Flatform fashion is a strong look for the summer, and even better, it's entirely practical for us traveler girls. Teaming up with XYLondon gave me the perfect opportunity to showcase fabulous shoes and clothes which are perfect for summer – no matter where you are spending it. I'm loving the opportunity to share more fashion-related posts lately and think it works well with travel as I require my clothes and shoes to be a lot longer-lasting and more hard wearing as well as stylish, so that they can survive all of my adventures.
I've always loved fashion, it's such a great way to be creative, and as someone who has struggled all her life to find good shoes that fit, gorgeous footwear has always been something I ended up sacrificing. Now these new flatform fashion styles combine pretty shoes with practicality and make them perfect for traveling the world and exploring new cities.After those first months of travel spent living in flip-flops and tie-dye on the beach, I'll be honest and say I'm really enjoying being able to dress up a bit more now I've left backpacking behind and make more effort for life in Europe. With all this gorgeous weather, I was over the moon when the team at XYLondon sent me these gorgeous shoes to try out and style up. They picked well to match my style and the shoes go great with everything from summer casual wear to a party dress for nights out, that I've barely taken them off since they arrived in the mail.
Most importantly of all, for someone who struggles to find shoes that are the right shape and size for her awkward feet, when these flatform fashion styles arrived in the post, they both fit like a dream the very first time I put them on. Well-fitting shoes are so important, I can't deal with the sight of feet crammed into too-tight heels or straps that make your skin bulge uncomfortably. Our feet carry us every day of our lives ladies, they deserve comfort as well as style.As someone who walks a hell of a lot in every new place I visit, it's important for shoes to not only be comfortable but hard-wearing, so when these gorgeous Polly Black Strappy Slingback Flatform Shoes arrived I made sure to put them through their paces. Wearing them on a day out in Cambridge, we marched the streets all day long and not once did the shoes rub or feel even slightly uncomfortable. They felt like I'd been wearing them years with the soft, synthetic leather and the comfortable flatform fashion style – which, if, like me, you can't be bothered with big heels, is a great way to dress up an outfit for the evening while staying comfortable.
These gorgeous shoes were such a hit that I raved about them to my bestie, who promptly went online and bought a pair for herself. These are also available in white and rose gold which are both fab for a night out or daytime wanderings. For £22.99, they're a total steal and even after I've worn them to death, they still look brand new and are as comfy as the day they arrived. You guys know I pride honesty in every review, and I can honestly say these have become my favourite and the most versatile shoes in my wardrobe. Available online here.I've definitely noticed that since traveling, I'm much more of a trainers and flats kind of gal than heels – I used to love going out in heels but that was back when I had the stamina and the inability to feel pain. These days, I much prefer to dance all night or walk all day and still be smiling at the end, so flatforms fashion is a great choice because you get the benefit of the extra height (a bonus if you're a shortie like me) and feeling a bit more dressed up at night, but they can also be worn during the day with more casual outfits. Anything that works for both day and night is a winner for me, especially if you're traveling a lot and don't have much space in your bag for lots of shoes.These Paige Navy Faux Suede Strappy Flatform Sandals are a great example of a really well-made and stylish shoe that easily works for both day and night. They can be nice and casual for a visit to the pub or a day out somewhere, or you could even dress them up and wear them to a wedding if you styled them well. I love the slight espadrille style of the bottom of the shoes, it make them feel really summery and perfect for holidays while the darker colour means they'll go with your whole wardrobe. The thick straps are really supportive and make the shoes really comfortable to wear, plus the wrap-around strap style is very slimming on the ankles.
Again, I tested these ones out with a good and long walk through the countryside over here in Germany and despite running around the fields taking all these pics, they were still just as comfortable as the day they arrived. The rich colour is perfect for teaming up with blue denim or even the super cute striped trousers that are everywhere at the moment. They are also available in nude or black and cost just £22.99. Available online here.
What do you prefer – heels or flats? Where do you stand on flatform fashion? What shoes are your favourite this summer? Have you got a pair you bring out every season?
There are endless stunning beaches just waiting to be explored in Sri Lanka, but unlike many other parts of Asia they remain untouched and uncrowded with a certain charm I have yet to find elsewhere. From the blissful south east where Mirissa and Unawatuna can be found strewn with palm trees, cute fairy lights and perfect sunrises, to the north and west where you'll find the more rugged shores of Arugam Bay and Trincomalee. There is something to suit every beach bum whether you're craving lazy days spent sunbathing, diving and discovering the incredible wildlife or chasing the surf at sunset. Sadly while travelling there for a month in November, we were tiptoeing around the rainy season and ended up spending less time on the beaches and more deep in the jungles. But we couldn't resist a trip to Trincomalee after having it recommended to us by so many locals and friends. Despite having to spend hours making our way across the country by bus, we decided to spend our last few days exploring the western shores and spoiler alert we definitely didn't regret it! In fact, when a friend was visiting Sri Lanka the following month, one of the first places I recommended she visit was Trincomalee - why? Read on to find out:
Yes you read that correctly. Trinco is the most magical place for water babies to have a completely unique experience. Locals run trips where you can actually snorkel with blue whales while they remain protected, they actually guide documentary makers on where and how best to film them. It's pretty cheap and something you certainly won't regret. Not keen on getting up close and personal with the whales? There are also countless whale watching trips where you can view the creatures, and passing sperm whales, from the safety of a boat.
Sri Lanka's waters are the perfect place to spot these joyful creatures jumping through the waves and the west coast is known for it's rougher waters which they love. It's the perfect place to hit the water and see dolphins being wild and free.
A must-see for your trip – have the ultimate desert island experience with powdery white sand, volcanic rocks and pristine reef. Pigeon Island is idyllic but it does get busy during peak season - book your trips through your hotel and enjoy a day of snorkelling and exploring. Travellers have even reported getting to swim with octopus thanks to expert guides.
At nearby Kanniya you'll find the seven geothermal wells which are very popular with both tourists and holidaying Sri Lankans.
There are some spectacular temples to visit while in the area, but one you simply must see while you are there is the the colourful Koneswaram temple. High up in the hills, the Hindu temple is found near the dramatic Swami Rock and spectacular Gokarna Bay. Take a walk up to the top, then as you're strolling back down stop for a fresh juice overlooking the ocean.
Fancy catching some sun? Look for the beaches of Uppuveli and Nilaveli to fulfil your need for beachy bliss and some well-deserved peace and quiet. Uppuveli is good for swimming due to the calmer waters, and is slightly more developed with more options for guesthouses and hotels – we stayed here and loved it. Nilaveli boasts a longer beach and a much quieter area but the waters are rougher and less suited for swimming.
If you love a bit of history and checking out the sights, your visit wouldn't be complete without a trip to the British War Cemetery which the locals are keen to share with you. A walk around Fort Frederick is lovely around sunset, make sure you go all the way to the top for a really beautiful view of the bay.
Strangely, the main part of Trinco is absolutely filled with the tamest deer I have ever seen, they live right in the centre of town and sadly eat rubbish. It was a bit of a sad sight to see them making their home on the grass in-between the busy road by the bus station, but we were simply amazed at how they would let you go right up to them and even pet them.
Travelling on a budget? Trinco has accommodation to suit all needs from the luxury hotels to the budget apartments and rooms at guest houses. We stayed at the lovely Lobster Inn which was fantastic and I highly recommend it – the owners were really lovely and it was very cheap, actually cheaper than advertised on the website because it was off season. But if you're on even more of a budget, or just run out of money, try the Aqua Inn where you can stay in an actual backpacker cave – they're awesome!
Have you been to Trincomalee? Is Sri Lanka on your bucket list? What unique accommodation have you found on your travels?
*First pic credit.
How to save money when booking travel is one of my most requested blog posts. Clearly you guys love cutting corners as much as I do! After I saved my parents hundreds on their holiday across both flights and accommodation – I had a record number of requests asking for a post on how I did it. And when I managed to score flights to Germany for just £4.70, I had yet more requests for top tips on how to find great travel deals. I've now lost count of the times I've helped friends and family to save huge amounts of money on travel. So this post will cover all my best tips and tricks to remember the next time you book a holiday.
Whether it's a summer holiday, a year-long trip around the world or a weekend city break. A bit of careful planning can mean the difference between saving enough for a few extra glasses of wine or even two weeks spending money! As we all know, I've spent a long time travelling as a budget backpacker. Well, maintaining that lifestyle long-term means sometimes cutting corners in a bid to travel for longer. I only know the things that I know through a very long process of trial and error. That means I've made all the same mistakes including accidentally booking the more expensive option and learning about the cheaper websites after. But the beauty of that is that I've done all the hard work for you!
Everyone loves a comparison site! They make it nice and easy to see all the deals in one place. But sometimes it is easy to get distracted by what seems like a "good deal" that you don't realise you're actually being overcharged. Skyscanner and sites like Expedia can be great but always price up the flights and hotel independently via their own websites. Check you actually are getting the best deal. My favourite site for booking flights at the moment is Cheap Flights which helped me save hundreds. I booked flights to travel from Australia to Indonesia, Malaysia, Sri Lanka and back to Europe for less than £500.
I actually cannot believe that people don't know about this! It is vital to getting good deals. On your web browser (whether you use Safari or Firefox or Chrome) there is an option to "open a private window" or "go incognito". Using this means the websites you visit cannot track the deals you are looking at. So you know when you look at a deal, then five minutes later when you look again the price has gone up? That's because the websites are tracking what you are looking at! Get around it by using the private windows. It means the prices stay more constant and they don't reflect you viewing any other sites.
I hate that I always have to sign up and start an account when booking something. We all know the real reason we have to do that is so the companies can send us loads of emails. However, the last year has really taught me the value of these accounts, particularly during my month in Sri Lanka. During my trip, I booked all accommodation through Booking.com. After making so many bookings in such a short space of time, I was promoted to bonus member which meant I was eligible for a lot of extra discounts and bonuses. I saved loads through discounts on the properties I stayed at. I was also eligible for extras such as early check in/late check out, transport, discounts on activities etc.
We've spent years being told the package deal is the best on offer. Depending on where you are going, you can get some great deals this way. I know I booked 10 days in Ibiza for just £200 each for flights and accommodation in peak season around six years ago. But now I would always recommend booking flights and accommodation separately for the best deal. My parents were going to book a trip to Porto as a package until I had a look over their "deal". After a quick search, I managed to save them over £200 despite moving them to a better and more central hotel! It took me all of five minutes and has given them a big chunk of spending money. Booking.com is fantastic for reduced accommodations in better locations and always super easy to use.
When I was first traveling in Australia, I decided to plan my East Coast trip and was looking at four weeks of beaches, activities and transport on a serious budget. It was a daunting task and after doing a lot of research, I decided to book through the tour desk in my hostel. I had been to three other travel agents and had priced it up individually online myself - but this actually worked out the best option. By booking through a travel agent, we actually saved hundreds of £££ and were gifted free meals throughout most of our trip. We also got great discounts on our activities such as Fraser Island, white water rafting and even had a few free extras thrown in. You can read my full post on planning your trip here, and my guide to budgeting your trip here.
I read an article about this a few years ago, about how Tuesday and Wednesdays were the cheapest day to book flights - I wasn't sure whether to believe it. So I did a bit of research and started searching for flights to various locations using my regular websites on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, then compared them to other days of the week. What did I find? There was a real difference - depending on where you were flying to it could mean the difference between flying for a few quid or spending much more on your next trip. I've just booked the cheapest flights I've ever found thanks to booking on a Tuesday, trying different websites and airports, and looking at the month-view. I'm taking my first trip of the year on a £4.70 flight to Hamburg in just two weeks, all because I was smart about booking.
This one is hard if you only get specific days off or if you have to book time off well in advance. But being flexible about when you travel or even your destination can really make a difference. I always try to look ahead at month-views of flight prices to see when the cheapest times to travel are. Sometimes I will fly into alternative airports to save money and time, like when I used to use Bremen airport for Hamburg. If you just want a holiday but don't mind where, play flight roulette and pick the cheapest location on Skyscanner (search Everywhere). Or look at flight sales for bargain flights. Looking for long-haul flights? Always check the flight cost from various locations in Europe – sometimes there can be added tax for flying into the UK. You may find it cheaper to fly into Europe, then get a connecting flight.
These can be a goldmine or just another suck on your money. If you thinking more of days out than a holiday, you could check out sites like Groupon for budget deals. I always check them for any spa/hotel deals and make sure I get the email updates for Norfolk and London. My sister uses sites like these to get great deals and has often done dinner and a West End show for cheaper than just the show tickets thanks to the deals. But do be cynical - read the small print carefully and make sure you are actually getting the best deal because most of these are non-refundable. You can also check out buy and sell groups on Facebook - often people will sell on deal vouchers like this if they can't use them for a reduced price.
This turned into an epic post but I'm hoping these tips and tricks will help you guys with planning your travels. Trial and error is my best teacher and I just hope some of my tips can help you guys to have your dream trip. Shop around when searching and definitely devote some time to searching. It can seem tedious when you first start, but the more you do it, the faster you'll be and the more you'll save. Don't forget to let me know if I've managed to save you some money!
Have these tips helped you to plan your next trip? How much have you saved using these pointers? Whats the cheapest flight you've ever booked?
There's nothing better than spending an afternoon with your favourite people indulging in tea, cake and a lot of laughs. Since being back in the UK I'm doing my best to organise as many fun reunions with friends and family as possible, to make the most of every second I have here before I continue with my travels. When I was invited along to try K West Hotel and Spa's Glamrock Afternoon Tea, there was only one person I wanted to invite along - my mum. We always try to organise regular mummy-daughter days to treat ourselves with a day at the spa, cocktails or shopping, but afternoon tea would be a new one for us. Surprising, considering how much we both like cake! When I'm away on my travels we always have to postpone our special days so we try our best to catch up when I'm back and to really treat ourselves.As you walk in the doors of the hotel, you're instantly bathed in the cosmopolitan vibe from the bold colours and luxurious decorations to the busy and well-stocked bar. Set just down the road from Shepherd's Bush tube station, the hotel is the perfect place to indulge in a really girly day with a spa on the premises and West 12 Shopping Centre just round the corner. Guided upstairs to the restaurant, you still retain the atmosphere of the bar downstairs but gain a little privacy to enjoy your dining experience. Given a warm welcome by our server, we were instantly in the glam rock mood as we heard the sounds of Steve Harley, Cockney Rebel, Blondie, Slade and even a bit of T.Rex. Having a mother who loved a bit of glam rock back in her day meant we were both singing and dancing along.The Glamrock Afternoon Tea has lots of different options available from the classic afternoon tea, to the Glamrock Prosecco or Champagne Afternoon Tea, or even the Rock'n'Cocktails Tea. We couldn't resist trying out the Rock'n'Cocktails Tea after seeing the amazing cocktail menu and the huge range of teas available to try. After glancing over the menu, we started on our first round of tea - the Tea Rex! This bespoke K West tea offers a more daring cup of tea with a bold, smokey flavour and a soothing floral aftertaste - it's really delicious and left us excited to try some more of their exciting blends. Later on I tried the Very Berry tea which is actually made from dried fruit and was heavenly, while mum tried the Cherry Blossom which was beautifully delicate on the taste-buds. There were several other fascinating ones to try including the Bobby Marley Blend and the Rooibos Orange and Cactus Fig.Differing from the classic afternoon tea, this one has a rather more glamorous twist with plenty of flavours to tantalise your taste-buds. If you've got a bit of a sweet tooth but don't fancy the traditional cakes of an afternoon tea, this one if perfect for you with lots of delicate sweet treats on offer. Starting on the savoury items we had a range of mini-sandwiches with fillings such as hummus and rocket or avocado, my favourite smoked salmon and cream cheese and some absolutely delicious halloumi, guacamole and tomato rainbow rolls. Then, we moved on to the delicious scones - my highlight of the afternoon tea - they were so tasty and served with strawberry jam, clotted cream and fresh berries. Before indulging our sweet tooth with no end of goodies from sugar confetti mini eclairs to cocktail macaroons and marshmallow, chocolate and nut sprinkles cones. We were in foodie heaven and were delighted when the staff brought us some more of the savoury snacks.Of course, we couldn't resist trying one of the amazing cocktails on offer for the Rock'n'Cocktails Tea - after taking a look at the menu, we both went for the Yo Snow which is gin infused with Campari, Martini Rosso and Prosecco Vaporetto with lemonade. It was the perfect accompaniment to all the sweet treats and the crisp, tangy flavours were really refreshing - it was exactly the kind of cocktail I would want to make for my girls at home. They really embraced the seasonal flavours for the winter-themed Glamrock Afternoon Tea and I'd be intrigued to see how these change throughout the year. At the end of the afternoon, we were sad to leave after having such a fabulous treat and such wonderful service. Our waitress was fantastic and was keen to recommend teas or cocktails she thought we might like to try, she really made sure to give us the best afternoon tea experience. A huge thank you to K West Hotel and Spa for having us along, and if you want to book in for afternoon tea - click here.
What are your favourite afternoon tea treats? Who would you like to take along for a Glam Rock Afternoon Tea? Can you recommend any other afternoon teas?
Perth is kind of like Vegemite - you either love it or you hate it.
The city is often the receiver of either rave reviews or disappointing memories for travelers and I know I have heard all opinions from friends over the years. Never letting a bad review stand in the way of me making up my own opinion about a place, I refused to make a judgement before seeing it with my own eyes. After a week in Adelaide - read my city guide here - I hopped on a quick flight over to experience my first taste of Western Australia and to finally start my West Coast adventure. I arrived at the airport and caught a bus straight to my new hostel which had come highly recommended by friends all across social media and was clearly the hot favourite.
Not the easiest hostel to get to, there was a real lack of information at the airport regarding shuttle buses, routes and schedules - eventually I managed to find a helpful bus driver who told me I would need two buses to reach the hostel. It turned into a bit of a mission but I made it finally. I was a bit disappointed by the "friendly" staff who barely acknowledged my presence and seemed very bored by their job - not the best welcome to a new city and hostel. I was sent up to my room which was pretty aged and a bit dirty. I'm definitely not a snob when it comes to hostels but this building felt less like a hostel with atmosphere and vibe, it felt more like an old building used for school trips. You could tell this was a city hostel with many people just passing through for a day or two or others who were working and had no time to meet travelers. I don't want to be totally negative about the hostel - I'm sure it must have been great at points for so many of my friends to rave about it - but I personally found the crowd staying there when I passed through to be quite antisocial and not very friendly to newcomers. It was not my kind of hostel. However, it is in a fantastic location for exploring the city by bus and on foot, Highgate is a great area for nightlife, food and entertainment.
King's Park is a highlight of visiting Perth and one not to be missed, these beautiful gardens are backed by the Botanic Gardens and sit high on a hill overlooking the city. Providing you with a spectacular panoramic view of the city, the park is best at sunset when you can really appreciate the beauty of Perth. You can access the park by bus or road, or you can take the more challenging way - Jacob's Ladder - a set of steep steps leading up to the park often full of fitness fanatics who run up and down for hours. Take a picnic, water and your camera for a lovely afternoon.
I stumbled across Hilary's Boat Harbour on my wanderings around the city and had the loveliest time down there enjoying a drink overlooking the water while I planned some of my travels. There are lots of places to eat and drink down there and also a range of attractions and entertainment for the whole family, including access to trips on charter/fishing boats or over to Rottnest Island. Fancy keeping it simple - why not take a stroll along the boardwalk in the sunshine?
Northbridge is just a short walk from Highgate - where I stayed - and the main city. It's a fabulous neighbourhood full of quirky places to eat and drink throughout the day and into the evening. I found a great little vegan restaurant called Flora and Fauna, which served the best range of brunches and juices I have found in a long time. Although I didn't get to go out while in the city - too much work on unfortunately - I've heard the nightlife is very good in this area as well.
Take in the views across the harbour and if the weather is good for you, why not grab a book and relax in the parks near Elizabeth Quay? It's a perfect place to take a time-out or grab some lunch to take down there and sit in the sunshine before going for a stroll among the amusements and across the bridge for great city views.
I like to keep fit and one of my favourite ways to explore a new city is on foot - whether by walking all day long or by heading out for a morning run. I discovered the absolutely beautiful Hyde Park not far from my hostel in just this way, think golden, brown, autumn leaves falling from the trees and benches overlooking a lake - heaven right in the middle of the city.
Everyone says "you HAVE to go to Cottosloe Beach" and so, I did. But I couldn't help being a little disappointed. Yes it was beautiful and yes it was bathed in sunshine when I went. But in my opinion, it didn't even compare to having the whole of City Beach to yourself, or walking the endless sands of Scarborough watching dogs and surfers frolic in the waves. Definitely get yourself out to the beaches - they are Perth's sparkling gem - but don't always listen to what everyone says.
Fremantle is the place that really stole my heart and I'll be posting in much more detail about life there, but even for those just visiting for a day there is lots to do. There are weekend markets for food and goodies, live music and entertainment in the streets, a brewery for beer and cider tastings, beaches, history and culture to explore. Just watch out - it's easy to get stuck here!
While I was staying in Fremantle, my hostel organised a day trip around the wineries and local producers of Swan Valley. It was a fantastic day of free tastings and luxury food and drink and is definitely worth a visit if youre staying in the area. It's a great day on a budget because so many of the tastings are either free or cost just a few dollars - perfect for budget-conscious travelers or backpackers.
My favourite day in Perth by far was the one I spent walking all over the city exploring - it's a good city to explore on foot and especially if you're into fitness like myself. I set myself the challenge of walking as far as possible and took on Jacob's Ladder - one for the fitness fanatics - as well as walking over 15km across the city and King's Park then back to my hostel. It was a lovely day to walk in the sunshine and I would recommend exploring the city this way. I also loved my time at the beaches near the city - these were really very beautiful and a strong reminder that Perth's real charm is outside of the city. Now while Perth may not be my favourite city by far - I really did love my time in Fremantle and traveling up the coast so don't worry if you're not a fan - there is a version of Perth to suit all of us.
Have you been to Perth? What was your favourite part? What else did you do when you visited?
Wild camping can be a scary prospect for those who are not used to the great outdoors. But as someone who has always chased adventures – I'm here to tell you the truth about wild camping and why you should try it. I've created this first-timers' guide to getting out under the stars and into the heart of nature. Everything you need to know – from where to go and what to pack, to personal hygiene and those infamous bush poos. Throughout my 5+ years of travelling solo, I've wild camped across the world, from the UK and Europe, right over to Australia.
The truth is I've always loved a bit of luxury as much as the next girl. But when it comes down to it, I would always much rather be walking barefoot around a national park and bathing in waterfalls. Although I had tried wild camping before I ever went travelling – it was only when I tried it in Asia and Australia that it really stole my heart. There's nothing quite like the simple life, of sleeping under the stars in the outback, of cooking dinner on the beach and waking up to the ocean. It's a freedom you just can't beat.
People are often shocked by how much I love camping and getting outside. But it's got to be the Norfolk lass in me – I'm just made for that outdoor life. Before I ever tried going wild, I had been camping a lot through volunteering programmes, challenges and of course, lots of festivals. I was a pro at putting up a tent and things like cooking dinner outside or the chilly run to the toilets never fazed me. But over the last few years, my whole perspective of camping really changed thanks to my travels.
For me it was the moments when I was road tripping across Western Australia that really sealed the deal. I spent over a month driving, sleeping in a car and camping wild in beautiful spots without ever seeing a soul. It was everything I had ever dreamed of in Australia and showed me how much is possible, and how happy you can be with so little. My squad spent our nights watching the stars above cattle ranches, smoke spiralling into the sky from our camp fire. Each day we woke up to the sounds of the ocean lapping against the shore and the excitement of exploring a new place.
The questions I get asked the most when it comes to camping – so let's answer these ones first. My best tip for first-timers who aren't sure about camping whether wild or not. Get over the grime. The quicker you do this, the more you will enjoy your experience. Yes the toilets are not always that nice, and sometimes there won't be any at all. You might have to have a few bush wees and maybe even a bush poo if you're in the middle of nowhere. But if you just accept the wet wipe baths and stop thinking about it, you'll soon adjust to a simpler life.
I spent six weeks living off wet wipe baths, shaving my legs with baby oil and pooing on the side of the road in the dustiest place on earth. Trust me, if I can do that and still have an epic time – you can certainly handle a weekend. If it's your first time trying out wild camping – the main thing is be prepared. Ladies, I would recommend not planning a trip for when you are on your period. It's definitely doable but just not very nice to not be able to have a shower. If you do decide to go anyway, I recommend a moon cup instead of tampons – then you don't have to worry about disposing of products.
The main thing to remember if you're camping wild is that you need to be entirely self-reliant. That means planning ahead, having everything you need and emergency kit in case anything goes wrong. The more you plan and have ready, the more you will enjoy your trip.
I've been a very lucky girl to have experiences camping wild all over the globe – but my favourite stand-out experiences have to be in these top 3 locations:
While it's nice to tell you about how amazing wild camping can be, I also want to be honest about the less fun experiences. Camping is super weather dependent and a trip can quickly go downhill if you're not prepared for bad weather. My worst camping experiences have always been due to extreme rain. In the Yorkshire Dales, UK, on my Duke of Edinburgh final expedition, we were hit by severe storms and flooded out of any potential campsites before our van broke down. Over in Melbourne, Australia, a trip to Wilson's Prom was cut short by heavy rain that flooded the campsite and all the tents.
The key to enjoying your trip no matter what the weather is preparation. Do your research before each trip and check the temperatures for day and night, predicted weather, and anything else that could affect you. If you're going to a very exposed place or somewhere at higher altitudes, you'll need to prepare for wind and cooler temperatures. Remember to take into account warmer temps in the day and cooler temps at night, and to be prepared for all extremes.
I love the freedom that comes with it. It's a simple life, where all you need is a shelter, food, a campfire and the stars. You can disappear into the outback, or to some deserted beach and not a soul will know where you are. You can turn your phone off and really switch off. Something that is so important when you work a lot and desperately need some downtime. There's something really romantic about the idea of traveling the world by van and being entirely self-reliant. You have everything you need and can escape into the world for a little while.
What kind of camper are you - luxury, festival or wild? What advice would you give to first-time wild campers?
I left Melbourne at the beginning of May, eager to be traveling again and exploring new places. I was sad to leave behind my amazing apartment on the banks of the Yarra, to say goodbye to my job and all my friends, but I was long overdue for a change of scenery. It was around this time when this blog started winding down, when I made an unconscious decision to travel and stop worrying about documenting it. It was just the break I needed but now I have so many traveling stories to share with you all, and where better to start than with my South Australian experiences. Now while I have already shared my less fortunate and fun experiences of Adelaide with you all - read the post here - this time I want to focus on the positive, because I really did love my time visiting the city. I was lucky enough to have a very good friend, Jack, living there - we first met back in Thailand and traveled through Laos at the same time, then over a year later he came to visit me in Melbourne, so I was long overdue for a visit. After he picked me up from the airport, we spent our first evening together drinking way too much red wine and catching up. Sadly Jack had to work the week I was there, but as a solo traveler that didn't bother me, I was more than happy to go off exploring by myself.
I really loved Adelaide, as a smaller city it was perfect for me - I could easily get lost in it without feeling the claustrophobia setting in. It was beautifully dated and had a history about it, which provided a great contrast to the shiny new buildings of Sydney and Melbourne. A peaceful city, it was quiet to walk around the streets and easy to navigate, with public transport making it a breeze to get out and explore the beaches. But there was still plenty going on - I was lucky enough to arrive when Tasting Australia had a huge event taking place right in the center - more on that later. While I had a whole week there, I know many might have just a few days to explore the city. So in this post I've made a list of the top things to do while visiting Adelaide, to make it easier to plan your trip.
You guys will all know by now, I'm always looking for the green spaces in every city. The botanic gardens were an absolute highlight for me in Adelaide, they are genuinely some of the most beautiful outdoor areas I have found in Australia slap bang in the middle of a city. A perfect place for a stroll and to escape the hustle and bustle of the city.
If the weather is a bit hit and miss, there's no place better than the museum and art gallery to duck into for a wander around. Both are full of fascinating history and some really beautiful works from a huge range of artists from across the ages. Both are right next door to each other so you won't have far to walk if the rain and wind starts - South Australia's weather can be a bit hectic if you visit at certain times of the year. I was lucky and although it was cold and windy, it was brilliant sunshine every day I was there - perfect for exploring a new city.
If you love a market as much as I do, don't miss out on a visit to Adelaide Central Markets, South Australia's main food hub for over 140 years. With over 80 stalls under one roof offering the finest in tasty, fresh produce, unusual items and some freshly prepared meals including delicious seafood and paella. There are also fresh fruit and vegetable stalls, book stalls and much, much more in the Gouger Street building.
Visiting on a weekend and fancy a night out? Check out Rundle Street to get the party started - this vibrant and eclectic city boulevard combines historic charm with modern sophistication. Head to one of the many restaurants for alfresco dining under the stars, or stumble down hidden stairways to secret bars from another era. One night we started in Maybe Mae, a secret 1950's cocktail bar hidden under a stairwell and behind a secret door, for a few cocktails before moving upstairs to Bread and Bone for a fantastic meal. The burgers there are amazing and the service is fantastic at both venues. Another night we started out in the suburbs where we started with dinner and drinks, then moved on to the clubs and bars in the city for a night out - we had a great time until our night out ended rather abruptly.
Sadly this is something I didn't get to do - we had a whole day at the vineyards planned but after our eventful Saturday night we weren't really in the right state or mood to go out for the day. It was such a shame as it was all set to be a great day of wine tastings and enjoying the beautiful surroundings of Clare Valley. South Australia's wine tastings are supposed to be an absolute highlight of visiting the territory, so don't miss out on the opportunity if you visit.
One of my absolute favourite places I found while in Adelaide, Henley Beach is absolutely beautiful and really showed me how the city is a hidden gem. So many travelers skip Adelaide and miss out on so much, it really is a city like no other in Australia and I'll be honest and say home of the beaches there easily rival Perth's famous beaches in my experience. A perfect place for a long beach walk, to take the dog for a run or just to enjoy some fish and chips by the shore.
Any time I visit any new place I always check to see what local events are on and I was lucky enough to randomly coincide my visit with Tasting Australia - a huge foodie's event that was touring the country with food provided by top chefs and cooked live in front of you. There was live music, a gin bar, entertainment, talks, dinner parties and a chance to try all of the food by the top chefs - a pretty awesome day out! I went a few times, once by myself during the day to soak up the festival atmosphere, and another time in the evening with my friend to enjoy a few drinks and the entertainment. A perfect event for the whole family.
Just passing through? Three days is a perfect amount of time to explore Adelaide and get a taste for the city. But if you do have more time to explore, South Australia has so much more to offer in the way of national parks, natural beauty and much more. Check out this website for more ideas.
Have you been to Adelaide - how was your experience? Can you recommend anything else to do, or places to eat/drink?
It's been over three months since my last post on Absolutely Lucy, the longest break I have ever had from blogging. I needed it, I needed time to live and grow and experience away from the screen. Three months ago I was really struggling, I let myself become overworked and exhausted, I was feeling pretty low about a few things and was starting to question everything. I kept trying to force myself to write but it just wasn't working. I couldn't find my flow. So I made an unconscious decision to take a big step back. I quit my job, made travel plans and decided to take some time for myself. Since we last spoke, I have traveled thousands of kilometers by car across Australia with the most unexpected bunch of people, I have explored so much of the country that has been my home for nearly two years and I've experienced a dream trip come true. I've lived out of a car, walked barefoot through national parks, bathed in icy cold waterfalls and swam with the most incredible deep-sea creatures. I've hiked and climbed, I've laughed and sang. This road trip truly was the one I've been waiting a lifetime for, but more about that at a later date.
Taking this trip without any pressure on myself to document, write or photograph every moment was just what I needed - I did it because I loved it, not to write or force myself to create. Instead of the posed photographs, I have a memory card full of candids of laughing faces and make-up free smiles - it's full of soul and that is more precious than anything. It's so easy for me to forget that although I run this blog as a hobby and a passion, I also treat it like a business and work just as hard at it - if not harder - than I do in my job. Travel blogging, or blogging generally, is much harder than you all think. So often I will work a full 9-11 hours, spending my breaks at the gym or running errands, then I'll head home and spend several hours writing and curating the pieces you read. It's hard work and so often I will let that get the better of me and push me into exhaustion - it's silly I know, but I'll never be one of those girls who settles.I have so much to catch you all up on, but for now I want to focus on this blog makeover. I have spent the last few weeks coding and building a brand new website that I feel reflects the newer, more grown up, Absolutely Lucy. You see, I started this blog over three years ago and a lot has changed in that time - my whole life in fact. My relationships with friends, family and loved ones, my career choices, my lifestyle and travel plans, they couldn't be more different. When you first met Absolutely Lucy, I was a 24-year-old girl who had just come out of a nine-year relationship and was on the brink of quitting my job in journalism to travel the world. Now, almost four years later, I'm a 27-year-old woman who has been traveling solo for three years across Asia, Australia and Europe, has set up an online business single-handedly, and who has completely fallen for someone amazing who has made her question whether solo travel is for her anymore. That's a pretty big life change in just four years and while I still have the spirit of the old Absolutely Lucy hidden inside - the girl who just wants to live life to the fullest and experience all the world has to offer - I also have a whole new view on the world.
We all change and grow as we learn more about ourselves and the world around us, so this blog should be no different. Since I started blogging for fun, I have won awards, been commended and mentioned in magazines and online articles, and more recently have worked with some amazing companies including Emirates, Thompson and Durex. This blog should reflect how Absolutely Lucy has grown since that very first blog post and how the writer behind the blog is changing as the years go by. This will still always be the blog for first time or inexperienced travelers seeking an adventure beyond their wildest dreams. I plan travel for every budget and time-scale from weekends away, to festivals and longer holidays, to gap years. Nothing is outside your reach, just as I have achieved so many amazing experiences - so can you, with my help. As the clock ticks down on my final months in Australia and my Eastern adventure comes to an end, it seems right to reinvent Absolutely Lucy to fit with her future plans.
To everyone who has been messaging me to ask where I've disappeared to, it's lovely to have been missed. Absolutely Lucy is back in business and I can't wait to share my West Coast adventure, and future travel plans, with you all.
Let me know what you think of my blog makeover - what do you love about the new look?
It's taken a while to get to my final Bali post but here we are, and what better to write about than my time spent in the incredible jungle haven where Julia Roberts famously found love again in Eat Pray Love? Ubud is the spiritual centre of Bali and if you've visited the island without setting foot in this jungle paradise, you honestly haven't seen Bali. It was so different to every other place I visited while there and it was easy to see why so many expats had now chosen to call it home. Easily my favourite place on the island, Ubud is the perfect place to relax and really look after yourself for a while, especially if you've just come from partying in Seminyak or Kuta. I won't lie, I had been indulging a lot and partying pretty hard over there and on Gili T for a few weeks so I was more than ready for a rest and a chance to try out the alternative, yogi, health-food lifestyle for a while.
Planning your day trip
Earlier in my stay on Bali I had taken a day trip with a friend to Ubud where our taxi driver took us to visit the Monkey Forest, the Tegalalang Rice Paddies and Tegenungen Waterfall - as you'll see from some of the pictures in this post, they are all worth a visit! Ubud is an area of outstanding natural beauty, and while it takes you away from the sandy beaches the island is famous for, it offers something even more beautiful instead. The best way by far to explore the island is by motorbike which you can hire for almost nothing, but we found as there was a few of us it worked out pretty cheap to do a taxi as we managed to strike a deal for around 250,000RP for the day - the average day taxi costs around 3-350,000RP. Our driver was great and told us a lot about the different places we visited, plus it meant we could have a nap in the back of the car instead of driving all day. We visit from Kuta, if you do this make sure you set off extra early to beat the traffic as it gets pretty hectic mid-morning onwards.These three attractions are the most popular and well known for Ubud, plus they are great to combine even if you are just visiting for the day as they are the perfect distance from each other so you don't have to rush. I absolutely loved the rice paddies - you do have to pay to get in but it is worth it if you go early and pretty much have the place to yourself. We spent a few hours doing the sweatiest hike I have ever done across the fields which stretch as far as the eye can see. We joined a farmer for a cool refreshing coconut and played his musical instruments with him as we chatted with some Swedish guys we met. After, we headed to the Monkey Forest for a wander around an amazing temple that reminded me of King Louis' in The Jungle Book, monkeys scamper around the forest climbing on tourists and stealing food. It was pretty cool, but oh my gosh I still haven't got over my fear of monkeys so I was squealing a bit - especially when one stop a water bottle from my friend and started to stare him down!Finally a refreshing dip in Tegenungen Waterfall was a perfect end to the day - it was absolutely beautiful and a perfect place to be for sunset. Despite being quite busy, there was still plenty of space to swim/get photos/relax, and it is well worth paying a little bit to get up to the top! We drove back to Kuta in rush hour traffic which took ages but it was a great day, well planned and we had spent about six hours on the road and visiting the sights. We probably spent around 500,000RP altogether for the taxi, entry to the sights and meals for the day which is equivalent to around £30 - you could probably do it for a lot less if you went by motorbike.
Where to stay?
At the end of my trip, I couldn't resist joining some friends for a few days in Ubud. It's a bit cheesy but I really fancied a Julia Roberts experience - some yoga, some healing, some jungle life and some time to figure my next move out. Our friends had booked into the brand new Ons Hostel which they raved about, so I booked in to join them. On arrival with two other friends, myself and one of them were checked into a 14 bed dorm with no-one else in it! The place was so new they were just building up custom but it meant we had the whole place to ourselves. Imagine whitewashed walls, clean fresh dorms with the comfiest beds, luxury bathrooms with rain showers, a swimming pool with an area to sit and eat the freshly made pancakes and omelettes made to order for breakfast. It was like staying in a hotel - absolute luxury. I can't recommend staying there enough. It is positioned the other side of the Monkey Forest which although separate from the centre of Ubud, it gives you a lovely walk into the centre and a chance to see a different side to the area. Check out this HotelsCombined blog on the 7 Best Value Hotels to Relax in Bali to complete your Bali experience.
Where to eat?
I would really recommend dining at Laka Leke restaurant one evening - our hostel was just down the road so we gathered all 20 of our friends and booked in for the night's entertainment. The food was incredible, I had a traditional Indonesian curry which was mouth-wateringly good, and as we ate we watched a live performance of the Kecak and fire dance. It was a very interesting performance and there are several others they perform on different nights if you fancy something different. I believe the restaurant will also do pick-ups from your hotel/hostel if you are staying further away. Other favourites of mine included the amazing selection of vegetarian restaurants - I can't name them all here but there are so many that offer really high quality food. Also, the tiny Warungs - my favourites were the really small, local family run ones who would treat you like a daughter and cook you the best meal from scratch.
Where to yoga?
Everyone talks about Yoga Barn when it comes to Ubud, but after reading up, it sounded like there were a lot of people complaining about having to join huge classes of 60 people. As a bit of a beginner, I wasn't sure that was for me. But I did spot that Ubud Yoga Centre was just down the road so I signed up for a Bikram Yoga Class at the centre instead. It was cheap and the centre was really lovely, all brand new and very high quality. The class was hard and the heat was a lot to take, but I gave it my best shot and really enjoyed the class, it was lovely to have a good stretch out. Afterwards I was exhausted and spent the day sunbathing.
What to do?
You may have already seen the main sights, but there's lots more to do around Ubud. Your best bet is to hire a motorbike as we did and go off exploring local temples, rice paddies and villages for the day. We had a great day visiting local craftsmen, getting lost in the rice paddies barefoot in the pouring rain as we tried to find waterfalls and being blessed at the temples. We asked at our hostel who gave us a booklet of all the best places to visit and we worked out way through as many as we could cram into a day. Some to add to your list would include the Elephant Cave, Puri Saren Royal Palace and the Blanco Renaissance Museum. Also, if you get time, the Campuhan Ridge Walk is totally free and looks really beautiful - sadly I didn't get time.If you fancy sticking closer to the centre of Ubud, don't forget to check out Ubud Market for some of the best shopping I found in Bali. And head to one of the many salons for some cut price beauty treatments - my friend and I each had a massage, manicure/pedicure and facial for 200,000RP - just £12! And if you're a bit of a bookworm like me, make sure you take advantage of the many beautiful, relaxing places to snuggle up with a book and a fresh juice - either at a bar or your hostel. If you're planning a trip to Ubud and need help - let me know by leaving a comment below!
And if you're heading off on your first backpacking trip - don't forget to enter my competition to win a backpack to store all your precious possessions!
I'm struggling lately. I'm not afraid to admit it. On the face of things, I have my shit together, I'm one of the most together people I know most of the time. Always sure of myself, always knowing my next step and what I want out of life. But these past few weeks, I've just found myself questioning everything. I don't know what set it off, perhaps it was the exhaustion of the post-festival comedown and working over 50 hours a week that has left me an emotional mess, perhaps it's just a mid-twenties crisis. But let's be honest, sometimes all it takes is the news of how everyone else is progressing around you - in their relationships, careers, travels and lives - to make you really question everything you are doing and have achieved. I'm not one to compare myself to others, I know I've chosen a very different path to most people, but it's easy to look at that without a heavy dose of perspective and think you're not doing as well as you should be.
I said in a previous post how I was struggling to find the words to put on the page and I was taking a short break from writing until I regained my mojo. But it was only the last few days when it suddenly hit me that perhaps the reason I had lost my mojo was because I wasn't writing as much. Spending so much time focusing on work, the gym, friends and enjoying Melbourne meant one of my biggest passions was pushed to the wayside and I was left with no real outlet for all those thoughts that swirl around in the back of my head. As a creative individual it's easy to not realise the huge impact that has on you as a person, the challenge of being a creative is always finding new, and more satisfying ways to express yourself. But if that mode of expression is taken away, all that creative energy can just eat you up inside. I can see it even now as my fingers fly across the keyboard, just how much I have missed writing and sharing every facet of my life with you wonderful people.So what sparked this huge realisation? Well, last week at work (I'm working at a rooftop bar in Melbourne CBD) I had a visitor - a lovely girl who had travelled all the way from Germany, apparently a huge fan of this blog, and just had to meet me in person on her last night in the city. I can't even begin to tell you what this meant to me, I've had a few real down days these last few weeks so to know that someone appreciated me and my work so much was an incredible boost. It hasn't automatically fixed everything, but it has brought me back to writing and it has made me realise my priorities. I love exploring the world around me and living life to the max - I will always be a workaholic who struggles to maintain a work/life balance that doesn't push my body to extreme exhaustion. But I also need to give myself time to reflect and enjoy, to appreciate the amazing experiences I have had rather than always surging ahead towards the next.
But, am I doing okay?
It's the question we all ask ourselves all the time, whether we say it out loud or we let it eat us up inside as more friends announce new homes, huge career progression, engagements, marriage and babies. It's so hard not to judge yourself by the standards of others, and it's so easy to forget your own individual huge achievements that others just can't compete with. Now several years down the line, I know that giving up my nine-year relationship to travel the world solo and build a freelance journalism and travel blogging career was the best decision I have ever made in my life. But I still can't help but compare it to friends who have done the opposite and gave up everything for the one they love - putting aside their career and life plans. Likewise, giving up my working life at a newspaper was something that was long-overdue but going freelance and travelling long-term has also thrown me back into a life of temporary hospitality and casual work. I can't help but both love the freedom and easiness of it while hating the transiency and the lack of progression. There is no future in it and it sometimes makes me crave the excitement of seizing career opportunities.I mean, technically I'm doing amazingly. I'm in a great job, earning good money, I'm complete independent, the fittest and physically happiest I've been for a long time. I have a great apartment, incredible friends and family on every side of the globe, and plans for the future. But right now, something just isn't sitting right with me, I can't put my finger on it but whether my life is missing something or I'm in need of something different, I know that something has to change. I'm not one of these people who mopes around and complains about the way things are, I prefer to be a little proactive and make things better. Being a solo traveller, you have to be willing to get off your arse and to do things for yourself instead of waiting for someone else to make you happy. I like to apply that attitude to every aspect of my life and so I always get impatient with myself when I'm having a few down days - I'm not a wallower, I'm a problem solver. So my next mission is getting myself out of this funk and finding my new happy, the change that will help me regain what I feel like I've lost lately.
So, how do I do this?
Well my first changes were pretty instantaneous, I cut a few toxic people out of my life in the last few weeks, people who were't bringing anything positive into my world. I came back to writing, determined to let it heal me and to find my way back to this blogging world. I took some time for me, I went treated my body well and allowed it to recover, I indulged in my passions without stressing about doing things for other people. I planned a much-needed escape to nature with amazing friends and I refused to feel guilty for putting myself first. It hasn't changed my world yet, but it has eased my mood and has given me hope for the upcoming weeks. Now all we can do is watch and wait.
Are you struggling at the moment - how do you cope with these feelings? Have you got any tips for getting back on track?
During the summer I headed home to the UK for a short while but it wasn't long until I started getting itchy feet, and I thought why not take advantage of Europe being right on my doorstep? Living in the UK, we are so lucky to have so many countries and cultures so close and accessible, it's important to take advantage of that EU passport while we still have it eh! I've travelled quite a lot of Europe over the years but there were still so many places I longed to visit and since making so many new international friends on the other side of the world, it seemed a perfect time to go and visit them all at home for the ultimate Eurotrip! One of the top places on my list was Amsterdam - I've wanted to visit for years and have planned trips several times but ended up never quite making it. I would only have about 48-72 hours in the city but it was the perfect opportunity to experience it for the first time and to visit a good friend of mine at her home - from Australia to Amsterdam.I flew in from Budapest and after a fairly chilled few days spent in the stunning baths and exploring the city at a gentle pace, I was ready to take things up a gear to cram in sightseeing and partying into just a few hours. I was staying just outside the city with my friend, Lisa, and I have to give a huge shoutout to her for not only putting me up at her amazing apartment, but for helping me to make the absolute most of my Amsterdam experience. As soon as I arrived we cycled into the city in true Amsterdam fashion to check out the parks which were filled with the scent of barbecue and the chatter of friends. We sat in the sunshine at a little man-made beach along the river having drinks and pizza with friends, and spent the evening bar hopping along the canals. It was a perfect first evening there and gave me a chance to meet a lot of people, we even stumbled across a fashion festival happening in the streets with all of the high class shops hosting DJ sets and bars.The next days, I headed into the city first thing to make the most of my sightseeing time by taking one of the brilliant free walking tours. I first heard about Sandeman's free walking tours from a friend when I was in Berlin and after experiencing one there and another in 'Dam, I would seriously recommend them to anyone visiting a European city. The tours are fantastic quality and are led by energetic, knowledgeable and passionate individuals who bring history and heritage to life through their delivery. The walks last just a few hours and take in the main sights of each city plus there are several specialised ones including tours of the Red Light District, beer tours, history tours, graffiti tours etc. The best thing about these tours? They're technically free despite being such amazing quality. The people giving the tours make their money through tips - they just ask that you pay what you feel the tour was worth at the end - you can give nothing or you show how much you value the experience. It calls for the tour leader to really work hard to show you the city and it calls for you to give an honest and fair review of the services. I can't fault the company or the system. The Amsterdam tour was fantastic and our guide was really friendly and knowledgeable.Once we'd spent a few hours wandering through the busy streets and along the canals for the tour, I headed back to the apartment for a quick change and glam up. Then Lisa and I were straight out the door and off to Magneet Festival - a bit of a trip affair, the festival would feature some of Lisa's friends who were DJing on the most amazing stage overlooking the whole festival. It was an incredible night, amazing music and a fantastic group of people made for a pretty special experience. We danced and partied our way around the festival, even checking out hardcore and rock tents and watching some entertaining karaoke. It was such a fun night and pretty epic to experience a festival in Amsterdam. After the gates closed, we headed into the city and ended up at De School - a converted school which has become a club where must-lovers can rave in a dark, smokey basement until the sun comes up. Such a good club, we had a fantastic night! The next day, dying of hangover, I packed up and headed out to catch my train up to the north where I was visiting another amazing friend for just one night before heading home.It was such a flying visit but my goodness I crammed a LOT in, Amsterdam is a fantastic city which makes it hard not to want to cram everything into the quickest visit. Before even leaving I knew I already wanted to return for another visit - there is still so much I didn't have time to do, like the Anne Frank House and the museums. And I would love a chance to spend more time exploring the city at a slower pace. I will definitely return in the future but I was so happy to not only get to experience the city for the first time but to share the experience with such amazing people. I'm a lucky girl and travelling the world definitely has opened me up to some incredible cross-continent friendships. Getting to reunite with friends in a completely new land is definitely one of my favourite things about travelling the world.
Have you been to Amsterdam - what was your favourite experience? Can you recommend any other walking tours?
There's no doubt about it, 2016 has been a pretty incredible year for me. I've had some soaring highs and felt pretty low at times, but I've also had the chance to experience some thing I never could have dreamed I would. I crossed three continents and ticked off my 30th country, worked with hotels, spas and restaurants either side of the globe for this blog, I said goodbye to love so that I could travel Europe solo and I made some incredible friends along the way. I've worked as a sales manager, a cocktail waitress, a journalist along the way and all the while I've been working on creating amazing content for this blog. 2016 has been a year of working hard and playing harder, and as it draws to a close I can't help but reminisce over the special times I've shared with amazing people. From the teary goodbyes at the airport, to the mates I've shared incredible road trips with this summer, to the incredible welcome home I got from some of my best friends when I arrived back in Melbourne. Getting the opportunity to celebrate a real Aussie Christmas surrounded by so many amazing friends was a perfect way to end the year. But what have the highlights been?
My top 5 travelling experiences of 2016:
Without a doubt, Melbourne is my number one for the year. Voted the Most Liveable City in the World six years running, it's no wonder I've just moved back here for the second time. I lived in Melbourne at the start of the year and it was the first place in nearly two years that had felt like home. I had an amazing flat, a great job as a sales manager, the most incredible friends and I completely fell for a great guy. Now I'm back for round two and I'm already well on my way with a great job at a rooftop bar and my own brand new apartment. Melbourne, you are well and truly my second home.
A city I had dreamed of visiting for years, Budapest was everything I had imagined and more. I loved the history, the beauty, the architecture and the people I met there. Part of my summer backpacking trip around Europe, it was a perfect opportunity to explore the city independently and to have some amazing experiences. One of my favourites was eating dinner in a traditional Hungarian restaurant with my newfound Aussie and Norwegian mates talking about the world under a blanket of stars. Visiting Budapest reminded me how much I love exploring a new city alone on foot, and it's a city I can't wait to revisit.
Slovenia was an amazing experience - not only did I get to explore some of Eastern Europe, a dream of mine for several years, but I was invited along on my first blogging trip. It was an amazing privilege and a reminder of how hard I have worked to build up this travel blog over the last few years. Spending a week at a luxury glamping site on the Slovenian/Croatian border was a fantastic way to see the country - from woodland hikes to swimming in the rivers, to visiting locals and eating feasts of freshly caught local fish. The people, and the place, made it unforgettable.
My second blogging trip of the year came about only as a last minute plan - I was at a low point and unsure of what my next move would be when one of my best travelling friends invited me to Bali. It was the best decision ever and led to my being invited along to review hotels, spas and restaurants on the island. What was supposed to be a week-long trip turned into a month and yet I still wasn't ready to leave. I explored the Bali countryside on motorbike, visited temples, explored monkey forests, swam in the waves, spotted manatees and swam with sea turtles. It was the holiday I had needed - not just travelling, it was a holiday and one of which I appreciated every second.
Definitely the most breathtakingly beautiful place I have been yet, by far. Tasmania was somewhere I had longed to visit since arriving in Australia and "mini-New Zealand" definitely lived up to the hype. I spent three weeks there staying in the best hostel I have found yet in Australia, exploring Hobart and road tripping around 11 national parks in just 10 days. I hiked for days on end, camped wild under the stars and the full moon, I climbed several mountains and spotted countless whales, kangaroos, wombats and wallabies. It was a magical experience and one I'm so glad I made happen, it was just what I needed. A true breath of fresh air.
After such an incredible year, it's hard to imagine just how 2017 could top 2016. I've travelled to eight different countries this year, I've lived in two of them long-term, I've gone from outback living to city slicker to beach babe and total mermaid. I've taken my clothes off on top of a mountain in the snow, I've changed my mind in 10 minutes and booked a spontaneous flight to the other side of the world. I've refused to stop living my dream for anyone other than myself and I've made a plan for the future. It's an exciting time to be Absolutely Lucy and it all starts again when the clock strikes 12 on New Years. Another fresh start, another exciting adventure and another dream come true. I'm ready, are you?
Where has been your favourite place to travel to this year? Have you enjoyed following my adventures? What are your travel plans for 2017?
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