseboards. It’s too hot out here to really gorge like we do at home and the stuff they sell just isn’t the same.
7. Christmas TV in the UK is great – from soap specials to period dramas like Call the Midwife, comedy shows like Gavin and Stacey and The Royle Family, classics like The Snowman and all those great movies from Elf to Home Alone and Cool Runnings.
8. Christmas jumpers! What is Christmas without wearing the worst jumper you can find, or a snuggly onesie that makes you look like a reindeer, or great big wooly socks? It’s just not the same on a bikini.
9. The actual day – getting drunk with your family, seeing the surprise on someone special’s face when they open their gift, the aftermath when you can’t move because you ate so much…
10. The bit when your head feels like it’s going to explode – too many people, too many parties, too much food, too many hangovers – you’re almost glad to see the back of the holiday season.

imageimageI do have to just add to this post that I did still have a pretty fun Christmas thanks to some really good friends I’ve made here in Charleville and a huge thanks to them for not leaving me alone. I ended up having a turkey roast at a friend’s house with her family, spent the day enjoying drinks followed by two Christmas parties. Boxing Day followed with more drinks with friends and a party at the Bowls Club with everyone in town and a lot of fun was had. It was better than I could ever have expected and that’s all down to the wonderful people in this town who have made me feel so welcome.

What’s your favourite thing about a UK Christmas? Have you had a lovely Christmas? What was your first Christmas away from your family like? 

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imageAfter two weeks of being boring Lucy, eating rubbish noodles and working every hour I could get, I’d had three glorious pay checks which had put me back in the green. I was so happy to not be clinging to every dollar for dear life any longer – don’t get me wrong, I was still living like a seriously poor backpacker but I could afford to eat and sleep, and even treat myself to the odd $5 bottle of wine. The beautiful thing was that I had a whole gang of friends around me who were all in the same position – some had been lucky enough to find work straight away – others were working for the hostel in exchange for a tuppence and free accommodation, others were just living off nothing while they applied for every job going. I was the lucky one. But as the weeks went by, everyone managed to find jobs – some of them just casual and others full time and permanent. As that happened, our priorities changed. We had a big group of new friends and we all wanted to celebrate. The hot weather made everyone feel the good holiday vibes and even though we were all working crazy hours we were determined not to let it stand in the way of having a good time. As one of my friends said: “We left the UK so we wouldn’t be those people who are living for the weekend, I’m sick of living for the weekend, I want to live for every single day.” I guess it’s the party animal in me, but luckily I was surrounded by people with exactly the same attitude to life as my own. They wanted to have the best time, to grab every moment with both hands. They wanted to spend their evenings laughing hysterically with new friends, dancing all night and creating memories, then finishing the nights when the sun was rising with our feet in the sand as friends for life.imageDarwin is a great city for nightlife – it lacks all of the formality and rules of Sydney and Melbourne and attracts a totally different and totally wild crowd. Everyone is friendly as hell and game for anything, it was outback nightlife and we loved it. From acoustic live jam sessions at a little bar called Nirvana on a Tuesday night to crazy Friday nights and $5 drinks at Throb, the gay club down the street. I spent way too much time in Monsoons considering I worked there, but I think most people who go to Darwin can say the same, and Thursday nights were never fun unless I was at Ladies Night! And don’t forget Wisdoms, which was just a few doors down, and had great live music on, plus it was great for an early evening drink. Or if you fancy something a bit classier, there’s always cocktails and wine at Rorkes, a 1920’s inspired bar and restaurant through the town centre, plus there’s loads more down by the waterfront. The only place I wasn’t so impressed by was Lost Arc (also known as Discovery), I know others who had a good night out there but I never really felt the music or the bar was that much fun.imageRegardless, there is something for everyone and we spent our weeks rolling around every venue in town with the infamous Sunday Sesh kicking off at Shenanigans (fondly known as Shags) the Irish bar, which would be packed every Sunday with live music, before everyone headed off to Hotel Darwin at closing time for more bad behaviour. Sunday Sesh was the biggest event of the week in Darwin – it never mattered how hungover you were from the night before, everyone who wasn’t working made it out and partied like they didn’t have work the next day. For us, we started to create our own Sunday Sesh at the hostel – we had so many friends at our hostel that in the end it made more sense to all chip in $10 to buy everything we needed for a huge BBQ and beers. We had a pool and everyone we wanted to hang out with, a bit of food and way too much glitter and excitement – some of the best Sunday’s I have ever had have started out as a BBQ at the hostel and ended up as a naked pool party. There so many stories from my three months at that hostel, so much cheeky behaviour and so many laughs, I think I’ll have to write a book one day of all that went on with the Dingo Mooners.imageOf all of these nights, there are some that really stand out in my memory – some of them somewhat hazy – but all of those are the parties that didn’t take us to any of these venues. Darwin was rave central while I was there and luckily I made friends with all the right people who just happened to know the people who were sitting up these wild parties on Mindil Beach, out at abandoned quarries in the bush and even on the esplanade. The great thing about the Northern Territory is that there is a little bit more freedom, I can totally understand why raves can be harmful at home because they damage land, property and disrupt the wildlife in our smaller country. But up here there is nothing but desert, dust and open space, it’s perfect for parties out under the stars and that’s the best kind of party to me. Plus those organising the parties were so responsible and organised clean-ups as well which really impressed me. Even the police were happy that the parties were not bothering anyone so they would keep an eye in case if things got out of hand but they never once shut down a party that I was at. There was at least two months when there were raves every weekend, alternating venues between Mindil Beach and the quarry – both were amazing and featured great DJs, some local and others travelling through. And just before we all left, a special rave was held on the esplanade as a goodbye to everyone who had partied hard all dry season, just as the rains were due to arrive.imageimageimageWhether you agree with the idea of hundreds of youths raving from sunset to sunrise or not, I won’t deny the memories I made there will last forever, and that many of the friends I went with will without a doubt be friends for life. Even now, thinking back, every second of those nights puts a big smile on my face. As far as I’m concerned, getting to dance to great music and watching the sun rise over Mindil Beach as dolphins played in the waves and a horse rode through the surf is more than just special. We saw the real magic of the Northern Territory in those nights, from the red dust that covered us from head to toe as we made our way home the next day to the reflection of the stars in our eyes the night before. I’ll always remember the night we all lay on a sandbank at the quarry exhausted from dancing our hearts out, without realising how close we were to the airport when suddenly a plane flew overhead, looking almost close enough to touch. Or that perfect sky filled with fire as the sun rose above us the morning after, and the long walk we faced through the bush that morning when it took us three hours to get a taxi and get home, but the jokes that kept our spirits up and the memories that remain. Darwin, you were something special alright.imageimageimage

 

Have you been to Darwin? Which is your favourite bar? What did you think of the nightlife?

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