I had a pretty intense chat with a friend recently, he was going through a bit of a tough time and had lost his travelling way for a little while. It happens to us all when we get settled in one place for too long - we get antsy, frustrated, feel the need to escape but don't know where to turn next which can leave some people feeling pretty alone. I know because I went through the same thing at around the same time - it's the trouble with having a travelling soul, you're always looking for the next adventure. Most of the time that's amazing, but if that feeling hits you when you're stuck working somewhere and have to wait to leave, it can be a killer to your mood. After several people I was really close with left Darwin to start their next adventure, I was pretty down and sick of life there - don't get me wrong, the city had been an amazing home for me for three months and is full of memories for me. But it was the longest I had spent in one place since starting travelling - while that was just what I needed to start with, it soon became suffocating as more and more people left. I know my friend felt much the same, he was struggling to see why he was still there because he too had never planned to stay as long - he had just fallen in love with the place and the people, as had I.
At the time, I found our conversation hard to hear and talk about, but now - since moving on, it keeps coming flooding back to me and I can't help but remember one phrase in particular. "When you're travelling, you're never alone, but you're always lonely." The way my friend came out with that really surprised me, he's the life and soul of the party and everyone loves him so much, he always puts in every effort and will do anything for his friends. But it just shows you that even the ones who are the centre of so many people's worlds can be lonely and struggle sometimes. I could totally understand what he was talking about after speaking to another close friend who said: "You form these intense and beautiful bonds with people, but you never really have a lasting connection with those around you because people always leave." I couldn't put it anymore perfectly myself - I've felt this so many times when I've met people and fallen in love with their character, personality and soul. I've fallen head over heels for the moments we've shared and the things we've experienced together. Then just days or even hours later, we part ways and sometimes never see each other again.It's a hard thing to adapt to and I think that's why me and my friend were feeling down - we were both so used to being the people who leave and go on to something more exciting to distract us from the sadness of what we have left behind. This time, we were some of the last ones of our gang there and we felt the pain and the loss of every single bright spark who made our time in Darwin as special as it was. I totally understand where my friends were coming from but I can't help but disagree about the part after people leaving - it can feel like that at times when you're constantly moving from place to place and don't get a chance to spend more than a few days together. But there have also been so many times where I have seen it proven how amazingly travellers can come together to create a family that cares for each other no matter what. I saw it when I was in the crash in Cambodia and friends who were scattered across Asia and beyond went out of their way to check I was okay and to even come and look after me until they were happy I was safe enough for them to move on. I saw it in Darwin when something awful happened to a friend of mine and the whole gang rallied around, they did so much by just being there and it just showed how close we all were after just days of knowing each other. I know that I could call on so many of my travelling friends day or night, if every I were in trouble, or just needed a chat, they would be there.
It's been nearly four months but I still speak to friends I met on the East Coast on a regular basis and am even making plans to be reunited with some of them soon. It's been nine months since I met one of my most special gangs back in Thailand and I still speak to them every few weeks and even FaceTime despite us all being scattered around the globe now. It's an amazing feeling to know you have so many connections across the world and is easily one of my favourite things about travelling - these friendships are so special and I treasure them so much. This morning I woke up to around 30 messages from old and new friends and it really showed me that even when I'm working in the middle of nowhere, these friends don't just forget you. Yes, there are lonely times when travelling - but they're also the times that really shape you as a person and teach you the important life skill of being on your own and actually enjoying it. There is no light without dark, and as much as there are times when you will feel completely alone, there are times when you will be overrun with people and friendships that will last a lifetime. The important thing is to recognise in other travellers what point they are at in their own journey - be kind and be what others need you to be. When we're on the road it is more important than ever to look after each other and to support each other - don't leave anyone lonely, don't push anyone away. We all need a little family sometimes. The sights are important, but it's the people that make the real memories.
Have you struggled with feeling alone while travelling? Have you found that perfect travelling gang of friends? Do you manage to stay in contact with other travellers along the way?
By now you guys will all know how much I love my girls, whether they're the ones that live on my doorstep, halfway across the country, or even thousands of miles across the world. They mean the world to me and I love the fact that I have managed to find so many amazing women who all share the same attitude as me to life. Even more so, I love that they have been with me through the very worst and the very best of times, have seen me in a complete state and at the top of my game, and love me no matter what. Men may mock girl friendships - and yes, some are a complete sham - but I reckon we girls have one up on you guys when we do things right.
You will, of course, get those friendship groups who chat shit about each other behind each other's backs, steal each other's boyfriends and generally make each other feel bad about themselves. Just like you do in some male friendship groups... But when we women club together, we have something you guys don't - and that is a closeness that can't compare to guy friendships I have seen. These girls are more than "just friends", they are my sisters and my family - the ones I have chosen to share my deepest, darkest secrets with and the ones who will pick me up in the middle of the night when it all comes crashing down. As they say, your friends are the family you choose - and my friends are firmly an extension of my family.A few particularly good girl dates recently have inspired this post because they really got me thinking about what makes my friendships special - then I realised, they aren't special at all to anyone other than me. Women up and down the country share equally incredible friendships with their girls - and while mine are completely unique and special to me, the general principals are exactly the same. For most of my life I have been more of a boy's girl, but amazingly I have found myself at this point of my life with more girlfriends than ever before, and I have to say, my tastes have definitely changed. I love being surrounded by girl power, loud voices, fierce personalities and loving support. It makes me feel stronger as an individual, and forever grateful that every single day I know I have a tribe of equally strong women fighting my corner and cheering me on.
What do I love about my girls?
Don't worry, I'm not shooting down guy friendships as I have plenty of my own. I'm just saying that girl friendships can sometimes get a bad rap thanks to those who don't understand the concept of true friendship. But the point is that actually we really have something going for us and girl friendships, in my experience, seem to reach a level that guys should be jealous of and that we should be proud of as women. If you ask me, some women need to realise that supporting each other and cheering each other on is far more admirable than tearing each other down and casting judgement.
What do you love about your girls?
PS. Don’t forget to vote for me in the UK Blog Awards travel and lifestyle categories!! Click here and here to cast your votes xx
I was too busy to write this post last week, but it's been playing on my mind ever since and I've now actually delayed another post to share this with you guys today. Those of you who don't follow many blogs might not be aware of the scathing column written by Independent journalist, Chloe Hamilton, about the nation's number one blogger and vlogger, Zoella. This attack came completely out of the blue, and interestingly at a time when Zoe Sugg is at the top of her game, winning awards, becoming a charity patron, launching a beauty range and more. Perhaps more to do with attracting attention than actually making a valid comment? Zoe has the amazing success most bloggers dream of and aspire to. She is a beautiful young girl, both inside and out, who vlogs to share her experiences and struggles with anxiety with others, creating a support network for teen girls across the world. Pretty amazing for a 24-year-old! With over six million subscribers on her YouTube channel, she must be doing something right and is nothing short of an inspiration to a lot of us.
I'm sure you can already tell I disagree with the column, but my concern is not so much the viewpoint of the writer, but the fact that she felt the need to be so nasty while making her point. Chloe is welcome to feel that Zoella reinforces certain stereotypes and perhaps doesn't represent the "typical" view of feminism - but where is the need to describe her as "the latest creation spat out by the YouTube machine" or slate her "brand of sickly sweet girl power"? And what is the "typical" view of feminism anyway? There are so many stereotyped ideas of a "typical feminist" that I wonder how anyone could say what a feminist looks, speaks and acts like. This column is pure nastiness and really just embarrasses both the Independent and the "journalist" behind it, who quite frankly both appear to have published the piece to stir up reaction and page views. Well I'm sure it has worked, considering the reaction from countless bloggers and vloggers across Facebook and Twitter, and I hate to give the article the time of day because I know it just gives the writer what she wants. But I'm more concerned with the greater cost to "feminism".Too many already consider feminism a joke - a way to justify beating down men at every opportunity, to not conform to society expectations, to just kick up a fuss at every given opportunity - I've seen and heard these views given several times over the years. They don't understand that in its purest form feminism means "the advocacy of women's rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes". The reason they don't understand this? Well, because feminism has become a bit of a fashion statement, I'm not saying everyone is jumping on the bandwagon, but all too often I am seeing women using feminism as an excuse for their behaviour, when actually there is no excuse. I'm not talking about those who are campaigning, who stand up for those who are mistreated because of their gender - those who are underpaid, treated with no respect, or even abused simply because they are women. These are the good feminists, the true feminists who are paving the way for women. They are the inspiration to us all to follow their lead and do the same, to stand up and say something when we see real-life sexism and inequality.
I'm talking about those who are using "feminism" as an excuse to slate successful women and who use their own medium, whether blogging, writing, vlogging, "journalism", social media or something else, in an attempt to bring them down or leech off their fame. I've seen a few examples of this recently, a couple over Twitter that were indirectly attacking a woman seemingly out of jealousy because she was successful and yet they felt the need to attack her looks and the way she dressed, and the way she wrote. How sad. No matter how indirectly you dress it up, we all know who you're talking about, and honey, it doesn't make them look bad - that's all on you.This latest attack by Chloe Hamilton is far worse because it targets not only Zoe's success - which has caused her to become an inspiration for millions of teen girls. But it also launches an assault on how she has made her living - I just struggle to understand how a young woman who has found a hobby that she loves and turned it into a huge career through hard work can be seen as anything less than inspirational. Although many may not realise it, blogging is hard work - it takes up a huge portion of your life and is a massive commitment. You spend hours each week writing posts, videoing them, shooting pictures, brainstorming ideas. We do it because we love it, but as a professional journalist, an editor and a blogger, I can say I spend a lot of time perfecting my posts and I know others are the same. So the fact that Zoe has dedicated so much of her time to creating a brand, to promoting it, to working with her viewers and communicating with them is no mean feat. And the fact that for a long time she wouldn't have been getting paid for any of it - just shows what a hard worker she is.
My next question is why does Chloe Hamilton hate Zoe so much for enjoying make-up, for trying out hairstyles and for liking getting dressed up? Since when has any of this stuff meant you are any less of a feminist? I love make-up, fashion, getting my hair done and styling it, not because it makes me pretty for men to look at, but because I enjoy the process of treating myself. But I also love equality, I love that my gender does not prevent me from getting an education, that it doesn't have to hold me back from certain career paths and I hate that there are women out there who are preyed on because of their gender, who are raped and attacked and persecuted. Isn't that the essence of feminism? Not what lipstick I've put on today. Or the fact that we choose to wear lipstick at all.
Chloe needs to try watching Zoella's videos about her anxiety and feeling confident in your own skin, she represents and covers all these important issues alongside beauty and hair - that doesn't mean she is going back on what she has said. Instead she gives us the boost we need and represents the girl-next-door, showing that everyone struggles with confidence and fears, but that it's okay and that we don't have to worry. She then gives girls the techniques and the tips so they can do make-up and hair well if they need it to boost their confidence or make them feel better individually, not for men.
Perhaps Chloe needs to spend a day in a high school to understand that the majority of teen girls want to learn about make-up and hair, they want to feel pretty and confident. I was a real bookworm at school and loved spending time with my friends, but that doesn't mean I didn't want to get dressed up as well. Zoella isn't playing on insecurities of youths, she is talking about her passions and her loves and they are obviously shared by girls across the world or she wouldn't have such an enormous following.Taking a quick look at the bigger picture here, something that Chloe seems to have missed. When Zoe is encouraging teen girls to enjoy innocent hair and make-up tutorials, or videos about anxiety and coping with it - shouldn't we be grateful that all these millions are tuning into her videos? All that time they spend watching them is another few minutes they are not watching and idolising "celebrities" like Rihanna, Nicki Minaj and the rest of the women who feel the need to take their clothes off or dance provocatively while aiming their music at teen audiences. Zoe Sugg is making a credible difference to young audiences already because she respects herself, she is a successful woman who has forged a career in an industry that is only just beginning and she is a real girl, who doesn't have a team of make-up artists and retouching equipment that makes her seem perfect. She isn't afraid of her imperfections, she just finds ways to live with them and be happy with them.
Sorry this has ended up being such a long post, but I think it is something that really needs to be said. Women need to stop attacking each other and instead look at the real problems. Green is a terrible colour on some people and jealousy is a nasty emotion. Isn't it time we all started building each other up and being proud of our success stories? I'm happy and lucky to have a fantastic group of women as my friends, all strong feminists with big personalities who support and encourage each other to the bitter end. And the blogging community has been such a warm and welcoming place full of words of encouragement, congratulations at every small success and generally a huge amount of support at every stage of the game. We all believe in equality and women's rights, otherwise we wouldn't be voicing our opinions on the internet, creating these little spaces for our voices to be heard. THAT belief, THAT support and THAT passion is what we are proud of and what we love about blogging. That is what we should focus on and that is the future.
What did you think of the Independent column? What do you think about the Mean Girls who are calling themselves feminists?
I've read a lot of panicked Facebook and Twitter posts in the last week - fears about starting university in the coming weeks, not knowing what to expect as a Fresher, and the biggest worry of all seems to be what to pack and take with you. As someone who has graduated, but who still remembers her first day at university as clear as a whistle, I figured it was only right to give a little extra help to the graduates of tomorrow, by helping them work out what they need to take with them. Here's my must-haves list:
Most of all just remember to have fun, enjoy it, throw yourself into every moment, experience and night out - even if you don't drink, it is a great way to meet people in those first few weeks when everyone will be out every night. Treat every person you meet like your new best friend - but you may well have a completely different group of friends by second year so don't worry if you don't really connect with some people.
What are your biggest fears about university? Has this list helped with your packing?