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After a day on the road, in the air and on the open sea, I finally arrived in Koh Lanta where I was to meet up with some friends for a few days of birthday celebrations. The ferry over gave spectacular views of the island and neighbouring ones, and I couldn't wait to hit the shores. Koh Lanta is stunning - when you think of paradise, golden sands, clear blue waters, beautiful shells littering the beach and lots of little shacks with hammocks - that's basically Koh Lanta. The beaches are beyond beautiful and absolutely deserted. Although this place is paradise - many travellers don't make it this far and so the lucky ones who do find empty beaches and an amazing, chilled out atmosphere helped along by the fabulous bars along the beach. It's a diverse crowd who make it here, so far I've seen quite a few families with young children, honeymooning couples and holidaymakers - but there are also a fair few backpackers.

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My first night on the island, I was hoping to stay at Bee Bee Bungalows but found they were full on arriving, but it turned out to be a blessing because I then found a lovely little hut on the beach instead. It was less than 10 metres from the beach and the sea, so I could hear the waves crashing on the beach at night - perfection. I love the bungalows, they give such a fabulous experience I can't imagine you get in a hotel - although the cockroach in the toilet was a rather funny experience, thank god for a flush! I spent my first night eating and drinking at the Reggae Bar just down the beach - this is my favourite place on the island. The music is amazing, the people there are fantastic - I made a great new group of mates that night and partied together, I even moved closer to the girls so we could spend the week together. That night we went to an awesome party we found in the woods with the guys who run the Reggae Bar - it was amazing.

imageimageAfter just one night, I woke up early and walked miles to the next few beaches to see what else was along there - lots of yoga, massages and food. Then I spent the morning swimming in the sea spotting fish and sunbathing until my friends arrived so I could join them at their villa which was pretty lush and had its own pool and jacuzzi! The guys had been living in some pretty awful hostels for the last three weeks so they were really excited to have a bit of luxury for my friend's birthday. The next few days were spent sunbathing on the beach, exploring the island, having pool parties and something very special for her birthday. We booked to go visit elephants and to feed them before going on a jungle trek to a bat cave and then on to a waterfall where we sat on rocks and pretended to be mermaids. It was an amazing way to celebrate and we were all so excited to see the elephants - they were so beautiful and gentle. It got me really excited for when I spend a week volunteering at the elephant sanctuary in Chiang Mai in March.imageimage

After one more night together celebrating Stav's birthday with a BBQ, beers and a fire show, and letting off some fire lanterns - we parted ways the next morning and I returned to the beach. I definitely missed sleeping on the beach - it was strange to have air con and to not hear the sea each night but I had so much fun with the guys. Now, after meeting up with my Austrian mates from the first night, I have moved into the bungalow next to them at the Reggae Bar and plan to stay a few more days before moving on to Koh Phi Phi for some shopping. We're having a great time and spent a day on this beautiful tiny beach - the best one on the island is Noi Beach - where we swam and watched the sun set after lunch at a viewpoint restaurant high on the cliff. It was amazing to finally see a sunset, I kept missing them all week! That night, we meta group of French travellers, an American girl and two guys from Switzerland and Holland - it's a diverse crowd who are attracted to the island. We had a great night laughing around a huge fire on the beach and dancing salsa in the waves.imageimage

The next few days were a blur of yoga, food, sunbathing and swimming. After hearing the water at Koh Phi Phi is full of sewage - one girl even ended up with a lump of poo in her hands, nice! I will get my fill of the ocean before I head over just in case I have to refrain from swimming there and will save myself for Krabi and Koh Tao where I hope to do diving. It's going to be so hard to leave this place, I seriously love it here and could happily stay here forever. I've lost all track of time and don't want to find it again. But I will force myself to move on in a few days, safe in the knowledge that I plan to return before I leave Thailand. Highlights from the week had be all the friends for life I made, the scooters and exploring, finding our own private beach and playing mermaids. If you go to Koh Lanta, stay av gone Blue Wave Beach Bar, dance to reggae, watch the sunset from the viewpoint over dinner, go trekking through the jungle to waterfalls and chill out.

Have you been to Koh Lanta? What was your favourite part? 

Ab Lucy sign off

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  1. Forget about a normal sleeping pattern for the day - don't be one of those people who moan about having to get up early or late because time doesn't really exist in this odd little day of travelling across time zones. I always say treat it like a day where you will sleep terribly and in small doses, you will be completely exhausted and won't be able to catch up with yourself until you have had a day of normality again. This also means, it is totally okay to nap at any time of the day - grab some zzz's while you can!

  2. Alcohol is acceptable at any time of the day - particularly because of the different time zones, totally okay to have a whiskey for breakfast.

  3. Always snag a window or aisle seat - nobody wants to be stuck in the middle of a row unable to get out and stretch their legs or get to the loo. These also usually have the most leg room - even with short legs like mine leg room can make or break a flight! Also, try and ensure you are sat a good distance from the toilets, close enough if you need it but far enough that the flush doesn't disturb you.

  4. Diets and healthy eating go completely out the window when you're flying for 14 hours - two airplane meals loaded with salt, additives and all the rest, booze, and somehow fitting in 12 meals in one day.. Whoops! Praying every opportunity because you're never sure where your next meal is coming from is allowed - plus with all the sleep deprivation you need all the sugar you can get!

  5. Stay hydrated! Nothing worse than eating all this salty food and then being left gasping for a drink - and all that air conditioning just dehydrates you further. It's amazing the way being dehydrated can seriously affect every aspect of your life - your mood, ability to make decisions and attitude are all influenced by this and yet it is so easy to control. Just try and make sure you have a bottle of water on you all the time and drink a glass of water for every alcoholic beverage as these also dehydrate you.

  6. It's okay to get a bit emosh watching a soppy movie - yes people will think you're weird, but who cares? When it comes to films like Marley & Me, and The Fault in our Stars, I reckon the people who don't cry are the weird ones!

  7. Always think ahead and have a place to stay at the other end and your transfers sorted out, after a long haul flight you are exhausted and more likely to end up in the wrong place or in a vulnerable position - don't let yourself be a target for those who are looking to take advantage of this. Also - if you are staying in an apartment or self-catering, make sure you will have access to the place, that there will be someone to let you in and that it is secure. In some places there are whole gangs just waiting for people to be directed to the wrong apartment so they can break in and rob you while you sleep - don't believe me? It happened to me on the first night of a holiday - pretty bloody scary and I was lucky they just took my valuables and didn't attack me. I consider myself a pretty savvy traveller, and yet I was still a victim of this - don't let yourself be one too.

  8. Always stick to the time zone you are in when it comes to meals and sleeping - when you arrive at your hotel, if it is dinner time, try and eat dinner. Fight off sleep until it is time for bed there, it will help you adjust quicker and will fend off jet lag - give in and you will find yourself wide awake at 2am and wanting your lunch.

  9. Keep your toothbrush in your hand luggage, after two six hour flights and and a three hour drive, you'll be feeling a bit grubby and it's amazing the difference brushing your teeth can make - it will make you feel so much better.

  10. Take plenty of things to keep you entertained - iPad, phone, music, book, magazine - if you end up being delayed these will keep you sane. As will a packet of sweets and a drink. You might also find it helpful to keep your phone charger on you - there are loads of charging points in bars/restaurants these days and you never know when your battery will die on you!

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How about you guys - any rules you fancy adding to the list? Leave me a comment with your suggestions! 

Ab Lucy sign off

 

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After around 24 hours of flying, driving and waiting to travel, I was so pleased to finally arrive in Bangkok - desperate to get to my hotel for food and a shower. It was early evening when I arrived and I was keen to get out and check out the city for myself after hearing and reading so much about it. I spent a brief three nights in the city and as I write this I am waiting for my flight down to Trang where I will be ferrying and bussing my way to Koh Lanta to meet some friends. That's not a long time spent in Bangkok - don't worry I shall return at a later date for more fun - but it was long enough for the place to leave a lasting impression on me. I can tell it is definitely one of those places you will either love or hate - and I certainly hadn't expected to love it as much as I did. But what were my first impressions of Bangkok?

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  1. It really is one of the friendliest cities I have ever been to - the people are amazing, generous, kind and endlessly helpful. After a 14 hour flight you really need a bit of help to make the rest of your journey as simple as possible and I couldn't have had a better taxi driver who took me to the door of my hotel, but who also made the effort to chat and offer recommendations on the drive there. It was great to get advice from someone who knows the city on what sights to see, how is best to get around and that kind of thing. It also gave a great start to my time then, I instantly felt welcome and the following days brought more of the same.

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  1. A slight disappointment was the skyline as we approached from the airport. I wasn't the only one to be surprised that there wasn't really much of a view from the taxi window, a few other travellers mentioned it as well. I think we kind of expected the views you get on the drive into New York or Dubai - huge, masterful buildings that impress and excite you - I was rather underwhelmed by the view but the city made up for it later on.

  2. The hotel I was staying in was fabulous - I started out with a couple of nights in a hotel as a treat and it sure was! I was surprised to find op how far my money went here - it was a cheap hotel by English standards - more budget than a Travelodge but far more luxurious with huge rooms, really nice bathrooms, a view over the canal, restaurant, pool, gym and spa! Definitely a good way to start the trip - would really recommend the Nouvo City Hotel (just a short walk from Khao San road and the staff were amazing - even helping me organise my transport down to Koh Lanta!)

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  1. The city itself? Bangkok is nuts. Simple as that. There is so much going on, so many sights, smells, tastes, sounds - it is a total attack of the senses that just leaves you gobsmacked. I loved it. It's very busy, but has none of the hustle and bustle of London, it's so much more laid back and all about fun. In the day, Bangkok is kind of non-existent, although I did have a great day out on the river and sightseeing, but it is at night that the city truly comes alive - as we travellers all kept saying to each other - anything can happen in Bangkok. You can totally see why The Hangover 2 was set here - it's the only place as crazy as Vegas that could provide a backdrop for a story that ridiculous! The shopping is fab, the massages are so good and the food is incredible.

  2. There is no standard type of traveller. Khao San road is a spiritual home for all types of backpacker, holiday-maker and traveller, and they mingle amongst each other freely. I love that there is no standard here, everyone is so unique and so nobody stands out, we all have a place. You could be walking down the street next to a dreadlocked backpacker, a family with two young children, someone else who came here on holiday and ended up staying for five years and a ladyboy. But all are welcome and all are eager to talk to you, make friends and experience this crazy world together. Being a solo traveller has been brilliant so far - I've made loads of friends and have barely been alone for a minute!

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  1. You suddenly realise how overly safety conscious Brits are - in Thailand, health and safety is nothing but a fleeting thought and yet it's easy to feel completely safe. The streets are so busy that you are never alone or feel very vulnerable - easy to lure you into a false sense of security (watch your bag) and I find it hilarious that the taxis all have seat belts but you're not able to use them - don't get me started on the scooters and tuk tuks!

  2. Back to The Hangover again - when they say "Bangkok has him now" I know exactly when they mean now - this city will suck you in to its core and it will spit you out again. I've seem some astonishing sights and after talking to a load of people, it seems that it is easy to have a little too much Bangkok - perhaps why some people can't handle the city. In small doses this place is great, but watch out for the buckets and watch out for the weirdness.

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For those of you heading to Bangkok anytime soon - enjoy! And I hope you enjoyed this post - my first of many on the road - they will be slightly less frequent now, partly because I'm having so much fun and partly because it takes so much longer to format them on my iPad but I promise they will keep on coming! In the meantime, if you have any recommendations for Bangkok for when I return there, leave a comment - or any recommendations for Koh Phi Phi (my next destination) they would be very welcome! 

Ab Lucy sign off

 

 

love mapAs you read this, my travels will have already started and I thought it was important to write this post and share what has probably been the hardest part of my decision to leave. The first thing everyone has asked me upon finding out I was going travelling was "are you going with your boyfriend?". When I replied no on each occasion, I saw the same surprised blank faces in front of me - particularly when I announced I was going it alone. I'm not sure why it is such a shock to people as I've always been quite an independent person - but clearly it seems quite odd to a lot of people that we would be able to go without each other for any length of time. To paint a picture for those who don't know us, me and Wolfy have been together for well over eight years. We've survived all sorts, including me moving away for university for three years, and defied all those who said we'd never last or that we weren't suited - amazingly there were a lot of people who felt that way. But we made it this far and we seem to be doing better than okay. So I can totally understand why people think "they love each other, therefore they must not be able to live without each other".

Relationships always face difficulties at some point - a hurdle that pops up out of nowhere, whether a problem between the two of you, or interference from outside sources. But when you've been together as long as we have, and from as young an age, sometimes the problems that crop up are actually just dreams that pull you in opposite directions. We've all got dreams, big ideas and hopes for the things we want to achieve, see and do - but what happens when they clash with those of the one we love? Well we're faced with a big decision about what to do. This is actually something that's been playing on my mind a lot lately because I have a few friends who, although in slightly different situations, have struggled with similarly big decisions. I guess it is a common theme in our twenties that we will be faced with big choices over our relationships - our teens are the easy time, although they may not feel like it, when nothing really tests us other than ourselves. Even the separation of university is something that can be easy to live with because to an extent we still have a choice over distance and whether we want to go the distance. But by the time we hit our twenties, we are looking at careers, new homes, marriage and babies in some cases, and travel. There are so many more factors that will affects our relationships and we will be forced into difficult decisions.markI'm not the only one who has found this, I actually know several people who have found lately that they have had to choose one aspect of their life over another. One friend has chosen to move two-and-a-half hours away from all of her friends and family, leaving behind a job she had worked her way up to, in order to follow her boyfriend. He was moving to a much better job and she had to take a pay cut in order to be with him, but for her the decision was the right one for her because she loves him and wants to be with him. Now they are able to live together, instead of breaking up or living hours apart. A couple I know came to an end after the subject of travel was broached, they had been together for years but he didn't want to travel and she passionately did - so they finished and she started planning her trip. I know of another couple who broke up because the guy wanted to settle down together, with big plans for marriage and babies, but she wanted to keep her freedom and to work on her career first, so they broke up and moved on. What do all of these couples have in common? They're all in their twenties and their lives are ever changing and evolving - sometimes couples are on different wavelengths and that can mean different directions.

For me and Wolfy, I know that we are on the same wavelength but that after eight-and-a-half years we are being pulled in different directions. For me, I'm in a job that I just can't do any longer and I've reached a point in my life where I want to experience something new. It was a choice between moving away for work or travelling, and that decision was a simple one for me. For Wolfy, he regrets not putting in the time and effort for his studies and has realised he needs a change of career, so for him, the move is to retake his A-levels and go to university. The timing for us isn't great and we don't want to be apart, but we also both realise that we have to follow our individual dreams in order to be happy together. Neither of us should have to put our individual dreams on hold at this age, surely we will only end up resenting each other if we try? I'm not saying it's going to be easy - because I know it won't be. Saying goodbye earlier this week was the hardest thing I have ever done. But for us, this isn't a break up, more like hitting pause on things until we can resume play. We hope that it will be just six months until we are reunited in Australia - that might be naive on our part, or it might be a mature decision that works out really well. Either way, all we can do is hope that things work out for us. I've always believed that everything happens for a reason - I'm not always sure what that reason is but I know that it will all work out in the end. And I'm treating this just like that - it doesn't mean being separated is any easier, but it does mean we can hope that if we are meant to be together that it will work out.sgp 4

I'd love to hear your stories of when you've been forced to choose between love and your career, or family, or even travel, like I have. Did it work out for you? Or do you still regret the one that got away?

Ab Lucy sign off

new beginningIt's finally starting to sink in. As you're reading this I have just 10 days left at work... and that includes today! I can't believe how fast the time has gone since I handed in my notice, but it really has flashed by. It's certainly been helped along by me still having holiday left over, so even though I have just 10 days left, they are to be scattered over the next two-three weeks. Everyone in the office has been firmly on countdown for me over the last month, they almost seem more excited about it than I do... not sure if I should take offence at that! But it was going to a launch event at the local college on Monday that really made me realise this is actually happening. As I arrived, loads of people came over to wish me well and say good luck on my travels - it seemed so odd to me, because for the longest time this has just been something in my head. Just a passing daydream of something new and exciting, but now it is really becoming a reality.

So with 10 days left at work - what am I doing and what do I have left to do?

1. My countdown starts with those frantic emails out to every contact I have ever had, made, met or spoken to in my time here. I've been trying my best to make sure everyone is aware I am leaving and where they can send emails in the future.

2. Trying to find a replacement for me, and trying to find out what will happen to my entertainment section when I leave.

3. Making sure I get the opportunity to write any stories I have had lurking in the back of my notebook, and to plan in time to write any others I've had in the pipeline.

4. Interviews - I love meeting people and talking to them face-to-face, so I'm trying to make sure I get the chance to do as much of that as possible before I leave.

5. Training others in the office up on the technical side of our system and making sure they all know how to work the website when I leave, as up to this point I have been mainly in control of it.


I won't lie, it's pretty chaotic and I'm starting to worry I won't get time to do everything I want to do before I leave. But then I remind myself it doesn't actually matter if I don't - much as I would love to leave the team with the next four What's On sections ready and waiting: 

That is not my responsibility and I can only do my best.

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I've also been reminiscing about my most memorable moments at the newspaper - trust me, there's been quite a few! After three years of working here, and loving it, I'll be taking some very fond memories away with me.

I wanted to share some of them with you:

1. My week of work experience - realising I wanted to be a journalist and getting the front page after just five days at the paper.

2. Being asked to take on writing a weekly column for the paper and causing a bit of a stir - I loved the complimentary letters, but the complaints sure gave me a laugh!

3. Being challenged to write about all sorts of topics - from fuel prices to train services, from bomb scares to charity efforts. Plus all the random stories like the cow that escaped from a field, went on a rampage and ended up tearing through someone's living room.

4. Being trusted by all those families to write tributes to their loved ones, particularly those I already had a personal connection with.

5. Taking on control of the entertainment section of the paper and completely turning it around - even doubling it in size after showing how good it could be.

6. Taking on responsibility of managing the website and social media output for the newspaper - a huge role in a company that is all about "digital first" and one I performed very well.

7. Getting to interview the likes of Adam Ant, UB40, Deaf Havana, national production company founders, West End stars, soap stars and many more - for a town in Norfolk, I've done pretty well.

8. Reviewing huge events, festivals, gigs, theatre productions and much more - I have loved every event and will really miss getting to see this cultural side of the town.

9. Working with some amazing PR/Marketing whizzes who have become great friends as well - you guys have made my life a hell of a lot easier and I really enjoyed working with you.

10. Working with all my amazing friends in the office - we've been under a hell of a lot of pressure particularly during the last year, and time and time again we've pulled together and managed to get the paper out. Those outside the office have no idea what work goes on behind the scenes, and we would never have made it through without sticking together. That includes our "rivals" who quite frankly are under just as much pressure as we are.


I can't imagine what my last day will be like in the office. I imagine it will be pretty strange, as I have never actually left a job that I cared about before now. But I don't regret my decision for a second, and I know the whole office are really excited for me to start a new adventure. A huge thanks to the team for everything they've taught me over the years. I will be firmly making the most of these last 10 days in the office.

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And I couldn't finish this post without a tribute to the best Bridget Jones moment - when she quit her job!


Have you left a great job behind to move on to other things? How were your final days of work - did you feel happy or sad to be leaving friends and that part of your career behind?

Ab Lucy sign off

2015-blog-awardsThere are just three days left to vote for Absolutely Lucy in the UK Blog Awards and I'm counting the on support of you guys - yeah that's right, all of you who read my blog every day. I've seen my stats and I know there's quite a few of you - so if you love reading my blog, why not cast a quick vote for me in the awards so that I might stand a chance against the bloggers with hundreds of thousands of followers? All the power lies in your fingertips, so why not take this great opportunity to voice your opinion and vote for a blog you enjoy reading.

I've really appreciated all the lovely and supportive comments you guys have been leaving on my posts recently - the fact that you are joining in discussion makes what I do feel really worthwhile. It spurs me on to write more and makes me think it will be really great to keep my blog going while I am travelling next year, both for me and for you guys. So if you want to see me continue with blogging, why not give me a quick vote - it only takes a few clicks and barely a couple of minutes. This will count as your good deed for the day and I'm sure Father Christmas will bring you something very special as a thank-you for doing this.

I've been nominated in two categories - lifestyle and travel. I'd really appreciate a vote in each category as it all counts towards getting through to the next round, which I would really love. Follow the links below and they will take you directly to the voting pages.

Click here to vote for me in the travel category

Click here to vote for me in the lifestyle category

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Thank you so much for voting!

Ab Lucy sign off

Photo by Mikhail Koninin

Photo by Mikhail Koninin

Yesterday marked an official milestone ahead of my travels. My resignation was finally officially passed over to the big bosses (I handed it in a month early to help give them time to replace me before Christmas) - so that means there's really no going back now. Not that there was even a chance of me cancelling. My leaving party is on the horizon, I'm planning in lots of visits to see people before I go and I'm making sure I fill my boots with all those yummy Christmas foods in case I'm not back by next Christmas. It's all starting to become a bit real now and I can't quite believe how little time I have left at work - by the time you read this I will have just four Mondays left on the job! Everyone in the office is really excited for me, they're all counting down for me as well. It's such an amazing feeling to know how hard I've worked and for how long, and to now finally see that light at the end of the tunnel - that tropical sunlight beaming down at me. I've got just one more round of jabs left and everything else is finally falling into place, my plans are made and I've even started organising my travel wardrobe. So I thought it was about time I gave you guys an update on my plans for travelling:

My trip kicks off on January 6 when I fly out to Bangkok. After a couple of days sightseeing, shopping and eating in the city, I will head to the beaches and islands off south Thailand. Of course I'll be taking in the standard backpacker route via Ko Pha-Ngan, Ko Samui, Krabi and Ko Phi-Phi. I'm looking forward to a lot of time spent snorkelling, swimming and pretending to be a mermaid. I'm meeting some friends when I arrive, so I'm sure there will be a lot of partying and fun to be had - the perfect way to start the new year if you ask me, and I'm looking forward to starting my trip with a bang. I'll be spending a month and a half covering this ground, then for a complete change of pace, and to get my visa renewed, I'll be heading to Vietnam for two weeks where I plan to travel as much of the country as possible - a LOT of food will be consumed here and I'm looking forward to visiting Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. Halong Bay looks beautiful and I would love to go on one of the river tours.

Photo by Jessica Morales

Photo by Jessica Morales

When I head back to Thailand, I'm heading straight to Chiang Mai in the North, where the experience of a lifetime awaits me. I have booked to spend a week volunteering at an elephant sanctuary where I will be caring for, feeding and bathing elephants for the week. It is a dream come true to get to do this and I am beyond excited. I've not even set out yet and already I know this will be a highlight of the trip for me! My week there will be followed by another week or two in Chiang Mai, followed by a trip further north to Pai. I'm really looking forward to Pai - I know already from everything I have read and seen of the place that it is definitely somewhere I will be wanting to stay for a while. The next leg of my journey will be to visit Laos for a week or two spent relaxing, taking in the scenery, visiting temples and dolphin spotting. After Laos, I'll be heading to central Thailand, particularly the national parks and Sukhothai Historical Park. And then I might give myself some more time in Bangkok before heading to Cambodia for a few weeks for another huge highlight of my trip. I'm planning on staying at a yoga, meditation and health retreat for 10 days where I will be trying out a vegan diet, will be visiting the Cambodian temples, spending a bit of time just looking after myself and treating myself to a few massages. I'm really looking forward to this part of the trip and I'm pleased that there will be opportunities for me to explore the country further. I'll have to head back to Thailand to catch my flight to Oz for the next leg of my journey - at the moment I plan for this to be around May but that is open to change.

Australia is very unplanned at the moment, but I know I have a lot of friends to meet and catch up with - plus I have several people coming out to meet me for stages of my trip here so it's going to be a busy few months! I'm planning to travel around as much of the country as possible, and I'm hoping my friends will be quite scattered so I can use them as a guide for my travels. I'm really looking forward to checking out the surfing - my goal is to learn to stand up on a surfboard without help. I'm also looking forward to spending some time in the cities, particularly Melbourne, and of course the beaches - Bondi looks amazing! And I do have a little dream in the back of my mind of doing a bit of a Golden Coast road trip, but I'll definitely need some friends to keep me company. I haven't decided yet if I will need to work while I am in Oz - I will assess my funds along the way and will see if I want to pick up some more cash. I had planned for three months there, but I already know I'll be extending it to at least four months.

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In New Zealand, I will again be visiting a few people, old family friends, but I'm also looking forward to having some time to myself to explore. I haven't got a plan yet, but I've definitely got a few things I really want to do - like visiting the glow-worm caves, whale and dolphin spotting, I would love to see the Southern Lights, I fancy a lot of outdoor activities, so more surfing, walking and climbing would be good. While I'm in NZ, I've also decided that I simply have to get a flight and go to Fiji, no matter how much it costs me. It just looks like paradise and I think I need a little taste of heaven. I have an idea in my head that if I can find a job in Oz or NZ to raise some more cash - I would love to raise enough to stay the full year and to fly back to Australia for new year to watch the fireworks at Sydney Harbour before catching my flights back to the UK via Dubai on January 6. Whew. Quite a trip huh?

I'm still researching places and working out my exact route, so if you have any suggestions or advice, please do leave a comment!

Ab Lucy sign off

PS. I'd love if you would vote for me in the UK Blog Awards by clicking here and here.

festDeciding to go backpacking is one of the most exciting decisions you will make in your life. You're giving up everything you know to venture across the world and live a life of freedom and exploration for months on end. All those daydreams are finally becoming a reality. For me, finally booking my flights and quitting my job after months of saving and waiting was pretty special. It meant it really was finally happening - that it wasn't just a pipe dream or something I talked about with my friends. I walked around for a week or two with a real rosy glow, and nothing could touch my good mood. And then reality hit. I couldn't go travelling and spend my days visiting temples and lounging by the pool unless I first organised a huge list of REALLY BORING stuff. Dammit. So close. Nobody tells you when you daydream about a gap yah quite how complex it all is to organise, especially if you're doing it alone!

Doing it all by myself has been hugely exciting so far and I'm really glad that I am because it means I have to take responsibility for everything. But that doesn't make it any less complicated and long-winded. Thankfully doing a lot of reading of books, blogs and travel websites, and talking to some experts has really helped me to make sure I do all the boring things I just wouldn't have thought of on my own. There are so many things you don't even realise you have to do until you start researching, and it is easy to not even realise how much work, effort and time goes into planning your trip. Of course it all pays off in the end, but it can be a lot of work in the meantime, and it all stands between your and the trip of a lifetime. So what exactly do you need to remember? Well I've created the boring backpacker to-do list - no bikinis and fancy flip-flops here - just the things you are might forget in your excitement:

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 RESEARCH

I can't stress this enough. The more you read and speak to backpackers or travel specialists - the more you will be prepared. They will be able to tell you where to find the best deals, give you recommendations etc. Preparation is key and will make your life a lot easier and a LOT more relaxing on your trip.


 VISAS 

If you book your flights through a company like Trailfinders (like I did) you will find they have a visa department. Speak to them and find out all you need to know about the different types of visas available - in case you want to work or stay for an extended period - when you need to apply for them and what you need in order to apply for them. All information is available online if not - get these sorted early.


 BANK ACCOUNTS

Make sure you have a card you can use abroad that won't charge you the earth to use. Also, set up a back-up account with another card and make sure you split your funds between them in case your card ends up being nicked or frozen. Make sure the bank are aware you are leaving the country for some time and that they have a log, so your card will not be frozen. Get a credit card, if you can be trusted, and use it for emergencies.


 INSURANCE

This is a biggie. Your life will be on your back and I'm sure you'll be carrying some precious cargo in things like cameras, phones, laptops/iPads - so it is important to make sure they are all covered in any situation. You never know when you're going to be pick-pocketed and it's always best to be prepared. Also make sure you are covered health-wise, especially if you are planning on any extreme or winter sports which are often separate.


 BACK-UP

Make sure all those photos, documents, blog posts and books are all backed up online. It is so easy these day to back then up not only online but between devices as well just to be safe. For example, I have two cameras, an iPad and my phone - all are connected through WiFi and will automatically copy across everything without me needing to worry. That will save me from any terrible losses.


 HEALTH 

Make sure you contact your doctors surgery as soon as possible to speak to the travel or vaccinations nurse - they will be able to make an appointment and plan what jabs you need according to your travel plans. The earlier you do this the better as for some jabs you have to have a course of injections - like I did for rabies and hepatitis. They will also be able to advise on and prescribe malaria pills - very important if travelling to parts of Asia.


SECURITY

When packing, make sure you take basic security items - a doorstop under the inside of the door can help you feel safe while you sleep, as can padlocks on your locker and bag. Give family your intended route, keep them updated of changes as you travel, and set up contact (Skype or Facetime, or even email). & a rough schedule - say you'll check in once a week unless otherwise stated - that will put their minds at rest and keep you safe if anything happens.


travel

So now I've thought of all the boring bits for you, you're free to plan in those jungle treks, yoga retreats, elephant rides and all the rest of the exciting fun stuff you really want to be thinking about...

Can you think of anything I've forgotten? Why not comment below and add to the to-do list?

Ab Lucy sign off

 PS. I'd love if you would vote for me in the UK Blog Awards by clicking here and here.

quitIt finally happened. The moment I've been counting down to, that has never seemed quite real, and that I've been waiting for all year. The moment when my travelling dreams finally became a reality. This time last week...

I QUIT MY JOB.

Holy shit. I can't actually believe I finally did it. It still hasn't sunk in despite everyone at work wanting to know all about my plans - where I'm going, how long for and who with. I keep repeating the same combination of words: solo, Thailand, Cambodia, Australia, hostels, seven months, saving money, so excited... but no matter how many times I say them, I really cannot believe that they make up my  plans for the next year. It just seems odd to me that this could finally be here, that my adventure is nearly within a fingertip's grasp, that I can almost taste the Thai spice and salty sea air on my lips. You see, I've spent the best part of my life day dreaming about where I would go, what I would do and the people I would meet if I ever made my travel dreams a reality. I've spent the last year dreaming of a future that I couldn't quite piece together, and I've spent the last 11 months saving, planning and booking the trip of a lifetime. And now, I have 10 weeks left until I board that plane all by myself and finally make that leap to full independence and take on a scary solo journey.memoriesI won't lie, I'm pretty terrified. But I'm also more excited than I have ever been about any decision in my life, and that is what tells me I'm doing the right thing. It's something I've dreamt of all my life and it is something I have more than earned the opportunity to do after working so hard for so many years. I have been working four jobs on and off this year, I have done everything asked of me and gone beyond the call of duty at all four jobs. I have put the time into setting the groundwork for a great career, put endless time into friendships and relationships. Now I deserve to take some time for myself. To enrich my own life, steal some real independence and strike out on my own. Don't get me wrong, I am a very independent gal and anyone who knows me well enough will tell you the same. But the truth of the matter is, I have always been lucky enough to be surrounded by amazing friends, family, colleagues and to have a fantastic boyfriend by my side. This means I have never really had the chance to do anything by myself - university was the one thing where I struck out on my own but I had a huge group of great mates from the first day so it never seemed a challenge. This is something that will test me in every way possible - it will terrify me, make me rely on myself to keep me out of trouble, to take chances, to meet people, to find my way, to make a plan and all the rest. It is a big challenge when you have always had someone to help out along the way. That is the exciting part. lifeisanadventureI'm also really looking forward to finally having time to really reassess my life. I'm at a point where I think it would really do me good to take a step back and take a look at things, before making my mind up about my next move. I want time to indulge myself and to discover new passions, interests and loves. I want time to really dedicate to blogging and writing what I love, and I really want time to discover more of the world and more of myself. It is so easy to get caught up in the day-to-day rush of working so much and never really taking time to smell the roses - well now I want to smell the roses, and the spices, and the flavours the world has to offer. Yes it means leaving behind friends, family, and a boyfriend that means the world to me, but in the grand scheme of things, it is a short-term sacrifice for a lifetime of happiness. That is the best way of explaining it to those who I know don't understand how I can leave behind these things. Adventure and risk are the best way to discover what you really what to be doing, by stepping outside of your comfort zone, you find out where your boundaries really lie.Travel-quote-4So how did I do it? Quit my job I mean. I know there are a lot of people who have been asking me how I went about it, so I though this post could explain the few steps I took to quitting my job. It was one of those things that seemed like a huge task, but when it came down to it, it was so simple and so easy. I had lots of friends and family joking about how I would do it - would I go in and slam down my resignation letter? Would I just storm out in a dramatic moment? Would I just not bother turning up any more? Haha of course not. So how did I do it?

  1. I took some time to look over my contract and our company's intranet to see what options were available to me and what notice I would have to work.
  2. I wrote a short and simple letter of resignation, stating my reasons for leaving and what date would be my last working day.
  3. I decided to ask about a career break, but had my back-up resignation ready if needed.
  4. I asked for a meeting with my boss and did so two months ahead of my leaving date, despite my notice period only being a month - to help the company source a replacement.
  5. In the meeting, I explained my plans to my boss, mentioned how grateful I was for my time at the company and the experience I had gained, and said that in future I would be keen to write pieces on a freelance basis if needed.
  6. I spoke to HR and tracked down any missed holiday time that needs to be taken before I leave, and booked it quickly.
  7. I made a plan to contact all of my regular contacts with the news and to direct any future communication to a colleague.

Seven simple steps that took me from being a full time employee of the company to an unemployed traveller who is set to embark on a huge trip across the world early next year. It may seem really daunting to quit your job and a bit scary to have to basically reject the company after your time there, but you must remember you are completely entitled to leave at your will and move on whether to develop your own career or try something different. Don't feel guilty for quitting your job, but remember to be respectful and grateful for what you have gained by being a part of the company. You never know when you will need a good reference, or when that job will affect your future or give you the right contacts for your next move. Don't underestimate the power of a thank you and the importance of keeping things polite and civil to the bitter end - even if you have really hated your time in that job.travel-bugIt's an exciting time - that's for sure. I'm slap-bang in the middle of a couple of courses of jabs, I'm working every hour going to save more money and trying my hardest to see as many friends as possible. I still have so much to do and so little time to do it in. If any of you are planning your travels - don't let fears of quitting your job stand in your way. It is one of the most freeing things you can do.

How did you go about it when you quit your job to take up another or travel the world? Any tips you would like to add from your own experiences?

Ab Lucy sign off

weddingThe long weekend in Ireland got off to a fantastic start with gorgeous sunshine blazing across blue skies, giving us the perfect opportunity to explore the island and to see its beauty. After lots of hugs, chat, a few drinks and some delicious food at the Gold Club, we all made sure to have an early night so we were all refreshed and ready for the wedding the next day. Me and the boyfriend, his mum and step-dad in particular had been up for a really long time by this point after catching our flight from Stansted first thing that morning and having to set out at around 4am. We were very glad to crawl into bed and dream of lucky four-leaved clovers and all the Guinness that was to follow.

We awoke early and refreshed the next morning, me and Mark were contemplating heading out for some fresh air but the weather was playing chicken with us. Just as predicted, the skies were cloudy, dark and threatened with rain, but with patches of blue sky dotted about, we were optimistic that they day wouldn't be too bad - as long as the wind didn't play silly buggers with my hair anyway... Finally after a lot of debating, and a short shower of rain, we headed out and were glad we did as the sun came out for a short while as I took Mark on the scenic route walk from the day before - check out the previous post for pics - which he loved. We even spotted a load more deer along the way - again they were totally unbothered by us and just carried on about their day.deerSuddenly realising the time, we quickly headed back to the lodges where the rest of the family had been preparing breakfast and sat down for a delicious fry up, which we were glad of later. I hate how normally when attending a wedding you often are in such a rush you don't get to eat properly in the morning when it is such a long time to wait until the wedding meal. After being left starving hungry at a few weddings and then annoyingly drunker than I plan because of my empty stomach later on, I now make sure I get the chance to eat a proper meal in the mornings - not everyone had as much sense though and there were a few rumbly tummies! We all got ready and it was lovely to have the time and space to not have to rush, I was so excited to get the chance to finally wear my amazing ASOS dress that I bought a month or so ago, I've been dying to wear it ever since!

For the wedding ceremony, we went to a little church just outside Waterford where Uncle Richard (boyfriend's great uncle) conducted the service, he travelled all the way from South Africa to be part of Siobhan and Nathan's special day. With lots of readings from family and friends, a special musical interlude by Mark's uncle Joe on the fiddle, and blessings for Siobhan's late parents - particularly an emotional one for her mother Kathleen who sadly died just a few months ago. It was such a beautiful, family wedding and really epitomised why I love attending weddings in their family - they all go to so much trouble. Nathan's side of the family were all from New Zealand and many had travelled over for the occasion, which really made it even more special. Uncle Richard gave a beautiful sermon, and although I am not Roman Catholic, I really can appreciate the more philosophical side of his part in the service. He's one of these people who can turn something so simple into a really profound statement that will leave you thinking about it much later on. Just because it is not my religion does not mean I don't get involved, and the family always take me up for communion, where Uncle Richard gives me a blessing - which, I'm not gonna lie, makes me feel slightly invincible and pretty darn holy.wedding 2One of the cutest parts of the ceremony had to be the gorgeous flower girl, Alana, who is Mark's little cousin, and she made a beautiful flower girl with her curls and sweet little dress. She actually took the whole thing so seriously when walking down the aisle that she forgot to smile! Following her down the aisle in the safe grip of a family member, Niall, the little terror, was making all kinds of crazy faces at the family and friends trying to snap pictures as they made their way into the church. Cue a lot of laughs and sniggers at him as we all tried to keep a straight face. Later in the service he had to be plied with sweets to stay quiet and proceeded to run around the church, even putting his hand up to interrupt the priest - it was hilarious and everyone had a good laugh. Bless him - definitely more spirited than when Mark and I went to stay with his parents and spent a week looking after and playing with him, but a good giggle.

One of my favourite parts of the ceremony had to be the beautiful wedding poem, The One, being read by a friend of the family. I love the words of this poem, and although I have no idea who it is by, it always touches my heart.

When the one whose hand you’re holding
is the one who holds your heart,
When the one whose eyes you gaze into
gives your hopes and dreams their start,
When the one you think of first and last
is the one who holds you tight,
And the things you plan together
make the world seem just right,
When the one whom you believe in
puts their faith and trust in you,
You’ve found the one and only love
you’ll share your whole life through.

wedding 3After the service, we all headed back to Waterford Castle, where we were greeted with a glass of Prosecco, a roaring fire and a pair of musicians. Shortly after, when all of the guests had arrived, we were served delicious canapés and had time to chat amongst ourselves - a great opportunity to catch up with old friends and family members we hadn't seen since the last family wedding. The time flew by and before we knew it the family were having wedding photos, unfortunately by this time the heavens had opened and these had to be taken inside to avoid soaking the happy couple. Absolute chaos of trying to get the kids to all face the same way and smile, trying to get all the Broderick sisters lined up together and trying to keep everyone together long enough for a photo to be taken! Thank goodness they managed to get some lovely pics and we all headed in for dinner.

We had been put on a table adjoining the main room, and we were so glad because it was so much cooler in there - people were coming out to cool down after the food was served and the wine was poured. Several glasses of wine later, some delicious mojito sorbet, Irish beef, and a dessert platter later, the speeches were in full flow. They kicked off with some lovely words from Mark's uncle, Michael, in place of Siobhan's father who died several years ago, who spoke of Shiv's life, achievements, with a few embarrassing moments in there for good measure. It always brings a tear to my eye to hear families talking so lovingly and so proudly of each other - it's beautiful and sad at the same time that often these things are left unsaid until weddings or funerals. The best man gave a cracking speech that had us all laughing our heads off and finished with a toast to the bride and groom. After coffee and chocolates, we all headed to the reception room where the bride and groom were ready to cut the cake and share their first dance.usThe rest of the evening passed in a blur of more wine, wedding cake, energetic dancing, a great band, good catch-ups with family and friends, making new friends, a spectacular performance of the Haka by the best man, a lot of laughs, some sausage sandwiches and a rainy walk back to the lodges. It was an amazing wedding and I feel so lucky to have been able to attend a wedding in a real castle - a perfect day for the bride and groom, and for all those of us lucky enough to join them. The weather may not have been great, but spending the day inside meant we weren't too bothered - it just made it extra cosy by the fire.

Do you love weddings as much as I do? What makes them so special for you? Have you ever been to an Irish wedding?

Ab Lucy sign off

gateI'm finally getting round to writing up my posts on my trip to Ireland - it took a little longer this time, partly because things have been so busy at chez moi since getting back and partly because I already had a lot of posts I wanted to share with you first. I've got a couple of posts lined up for you guys all about different parts of the holiday and this first one is all about the stunning island we stayed on in the centre of Waterford, where Waterford Castle can be found. After arriving in Dublin, we drove to Waterford and on to the ferry over to the island. It's a beautiful place, just a small island in the middle of the River Suir and covered in trees, with a huge golf course and sports club, lots of lodges to stay in and of course, the amazing Waterford Castle. Naturally, I took lots of photos as I explored the island and here I wanted to share them with you all, but I'll save the best for last.flowersWe were staying in the lodges, which were lovely and really decked out with everything you could need in a three-bedroom self-catering house. Three double bedrooms with two en suites and another two bathrooms, plus a nice kitchen and great living space which was perfect for us as there was a lot of other members of my boyfriend's family staying in the other lodges for the wedding, which was to take place in the castle over the weekend. The lodges were a short walk from the castle and the golf club, both took you along the same road which was lined with old-fashioned street lamps lighting the way under a dense canopy of huge trees. It was the perfect romantic setting for a wedding, and the weather was lovely for a couple of days which meant we were able to really enjoy the island in all its splendour.deerThe island was teeming with wildlife, with rabbits running everywhere and deer - tamer than any I have seen - just chilling out on the driving range. They let us get so close to take photos and didn't even seem spooked, they just carried on munching away. Later, a couple of us spotted lots of them just stood out in the open on the golf course after the golfers had gone, it was so strange to me to see them away from the trees like that and just showed how peaceful the island is. We spent a bit of time with family over in the golf club, which was a cosy little bar with food and plenty of places to sit - a must with the Broderick family. When the call is made for a wedding, they come in droves and there needs to be enough room for them all to catch up - it gets pretty loud and Irish, and I love it!sunset 2 The afternoon of the day before the wedding, a couple of us decided to head out for a wander around the island, and we discovered a tiny path marked "the scenic route". We couldn't resist checking it out and we were so glad we did - on what had been a fairly dull but dry day, the sun suddenly burst out from behind the clouds as it was lowering in the sky. We made our way along the path, brushing aside branches and nettles, stumbling over tree roots and rustling through autumn leaves. Then the trees started to thin and we spotted the water, we were right at the edge of the island and the water was lapping against the rocks that lined the shore. The sun was beaming down on us as we walked along and we had to stop and take in the view. The rest of the path led us around the edge of the island, giving a great view of the castle and across the golf course where the groom and some of the wedding party were off playing a New Zealand vs Ireland game.pathThe path took us back through the woods, where we stumbled across a deserted ramshackle building covered in moss, a secret garden with a gate draped with flowers and more cute little pathways to explore. We climbed the steps back up to the castle and stood in it's shadow as we tried to work out where the lodges were, while admiring the view back across the lawns towards the river where we had just walked. It was so beautiful and the sun coming out really showed us the island in all its glory. The whole walk we never bumped into a single person and that feeling of solitude and peacefulness was just perfect, it was so tranquil there. Just what we needed before the madness of a big Irish wedding!castleOkay, I've teased you all enough - here it is, the stunning Waterford Castle. I amazingly later discovered the personal family history of this place - my boyfriend's grandfather and his wife ran away to be together years ago, they made there way to the island in Waterford where they lived and he worked on the island as a labourer. The family extended and grew within Waterford, which is where many of them still live today. Picturesque and enchanting, the island is said to have been home to monks between the sixth and eighth centuries, as the carving of the monk's head over the main entrance suggests. In 1978 the island was rented to Roger Shipsey, a Waterford Pedigree Dairy Farmer, who later bought the island outright. Eddie Kearns, who bought the island in 1987, both preserved its past and secured its future by opening the beauty of the Castle and the Island to all visitors by developing it into a luxurious Hotel and Country Club, which now is one of the most impressive Castle Hotels in Ireland.

Just one look at the stone walls, the old fashioned turrets and the gorgeous red leaves spread across the front of the building. I'm sure you understand exactly why I was over the moon to have a chance to not only stay on the island, but to get the opportunity to attend a wedding in this amazing setting. Definitely one of those times you have to release your inner princess, especially when you are half expecting Rapunzel to lean out a window and let her hair tumble down. Check out my other upcoming posts to see more of the wedding and some exploring around Ireland.

Have you been to Waterford Castle before? Have you ever had the opportunity to live out a princess dream?

Ab Lucy sign off

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