I don't know about you guys, but I like travelling at any time of year and I'm not one to let the winter stand in my way. If you're anything like me, January always gets me thinking about hopping on a plane and jetting off on an adventure. This year I'm spending my first January in the UK in three years, using the time to reminisce about my favourite trips and to plan my next exciting move. Over the years I've spent my summers and winters travelling all over the world, regardless of seasons and unworried by the weather. Some of my favourite trips have been Christmas spent in New York or on the beach in Mauritius, or those winter jaunts around Europe exploring a new city, and road tripping around Australia. My motto has always been "travel smart" because by doing so, you can avoid some of the most common problems associated with winter travel. By preparing and spending some time on your planning, it really can make all the difference to your trip and ensuring you have the best possible time. I've teamed up with Slater & Gordon to talk all about some of the most common issues travellers face during the winter months, and how best to avoid them.
The bane of every traveller's life, but sometimes unavoidable if the weather is just too bad as it was recently with snow storms in New York for some people to make it home. Now if the weather is unsafe, it is totally understandable to cancel flights - but the best thing as a traveller is to be prepared. My best advice, always try and book an early morning flight as your aircraft will usually have arrived the night before and won't be delayed, also, the weather is normally much clearer in the morning and gets worse throughout the day. You may well just miss the worst of any storms and still make it home for dinner. It's always a good idea to have a good travel insurance that will cover any weather-related cancellations in extreme circumstances, and I would recommend just having a little money set aside in case there are any problems. I understand there were a lot of problems with people who couldn't afford to stay longer in New York being stuck there in the airport for a few days - sometimes the airlines will put you up in a hotel or provide some support but it's always helpful to have a bit of cash for emergencies. Remember it is not the fault of the airline, they are trying to keep you safe. Be flexible and work with them, communication is key. Be open to different travel options if your route is just not available.
I have always wanted to go on a skiing or snowboarding holiday, winter sports always look amazing, and while I'm sad I haven't yet had the opportunity they are definitely staying on my bucket list. I have friends who have always been sworn beach bums until they die, until they went on a skiing holiday and now they head for snow over sea every single year and love every second. But what if things don't go to plan? Winter sports are physically very challenging and when you introduce ice and snow to the equation, accidents can happen. It's awful if you are hurt while travelling, after spending so long planning your trip it is the ultimate disappointment to be struck down. I had a similar thing happen to me when I was in a bus crash in Cambodia just days before a long-awaited yoga retreat - I was devastated. The most important thing to do is to ensure you have a good travel insurance that is comprehensive and covers you for all your activities. There is no point getting insurance for a skiing holiday if it doesn't actually cover you for winter sports! Plan ahead and make sure you are covered for all medical treatment - you never realise how important it is until you don't have it.
I love road trips. They are one of my favourite ways to travel - check out my guide to planning the ultimate road trip here. I don't see why you shouldn't be able to indulge in a road trip at any time of year. Canada is fantastic to road trip, or if you want something closer to home why not head to Europe to drive from city to city, or head up to Scandinavia. Absolutely gorgeous, but don't forget to take into account the weather beforehand - all of these come with their own harsh conditions, from icy roads to heavy snowfall and it's best to be prepared to prevent your trip from being ruined. Make sure your vehicle is weatherproof - whether you are taking your own van to camp in, or you're hiring a car - you need to make sure the tyres are appropriate for the conditions. Pack a box with warm clothing, a torch, gloves, jumper cables, a windscreen scraper and lots of de-icer – just in case. Take the roads slow and plan your route according to weather warnings so you can avoid the worst of it. If the weather is too bad, find a hotel or somewhere to sleep for the night and start afresh in the morning when it is safer.
Recently there were huge snow storms in New York and weather warnings to stay inside and to avoid getting caught out in it – when you travel during winter there is always a chance you may face weather like this. The best way to deal with it? Accept it and plan ahead as best you can. You can't fight Mother Nature, so don't let it ruin your trip, just adapt. Plan ahead by keeping an eye on weather alerts for the area, if the weather starts getting worse then make a decision on whether to rearrange your trip (if you have this option) or to go ahead. If you're already there, you need to make sure you restrict your activities to ensure your own safety. If it's snowstorms you face then you need to be sensible and to stay warm, sudden floods can be dangerous - stay inside and follow advice. Icy conditions can be slippery and unpredictable - make sure you have shoes with good grip and that you only go as far as you feel safe - a fall on the ice can leave you in hospital and that's the last thing you want on holiday. Overall message? Be smart, be safe and don't be too stubborn to admit defeat.
How else can you avoid winter travel dangers this season? Have you faced any winter travel nightmares?
One thing I really loved about Sri Lanka was that it wasn’t just beaches and cities, there was a whole other side to the country, a wild, rugged jungle waiting to be explored. With plans to explore not one, but three national parks along the way, I was excited at the thought of staying in the depths of the jungle with wild elephants and leopards hiding just beyond the boundary lines. So I was very excited when Wilpattu Treehouse invited us to come and stay with them for a few nights while we explored Wilpattu National Park up in the north-west of the country. We arrived at Wilpattu after around five hours on the buses travelling from Habarana in the Cultural Triangle and found Wilpattu to be tinier than we had imagined. With just one street heading off the main road, there are limited accommodations aimed specifically at those visiting the park. When planning your trip, you wouldn’t need much time in the area, just one full day for a safari would suffice, with a day set aside before and after for travel times.
This sanctuary was declared a national park in 1938 and lies just 188km away from the capital, Colombo, with Wilpattu Treehouses situated just a minute’s drive from the park entrance. Visitors to the area can take full or half day jeep safaris in the park through several companies, where they can spot the likes of the Sri Lankan elephant and leopard, sloth bear, spotted deer, buffalo, sambar and mongoose. The park is also fantastic for birdwatching and has an interesting array of flora scattered amongst the dry, dense jungle which couldn’t be more different to that of Yala’s National Park. February to October is considered prime time to visit, however, we visited in late November and had amazing sightings of most animals plus perfectly fine weather. If you are arriving by public bus as we did, ask the bus driver to alert you when you arrive as you could easily miss the tiny town. Jump off the bus and grab a tuk-tuk which should cost no more than 400 rupees to drive you the 7km to the edge of the National Park where the treehouses can be found.
Now I want to take a moment to just point out that out of all the places I review and visit, whether I pay for them myself or are gifted accommodation, it is very rare that I am disappointed. I don’t write fake reviews or compromise my views for free stuff, I pride myself in being completely honest because otherwise what is the point in sharing my views? So when I am left disappointed by a place, I will also share my experiences with you so that you can make an informed decision over whether to visit during your own trip. In this case I was gifted three night's accommodation, but have remained honest in my review.
In the case of Wilpattu Treehouses, I was left a little disappointed by our stay. I had been looking forward to staying there from the beginning of our trip and saw it as a great way to round off our time in the country. However, from the moment we arrived, I could tell it wasn’t to be quite the experience I had anticipated. We arrived at 3pm to find our room was still being cleaned which wasn’t a problem, we relaxed in the lobby with a fresh lime juice until our room became available. We were excited to check out the treehouse as we could see it through the trees and bushes across the yard, it would be overlooking the rice paddy just as I had hoped. After seeing images on Booking.com and the company’s website, I was eager to have a look inside. When we made our way upstairs, on first impression we were delighted with the room which was all wood finished as a treehouse should be. We had a lovely big balcony overlooking the rice paddy, a big comfortable bed to lounge on and a lovely little bathroom with a luxurious looking shower. The website had promised luxury so this is what we were expecting and we were instantly happy with our room, but upon closer inspection we found a few issues.
The hasty cleaning after the previous guests had left late had been less thorough than it should have been, leaving us with a filthy fridge and even mouse droppings on one of the beds! We also noticed that there wasn’t really a view from the balcony as the branches from the trees completely blocked any real sight of the rice paddy. And as the afternoon drew on, the mosquitos became rife but with no mosquito net in the room and gaps by the door, we were both bitten to pieces despite using bug spray and a room repellent. We later realised that the mouse droppings had not been the fault of a stray mouse but of a regular to the room who would run around the beams at the ceiling while we sat in bed. The creature would even scamper across the room leaving droppings in the bedroom and bathroom every time we left as he searched for crumbs. I could find it cute and outdoorsy except we left the room for less than an hour for dinner, and came back to find droppings on the bed and across the floor which we had to clean up.
We also had an issue with several chipmunks and small squirrels who would run across the same beams in the evenings looking for food. We had stayed in many jungle locations by this point and can definitely appreciate the nature, but we know it is not necessary to have issues with animal faeces being found around the room. Later we also had problems with the shower, which despite just the two of us thing showers once a day, started to flood and the water would take a long time to drain. When I mentioned to the staff, I was told to clear the drain myself and if it wasn't fixed someone would be sent to check it in the morning, but no-one ever came. During our three night stay, the rooms were not cleaned once, leaving us to tidy up the animal mess left behind and to deal with a shower that would not drain. Due to the remote location, there are no restaurants around so visitors to the site will be limited to eating meals at the accommodation. These are cooked onsite by the staff and include a mixture of Sri Lankan and western breakfast, and a three course dinner with vegetarian options available. While the food was certainly good enough to survive on, it was also some of the blandest and most uninspiring food I have eaten in Sri Lanka. I was disappointed by how tasteless the meals were after eating some delicious meals since being in the country at much cheaper accommodation.
My real disappointment stemmed from the fact that Wilpattu Treehouses claimed to be luxury accommodation on their website but that the food, service and accommodation was definitely not luxury quality. The staff were lovely, but they do need to work on making their guests feel a little more welcome, and they really should have more knowledge about the bus timetable for those arriving and leaving the area. Now don’t get me wrong, I still enjoyed my experience of staying in Wilpattu on the very borderline of the national park and I really cannot complain about being so close for our safari. It was a beautiful treehouse and a fantastic location, very convenient for your safari stay and truly magical to return from a day of spotting leopards and wild elephants to still hear them from your balcony. We also really loved the next-door neighbours who were having a family celebration while we were there and it was lovely to hear the music throughout the day. I just found that the disappointment over some of the less desirable features of Wilpattu Treehouses outweighed the positives for me. We stayed in the deluxe triple room, and I felt the £95 a night price (Booking.com) was far too expensive for what I could not consider a luxury stay.
Have you been disappointed by a luxury stay? Or by any accommodation on your travels? Tell me about your worst travel accommodation experience?
Back in the UK now, I'm loving pouring back over photos and memories of my time in Sri Lanka as I write up post after post about my experiences there. I always enjoy reliving every moment so much when I get home, getting to share everything with you guys is incredible because it means I get to experience the joy all over again. But sometimes, there are some memories of a place that make you shudder to recall them, those moments that hurt your heart when you think back to them. This was one of those days, but I must add, the only day I had like this while travelling in what was a truly amazing country. Read my guide here to everything you need to know before you travel to Sri Lanka. But what is important, as a travel blogger, I pride myself on my honesty and giving you guys information that is authentic and genuine so you can plan your own travels, and part of that is telling you about the bad experiences as well as the good ones. So what happened?A late afternoon safari which promised me the sight of 100 elephants, a dream come true for a gal like me who has always loved these beautiful, gentle creatures, turned out to be a bit of a nightmare. We'd been staying in the Cultural Triangle, deep in the centre of Sri Lanka, in a tiny town called Habarana, where I had been drawn to after reading about the amazing history, culture and natural wildlife. Our wonderful host recommended we go on safari to a nearby national park where we were told you could see over 300 elephants at one time - it was a once in a lifetime opportunity that we couldn't pass up. During the dry season (July to October) Minneriya Wildlife Sanctuary sees herds of hundreds of elephants gathering for what has been called the 6th greatest wildlife spectacle in the world by Lonely Planet. Arriving in November, we weren't sure if we would be lucky enough to witness such a spectacle but when we came to Habarana we were encouraged to go on the safari where several people claimed we would see at least 100 elephants. So we went, but we were not prepared for what we would see.
The magic and beauty of nature faded as the engines revved, each jeep vying for the best spot.
Driving around the national park was amazing to begin with, we had a great driver who really cared about the animals and could tell us so much about them and their habitat. Different to other national parks we had visited, this one offered vast open plains leading to huge lakes in the distance. As we drove the winding paths in our jeep, we could already see huge herds of elephants dotted across the plains, and our guide stopped so we could watch them from a safe distance. We spent three hours on safari in the park, watching various groups of elephants before they all came together to form one use herd as they made their way over to the lake. An absolutely majestic sight and one I won't forget in a hurry, but sadly for all the wrong reasons.Throughout the afternoon, it had not been a calm experience where we could all peacefully enjoy these creatures from a distance benefitting both us and the animals. Instead there had been countless jeeps racing, overtaking each other and generally terrorising the animals as they competed for the best spot. The groups of eager tourists in many of the other vans were noisy and had little respect for the animals as they cheered and shouted in the back of the jeeps. We even saw several cars which had been allowed to drive the muddy tracks despite not having four wheel drive and posing a danger to both the visitors and the animals. I was glad to see that our driver seemed not to be like the others and was keen to hang back and watch the animals from a distance rather than crowding them like the others.
However, one good driver doesn't make up for the rest.
As everyone was driving over to the lake, the elephants were getting more agitated about protecting one of the babies as they walked through a crowd of jeeps. It wasn't long before one adult became so stressed that she charged the jeeps who didn't seem to understand they should move out of the way! The elephants made it over to the lake and all the jeeps started to drive round to the other side, but then one of the 2WD cars got stuck in the mud, panic ensued as the elephants spotted it and became aggressive. You could see they were terrified and started to charge the vehicle to try and protect the herd - also terrifying for the group in the car. Other jeeps rallied round to protect the jeep while others pulled the vehicle out of the mud, but in the process the jeeps revved engines and blared horns to scare off the elephants. It was a downright disturbing experience, terrifying and stressful for the animals. Absolutely horrible for me to watch and to be a part of as an animal lover, and each second that went by it just got worse.Eventually the car was freed and the elephants were scared away, we told our driver we wanted to leave. We'd seen enough. I was dumbstruck by what had happened. As we drove out of the park our guide told us a bit of background to the park, he told us how these 2WD cars were allowed into the park - understandably the locals had to make a living even if they couldn't afford the right equipment - however this meant that what we had just witnessed was a regular occurrence. Almost on a daily basis these 2WD cars would get stuck and a similar event would happen with the elephants becoming stressed, agitated and frightened by tours. Even worse, our guide told us that within the last few years, one of the jeeps had actually reversed into a baby elephant and killed it which was the reason why the elephants had become so aggressive and nervous around the cars.It was a pretty traumatic experience, and I can't imagine what those poor elephants go through each day. They live in a national park and should be some of the lucky ones being protected from harm, but if you ask me, a lot more needs to be done to protect these animals. After volunteering at Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai, Thailand, sanctuary founder Lek Chailert always said we all have the power to make a change by raising awareness so by writing this post, I hope it will inform each and every one of you to make a conscious decision to not support this kind of tourism unless you know the animals are being properly protected. I didn't know what to expect before I arrived, but by sharing my experiences I can hopefully help make a change by letting my readers know what happened.
Have you experienced a safari like this? How do you feel about the protection of elephants across Sri Lanka, and Asia? Would you be put off another safari?
My first trip to Sri Lanka has brought with it some very exciting blogging opportunities, and the first of these was a really luxurious treat and welcome to this amazing country. I was invited to be the first blogger to visit and review the beautiful Dickman Resort - an adults only, luxury resort which has been hailed the first gay-friendly accommodation of its kind in the country. I was thrilled to be invited to somewhere so forward thinking and all-accepting, and couldn't wait to see what the visit had in store. In the heart of Negombo, the resort is ideal for anyone just arriving or about to fly out and the staff pride themselves on giving the very best welcome or farewell to Sri Lanka. As we pulled up to the resort we were given the warm Sri Lankan welcome as we were invited inside with fresh passionfruit juice and a tour of the property, before being seen to our room and told to relax and enjoy.Our room, the Purple Suite overlooked the pool area and gave us a lovely view across the courtyard while still being tucked away neatly to give as much privacy as we wanted. Perfect for a travelling couple, the boutique resort is the perfect place to mingle with the staff and other travellers, or to give yourself complete privacy and alone time. Week-to-week the crowd changes - when we arrived it was many individual gay travellers but when we left there were several couples both gay and straight. But Dutch owner Mr Dickman make sure everyone feels welcome, always stopping to chat to everyone who is staying there and to make sure they have everything they need. Travelling with my boyfriend, we couldn't have felt more welcome and it really was the most romantic few days. A perfect place for a couple to holiday together, the rooms are pure luxury and have everything you never even realised you deserved from gorgeous outdoor rain showers to a four poster bed, fresh fruits and background music to set the mood.After more than 48 hours travelling across Malaysia and Indonesia, it was the greatest pleasure to climb into the comfiest four poster bed and finally catch up on sleep. Waking up feeling refreshed, we headed to breakfast where we were greeted with fresh juice and delicious coffee, platters of fruit, omelettes, dhal, sambol and more - their tasty nod to both Western and Sri Lankan breakfast. An absolute feast, the meal was the perfect way to start the day and it was lovely to eat overlooking the beautiful courtyard with chipmunks running up and down the trees and birds calling overhead. A perfect place to spend a few hours reading, writing, or indulging in your favourite holiday pastimes, there are endless hidden corners and comfy spots to find a pew to while away the afternoon.Spend your days relaxing by the pool with amazing staff on hand for everything you need from towels and magazines to fresh watermelon, all of them so friendly and kind. Head to the shaded courtyard to lay in the hammock and read, or make yourself comfortable on one of the colourful couches and while away the afternoons. Just up the street are no end of restaurants, bars and shops if it takes your fancy to go for a wander, or talk to the staff and order in your meals for complete comfort. The staff can arrange for spa staff to pick you up and whisk you away for massages and spa treatments at a moment’s notice and are happy to arrange transport if you wish to visit any sights.
It was a complete pleasure to stay at the Dickman Resort and a perfect way to start our Sri Lankan adventure, if you’re looking for a luxury treat then this is the one for you. Just 30 minutes from the airport, it’s a great way to relax into your trip after a long flight. Start your holiday the right way by booking in for a luxury treat here.
Have you stayed at any gay-friendly resorts around the world? Tell me - what is luxury to you? Have you been to Sri Lanka?
I wanted to take the time to write a post this Christmas about what I'm grateful for - there are so many things this year and after a rocky start to the year, I feel very lucky to be ending it this way. The last six months have been a total whirlwind in every aspect of my life, a lot has changed and I'm really happy that it has, but remembering how my life was before that really makes me appreciate every second of how it is now. Now I'm home for my first Christmas with the family in three years and despite it putting travel plans on hold, I couldn't be happier to be home. Sometimes you just need to spend a little time resting and catching up with the people who have always known you, not just spending time with those fleeting travelling friends. This last year, and especially the last six months has been filled with constant travel and it's about time I just took the time to sit, reflect and enjoy where I am. To reassess and make plans for the future before I make my next move, and to take some time off for once! So in this whirlwind year filled with highs and lows, with old friends who have come back into my life, and the new should who have passed through, what am I grateful for?
Once again, travel has given me one of the best years of my life and I couldn't feel more lucky to have experienced the places and people I have met along the way. I feel very privileged to be able to live this nomadic life and to be able to find happiness in it, and I really do appreciate every moment. This year I had the amazing opportunity to explore parts of Australia that have been on my bucket list for years - getting to road trip around Tasmania and all the way up the West Coast - an epic 4,000km trip. Drawing my two year working holiday visa to a close, I feel so happy to have made the most of my time in this amazing country and I left with a smile on my face and a lot of new friends close to my heart. Next up was a fleeting visit to Kuala Lumpur to set off a trip around Asia, before delving into the deaths of Sri Lanka for a month. Travelling the length and breadth of the country, I grabbed every opportunity to soak up the culture, the beauty and whatever adventures came my way. I completely fell in love with the people and the places we visited along the way and was sad to leave. But not quite ready to come home, a few weeks in the sunshine in Thailand was just what the doctor ordered and it was fantastic to return to the place where my travels began three years on - Thailand has changed so much and yet retains that familiarity it will always hold for me.
As I have mentioned, I am so happy to be home for Christmas, it really does mean the world to spend the festive period at home with my closest family and friends after so long away. So much has changed at home with friends getting new jobs, moving away, starting new relationships or even getting married, and one of my best friends in the world is now pregnant - there is so much to celebrate and I'm happy to be home to share in it all with them. But while I'm happy to be at home with the people who have known me from the beginning, I'm also so grateful to the friends and the families I've forged on all sides of the world. To the Melbourne family who absolutely made my experience there, who welcomed me with open arms time and time again, who were always there with endless laughs, a sofa to sleep on and were always ready to make more amazing memories together. I will be forever grateful to you, you made Melbourne home for me.
To Jack and Paul, who have proven again and again and again what amazing friends they are, I will be forever grateful to have met you back in Asia, little did we realise back then that we would be mates for life. The two of you have gone out of your way to fly cross country, and even across the world to visit me, and I was glad to repay with a visit this year. The pair of you will always be people I know I can count on. And of course, I cannot forget my West Coast crew - the beautiful souls I met down in Fremantle who filled my life with much-needed laughter and fun. The reunions with old friends along the way were a keen reminder that travelling friends aren't always temporary and you can have such a huge impact on the lives of others without even realising. And of course, my amazing group that I road tripped the West Coast with - all such different characters brought together by a love of travel and adventure. Every moment of that trip surpassed my expectations and I'm so grateful to have shared it with this motley crew - it will remain one of my best Australian memories.
One of the changes I am most grateful for this year. After spending three years on my own after the break up of my nine-year relationship, there were a lot of points where I thought I might be alone for good if I maintained this travelling lifestyle. I didn't mind, I actually preferred that to being constantly let down, so I focused on myself and all the things I wanted to do. No-one can say I didn't live life to the fullest and I guess it was only when I forgot to put up my guard because I was having too much fun, that I met someone special. It's an amazing feeling to meet someone as passionate about travelling as you are, and since getting together we've travelled half of Australia living in a car together. We've also spent a month backpacking Sri Lanka and a few weeks in Thailand. We're now on six countries together and when he comes over to visit next week, it will be our seventh. I don't know what the future holds, but for now I'm enjoying every second and I'm just grateful that the world saw fit to send someone like him into my life.
This year has been incredible for blogging and writing opportunities despite me taking more time off from the blog than ever before. I have worked with some amazing companies all over the world and have had the chance to live some of my wildest dreams such as a hot air balloon ride and safaris surrounded by wild leopards and elephants. I've stayed in some truly incredible accommodations from being the first blogger to visit the first gay-friendly luxury resort in Sri Lanka, to staying on the other side of the fence to a national park in luxury safari camping, and even sleeping in tree houses! Finishing the trip in a truly incredible 5* luxury resort in Thailand was an absolute highlight and the perfect way to end the holiday. I feel so grateful for these amazing opportunities, but I also feel grateful to my parents for instilling this work ethic into me, without being proactive, determined and hardworking, none of these opportunities would have happened.
Unless you're one of the people who have met me in person over the last 18 months, you won't know how bad my skin has been. Last May, I flew to the UK and on my flight the air hostesses sprayed a pesticide chemical inside the plane to kill any stray bugs. I instantly had the worst allergic reaction of my life, my eyes and face swelling up, my skin breaking out into open wounds on my arms. It was horrific. I should have claimed compensation, I should have followed it up but when I got home, I got the flu and was bedridden for weeks. When I finally turned a corner, all I wanted was to get out and have a life again, to forget it all, but I was left with huge scars on my arms and white patches where my skin had healed. Over the next year, these white patches spread to cover more and more of my arms and even my chest, back and face. I went to multiple doctors in the UK and Australia but no-one could tell me what it was, no-one could help me. The more sun I got and the more the rest of my skin tanned, the more noticeable the white patches were, it was always there and I couldn't hide it.
Complete strangers would come up to me at work and start talking to me about it on a daily basis, or they would make jokey comments about it. They hurt, it was horrible have to laugh and brush them off like they didn't affect me or I didn't hear them all day, every day. Everyone thought they were a dermatologist, everyone thought they knew the answer, the cure for my problems. They meant well, but I was sick of hearing it, sick of my skin always being the topic of conversation when it had nothing to do with these people. I've always suffered from eczema and skin allergies, but I never realised until this point how utterly debilitating it is to have such a noticeable skin problem. How you're constantly aware of the eyes glancing over your arms and lingering as they wonder what the hell is wrong with you, how you take photos with friends and then can't bear to look at them because all you can see is the patches. Without realising, it really does take over every aspect of your life, no matter how much you try and put on a brave face and how much you pretend it doesn't bother you.
So now I can tell you why being the sickest I've been since travelling while I was in Sri Lanka, was the best thing that could have happened to me. I went to the doctors because medicine wasn't helping my upset stomach and was given some homeopathic remedies that solved all my problems within an hour. But even better, the doctor, who spoke very good English and had previously worked in the UK, was a dermatologist and recognised immediately what the problem was with my skin. He recognised the infection and knew exactly how to get rid of it, he promised me he could prescribe homeopathic treatment - a mixture of pills and creams - that would see a noticeable difference within two weeks and if I kept it up for a few months the patches would be unnoticeable, and the pain and discomfort I suffered would go away. The words I had been desperate to hear for so long, and least expected to ever hear come from the mouth of a doctor after being let down by so many. I started the treatment - still very sceptical of whether it would work but praying it would - and within two weeks the patches were already significantly better. Now two months on, most of them are barely noticeable and the rest get better every single day. The patches on my face are gone, my arms are mostly better and my chest and back are back to normal. I can't tell you how grateful I am that the treatment worked, and that fate brought me to that doctor out of the various other medical centres on the street.
I feel very lucky the way this year has turned out, the way I feel now couldn't be more different to how I was at the beginning of the year. I've grown, I've changed and it's all because of the amazing experiences I've had and the people I've met along the way. I'm very excited about what the next year holds for me and I can't wait to share every moment with you guys. Thanks for being there every step of the way and I hope you all have a lovely Christmas.
It feels like Iceland will forever stay on my must-see list. I've spent so long in the wrong hemisphere and I'm always planning trips to far-fetched places, but that often means sacrificing the real gems that lie right under my nose. I'm always that girl who can't resist a tropical island or exploring the jungle in some exciting new land, so it's hard to schedule in time for a snowy break but I won't be happy until I have. These last few years, it seems like everyone I know have been off gallivanting around the Blue Lagoon, posting lust-worthy pics of them playing in the snow or eyeing up the Northern Lights - it's the stuff dreams are made of.
Being back in the UK and experiencing my first European winter in more than three years, I'm embracing it with wide-open arms and I'm loving every second. While the cold was a shock to the system, I'm loving the Christmas decorations, the frosty mornings, the festive spirit, the winter coats and snuggly jumpers. It's really making me realise what I have been missing these last few years of chasing the sun and perhaps I'm ready for something new now. I'm excited to explore a whole new hemisphere and to find the magic in places that I haven't yet had the pleasure of experiencing.
Whenever Iceland is mentioned, the mind instantly conjures up images of dramatic volcanic landscapes draped in snow and crisp with frost, it's a magical image. A land both within reach and yet completely separate to everything I have previously experienced, but while we always hear about the same few attractions of Iceland, I feel that there is so much more waiting to be discovered. There is still a wholly unique Icelandic experience waiting for each visitor to capture the charm and the beauty of the country when their visit. Planning a visit to Iceland? I've done a bit of research to find the most unique ways to explore the country.
All of Iceland's electricity comes from hydroelectric or geothermal power, and if that doesn't inspire you enough, the famous Blue Lagoon is a wonderful side effect of this power. Lava fields alongside a geothermal plant were accidentally turned into a spa rich in minerals, sulphur, salt and silica back in the 70's and now it is one of the country's most popular attractions. Need some time to relax on your trip and escape the cold, why not take a dip in the blue waters and lose yourself in the swirling mist?
Imagine yourself racing through the snowy landscape on board your own sleigh pulled by those gorgeous, energetic huskies. It's the ultimate arctic experience and one you won't want to miss, if you're a dog lover then this is the trip for you!
Something you can only do during winter when the caves are truly frozen, you can now explore ice tunnels over 200m long under Iceland’s second largest glacier, Langjökull. Bathed in the ethereal blue light, you can even get married in a special ice chapel under the ice.
The land of fire and ice is punctuated with incredibly unique volcanic experiences where you can explore these amazing geological formations.
During the summer, it never gets completely dark in Iceland, while the evenings are cooler they remain bathed in a stunning mix of sunrise and sunset. Make the most of it and get outside - go take part in activities or go for a hike. Or if you fancy a really unique experience, why not go to the Secret Solstice Festival? Taking place on June 21-24 in Reykjavik, it is the festival of the midnight sun and gives you a perfect opportunity to party all day and all night long.
Just outside Reykjavik, it's possible to learn even more about the mystical folktales that surround Iceland by attending a real-life Elf School.
Fancy a bit more action? Race across the ice on a snowmobile for an experience that will take your breath away.
Why not take a helicopter ride over Iceland and gain a new perspective on the landscape - from volcanoes and geysers to endless fields of snow and ice?
For the explorers among us, there are endless caves waiting to be explored including Grjótagjá, a volcanic cave lake that looks magical. Or experience the incredible Gljúfrafoss, a waterfall hidden in a cave that can be found in cracked cliff.
There's nothing quite like getting out and experiencing nature in all it's glory, so why not take the chance to explore by going on glacier walks? With climate change gradually melting the polar ice, the glaciers are also being slowly diminished so one day soon it could be a really unique experience to look back on.
My absolute dream is to watch the Northern Lights - I was so disappointed to not see the Southern Lights while down in Tasmania, Australia. But what would really take this experience to another level would be to watch the lights from one of these adorable bubble rooms at what is known as the 5 million star hotel - what a magical experience! Fancy being out in the open air? Why not watch from your own private hot tub?
You can view an encyclopaedic collection of mammal penises at the Icelandic Phallological Museum, while The Icelandic Sea Monster Museum explores the area's history of aquatic cryptid sightings.
At Þingvellir National Park you can find Iceland’s largest lake, Þingvallavatn which is the only place on the entire planet where you can see two tectonic plates, the American and the Euro-Asian plate, gradually breaking apart year by year. It is the only place where the split is so dramatic, and if you're feeling brave, you can even dive or snorkel between the two plates in Silfra - a gorge filled with crystal clear water.
An Icelandic specialty, Hákarl originates from the days when food needed to be purified during the long winters. With a taste likened to blue cheese but 1000x stronger in taste and smell, it was originally processed from Greenlandic Shark, then buried under rocks for six months before being hung to dry for another three months. Another local delicacy is sheep's head.
When I finally get to Iceland, I don't know how I'll squeeze everything in - there's just so many incredible experiences waiting to be had. If you're planning a trip this winter, I hope this list helps you to make your trip as unique and unforgettable as possible.
I've just returned home after 18 months away for my first Christmas with the family in three years - it's a pretty great feeling to be home and to finally take a break from the constant shuffle of travelling. But of course, with the dramatic change from 35 degrees and humid of Asia and Australia, to freezing temperatures and frost on the ground - it's no surprise that I've picked up a cold! Every time I return home from travelling, I always seem to pick up some illness - last time it was the flu and an allergic reaction to something they sprayed on a plane.
But the ironic thing is that when I'm actually travelling I'm usually the healthiest of all - it's always when I stop or when I'm changing dramatically between temperatures that I really feel it. Whether you're a long-term traveller or you're just heading on holiday this winter, it's no fun to waste time feeling under the weather. You want to be outside living life to the fullest instead of hiding inside shivering and sniffing your way through the winter. This post is focusing on all the things I've learnt in my last few years of travelling and life about keeping healthy whether you're headed to sunny or snowy climates.
If you're heading off on winter travels, the best way to ensure you have the amazing trip you've been dreaming of is to prepare - packing smartly can change your whole experience. I never leave on a trip without packing a mega holiday health kit - it may sound a bit crazy but the amount of times this bag has saved me or others from having our trips ruined proves it is more than worth it. Each bag is pretty personal to the individual traveller and their needs, but after years of travelling I've definitely narrowed down the essentials. Just jetting off for a few weeks in the sun? One of the best places to head this winter for good weather is Asia, but with this can come a whole heap of medical complaints. Likewise, if you're heading off for a skiing holiday, the cold can play havoc with your body. Top things to include in your holiday health kit:
When you're off on your holidays, all you ca think about is eating and drinking all the things you dream of when you're back home. Every night is a treat, with cocktails and rich, unusual foods, and desserts that are normally too naughty to indulge in every night. If you're normally eating pretty healthily at home with lots of vegetables and juices, then head on holiday to indulge in lots of carb-heavy meals and sweet, sugary cocktails with not many vitamins - it's easy to see why you might be more prone to getting sick. Just being a bit more aware of what you're putting in your mouth could make all the difference.
Easily forgotten when you're on your holidays and just want to lay on the beach and tan but it's important to stay moving and keep your body active. Plus working up a sweat can be good for getting rid of any germs! It's a lot easier to stay active on a snowy holiday by taking part in activities like skiing or snowboarding.
Your worst nightmare happens and you get sick on your holiday, how do you cope? It happens to us all, and while it is such a shame when you've been looking forward to this trip, you don't have to let to ruin everything!
It's the worst if sickness or injury stands in the way of you having the trip you've been dreaming of, but don't let it dishearten you, it doesn't have to ruin the entire trip. Being prepared is the best way to salvage the holiday and make the most of every second by not wasting time looking for a chemist or doctor. So many less serious medical problems can be self-treated these days with over the counter remedies and first aid treatment which can save you valuable time on your trip. For the more serious illness or injuries, you should always be sure to take out a comprehensive insurance policy which will cover you for any medical care you might need - if taking part in winter sports activities be sure your policy covers any accidents. For any advice, look no further than specialists in holiday sickness claims, yourlegalfriend.com who offer a free call in service and will help with all the information you need to put in claims or request compensation. Wherever you are heading on holiday this winter, live life to the fullest and enjoy every second, just remember that a little preparation could help make it the best holiday yet!
Where are you headed on holiday this winter? What do you keep in your holiday health kit? Do you prefer sun or snow holidays?
Disclaimer: All advice given in this blog post is tried and tested by myself, it is based on what has worked well for me, but everyone is different and you should always seek medical advice if seriously ill.
I love arriving in a new place whether it’s a bustling city, a beachside resort or a mountain top town and feeling my senses tingling. I love that first sense you get of a new place, the first smells, sights and sounds that hit you, the warmth or the freshness of the air. It’s these moments that make a place real, that make it special to you, and that stay with you long after you have moved on to pastures new. I still remember the first time I set foot in Bangkok - the hot air pressed against my skin, the noise of the streets and the vendors, the smells of spices and street food mingled in the air. Ella in Sri Lanka was different, with fresh mountain air, fluffy clouds dotted along the skies and a sense of peace I had yet to find elsewhere in the country. Each place leaves a lasting impression, and those first few hours, or even first few days can really make or break how you feel about a place.
I was inspired to write this post because I’ve spent the last two days in Kandy, Sri Lanka, and it is the first place in a long time that I have felt an instant dislike to. After being high up in the mountains with fresh air and peace, Kandy has been an assault on the senses with too much traffic, too much noise and too much pollution. I’ve felt smothered here and can’t wait to leave today, to get back out into nature - back to exploring the jungle. However, I know that some of the reason I really don’t like Kandy is actually because I arrived here in a bad mood, exhausted and grumpy from travel, with a bad tummy and to a bad accommodation. The first few hours I spent here were feeling ill and wandering the streets trying to find somewhere to eat and giving up in the end. It just shows how much those first few hours or days can really shadow your impression of a place and that’s why I normally try to take control of the situation and to give myself the best opportunity to fall in love with every place I visit.
Well it’s all about making sure you throw yourself in at the deep end - whether you’re traveling by yourself or with friends or a partner, you have to get out exploring the first chance you get. By not sitting around feeling a bit lost, getting out and seeing the sights, meeting new people and really experiencing the city.
My favourite way, and one I use in every new place, is to spend the first day just walking. Especially in a new city, I love to just spend the day exploring on foot either with or without a map, this way I can get lost and find all the really cool stuff hidden away. Plus I end up learning my way around pretty quick from getting lost. I also find I talk to more random strangers and meet some great people along the way as well as getting to see the sights. I had a great day walking the length and breadth of Budapest - it was a great city for exploring on foot and I managed to see all the sights and make some new friends in a few hours.
Love running? Why not do like I sometimes do and explore a city in your running gear? I did this in Perth and had a fun day keeping fit and running around the city. Be creative with your sightseeing - I’ve spent a day exploring places on a bike or even on a segway - it’s a different way to see the city. I have a friend who really loves skateboarding and she always travels with her board, so she loves to explore every new city by skateboarding around and usually makes some friends along the way. Fancy trying it out? You can pick up skateboarding decks here.
Sometimes, especially if you are traveling solo or are pressed for time, it can be great to meet up with a traveling friend or even a new friend to be shown around a new place. When I visited Amsterdam and Berlin, I met up with old friends there from when I was living both in the UK and Australia - both friends took me under their wing and were excited to show me around their city. I had a place to stay and a tour guide, plus a great chance to catch up with friends and to see a new place. Don’t have a friend where you are going - why not try one of the many groups on Facebook to find someone who might want to host you? I’m part of a Girls Love Travel Facebook group which has almost forty thousand women from all over the world who live or are travelling all across the globe - they are always on hand for advice when travelling to a new place, keen to meet up for a drink, to show you round or even host you!
A good way to see the sights and explore a new city, if you don’t know where to begin why not join the professional tour guides? When travelling around Europe, I started using Sandemans NEW Europe Tours - they offer FREE walking tours around 18 European cities with fantastic guides who have endless knowledge and enthusiasm for their city. The tours are free but the guides work for tips and you are welcome to give as little or as much as you want - the tours were always so good that I happily 10-20 euros after my tours in Berlin and Amsterdam.
If you’re backpacking or staying in a hostel - why not take a look at the activities board and see what your hostel might be offering? Not only is it a great way to meet people and get to see the city, but it is often a lot cheaper or even free! When I was in Sydney, Australia, my hostel was fantastic for this and organised events daily including walking tours and wine and cheese nights, further down in Tasmania my hostel organised visits to the nearby mountain and museums for much cheaper than the usual price.
Not staying in hostels? Be smart about your accommodation and make it part of the experience! Renting out a house or apartment for your trip is a different way to experience the destination. Rental companies are making that option easier and safer, from AirBNB to CasaGo, you're sure to find somewhere that is perfect for you, and will give you a taste of the local culture.
How else do you like to explore a new city? Where will you be exploring next?
Whether it is because we are trying to look after the pennies or simply because you love exploring the land on your doorstep, exploring our own shores can truly open our eyes just how lucky we are to live in a land with such rich culture.
Although you won’t find the same weather as the Caribbean, nor will you come across mountain ranges such as those in the Alps, but what you will find is a lot packed into what is, in the grand scheme of things, a relatively small country. With this in mind, below is a list of five of our favourite places to visit in the UK and Ireland.
What a glorious city this is, oozing of Irish heritage mixed in with modern culture, Dublin arguably the greatest city on planet Earth. If you don’t agree with me you obviously have never been and, if not, why not?
The Temple Bar, located a stone’s throw away from the famous Ha’penny Bridge that sits over the River Liffey, is a social hotbed. At all hours of the day there is something going on, whether it is live music or stand-up comedy, this is the bar you want to drink in.
When the sun goes down and night looms over the Irish capital, this is when you see Dublin in all its glory. Paint the town red and get to know the locals, who are some of the friendliest you can hope to meet.
If it is ease of travel mixed in with a plethora of tourist attractions you are looking for, then London is your destination of choice. The Underground system is unrivalled by anywhere else in the world, and takes you to the doorstep of London’s favourite hotspots without the need for driving.
Trafalgar Square is the place to go for a night out in London, with restaurants and bars along the streets, and even a casino and cinema for additional entertainment (and it is also here that you will find M&M World!).
If British culture and pop fiction are two of your favourite things to experience, then head to the home of Robin Hood. In Nottingham, you will find lots of historic landmarks, such as Nottingham Castle and the cathedral mixed in with a very modern city.
Located in the Midlands, Nottingham is one of the best-connected cities in England and is easily reachable by train or car. Neighbouring Derby, nearby hotels can be found in equal distance to the two cities’ city centres in case you want to broaden your horizons.
The Scottish capital is just as vibrant during the day as it is at night, and is the scene for one of the most famous New Year’s Eve celebration in the world, Hogmanay. In Edinburgh, you will find the perfect mixture of the gorgeous Scottish countryside and a modern city, packed with places to visit.
Fantastic seasonal markets line the streets of Edinburgh in the winter, making the city the perfect place to visit over the festive period going into the New Year. You have to be quick, though, as hotel rooms are booked fast at this time of year.
Famous for more than a song title and a reality television show, in Newcastle you will find a brimming city packed with events, culture and landmarks. See the Angel of the North in all its glory, visit St James’ Park, the home of Newcastle United, and take in the sight of Gateshead Millennium Bridge, the world’s first and only tilting bridge.
Of course, the city is also well known for its nightlife, and is something that simply should be sampled if you ever have the fortune to visit the northern city.
If you have visited any of the above cities, or if you have been lucky to visit all five, then you will already know just how fantastic our shores are.
A bit of a throwback today, a little break from all the Western Australia posts as we hop back to Victoria and all my lovely days out while I was living down in Melbourne. I've already written about Wilson's Promontory National Park, Phillip Island, bar crawling around the city and much more - but this post is all about a great little day trip you can take if you fancy escaping the hustle and bustle of the city for a few hours. When I lived in Melbourne at the beginning of the year, I returned there with gusto and a desire to see all the amazing places I missed out on the first time. Working long hours as usual, I was determined to make the most of my days off by getting out to explore the beaches or different nature parks for walks and a change of scenery. Check out my blog post for Wild Melbourne here about all the best places to escape into nature around Melbourne. The Dandenongs were one of the final places I visited before setting off on my travels again, and they were definitely a day well spent with two of my best friends from living down there.The three of us were inseparable, working together, living around the corner from each other, and spending our days off together - it's safe to say we had a blast down in Melbourne together. So when two of us had a day off, and the other decided to skive off work for the day, we decided to get out of the city and do something fun. Well I decided, and dragged the other two along with me for some exercise. We caught the train from Flinders Street along the Belgrave line to the Dandenongs and got off at Upper Ferntree Gully Station - the journey took around 50 minutes which we easily filled with silly banter. Once there, we had to walk east away from the station and alongside the railway tracks, then we turned off the main road and walked across the trainline, following the track. After about 15 minutes walking, we came to the entrance to the Dandenong Ranges National Park where we were surrounded by lush, green forest and that incredible fresh air smell that can only be found away from the city.As you walk in, head towards the beginning of the 1,000 Steps, Kokoda Track Memorial Walk where you will probably see lots of people running around - so many use it as a workout and spend hours running up and down the steps. It's pretty impressive, I definitely didn't run them, but it was a nice walk up and down, especially as you can take one route up and another down to change it up. The walk is around 3km overall and is quite steep in places so you will want to take water and wear trainers - also do take a warmer layer as it is quite misty and cool in the trees. It says online that it should take 1-1.5 hours to complete, but you can do it in a lot less if you are relatively fit and aren't stopping every five minutes. There is also a picnic ground at the top, but sadly no real view to enjoy - this was a bit of a disappointment after the climb up there, but we still managed to have a great day out.
It's a beautiful place and lovely for a walk or to work out if, like me, you get bored of working out in the city. You can also do this trip in just a couple of hours - I think we were only gone around 3-4 hours overall so we still had the day to enjoy in the city. Plus it's a complete change of scenery being in the misty hills after living in busy Southbank and working in a bar all week. Well worth a visit. If you like this, you should also check out Jacob's Ladder in Perth for a good workout and a great view at the end.
What's your favourite place to escape into nature around Melbourne? Can you recommend any good outdoor places to work out in Australia?
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.
I've been waiting a long time to write about Fremantle, it's hard to sometimes find the words to describe a place that you feel in your heart. But this cute little port town really did become an unexpected home from home for me. It's ironic really, that I travelled to the other side of the world to set up camp somewhere just like home - a little port town by the ocean steeped in history and quirky culture. But perhaps the home we find is in the people we meet and the way that we feel rather than the place itself. After finding Perth a tad impersonal, Freo couldn't have been more different as it welcomed me with open arms. Read my Perth city guide here.
A good friend of mine drove me from the city to Freo one sunny afternoon, and even as we pulled in amongst the old fashioned buildings and smelt the sea air, I knew this was a place I would love. Walking into my hostel and seeing the family style tables across the courtyard and the group who were keen to invite me in to join them - it was just the kind of place I love to make my home. I was staying at Pirates Backpackers on Essex Street, right in the centre of Freo - it was just a minute's walk from the weekend markets and the harbour, close to the beaches and the shops. I'll be reviewing the hostel in an upcoming post - so watch out if you're looking for hostel recommendations.
It was the first place I had been in a long time where I felt I could really relax - Melbourne was full of working and living life to the max, Adelaide was a blur. Fremantle had a slower pace of life and because I wasn't planning to work, I could really relax and enjoy it, joining in with hostel life and having time to dedicate to my writing. I had a cafe I would go to for breakfast and coffee while I wrote my articles, I would go running each morning around the harbour and to the beaches. I could spend my nights laughing, playing cards and drinking with friends, or go to watch the sun set with a cute boy I met, or even hit the bars. The world was my oyster and I really enjoyed every second, especially those spent with the amazing group of friends I made while I was there, and the wonderful guy I met. I think I had been missing something from my life the previous few months and it was those incredible traveller personalities that really bring something new and exciting to the table. Freo brought that all rushing back into my life and was the perfect way to kick off my amazing Western Australia trip with the best people.
I might love to treat myself every now and again, but I'll always be a backpacker at heart and I'll always find ways to explore a new place on a budget. After all, the money you save on activities can always be put towards that next flight, an epic night out or a once-in-a-lifetime experience - I know what I'd prefer to spend it on. When I was in Freo, I knew the money I had saved working in Melbourne was to go towards my epic Western Australia road trip and had to pay for a road trip covering over 1,000km from Perth to Darwin for up to two months, and then setting up a new life in Darwin. So although I wanted to enjoy my life, I was very conscious that I had been waiting my whole two years in Australia to experience this trip and that I wanted to live it to the max. This meant cutting corners where I could to enjoy myself for a few weeks in Fremantle beforehand - here are my top 10 free & cheap experiences you don't want to miss when you visit:
Without a doubt the best way to spend your weekend in Fremantle - running Friday, Saturday & Sunday in the market hall at the top of Essex Street - look no further for cheap, delicious food, live entertainment and fresh fruits and vegetables at great prices. Offering a huge range of street food stalls from all over the world, including the delicious bao buns, the gozlemes and paella, plus fresh teas and juices - it's the perfect place to pick up a cheap meal ($10-15) as you walk around the stalls. Make sure you walk around the fruit and veg stalls and pick up all the free tasters for your daily dose of vitamins, then head back to the market on Sunday afternoon to get your heavily reduced fresh foods shop. I used to buy all my fruits and veggies there for just $7 for 7 items - perfect for a backpacker budget.
You'll see them all over Freo, whether it's live music, comedy, magic or something crazy that you can't take your eyes off. There's plenty going on around the markets at the weekends, but even during the week you'll often see performers take to the streets to entertain the crowds. I was gutted to miss the Street Arts Festival by a few weeks, it filled the streets with live entertainment and attracted thousands of visitors. Or why not grab a guitar or a ukulele and hit the streets yourself? I saw plenty of travellers doing just that to earn a few extra dollars and to have fun with their friends - if you've got a talent, why not use it?
My hostel was great for group activities, the owner made sure there was something going on every night from movie nights to pizza and wine evenings, marshmallows on a log fire, paddle boarding or volleyball afternoons and even wine tours - see my Swan Valley review here. It was great and brought the whole hostel together for some fun afternoons and evenings, it even inspired us to hold our own group evenings like the family dinner one woman decided to cook for the whole hostel. On Sunday's we would drink for free at Left Bank bar thanks to a hostel organised trip. I got to go on a full day's wine tour with tastings & travel included for just $30. Another day, I went paddle boarding for the afternoon for just $10 and had a great time with the group. It's always worth seeing what is going on in your hostel.
I didn't realise until some Canadian girls moved into my dorm that you can borrow bikes for free from Little Creatures Brewery (which is just across the park from my hostel). All you need is a passport ID and a credit card for them to keep on file, there is no charge unless you don't return the bike. We borrowed three cute little bikes for the afternoon and biked all the way from Fremantle to Cottesloe Beach where we sunbathed and relax all afternoon, diving into the waves to cool off in the sunshine, before heading back to Freo. It was a great afternoon and completely free - well worth looking into if you fancy getting out of the town with so many great beaches right on your doorstep.
Perth is known for it's beautiful beaches and I was lucky enough to catch the last few sunbathing days before the weather changed. While I was there I made it my business to explore as many beaches as I could, from the tiny Bathers Beach and South Beach which I went running between every morning. To the vast empty beauty of Scarborough Beach and City Beach - City Beach was actually my favourite by far because we had the whole place to ourselves when we went. And the famous Cottesloe Beach, which sadly was covered in smelly seaweed when I was there, but was still a great place to watch the surfers and enjoy the sunshine.
There are so many great historical sites in Fremantle and you can easily spend a day, or two, exploring these for a bit of culture and heritage. Why not check out Fremantle's Roundhouse for great views across the harbour, then explore The Shipwreck Galleries and Western Australia's Maritime Museum for a glimpse int the town's past. Don't miss a look at the war memorial and then head over to Fremantle Gaol for a wander around - you have to pay for entry to the tours, but you can have a good look at a gallery and the courtyard for free.
Probably one of the priciest things on this list depending on where you go, but much like having fish and chips on Brighton Beach in England, it's something you just have to do. You'll be fending off manic seagulls but the freshly caught fish and chips is well worth it, especially overlooking the water at sunset. There are plenty of places to choose from so enjoy.
One of my favourite experiences while I was in Fremantle, visiting the Little Creatures Brewery is definitely something to try. It's a lovely bar to sit and have a drink and food in, or take a free tour at 1, 2 or 3pm each day. Tastings are available for around $20 and give you an opportunity to taste each of their craft beers and a cider - a pretty good way to spend a sunny afternoon.
Whether you fancy a laid-back breakfast with friends or want somewhere peaceful to work, look no further than Moore & Moore cafe. The food is fantastic and well-priced and they have a lovely sheltered courtyard with heaters for when the weather isn't great. The wifi is really good for those who need to work, and it's a nice relaxing atmosphere, often with live music in the background.
Always one of my favourite things to do - pick up some cheep wine and snacks, get a group of mates together and head to South Beach or Bathers Beach and end the day on a high. There really is nothing better than watching a beautiful sunset with people who mean the world to you.
What are your favourite free activities when visiting a new place? Have you been to Fremantle - can you add any suggestions to this list?