What Happens When You Say YES: The Road To Paris

So yesterday afternoon, I finished my Summer Session class and was walking home. It was hot, sticky and a pretty uneventful day and definitely wasn’t looking forward to going home to study. I walked home via the travel agent. I kept walking… and then I thought ‘mmm I might just pop in and talk to someone about flights.’ And that’s when my few seconds of insanity helped me develop a plan and a dream.

Later this year I’ll be heading to La Rochelle in France to study French for a month (how freakin’ cool!). The program is set to start in July and with it already being mid January, I had a fleeting moment of thinking ‘wow, that’s only in a few months.’ So I looked up the key dates for my university, making sure exams would be finished and came up with a window of time to fly.

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La Rochelle, France. Source

I had been doing some research on Skyscanner and found a really cheap flight, Sydney > Singapore > Paris. The only issue is that it was with some random European budget airline company I’d never heard of and you had to book it through an even more random website. Something about flying internationally and random or strange websites just really doesn’t sit well with me.

So I spoke to my now travel agent and she did some researching. She found an extremely cheap flight to Paris. Sydney > Singapore > Helsinki > Paris. The only issue is, that I feel that stopovers are such an amazing way to make the most of a unique opportunity to experience a new place. If I did take this flight, I’d want to stop in both Singapore and Helsinki for at least 3 days and before you know it, I’d probably have already spent a few hundred dollars before even getting to Paris. My travel agent then did some more researching and found another great deal, Sydney > Doha > Paris (with no stopover fees). As she’s typing away at her computer, she asks… ‘would you want to stop over in Qatar?’ And I said ‘why not?’ 

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Doha, Qatar. Source

I’m booking my travel through STA Travel.  With them, I was able to layby my flight with stopover, airport transfers and 2 nights accommodation for $99. Then you just need to make the full payment 10 weeks prior to departure. The best thing is, if you want to change your flight… you can!

So even though at the moment at the end of June I’ll be heading to Doha and then Paris… who knows if those plans will change!

I walked out of that travel agent with my heart pounding and my hands tingling. Finally, I have actually booked something to secure my spot jetsetting to Paris and exploring a new part of the world along the way. And that’s where saying YES can take you, Doha, Qatar. 

Have you been to Doha or Qatar? I don’t know anyone who’s been there before so any suggestions on what I have to see and do… please let me know in the comments below! Yours sincerely, a very excited traveller. 

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Doha, Qatar. Source

16 Things I Want To Achieve in 2016

Ok, so it’s that awkward time of year where you’re recovering from a 3 day food baby, whilst also getting pumped for New Years Eve. And in between the hustle and bustle of this crazy time of year, I tend to find myself with some time on my hands. With an optimistic hope of new beginnings and fresh starts that New Years Eve brings, it’s time to set those goals! My New Years Resolutions for 2015 were more or less a success (read here for more), and they acted as a massive source of motivation throughout those times when you can’t help but say why bother. So here are 16 things on my radar to achieve in 2016. Some are big, some are small, some are terrifying as hell, but as they say, ‘if your dreams don’t scare you, they aren’t big enough.’

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Dream a little bigger darling. Source

1. Watch less TV shows, read more books

I’m a sucker for a good TV show – I’ve seen Sex and the City about 5 times through. But do I really need to watch it a sixth time in 2016? Probably not. This year, I want to trade hours of Netflix for hours of reading. I always feel so accomplished when I finish a book. Particularly, I want to finish books I’ve only half read (why do I do this to myself) and read more books from different parts of the world.

2. Limit my coffee spending.

For anyone who knows me – they know I freakin LOVE coffee. But my savings need to be growing faster. With some simple addition, I horridly figured out I spend over $40 a week on coffee. *cringe* So, I’m limiting myself to only buying one coffee a day (compared to sometimes two or three) and making more coffee at home. This will be a hard one guys!

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My love for coffee is strong, but my love for travel is stronger. 

3. Buy my lunch a max of once a week.

On the topic of savings and cutting spending – I need to stop buying my lunch all the time. There’s no good reason apart from being lazy and not making lunch in the morning. I’d hate to think how much money I could spend on lunch a week. I don’t even want to know! So I’m trying to limit myself to once a week. Again, this will be difficult but it’s better for my wallet! #youcandothis!

4. Be a vegetarian.

And whilst we’re talking about eating, let’s talk about not eating meat. This is something I’ve considered for quite a while and there’s just something about New Years Resolutions that make me think ‘now is the time.’ Not that I need to justify it, but just so you know… I’m doing this from an environmental perspective. My aim is for long term vegetarianism, but my goal is for at least a month!

5. Ride my bike more often.

I absolutely adore my bike and ride it quite often, but I think I can do better. Not only is it good for the environment, but a great workout! I’m thinking beach trips, riding into town and cruising up the coast. I’ll be sure to share my adventures!

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My beautiful blue Electra

6. Maintain and improve my French.

Having just completed my minor in French at university and with big plans to go travelling and study overseas, I have to maintain my French. And better yet – improve it. J’adore parler français, but as my Dad would say, there’s always room for improvement.

7. TRAVEL! 

I’m going to go bold and daring for this one and say I want to travel to at least 3 new countries and 6 countries in total. I’m kind of cheating because I’m planning to go on exchange in July, but I definitely want to get some good travel in either side of it!

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Travel planning goals. Source

8. Volunteer.

You give up your time and you get back more than you could ever imagine. I want to continue volunteering for Oxfam and also get more involved with the AYCC (Australian Youth Climate Coalition). I also want to continue volunteering for leadership programs at the university like ELEVATE and try to get back into AIME (Aboriginal and Indigenous Mentoring Experience). 2015 was a great year of volunteering and I definitely want to continue it into 2016!

9. You can’t play hard until you’ve worked harder.

Going into 3rd year at university, I really want to maintain my grades. And not only uni work, but I want to keep on work-working as much as I can to save for all of these epic adventures.

 

10. Try something new

I’m thinking Karoke, pole dancing, Bollywood dancing, Vlogging – the possibilities are endless. But I really want to try and learn new skills and open myself up to new ideas.

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New adventures await. Source 

11. Say Yes!

I’ll often find myself coming up with lame excuses as to why I don’t want to do something. Sometimes my inner sloth just kicks in and I can’t be bothered to go anywhere or do anything. In 2016 I want to say yes to more experiences and being spontaneous. Who know’s where I’ll end up?

12. Be thankful, and show it.

I am so thankful for so many amazing people I have in my life and it’s a fear of mine that they don’t realise how much I truly appreciate them. So for 2016, I’m thinking little cards, letters, drawings – anything to give to those people around me who I appreciate it. Who knows… maybe it will go full circle and come back to me. Either way, I really want to spread the happiness.

13. Couchsurf.

With all of this travelling I have planned, I’m going to try and throw couchsurfing in there somewhere. I’ve never done it and I’ve only ever heard good things. Apart from a few horror stories, I like my chances. And hey – say yes to new things right?!

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Of course continue blogging. Source

14. Eat. Sleep. Blog. Repeat. 

Of course I was always going to continue blogging! For 2016, I want to get below the surface and write about things I really care about. There’s been a few times where I’ve thought ‘I really want to blog about this,’ and it just hasn’t happened. I think because when I’m really committing to writing something of good quality and something I deeply care about, I get scared that people won’t like it. Not anymore. Watch this space for more powerful and intriguing  posts. Also – side goal here and also a big one – make money from my blog. It’s something I haven’t yet done, and I keep reading apparently how achievable it is. Well 2016 is the year to try. I don’t know where to begin, but I’m sure thinking I can is a good start.

15. Stop comparing myself/Stop with the negative thoughts.

As you can see above, negative thoughts are fatal to passion. Who cares what other people think, as long as you’re happy with what you’re doing, do it. And I really need to stop comparing myself to others. Instead, I should embrace being inspired by others to help me achieve my goals. Work with others and try to network within communities. Positive thoughts all the way!

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Source. 

16. Own It!

I think this one will be my motto for 2016. Whatever it is you do, own it. Whether you fail, excel, try try and try. Whether your goals are practical, small, enormous or achievable. Just own it. This comes down to self acceptance and being happy with your choices in life. And if you’re not happy, do something about it to change it. Whatever you do – Just Own It!

Over to you! What are you hoping to achieve in 2016? Have any advice, tips or tricks? Share in the comments below! I wish you all a magical 2016!

Things People Don’t Tell You About Travel

If you look to travel bloggers and the internet, you would be under the assumption that travel is rejuvenating, filled with adventure and picturesque sunsets. That you’re so lucky and you’re going to have the best time of your life. Whilst I agree that people who get the chance to travel are incredibly luck and will definitely have an experience of a lifetime – when you’re in a dark alleyway in the back streets of Rome, no charge left on your phone and there’s creepy people lurking around, it’s hard to say that you are having the best time of your life.

I’m 100% guilty of creating this illusion that travelling is so amazing and every second is simply unforgettable. However, when I stop and really think back on it, I think this wanderlust magical illusion has altered my memory. In life, it’s only natural to remember the good times so when people ask you ‘how was your trip?’ it’s only natural to think back to those beautiful sunsets over the ocean, the wonderful people you met and the breathtaking sight of the Eiffel Tower lit up at night.

Travelling looking as appealing as ever
Travelling looking as appealing as ever

But as the saying goes, if something seems too good to be true, then it probably is. So, here’s my list of things that people don’t tell you about travelling, because in order to truly have the adventure of a lifetime, you need to know what to do when travelling turns out to be less than perfect.

*Obviously everyone’s experiences are different, but these are things that I encountered whilst travelling and I’m sure I’m not the only one out there.

On your first few nights away, you will cry

You’ve just spent a whole 24 hours on a plane, you’re wearing dirty clothes, you’re over tired, confused and trying to decipher out how to get to your hostel. Life is difficult to navigate when you’re tired when you’re at home, let alone in a strange city. And when you finally lay your head down on a strange pillow, it kind of sinks in that you’re on your own. You get these strange feelings over being overwhelmed with your decision to embark on a journey so bold. On my first night in London I remember crying because I arrived late at night, got the train from the airport to the station (it wasn’t a pleasant train ride either) and then having no idea where to go from the station. Then when I finally made it to my hotel, I couldn’t sleep because of jetlag and there were sirens all night long.

What to do?

Accept these feelings. If you feel like crying. Just let it out. Personally, if I try and hold some tears in, I get all worked up about nothing. To get over nights like this, make sure you’ve got a few good movies or TV series loaded onto your laptop. I find it so settling to just switch off and watch some mindless TV to fall asleep to. On that note, make sure you get a good sleep. Adjusting to jetlag is a bit of a bitch but try and wake up at a ‘normal’ time and go to sleep at a ‘normal’ time. That’s the quickest way to adjust.

Sometimes, it's ok to have sad days. Source
Sometimes, it’s ok to have sad days. Source

Places, Sites and Cities will not be what you expect

For as long as I can remember, I always wanted to go to Paris. I couldn’t wait to set foot in that city and follow the footsteps of Ernest Hemingway, Coco Chanel and Victor Hugo. Paris… the City of Light… of the city of dog sh*t, ghettos, uncomfortable metro rides and gypsies. I was utterly repulsed by the Eiffel Tower as well. I just didn’t get it and everything about it just felt off. THEN, there were numerous incidents where I nearly got pickpocketed and many times where I was followed and harassed on the metro. Let’s just say, Paris was not in my good books. I remember being so internally upset that Paris didn’t live up to my expectations. I just didn’t understand it.

What to do?

There was just something in me that yearned to love Paris. So when I got the opportunity to return, I had to take it. The second time I was there – it felt like I’d lived there my whole life. I stayed with a dear friend of mine that lived in the Bastille arrondissement. I met lots of locals and explored hidden treasures. And then, I saw the Eiffel Tower from the hills of Montmartre and that is the moment that I fell in love with Paris. The point is, not everyone is going to like every city or place. We all have different experiences and that’s what make our stories worth listening to. It’s just important to not be disappointed by your first encounter of a place, and to try and immerse yourself in the local way of life to get a true feel for what a place is like. If I had never given Paris a second shot, I would’ve regretted it so much.

Enjoying Paris as you should. With coffee, bread, croissants, good friends and locals.
Enjoying Paris as you should. With coffee, bread, croissants, good friends and locals.
Getting lost in beautiful neighbourhoods
Getting lost in beautiful neighbourhoods
When I fell in love. Source
When I fell in love. Source

You will get sick, and when you do, you’ll want to press the SOS button

You get sick when you’re at home, so of course you’re going to get sick when you’re travelling. And trust me, being sick whilst in a foreign country is THE WORST!!! I call my experience, the Prague experience. Let’s just say I was there around Christmas New Years time, I ate a lot of street food, and drank a lot of beer (beer is cheaper than water, I was just trying to save money!). Anyway, my body was pretty damn mad at me because I vomited for 24hours straight and couldn’t even keep water down. The next day I was booked in to go to Vienna and then off to Berlin, but I honestly couldn’t even keep my head up without feeling dizzy and throwing up. I don’t really remember it all, but I called my Dad, crying saying how sick I was. I had a random French couple trying to give me medicine that I couldn’t read what it was and an old Polish man telling me that I was poisoned. Let’s just say, I wanted to press eject and get out of there.

What to do?

Firstly, make sure you have travel insurance! I did have it, however honestly didn’t know what to do and didn’t know if I was sick enough to go to the hospital. In hindsight, I probably should have. Don’t hesitate to contact home for comfort, but maybe do so after you’ve had a few hours to think about what’s going on. Listen to your body! I was so tempted to push on the next day to Vienna, my mind was screaming at me to get off my ass and onto that bus. But I physically knew that I was incapable of doing so. Don’t be afraid to relax and let your body and mind heal itself. There’s no point pushing yourself where you won’t even be able to enjoy a new city. I wish I could’ve gone to Vienna and Berlin, but now they’re just on my to do list again!

Always read. Source
Always read. Source

It will be hard, but it will be worth it

Sure all of the jetlag, getting lost, food poisoning, nights spent on airport floors, trying to decipher Hungarian road signs and fending off weird metro goers kind of sucks… but you know what… it’s those stories which will turn out to be some of your best. Each set back you experience is just preparing you to overcome the next. I know that sometimes it’s hard, but trust me it will be worth it!

 

 

How to be the BEST modern day penpal

So you’ve met some pretty awesome people throughout your travels, adventures, nights out and days here there and everywhere… now what? The amazing people that I do meet, I just can’t deal with the fact that I may not see them again. And whilst I realise this is a reality for a lot of the people I do meet, the second best thing is to keep in touch and wish them the best with their life. I like to think I’m pretty good at keeping in touch with people. And I do so because I just want them to know how much I value our friendship. So here are my ways to be the best modern day penpal with your friends around the globe!

Modern day penpals. Source
Modern day penpals. Source

Take advantage of social media. There’s no need to explain how revolutionary social media is to our everday lives. But make sure you take advantage of it. At the double tap of a finger you can like someone’s Instagram photos, send a snapchat, or like a Facebook post. Comment on someone’s photo telling them how much you see missing their face around, or just to say you’re thinking of them. While it may seem like nothing, it really does mean the world.

Make a phone call. Again, with the cost of phone calls being so cheap these days, there’s no reason you can’t call your friend (probably wouldn’t recommend for international calls but within your country, there’s no excuse). It doesn’t have to go for hours, but sometimes… just hearing the sound of someone’s voice is so comforting. It’s easier than texting back and forth, you can express your emotions and if you close your eyes, it’s almost like they’re there with you.

If it's good enough for Carrie Bradshaw, then it's good enough for all of us. Source
If it’s good enough for Carrie Bradshaw, then it’s good enough for all of us. Source

(If you can’t call your friend because they do live oversees and those fees are just too high) Record your voice. OK give me a chance to explain. I know it sounds weird but it’s actually the coolest thing to do. My friend who’s always galavanting around Europe and I usually communicate via voice recordings on Whatsapp. The time difference makes it hard to organise a skype sesh (and the quality is always shitty), and she doesn’t post much to social media because she’s so busy…. soooo sending voice recordings back and forth is the best. I usually sit on my bed and pretend as though she’s sitting at the other end. Sure it may look weird to people walking past your room and listening to you talk to yourself, but it’s the best thing to receive.

Snapchat!!! It took me a while to jump on the snapchat wagon, but now that I am, I don’t know how I didn’t live without it? I love sending snaps to my friends that I don’t get to see all the time just to fill them in on what I’ve been up to. And I love I get a snap of them on a night out with friends, or jumping on a plane, of their breakfast or when they’re hungover. It just makes me feel like I’m there with them.

(And if you’re game) Physically write a letter. Do you remember the last time you received a physical handwritten letter or postcard? You become overwhelmed with excitement, joy, intrigue and happiness! Now imagine one of your friends having the exact same reaction because of something you sent! It’s absolutely beautiful! Whilst sending parcels is like murdering your savings account, sending a letter or postcard is super cheap and the reward is absolutely priceless. I still have a whole box filled with letters, notes and postcards from friends and family, and it’s something I’m going to keep forever.

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Source

So as much as it sucks that you’re not going to see these amazing people around everyday, by doing the above things, it will definitely keep the friendship alive.

Do you have any tips or tricks to keep in touch with your friends overseas? Let me know in the comments below?

Why It’s Important to Follow Your Heart

I know, I know. It’s more clichéd than a boy meets girls story, but like this classic Disney plot line, there’s a reason why they’re so popular and important. Because it’s true! If you’re anything like me, and care about others, are ambitious, like taking risks, go adventuring, meeting new people…. Then following your heart can take you further than you could imagine.

I think it’s important to do so because your heart is your emotional side whereas your brain is the logical side. Logic can only get you so far. But compassion, empathy, understanding and emotion are driven by those electric urges that pulsate from our hearts. And it is these qualities that can push our comfort zones, open you up to new and exciting experiences, all whilst having a great support network around you. So here are some of the reasons why it’s so important to follow your heart, and those gut instincts and little voices that keep speaking to us.

The magnificent 12 Apostles
Following my heart to the magnificent 12 Apostles

Logic doesn’t always make sense.

If logic tells you to go to university and study commerce, work 60 hours a week, save money for a house… all whilst you’re unhappy in these situations, you’re heart doesn’t understand. Why suffer through something that ‘seems’ right and is ‘supposed’ to be right, when you’re unsatisfied? Sounds like a pretty boring life to me. Instead, focus on doing things that satisfy your wants and needs. Do things that make you happy.

Your heart knows what you want.

I’m a big believer in having goals, dreams, ambitions and values. And they’re stored in your heart. By staying true to the above, this will keep you going through the harder or more stressful times.

Others are here to support you.

Friends and family can help you through those harder times by usually reminding you of your focus or dreams. It’s so reassuring sharing these with loved ones, because once they know and you come to them a bit stressed or overwhelmed, they can always offer a shoulder to lean on and advice to keep striving to achieve your dreams.

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My heart taking me to London

Your heart can rescue you

If you find yourself in an awkward, uncomfortable or unknown situation or cycle, take a step back and ask yourself if this is helping contribute the person you want to be and what you want to achieve. Ask yourself how you got yourself into this situation. Was it an accident? Was it unexpected? Was it a misunderstanding? By asking yourself these questions, it will hopefully help you avoid these situations in the future.

At the end of the day, you’ve got to be happy with you.

Throughout life, it’s important to stay true to yourself. There’s nothing wrong with being selfish and doing something that you need to do. Whilst at the time you may feel awful or confused, if it’s something that will make you happier in the long run, you just need to bite the bullet and do it. Future you will thank you for your bravery.

Whilst I realize this all seems very cheesy, sometimes you really just need some cheesy words of advice to get you through. I know the past few weeks have been extremely stressful for not only myself but many of my friends and by listening to my heart, it helps reassure myself that I’m on track and happy underneath it all.

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My heart and adrenaline taking me to the edge of my comfort zone

Curing Wanderlust Whilst You’re Stuck At Home

So recently, my case of wanderlust has been beyond ridiculously strong. And to rub it all in, I’d say about 90% of my Facebook friends are in Europe at the moment and obviously have exceptional internet service because they seem to be instagramming every minute of their trip. And so I’ve spent my break working working working, with the wanderlust increasing. So here’s my guide to all of you who are also stuck working at home over the break, with their toes twitching for adventure.

Check out a local farmers markets and enjoy some local, tasty food with friends
Check out a local farmers markets and enjoy some local, tasty food with friends

Treat your tastebuds. One of my favourite parts of travelling is eating amazing food 24/7. So why not treat yourself to that expensive Italian restaurant that you’ve never been to before? Or that quaint little cafe you walk past on your way to work? Go out with a friend or two, eat lots of food and drink even more wine. If you drink enough wine, it’ll feel like you’re in Italy or any other country before you know it.

Banana and bacon french toast in Newtown, Sydney
Banana and bacon french toast in Newtown, Sydney

Snap away. When you’re in a new place and especially a different country, you can’t help but see everything as unique, different, beautiful and in need of being on your Instagram immediately. If you apply that mindset to you’re hometown, you’ll look at it in a completely different way and be quite astounded with how beautiful it can be. And your instagram will love you for it!

Be a tourist in your hometown. Sure you may roll your eyes at all the tourists taking photos of famous buildings or street signs or statues. But how about you join them for a day? Go to all of the hotspots and embrace how remarkable the place you live in is.

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Go away for a few nights. I recently booked a 4 night holiday to Melbourne and it was one of the best things I could’ve done. It’s true, 4 nights in a new city isn’t much, but it sure is enough to check out of reality and have some fun exploring somewhere new. You can read about all of my Melbourne adventures here.

Get on a train. Or a bus, or a car and head and go on a daytrip somewhere. A small trainstop that you’ve always been through but have no idea what’s there, a bus ride to the last stop and go for an adventure. The key is to look at everything as if it was the first time.

Stick with the classics, and your breath will be blown away
Stick with the classics, and your breath will be blown away

Watch a foreign film. You don’t even have to get out of your PJ’s for this one. Just explore some of the great foreign films on offer on Netlix and bam, you’re in another country. Les Intouchables, Samba, Amelie and Amour are some of my favourite French films which will leave you feeling as though you’re strolling through Paris.

If these ideas are not enough to cure your wanderlust until you’re next overseas holiday, then why haven’t you gone already?!

xxx A

One day exploring the Great Ocean Road

The Great Ocean Road is one of those breathtaking journeys that you just have to experience in your lifetime. I was lucky enough to go with my family when I was a wee lass, however, being 4 years old, I didn’t exactly appreciate/remember the whole experience. So… on a girls long weekend away to Melbourne with one of my best friends (Tishia), we decided to relive this awesome journey together and it was one of the best day tours I’ve ever done.

The magnificent 12 Apostles
The magnificent 12 Apostles

We travelled with ExtraGreen Holidays located in Swanston Street. Our tour guides name was Frank, and frankly (haha get it?) he was awesome. For $45 we definitely got our value for money. From 7:30am-7:30pm, we were on and off the bus and absolutely breathtaken by the spectacular views of the unique coastline of the Great Ocean Road. We were considering hiring a car and doing it ourselves, however for that value for money, we not only got there and back, but were also taught some great history lessons along the way. So in our situation, it was totally worth our money. (NOTE: The weekend special is $45, any other day can cost you up to $100).

These windy roads are not for the faint hearted. If you're prone to car sickness, be prepared.
These windy roads are not for the faint hearted. If you’re prone to car sickness, be prepared.

We stopped and had lunch at Appollo Bay for an amazing Fish and Chips feast (what else can you expect from a small coastal town?) and continued on down the windy roads with many photo stops along the way. The tour highlight include, the 12 Apostles (the most iconic part of the Great Ocean Road), Lord and George and London Bridge. Even though we willingly came to Victoria in the middle of winter, it was indeed pretty damn cold, so a good jacket and warm clothes are definitely recommended. And as Frank wisely advised us, on the Great Ocean Road, it can be sunny one minute and raining the next so always be prepared.

With so many photo stops, you'll have plenty of time to capture the perfect photo
With so many photo stops, you’ll have plenty of time to capture the perfect photo

Many of you may ask if it’s worth spending the full day on a bus to see some rocks and cliffs. If you’re spending several days in Melbourne (like we did) then yes, absolutely. It’s cost effective, exciting, adventurous, and you get to meet lots of great new people and learn about the history and making of the Great Ocean Road. However, if you’re intending on doing further travel throughout Australia and Victoria and already hire a car, it’s probably worth heading there yourself. Then you can do it at your own pace. Saying that, we were definitely given plenty of time at each spot to explore each area and take some pretty amazing photos.

The photos speak for themselves. The Great Ocean Road is definitely a must- regardless of if it’s Summer or Winter, raining or sunny, it’s going to take your breath away I can guarantee that!

Have you been here before or want to know more about it? Let me know in the comments below!

xxx A

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Tishia and I. Nothing better than going on adventures with your best friend
Tishia and I. Nothing better than going on adventures with your best friend

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Friends Across The Globe: Reunion

Me, Nicole, Charline and Mack
Me, Nicole, Charline and Mack

They say that the friends you make when you first move out of home are friends for life. And regardless of distance or time, or how long it’s been since you’ve talked you know that they’ll be there for you. I was fortunate enough last weekend to meet up with these beautiful (above), who were some of my housemates whilst I was living in London. Whilst some of you may think, what’s the big deal, well I’m not sure you could ever understand the incredible bond we created at Clarendon 9. I was 18 when I moved into that house and was just discovering myself and the world around me. I was always up for trying new things, going on adventures and making the most of every opportunity. My time in London wasn’t always smooth sailing and my housemates were by my side through thick and thin. Screen Shot 2015-04-21 at 5.42.56 pm As I waited at Central Station, having not seen my London family for almost 18months, I was absolutely overwhelmed with anxiety and excitement. I scanned every face, my heart skipping a beat every time I saw someone resembling my friends. I had been lucky enough to see Nicole in February and seeing her face again was so exciting. When we (finally) saw Charline and Mack walking through the Central, I couldn’t contain my excitement. We crept up on them, swarming them with hugs and nearly giving Mack a heart attack. After smothering them both with hugs and covering Mack’s shirt with makeup (my bad) we headed off to have some lunch and coffee, just like London times. From then on, we did not stop talking. It was like no time had passed at all and hearing their voices and seeing their faces right in front of me was so special and heart warming.

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For a long time, I was always conscious of starting a story with ‘when I was in London…’ because I didn’t want to seem like I was bragging. But after reminiscing about all the crazy adventures we got up to, I really don’t care at all. Why? Because London was the best year of my life. It was much more than just me living it up in another city, but it was where I made incredible friends, learnt my limits, discovered new things and learnt more about myself and what I want in life. And my London family, my housemates helped me through all of it and I’ll make be eternally grateful for that.

At the Royal Ascot
At the Royal Ascot

So what now? Who knows when we’ll see each other next. In the next month, this year, or next? Regardless of when I see my London family next, I know that we’ll all continue to change. Whilst I may have grown up considerably and changed a lot, some might say even matured, but in some way, there’s an 18 year old me still looking optimistically out at the world that my London family know all too well.

Until next time!

xxx A

An Essential Guide To London

Lately I’ve been asked a lot from my lucky jet setter friends, ‘what are the essential things to do and see in London?’ I usually reply with ‘depends if you want to see the touristy London, or the real London?’ And whilst I only lived in London for a year and am still no expert on the real London, here’s my list of awesome things that you must see and do in the fabulous city of history and culture, LONDON!

Don't be afraid to do some sight seeing at night! You get a beautiful different perspective on things minus all the tourists.
Don’t be afraid to do some sight seeing at night! You get a beautiful different perspective on things minus all the tourists.

Photo Ops

1. Big Ben. Of course.

2. The Red Telephone Box. Again. Of course. And don’t worry, they’re EVERYWHERE!

'Ello Govna
‘Ello Govna

3. Piccadilly Circus TDK neon signs. Kind of unmissable if you venture into the city.

4. Tower Bridge. So much history and beauty. Get a good shot from the Southbank.

996021_731518820196469_1823809950_n 5. Buckingham Palace. Obviously.

Culture

1. Camden (Markets). Pretty much one of my favourite parts of London. You can walk around aimlessly for hours and find a good feed and bargain along the way. With music, buskers and weird and wonderful things everywhere, it’s a must see. Plus an amazing music scene! Amy Winehouse ring any bells? This was her territory.

Camden with my girl
Camden with my girl

2. Brick Lane. Possibly one of the coolest places ever. Located in East London and just a short walk from Liverpool Street, Brick Lane is a hipsters paradise. Amazing pop up food stalls, underground vintage markets (I bought my pair of Converse from there for 20pounds), street performers and AMAZING Indian cuisine. If you want cheap and authentic Indian then this it the place to go. Hidden between the high rises of Liverpool Street, it really is a hidden gem.

3. Covent Garden. Beautiful restaurants and a few little markets hidden around, conveniently located right in the middle of the city.

Food

1. Carnaby Street. Lots of cute little restaurants and bars scattered along the street it’s a great find and a lot of fun.

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2. Any markets. Camden, Brick Lane, Southbank, Notting Hill, Borough Markets…

3. Browns for High Tea. If you’re in London then you must indulge and have a high tea experience. I was fortunate enough to go with some family members and it was a simply divine dining experience.

Expensive but beautiful little cakes
Expensive but beautiful little cakes

Galleries and Museums

1. The British Museum. I went here about 4 or 5 times and still didn’t see everything! Make sure you don’t miss Cleopatras Mummy or the Rosetta Stone.

2. The National Gallery. Prime location, overlooking Trafalgar Square. Again, a day simply is not enough but my (biased) recommendation is checking out the Romantic’s artwork.

3. The National Portrait Gallery. Adjacent to the National Gallery, it’s worth the detour to spend an hour or two here. When I visited, there was an exhibition on Miss Marilyn Monroe and I was in love.

Chillin in Trafalgar Square
Chillin in Trafalgar Square

History

1. The Tower of London. If you want to dive deep into 13th Century London, this is the place to do it!

2. Shakespeare’s Globe. If you’re a poetry/literature nut like me then you’ll probably swoon when you see it. If you’re not too keen on paying super high prices, every now and again they have deals on tickets.

3. John Keats House in Hamstead Heath. Again, if you’re an English Romantic Literature fan… you CANNOT miss this. I studied John Keats in English at high school and have since had a fascination of him and his work. Being at his actual house and in the surrounding neighbourhood was so inspiring and overwhelming, I may have shed a tear or two.

Swooning over Mr Keats
Swooning over Mr Keats

A Little Something Extra

1. The Heron Tower. Located just near Liverpool Street tube station is this fabulous 40 floor tower. If you dress up pretty nicely and say to the guy at the door ‘I’m just going up for drinks’ then he’ll let you past. Press number 38 and you’ll shoot up in a glass elevator. Up the top of the building is something spectacular. An amazing 5star bar, a sushi restaurant and a fantastic view (which is free). I’ve been up there a few time and not purchased anything, just to check out the view and it’s splendid every time. If you feel like splurging, why not enjoy a glass of wine whilst overlooking the spectacular city.

Some of the view from the Herron Tower
Some of the view from the Herron Tower

Things to give a miss

1. The Tate Modern. OK if you love modern art… go for it. Even with my open mind, I still didn’t get it. Any of it.

2. The London Eye. Look at it from a distance. It’s not worth wasting the time in the huge line or money.

3. Changing of the Guard. I never went and I’m glad I saved myself a few painful hours. There’s waaaaaay too many people, you can’t really see anything and it’s all rather uneventful.

Do you have any recommendations?

xxx A