Harsh words, I know, but I've always been the kind of person who prefers honesty no matter how brutal it seems. Not just with friends and family but also with myself – because if you're not honest with yourself, then how can you expect anyone else to be? The other night I finally said the words out loud, the ones that have been playing on my mind for the past six weeks. "I don't blog anymore. I'm failing as a blogger. I'm the worst at blogging that I've ever been." It pained me to say it because I love blogging, I love writing and I always have. I still remember so clearly the first moment I set up this blog and the solace and happiness I have found in it ever since, the successes and struggles. This blog has been with me through so many of the biggest moments of my life from studying and relationships, to careers, travel and more. And so have all of you, the amazing people who read this blog and support me every step of the way. But as much as it pained me to admit it, I have another, even more shocking confession to make.
I can't apologise for taking a step back from blogging because I don't feel sorry that life got in the way. I'm not sorry that I decided to prioritise other things and that actually it was the best decision I could have made. Because sometimes we have to accept that we can't be everything. We can't be superwoman. We can't all be amazing in our careers, our relationships, learn a new language and run a blog and keep a clean house. Eventually something has to give and it's always better we make that decision ourselves rather than have it forced upon us later on. As you guys know, I went on a 3-week road trip around Europe and on my return I started my new job alongside taking on various other roles. It soon became clear that I needed to sacrifice something in order to be able to give 110% in all my other roles.
It would have been easy for me to feel like I was failing as a blogger, failing at life. That not being able to do all the things meant I wasn't as dedicated as I should be – but that wasn't the case. I was just reprioritising which is one of the most valuable things you can do if you care about the quality of your work. It was much more important to me to deliver high quality work in my job, to give my friends my undivided attention, and to really genuinely enjoy my trip without guilt. My blog has always been about having a life and making the most of every second – well, sometimes to do that you have to know when to hold back.
It's easy to forget how much you have already achieved, but 9 months into the year is always a great time to think back. Instead of looking at how I'm failing as a blogger, I should remember that my big goals for this year were to focus on pushing forward in my career. Well, now it's September and I can say how proud I am of myself for such a huge year. 2018 was the year I moved to Germany without speaking the language but still managed to land a job as a content manager working in SEO without any formal training. It was the year I had a home of my own for the first time in nearly 5 years. It was the year I travelled around Europe in a van and scored some of my biggest blogging collaborations yet. And alongside this I managed to make some amazing new friends in a brand new city. To say it's been a pretty amazing year would be an understatement and failing as a blogger is such a small thing in the wake of such success. Sacrificing this blog for a short time has brought so much happiness into my life and I can't apologise for that.
But the great thing about failing as a blogger and getting out there and grabbing life by the you-know-whats is that I've got some pretty great stories and blog posts just waiting to be shared with you all. So I'm back, tap-tap-tapping away at my keyboard and excited to be back sharing my life with you all. So let's start with last weekend when I had the best Sunday soaking up the last of the summer sunshine over a few cheeky cocktails and a Japanese feast. Sporting my fab new sunglasses gifted by Toyshades, a unique London brand who create both classic vintage eyewear styles and contemporary designs. I'm wearing the Rudge 2018 - Matte Tortoise Frame with Rose Amber Pentoptic Lens (£38) which I absolutely love and will be wearing until the very last rays of sunshine have disappeared this winter. After such an amazing summer, I'm really clinging on to those last remaining sunny days and how better to spend them than eating and drinking with your favourite person? We started at beach bar StrandPauli for drinks – one of my fave bars overlooking the river – then headed to Momo Ramen in Sternschanze for the most amazing meal of ramen, sake and gyozo.
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A final note on this post – a reminder that failure isn't always a bad thing. It's okay to be failing as a blogger, at your job, as a friend, as a girlfriend or even as a daughter sometimes. Because you're not super-human – I know I'm definitely not! It's time we stopped expecting everyone to give 110% in every aspect of their life all at the same time. It's okay to say no, it's okay to cut back and it's okay to fail. What's important is what you learn from it – how you grow and change. I'm placing less expectations on myself, I will always work my ass off but I'm going to stop taking on so much and feeling guilty when I have to say no. The rest of 2018 is about finding balance that works for me.
What have been your big successes this year? How have you failed – and what have you learned from it? How do you find balance in your life?
I've always very firmly believed that fresh air, a good dose of nature and time spent by the ocean can cure just about anything. It doesn't matter how stressed I've been over the years, or how frustrated, I've always found solace in spending a few days away from everything, getting back to basics and enjoying life in it's purest form. Over the years I've spent weekends camping in the Lake District, Peak District, in the shadow of Mount Snowdon in Wales, and around my home in Norfolk. I've stayed in campsites ranging from a full-on Glamping experience complete with champagne and pink wellies, to the most basic, wild campsites you can find, and I've done it in all weathers. Later on, as I discovered my love of festivals, I quickly realised that I was a much bigger fan of the four-day weekend camping events that allowed you to truly lose yourself in the music. I teamed up with Yelloh! Village, who offer the world's finest open-air hotels and camping rentals, to write about what makes the perfect camping experience.There's something about getting back to basics with a group of your closest friends that just spells out a lot of fun. Whether you're heading off to explore an untouched wilderness and can't wait to get away, or you simply fancy going a bit wild in the woods, it's a perfect way to actually spend time together with no distractions. It's easy to forget that every second we spend with friends these days is dictated by the myriad of text messages, Snapchats, Facebook updates and Tweets that dominate our existence these days. Once all of those are done, often your time together is up and all you have to remember it is what is documented online. I was out with friends the other night and even dancing in a bar, every second of our moves was being photographed and snap-chatted by the pair for social media. It's funny and it's become an inherent part of our lives now but sometimes it is nice to just switch everything off and talk surrounded by nothing but nature. I guess I'm a country girl at heart, but I just find it so soothing to be away from the stresses of everyday life and there's something about open space that just heals me.Some of my best camping memories are of the Glamping weekend I spent with my two best friends, the time spent camping in national parks in the Tasmanian wilderness as part of an epic 10-day roadtrip, and the hilarious times we've had setting up our tents and lounging round the campsite at festivals. Everyone was just present, laughing at each others' jokes and experiencing every second together rather than thinking about how they would record it for social media. Every camping experience I've had boils down to the same factors whether we're raving at a festival, getting lost in the woods or out on the moors - it's the same few things that really make a camping trip a success, and a hell of a lot of fun. If you're sat reading this thinking camping is so not for you, then think again - I never used to think I would enjoy it but it's now become one of my favourite travel experiences. Plus it's a great way to explore the world around you when you're travelling on a budget, whether locally or on the other side of the world, the basic components of camping remain the same, it's just the weather that gets better!
What makes the perfect camping experience?
This is definitely something you want to invest in - buying a £5 tent from the supermarket and expecting it to withstand all weathers is just stupid. Even if you're going to a festival - if it rains and becomes windy, your tent is going to flood and collapse and you won't be able to get dry and warm. A camping trip can quickly become miserable if you have no way of getting dry. Look for great deals in the sales - I picked up my beauty of a tent in the Halfords sale a few years ago and it has seen me through countless amazing festivals and trips - it's huge and easy to put up, and it was reduced to less than half price when I got it.
Choose your pitch wisely - there's nothing worse than putting your tent up in a rush and finding out later when you're trying to sleep that you've camped on a 45 degree slope or there's a massive rock right where you're laying. Trust me, as someone who did a four day camping festival sleeping at a 45 degree angle because we arrived too late and couldn't find a better spot - it's absolutely bloody awful. Don't do it. Always feel for rocks and lay down inside before you peg it to the ground.
Plan the food you take well and it can change your whole experience, forget instant noodles and soup, its easy to cook up a good and healthy meal on a little gas stove. On my 10-day road trip around Tasmania we planned heavy meals of chilli and rice, and pasta to refuel after days of climbing mountains. It was quick and easy to prepare for four people so don't be put off by the thought of it. There's nothing better than a good, filling, hot meal at the end of a day camping.
There are some incredible places to camp in the world - under the stars in central Australia, on the beaches in Tasmania, and in the shadow of mountains all over the world are just some of my favourites. Choosing your location well can take a regular camping trip to the next level. Yelloh! Village has some amazing locations scattered across France which give you the opportunity to explore the landscape, towns and villages. Choosing a campsite where you can have a campfire also makes all the difference.
Camping is a great way to travel if you're on a budget. Especially for groups or families where accommodation could be expensive - there are so many free and cheap options available for campsites, and if you're planning on repeating the experience your camping equipment is an investment rather than an expense.
Always look out for the skies above you - I've been lucky enough to camp in some amazing places with incredible views of the super moons, specific constellations, shooting stars. Sometimes the most beautiful sights are the ones that are totally free. There's nothing better than a spectacular sunset, or making it up for sunrise.
The one thing that really makes the experience complete has to be the people you share it with. I say it all the time but it never becomes any less true, even in the most dire situations and the worst accommodations, the people are what shine through your memories long after the trip has finished. Taking your best friends who will make you laugh until you cry is the best way to approach a trip - no matter what goes wrong you'll still make it an experience to remember.
As a travel blogger, I've spent a heck of a lot of time out of the country since I started blogging which is fantastic but can be a bit lonely when it comes to having real life blogger pals. The internet is a saviour in this case and means I'm found some pretty amazing friends from every niche, but it's always nice to actually meet in person. I actually first started my blog after being inspired by some pretty incredible bloggers who had turned a hobby into a full time job when I attended a bloggers party as a journalist. I was encouraged to start a blog of my own and thus Absolutely Lucy was born, three years later and I was invited to the Blogosphere Magazine summer party - an incredible event organised by the only industry magazine currently running.Appealing to all of our good taste as bloggers, the team at Blogosphere organized an amazing event full of tea, cake and some beautiful jewellery, plus plenty of opportunity to meet some pretty inspiring ladies and have a lot of laughs. It was so lovely to spend time with bloggers who have also followed their passion to write about travel, food, beauty, fashion, parenting and all kinds of cheeky topics. To be surrounded by vibrant, real, exciting women who have something to say for themselves and understand the commitment we have all made, the time we spend curating something beautiful for the internet. It's easy for people to brush over the time and effort that is put into blogging, so it's lovely when you meet others who do what you do and understand the pressures we put ourselves under for the love of blogging.
For the two hour train to London in 26 degree heat, an event has to be pretty good and this one was great - serious props to Albertine Brandon for organising such a beautiful event. We chatted away the afternoon with delicious teas from The London Tea Company and some incredible gluten-free cakes from Pearl and Groove - the raspberry and white chocolate was to die for! It was great to finally meet Albertine, Elaine and editor-in-chief Alice Audley after so long admiring their work, I'm looking forward to more events in future. And I found some great new blogger friends in Oh It's Sare, Han Meets World, Taylor Mae Makeup, Honestly Aine and many more. Plus it was good to meet the girls behind brands including World Duty Free, The London Tea Company and Jewellery Box. A day spent talking everything from travel and Pokemon to vlogging and photography is never a day wasted in my book.It was a pretty busy weekend, even before I had set off to London for the Blogosphere party I had spent a full day reliving my travels at the Cambridge Thai Festival - a day full of Muay Thai, ladyboy shows, traditional dance performances and some delicious food. I went along with one of my blogging friends, Vikki of FrickingVikki, and had a fantastic day in the sunshine. Luckily we managed to skip all the queues to get in, for food and drinks, as we saw some people waiting for quite a while to get tickets, but for £3 entry, the whole event was a total bargain. A full programme of entertainment for two days over the weekend had something for everyone and certainly kept us entertained on Saturday afternoon. Browsing the stalls, there was also a beautiful Buddhist stand where you could meet the monks and chat to some lovely ladies about blessings. Further round we even found a cheeky photobooth where you could get dressed up and take pics in Thai traditional dress - this was a lot of fun! It was a great event and if you get the chance to attend one in future, I'd take it with both hands. It's always worth checking out what amazing free/cheap local events are taking place right under your nose - next weekend I'll be checking out a free day of folk music in my home town! Here's some pics from the day.
Did you go to the Blogosphere Summer Party - what was your highlight? Have you found some great, free local events?
It's now been a month since I touched down in the UK after 18 months of travelling. That's nothing in the grand scheme of things, but it feels like a painfully long time since I last saw my Melbourne home, and the people who make it so special to me. I keep having that moment when people ask how it feels to be home, and I think to myself that home feels 3,000 miles away right now. That's the hard part of being a traveler, leaving such big pieces of your heart all over the world that when you do finally come home it can feel a bit empty. That's why so many struggle to deal with the comedown from travelling. I've had it much better than most – I've come back and walked straight into a great freelance job that works with my schedule, and I've instantly started planning trips away with family and friends, knowing my plan is to travel long-term again from September. It makes it much easier to know my situation is temporary, because after a year and a half of utter freedom, the thought of being tied down to one place gives me chills. It's been quite easy for me to slip into the life that I'm living now - after working flat out in Melbourne, I finally have time to relax and catch up with friends. I have time to recuperate from the effects of long-term travel and I can still earn a good wage while I do it.
But as you guys will know, I've always been a bit of a workaholic, so it's difficult for me to adjust to this lifestyle after pushing myself 110% in all of my previous jobs. Especially being back in the UK, I've noticed this incredible pressure since I arrived home and I'm not sure whether it's coming from my own mind or society. My whole attitude to life was much healthier when I was travelling – I was relaxed and focused on having an incredible travelling experience rather than how much money I could earn or how many extra hours I could work. My priority was earning enough to live comfortably as a backpacker, so it never became more important than living my life. Before I went travelling, work took over my life in an unhealthy way and it was this that really pushed me to focus on something else that made me happy - travel. Since travelling, my bank account has been both the fullest and the emptiest it has ever been. But even when I was broke, I always found a way to make ends meet and to survive, even then I was happier than the times I was sitting on a stack of savings. So when I had learnt to live happily on so little, why do I find myself feeling this constant need to achieve since being home?I don't know whether it is just in my own mind, or whether this is a common feeling for travelers returning to the UK, but I constantly have this feeling that I haven't done enough. That I haven't worked enough hours, that I haven't sent enough emails, that I haven't got enough views on this blog, and that I haven't seen enough places in the world. I find myself plagued with worries that time is running out and I just don't have enough left to achieve everything that I want to do in life, that the success I have isn't quite enough. It's such a strange feeling, but one I remember from before I went away. While travelling it was pushed out of my mind by the happiness of living life in the present, by the success of achieving everything I did on a daily basis. So why have these feelings all come rushing back now I'm in the UK? It's easy to forget that everyone has insecurities, and it can be hard to identify our own. I never realised before I went away that I am my own worst enemy when it comes to enjoying success. Instead of relishing and enjoying the moment, I constantly push on to achieve the next thing, to push the next boundary. I love that about myself because it has driven me to make some huge changes in my life that led me to travel the world solo, and to leave a life that made me miserable. But at the same time, it can leave me feeling like what I do will never be enough.
While I was travelling, I focused on nothing more than living in the moment. I focused on the beautiful sunsets, the laughter at work, the nights we won't remember – I lived every second and everything else came after. I never stressed about work or money, just knew I would always figure it out. I didn't think about blogging, just enjoyed the natural progression of reminiscing about my experiences and writing them on the page at my own pace. Put simply, life came first. But since being back, I find mentally that I'm struggling to keep it this way. I've managed so far, but can always feel the pressure and stresses of thinking about money, stats and figures. It's true the UK is very financially driven when it comes to success, and I can only think this is mirrored in the way we view our own successes. I've only noticed this because I have been away from it and had to reintegrate myself, but how many others are left to feel this way without an escape? It's just so easy to get sucked into worrying about money and how successful you are when there are constant reminders of how much we are failing. Every time I look at a magazine or newspaper, listen to the radio or watch TV, there is a stark reminder that there is so much I haven't yet achieved, so much that I'm behind on.I shouldn't feel this way, in the last few months I have had countless successes that I need to learn to just celebrate. I worked as a sales manager and built my own team, ended up as the highest paid manager in my last job. I was a finalist in the travel section of the UK Blog Awards two years in a row. I have made it onto a list of the top 15 travel bloggers of 2016, and I'm even being featured by other bloggers I love as one to check out. I have another huge success tucked up my sleeve, but that one will have to remain a secret for now. All this, and yet I still feel that craving for more, it's soul destroying at times, endlessly frustrating. I just don't understand why I feel it so prominently when I'm in the UK compared to Australia, or Asia, does the distance really chip away at these feelings so much? Perhaps it's just something I'm better able to control when I travel, because it just becomes so much less of a priority for me, instead I use this drive to achieve great things in real life as well as on the screen. I guess when I'm in the UK, I use my laptop as a means for escape, by working on this little world I have created at www.absolutelylucy.com I can be transported to the worlds I have left behind. Work has always been the one escape for me when I don't want to deal with my feelings, so perhaps it's just my way of coping with coming home.
Speaking to some of my fellow travelers on the Girl vs Globe Facebook group, I found I wasn't the only one who has suffered from these feelings. Ro Lee, who blogs at The Travel Captain, said: "Having lived in both NY and Dubai, you're bombarded with constant reminders of how "important" financial success is. But as I've approached my mid thirties, I realize that true success is a measure of the strength of your relationship with others. Helping others succeed is equally important or "lonely at the top" is a saying which holds very true." While Yoanna Guerra-Cuevas, who vlogs here, added: "After doing some travel around Europe and living in Spain for a few months, my whole mindset has changed. In Spain they have a saying "no pasa nada". It basically means everything will be okay. I learned to stop worrying about expectations to succeed and just worry about being happy." Amrine Obermueller, who blogs at Dancing Around The World, said: "I think that if you're feeling the pressures then sooner or later you just have to realize what is right for your life and try not to live it based on how everyone else tells you to. It took me about 10 years to figure that out...but here I am, so happy that I finally know how I want to live my life." Great advice ladies, time I took a leaf out of your book and stopped stressing. Every time I start to feel like this, I'll think back to that traveler mindset and ask myself What Would Traveler Lucy Do? (WWTLD)
Have you felt the pressures of home closing in after returning from travelling? Do you find it hard not to slip into old ways? How does your traveler mindset differ from your home mindset?
After writing last Friday’s post, I really got to thinking about my life now compared to a year ago and how happy I am. To put things in perspective, this time last year I was living it up in Thailand with a bunch of great mates and partying my arse off. Now, I’m writing this from my new home of Melbourne while my roommate snores his head off, and yet, I think over the last two weeks I’ve reached new levels of happiness I didn’t think were possible. So I decided to start a list, of all the moments I’ve had recently that have made me feel grateful to be alive and happy I made the decisions that have led me to this point. Because, if you read my last post - you’ll know that this Valentine’s Day I’m taking the time to celebrate being single, independent and the happiest with myself I’ve ever been. Forget giving out roses and chocolates, I’m taking the time to think about and be thankful for all the things that are giving me the rosy glow of happiness.
So what has made me realise i’m in love with my life?
So there we go, the 20 things that have helped me realise why I’m so in love with my life and if you ask me, that’s by far the most important love you will have. Whether you were in a relationship or not this Valentine’s, take a moment to think about whether you are happy with yourself and your life - its something that is so easily brushed over in the busy day-to-day. Why not take 15 minutes out of your day to make a list like this one about all the positive reasons you are in love with you life, and why you are happy with your lot. You might find that actually you have a lot more love for the way things have turned out than you think - or it might just highlight a change you know you need to make! Either way - take the time to love yourself, your life and everything in it.
Tell me what you love mot about your life - what are you most thankful for?
As Valentine’s Day approaches, I can’t help but remember just two years ago when I was crazy in love and whisked off my feet with all the hearts and roses that come with the holiday. A romantic dinner for two and a year later, who knew that I would spend my next Valentine’s Day at a Half Moon Party in Thailand more single than I had been in a decade, that two years on I would be preparing to spend the day at a festival with good friends. It’s amazing how much your life can change with your relationship status and it’s only been since I left my nine year relationship to come traveling that I have really noticed how much others really let their relationships rule their lives and their decisions. Even now, when I tell people I left behind such a long-term relationship to travel the world solo, they look at me incredulously and think I’m slightly crazy - but then I ask, wouldn’t it be crazier to put your dreams on hold and end up resenting the person you love the most? Begrudgingly they nod in agreement, but then you seem them do it again, and again, and again. Sacrificing their studies, their hobbies, their families and homes, all for a love that changes their world but not always for the better.
Two years ago, for Valentine’s, I wrote a blog post entitled “Relationships | What’s it really like to have a boyfriend at university?” which has still remained one of my most popular posts. It seems that the title of this post was something that several young women found themselves typing into Google as they tried to plan a future with their loves, tried to make a decision about their own education and future, and tried to keep the balance between what their head and heart were screaming. Over the last two years, this post has probably received the most comments and messages above all of my others, and it seems to be a bit of a hot topic for young ladies who are about to advance to this stage of their lives. Sixth Form and College is around the time when many young couples start pairing off and often you’ll find your first love, I certainly did. It’s a great time, when you’re learning what it’s like to first love another person, to be part of a real adult relationship and to be regarded as a “real” couple instead of foolish young teenagers. It’s easy for this love to take over your life a bit and we all went through that phase where we didn’t want to leave each others’ side, but then comes the pressures of university - whether you decide to go or not, often this can be the decider for whether many couples will survive. Often one half of the couple will have a longing to continue their studies as I did, while the other half will have a plan to either study elsewhere, or not at all. So what do you do when this happens?
So many girls have written to me explaining how worried they are that their relationship will not withstand the pressures of university and separation. I’ve had some asking whether I think they will make it when their other half already spends his time eying up other girls or flirting, I’ve had others ask whether the distance will be a problem, and I’ve had far too many asking whether I think they should change their lifelong university preference to attend the same school as their boyfriend. Something I want to make clear is that I have always been a very independent person, so has my ex-boyfriend and thats part of the reason we loved each other so much - we both trusted each other to give as much space as needed throughout the nine years and I think that’s why we were so happy throughout. When it came to me choosing my university and course, he had no input into my choice. I told him all about the universities I visited and about what my options were, but that was the extent of his influence. I made my choice of university based wholly on the course content, the campus, the people and the feeling of the place - from the moment I stepped on to the campus at University of Hertfordshire, I knew this was the place I had to spend the next three years of my life. Because that’s what it was - my life. Not his, although he was a huge part of my life after three years. But I knew that regardless of where I was, what I studied or how far apart we were, if we truly loved each other we would make it work. And if it didn’t work, I certainly didn’t want to be anywhere but my first choice of university.
The same happened when I came traveling - I made the decision separately that this was what I wanted to do, just like my other half decided he wanted to go to university to study. Independently we knew what was right for each of us, and mutually when we discussed it, we came to a decision that we both had to go our separate ways in order to be happy. Whether it was a permanent or temporary decision is another matter, but we both knew we had to do this otherwise we would end up resenting each other. It was easily the hardest decision of my life, but now, over a year after I left, I can tell you it was the best decision I ever made. Much like my choice of university, it has led me to one of the happiest times of my life, and yes, it does mean I’ve had to say goodbye to an incredible relationship but it also means I’ve chosen to invest in myself. Because being single doesn’t mean being lonely - if anything, since being single I’ve never been surrounded by such love, light and laughter, I’ve actually made some of the best friends and family of my life. So many seem to stay in a relationship because they are scared of the alternative, but what are you really afraid of - not having anyone’s shadow to stand in? I look around and see so many young women in relationships that make them feel insecure, afraid or unhappy, and I wonder why they stay. I’m entirely independent and alone at this point in my life and I’ve never felt stronger, braver or happier. Being single has made me fearless, given me incredible confidence and made me really value myself as an individual.
I’m not saying that every woman out there should go dump her boyfriend this Valentine’s Day (that would be a bit mean wouldn’t it?!), I’m just saying that it is important to celebrate being independent and single as well as celebrating retaining your individual identity when you’re in a relationship. Don’t be afraid to make independent decisions within a relationship, especially when it will have a huge impact on your own life. It’s easy to get swept up in coupledom, to let your loins take over your thought processes but don’t forget that when it comes to things like education and travel - these are things that change the way you view the life you live. If you already fear that the change will challenge your relationship beyond repair, then perhaps that relationship was not as strong as you first thought. But that’s okay, some people are destined to dip in and out of our lives gently influencing us along the way, while others exist to shake our worlds to the very core, changing and rebuilding them in ways we never expected. It’s easy to get them mixed up and sometimes a big change like university or travel is needed to show one from the other. But whichever type of relationship you have, it’s not as important as the one you have with yourself - that is the one you should be investing the real time, effort and love into, because its the only one you can guarantee will last for life.
How do you remain independent within your relationship? Can you think of a time when you have put yourself above the relationship? What have you sacrificed for love - and was it worth it?
Christmas and New Year are definitely some of those times when people really start to think about their relationship status - a bit like the post-Christmas bloat, it's something that hangs over every festive party and moment under the mistletoe. It can suck a bit to be single at Christmas, to not have someone special to keep you warm and to get you that extra special present. But it can also be great to be single at Christmas - you don't have to feel guilty when you sit there and eat an entire cheeseboard in one sitting then spend the night farting in bed, and no awkward decision about whose family you'll spend the day with. When it comes to New Year, this was my first as a single girl for nine years - which seems crazy to me. Basically as long as I've been old enough to go out drinking I've been in a relationship, more than a third of my life. And it was a good relationship, a great one in fact, but 2015 was all about the start of something new, about taking control of my life and doing something for me. I broke off my relationship and left to travel the world solo, a year later I should be heading home but have decided I'm not ready for my adventures to finish yet. Last December 31st I was surrounded by good friends and spent the night celebrating with my other half. But this year, it felt right to celebrate independently after the year I've had. I've conquered all sorts and I've done it all by myself, so I was more than happy to be a single girl as I took my first steps into 2016.
This time of year it's easy to get caught up in the romance of the season - all those engagement rings popping up on my newsfeed, all those cute couple photos in matching Christmas jumpers, and all those New Year kissing photos. We're blasted in the face with the expectation and the pressure to be in a happy relationship or left to feel like failures, but I have to ask, isn't it more important at this time of year to be looking inwardly and thinking more about the relationship we have with ourselves? New Year is always a great time to look back over the year as it comes to a close - at what we've achieved and suffered, learnt and lost over the last 12 months. We're all planning and making goals for the year ahead, but so many are setting goals, more like ideals for where they see themselves in 12 months. They're thinking about things like relationships statuses, job goals, having their own homes. All of these are great in their own way, but why not take the time to think about how mentally healthy and happy you are. Two Christmases ago I took a two week break from work and from life - I finally had headspace to think and after the two weeks was up I realised I didn't want to go back to that life. That was when I realised that how I was working and living was not making me healthy or happy - it was time to plan an escape and my next moves. That was when I began saving, when I bought a plane ticket. A year later, I hopped on that plane and never looked back.
It's not the answer for everyone and I'm not saying this to tell you to go do the same. Travel might not be your way of healing but starting 2016 on your own could provide you with a good opportunity to really look closely at your life. Are you happy? Are you on your way to achieving what you want out of life? If not, why not? This is your chance to claim 2016 as your year to work on you - do what I did, step back and reassess. Our goals change as we grow as people and sometimes the ones you set a while ago will no longer fit the person you have become - if you no longer want something why work towards it? Evolve your goals and you will find happiness in working towards what you truly want. If a job no longer makes you happy, look elsewhere and find one that does. Feel like work is taking over your life? Take a step back and explore your passions in your free time. Unsure whether a relationship is still giving you what you need - make a change, end it or go in search of something new. It doesn't matter how trapped you feel, even if it feels like there is no way out, there always is. But you have to be willing to make the first move - once you've taken that first step it turns into the easiest and most natural thing in the world, but first you have to take a leap of faith.
It can be a huge change that all your family and friends talk about, or it can be something tiny that just makes a world of difference to you. Either way, having the courage to examine your life and really think about where you want it to go can be simultaneously the scariest and most valuable thing you do this January. Why? Because it will help give you focus and goals for the year ahead - to find the happiness you've been searching for. 2015 was my happiest and freest year yet - it was so amazing that I skipped my flight home and chose to stay and carry on for as long as possible. I'm looking forward to seeing what 2016 brings - I'm just hoping for more happiness, the love of many new friends I have yet to meet and even more opportunities to follow my passions. Most importantly, I'm not sitting around and waiting for life to happen to me, I'm out there making it happen for myself.
Have you made any New Years resolutions? What are your goals for this year? Is travel in your plans for 2016 - where are you heading?
I've had so many lovely messages over the last few days celebrating my decision to stay in Australia instead of returning home on my pre-booked flights and cheering at my just having four weeks left in the outback before rejoining my friends. I've had several messages from friends asking for advice on blogging and how to get started, and I've lost track of the amount of people who have contacted me to ask for advice on travelling, going it solo and help with planning itineraries. It's amazing to think I started this blog just over two years ago and at the time barely anyone read what I was writing, much less wanted to know what I had to say on any of this. I feel so proud at how Absolutely Lucy has grown in that time and am still completely overwhelmed by the support of all my readers every single day. It's been pretty spectacular to experience this year's travelling independently but what has made it all the more special was sharing every step of the journey with you guys. Being able to immortalise all of my memories on these webpages and to share my highs and lows with every single one of you. You may not realise it but every single like, share, view and comment has meant the world to me over these last 12 months, it was the encouragement I needed to keep writing, to keep on travelling even when times were tough and I felt homesick.
Now some of you may remember around a year ago I couldn't stop talking about something called the UK Blog Awards - it's a great awards ceremony that is organised annually to celebrate the blogging community. Covering every genre of blogs, there is a chance for writers with followings of all sizes to be recognised for their hard work and dedication over the year by a group of industry professionals. It's an honour to be a part of something that is still so new and yet is making huge waves in the industry. Last year I entered for the first time and saw huge success as I was shortlisted and awarded a Highly Commended for the Travel section - just six months after transforming Absolutely Lucy into a travel blog. In true backpacker style, I was actually travelling Asia when the winners were announced and never had the opportunity to collect my award which is still in London at a friend's waiting to be collected! But I was overwhelmed with the fact that I had been chosen, it felt amazing and actually came at a time when I was losing my enthusiasm for blogging, to say it reinvigorated me was an understatement.
Now it is that time again, I've entered the Travel section once again and I'm asking each and every one of you guys to vote for me (it only takes two seconds!) so that I can stand a chance against the incredible bloggers also listed. There's some serious talent and some bloggers I really admire listed alongside me and although yes, I would obviously love to win, it's amazing to even be considered amongst these other bloggers. Last year there were around 5,000 entries and I made the shortlist - how on earth that happened I will never know, but I'm hoping some of that luck and some of those amazing votes will happen again this year and will start my year off amazingly! If you have spent the last year enjoying, reading and sharing my posts, if you've been wanderlustin' over my travel pics and if you've been inspired to travel the world yourself - it would mean the world if you would take two seconds to cast a quick vote for me. Click the link below to head to the webpage and cast your vote - make sure you select the TRAVEL section - and thanks so much for your support!
VOTE FOR ME
I worked pretty much flat out while I was in Darwin. I may have been on a mad partying phase but I was also determined to work as many hours and save as much money as possible. Because of this, I ended up not having very many days off in the three months or so I was there, even if I only worked a few hours, I was pretty much working every single day and I was happy about that. My working hours fitted in well with still having a social life, I often wouldn't start until lunchtime so I had my mornings to relax and see friends, the. I would work a ten hour shift, or split shifts across both jobs, and then I would finish as everyone was getting into the party mood. It was great, but it did mean that I didn't get to see many of the Northern Territory's natural wonders. I never had the chance to go to Litchfield or Kakadu to see the waterfalls or the amazing landscapes. But when I had l had particularly sad few days after some close friends left, another friend decided to get me out of my funk by insisting we get out of the city and do something fun. He was certain my bad mood was down to being trapped in the city and all I needed was a bit of wide open space and a bit of nature to feel good again. It made sense - after all, being a Norfolk girl I'm used to having endless fields, wide open spaces and the ocean at every turn, why wouldn't I be affected by the lack of it?A group of five of us hired a car - for incredibly cheap at just $20 each - and off we drove on the highway. I ended up driving and even that was such a relief, I didn't realise how much I missed having the freedom of a car since travelling and it was great to have my first real experience of driving on Australian roads. We headed out further into the outback and as the city disappeared, the land because dryer, dustier and emptier. It was brilliant to see the bright red colour of the earth contrasted against the clear blue of the sky and with the music turned up we sped out further and further. Eventually we arrived at our destination - it was the Spectacular Jumping Crocodile Cruise! Located on the Adelaide River, on the road to Kakadu, the cruise gives tourists the opportunity to see one of around 80,000 saltwater crocs that roam the waterways of Northern Australia. The creatures became protected around 30 years ago after nearly facing extinction thanks to hunting, now you can see them in their natural habitat thanks to the work of the company. The crocodiles recognise the boats and know they have a chance of food from them, which means you actually get to see animals that would normally be hidden away under the mud of in the shade. But don't think that means the crocs are tame - you wouldn't want to mess with these guys as they are still forced to hunt for their food and will happily hunt you too.During our cruise we spotted at least five large crocs - two of them were absolutely huge and the other three were still pretty big. You definitely wouldn't want to cross any of them, whether in the water, or on land as we saw. They were magnificent creatures and it was interesting to see how they hunt - especially how they naturally jump up out of the water to stalk their prey - something I never realised they did. Both terrifying and fascinating at the same time - especially when you see the size and number of their teeth! A few people in the boat were a little nervous, but I have to admit I wasn't scared, just curious. One of the crocs came right up out of the water on one of the banks and it was really great to see his entire body, to see how powerful his legs were and his scaly hide, plus to have it pointed out to us how his scales are designed to absorb the sun and warm the creature's body. On our way back to our landing spot, our guides spotted an eagle up in a tree and wanted to show us the power of the creature so after stringing up some meat, we got to see the huge bird swooping in for the kill. Plus all the gulls swooping on either side of the boat for scraps of meat - it was amazing to see them flying around us so precisely and yet so chaotically - for someone who doesn't really like birds, it was a beautiful sight. We drove back to Darwin with smiles on our faces after a brief stop in Humpty Doo for some food, it was a great day out and one I would recommend. And trust me, if, like me, you felt trapped in the city but were unable to fit in a trip to one of the national parks, this one is a great one to fit in around work. You can easily make it there and back in a few hours then go and work a night shift like I did.
Have you been on the Spectacular Jumping Crocodile Cruise - what did you think? Have you ever had that feeling of being trapped in a city and needing to get back to nature?
* There is also a Crocosaurus Cove located on Mitchell Street in Darwin, which I purposefully chose not to visit because I felt it was cruel to have an crocodile as large as that enclosed in such a small tank. I had seen from photos by friends who went along how small it was and I didn't like that it was being kept this way. I would always choose to see the animals in the wild instead of locked in a cage. This trip was using the crocodiles' natural hunting behaviour as a way of enticing them into our view instead of teaching them unnatural ones that would inhibit their lifespan.
As all the trips came to a close and we wound up our time in Cairns, we started to think about the next adventure. I was all out of money and it was time to find a job and try somewhere new, after five weeks on the East Coast and a month in Sydney, I was eager to see somewhere totally different and a bit more 'real Australia'. I wanted to see a bit of outback, some really hot weather and dust, lots of red dust. I always had this niggling thought in the back of my mind, a memory from when I was in Cambodia and met a couple in Siem Reap. They had actually both met in Darwin and travelled Australia together - knowing I was going to Australia a few weeks later, I wanted to know everything they had to tell me about travelling and working there. All they went on about over two nights was Darwin! They loved it there, had returned several times and found work easily, they loved the place, the people, the atmosphere, the money and the memories. I may not have realised it at the time but I was already sold on their recommendation and that when the time came to find work, I would be heading there. It's so strange to think back on it all now - it just seems like Darwin was exactly where I needed to be. I ended up spending three months there and even now, over two months later, my heart still remains there. It's just amazing how things fall into place when you travel - like there really is some greater plan for you, I feel like this so often when I end up in places I never dreamed of visiting. To be honest, Darwin wasn't even on my radar before I met the couple in Cambodia.We booked our flights and after a few hours in the air, we touched down to find exactly what we were after: intense heat, dust and dry barren land. It was the Northern Territory, and it doesn't get more outback than that. I was instantly in love with the place and after we rocked up to our hostel and got settled, we went out to wander the streets and see what lay in store for us on Mitchell Street. We were staying at Dingo Moon Lodge, which was down one end of Mitchell Street, and anyone who moves there should prepare for their life to centre around this one street which is full of hostels, bars and a scattering of shops. Now I did t really know what to expect of Darwin, I had never been anywhere like it before, but I instantly loved it and felt like it was a place I wanted to settle for a while. I started my job hunt and had two jobs within 24 hours of being in the city - great news for my bank balance but not so great for getting off the main street as both my jobs confined me to around 300m of street and I was working as many hours as possible. For the first two weeks all we did was keep to ourselves - we were sick of meeting new people and exhausted from the east coast - it was time to recuperate and relax. Luckily the hostel had a pool and wifi so most of our time, around me working, was spent making the most of these and at the markets.We were lucky and arrived at a great time to enjoy some of the great things Darwin had to offer, we spent our Thursday and Sunday nights at Mindel Markets which were packed full of food, music, jewellery, clothes and trinkets. It was a fabulous place with a great boho feel and I have to admit I couldn't help myself when it came to the jewellery stands. They would have fire shows, magic shows, plus a great variety of music acts from acoustic singers to reggae artists on tour. Plus it all took place right next to the beach and started at sunset, a perfect time to head down with your friends and a bottle of wine before perusing the stands. Another night was spent at the flicks, but this wasn't just any cinema. I finally had the chance to tick off going to an outdoor cinema in Australia from my to-do list. We caught Mad Max at the Deckchair Cinema and had a brilliant evening - the air was so warm and we could watch bats swooping over our heads as the sun set and the screen filled with action. The cinema is amazing and I'm just sad I never had the chance to go back around work - perils of working nights in a bar! It's well worth a visit and shows a great selection of movies, plus it hosts the film festival. We also arrived perfectly in time to catch the Darwin Festival - a yearly event filled with music, arts and culture spread across several locations within the city. I was actually working at a venue that was hosting some of the acts. It was great for us poor backpackers because they also hosted several free events including some lunchtime sessions and live music in the evenings at a special park they created. It was a beautiful location and had lots of food and drink stalls, a great atmosphere and the music was lovely. I was amazed to arrive in Darwin and find so much going on!There's plenty more to tell but I'll save that for some upcoming posts. After a week of quiet life, we met a group of awesome people who had arrived at around the same time as us, we ended up forming a little family that soon grew to the entire hostel as more and more people arrived. I'll talk more about this in a special post I'm working on, but I'll say this, there was a lot of love there and there's a lot of memories in my heart because of that place. After three weeks there, I had to say goodbye to Mark once again, this time after we had spent two amazing months together, and it was heartbreaking, all over again. I'm not sure I could have coped if it wasn't for my Dingos, they refused to let me mope around, they filled my life with laughs and craziness so that it didn't feel empty without Mark there. I never actually spoke about how hard it was to say goodbye to him and the fact that they just knew and they were just there to make everything better was what sealed us as friends for life. That and a whole lot of naughty Dingo behaviour that I probably can't publish on here. Let's call this 'to be continued'.
Have you been to Darwin? What did you think of it? Have you found an amazing hostel family?
Some friendships break at the first sign of trouble - perhaps a boy gets in the way, or the distance becomes too great, or it's just not as easy peasy when you're not in the same class at school together. What it comes down to is often laziness when your lives start taking you in opposite directions, a shame, but often it is the best way to cut down your friends to the ones who really deserve to be on your Christmas card list. I'm talking about the ones who will pick you up in the middle of the night when it all goes wrong, who will sit out with you until the sun comes out talking about life and setting the world to rights. Those soulmates that you know you just can't live without, whose voices appear at the end of the telephone line at the slightest sniff of trouble and scream with excitement at any tiny piece of good news. They're the ones you want around and they're the ones who stick by you even when you make a life changing decision to jet off across the globe without any idea of when you will return.
I won't lie to you, it's not easy to maintain friendships and relationships over Skype and Whatsapp, many just won't make it. But the world we live in makes it easier than ever to keep in touch and there really isn't any excuse for not showing the people you love how you feel. Often I find friendships like these fall into one of two categories - there's the ones you speak to all the time, whether it's just a like or comment on a picture on Facebook, a long old chat on Whatsapp, or FaceTiming once a week to update each other on all the gossip. Then there's the friendships that seem untouched by time, the people you don't speak to for weeks, even months on end and yet you know that you could call on them any time of day for help, or even just a chat. Both types are just as important and I know my best friends fit into both of these categories and all of them are just as important to me while I'm out here, as I hope I am to them. When it comes to family, there's nothing more important than letting them know you are safe and well, and for you to know the same about them. Trust me, if you've ever had drama while travelling or felt unsafe at any point, you'll know the first thing you want to do is call home.
So how can you keep these friendships and relationships alive?
Compromise is key
They have to understand you are travelling and that you won't always have good wifi or the time to be on the end of the phone or message 24/7, just like you have to understand that life at home goes on without you and that family and friends have lives and jobs too. Try and organise a time that suits both of you to Skype or message, that way everyone is happy.
Sometimes you just need to talk to the other person even though it's the middle of the night, sometimes you're upset or things have gone wrong, or you're just plain homesick. Other times, your best mate's cat might have died, or his girlfriend dumped him - perhaps they need to talk. Or there could be a family crisis that doesn't fit in with your free time for skyping. Be flexible and open to talking when it doesn't suit, it might be necessary.
If something the other person has said or done has annoyed you, just come out with it. You know how they always say married couples shouldn't go to bed on an argument? Well it's the same principle even when you're thousands of miles apart. Often they don't even know you're annoyed but just saying it out loud can ease the problem.
Make the effort
There's no debating - relationships are built on the effort you make and the time and love you put into them, if you can't be bothered to call and catch up or to listen to their problems every now and again then you can't expect them to return the favour. Friendship and family are a two way thing, let down your end and you can't be sure the other end will still work.
Don't forget the small gestures
Sometimes it can just take a thoughtful tweet or Facebook message to make a person's day, things like wishing them a "Happy World Elephant Day" because you know it will make them smile. Or sending them a message to say how proud of them you are for passing an exam or coping with something big by themselves - remember to do the small things.
Don't go changing
Travel has a huge impact on your life and you can't deny it changes your priorities, but don't let it change who you are as a person. Remember the people who were with you from the start and don't forget to value them even when you're swept up in meeting new people and making new friends.
Have you lost touch with friends at home? What's your preferred way of keeping in contact with friends and family? Do you prefer to message all the time or save it for a big catch up?
Now that December is in full swing and the elves are hard at work, I can't help but find myself really jealous of all the travellers who are going home for Christmas. I know that for me it would be impossible - I don't want to spend a fortune on going home when I have been working and saving so hard for my next adventures, and I'm slap bang in the middle of completing my regional work for my second year visa. Short term pleasure vs long term gain, it's just not worth it when I know I will be seeing everyone at home in just six months. I'm not actually homesick, just gutted I'm missing out on all the festive fun - the advent calendars, the decorating the house and tree, finding amazing presents and wrapping them up, Michel Buble on the radio, cheeseboards every night because why not? And all of the mince pies. I love Christmas, I go all out decorating and making everything special for the people I love. Everyone is always so happy even when the weather is rubbish, there's Christmas drinks with friends, nights in front of the TV watching Christmas specials, days of baking and preparing the festive feast and so much more. So yeah, I'm pretty gutted I'm missing out on all of that. I am intrigued by what an outback Christmas will be like, but it doesn't outweigh missing a traditional English Christmas - it's just not a big enough deal here!
But keeping in the festive spirit, I thought I would write my letter to Santa, to let him know that the greatest gift I could have this Christmas would be to spend it at home getting drunk with my mum and eating all the cheese, watching Frozen with my sister and decorating the Christmas tree with my dad. I know that this year it just won't be possible, so if I can't have that, the only thing that would make me happy is the opportunity to travel. In this case, the Santa I am writing to is Travelex, a travel money exchange company who have asked me to participate in their festive bloggers competition to win your dream holiday. They asked me to write all about my dream holiday, which naturally got me all excited thinking about all the amazing destinations I have on my bucket list - so many stood out to me as ones that I never stop thinking or talking about. There was my daydreams about going to Sziget Festival in the centre of Budapest, Hungary, and after dancing my heart out to amazing acts, having the opportunity to explore a city that has been at the centre of my thoughts for a long time. The stunning buildings and amazing history, combined with great food is always a winner for me. But then, there was the trip to Morocco that edged it's way into my subconscious - I went years ago and hated my experience of the country but reading more about it over the years has made me eager to return and to try and change my feelings. The vibrancy and spice of the culture and the amazing shopping just seems to good to miss out on. Plus I would love to experience the desert after seeing what the Australian outback is like - why not take it one step further and check out the African desert?But there is one place that has really captured my imagination for several years now - since long before I became a blogger or decided to travel the world solo. I have always travelled a lot with my family, friends and partners, but I have never been on a cold weather holiday and it is something I have always wanted to try. I'll be honest and say I'm definitely a warm weather gal - I'm made for the heat, the humidity and the beach. Asia and Australia have been my heaven, but there is so much I have yet to experience in the opposite climate. The one cold weather destination that really gets me excited, and it seems to have a similar effect on other travellers as it has become something of the destination of the year, is Iceland. This stunning country offers everything I could want from a cold weather break and much, much more. Here I would have the incredible opportunity to see amazing landscapes with geysers, mountains, snow and ice; there's something so raw and exposed about such a harsh landscape and I love it. And don't even get me started on the Northern Lights - this absolute phenomenon is something I simply have to see with my own eyes after spending years looking at photos and videos that have captured their essence. Being down in the Southern Hemisphere, it really would be a dream of mine to see both the Northern and the Southern lights - which I didn't realise even existed until I read an article a few months ago!
I'm crazy about the night skies and it is amazing being out in the outback where there is a lot less artificial light to block out the starlight - I'm actually really lucky to have a great friend out here who has his own telescope and is taking me stargazing this week. So for someone who visits space centres wherever she can, and who is always outside waiting to see super moons or any other unusual fluctuations in our skies, imagine how amazing it would feel to have seen one of the most well known and incredible sights with my own eyes. I have friends who have been and say it was just magical, and they've also had time to squeeze on amazing trips to the Blue Lagoon, pony trekking in the mountains, skiing, whale watching and to the Golden Circle. There is just so much to do that it is overwhelming, I would have so much to squeeze into my trip! I feel like a trip like this would open me up to a whole new world of travelling, perhaps leaving behind some of the hot destinations for cooler climates instead - I know so many people who have been on one skiing holiday and have now given up beach holidays because they loved the experience so much. Now I know I would never go that far, but it would be fun to mix it up a bit and experience something different. Especially when you're living in the Australian outback where it is 40 degrees most days!
What would your dream holiday be? What have you got planned for Christmas? Do you prefer hot or cold weather holidays?