It can be so difficult to get the right information about applying for French visas, so this guide is for my US readers who are planning their next escape. With all of this Brexit nonsense looming over us UK travelers, I can't help but feel intense gratitude for having been born with a UK passport and having been able to spend my life traveling visa-free within Europe. We really do take the ease of our travel between France and Amsterdam, or Italy and Greece for granted whether we're backpacking or enjoying a summer holiday.
Now I don't know whether Brexit will affect travel within Europe, but as someone who has just moved to Germany, it's definitely opened my eyes to the struggles my US friends go through in order to travel the world. How much time must been spent applying for visas and stressing over their arrival for each trip. So when I heard about Favisbook, I thought it was about time I wrote a post aimed at my US readers who want to expand their horizons and apply for French visas. This post is a collaboration with Favisbook but as usual, all views are my own.
Favisbook was set up by travelers after they were forced to wait months to pick up the necessary French visas and travel documents needed to travel to France. Facing the struggle together, the team decided to create a way for travelers to get the documents they needed faster, so that you guys won't face the same problems. Now you can skip the line and get into the embassy as early as possible to apply for your French visa.
Planning a trip to France, or always dreamed of seeing the Eiffel Tower all lit up at night? Then this is the post for you, because trust me, nothing compares to your first time in Paris. Now thanks to Favisbook, residents of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut to book early French visa appointments with the Consulate General of France in New York, instead of waiting months for an appointment. Simply choose your day, fill in your information, and Favisbook will expedite your visa appointment to French Consulate with a simple click.
One of the most popular destinations in the world, many visitors to France have to obtain a Schengen Visa before entry. Booking an interview to get a Schengen visa is a time-consuming process for many applicants due to the complicated French consulate's website which often doesn't have available appointments and applicants are required to wait for months on end just for an appointment to become available. Now thanks to the system Favisbook have set up, you can book appointments for all kinds of visas, from the working visas, long and short-stay visas and even Schengen visas.
Favisbook simplifies the whole procedure by just showing available appointments and making it much easier to apply for the French visa slots. Using their system, appointments for multiple people can be booked and you don't even need to create an account with Favisbook, all information remains safe and confidential using their secure network. Within 24 hours of submitting the booking and payment, you will receive your appointment details by email, and your appointment could be as soon as the next day. After booking your French visa appointment with Favisbook, your next step is to prepare for your interview with the consulate.
If the appointments available don't suit your schedule, you can even contact Favisbook by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org with your availability and they will do their best to find you an appointment that will be suitable. Find out more about Favisbook online here.
We all know I'm an advocate for anything that makes life, and travel, a lot easier and this sounds like a great way to actually add in a middle man but to make your travel planning run a lot smoother. If it leaves me more time for trying on bikinis and planning all the amazing food I'm going to eat on a trip, then it's got my vote!
Have you struggled with applications for French visas? What's been the hardest visa application you've had to put in? Would you find a service like this helpful?
Well, I can't believe I'm saying this after you've been my home for two years, but Australia, it's time for me to go. It's been one hell of a wild rollercoaster ride from start to finish and I've lived some of the highest of highs over here, as well as some of my lowest moments. I feel so privileged to not only have had a chance to travel here, but to have actually lived here, I've become a part of the community several times over and I've built several amazing lives for myself and found family at every turn. In my two years over here I've been lucky enough to call so many exciting new places home – to find so many families waiting to welcome me with open arms, warmth and kindness at every stop on my travels.
Australia, you've taken the solo travelling girl from across the globe, who was fiercely independent and so sure of what she wanted out of this world, and you've changed everything for her. I arrived a little bit broken with a heart that still ached, but every experience and every person I met along the way has helped shape me into the happy, confident woman I have grown into. In those precious two years of my working holiday visa, I have achieved so much this side of the world despite being away from everyone, and everything I know. Whether in my career, my friendships, my relationships or even in this blog - it's been a big two years for growing as a person and realising what I want out of life. I may have been a bit unsure of myself when I arrived, but I'm leaving Australia the happiest I've been in a long time, with a new purpose, a whole heap of exciting plans for the future, and someone amazing by my side who can't wait to begin our life together.
There have been so many amazing moments in these past two years, like partying my way up the East Coast and meeting friends who would become some of my best and closest friends in Australia. Getting my first taste of Australia on the Great Barrier Reef, Fraser Island, Whitsundays, learning to surf in Byron Bay and swimming with dolphins. For a girl who had originally planned to stay just five months, my decision was quickly changed as I realised how much more I wanted to see of this incredible country. New Zealand was put on hold for adventures up in the Northern Territory where I had my first taste of outback life and a true hostel experience - still my best in Australia as I became one of the Dingos and found a family I never knew I was missing. We went through everything together, forged a bond for life, raved until dawn at bush doofs and then went our separate ways to all corners of the globe.
Then it was time to knuckle down and get those three months of farm work done if I wanted to make sure I had that second year visa under my belt. Off to Central Queensland I went, 800km west of Brisbane to a tiny outback town where there was nothing but dust and giant kangaroos. I spent three months working on a cattle station, looking after children and even helped out during lambing season - it was a real culture shock, hard work and I loved the experience. Then it was time to head to the city I would come to know as my home away from home – Melbourne. The next few months saw me becoming a sales manager and managing a team of 15-20 people who became the highest selling team in the country. I had an apartment, great friends, a great guy and so much to be grateful for.
After going home for six months to travel around Europe, I felt the call from Down Under, we weren't finished yet, there was so much left to see and do. Dropping into Bali for a month beforehand, I headed back to Australia and landed in Cairns before making my way down to the fresh air and mountains of Tasmania. A real highlight of the year, I explored Hobart before setting off on a two-week road trip around the island. Climbing mountains, camping wild, sleeping under the stars, hiking national parks – it really was a dream trip. Then it was time to head home to Melbourne for Christmas, the next few months would be filled with festivals, epic nights out, camping trips, beach days and countless adventures. Picking up a job as a cocktail waitress at a 5* hotel, I was working as a hostess at high class parties held by Ferrari and GQ Magazine and served celebs like Nicole Kidman. But just like that, it was time to move on. So I flew to Adelaide to catch up with an old friend and make special new ones, but a week was short and then it was time to go again.
I touched down in Perth and quickly found a home in Fremantle with the Pirates, for weeks of reminding myself what it was like to be a backpacker and live a hostel life. It was a precious time of laughter, new faces, crazy nights, sunset dates and a new family I never expected. I even celebrated my birthday surrounded by amazing people, three special birthday cakes and one new person by my side who I didn't realise had already been written into my story. Sad goodbyes later, it was time to head off on the road trip of a lifetime, the epic journey I had been waiting to experience. Leaving with a group of four in two cars, our convoy covered over 4,000km and grew to 10 people across six cars. We made memories that will last a lifetime, spent every waking second together, learned about the world, grew as individuals and some of us even fell in love. It was a road trip that genuinely has changed my life and I couldn't be more grateful for the people I shared it with – from the girl who invited me to travel with her, to the guy who drove over 1,000km overnight to experience the trip with me.
Now I'm saying goodbye to the second life I have built for myself in Darwin – it feels right for my Australian journey to end here, in the place where I have felt the most love and friendship both times around. While I'm sad to say goodbye, it feels so right to leave. Always go out on a high I say, and I don't think I could reach much more of a high if I tried. Now it's time to take on the next adventure and see where life takes me. Thanks to everyone who has been a part of these past two years in Australia, thanks for making it special whether we spent months together or just a few hours. I hope you'll all be right by my side in the next chapter of Absolutely Lucy's travels.
I'll be spending the next month back in Asia, a place that has held my heart since I first set foot in Thailand. This time I'll be living my dreams as I'll be travelling around Sri Lanka! On a trip that is much needed for some serious relaxation time for myself and my boyfriend after we've been working every hour possible in Darwin, this could also be the biggest trip for this blog yet! I have been invited to work with and review five luxury and budget adventure accommodations while over in Sri Lanka - from incredible resorts to magical treehouses. For some of these, I will be the first blogger to have ever worked with the companies, so I'm very excited for this opportunity. It gets even better, I am such a lucky girl because I have even been invited to review two safaris and a hot air balloon ride – this really is a dream come true trip. I've had some tough moments this year that have really affected my blogging and even had me thinking about giving it up, but instead I persevered and even spent weeks redesigning my entire website and designing a brand new media pack. My hard work really has paid off and the opportunities I'm getting now show it was all worthwhile. I can't wait to share this trip with all of you who supported me through the toughest times.
If you've managed to clock up a lot of air mileage over the years - through backpacking or regular holidays - you'll have come to regard your passport as one of your most treasured possessions. You'll have had those heart-stopping moments when you misplace it just before a big trip, and you'll have felt the annoyance when a customs officer wastes a whole page on just one entry stamp. Frequent travellers will know that when you're traveling between countries constantly, your passport becomes the most important thing you carry, and yet what happens if you have to leave it at an embassy while waiting for visa approval? Holding a second passport could open up a whole new world of free travel unlimited by waiting for visas, to visit various countries usually out of reach and even to new careers.
What is a second British passport?
Well, if you travel the world even half as much as I do, you could easily fit the criteria to apply for a second passport without even knowing. It was only when I did a little research that I found all these amazing ways a second passport could make your travelling life so much easier. Most people don't even know this service is available and easily accessible to travellers, but Rapid Passports are working to change this.
Available for British travellers, a traveller can now hold two current British passports at the same time to be used simultaneously alongside each other. Both will remain completely unique with no link between each other, and will hold different passport numbers.
Why do you need one?
Planning on applying for visas at different embassies at the same time? A second passport is perfect for you and will help speed up the process instead of having to wait for a passport to be returned to apply for the second visa.
Want to travel to conflicting countries? This gives you a bit more freedom to travel without certain stamps holding you back - for example, anyone with an Israeli entry stamp cannot enter Muslim nations such as Saudi Arabia.
Plan to work as a pilot, flight attendant or even on an oil rig? You'd be amazed but all of these jobs could require two passports, as could others.
Emigrated or living long term in another country? It might be worth having a back-up passport to leave at home while you are away, or even to carry with you.
And of course, if you travel as much as I do, there is always the chance your passport will get filled up pretty quickly with stamps and you'll simply need a spare with a bit more space.
How can it be done?
The best thing about this service is that it's super easy to organise in a very short space of time. Same day service is available and all that is needed to create the second passport is a photocopy of the original - not even the passport itself!
Considering most people don't know this service is available - it's pretty good right? Want to apply for your second British passport - click to apply for Second British Passport.
Since travelling across Asia I've been on my fair share of buses, trains, motorbikes, tuk tuks and ferries - but one of my favourite methods of transport so far had to be the slow boat from Thailand to Laos. It was one of the most effortless, chilled out journeys I have had since first coming away all those months ago and I would really recommend it to anyone who has the time and inclination to spend two days on a boat floating down the Mekong. It's a completely different and relatively stress-free way to cross the border while combining a chance to meet fellow backpackers, travellers and locals with seeing the true beauty of the Laos landscape. Now I won't lie to you, I have heard other backpackers say they have tried this route and have had rather less fun boats - one couple spoke of a girl who decided to get the boat when she was tripping her nut off on some kind of hallucinogen. Others said the people on their boat were boring or not very friendly - I like to give a balanced view where I can but my experience was the best it could have been.
For a small price (I'm sorry I can't remember exactly how much, but it's great value) you get a bus from Pai (with a terrifying driver) to the border town where you spend a night in rooms at a guest house. Breakfast is included then you head to the border where you are pushed through like cattle, pay any fines for overstaying and get your new visa. Our group were also given a chance to swap any leftover money for dollars and to sort out our paperwork ahead of time. After a couple more buses and arriving at the port, we grabbed some food for the ride and some beers, then climbed aboard the longboat. It was made up of a long line of comfy seats and we all squeezed in up at the front, meeting some loud Australians and English along the way. That first day was a blur of singing silly songs, chatting about where we had all travelled, laughing at one of the guys who got sneezed on by a local and a few beers along the way. It was gorgeous to watch outside of the boat where the landscape was empty except for rolling hills, deserted beaches, rocky cliff faces and occasionally some naked, local children playing and giggling in the river.
I was pretty lucky with the crowd I had on my boat - I had the opportunity to spend two days with some of the most intelligent, artistic and talented individuals I have come across. I spent my time flitting between conversations about literature and plays, to playing silly games and singing along to the guitar that was constantly being played. One amazingly talented woman, who was backpacking with her daughter, sat quietly in a corner sketching and painting the scene at the front of the boat without us even realising until I spotted her hard at work. She had been doing this series of paintings along her travels and kept them as a kind of travel diary - a beautiful and original way to hold on to the memories that I wished I had the artistic talent for. It was so lovely to see how in a situation where there is no wifi, everyone reverts back to the ways we entertained ourselves as kids in the 90's - by reading, being artistic, playing games and not instantly turning away to plug ourselves into music or a TV. It was so refreshing.After we spent six hours on the boat that first day, we arrived at a tiny town where we would spend the night at another guest house (not included in the price but cheap options available just no,d on for arrival rather than taking the first one offered). It was lovely and I ended up with my own double room with private bathroom! The gang headed out for dinner which I won't lie was a pretty disappointing meal, and chose an early night - all exhausted from our time in Thailand. The next morning, our breakfast was included in the package, and we could pay extra for lunch to take with us. Heading back on to the boat, this time we had a different one with a more comfortable layout and bigger seats - this was even more chilled out than the day before and I had plenty of time to finish my book. We expected to spend around 8 hours on the boat this day but were pleasantly surprised when we had arrived after just six hours. We all parted ways for our guest houses and headed into Luang Prabang by tuk tuk.
A two day boat trip isn't everyone's idea of a good time but it does offer you a totally different perspective of Laos that you don't get otherwise - you get to see the country in its raw, natural state. A rare treat for those who stick to visiting Vang Vieng and Vientienne. For those who get sea sick, this is not an issue. The boat moves to smoothly and slowly that you would really struggle to feel ill - plus you are well distracted while on the boat. You can buy beers and snacks on the boat but go prepared with lunch and cheaper snacks, and don't worry, there is a toilet. If touchable a choice of sticking to the roads or doing the journey by boat, you're a hell of a lot safer and more comfortable by boat. Trust me, those drivers are nuts and you won't get a moment of rest or sleep on those buses. The slow boat offers you a good chance to slow down for few days, because no doubt you partied as hard as I did in Pai, and to rest before starting again in Laos.
Have you travelled by slow boat - what did you think of the journey? What is your favourite mode of transport when you travel?