My Epic Travel Plans: JUNE – AUGUST

“I’m in love with cities I’ve never been to and people I’ve never met.”

After putting some plans into action, I can finally reveal to you my incredibly exciting plans for the next few months! One of the best things about travel is planning. And one of the other good things is actually making these plans come to life! Now, it’s just a matter of time.

24th June: Sydney -> Manila (one night stopover)

25th June: Manila -> London (I’m back baby!)

26th June – 3rd July: LONDON! I’m talking visiting old friends, visiting my old house, my old local pub and my old stomping ground which is East London. I’m also talking visiting friends that I haven’t seen for years, and visiting places I didn’t get to go when I was there in 2013.

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Hamstead Heath, London. One of my favourite places. Source

3rd July – 29th July – La Rochelle, France. So I’m spending a month in France doing an AIM Overseas Short Course. For 4 weeks I’ll be living, learning and breathing everything French. I’ll be studying French language every morning, and be doing cultural activities like tasting wine and cheese in the afternoon. This is where I’ll be for Bastille Day and my birthday! I’m a little nervous because I haven’t studied French for the past 6 months but I think there’s only one way to learn… and that’s do as the French do.

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The beautiful streets of La Rochelle! Source

29th July – 12th August: Roadtrip/Epic Adventures! I don’t have any locked in plans as of yet, but that’s always fun, just to wing it a little and see where I end up. I may go north to Rennes, Mont St Michel or Dinan. I may go south to Toulouse, Bayonne and end up in Spain in San Sebastian. Or I may go south east and go to Nice, Cannes and through to Italy. Wherever I go and whoever I’m with, I know I’ll have an awesome time!

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San Sebastian, Spain… who knows where I’ll end up? Source

12th August – 18th August: ICELAND! I am beyond ridiculously excited to go back to Iceland! I was there in Winter of 2014 where I nearly froze to death. This year, I’ll be returning in Summer (where it’s still likely to be cold) but nonetheless… I’m determined to get out there and discover all that this unique country has to offer. I’m planning on visiting friends, chasing waterfalls and swimming in natural thermal hot springs! Watch out Iceland!

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Akureyri, Iceland. Source

18th August —- MONTREAL! As of the 18th of August, I’ll be in Montreal. I’ll be here until late December as an exchange student at the University of Concordia! A part from having to organise where I’m going to be living during this time, everything is coming together nicely and I freakin’ cannot wait!

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Cannot wait to explore French Canada! Source 

And from there, who knows? But hey, I think that’s the best part!

 

 

 

 

 

 

5 Things To Do 50 Days Out From Your Flight

The days keep flying by and the numbers on your countdown app keep getting lower and lower. Then suddenly, there’s only 50 days until you fly out and you internally start to freak out a little bit. It can be overwhelming planning on overseas trip – there’s so many things to keep in mind and to consider. And you’re still trying to maintain uni, work your sanity… it’s tough work. Lucky for you, I’ve complied a list of 5 things you should be looking at doing as soon as possible if not now when you’re 50 days out from your flight.

1. Visas

Does the country you’re going to require you to have a visa? What sort of visa do you need? What are you eligible for? How do you get a visa? Do you need to apply online? Do you need to book an appointment? How much does it cost? How long does it take to issue? These are all questions you should be asking. If you’re as confused as I was by what visa you need, I’d recommend the following site Visa Link. This link does a quick check of the types of visas that Australian citizens need and how to apply for them. It’s simple and explains the different sorts of visas in an easy to understand way.

*Tip* Always apply for an online visa through the official government, embassy or consulate website to ensure you’re not paying for any hidden fees.

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Passport – Check! Visa – Check! Money – Check! Ready to Go! Source.

2. Currency 

What’s the currency conversion for the place I’m going to? Is it cheap or expensive? How much should I expect to pay for things? How much should I budget for each day? Numbeo is a great website that has all the answers! You can pick your home currency (AUD) and the city you’re going to and it will do the conversions and tell you how much the price of living is in those cities. It’s always a good idea to get some cash of the country you’re going to before you land – just in case!

*Tip* Check out how much a coffee costs! You can start your budget there!

3. Apps

Smartphones are not only great for all of their functions, but also the amazing apps available to travellers! One of my favourite guides is by World of Wanderlust here. While you’ve got access to your wifi network, start downloading the apps you’ll need which will make your life a million times easier once overseas! A must have for me is a currency conversion, language translation, tube/metro maps, uber and skyscanner!

*Tip* I always look up directions, tube/metro routes before I head out for a day while I still have wifi. Screenshot is your new best friend!

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Never get lost on the metro again with a metro app. Source

4. Money

How am I going to access money overseas? What fees will I have to pay? What if I lose my card overseas? What if my account is frozen? What if there’s an emergency and I need money quickly? I know a lot of these questions revolve around money, but let’s be honest, you’re not going to get very far without it. First things first, let your bank know you’re going overseas. That way, they won’t freeze your account when they see someone buying sangria in Spain. From there, talk to your bank about options for using your cards overseas. You might find they have a travel card you may be able to apply for. But don’t be afraid to look around, even if it means joining another bank. The last thin you want is for your hard earned cash to go towards transaction and conversion fees!

Personally, I use an ANZ travel card. It allows your to load several different currencies onto the same card at any one time. There’s very small fees on withdrawing cash and no fees on paying for items overseas (the dream). Every time you ‘re load’ your card, there is a fee, however it locks in the exchange rate from the day you purchase your card so it’s better than paying for conversion fees.

*Tip* See if you can apply for a travel card that comes with a back up card. The ANZ travel card comes with a back up one. Your primary one in your wallet, and your back up one in your suitcase. It’s always a piece of mind knowing you’ll always have access to money.

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What are you waiting for? Get moving. Source

5. Health

You can’t get the most out of your travels if you become sick. And being sick in a foreign country is not fun at all. Make sure you book in to your see your GP before you go to check if you need any vaccines. Make an appointment with your dentist to make sure you put your best smile forward. If using any contraception or any other prescription medication, ensure that you have enough to take with you and if you need an extra script or doctors note, pack that too. This also includes making sure you have travel insurance. It’s always good to know that you’ve got someone there for you if something does go wrong, and that you won’t be smacked with a big medical fee. The last thing you want is to be sick overseas so do all that you can at home before you jet off.

*Tip* Make sure that any prescription drugs your taking overseas are legal in the country you’re visiting.

Of course there’s plenty more to do, but you can do them closer to your fly out date. These are some of the things that can take a while to organise so get onto it now! Do you have any other suggestions? Any MUST DO’S 50 days out? Let me know in the comments below!

 

 

 

 

When It’s OK To Say No

Whilst one of my New Years Resolutions for 2016 was to say YES to more things, I’ve come to realise the power and importance of doing the opposite and actually saying NO. Now before you brush this off as a close minded perspective, hear me out.We live in a day and age where all we’re trying to do is schedule people into a busy lives, but at what cost? Of course I’m open to new experiences, being spontaneous and making the most of every day, but some days, you can’t do everything. It’s not humanly possible. At the end of the day, all we have is ourselves and it’s important to listen to our minds and bodies to ensure that when we say YES, we can make the most of it.

So in my books, it’s totally OK to say NO when…

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My idea of a lazy Sunday. Source. 

You’re low on money

Sure, we all love going out for dinner and drinks. But these days, a dinner and drinks combo will cost you a minimum of $30 (and let’s be honest, as if you’re only going to have 1 drink). Whilst it’s nice to do it every now and again for special occasions, if you’re on a tight budget like me, it’s not a feasible option to always be going out for dinner and drinks. It’s definitely OK to say no.

Alternative…

Of course you don’t want to miss out on friend bonding time. Instead, you could suggest buying a cheap bottle of wine and making some delicious home made food and going for a picnic. Or you could suggest going out for coffee instead. Because money spent on coffee is money well spent.

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Coffee with friends is always a good time! Source. 

You’ve got a deadline

Whether it’s work, assignments, study, blogging… they don’t call it a deadline for nothing. You’ve got to get it done. Sure you’d love to stay out for that extra hour, have that extra glass of wine or watch that extra episode of Keeping Up With The Kardashians (don’t judge me, it’s the best thing ever!), but at the end of the day, you need to get your work done.

Alternative…

Prioritize your work and as soon as it’s done, you’ll be ready to go out! Just get in and get it done, no one wants deadlines hanging over their shoulders. Just think of how much better that glass of wine is going to taste knowing that you’ve got everything up to date?! AMAZING!

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If this doesn’t motivate you, I don’t know what will?! Source. 

You’re feeling under the weather

You know that feeling when you’re not sick, but your nose is a bit stuffy, you’ve had to take a few Panadol that day and your bodies a bit sore? Being under the weather or run down sucks. The last thing you need to do is push yourself! When you start to feel this way, this is your body’s way of saying ‘hello, up there… your brain is working overtime and I need a break!’ To prevent it getting any worse, make sure you tuck yourself into bed nice and early, drink lots of water and eat some fruit.

Alternative…

Fulfil 12 year old you’s dreams and deck your lounge room out with mattresses, blankies and pillows and have a Harry Potter marathon. Spend a night in sipping on tea and your body will thank you for giving it a bit of a rest. And the best thing is, if you’re too sleepy, you can just fall asleep. Just make sure you remove all permanent markers from the house to avoid becoming a canvas at midnight!

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Blanket fort goals! Source

When you just don’t feel like it

Let’s be honest, sometimes you just don’t feel like doing anything at all. You don’t need to justify yourself, or make up a lame excuse. Just say you don’t want to and leave it at that. Everyone needs time to themselves so be brave enough to say ‘No, tonight I’m doing whatever the hell I want to do.’

Alternative…

None. Because you do you!

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Love yourself. Source

I’m definitely not suggesting you should never go out, never spend money, or never spend time with your friends. These are some of my favourite things to do! But I think sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in going places, seeing people, catching up, being places and getting stuff done. Sometimes, we just need to take some times to ourself and say “nope, I’m going to sit this one out.” As the quote above says “happiness is an inside job,” so it’s ok to take time to ourselves. Because that means that when we say yes to awesome adventures coming our way, it’ll all be worth it!

 

 

 

 

 

 

These Are A Few Of My Favourite Things: APRIL

April – where did you go? I genuinely cannot believe how quickly April has gone and how jam packed it has been! With eating challenges, 21st birthdays, numerous coffee dates, several visits from friends and family and interstate weekend away it was a pretty great month. Work has been as crazy as ever, I’ve even picked up another job… but as the days fly by and I counted that there’s a mere 55 days until I fly out, I know that it’s all worth it! So, without further adieu, my favourite things from April!

Adventures with my sister

I was lucky enough to have my sister come down for a weekend at the beginning of the month. Because she lives in Newcastle, I definitely don’t get to see her as much as I would like to. So when she came down for the weekend, it was filled with adventures and shopping (of course). A highlight was going to Fitzroy Falls. ‘How was that?’ I hear you ask? Well from the few meters ahead that we could see – it was pretty amazing!

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Fitzroy Falls through the mist. 

For The Love Of Challenge

For the love of our future is a fundraising challenge to raise money to fund educational schemes and political actions regarding Climate Change. The challenge can be as simple or as hard as you make it. People will generally either give up chocolate, beer or coffee (to those that gave up coffee, I applaud you). I decided to go VEGAN for the 2 week challenge. Already being a vegetarian, I naively thought that it wouldn’t be that big of a leap. Oh boy was I wrong! Being a vegan is hard! You have to read the contents of everything! You need to think and rethink what you can and can’t have which requires you to always be switched on. I’m planning on writing about my experience so watch this space. Long story short – going two weeks without cheese is just wrong! On the plus side, I raised just under $100 for an awesome cause!

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For the love of our future! You can find more information here!

My friends

So it was our lovely Nicola’s 21st birthday this month – which of course is celebrated with alcohol! And lots of it! We went to Pepe’s (a really chic place across from North Wollongong beach). Whilst I personally didn’t have the best night because I was a bit overstressed and over tired (sorry Nicola), one thing I love is this picture below. This picture just makes me so happy. And it’s a constant reminder to surround yourself with positive people who will always be there for you. And I’m so lucky that I have these two as housemates and the rest of my friends that were there that night because I honestly wouldn’t know what I would do without you guys 😘

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So grateful for my friends!

Blog Blog Blog Blog Blog Blog….

This month I worked on 2 posts that I’ve been working on for a while now. And finally publishing them and getting the reaction that I did was so rewarding! Top 5 Cafes in Wollongong and Making a Promo Video 101. Blogging is something I absolutely love doing, but there’s nothing quite like when people are engaged and interested with what I write. So a quick and sincere thank you to all of you out there who are reading this and following my journey!

 

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PROMO VIDEO MAKING 101

Anna Johnson-Hill’s Get Shit Done!

So I have this ridiculously talented friend who has this ridiculously awesome business centred around helping others be the best they can be. You can check out her website here. But the best thing is that she just launched this awesome e-course called ‘Getting Shit Done.’ And me being the slightly lazy and easily distracted human I am, I signed up. We’re nearly done with week 2 and so far it’s been amazing! There’s sooooooo much unique content and she really knows what she’s talking about because she draws from her own experiences. This week has been all about self love and her module has really made me take a step back and think about what makes me happy and how I can realistically implement strategies to achieve my goals! Can’t wait for the next 4 modules!

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My weekend getaway to BRISBANE

For the long weekend, I decided I wanted to get away. And where else to go but a warm city that seems to be home to friends and family… BRISBANE! You can read all about my weekend away here, but long story short – My sister and I travelled up there together, we stayed with one of my friends and we ate our way around Brisbane. Catching up with other friends, long lost friends, family and new born adorable babies! It was the perfect amount of time to get away from the stresses of reality and just chill out, eat amazing food, drink wine and spend some time with great company!

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My sister and I at the Barvarian Bier Cafe overlooking the river. 

Tunes

There’s something about how sweet and simple this song is, that I am absolutely loving! At uni the other day, my friend and I were sitting on the lawn having our lunch and there was a guitarist performing. He then sang this stripped back version and I commented how lovely it was. My friend asked if I had heard the twenty one pilots version of it, and oh my gosh you should’ve seen the look on her face when I said no. Ever since then it’s been on repeat!

This tune by Jack Garratt is super chilled an lovely. The video clip is especially amazing! I’ve been listening to a lot of Jack Garratt lately and I’d highly recommend jumping on board! You won’t regret it.

Blogs & Vlogs

Sam Evans Life. A Sydney sider whose Youtube account exploded after hanging out with Fun For Louis. And naturally, I just had to check his stuff out. Turns out, that it’s pretty damn amazing! At the moment I’m especially loving the video below – an epic highlights reel showcasing all of the wicked stuff he got up to in 2015. He’s got a really unique style about him, his photography is on point AND… my home town of Port Stephens even features in his highlights reel! I’m absolutely loving following his journey and watching his vlogs develop. Killin it Sam!

Quote

So this isn’t really a quote, more of a motto, but at the moment I’m very centred around being grateful. I’m so blessed to be where I am and surrounded by people who love and support me unconditionally. I feel like lately I’ve been stressed out due to work and planning my big trip, but I never want to lose sight of what makes me happy and that is the relationships I have with so many incredible people. I feel like I’ve said it a few times in this post already, but I am so thankful and deeply grateful for everyone around me and I hope you know that I am always there for you as well when you need a hug, someone to laugh at or laugh with, or someone to encourage you to pursue your dreams.

I hope you had an equally amazing month and hope that you have an even better MAY! xxx

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Travelling Your Own Backyard: Spotlight on Brisbane

Brisbane, the capital of Queensland and a city I’ve never been particularly interested by (sorry Brisbane). Until several of my closest friends moved there. Then I was slightly more intrigued. I began doing my research and found some return flights from Sydney over the ANZAC day long weekend for $120. My intrigue grew. Then I came to the realisation that if I don’t return to Australia until February next year, I’ll go over a year without seeing my closest friends. And that’s just not OK. So I closed my eyes, pressed confirm, threw some clothes in a carry-on bag and was on my way to Brisbane for the first time.

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Getting There

Brisbane’s public transport is fantastic! Easy to understand and easy to work your way around. As soon as you land at the domestic airport, you simply exit the airport, cross the road and follow the signs to ‘AirTrain.’ I would strongly recommend purchasing a Go Card (the equivalent to a MiKi Card in Melbourne or an Opal Card in Sydney). They cost $10 to purchase, plus whatever credit you want to put on. I put $50 credit on it which was the perfect amount. And the best part is that when you leave again, you can return it and get your $10 back (perfect for an airport coffee). The train heads into the city and from there you can basically get anywhere.

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Tigerair do super cheap deals from Sydney to Brisbane. Just make sure you stick to your baggage limit!

Where To Stay

This is a bit of a trick question because I was lucky enough to stay with my friend in the North of Brisbane. Of course, if you don’t happen to have friends in a city – I would always opt for a centrally located hostel or if you’re travelling with friends, AirBnb!

What To See & Do 

If you’re new to a city, what else is there to do but aimlessly explore?! My sister spent a whole day doing that, so lucky for me, when we went exploring, she knew exactly where to go. But these are definitely my top recommendations!

The BRISBANE sign. A bright and colourful sign on the river overlooking the city. A MUST have shot!

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Go to the beach. OK, for those of you that are good at geography, you’ll know that Brisbane doesn’t have any beaches. So when you don’t want to go to the beach, you bring the beach to you! On the South Bank, there’s a man made beach, complete with sand and lifeguards! A perfect way to spend a hot afternoon! There’s countless bars and cafes nearby as well! Is there anything better?!

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Eat & Drink

OK confession – this trip wasn’t really about the site seeing. Sure it’s a bonus! But what we were really here for was the food, coffee and drinks! And let me tell you, Brisbane delivered!

Barvarian Bier Cafe

We went here twice on our trip and I couldn’t recommend it enough! Not only am I a fan of the chain ‘Barvarian Bier Cafe,’ but this one really excels! It has a beautiful big balcony with stunning views of the bridge and the river. The espresso martini there is to die for, and you really can’t go too wrong with a stein of beer as well!

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My sister and I enjoying the views. 

Cowch

A dessert and cocktail bar… need I say more? The South Bank is where you can find this hidden treasure! We orderedthe bannoffee pizza with some churos which I would highly recommend. If I wasn’t already buzzing off of a sugar high and about to crash into a food baby coma, I could’ve definitely gone for one of their delightful looking martinis as well!

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Grub Street

This one is a bit out of the way (but conveniently down the road from my friends house). Just a short walk from the Gaythorne station is THE BEST BREAKFAST I’VE HAD IN A LONG TIME!!!! I really cannot emphasise how good the food there is! From the outside, it really doesn’t look like much at all. But the quality of their coffee and food was beyond all expectations! So much so, that I went there two days in a row for breakfast! I’d strongly recommend a latte with their carrot pancakes. I know it sounds weird, but just for proof, refer to the picture below. You won’t be sorry.

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Jimmy’s on the Mall

Quite fancy and quite pricy, this place is so charming and worth the extra money on your bill. Not only is the food and wine exceptional but the staff are super friendly and attentive. Hello wine refills. Upstairs is a nice bar where they had a guitarist playing some great music. It’s located right in the middle of Queen Street Mall so you feel like you’re in this gorgeous bubble among the hustle and bustle of the city.

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Morgan, my sister, Mack, Charline and Teagan being fancy at Jimmys. 

Et voilà! Not exactly a complete guide to Brisbane, but if you’re looking for some good food and coffee, this has got you covered! Do you have any recommendations for my next visit? Let me know in the comments below!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Top Five Cafes in WOLLONGONG

If anyone know’s me, they know how much I love coffee. And if there’s somewhere that knows how to make a good coffee, the Wollongong aka. the Gong. This is my third year living in the Gong and through my time here I’ve consumed my fair share of coffee. So after a while, you come to discover the best places to grab a good coffee or two. So, here are my top 5 favourite cafe’s the Gong has to offer. 

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Rush. 

1. Rush

Conveniently located at UOW, where I work and study, these guys deliver quality beans quickly before your shift or class. Rush 1 is my ‘work coffee,’ where I usually settle for an extra hot skinny cap. My standard for a day at the office. Rush 2 is where I experiment with my coffees. The staff there are beyond awesome and are always playing amazing tunes.

Coffee of choice: Single Origin Long Black

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L&M

2. Lee & Me

L&M as it’s also known, is a cute little cafe/boutique located at the bottom of Crown Street. On a weekend you’re lucky to get a seat on their cosy balcony. But once you do, it’s worth it. And when you’ve finished with your coffee, you can browse through their cute boutique store. If you can’t afford one of their lavish leather bags (which, by the way, I’m in LOVE with), you can settle for a cute little succulent.

Coffee of choice: Skinny Cap (with a side of a cute succulent). 

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Latte at Diggies

3. Diggies

And the award for the best view whilst indulging on an even better coffee goes to…. Diggies. Primly located on North Wollongong beach, this beachy, breezy cafe boasts beautiful views looking out at the surf. If you’re not up for a coffee, I’d also recommend their coconuts or fresh juices. This place is divine in summer after a nice long swim at the beach. Just remember to bring some clothes to cover up in.

Drink of choice: A latte or cocount (depending on how hot it is)

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4. His Boy Elroy

Ah, the infmaous His Boy Elroy. It’s got your night out covered with their craft beer and sexy ciders. Plus, it’s there for you in the morning when you have a filthy hangover. Opt for sitting outside and watch the world pass by as you caffeinate your hangover away.

Drink of choice: Skinny cap (classic)

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A pretty in pink skinny cap

5. Humber

And last but not least… HUMBER. My favourite cafe in the whole Gong. The vibe downstairs is awesome. People are always running in and out, trying to get their hands on a coffee or some of their awesome food. The first floor takes you back to some serious 70s vibes with some brightly coloured stain glass windows and funky carpet. The la pièce de résistance… the rooftop bar. I absolutely love rooftop bars, and as far as they go, this one definitely delivers. Sure – the view is nothing spectacular (hello Port Kembla Steel Works), but the chairs are super comfy, the tunes are on point and the coffee is to die for! The picture above is a pink cap that my fave barista made me, and it’s this type of service that keeps me coming back for more!

Voilà! My top 5 cafes in the Gong. Whilst Wollongong embraces a great cafe culture, these are my favourites. Are there any I missed? Have you been to any of these before? Let me know in the comments below!

Happy drinking!

 

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