A Romantic Weekend Away in Byron Bay

Byron Bay… the ultimate escape from the stresses of reality. Not only is it a hippies dream but it is simply the dream getaway. Add a dose of romance and Byron suddenly becomes magical. This weekend I was lucky enough to escape reality for a few nights with my boyfriend, Mitch, and we had THE best time. So I thought I’d share a bit of what we got up to, where we ate and where we drank. So Voila! My first ever Romantic Travel Recommendation for BYRON BAY! 

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🚗 Road Trip

Byron is the perfect road trip destination. And it’s not some little road trip, this is the creme de la creme of epic road trips. It’s about 11 hours north of Wollongong so pack your snacks, get the tunes loaded and make sure you’ve got your comfy pants on. We stopped several times for food, water and toilet breaks, but you absolutely MUST stop at the Big Banana in Coffs Harbour. As lame as it is (and yes – it’s extremely lame) it’s absolutely necessary to stop and capture this iconic photo! What a gem!

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🛏️ Airbnb

Nothing says romance like a little cute Airbnb. Mitch absolutely nailed this one. It was in a quiet street not far from the main street. Having your own space really makes it feel like you’re on holidays; couch, TV, kitchen… luxury! As you can see below; there’s plenty of cute and affordable options!

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👀 See & Do

There’s an abundance of things to see and do in Byron. It’s on the coast with stunning beaches and mountains close by. Though in 3 days we kept pretty busy seeing and doing lots of fabulous things!

🐚 Beach

Who goes to Byron without going to the beach? Despite the wind, we found a sheltered spot at Tallow Beach, and boy was it paradise. The water was still a bit chilly but it didn’t stop us from going for a quick dip and sunbake.

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View of Tallow beach from the Lighthouse

🌊 Lighthouse 

This iconic lighthouse marks the most Easterly point of Australia and has spectacular views of surrounding beaches and mountains. If you get up early enough, you may be able to find a park towards the top of the hill, otherwise prepare for a bit of a hike. Park at the bottom and make sure you’ve got your active wear on point. We took out coffees up, took some photos and were lucky enough to even see whales! Hands down an absolute must. Plus it’s pretty cute up there.

🐷 The Farm

I had never heard about this place until Mitch insisted we go there. Long story short, it’s a farm (duh) with a beautiful cafe/restaurant/flower store you can dine at where all the produce is locally sourced. The best part is that you can wander around and look at all of the animal! They even have Highland Cows! I repeat… hairy cows!!!! Such a cool and pretty random thing to do. The food and coffee was amazing and overall made for an epic morning out and about.

📚 Book Shop

My brother would kill me if I didn’t put this on my list of places to go in Byron Bay. This book store has so many amazing finds! It’s basically tradition to go there and buy a book. Plus, when you buy a new book, it means you can chill out and read it on the beach, in the park, on the couch… Just make sure you drop by and pick up a book to power that brain of yours.

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🍴 Eat & Drink

Byron Bay has some INCREDIBLE bars, restaurants and cafes. We were only there for 3 days, yet I feel that we definitely discovered some amazing places to eat and drink!

🥐 Top Shop

This place is an absolute MUST! Located at 65 Carlyle St, this corner cafe attracts all types (and their dogs). Their coffee is to die for and their brekky options are delicious! I’d absolutely recommend the mushrooms on toast (the bread is so fresh, crispy and delicious). Plus, make sure to grab a freshly baked croissant before you leave!

🍇 Folk

Located on 399 Ewingsdale Rd, next to the caravan park, is every Veggo and Vegans dream. We stopped here for some lunch and I can honestly say it was one of the tastiest things I’ve eaten! Chilled vibes, healthy and yummy food, what’s not to love?

🍷 St Elmo

This one is definitely for a special, romantic night out. This little tapas bar is located on 22 Fletcher St and is not to be missed. It’s a stunning wine and tapas bar with mouth watering food and probably the best wine I’ve ever had. The low candle lighting, beautiful wine and extraordinary food makes this place extremely special and perfect for date night.

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🍸 The Bolt Hole 

Looking for a sexy bar for the perfect Espresso Martini? Then look no further than this stunning little bar. Found on 9 Fletcher St, this is perfect for an intimate drink. Great vibes and honestly the BEST ESPRESSO MARTINIS EVER!!!

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🍝 The Balcony

This is iconic Byron Bay. Honestly, you can’t miss it.  On the corner of Lawson St & Jonson Street, you’ll find the perfect spot for some happy hour beers, to watch the sunset and the world pass by.

🍻 The Northern

One of the most iconic pubs in Byron, and maybe even Australia. You’ll hear the hustle and bustle before you find it on 35-43 Jonson St, and there’s good reason. Great location, great beer, amazing food. If my smile below doesn’t give it away, I was having a pretty damn good time with that beer!

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To top it off, Byron Bay really just has this lovely and relaxed atmosphere to it. Which makes a little romantic escape absolutely perfect. Coming back to work after a holiday is hard. But coming back to work after a holiday as amazing as this one is even harder, and I can’t thank Mitch enough for being an ultimate travel companion, beer drinking buddy and freakin amazing human. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My New Favourite Country? Travelling Guatemala With G ADVENTURES

Ever since watching Fun For Louis’ ‘Best Coffee in Guatemala’ vlog, Guatemala has been on my radar. And it wasn’t just because of the amazing coffee (yet it was a very big part of my obsession), but the people, the culture and the landscapes seemed incredible. Plus – what did I actually even know about Guatemala? I didn’t even really know where it was! So when I heard my study program in Mexico City didn’t start until the 1st of July, and realising I had three weeks completely free, this was my time to finally go to Guatemala.

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I found an awesome G Adventures tour that spent a week in Guatemala before making it’s way up to Belize and then Mexico. And before I knew it I was landing in Guatemala City.

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ANTIGUA

The first stop was Antigua, where I met my awesome G Adventures Group. There were people from all over the world, Germany (Luisa, my amazing room mate for the trip), Ireland, another fellow Aussie and lots of people from England. Our tour guide was from Costa Rica, thankfully, because it’s quite essential to know some Spanish when travelling in Central America.

As you can tell from the photos below – Antigua is very colourful and extremely beautiful. It is a UNESCO world heritage site for its outstanding universal value and is a backpackers paradise. With an abundance of hotels, hostels, bars, clubs, restaurants, markets and plazas, Antigua will surely steal your heart, just like it did mine.

I must admit, I was completely unprepared for the weather we faced in Guatemala. In my mind I thought ‘ooh Central America… hot.’ But boy was I wrong. A lot of the time it was actually quite cold and it rained a lot, because guess what… it’s their rainy season. So, note to self, always research the weather of the place you’re going before you go there! Lucky for me, this meant I got to buy the coolest purple jacket which you’ll see shortly in some pictures below.

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Lake Atitlán – San Juan and Panajachel

From Antigua, we drove a few hours to Lake Atitlán, this time, prepared for the rain. We shuffled our bags around and packed an overnight bag for our adventures across the lake to San Juan. Here, we were introduced to some local Mayan families, and we were introduced to Marcos and Juana, the family that Luisa and I would stay with for the night. We caught a tuk tuk through the torrential rain to their house with a view that looked up at the giant mountains surrounding the lake.

In Guatemala, there are over 23 different Mayan languages spoken, and Mayan is completely different to Spanish. And nor Luisa or I spoke any Spanish. Yet we did manage to communicate, in very broken English, Spanish and way too many hand gestures, we learnt a lot about life in Guatemala, the Mayan culture and history, and my favourite part, how to make tortillas. Mayan recognition, acceptance and equality has been a struggle for a long time in many Central American countries. For instance, neither X or X went to school and therefore cannot read and write. They work in intense labour jobs to provide for their family. Yet because of their hard work and changing economic and social patterns in Guatemala, all three of their sons attended and completed high school, with one studying at university to become a teacher and the other, a local artist. I will never forget the kindness and generosity that this family showed to Luisa and I. This unique experience of a homestay is unique to G Adventures to their sustainability program ‘Planeterra.’ I was so overwhelmed by the whole experience that I had to leave the table for a minute to shed a tear. It really put my life, values and experiences into perspective and I felt so lucky to be able to learn from one of the worlds oldest civilisations.

After our homestay, we headed back to Panajachel where we spent our last night on the lake.

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Luisa and I enjoying the view
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That volcano!
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The view from San Juan over the lake
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Making Tortillas the traditional Mayan way
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Luisa, Juana and I

Rio Dulce

This was by far one of our longest travel days. It took us approximately 9-10hours by bus to reach Rio Dulce. The roads in Guatemala are windy, prone to landslides, narrow and honestly make no sense. So I chucked some music in and watched the beautiful countryside roll by. Our tour guide Brayan actually managed to buy some DVD’s from the side of the road (I tell you, these people have everything!) so that definitely helped pass the time.

When we finally made it to Rio Dulce, we were welcomed by a to die for pool. After shrivelling up into prunes we settled in for a quiet night.

The next day we did a day trip to the Caribbean seaside town of Livingston, about an hour away from Rio Dulce by boat. We stopped off at some thermal hot springs, lily pad fields and really just enjoyed the stunning view on the incredible Lake De Izabal. Livingston is a really interesting town full of wonderful history and a unique culture. It was actually founded by an escaped African slave, descendants of the Garifuna. Today, there are special programs in place to ensure the preservation of the Garifuna culture and language, which is still widely spoken in Livingston.

Our last morning we went kayaking around the lake to find Howler Monkeys. We unfortunately didn’t see any but we sure did hear them. We did however see a manatee in the river, plus a beautiful sunrise. It was definitely one of the best mornings I’ve ever had.

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Flores

After our kayak, we were off to Flores. But first, an amazing waterfall and thermal hot spring. Paying just 100 Quetzales, let us cross a farmers field and walk the 5 minutes to one of the most incredible waterfalls I’ve ever been to. The water is a nice temperature and very deep – meaning ultimate jumping time! We climbed the rocks to the top of the waterfall where the pools of water at the top are actually a thermal hot spring. The water was so hot it felt like a bath. Once we enjoyed our spa treatment, we took it in turns of jumping from the top. Like any kind of jump rock, it was awesome fun. The best part was you could swim up and under the waterfall and the water that fell on you was super warm – like you were taking a shower. Honestly one of the best waterfalls I’ve ever been to.

Once we arrived in Flores, we jumped straight onto our party boat to start our booze cruise. Considering we had a 5am start the next day, we partied way too hard. Flores looked like such a beautiful town. We cruised around the lake and went to a platform that we could jump off into the lake. There was also a rope swing – which I may have nearly died by using. We would be drinking on the boat, diving off the boat, floating on our backs under the nights sky. It truly was a fabulous night!

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Luisa and I partying on our sunset cruise in Flores

Tikal

After a big night of partying, we somehow managed to get up at 5am to arrive at Tikal by 7am to avoid tourists and the heat. Despite our efforts, we were dripping with sweat at 7:30 so sunscreen and hats were of the upmost importance. We had an extremely knowledgable guide who showed us around the ancient city of Tikal, which used to be one of the epicentres of Mayan culture and civilisations. The pictures really speak for itself!

 

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After being taken back in time to 200AD, were headed off to explore a new country and get some ink in our passport to go to Belize!

Looking back on my time in Guatemala, I really can’t believe all of the incredible places we managed to go in such a short period of time. The diversity of such a small country and the kindness of the people I met will never be forgotten.

This being said, I’m not ignorant of the deep seeded issues faced by this country and it was unfortunately something we saw and experienced.  Gangs and violence are still an extremely prevalent threat to the safety of Guatemalans, economic inequality sees the rich thrive off of the vulnerable and poor and Mayans often face discrimination informally and through formal institutions such as education and work rights.

Throughout travelling this magnificent country, I’ve been able to learn, question and challenge myself and the ideas that I had. Guatemala is a resilient country and through growing popularity in tourism, perhaps this new found income will be able to counter some of these issues. This experience has epitomised the concept that travel is the best form of education and I’m so incredibly grateful and privileged that I’ve been able to explore and learn from such a beautiful country.

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Tacos & Tequila: Week 1 In MEXICO CITY

Mexico, that country that speaks Spanish, is renowned for its tacos and tequila and apparently Trump doesn’t like people from there. That’s about the extent of my knowledge of Mexico before arriving and commencing my studies in its capital, Mexico City. So how did I end up here? Well you may recall that around this time last year, I was completing a short course in La Rochelle, France, with a company called AIM Overseas (you can read about my experiences in France here). And after having such a life changing and incredible experience in France, I looked into their programs to see how I can escape another Australian Winter.

That’s when I came across their program taught at the University of La Salle in Mexico City titled ‘Immigrants, Human Rights & Mexican Society.’ Damn what a mouthful hey! Since I’m studying International Studies with Communications & Media Studies, I’ve always been fascinated, concerned and frustrated with current social and political perspectives towards migration, especially of refugees desperately trying to reach Australia. After finding out that I could receive a second OS Help Loan, I found myself being accepted into the program and on my way to Mexico City to study something that I’m deeply passionate about.

So here’s a look into what happened in our first week in Mexico City!

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Taking in the view of a city of 22million

Arriving

Arriving in a new destination, particularly one you’ve never been to before and don’t speak the language, can be extremely daunting. Luckily, La Salle organises an airport pick up. So there was someone at the airport to greet me with a friendly ‘Hola!’ From there, I joined a crew of other students in my program and in the Public Health Program (another AIM Overseas program offered at La Salle), and we filed onto the bus to take us to our new homes. Our ‘Immigrants’ group is staying at a lovely hotel in the funky, safe and colourful neighbourhood called La Condesa. I met my roomie, Rosie from the University of Melbourne. She’s a red head too, so we came to the understanding that they matched us based on our hair colour – but we get along really well so AIM definitely did a great job.

Across our arrival weekend, I met the other students in the program from all different degrees and from universities all across Australia. This diversity, I could tell, would be extremely valuable when it comes to discussing such a complex topic of migration. And to top it off, everyone is like minded and passionate about the same thing as you, so it’s safe to say that everyone is pretty damn cool.

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The colours of La Condesa, our funky neighbourhood

Classes

On Monday morning we were escorted to the university so we could take notes on directions. Luckily La Salle is a quick 10-15minute walk away from the hotel. Monday was our Orientation day where we were given a tour of the university and neighbourhood, we discussed our schedule for the three weeks, took our photos for our student ID’s and had an awesome welcome lunch.

Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday were quite intense days of classes. We covered everything from Contemporary Mexican Society, Mexico-US Migration Management and Human Rights and Legal Issues surrounding Migration. Tuesday and Thursday afternoon we had our crucial ‘Survival Spanish’ classes where we covered important topics like how to order a beer and make sure you don’t order the super spicy tacos! All of our classes have been taught by extremely passionate and inspiring professor’s making the long days of class very engaging, interesting and informative.

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Some of the sites and colours you can expect to find downtown

Professional Site Visits

As much as this course is academic, it is equally practical where we get to immerse ourselves in the realities for many migrants and refugees arriving to Mexico. On Friday, we visited ‘Casa de los Amigos’ and ‘Casa Tochan’, both are houses providing support and accommodation for newly arrived migrants and refugees. At Casa de los Amigos, we were given a tour of their facilities and a presentation going through some of the services they provide these people. They receive migrants and refugees mostly from Central American countries like Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, however when we visited they had several refugees from Somalia and Cameroon. It just goes to show that as long as there is conflict and danger, people will go to all lengths to find somewhere safe for themselves and their families.

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Outside Casa de Los Amigos
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Kindness is a universal language
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After our presentation from Casa de los Amigos

After Casa de los Amigos, we headed to Casa Tochan, a much smaller house, yet doing some pretty incredible things and making a real difference to those looking for support, shelter, food, services and kindness. At Casa Tochan, I met three Honduran refugees, aged 17, 19 and 22. They told us their stories (with the help from a translator) and it was an incredibly powerful, emotional and confronting experience. One of the young boys entire family had been murdered in Honduras and therefore, he was escaping out of fear of being next. It was all very raw and emotional, yet the part that I’ll never forget was when another girl on the program asked how they felt with us coming to visit Casa Tochan. They responded that they were so grateful because it makes them feel like there’s people out there that actually care about them and the situation they’re in. I must admit, I spent a lot of the afternoon wiping away tears from my eyes because I was so overwhelmed with their kindness, hope and strength. The reality of looking someone directly in the eye and creating a bond that transcends language, culture or class is an experience that can never be taken away and to those young boys that I had the absolute honour of meeting, I will never forget their bravery.

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The mural painted in the common area at Casa Tochan
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Our group and awesome tour guides
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A mural on the street near Casa Touchan painted by migrants. This bird is the national bird of Honduras and it represents the freedom they’ve gained from spreading their wings.

Other Events

Friday afternoon we were treated to a salsa class, a fun way to lift spirits and get in a good work out. For anyone thinking that salsa is all about the skirts, you’re wrong. Be prepared to sweat!

This weekend was a hectic weekend of soaking up a lot of culture and history. On Saturday we headed to the famous Pyramids! Walking among thousands of years of history sure was memorable. On the way back to the city, we stopped at the Basilica de Guadalupe, the second most important Catholic religious site, the first being the Vatican.

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Rosie and I conquering the Sun Pyramid
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The Immigration group & Public Health group after galavanting all around the Pyramids.
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The 1st and 2nd Basilica de Guadalupe. Because of the ground it’s built on, the buildings are actually sinking, meaning that not many buildings are straight. But it sure adds character.

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On Sunday we were completely immersed in the hustle and bustle of Mexico City and given a tour of downtown. We visited the Cathedral, the old palace with murals by Diego Rivera (OMG fan girl!) and Templo Mayor. To add to the craziness of downtown, there was also a really popular football match on where they had big screens everywhere!

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One of my very good friends actually lives in Mexico City. His name is Victor and we met when he came to Wollongong on exchange in my first year. 3.5years later, he was showing me around his home town, complete with tacos, tequila and pulques. Being reunited with old friends is definitely one of the best things about travel and I’m so grateful that he’s been able to show me around such an incredible city.

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Victor and I

Well I honestly don’t know where times gone. 1 week down, 2 more to go. One thing I’m really realising is just how fortunate I am to be given such a unique opportunity of studying one of our century’s most complex and urgent movement of people, in a country that is so heavily involved in the process, whether it be sending, receiving or simply a transit for people, Mexico and immigration go hand in hand. In the 1 week I’ve been here, I’ve learnt more about Mexico City and Mexican Society than I have in my whole life and I’m quickly learning that there’s much more to this incredible place than tacos and tequila (yet still very important).

[You can follow my adventures on Instagram @aworldlyaddiction]

 

Post Travel Depression: It’s Real and It SUCKS


They say the hardest thing about travelling is coming back home…

It’s been exactly 1 month since leaving Montreal – how the hell has that happened? If you speak to Time, please tell him he’s working a bit too quickly lately, because damn has time absolutely escaped me. I guess travelling around the States for 2 weeks helped (if you missed it you can check out my videos from America here). Upon being back in Australia I’ve been equally busy. Seeing friends, family, getting back to work, finding a house, and finally sleeping in my own bed (luxury!), I’ve been busy enough to distract me from the void in my stomach. But now that routine is finally starting to kick in, I’m slowly but surely hitting that inevitable wall of post travel depression.

Post Travel Depression, I argue, is a real and genuine thing that overcomes you a few weeks after returning from overseas. And the worst thing is, that you’re never really prepared for it. No matter if you’re a seasoned traveller or a first timer, I promise that it will still hit you as hard every time. You come back from your holiday (or in my case, exchange) and you’re like a minor celebrity. You walk around, see everyone you know, everyone’s asking about your trip, your pictures, if you met any cute boys… and you’re ecstatic.

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Did That Really Happen?

But then a week passes by, you start working again, then another week passes by, and you’re hanging out at your old bar, then a few more days pass by and it’s honestly like you’ve never left. Everything you’ve experienced, just feels like a dream. But how could it be a dream? It was one of the best experiences of your life! And slowly but surely, you slip right back into your old life, and you start sinking.

Change

I think the worst part is when you feel that you’ve changed, grown and had your mind and eyes well and truly blown. You’ve basically created a new version of you whilst on your travels, but the people you know and love back home, can’t see it. Sure they may notice little things, that you’ve put on some weight from all those baguettes, or picked up a weird accent, but at the end of the day, they’ll never truly understand. And that contributes towards the ‘dreamlike’ feeling of your experience, it kind of leaves you questioning if it really happened, and you feel yourself loosing a part of person you created overseas. And that feeling…. it’s incredibly horrible.

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Missing Out

It’s even worse when some sort of major event or occasion happens where you were living or travelling, and you get an overwhelming feeling of missing out. For example, not long after I left Montreal, there was a festival called IglooFest. And if the name itself isn’t enough to sell you, all of my friends went. OK, so that wasn’t the end of the world, missing an awesome festival. But what really hit me in the feels, was when it was my best friends 22nd birthday. You see snapchats, Instagrams, Facebook posts and you just know, deep in your heart, that everyone is having an amazing time, and that you’re really missing out on something special.

And I guess that’s something that we just have to come to accept and deal with. You can’t be everywhere at the same time (unless we make MAJOR advancements in technology asap). And we can’t always do everything we want to do. Reality strikes, your visas up, your exchange is over, your return flight is booked and you’ve got things to do. This doesn’t mean you have to be boring, but it does mean that physical barriers exist and at the end of the day, if you can’t be there in person, I’m sure you’re there in spirit (drinking all the spirits at the party whilst killing it at beer pong).

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Expression and Communication

The best way to deal with these feelings, is to get it out there. Society almost expects people who return from travel, to always be happy and rejuvenated. But by talking about how you’re feeling, and spreading the word of the honestly shit feelings you experience when returning, then you’ll get a lot more support, love and kindness.

And keep in contact with your friends you’ve met overseas. Give them a random FaceTime, send them a card, Snapchat them your day, write them a message and tell them that you’re having a rough time and that you miss them. I assure you that your friends will be missing you too. The most important thing to remember is that the friends you meet whilst on exchange or travelling aren’t just going to disappear. In fact, I think you’ll cross paths sooner than you expect.

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Your Next Adventure

Whilst everyone will experience this post travel depression differently and adjust at different rates and in different ways, I promise you, you’ll get through it. Soon enough you’ll be planning your next trip and starting your next adventure. The most important thing to remember is that travel and adventure is not just an action, it’s a mindset. So keep positive, live with purpose and accept and respect your feelings. You’ve gotta look after yourself, so that you can adjust to life back home, whilst planning your next adventure so you can do it all again.

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