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new year 2Just a quick post today to share with you guys how I spent my New Year’s Eve – as you can imagine I’m completely up to my eyeballs in packing, organising paperwork and trying to find everything I need for the next year – yikes! So this post is just a little one to mark another Happy New Year spent with the boys – my last one for a while. We’ve been having a New Year’s party together for years now so it will be strange to spend the next one away from them all. But we made sure this was a good one – me and Wolf whipped up some Mexican food and supplied the tequila – the boys brought the fun. We had a great night, all rounded off with some very bad dancing. Hope everyone else’s New Year celebrations were as much fun.new year 5new year 4new year 3new year 1new year 7new year 8Of course there was talk of what our New Year’s resolutions might be, but we all agreed there is very little point in making a resolution when we’re all happy the way we are. Also – I certainly don’t want to come back from travelling to find out they have all changed! All this New Year New Me rubbish… I think we’re all getting a bit old for that – if we really wanted to make a change, we would just do it and there would be no reason to wait for the New Year. I made my change months ago and next week it will finally begin! Bring it on! I hope that however you spent your New Year, that it was full of family and friends, and plans for the future. Whatever 2015 has in store for you, make it a big year!

How did you celebrate New Year? What have you got planned for 2015?

Ab Lucy sign off

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

I wanted to share some of them with you:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

Ab Lucy sign off

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

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

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

Click here to vote for me in the travel category

Click here to vote for me in the lifestyle category

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Thank you so much for voting!

Ab Lucy sign off

Photo by Mikhail Koninin

Photo by Mikhail Koninin

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

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

Photo by Jessica Morales

Photo by Jessica Morales

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

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

bondi

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

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

Ab Lucy sign off

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

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

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

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 RESEARCH

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


 VISAS 

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


 BANK ACCOUNTS

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


 INSURANCE

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


 BACK-UP

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


 HEALTH 

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


SECURITY

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


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

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

Ab Lucy sign off

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

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

I QUIT MY JOB.

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

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

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

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

Ab Lucy sign off

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ab Lucy sign off

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

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

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

Ab Lucy sign off

Image by Andrew Smith

Image by Andrew Smith

I write this with incredibly sore arms after starting a course of jabs ahead of next year’s travels, and I felt it was about time for another post about my plans. This one is about a question I’ve been asked a lot since making my decision and starting to plan my getaway for next year. It’s strange, because it doesn’t seem a big deal to me – just a natural choice, but it is a pretty huge decision to pack your life up, move to the other side of the world, give up your job and take a chance. It’s not something that comes easy to all of us, and for me, this decision was a long time coming. So, for those who are having those niggling thoughts, who catch themselves daydreaming about the life they wish they had, this post is all about how I made one of the biggest decisions of my life.

It happened over Christmas 2013. For the first time since finishing university, I had a full two weeks off work for Christmas and after just a week, I knew I didn’t want to go back. I’d had these thoughts in the back of my mind for a long time that my job was no longer what I wanted it to be, and it was just a case of working out if I wanted to move to a big city like London and start afresh, or whether to follow my dreams of travelling the world. This was more a daydreaming stage and I never thought I would actually make my travelling dreams a reality. I’d been stuck in a sort of limbo for the past few months, the previous summer had been amazing and I’d been so busy having fun that my job had become just that, a job. But when the summer drew to a close, I realised without all those fun distractions, I was a bit bored and wanted to escape.

Image by Dennis Skley

Image by Dennis Skley

I don’t want to sound ungrateful, I love my job and it has given me huge opportunities and a great basis for a career, but it had become stale for me after three years of working in the same office and I was ready for a change. I plodded on, not really thinking about it as other distractions popped up, but that voice in the back of my head grew louder and louder. My relationship was going through a bit of a rough patch and so I threw myself into a family Christmas and loved every second. But early January, something happened. Something that I’m still not really ready to talk about, but it suddenly threw everything into place for me. Something snapped inside of me and I realised that there was nothing holding me to my town, that actually, at that point, there was more driving me away than pinning me down. You’ve all had those moments when life gets a bit much and you have to get away? Well I couldn’t escape it all, so I started to plan and I made a decision. I decided to travel.

You might worry I was running away, but actually my problems at the time were just a catalyst for something much bigger that was already in motion. This was the answer to my melancholy, to my feelings of being trapped inside my own body. I told a few people, close friends and family about my decision, but I’m not sure they really took me seriously, they just thought I had an idea but wouldn’t actually end up going. Of course there are many who make the plans and never end up going, many who talk about it but never find the courage to up sticks and travel. But I was determined. So what did I do?

Image by Daniel Panev

Image by Daniel Panev

It was as easy as that, once I snapped everything just started to slot into place and suddenly it all made sense. I felt so free to have made the choice and to have a plan, a goal to work towards and that has seen me through the last nine months where I have been saving and working. I had several commitments that meant I couldn’t leave any earlier in the year, which was hard for me for a while as circumstances had me wanting to up and leave straight away. But I’m glad I waited as I wouldn’t have been in the right mindset to really enjoy my travels at that point. Plus the time I’ve had has given me the chance to save at a realistic rate, and to enjoy spending time with all my loved ones before leaving, which makes me feel less guilty in case I decide to stay longer.

adventure

 

For me it was slightly easier as I was living with my parents, which meant I had no ties to a mortgage or home, plus I was working in a job that I had already milked clean of all experiences and potential.

I totally understand for others it might be more complicated, but I genuinely believe that making the initial decision to jump is the hardest part and after that it all starts to fall into place.

 

What sparked your decision to give up life as you knew it and travel? Did you have a similar experience to me?

Ab Lucy sign off

Ireland 3As you read this, I’m packing and getting ready to go to the airport for a wedding in Ireland with the boyfriend’s family. I’m so unbelievably excited about this wedding, there has been one every autumn for the last few years, but this is the last one for a while and it’s a very special one. This wedding is taking us to a tiny island in the centre of Waterford, where the wedding will take place in a castle! I visited the castle last September and it was just beautiful, like something out of a fairytale, and covered in trailing red flowers. Looking at it, I half expected Rapunzel to lean out of the turrets and pour down her golden hair. We’re actually staying on the island in lodges as well so we won’t have far to stumble back to bed after the wedding, but in true Irish style, the celebrations will continue for three days of partying, drinking, eating and being very merry. So, this post is all about celebrating the 10 things I love the most about Ireland, and what has kept me going back every autumn for the last few years.Ireland 1

THE PEOPLE

Everyone I have met in Ireland has been friendly, welcoming and has gone out of their way to make you feel at home. I wouldn’t want to generalise but if you walk down the street in England, you will be met with more frowns and grumpy faces than you can cope with, but in Ireland, everyone has always been happy to see me and chat. Everyone I have ever met on my visits has been warm and kind, plus quick to help if you are lots of need a recommendation. Plus, THAT accent gets me every time.

THE LANDSCAPE

Ireland is a beautiful country with everything to offer, inland there are rolling hills and lush green fields full of cows and sheep. On the coast there are stunning beaches, cute seaside towns and choppy waves. So many towns look like time forgot them and they still hold that quaint appeal in the tiny churches and hole-in-the-wall pubs with warm fires and great music.Ireland 4THE FOOD

You guys know by now, I love my food and anywhere that can promise me a good meal is going high up in my estimations. Well Ireland certainly delivers, and particularly at last year’s wedding where we had some amazing freshly caught seafood in the coastal town where we were staying, and had the gorgeous prime Irish beef as the main wedding meal. Yum. Looking forward to seeing what food we’ll get this time!

THE PARTIES

Every single time we go to an Irish wedding it is a pretty legendary night – the last one saw us partying with the bride to an epic soundtrack she had picked herself and downing beers until the sun came up – the bride and groom actually carried on and yet still beat us to breakfast! Another one we went to was pretty manic and ended up with me locked out of the hotel room and having to bunk in with some cousins! These events always involve a lot of booze, dancing and fun so I’m sure I’ll have some tales to tell after this one!Ireland 5 THE FAMILY

I really love getting to spend time with the boyfriend’s extended family – my family, although big, are spread across the globe and we don’t often see each other. When we do, we are not particularly close, so it is lovely to spend time with a family who make such an effort to get together and to celebrate even the tiniest occasions. It is a lovely thing to be a part of and they do make me a big part of it. At this wedding, a member of the family will be travelling from South Africa to ordain the ceremony, and there are lots of others travelling from America.

THE HOLIDAY

As you guys know, I’ve been working constantly for a long time now and have been saving hard for backpacking in a few months, I haven’t really had a proper break because all my holiday time has been spent at festivals which are just as crazy! So this will be a nice relaxing break as well, a chance to regroup and get away from work for a bit. I have long needed a break – that’s for sure! Ireland is the perfect place for a break because although you feel a million miles away from home, it is super convenient to get to.Ireland 2THE ACTIVITIES

Every time I’ve visited Ireland, we’ve had no end of fun things to do, see and try. Previously we’ve had big family meals, gone walking around the coast, watched family take part in a 10k run, taken the kids to the funfair, visited a monastery and family graves, and even gone to the races! This time, there is a big golfing game to join in and, obviously the wedding, but we also have a huge family do the day after at a well-known pub, which will give us lots of time to spend together. There’s so much to do!

Have you been to Ireland? What did you think of the country and what has made it a special place for you?

Ab Lucy sign off

pinocchios-restaurant-sliderI know, I know guys, I’ve got to stop talking about food. I don’t know about you lot but I’m making myself hungry! This is a review of a fantastic restaurant I discovered when I went to Norwich a few weeks ago with the boyfriend. We have a bit of a obsession with discovering new places to eat and although we find some pretty delicious places, we always try to stop ourselves from revisiting places when there are so many more we have yet to try. I did a bit of research into local restaurants ahead of our trip, to make sure we had a couple of restaurants up our sleeve if we had time to try somewhere new and amazingly we managed to fit two restaurants into one weekend! These ones were so good, I just couldn’t resist sharing them with you, so here is my review of the first.

We started off on the Saturday night be heading to Pinocchios Restaurant on St Benedicts Street. This Mediterranean brasserie is in the heart of the city and is easy to find, with convenient free parking right outside. Best of all, it is an independent restaurant, which I always try and stick to just to support local retailers rather than bigger chains. Of course, this isn’t always possible, but I think it is something we should all aim to do. From the outside, the restaurant is warm, inviting and really cute – it has the old-fashioned charm of a Lady-and-the-Tramp-style Italian but with a more diverse menu that incorporates some delicious dishes. The restaurant is very spacious so perfect for a romantic dinner for two or a large group for a birthday, there were several different groups in there when we were eating with plenty of room for all of us. The staff were attentive and looked after us well, bringing us pepper and drinks as we needed them, but leaving us alone to enjoy our food. The restaurant also had a lovely upstairs area with more seating.photo_5We were in the mood for some comfort food and this was the perfect place to enjoy delicious and tasty dishes reminiscent of a home-cooked Italian, but with some slightly different and more exotic flavours. To start, we shared squid in tempura batter with aioli and salad, and a peach and Italian cheese bruschetta  with balsamic and salad. Both were gorgeous dishes and complemented each other well, they made a great combination and really allowed us to try a mix of flavours. The aioli was delicious and really added something new to the squid dish which I had tried previously in other restaurants, it was great to see them putting a different spin on the dish. The bruschetta was delicious, it wasn’t something I would have usually ordered, but I fancied trying something unusual and I loved the combination of balsamic and peach, they worked really well together.

For mains, I had a gorgeous carbonara – not usually a dish I would order, in fact it was the first time I had ever eaten it out, but I was just in the mood for a creamy pasta with plenty of flavour. It more than lived up to my expectations and I ate every scrap of the bowl. The portions were of a healthy size, much better than when you go to a restaurant and have three pieces of ravioli brought out to you. But most importantly, the sauce was delicious, it really combined the cream with the bacon well and with a light dusting of pepper it was pretty perfect. Mark had a parpadelle pasta with lamb in a tomato sauce. His was absolutely delicious, the lamb added a hearty flavour while the tomato kept it fresh and light, he loved the dish and I enjoyed a taste as well.

We had a lovely meal, accompanied by some gorgeous wine and sadly couldn’t manage desserts. But I would really recommend this restaurant to anybody, whether you are after a romantic candlelit meal for two, a group meal or a big party, their menu has something for everyone and their service is faultless. I really enjoyed my evening with them and was even more impressed by the prices, if you are on a bit of a budget, this is a great restaurant for you. I genuinely cannot understand why anyone would rather go to the Pizza Express that is further up the street than dine in an independent, great priced and fantastic little restaurant like Pinocchios!

Have you eaten at Pinocchios – what was your meal like? Have you any other Norwich restaurant recommendations?

Ab Lucy sign off

pinching-pennies

You may have read about my travel plans for next year in a post I published last week – if not, do check it out by following the link – and after a lot of questions about how I am financing my trip and making my plans I though it was time for another post on the subject.

I am planning to head off early next year for an open-ended trip across South-East Asia (mainly Thailand, with some other stops thrown in) followed by Australia and New Zealand where I hope to work and extend my stay for as long as possible. One thing that I have been repeatedly asked is how I am preparing for this trip, and , well the quick answer is with two main things – a hell of a lot of READING and a hell of a lot of SAVING. Both equally important because you can have all the money in the world but without knowledge this is useless, and vice versa, you can have all the plans in the world but in the end you have to finance it somehow. At the moment I am delving into several guide books and guides for planning a gap year, along with multiple travel blogs and backpacker online guides to really make sure I have all the information I need.

Meanwhile, I am saving, and hard to make sure that I have the money I need and want put aside to keep me travelling for as long as possible before I need to find work – this is important to me because escaping working full time and education is one of the main reasons I am planning to leave. I have been working since I was 14 years old and in education since I was five, now I think it is time for me to have a break and see the world – to get some real education! So, I have been making cutbacks and changes to my lifestyle which, although tricky, will pay off massively next year when I am on a Thai beach sipping cocktails instead of serving the drinks.

Here are the first set of changes I have made, with more yet to come:

  1. The first one, as you may have read in a previous post, I have changed my phone contract. It might sound like nothing much, but before I was paying nearly £40 a month or a contract I barely used, when it came to the time for my upgrade, I ignored the texts and emails from O2 and instead kept my same handset (not wanting to get stuck into a two year contract) and changed to a SIM-only contract with a different network. It has cut me down to an £11 a month bill and will be saving me over £300 which will all go straight into the pot – plus I am free to cancel it at any time. (Savings rating – £££)
  2. I have had a huge sort out of all my clothes and reorganised my wardrobe which has shown me a whole collection of clothes that had been forced to the back and will now get a second chance to show the world what they’ve got. I am not letting myself buy any new clothes unless I can seriously justify the buy to my mum, or it is something that I can both wear now and when I head off on my travels. (Savings rating – ££££££)
  3. I have also forced myself to discover eBay and am starting to sell loads of old party dresses that I rarely wear any more. They look sad sitting in my wardrobe and deserve a good home – so I am flogging them all with plans to sell the rest as well. I will be moving on to books and DVDs soon after with plans of doing a few car boot sales in the summer to get rid of the rest. More space and more cash – score! (Savings rating – ££)
  4. Nights out are something I am happily sacrificing at the moment, the long, miserable winter nights are a time to be snuggled in bed, hibernating and watching rubbish TV. I am perfectly happy to comply and have turned down several nights out lately, or have volunteered to be the driver instead. Staying sober means I save even more pennies! I’d much rather a beer on the beach. It also means I really enjoy the nights out I do have. I am also trying to put away some money for summer festivals at the same time, when I would much rather be spending the dosh. (Savings rating – ££)
  5. I’m quite lucky that through my work at the newspaper and TFF that I get to score free tickets for reviews to festivals, theatre shows, live music events and more – I will be using my blagging skills to the best of my ability over the coming months when I do plan on heading out. Starting with tickets to the ballet next month. (Savings rating – ££)
  6. I had planned to start a new set of exercise classes in January/February to keep my routine fresh – starting with boxercise and possibly taking up spinning or something. Once I had decided on going away, I decided I didn’t see the point in paying for classes as well as the gym when the money I saved could help pay for a hostel for up to a week. Instead, I got my personal trainer friend to re-jig my routine at the gym and started a fresh new workout with new goals for free! (Savings rating – £)
  7. Equipment-wise, I will be needing a good backpack and am hoping that my old Duke of Edinburgh one will suffice, saving me lots of cash, if it won’t perhaps I can sell that one and put the money towards a new one. Also, for items like an iPad Mini and new camera that I have decided I need for my trip, I am hoping these will be birthday and Christmas gifts from family. (Savings rating – £££)
  8. One of my weaknesses for spending all those extra pennies I don’t keep track of very well has got to be products – skincare, makeup, haircare and the rest. I can never resist a face pack or a mud mask, but these soon eat away at my bank account. Luckily, I was spoiled at Christmas with loads of lovely bath products and make-up so I see this as a saving – I will not have to stock up on any of these for several months. Considering how much I would usually spend, this should keep me a little extra cash for those boat trips. (Savings rating – ££)
  9. I will be looking at ways of saving money while still maintaining a fun lifestyle this summer – I refuse to give up the festivals as well as the summer holiday, but will find ways of doing them on a budget and spending little on food and drink. Combined with free tickets, this could give me a pretty cheap summer. (Savings rating – £££)
  10. I may also look at taking on extra work as a freelance copywriter or find other ways of earning extra cash – either through extra work or by speeding up my journalism training so that I get a pay rise. (Savings rating – ££)
  11. It’s also pretty silly, but I’m entering competitions left, right and centre with the hopes of winning a lump sum or something I can sell to help raise more. Unpredictable I know, but every little helps! (Savings rating – £)

I’m always open to any other suggestions and would appreciate any help with finding other ways of saving money and earning a bit extra for my travels. Leave me a comment and tell me how you saved up enough to make your dream come true!

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