THE SOLO BACKPACKER

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After two months of backpacking Japan, The Philippines and New Zealand with one of my oldest and closest friends Phoebe, it was time to say goodbye. It was the most amazing eight weeks of crazy adventures, beautiful views and a lot of laughter, but sadly Phoebe had to return home to begin law school (I told her I wouldn’t blame her if she temporarily deleted me off all social media) and it was time for me to tackle the art of the solo backpacker…well for 10 days until my new travel bud Alice came flying out to meet me in Sydney!Despite feeling like a fully-fledged backpacker by now, the thought of going at it alone was a little daunting. For starters, what if I didn’t make any friends?

That, along with my terrible sense of direction and my dislike for eating alone in public was filling me with little excitement for the next chapter of my travels. 

Fortunately these worries quickly disappeared within an hour of arriving at my first solo destination. Just hanging out in the hostel’s communal area (secretly eying up what group I could inflict myself on), I got chatting with a girl who happened to live just 10 minutes down the road from me back home – it can be a very small world. 

Equipped with google maps (which I learned doesn’t need wifi to track your location – ideal), I managed to navigate myself with more ease than I had predicted around both Auckland and later Melbourne, stopping only occasionally mid-fluster at McDonalds to abuse its wifi to help me find my way. (Top tip for backpackers: there is always free wifi at Maccy D’s). Most excitingly, I only ate alone once. Armed with my kindle, it really wasn’t so bad.  The solo part of my travels might have been short-lived but it was definitely an experience I would recommend, if only as a gap to pass the time between fabulous travel partners!  

 

New Zealand 

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It’s been a month of crazy fun adventures here in New Zealand.

I’ve travelled both the North and the South Island with help from the Kiwi Experience, a tour I would definitely reccomend to backpackers seeking an easy, stress-free trip. Your route, activities and hostel accommodation can be easily organised by your driver en route and the hop-on-hop-off nature of the bus service is so simple to navigate. You’re welcome to stay in places for extra time and leave the bus to veer off the beaten track whenever you please. 

But the best thing by far about the Kiwi Experience is the people you’re bound to meet along the way who will make the memories of your trip ones to treasure. 

Struggling to put the past month into words , I thought I’d share some of my favourite moments with you in photos. 

So, here is my New Zealand story, beggining with a scenic kayak (and totally blog-worthy outifts) to Cathedral Cove.     The Tamaki Maori Village overnight stay was so special. Providing an insight into traditional and modern Maori culture, it was a fantastic evening of exciting performances and great food!   Jumping out of a plane  from 15000 FT in Taupo ticked a big weight off my bucket list. I’ll forever remember the terrifying feelings of free-falling through the air and my huge relief when the parachute was up – so awesome!  The view from the top of the mountain was well worth the  gruelling 12 mile hike across the Tongariro National Park. I promise the pictures really don’t do this scene justice.  The South Island’s Lake Wanka is breathtakingly stunning, my favourite place in all of New Zealand.    If you go to Queenstown and dont make a trip (or three) to Fergburger you’re making a very very big mistake.  A relaxing valley walk with a great group to admire Mount Cook, just a short bus journey away  from Lake Tekapo.   Swimming with wild dolphins in their natural environment in Kaikora was surreal. We were lucky enough to see hundreds – including the sweetest little baby dolphins too.  New Zealand you’ve been full of awesome adventures, I am so lucky to have spent a month exploring your beauty, Ki Ora! 

Next stop: Oz! 

THE TRIALS & TRIBULATIONS OF A BACKPACKER

Its been 28 days since Phoebe and I left home, since we traded our 9-6 jobs, peaceful bedrooms and clean bathrooms for life with little schedule, dorm rooms where hens cluck outside at 6am and showers where flip flops ought to be compulsory. 

So far we’ve covered parts of Japan, The Philippines and have just begun the Kiwi Experience in New Zealand. Each day brings new stories I can’t wait to share with my family and friends back home. 

It’s funny how easily we’ve become used to living life out of a backpack, eating out every meal, bartering the fares of trikes and taxis and feeling overly excited when we stumble upon free wifi.  We’ve learnt the hard way that toiletries left in the communal showers are fair game; to always check the loo before sitting incase there is a mouse trying to climb out (yes, this really did happen) and that when you pay less than £3 for laundry, you can’t expect to receive anything but more snug fitting clothes. 

Through these moments we have learnt to find the funny side, no matter how sleep deprived. 

Like the time we lucked out on Tokyo’s metro by bagging seats in its first class area. With a long journey ahead of us we settled in – chairs reclined, snacks opened, iPods and kindles sprawled – only to be asked to show our tickets moments later. Playing the innocent “we’re just young English girls who don’t understand” card didn’t fly with the straight-faced lady and we were escorted to the end of the carriage and shooed over to the jam-packed, sweaty neighbouring one where we clambered in red faced (a mixture of embarrassment and hysterical laughter at our poor effort) and unavoidably knocking commuters with our bulging backpacks.   Just last week our luck was tested again. We were in Cebu (The Philippines) and decided to go to a recommended beach an hour away. Upon arriving we scurried out of the taxi to make the most of the sunshine. As we strolled through a sea (pun intended) of people who were not so subtly staring at the two tourists crashing their private party, we found the ‘beach’. Only there was no soft beautiful white sand nor jaw-dropping surrounding scenery we have become so used to on this side of the world but a small and unkept area that makes South-End-On-Sea seem like paradise. With no nearby food or water, we were stuck in the middle of nowhere and decided to cut our losses and sneak into the nearest hotel. Little did we know it was a Shangri La hotel. Putting on our best voices and rehearsing our sob story, we somehow managed to blag our way in and enjoy an afternoon at its poolside bar. Disaster successfully averted. 

The hiccups in our journey are what keep our diaries interesting; they provide great conversation starters with fellow backpackers we befriend and (and please excuse the somewhat soppy ending) they make us appreciate all the great times even more. 

After all, a totally smooth adventure would really be no adventure at all!   

THE PHILIPPINES

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It has been the most beautiful couple of weeks.

Part two of my travels flew me to The Philippines for an island-hopping adventure. After a fantastic time in Japan (catch up with that here), I wasn’t expecting to fall so in love with another country but it seems each destination we explore, I leave wanting to return and (after speaking to fellow backpackers) having added several new places to my ever-growing bucket list.  What is refreshing about The Philippines is that it’s pretty new to the typical Asia backpacker trail. The beaches are paradise (often we’ve been the only people on them), the sea is the clearest blue I’ve ever seen and yet to be damaged by tourists, and apart from the occasional thunderstorm in the middle of the night, we’ve had the gorgeous sunshine.   While accommodation, food, activities and transport are inexpensive (we are spending about £5 a night on dorm rooms), getting around to different islands takes time and often it’s easiest to fly. 

With only two and a half weeks here, we chose to explore Palawan, Cebu, Oslob, Dumaguete, Apo Island and Siquijor. If time was on our side we would have fitted Coron and Boracay into the plan too.  El Nido, Palawan, has been my favourite spot. Full of idyllic beaches, secluded lagoons, delicious restaurants and a couple of buzzy beach bars to visit in the evenings. We stayed at OMP hostel, the perfect place to meet fellow backpackers. The staff are so friendly and breakfast is included, a huge treat for all backpackers!Cebu was our stopover before heading to Oslob to swim with whale-sharks (sharks that aren’t tempted by human flesh, or so we were told!). Though bombarded by tourists and over quite quickly, I would definitely recommend the experience – if only for the picture…We had a whale of a time!We also made a pitstop at Dumaguette so we could go to Apo Island, which is just a short boat ride away. Apo Island is the place to go to see giant turtles as they freely swim in their natural environment. They swim quite close to the shore and are easy to find, definitely one the coolest things I’ve seen all trip! We stayed at Kav’s beach resort and though it’s a little way out from the main town, its the nicest place we’ve stayed so far. We spent 3 nights in Siquijor. The island is fairly small and while we were there it was pretty empty of tourists. The best thing to do in Siquijor is to rent scooters. There is one main road around the whole Island, the views are amazing and there are some pretty waterfalls and beaches to enjoy on the way around. Baha bar in San Juan is a must-visit, happy hour is frequent and we had one of the best meals we’ve had all trip! For any fellow travel bugs, The Philippines (if it isn’t already) needs to be on your radar. 

Next stop: New Zealand. 

JAPAN

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Welcome to my first musings as a fully-fledged traveller. (Maybe not, but I do have a backpack and a ton of mosquito bites) 

We’ve now found our way to The Philippines where we plan to relax and soak up some sunshine, so I’m back with weekly posts clueing you in on all of our adventures – there’s already so much to say!

 A week in Japan rocketed past. We were super busy, squeezing as much as we possibly could into each day. We spent three days in Tokyo and from there headed South to Kyoto. It was awesome. 

Especially the people, so friendly and welcoming – just remember to always leave your shoes at the door!  There was so much to do in both cities, I could ramble on for pages. Must visits are Japan’s numerous historic national parks, shrines and temples. With Yoyogi park in Tokyo and the Gold Pavilion Temple in Kyoto being two clear winners. 

A highlight of Tokyo was its famous Fish Market. Full of hustle and bustle, it is an absolute treat for foodies! Offering the freshest fish, with delicious samples for passers by. As backpackers, free tasters are very exciting! We tried everything we could from delicious tuna sashimi to seafood crackers to the sweetest dessert ever, strawberry daifuki. So good, we had to go back for seconds.       A must visit in Kyoto is the monkey sanctuary, so cool! Found at the top of a mini-mountain, you’re greeted by a host of squawking monkeys (it’s a little terrifying at first) and an incredible view.   From the tasty food to the beautiful sites to the special people, Japan you were amazing and I have no doubt I’ll be returning to explore more. I absolutely recommend Japan finds a spot on your bucket list.   Have a great week. Should you need me, I’ll be sipping coconuts on a beautiful beach in El Nido. 

Xx 

& SO IT BEGINS… 

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backpacker, traveller, bon voyage

Hello! 

When you read this I will (fingers crossed) have made it to Tokyo. By now I suspect I’ll be fast asleep, exhausted from the plane journey and time difference. 

I hope we went for a good wander this afternoon and gorged ourselves silly on delicious sushi for dinner. 

I am pretty positive I am already worrying about the bits of my wardrobe that have been left at home and no doubt I’ll have plotted where we will be going ‘window shopping’ tomorrow. 

It has to be window shopping as my backpack is absolutely jammed full! 

These last few days, I have been absolutely spoilt by my friends and family. From a surprise dinner with my nearest and dearest to a Sunday brunch feast to cards with special farewell wishes, I was even showered with some thoughtful and very backpacker appropriate pressies I thought you might like to see! 

Backpacking, travelling, passport holderBackpacking, travelling, holidayBackpacking, travelling, diary, journaltrivia cards, Backpacking, travelling  

Eeeeeeek, I am so excited! 

And I look forward to keeping you updated along the way! 

xxxx 

Ps. How fantastic is the Patisserie Valerie cake my Mum surprised us with? I wish that could come with! 

THREE WEEK COUNTDOWN!

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paradise x

Three weeks to go!

In three weeks the four month adventure begins. I’ll be en route to Japan. Uncontrollably excited for the sushi that awaits me. It’s likely I’ll also be panicking about what I left behind. Four pairs of shoes for four months…I’m sweating just at the thought.

I have a to-do list as long as the length of my arm, three Asos packages that need returning, hair that needs chopping, a whole lot of see you later’s to do (I hate goodbyes) and I’m currently debating whether white sandals are a good idea.

That said, I absolutely cannot wait. I’m excited for the blog to ooze new sunny material and become a fun mix match of style junkie meets professional brunch lover meets traveller…I think it’s going to be fun!

(I hope you stay tuned in for the ride!)

xxxx

TEA TIME

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Outfit Of The Day, Leopard print boots

Playsuit & Sunnies: Asos// Boots: Topshop// Top: River Island// Bag: & Other Stories

Asos, Outfit Of The Day, StripesLeopard print boots

 Afternoon tea is a very special treat.

And no treat is more trendy than Prêt-à-Portea, the afternoon tea at The Berkeley. Just stepping inside the glamorous London hotel, I knew it was going to be an afternoon of utter indulgence.

We were there to celebrate Nat’s birthday, albeit three months late as weekend slots are hard to come by.

Our waiter explained the set menu (note: dietary requirements can be catered for but allow at least 24 hours notice) and after browsing an impressive selection of teas, we both settled on something fruity. We happily sipped, absorbing the elegant atmosphere, until part one of our feast arrived.

Afternoon Tea The BerkeleyAfternoon Tea The BerkeleyAfternoon Tea, The Berkeley

An exciting assortment of finger sandwiches, with the roast beef and horseradish being my favourite, followed by a plate of savoury samples. From tuna tartare to beetroot gazpacho, it was all completely delicious.

Afternoon Tea The Berkeley

But what came next was the real showstopper!

Three beautifully baked tiers of sugary delight.

Inspired by the world of fashion, each sweet is delicately created to portray a piece from a current fashion designer’s collection, with the menu changing every six months to keep up with current catwalk designs. Like a blueberry muffin cake in the form of an Anya Hindmarch tote!

It was almost too gorgeous to devour – but not quite!

After explaining how each treat was influenced by a fashion designer, our waiter left us to tuck in.

Afternoon Tea The BerkeleyAfternoon tea

The prettiest most delicious selection of cakes I’ve ever tasted. The chocolate mousse bomb was melt-in-my-mouth fantastic!

We left feeling relaxed, pleasantly full and holding little going home goodie bags given to all Prêt-à-Portea visitors.

Though not your average afternoon tea, with no scones in sight, The Fashion Tea was absolutely worth the wait – just be sure to book well in advance!

Hello, I’m back!

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Blogging

For just over a year, I’ve been sharing my thoughts and snaps about whatever takes my fancy. From styles I’m sporting to foodie havens I’m loving to peaceful weekends away, and more recently I’ve babbled (and probably a little too much) about my upcoming travelling adventure.

37 days & counting! 

But recently I’ve hit a wall.

I suppose we could call it writer’s block.

I try not to search for inspiration. I like to let that little “lightbulb” moment come to me when I least expect it. Like when I’m on the train people watching or singing along to the radio alone in the car. But in the last couple of weeks I’ve struggled to sit down, focus and find my writing rhythm.

Thinking that I can’t be the first blogger to experience this writing lull, I thought I’d share a few tricks to help overcome this bloggers block, maybe sometime they will help you too!

RELAX If you don’t post your usual three times a week the world won’t end. Blogging is something to enjoy and if you constantly feel under pressure you could lose the enthusiasm you began with and that attracted your followers to your blog in the first place!

TURN OFF THE SCREEN Take time away from your phone and laptop, Instagram will still be there when you return. Whether you take time out to read a book, go for a walk or spend time with friends, make sure you completely switch off from the blogging world.

Make A Spider Diagram Ever since school, I have loved making spider diagrams. Dig out your funky colour pens, a big piece of paper and start scribbling about anything and everything. From what you had for breakfast to where you want to go on your next holiday, to the five things you want to do before January. It’s likely your creative side will start moving again!

So having not uploaded a post for a couple of weeks or so, I thought a small explanation was in order. I temporarily lost my flow but I wanted to say I’m now back and ready to ramble! (If you’ll have me?)

Have a great week xxx

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