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Last year was a busy one – a lot of travel, a lot of living and a lot of changes. It was an amazing year full of highs and lows, but in the midst of that it was hard to feel settled and to live my best life. I finished the year pretty exhausted from the constant movement, ill as all my adventures caught up with me, and eager to make some big changes for the year ahead. Now don’t worry, it may be January but this isn’t one of those “New Year, New Me” posts – instead of some health kick, I’m focusing on making some big lifestyle changes that will hopefully bring me happiness in 2018. I’m looking at the long-term rather than some quick fix. What’s prompted all this? Well I’ve been travelling for over three years now and in that time I’ve done and seen a lot, but now I’m craving some stability and a different way of travelling, and of living my life. So what changes am I making this year?

Diet

Vegetarian/Vegan

Now I don’t believe in diets, but I do believe in lifestyle changes and improving diet. I am focusing more on what I put in my body and some of the ways I can really feel my best. I remember when I felt healthiest and happiest during the year and it was when I was road tripping Western Australia and was eating purely vegan/vegetarian for months on end. I had endless energy and as soon as I stopped that diet I was exhausted all the time. I’m already eating vegetarian most of the time, but I’ve been incorporating more vegan food into my diet and it’s making me feel great. I’m excited to move into my own place into a few months and then there will be nothing but vegetarian food in my cupboards. I don’t do this because I don’t like meat – my choice is based on the fact that I feel better when I don’t eat meat, and the fact that I just don’t think a meat-heavy diet is sustainable without damaging the environment. Likewise, I haven’t forbidden myself from eating meat if I do want to, I don’t think diet should be about restriction – more about introducing more things that are better for you like my mostly vegetarian diet.

My favourite products

I’ve already cut out as much dairy as possible from my diet – choosing soy, rice or coconut products instead which has helped my eczema-prone skin no end. I absolutely love the Alpro with Coconut instead of yoghurt, and always switch regular milk for Rice Milk as it’s far more sustainable than Almond Milk. My favourite post-gym breakfast at the moment is Lizi’s Granola mixed with Alpro and lots of fresh blueberries and raspberries, the granola is absolutely delicious and packed full of protein, fibre and all the goodness you need post-workout, plus its low sugar. Fancy a snack? I’m the worst for picking up the wrong things to snack on, so Soul Food Collective sent me some of what they think I should be filling up on and I’m more than impressed. This entirely fair trade, delicious, natural and organic range is just what you need to keep you going during the day, and oh my goodness they are the perfect snack. My favourites are the Amarena cherries and raspberries coated in dark chocolate and I always make sure I have a packet in my bag to stop me from snacking on the wrong foods. When it comes to dinners, I actually prefer using tofu and Quorn as meat replacements, the more I have eaten them the more my tastebuds have changed and I enjoy the texture of meat less.Wellbeing | Five ways I'm looking after myself more this year

Exercise

I’m so happy to be back in a gym. I signed up as soon as I arrived back in the UK and I’m there most days now to attend classes or hit the gym. After travelling constantly for three months and indulging over Christmas, it feels really nice to be back in a routine and to challenge my body, to feel the aches that means you’ve pushed yourself further. I have always been a bit of a gym bunny when I get going but travelling makes it hard to keep up a routine when you’re never in one place long enough. I love yoga, pilates and running, but I miss the weights, the machines and the challenges of classes when I’m on the road. I don’t consider myself out of shape at the moment – my focus is more on getting stronger and building my energy levels. Also, adapting to British weather, I need all the help I can get in staying warm!

My routine

I’m focusing on trying to be active every day but in different ways. A couple of days a week I’m attending classes such as body combat (my fave!), yoga, or zumba depending on what my body is craving. On the other days, I’ll either head to the gym and do my own HIIT workout or have a weights session. One thing I can tell from this is that I love variety and I get bored if I do the same thing every day, so on the days where I just don’t fancy the gym, I like to get outside and either run or do huge walks on the beach or in the woods – perfect for when you need to blow away the cobwebs. Looking for new workout ideas? Why not try your hand at winter sports such as indoor skiing?

My gear

Encouraging yourself to get active in January is a lot of work, so it’s important to invest in yourself and to get some nice workout clothes that you are excited to put on even when it’s cold outside and you want to stay in bed. I have the comfiest workout leggings and sports bra from Australian brand Cotton On Body and they are genuinely the best workout clothes I have ever had plus very budget friendly. I’m lucky to have a sister who works as a personal trainer so I’m always getting her cast-offs when it comes to exercise gear and she recently sent me two (almost new) sets of trainers! It’s definitely helped me to get in the right mindset for working out and working hard! This gorgeous sports bag from Hunkemoller Doutzen Sports range has helped the most, I was in need of a new gym bag and this one is fantastic – it’s huge and has plenty of space to fit all my workout clothes, shoes and even swimming gear in. Plus the cute floral design helps make it feel really feminine and pretty, just what I need after a sweaty gym session. I’ll also be using it as a weekend bag from time to time as it’s the perfect size for taking away with me.Wellbeing | Five ways I'm looking after myself more this year

Health

As someone who spent much of Christmas/New Year feeling very poorly with the flu, and who spent much of their month in Sri Lanka with food poisoning, it’s been a rough time for my body. I’ve spent a lot of the year working too hard, working long hours, partying too much and not giving myself time to heal. I’ve been the sickest I’ve been in a long time and yet I haven’t stopped or taken time out, it’s a problem when you live a lifestyle like mine. I’m not very good at stepping back and looking after myself, but since being home I am focusing on my health so much more. I’m making sure I exercise daily, that I eat as healthy as possible, that I’m sleeping for long enough and deeply enough. And I feel so much better for it. When I had the flu recently, instead of pushing myself to get out of bed and make myself worse, I wallowed and I allowed myself time to get better. It was frustrating and went against all of my instincts but it worked and I feel so much better now. I’m also making decisions to adjust my diet and lifestyle based on information that has surfaced during a long course of treatment for an ongoing skin condition that is finally being taken seriously. After it being brushed aside all my life by doctors and myself, 2018 is the year of healing.


Self-Care

This can come in so many forms and all of the above can also be included. But in this case I want to focus on how I am putting less pressure on myself, how I am changing my habits and giving myself space to breathe. I’m taking more time for myself lately, more time to do the things that make me feel good like reading a good book, or spending a day in bed watching Disney movies when I’m having a rubbish time. I’m giving myself the time to pamper and treat my body well, to indulge and invest in myself by actually taking the time to appreciate myself. Lately I’ve really been trying to focus on appreciating the people around me, telling them what they mean to me and making the effort to get in contact with friends I haven’t spoken to for a while. Caring for my support network is in turn caring for myself – you get out of it what you put in. Most importantly, I’m making plans for the future, that for the first time in a long time actually revolve around staying put and settling for a while. Last year was one for moving constantly and pushing myself, this year I want to focus on what makes me really happy and that is being closer to friends and family, having more of a base that can become my home, exploring different ways of fulfilling my travel needs and letting my relationship grow.


Work

I’m a self-confessed workaholic. When I have a job, it tends to take over everything and even during the times when I don’t and I’m travelling, I end up giving all my time to this blog like when I spent ages redesigning the whole thing from scratch while I was in Australia. For so long I’ve been taking jobs for convenience and money due to travelling, rather than focusing on my skills, interest and qualifications. Now my brain hurts from lack of use and I’m craving the chance of having job where I finally get to use all three – I’m in the process of applying for jobs and for the first time in a long time I’m focusing on quality. This year is the year where I develop my skills and really use my brain instead of running myself into the ground for a job I don’t believe in.

What changes are you making this year? Are you focusing more on your health, your relationships or your career?

Wellbeing | Five ways I'm looking after myself more this year

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.Melbourne | A day in the Dandenongs - 1000 Steps | AustraliaThe 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.Melbourne | A day in the Dandenongs - 1000 Steps | AustraliaAs 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.Melbourne | A day in the Dandenongs - 1000 Steps | Australia
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.Melbourne | A day in the Dandenongs - 1000 Steps | Australia

What’s your favourite place to escape into nature around Melbourne? Can you recommend any good outdoor places to work out in Australia?

Melbourne | A day in the Dandenongs - 1000 Steps | Australia

imageI’ve been back in the country less than 24 hours and it’s safe to say after four weeks of mad, fast, exciting travelling around Europe, of dancing until the sun comes up and  sightseeing for days – I’m glad to be home. I’ve had the most incredible few weeks road tripping across Bulgaria, exploring Berlin, relaxing in the stunning surroundings of Slovenia, diving into the beautiful baths of Budapest and partying it up in Amsterdam. It’s been epic from start to finish and went better than I ever could have hoped, all thanks to all my amazing friends I met up with along the way. The trip was a fantastic excuse to visit some of my friends from trips to Asia and Australia back in their own homes and to catch up on old times, while picking up some awesome new friends along the way. It felt so good to be on the road and completely independent again, travelling solo really is my favourite way to travel, and I feel so refreshed after  a break from working so much. Also a big thanks to everyone who has been following me on Instagram and has offered countless suggestions of place to eat, things to see and do along the way!

So what next? You all know I’m never one to stand still for long so of course I’ve already got lots of plans for the next few weeks and if you’ve been following me on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook, you’ll already know that in just one month I’ll be heading back to Australia for another year! While I was away my second year visa was granted and after waiting months for it to be approved I was beyond ecstatic, I can’t wait to get back there to start a whole new adventure and to see all my loves I have missed so much. With just a month to prepare, you’d think I’d need to take a few days off working to get everything in order, but actually I’ve ended up signing up to full time freelance hours until the date I leave! Plus I’ll be covering a lot of extra blogging events and reviewing a huge range of restaurants and hotels for you guys with all my top tips for weekends away and how to make the most of your time off work. And I’ve got some exciting collaborations with travel brands and opportunities coming up that I can’t wait to share with you.

It’s been lovely to take some time off from the blog over the last couple of weeks just to get some perspective and really appreciate how far I’ve come. This week my blog celebrated it’s third birthday and I actually cannot believe how much it has changed and grown in that time – from the very first blog post I published to the most recent collaborations and going on my first blogging press trip a week ago. I’m so proud of everything I have accomplished with this blog – from working with brands to helping readers plan their trips. I actually received an amazing message from a long-time reader this morning saying she was inspired by this blog post to quit her job and her relationship so she could buy a one-way ticket to Australia. It is just incredible to have any kind of influence on readers, but to have such a huge impact on her life is more than I could have dreamed of when I started Absolutely Lucy.14368820_10153777471112617_1681907711635110597_nWhen you love to write as much as I do, and you love to travel, getting to combine these passions in a way that helps others and helps you build a career is so precious, it is important to appreciate every second. Last week, the 10th edition of industry magazine Blogosphere published with the incredible In The Frow on the cover – one of the bloggers I have followed from the very beginning – and guess who was featured inside? One of my favourite travel bloggers, Vicky Flip Flop, chose to feature Absolutely Lucy among her favourite travel bloggers for the month. I haven’t yet had a chance to see it as I’ve been away, but I’ll be sharing it with you as soon as my copy arrives – I’m so excited to be a part of such a fabulous magazine, and such an incredible industry.14354903_10153777471157617_3487606775261715180_nThese last few weeks have been exactly the tonic I needed to come home feeling super inspired, with a brain and a camera packed full of amazing content that I just can’t wait to share with you. I’m planning on working my ass off at this laptop and bringing you a huge range of new posts on all my adventures and hope to inspire you to plan some of your own. I’m also on a serious health kick – after four weeks of drinking and eating all kinds of rubbish – I’m looking forward to getting in the gym again and eating healthily. It’s time to get this body in shape and to peak fitness before I get back to Australia and living in my bikini every day! I’m so pleased I finally found a gym in my small town that offers a huge range of classes, plus a well-stocked gym and a pool – actually, I’m going to wrap up this post now and head straight down there for a workout! So there you go guys, a little glimpse into a chaotic few weeks that have left me with a big smile on my face.

Have you traveled around Europe – what was your favourite place? Have you been in spired by my posts – tell me about it! What’s your workout regime – got any tips for me?

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13962682_10153682687712617_3327037275195795263_nHaving two weeks in a place is such a luxury when you travel. Holidays can be so expensive and I know so many who have had to sacrifice a second week this year due to costs. We’re all familiar with that feeling that we never have enough time to squeeze everything in, well I’m definitely guilty of trying to squeeze too much into a break. I can’t help myself, I just want to do, see, eat and experience everything a country has to offer, which doesn’t often leave much time for relaxing! You’ll know from my previous posts that I love keeping fit and active, even when I travel and so I’m sure you’ll know that I’m game for trying any new ways of getting out there and pushing my body. So when I realised the amazing opportunity to try something a bit different that lay waiting in Santorini, I jumped at the chance. If you like to exercise this one is a great way to combine history and working out while taking in a spectacular view of the island.13882088_10153682679712617_2088484874682698811_nIn the south-west of the island lies the biggest mountain of the island, Mesa Vouna. This stunning peak has the town of Perissa nestled against one side, while the town of Kamari can be found on the opposite side. At just 369m, it’s only a baby in the mountain world, but it’s still a worthy climb and well worth it for the experience. We set off at sunrise to try and find the path, which was just a few fields behind my apartments, along the way stumbling across some donkeys preparing for their huge climb over the peak. It was around 5.30am and barely touched by the light, we began our journey – why so early you ask? Well I quite enjoy an early start to the day anyway, and quite frankly it gets so damn hot there that you definitely wouldn’t want to attempt this climb beyond 9am or you would be standing up there in 30 degree heat! With the incredible excavations and discovered ruins of Ancient Thira sitting at the top and just waiting to be explored, I wanted time to appreciate it.13912644_10153682679362617_482515594261268932_nThe walk is around 8km and if you’re relatively fit it’ll be a breeze, you can complete it in an hour or two – more or less depending on whether you stop along the way. We actually saw a couple of guys who were running up and down the mountain several times – so if you fancy a really grueling workout it’s right there waiting for you. I wore running shoes when I took on the climb but my mum and dad managed it fine in sturdy sandals. We took breakfast and plenty of water along with us, you’ll need both as the shop at the top is sometimes closed and you might not be able to buy anything for the climb down. I would really recommend hiking up the mountain from Perissa as you actually get the experience of walking up the rock face rather than a man-made path like the one waiting on the other side. It also means that in the morning you will walk in the shade which is a blessing when you’re faced with bright, burning heat down the other side. Along the way look out for signs marking graves on the hillside and plaques explaining the history, these are worth a read if you’re interested.13892056_10153682679527617_5446372040536266128_nWhen you finally reach the top – just stop and breathe it all in. The view is incredible across Kamari and Perissa with the ocean on either side and the volcano within view. It’s definitely time to stop for a few photos before climbing the next short hill to Ancient Thira – the ruins cost 2 euros to enter and are more than worth it for the stunning views waiting from the top and a glimpse into a city of the past. The site is not open on Mondays and only opens unil 2.30pm on some days so be sure to check ahead of walking. The hilltop was first inhabited by the Dorians, whose leader was Theras, in the 9th century BC. Thira was later occupied in the Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine eras, with most buildings surviving today from the Hellenistic era (around 4th century BC). If you like history and visiting ancient ruins, you’ll be in for a treat with remnants of the ancient houses, cemeteries and even a theatre overlooking the ocean waiting for you. It was amazing to what was found by German archaeologists between 1895 and 1902, and then later by N. Zapheiropoulos in 1961-1982. I personally love experiences like this, I love delving into the past and imagining the whole communities that might have lived in ruins such as Pompeii, Angkor Wat and Sukothai.13934695_10153682679652617_4820893897813726839_nWhen you’re walking around it’s worth checking out the boards that are placed around, they’re all written in English and give you lots of information about the different buildings and what once would have laid there. Buildings from different periods are mixed together throughout the site along one main street, which is intersected by smaller streets. Sights worth checking out include the two agoras where you can see the ruins of several Greek temples, and don’t miss out on seeing the Roman baths and stone church of Agios Stefanos. The arc of the theatre was one of my highlights with a panoramic view of the Aegean – to think Greeks long ago sat there watching theatre much like I watched movies at the open-air cinema later in the week was crazy. For a cheeky look into the past, you should check out the view over the site from the large Terrace of Festivals – in times gone by boys would have danced naked there to honour Apollo, and you can still find some nearby phallic graffiti.13935150_10153682687782617_2971241929701860738_nThe climb is a great experience and was one of my highlights of the holiday, all three of us enjoyed it and the early start even meant that by the time we reached Kamari, we still had a whole day to top up our tans on the beach. The ocean at Perissa hides quite a strong current at times so be careful when swimming, Kamari on the other hand is much more sheltered and perfect for a swim or a snorkel. We spent a couple of days on the beach there, exploring the town and eating out at the many restaurants. And after such an early start and the steep walk up the mountain, I can’t think of a better way to spend the afternoon than napping in the sun and swimming out to the nearby rocks. Just what the doctor ordered.13879253_10153682679887617_3364172225929287717_n

Have you climbed a mountain – where? What are your favourite ways to stay active when on holiday? Have you been to Santorini?

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imageIt’s hard to match the high you get from travelling solo, that constant buzz of excitement and wonder at the world around you, and your own capabilities. Being back in the UK, it can leave some feeling a bit low without that constant adrenaline rush of living an untamed life. But if you ask me, one thing solo travelers learn is to be responsible for finding their own happiness, and just because you’re home it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t still be looking for new ways to get that high you once had from travelling. I’ve been pretty happy to be home so far, but a lot of that is down to finding lots of amazing things to do with people I haven’t seen for a long time, and taking up some awesome opportunities I missed out on through this blog while I was travelling. At the weekend, I was invited to try out Up At The O2 and to combine it with my love of all things fitness by trying out a Fitbit as I walked over the O2 Arena. You can’t get much higher than that without stepping on a plane – so it was perfect for someone who usually gets their kicks several thousand feet above sea level. A perfect excuse to spend a weekend in London – my sister and I enjoyed two days of food, fitness and Fitbits.image

Fitbit

Anyone who has read for a while will know I’m big on keeping fit and enjoying a healthy lifestyle, while I’m travelling my favourite ways to keep fit are walking, running, swimming and working out outside. Forget paying for gyms and classes when the sun is always shining and the beach beckons. But, it can be difficult to keep track of how much exercise you have done and quite how much distance you’re covering when you’re spending whole days walking around new cities or trekking through jungle. I tried out the Fitbit when I went running on the beach – something I’ve really missed since being away – and as somewhere I usually don’t have phone signal to track my runs, it was a fantastic way to log my time and my distance, along with keeping track of my progress and goals.imageNow the idea of wearing a tracking device on my wrist does put me off slightly, it feels a little bit Big Brother to me. But wearing the wristband around the clock also means I’ve been able to use the app to track my sleeping patterns – something really useful when you’re suffering jet lag! And I can keep track of whether I’m eating enough of the right foods, and how much water I’ve been drinking. I’ve got the Fitbit Flex, but there are lots of different styles and colours available depending on what suits your lifestyle. It really is a great addition for anyone who is interested in living a healthy lifestyle and keeping fit, or who wants to increase their fitness. I just wish I had it when I was travelling so I could keep track of the distance I covered by walking and cycling my way around Asia and Australia – particularly in Melbourne when I was working a job that had me walking a minimum of 25,000 steps a day! I’m already looking forward to taking it travelling with me again as a great way of keeping track of the distance I cover and quite how fit the lifestyle keeps me.image

Up At The O2

I may not be much of a city girl, but I love a good trip to London. It’s always a busy weekend packed full of catching up with friends and family, and lots of awesome events. Last weekend was no different, my sister and I crammed a ridiculous amount of food, fun and lots and lots of cocktails into two days, but it was all rounded off with a chance to see London from a different perspective. Travelling can be so much fun, whether you go to the other side of the globe, or you just take a chance to rediscover somewhere you know and see it in a whole new light. I’ve spent a lot of time in London over the years, and my sister lives there, so it was fantastic to try something a bit touristy and totally different. Up At The O2 takes you on  walk like no other, straight over the top of London’s O2 Arena, a venue that has housed performances by some of the world’s greatest musical acts and has welcomed over 30 million people through its doors. The 365m walk stretches over the dome, reaching 52m in height at an angle of up to 30 degrees. Despite that, it’s not a very steep walk and you don’t need to be in peak physical fitness to complete it – that’s the beauty of it –  it really is an experience that anyone can enjoy!imageIt’s an amazing way to spend an afternoon, even if it’s cloudy, gazing across the London skyline and getting some amazing photos from the 360 degree viewing platform at the top. The whole experience takes around two hours and is a perfect way to take in some of the sights of London from a different angle, we spotted lots of the city’s most famous buildings while we were up there thanks to the labels around the platform to guide visitors. Walking over the dome is so much fun, you feel like you’re moon-walking as you bounce over the tent-like surface up towards the platform and there’s so much to look at along the way. I was so distracted by the view that I almost forgot I was wearing my Fitbit until after when I checked it and saw that I had completed a total of 1,260 steps going over the O2 – already over a tenth of my 10,000 steps a day target! I’m getting slightly obsessed with how many steps I complete each day, so I was shocked to see that my sister had taken 400 less steps than me during that time – just shows you how much longer her legs are than mine. We had a great afternoon at the O2 and all rounded off with a few cocktails at a bar inside, how better to round the day off?image

Have you done Up At The O2? How was your experience? Can you recommend any other activities in London for a different experience of the city?

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imageThis was without a doubt one of my favourite trips of the whole East Coast, sitting happily alongside Fraser Island in my memories it was one of the most unexpectedly awesome trips I have done since travelling. Why? Well, when we booked it, we were just so excited about Fraser Island, Whitsundays and all the rest that the white water rafting trip kind of fell to the back of our minds, especially since we wouldn’t be doing it until the end of our travels. The backpacker/travel agent who booked our trip for us raved about the trip after she had booked it for her and a friend, she really recommended the Xtreme trip. I was naturally cynical because I figured she was mainly just trying to sell us a trip, but when else would I get a chance to try Xtreme white water rafting? It made the final cut of our plan and off we went for four weeks of fun on the East Coast, but when we reached Cairns we were getting a bit bored of trips. Not so much the trips, but the ‘organised fun’ with these groups when we wold have preferred to be with the friends we had already made. It sounds a bit negative, but we’d had four weeks of intensive travel-party-trip-party-repeat and we were exhausted. Plus we went on two trips in Cairns alongside this one and they were both let-downs; our Great Barrier Reef trip as you read about in my previous post, and the upcoming Cape Tribulation.I was still really excited for the trip, and a little bit nervous, but my expectations were definitely lowered after the other two. Possibly a good thing, I love when that happens and you end up having an even more amazing time because you’re not expecting as much.

We had been booked in with Raging Thunder Xtreme Tully Rafting for the day – sounds epic doesn’t it? The trip is priced at $225, but again our price went down as part of booking a larger package. This included pick up from the hostel, a full day raft adventure plus all equipment, you can go from Cairns or Mission Beach, lunch, small groups of six and only about four boats, and lots of other adventures along the way like swimming through rapids, cliff jumping and raft surfing. The guys who ran the trip were brilliant, they were so much fun and really got us all enthused for what we were about to do – each group took it in turns to face along parts of the river and take on tricky areas while the others watched how they would handle it and who would fall in first. The whole day is set against the magnificent backdrop of the Tully River – and trust me, you couldn’t feel further from the East Coast. We were lucky and the weather was perfect, just warm enough to dry you off after fall in the water, but cool enough that we weren’t getting burnt to a crisp.imageI won’t talk too much about what you do throughout the day because I loved that I had no idea what was coming next around each corner, but I will say this: without a shadow of a doubt, you should choose to do the Xtreme Tully Rafting. Unless you happen to be a really weak swimmer, you will want to experience this. It is scary in places but only because it gives you a chance to conquer fears of jumping from high places, swimming in rushing water and the like, while in as safe an environment as possible. The guides are great at giving advice and talking you through every step, but they also won’t let you wuss out or take the easy route. I had done some cliff diving and rapid swimming back in Vietnam but after I injured myself doing it, it did make me a little nervous. But I was more than game for this, you couldn’t hold me back from throwing myself off the highest points, diving into the rapid water and sliding around in the raft with the rest of my group. We had a great group and some hilarious moments including one when our guide played a trick on one of the guys and tipped the boat so it flooded on his side – we were all in hysterics while he was screaming in panic.

My favourite part? It had to be when we would go through the large sections where we had to all work together to navigate through the rocks jutting out across the water. It was brilliant fun and we all felt awesome after making it through first time on most of them – although there was a funny one were we all got stuck on a rock and had to climb off the boat to get it free. We made some good friends on the trip and had the best day – we went straight back to the hostel and raved about it to all of our friends who actually booked on to it the following week and said it was amazing! After trying white water rafting for the first time, I can say I am definitely going to be doing that again – it’s such a fun adventure day out, a great adrenalin rush and a fantastic workout – we were exhausted after a day on the river. Plus it’s so nice to see a different landscape to all those beaches, seeing mountains and river was just so refreshing. It was nice to be reminded that there is something in Queensland other than ocean and dust! Top tips for this trip: wear shorts not just swimwear and don’t worry about a camera, you don’t have a chance to take photos and they’ll do it for you.image

Have you been white water rafting? Where did you go and would you recommend it? Have you done this trip – what did you think? What was your favourite East Coast adventure?

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imageTravelling can have one of two very different effects on your body – half the backpackers out there seem to lose weight from not eating properly while the other half watch their beer bellies grow from night after night on the booze. It’s a difficult feat, maintaining that lifestyle while not piling on the pounds, particularly when you are constantly on the move and unable to get into a routine for working out. I loved working out when I was at home and could be found at the gym at least three times a week, sometimes more. I definitely got a bit addicted at times and loved the way it made me feel stronger, fitter and healthier. So as you can imagine, the gyms is something I’ve missed hugely since travelling, not just the physical part but the mental side as well. It’s great for giving you goals and keeping track of achievements, it’s great for de stressing (granted, not something a backpacker really needs) and it’s great for giving you more energy. The lethargy among backpackers can sometimes become quite contagious – I’ve noticed in certain hostels it can become easy for everyone to just do nothing and to have no energy to even organise a cycle to a waterfall or temple. Of course, this can be nice for a few days, but when you’re travelling long-term it’s important to realise the effects this will have on your body, and in turn your health. And nobody wants being ill to stand in the way of a good time!image

 

So what can you do to avoid becoming a bloated, beer-bellied backpacker? How can you eat healthy while on the road? Here are my top tips:

– Don’t forget your fruits and vegetables – in Asia, enjoy a fresh fruit juice or smoothie a day and fresh pineapple or watermelon, even a fresh coconut! The fruit is so good and so fresh, there’s no excuse!
– Eat spicy. A spicy curry cures all and kills all germs as my dad always says!
– Eat a varied diet – it’s difficult when cooking for one and you often end up eating the same thing for days but it is important to make sure your body gets all the different vitamins and nutrients it needs.
– Make sure you are eating enough and aren’t just getting your nutrients from alcohol, it’s easy to not feel hungry when in the heat all day but it’s important to get enough food inside you and don’t skip breakfast – it really is the most important meal of the day!
– Line your stomach before going out by eating a good dinner of pasta or curry and rice – something that will fill you up so you are less likely to binge later on greasy street food
– Remember that what you eat directly affects how you feel – if you eat greasy chips and fried food you will feel and look like crap. If you’re eating fresh and healthy food full of vitamins, your skin will be glowing and you will be full of energy.
– If you’re cooking in a hostel in Australia, throw some fresh veggies in your standard pasta
– If you’re eating veggie to save some money, or because you actually are veggie, remember you need protein as well or you will become sick so make sure you’re getting plenty from other sources
– Drink plenty of water – I felt really under the weather when I first arrived in Australia because I was too cold to be drinking enough water after Asia – dehydration affects you hugely
– Avoid beer, cocktails and fizzy drinks – instead drink white spirits with juice as a mixer
– Don’t always give in to yourself over burgers on a night out and hangover fry-ups the next day
– Avoid pot noodles and 7/11 toasted sandwiches like the plague – they’re packed full of salt, sugar and lots of other nastiesimage

Staying fit while on the road – top tips!

– Walk everywhere – also great for those on a budget
– Get out and get active – you might not be able to get to a gym but the great outdoors is waiting and it’s free! Hike to a temple or waterfall, spend a day exploring the city on foot, surfing or kayaking.
– Don’t be afraid to have a night in – you’ve got plenty of time to party and your body needs a rest sometimes. Willpower – remember how much time you have to live the dream
– Can’t resist the pull of the bar? Head to a club and dance the night away, drink less and burn off those calories while having a blast
– Take advantage of free gym trials everywhere you go. I spent a month in Sydney using the gym every other day and always for free, I even scored free boot camp classes twice a week and all because I took advantage of the deals that are always on offer.
– Use the hostel facilities – many of the hostels have stayed in have had some kind of sports facilities available – whether it’s bikes or surfboards to rent or borrow, a basketball hoop, or volleyball and a tennis net, some even have a pool! Why not get a gang together for an evening game of volleyball? A great way to bond and stay fit, or play tennis one sunny afternoon.
– Going to Asia? Do what I did and invest in some cheaper running shoes, then use them to death! Running is something you can do anywhere so take advantage of that. Another great one is yoga – just get yourself a little yoga mat.
– Do a week of volunteering at an animal sanctuary – you’re so busy working hard all day long that the love handles simply melt away and you don’t even realise how hard you’re working because you love it so much.
– Sign up for a yoga retreat or boot camp and give it your all, focus on fitness for a week or two.
– Workout somewhere beautiful – a friend and I headed to the beach for an intense cardio workout by the sea, and let me tell you, the beautiful setting definitely eased my pain!imageI could go on listing top tips and ideas for staying healthy, but there are so many. Once you start making changes to your lifestyle, it becomes easier and easier to see ways of improving. Don’t be heard on yourself, it is hard when you are a backpacker and temptation lies all around you. You always tell yourself, it’s okay, I’m on holiday! But five months down the line, you’re still using that excuse and you can’t understand why you’re exhausted, you’re getting sick and you have no energy or drive to explore and see the country you’re visiting. Backpacking is a lifestyle, and it’s important to strike a balance that suits you and the way you want to live – if that means having a fresh coconut when everyone else is on the beers then that is okay. If you fancy a salad when everyone else is snacking on greasy noodles then that’s fine too. Your body relies entirely on what you put into it, so if you put rubbish into it, you will find it a bit rubbish when you’re relying on it for a good time. Treats are most definitely not off limits, but they remain just that – treats.image

What are your best healthy backpacker tips? How do you manage to stay fit while travelling? What are your favourite healthy backpacker meals?

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IMG_0244It’s been a while since I wrote a fitness post and to be honest, although I’ve still being going to the gym – it’s been a while since I felt very enthusiastic about it. I go through serious phases when it comes to working out, for a while I’ll be really into it and working towards a goal, almost to the point that I’m overdoing it. Then suddenly I’ll lose all motivation and barely be able to muster up the energy to bother. I always push myself to carry on, but when you can’t be bothered, you sort of wonder what is even the point. My last phase like this happened after the summer, I had a busy couple of months of trips all over the place (including my visit to Ireland for a wedding) which meant my routine was all over the place and I couldn’t get there as much as I would like. Plus the fact that I was spending a lot of time eating rich foods and drinking meant I really didn’t have the energy to work out.

After a few months of going through the motions rather than enjoying my workouts, I seem to be back on top of my game and raring for action. I think perhaps my fitness lull was caused by the weather – when things started getting autumnal, I instantly wanted to spend all my time in bed with a hot chocolate and watching Netflix. Now the weather actually seems to have warmed up again and I’m finding I have more energy to do stuff – either I’ve got used to winter or I’m more affected by the weather than I think! For some, December is all about letting the flab spread and digging into the mince pies. I won’t lie – I love Christmas food. I love mince pies, Christmas cake, turkey sandwiches, loads of gravy and Yorkshire puds – and don’t get me started on the cheese! (hyperventilates) So as you can tell – I’m not the sort of girl to give up these delicious foods and I don’t see the point in diet versions to be honest. But I do believe in upping your fitness game to match what you are eating.

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If you want to eat twice as much as usual – which, let’s face it is VERY likely at this time of year – then you need to get to the gym a bit more and build more exercise into your daily routine if you want to fit into that dress for the Christmas party. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with putting on a few extra pounds at Christmas time, and I know I certainly will. But my main goal is reducing how bloated and sluggish I feel after eating so much. I hate that feeling when you’ve done nothing but eat for a week without working up a real appetite – so I make sure I work out, walk, dance, jog and exercise along the way as well. I’m usually not too concerned with how big my belly is over Christmas because quite frankly I love jumpers and scarves so it’s never on show. But bear in mind, I will be spending January on a beach in my bikini in 2015 so having a huge bloated belly is not high on my Christmas list this year. After a request from a reader, I thought it was about time I shared my latest fitness routine!


 

So what is my latest workout?

Cardio

I like variety so I’m enjoying mixing up my cardio workout, but most importantly I’ve managed to get my mojo back with running. Now I’m trying to run for around 30 minutes, or do interval stints of a minute walking and four minutes of sprinting for the same length of time. I alternate this with half an hour on the crosstrainer using different programmes which target different areas of my body – either the interval or the gluteal ones are my favourites.

Once I’ve completed one of these, I tend to add on a bit of cycling or rowing – usually around 15 minutes. I like to go until I have jelly legs.

Weights

A weights workout is very individual and I use a personalised programme courtesy of my friend who is a personal trainer. As I have improved and moved up weight groups I have changed it accordingly. I start my leg workout doing two reps of 12 on the Leg Adductor followed by the same again on the Leg Abductor. This is followed by the Leg Press on which I either do two reps of 12 where I stack the entire weight (proud of that I am) or I do pyramid training. Plus a few squats thrown in for good measure – I like to use a weight when doing mine.

My arms workout is made up of two reps of 12 each on the chest press, bicep curl, shoulder press, tricep dip and lat pull-down. All of these are on various weights but yours will depend entirely on what you can lift. I do also sometimes swap these for free weights to change it up a bit.

My abs workout is my favourite. I start with side crunches off an exercise ball – doing 25-50 on each side depending on how much time I have. This is followed by long arm crunches off the ball using a 10 weight, plus 40 Russian Twists on the ball using the same weight. After that, I move to a mat on the floor where I start by doing around 20 long arm crunches with the same weight, 20 regular crunches, 20 crunches where I reach for my knees and 20 where I reach through my legs. After this, I do 40 twist crunches (not sure of the name for these but each elbow reaches to the opposite knee) followed by 20 crunches with a leg extension for the lower stomach. This is all finished off with another 40 Russian Twists using the weight, but this time on the floor, and some leg extensions off a bench.

Stretching

I always finish off with some stretches for my back, legs, arms and particularly my shoulders. I do a few pilates stretches I learnt when I used to do classes, and the rest is done on one of the stretch frames we have in the gym.


IMG_0245I like to have a gym workout at least twice a week or I feel lazy – it just shows how used to my routine I am! I’m also managing to fit another smaller workout, or a swim, in on the weekends now as well. I really am enjoying going to the gym again, and I enjoy it even more because it justifies eating lots of lovely food. I refuse to feel guilty for having an extra slice of cake and I never feel like I have to go work it off, because I generally am very healthy and I go to the gym enough to burn it off. I’m looking forward to finishing work in a few weeks so I can have more time to enjoy the pool and sauna at my gym over the coming weeks as well. Love food as much as I do but don’t want to have to buy bigger clothes for the Christmas party? Why not do what I do and balance all that food out with a few workouts? Don’t forget that you don’t have to hit the gym to burn off some calories – go dancing with the girls, or go for a long walk with the family… or why not just spend a few hours under the covers with your other half and burn the calories off that way?

What’s your fitness routine like over Christmas? Any workout tips you’d like to share?

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