It's been over three months since my last post on Absolutely Lucy, the longest break I have ever had from blogging. I needed it, I needed time to live and grow and experience away from the screen. Three months ago I was really struggling, I let myself become overworked and exhausted, I was feeling pretty low about a few things and was starting to question everything. I kept trying to force myself to write but it just wasn't working. I couldn't find my flow. So I made an unconscious decision to take a big step back. I quit my job, made travel plans and decided to take some time for myself. Since we last spoke, I have traveled thousands of kilometers by car across Australia with the most unexpected bunch of people, I have explored so much of the country that has been my home for nearly two years and I've experienced a dream trip come true. I've lived out of a car, walked barefoot through national parks, bathed in icy cold waterfalls and swam with the most incredible deep-sea creatures. I've hiked and climbed, I've laughed and sang. This road trip truly was the one I've been waiting a lifetime for, but more about that at a later date.
Taking this trip without any pressure on myself to document, write or photograph every moment was just what I needed - I did it because I loved it, not to write or force myself to create. Instead of the posed photographs, I have a memory card full of candids of laughing faces and make-up free smiles - it's full of soul and that is more precious than anything. It's so easy for me to forget that although I run this blog as a hobby and a passion, I also treat it like a business and work just as hard at it - if not harder - than I do in my job. Travel blogging, or blogging generally, is much harder than you all think. So often I will work a full 9-11 hours, spending my breaks at the gym or running errands, then I'll head home and spend several hours writing and curating the pieces you read. It's hard work and so often I will let that get the better of me and push me into exhaustion - it's silly I know, but I'll never be one of those girls who settles.I have so much to catch you all up on, but for now I want to focus on this blog makeover. I have spent the last few weeks coding and building a brand new website that I feel reflects the newer, more grown up, Absolutely Lucy. You see, I started this blog over three years ago and a lot has changed in that time - my whole life in fact. My relationships with friends, family and loved ones, my career choices, my lifestyle and travel plans, they couldn't be more different. When you first met Absolutely Lucy, I was a 24-year-old girl who had just come out of a nine-year relationship and was on the brink of quitting my job in journalism to travel the world. Now, almost four years later, I'm a 27-year-old woman who has been traveling solo for three years across Asia, Australia and Europe, has set up an online business single-handedly, and who has completely fallen for someone amazing who has made her question whether solo travel is for her anymore. That's a pretty big life change in just four years and while I still have the spirit of the old Absolutely Lucy hidden inside - the girl who just wants to live life to the fullest and experience all the world has to offer - I also have a whole new view on the world.
We all change and grow as we learn more about ourselves and the world around us, so this blog should be no different. Since I started blogging for fun, I have won awards, been commended and mentioned in magazines and online articles, and more recently have worked with some amazing companies including Emirates, Thompson and Durex. This blog should reflect how Absolutely Lucy has grown since that very first blog post and how the writer behind the blog is changing as the years go by. This will still always be the blog for first time or inexperienced travelers seeking an adventure beyond their wildest dreams. I plan travel for every budget and time-scale from weekends away, to festivals and longer holidays, to gap years. Nothing is outside your reach, just as I have achieved so many amazing experiences - so can you, with my help. As the clock ticks down on my final months in Australia and my Eastern adventure comes to an end, it seems right to reinvent Absolutely Lucy to fit with her future plans.
To everyone who has been messaging me to ask where I've disappeared to, it's lovely to have been missed. Absolutely Lucy is back in business and I can't wait to share my West Coast adventure, and future travel plans, with you all.
Let me know what you think of my blog makeover - what do you love about the new look?
I've been back in the country less than 24 hours and it's safe to say after four weeks of mad, fast, exciting travelling around Europe, of dancing until the sun comes up and sightseeing for days - I'm glad to be home. I've had the most incredible few weeks road tripping across Bulgaria, exploring Berlin, relaxing in the stunning surroundings of Slovenia, diving into the beautiful baths of Budapest and partying it up in Amsterdam. It's been epic from start to finish and went better than I ever could have hoped, all thanks to all my amazing friends I met up with along the way. The trip was a fantastic excuse to visit some of my friends from trips to Asia and Australia back in their own homes and to catch up on old times, while picking up some awesome new friends along the way. It felt so good to be on the road and completely independent again, travelling solo really is my favourite way to travel, and I feel so refreshed after a break from working so much. Also a big thanks to everyone who has been following me on Instagram and has offered countless suggestions of place to eat, things to see and do along the way!
So what next? You all know I'm never one to stand still for long so of course I've already got lots of plans for the next few weeks and if you've been following me on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook, you'll already know that in just one month I'll be heading back to Australia for another year! While I was away my second year visa was granted and after waiting months for it to be approved I was beyond ecstatic, I can't wait to get back there to start a whole new adventure and to see all my loves I have missed so much. With just a month to prepare, you'd think I'd need to take a few days off working to get everything in order, but actually I've ended up signing up to full time freelance hours until the date I leave! Plus I'll be covering a lot of extra blogging events and reviewing a huge range of restaurants and hotels for you guys with all my top tips for weekends away and how to make the most of your time off work. And I've got some exciting collaborations with travel brands and opportunities coming up that I can't wait to share with you.
It's been lovely to take some time off from the blog over the last couple of weeks just to get some perspective and really appreciate how far I've come. This week my blog celebrated it's third birthday and I actually cannot believe how much it has changed and grown in that time - from the very first blog post I published to the most recent collaborations and going on my first blogging press trip a week ago. I'm so proud of everything I have accomplished with this blog - from working with brands to helping readers plan their trips. I actually received an amazing message from a long-time reader this morning saying she was inspired by this blog post to quit her job and her relationship so she could buy a one-way ticket to Australia. It is just incredible to have any kind of influence on readers, but to have such a huge impact on her life is more than I could have dreamed of when I started Absolutely Lucy.When you love to write as much as I do, and you love to travel, getting to combine these passions in a way that helps others and helps you build a career is so precious, it is important to appreciate every second. Last week, the 10th edition of industry magazine Blogosphere published with the incredible In The Frow on the cover - one of the bloggers I have followed from the very beginning - and guess who was featured inside? One of my favourite travel bloggers, Vicky Flip Flop, chose to feature Absolutely Lucy among her favourite travel bloggers for the month. I haven't yet had a chance to see it as I've been away, but I'll be sharing it with you as soon as my copy arrives - I'm so excited to be a part of such a fabulous magazine, and such an incredible industry.These last few weeks have been exactly the tonic I needed to come home feeling super inspired, with a brain and a camera packed full of amazing content that I just can't wait to share with you. I'm planning on working my ass off at this laptop and bringing you a huge range of new posts on all my adventures and hope to inspire you to plan some of your own. I'm also on a serious health kick - after four weeks of drinking and eating all kinds of rubbish - I'm looking forward to getting in the gym again and eating healthily. It's time to get this body in shape and to peak fitness before I get back to Australia and living in my bikini every day! I'm so pleased I finally found a gym in my small town that offers a huge range of classes, plus a well-stocked gym and a pool - actually, I'm going to wrap up this post now and head straight down there for a workout! So there you go guys, a little glimpse into a chaotic few weeks that have left me with a big smile on my face.
Have you traveled around Europe - what was your favourite place? Have you been in spired by my posts - tell me about it! What's your workout regime - got any tips for me?
I'm so excited to share this post with you guys, and I warn you in advance its going to be a long one, because it's all about one of the most amazing places I have ever been - a place of healing, of peace and of happiness. Hariharalaya Yoga and Meditation Retreat was the only reason I stayed in Cambodia for as long as I did, and it was the only reason I didn't immediately book a flight to Bangkok after that crash. I was devastated after the crash, worried I wouldn't physically be able to cope with a week of yoga and exercise but it turned out there was so much more to Hariharalaya - and that week turned out to be one of the best of my life. I have never felt more welcome than at the moment we pulled up through the gates, it was like coming to a sanctuary, like coming home. And for one week, the staff and the small group of us who had signed up for the experience were a little family, supporting each other through and helping each other to deal with personal problems, get back to basics and focusing on what is really important, and just building new life-changing habits. I can't thank Leah, of Roots and Toots, and Christine, of Don't Forget To Move, enough for the recommendations - this place couldn't have been any more perfect for me at this point in my life.Leah actually said something really interesting to me after the crash about how perhaps all those struggles leading up to it and finally arriving at Hariharalaya were supposed to happen - to make it an extra special experience when I actually made it there. And I think she's right, because it really did make it all the more amazing to know what I had been through to get there - it made me really value every single second of the days I spent there and I really took a lot away from it. Being there, in the Cambodian countryside, completely cut off from technology and the outside world, I really had the opportunity to focus on myself and to live truly in the moment. When leaving the retreat five days later, I cant even begin to express how much had changed - I was a completely different person. I walked in there completely disheartened and basically a broken person from all this travelling - I was exhausted from moving so quickly between places and I was tired of feeling unsafe and victimised by the country. Then, thanks to the crash I was physically broken as well - my body had had enough of it all and was screaming stop. In just five days I was bouncing off the walls, happy and comforted by the amazing individuals around me, I regained my excitement and passion for travelling. I felt strong again, my body responded so well to the programme of yoga, meditation, great food, massages and even acupressure thanks to another guest.
So what did we actually get up to at Hariharalaya?
Our programme started daily at 6.50 when we were woken by a gong that gave us ten minutes until our morning yoga and meditation session, this took place in an open studio where we could see out across the lawns. The morning session consisted of an hour of yoga, which varied daily depending on who was taking the class, followed by 30 minutes of meditation and sometimes we also led into this with chanting led by the owner, Joel. It was a peaceful start to the morning during which no one communicated other than the teachers - it was a time for self-reflection and preparing for the day ahead. After this, we would enjoy a super healthy, vegan breakfast - I cannot rave about the food enough, it was just out of this world and I have never missed meat less in my entire life. Every mealtime we were piling our plates high with all this delicious, nutritional goodness and knowing we were fuelling our bodies for the day instead of poisoning them with oils and fats hidden in usual backpacker fare. After a break during which we could read, play chess, use the gym, cycle around the village or do whatever we wanted, we would have the opportunity to sign up for extra afternoon sessions after another delicious meal.These afternoon sessions included body language workshops, movement workshops, one-to-one yoga sessions to develop a personal programme, or even massages with experts. I took the body language workshop with Sean and found it really interesting to learn from someone who is also the most well-known magician in the whole of Cambodia and uses body language in a lot of his tricks. The One-to-One session with Maike was fantastic, she talked with me about what I wanted out of yoga and helped me to develop a personalised programme that worked towards my goals and used moves I had grown to love over the week - it was so good that I'm still doing it over a month later! And the massages - oh the massages! There were two to choose from and I simply had to indulge in both the four hands massage - which was fabulous and very invigorating - and the blind shiatsu massage, which was my favourite. The blind massage was done by a gentleman who actually massages Angelina Jolie at a flash hotel in Siem Reap for hundreds but I had the chance to try it for just a few dollars and oh my word it was easily the best massage of my life - it also really helped my bruised legs.After, we would be called in to our sunset yoga and meditation session which was timed perfect to catch the last rays and really was quite powerful for all of us. We all loved this wind-down session before dinner because it totally relaxed us all and gave time for some real peace and quiet. The evening meal was always something to look forward to and it was always so lovely to all sit round the table together discussing everything from the yoga sessions to heavy metal music - it all came up and it was great to spend time really getting to know each other and laughing, a lot. In those final hours before bed, we would spend the evenings being wowed by Sean's magic by the pool, watching movies, playing table tennis and pool in the games room, playing card games or dancing the night away as musicians from the local village played. It was a beautiful way to round off the days and we always fell into bed shattered from the day.
Why should you experience Hariharalaya?
This point is one I have mixed feeling about - on the one hand, I loved it so much there that I just want to be selfish and keep it as a secret all for myself. But the other, much bigger part of me is so filled with love for this place that I can't bear to not share it with you. Hariharalaya is such a special place filled with love, it really helps you see things clearly and to change your view of the world. It's not just the incredible team of staff who work hard to make your experience everything that it could possibly be, but also the guests who really teach you something. Coming from all different backgrounds and ways of life, I made the closest friends with people I probably never would have met outside in the real world, and I'm so grateful to have had the opportunity. Hariharalaya draws a whole other crowd of travellers, completely unlike those you will meet anywhere else and that is what makes it so amazing. It provides a home, a shelter, for anyone in crisis, and even those who aren't, to come and feel safe, to take a break from the outside world and to rebuild. Whether you just love yoga and want to break the trend of doing it in fitness clubs, or whether you just need to reassess everything in your life, this is the place for you.That doesn't convince you? Well, while I was there, I was lucky enough to share my experience with one girl who connected with Hariharalya much more than any of us, she was already on her second visit in just a few months, and before the week was out she had signed up to do her third week from the following Monday, with hopes of training to become a yoga teacher the following year. I'm so happy I could be there to see how she drew as a person in just days, and that I had the chance to be a part of our little family. I know that no matter how far we are scattered around the globe, that we will all be friends for life after sharing that time together. You can find out more about Hariharalya, and how to sign up, at the website.
Have you been to Hariharalya? Tell me about your experience. Can you recommend any other yoga and meditation retreats in South East Asia?
An extra post for you guys today because we're celebrating! Huge news for those who haven't seen on Facebook, Twitter or heard me shouting with excitement from the rooftops in Vietnam. On Friday night, AbsolutelyLucy.com won the highly commended award in the travel blogging section. My blog was shortlisted among ten or so, chosen out of around 30,000 thanks to your votes and support, and now has been named one of the best out of this incredible collection of writers. To say I'm bowled over is an understatement. I'm completely overwhelmed by it because it had never actually entered my head for a second that I stood a chance against these other amazing blogs. I love my blog, you guys love it, but I didn't realise that was enough to make these highly experienced judges feel the same way. It has been such a boost to know that you guys are enjoying my posts and pictures, that you love reading about my experiences as much as I love writing about them, so to know that industry professionals have enjoyed them also is amazing. I'm so proud to say that less than six months after I started travel blogging my blog is considered a success and worthy of note.
It is only a year and a half since I started out on this little venture, as a lifestyle blogger, which at the time was more of a hobby than anything else. Now it has become a huge part of my life and I love it, every second of it. From capturing every moment - the food I eat, the things I see and do, the people I meet - I love thinking about how you will experience the world through my senses. To writing, expressing how I felt about a place and what I loved and my new passions that have formed along the way. And more than any of it, I love the interaction, when you guys say a post has touched you or meant something to you, when others say they are living vicariously through me and when I then inspire others to travel solo or to explore the places I have been. It is amazing, all of it, and I'm so grateful to those who inspired me to start blogging and to those who have encouraged me along the way. I've come a long way since I was Friday's Girl, writing a weekly column in the local newspaper about my time at university - drunken nights out and all - but I hope you are enjoying my work more than ever before!
Sadly I didn't get to celebrate last night as I spent 17 hours on a sleeper bus eating mountains of fruit with my friend Paul, but I'm sure we'll make up for it with a few beers at our next destination! If you're cracking open a bottle of wine tonight, have a glass for me!
As usual, if there is ever anything you would like me to write about, any requests, anything you would like my opinion on, or you would like advice on travelling Asia or travelling solo - I'm always at the end of an email. You can contact me through the contact panel to the right of this post or through my Facebook and Twitter pages.
Of course, I couldn't leave the chilly shores of Ye Olde England without a good old shindig to party with all the people most special to me - and how better to celebrate that by taking them all back to the 90's?! I love a good party and I love when people go all out, dress up and have a fabulous time together - so I insisted on a nineties theme - with plans for decorations and all sorts. It was an amazing night, everyone made such a HUGE effort on the costume front, particularly all the boys who never do dress-up - it really made all the difference and we had some seriously good ideas. Among the costumes we had two Ginger Spice's, one half of Dumb & Dumber, some 90's chavs, a bit of grunge and Clueless, Mrs Doubtfire, Wayne's World, Hunter S Thompson from Fear & Loathing In Las Vegas, The Big Lebowski, Ali G, Buzz Lightyear and loads more! Talk about a great mix, and I made sure the house was decorated with posters of music, TV stars and films from the 90's, some great cassette tape bunting I found on eBay. We had a soundtrack of pure 90's music and plenty of 90's sweets like sherbet dips, flying saucers and lollies. But what made it the most special was having so many of my favourite people there - I'm so happy so many could make it and to have spent a night partying with them all. Of course, I too dressed up for the party - finally achieving my wish of becoming Princess Jasmine from Aladdin (one of my favourite Disney movies from the era) - and if you can't be a princess at your own party, when can you? I found this great costume online for less than £20, despite it being exactly the same as a £70 version! If you have a party like this, or any fancy dress theme its always worth shopping around for fancy dress online - when I was at university I was a bit of a pro at this - so many shops stock exactly the same outfits under different names/labels and at very different prices - and there is always one with a sale on! I loved my costume, and added some gold sparkle make-up and a bit of bling and I was ready to go.Of course, there was also a sad side to the party - it was so hard to say goodbye to my closest friends and there were some tears. I was proud I actually managed to hold it together during the party, but was a bit of a mess the next day. It's hard to say goodbye to those closest to you, even when you know you are making the right decision. My mum keeps reminding me that it's a very different world now and when people go travelling, they don't really go away. That there's no waiting for the post to arrive with hopes of a letter saying all is well, now you can Skype, Whatsapp, email, text, write... You can be in contact constantly if you want - it is harder than ever to go off the radar and with social media it is so easy to share every step of your journey. She's right, I know that wherever I am in the world and however long I have been away, that I can instantly get in contact with my family or friends if I need or want to. If something happens and any of us need to talk or just to see each other's faces, it will be possible. Just because you're 2,000 miles away, doesn't mean you have any excuse to be a bad friend.
Have you had a 90's party? Who would you dress up as? What's the hardest goodbye you've had?
As you read this, my travels will have already started and I thought it was important to write this post and share what has probably been the hardest part of my decision to leave. The first thing everyone has asked me upon finding out I was going travelling was "are you going with your boyfriend?". When I replied no on each occasion, I saw the same surprised blank faces in front of me - particularly when I announced I was going it alone. I'm not sure why it is such a shock to people as I've always been quite an independent person - but clearly it seems quite odd to a lot of people that we would be able to go without each other for any length of time. To paint a picture for those who don't know us, me and Wolfy have been together for well over eight years. We've survived all sorts, including me moving away for university for three years, and defied all those who said we'd never last or that we weren't suited - amazingly there were a lot of people who felt that way. But we made it this far and we seem to be doing better than okay. So I can totally understand why people think "they love each other, therefore they must not be able to live without each other".
Relationships always face difficulties at some point - a hurdle that pops up out of nowhere, whether a problem between the two of you, or interference from outside sources. But when you've been together as long as we have, and from as young an age, sometimes the problems that crop up are actually just dreams that pull you in opposite directions. We've all got dreams, big ideas and hopes for the things we want to achieve, see and do - but what happens when they clash with those of the one we love? Well we're faced with a big decision about what to do. This is actually something that's been playing on my mind a lot lately because I have a few friends who, although in slightly different situations, have struggled with similarly big decisions. I guess it is a common theme in our twenties that we will be faced with big choices over our relationships - our teens are the easy time, although they may not feel like it, when nothing really tests us other than ourselves. Even the separation of university is something that can be easy to live with because to an extent we still have a choice over distance and whether we want to go the distance. But by the time we hit our twenties, we are looking at careers, new homes, marriage and babies in some cases, and travel. There are so many more factors that will affects our relationships and we will be forced into difficult decisions.I'm not the only one who has found this, I actually know several people who have found lately that they have had to choose one aspect of their life over another. One friend has chosen to move two-and-a-half hours away from all of her friends and family, leaving behind a job she had worked her way up to, in order to follow her boyfriend. He was moving to a much better job and she had to take a pay cut in order to be with him, but for her the decision was the right one for her because she loves him and wants to be with him. Now they are able to live together, instead of breaking up or living hours apart. A couple I know came to an end after the subject of travel was broached, they had been together for years but he didn't want to travel and she passionately did - so they finished and she started planning her trip. I know of another couple who broke up because the guy wanted to settle down together, with big plans for marriage and babies, but she wanted to keep her freedom and to work on her career first, so they broke up and moved on. What do all of these couples have in common? They're all in their twenties and their lives are ever changing and evolving - sometimes couples are on different wavelengths and that can mean different directions.
For me and Wolfy, I know that we are on the same wavelength but that after eight-and-a-half years we are being pulled in different directions. For me, I'm in a job that I just can't do any longer and I've reached a point in my life where I want to experience something new. It was a choice between moving away for work or travelling, and that decision was a simple one for me. For Wolfy, he regrets not putting in the time and effort for his studies and has realised he needs a change of career, so for him, the move is to retake his A-levels and go to university. The timing for us isn't great and we don't want to be apart, but we also both realise that we have to follow our individual dreams in order to be happy together. Neither of us should have to put our individual dreams on hold at this age, surely we will only end up resenting each other if we try? I'm not saying it's going to be easy - because I know it won't be. Saying goodbye earlier this week was the hardest thing I have ever done. But for us, this isn't a break up, more like hitting pause on things until we can resume play. We hope that it will be just six months until we are reunited in Australia - that might be naive on our part, or it might be a mature decision that works out really well. Either way, all we can do is hope that things work out for us. I've always believed that everything happens for a reason - I'm not always sure what that reason is but I know that it will all work out in the end. And I'm treating this just like that - it doesn't mean being separated is any easier, but it does mean we can hope that if we are meant to be together that it will work out.
I'd love to hear your stories of when you've been forced to choose between love and your career, or family, or even travel, like I have. Did it work out for you? Or do you still regret the one that got away?
It'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.
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.
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?
There 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
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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.
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.
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!
PS. I'd love if you would vote for me in the UK Blog Awards by clicking here and here.
Deciding 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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
PS. I'd love if you would vote for me in the UK Blog Awards by clicking here and here.
It 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.I 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. I'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.So 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?
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.It'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?
The 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.Suddenly 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.One 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.
After 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.The 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?