Living Your Best Life Vs Living Beyond Your Means

FeaturedLiving Your Best Life Vs Living Beyond Your Means

The other day, I was picking up my morning coffee before class. It was an expensive affair, from one of those Melbourne speciality cafes that manages to produce miracles out of the simple combination of coffee and milk. As I tipped out my purse to salvage the last few coins that I had left, I got to thinking: Am I spending too much money on ‘treating myself?’. And more broadly, where is that line between ‘living your best life’ and living beyond your means.

The Bigger picture

My generation spends more money on treating themselves than any other generation has before us. This was first highlighted in the news a couple of years ago when Australian millionaire, Tim Gurner, advised Millenials that if they want to get a house, they need to stop wasting money on ‘$22 a pop toast’ and put the money towards a mortgage instead.

Now, I am in no denial as to where my money goes. I only need to log on to my Commonwealth bank account to see that my wages have been spent on numerous transactions for daily coffees, brunches out and a few too many fancy cocktails at the weekend. My bank app even puts my spending into handy categories for me, telling me that I spent $100 more dollars this month than the last on eating out. Whoops.

Living Your Best Life Vs Living Beyond Your Means

In defence of brunch

So, I’ve established where my money is going. Now, what should I do? Work more, pay the rent, say no to Friday night drinks out and save the money instead? Well I know that’s the sensible thing to do- and as an accountants daughter, maybe that should be instinctive. The thing is, what’s life without those little luxuries? What’s the point of living in Melbourne, a city famed for some of the best food and coffee in the world, if I’m making pasta pesto for dinner every night instead. Life’s a balance and if it’s a weighing game between living beyond your means and living your best life, If you’re going do it, do it while you’re young.

I say, Get Smashed, Avo good time and don’t worry about it 

So as I go into another week, I can safely assure you that I’ll be picking up another one of those fancy coffees tomorrow morning- and I’ll be meeting my friend for a bite to eat after that. Of course, life is about balance, and I don’t advise brunching out daily if you can’t afford to pay the bills. However, with that extra little bit of leftover cash, why not treat yourself?

Soon you’ll be so busy in that full-time job, fixing up that house you just bought and paying for the extras that you’ll only dream about the days you had time to eat avo toast in a grungy Melbourne laneway cafe.

What’s your favourite way to treat yourself? Share your thoughts in the comments. 

How To Travel Long-Term And Build Your CV At The Same Time

FeaturedHow To Travel Long-Term And Build Your CV At The Same Time

Travelling long-term is something that I always wanted to do and to this day I have an ever-growing list of places that I want to see and experiences that I want to have. However, as much as I want to travel long-term, continuing to learn and build my CV  is important to me too.

With the internet and changing attitudes to a work-life balance, the way that we learn and work isn’t the same as it has been in the past. Education can extend past the walls of a classroom and working doesn’t mean having to do the 9-5 in an office.

There have never been more opportunities to travel the world and build your CV at the same time than there are today. Here are some of my favourites.

Paid and unpaid internships

Paid or unpaid internships are a fantastic way to gain skills and experience in an industry that you are interested in.  In terms of a learning opportunity, I can’t recommend them enough.

What’s great about internships is that they are generally really hands-on, giving you the knowledge, experience and the confidence to work in that industry after. What’s more, doing an internship in a foreign country is really going to make your CV stand out from the crowd.

Throughout my time spent in Australia on a working holiday, I have done three internships in marketing and content writing, all of which have taught me more than I’d ever learned in a classroom, as well as looking great on my CV.

There are loads of paid and unpaid internships around and a good place to find these is on job sites like Indeed, Seek and Jora. Travel agencies like STA and GVI also offer plenty of internships abroad opportunities too, although these usually come at a cost.

How To Travel Long-Term And Build Your CV At The Same Time

Online courses

Never underestimate the value of online courses: they are a fantastic learning opportunity and demonstrate a willingness to learn on your CV. What’s more, they needn’t cost you any money, with plenty of free courses available.

Depending on the topic of study in, some platforms will be more suitable for you than others. A couple of places that I have done online learning include Skillshare, Moz and Google’s Digital Garage.

Study abroad

If you prefer to learn in the classroom but you’d like to combine it with living abroad then studying in another country is a fantastic idea. After spending a year on a working holiday in Australia, I am now staying longer in Melbourne to study here. Being an international student is a completely new experience for me and it’s an invaluable one, allowing me to combine getting a qualification with travelling long term. You can read more about my experience of transferring from a working holiday to a student visa here.

Language courses

Following on from study abroad options, opting to learn a language in the very country that it’s spoken is an incredible learning opportunity. Not only is immersing yourself in a country the most effective way to learn a language, but it’s also a fun and unique experience. These days, having a second or even third language to add to your resume is a skill that many employers look for so enrolling in a language school abroad really is a smart move.

There’s no end of options when it comes to language courses abroad. Some of my favourite ideas are Spanish school in Barcelona, Spanish school in San Pedro, Guatemala or learning Korean in Seoul (like one of my best friends, Izzy is currently doing).

How To Travel Long-Term And Build Your CV At The Same Time

Volunteer abroad

Volunteering is an incredible and meaningful way to travel long-term while doing some good and improving your CV. Volunteering abroad is also incredibly diverse and there’s a wide range of areas that you can work in. This can include anything from marine conservation to community development.

Teaching abroad

If you’ve been researching long-term travel then TEFL is something that you’re probably familiar with, right? Getting your TEFL or Teaching English as a Foreign Language qualification, allows to teach and live in an endless list of countries across the globe. Not only is this a unique and culturally enriching experience, but it is also one that allows you to earn money abroad. That way, you can afford to travel long term while developing new skills to add to your CV.

Working abroad

If you already have some qualifications or work experience then why not try working abroad? Of course, the country that you are from will have some bearing in terms of which countries you’re legally allowed to work in.

Some common options: a working holiday in Australia or New Zealand, a working holiday in Canada or a working holiday in England. You could also work in the US as a Camp America counseller or through being an Au Pair on a J1 Visa. For Europeans, why not try working in another European country? Alternatively, another option is becoming a tour guide with a company like G Adventures or Contiki where you actually get paid to travel.

How To Travel Long-Term And Build Your CV At The Same Time

Blogging 

Last but not least, blogging is one of my favourite ways to travel long-term while creating something to show for it. Setting up a blog is quick and easy and you don’t have to be tech-savvy or invest in lots of expensive equipment to do it. All you need to do is sign up for a blogging platform like WordPress and start writing. To start with, you’ll probably just be writing for your friends and family. However, stick with it, and who knows, one day you might be being paid to travel the world.

Travelling in itself is one of the most valuable things that you could do, particularly in your early twenties. Even without working or studying abroad, travelling helps to develop a huge range of skills including everything from budgeting to conversation skills and resilience. However,  if you want to travel long-term but you’d like a little more structure, then some of the ideas in this blog post might be a great option for you.

Have you ever done, or are considering doing any of the long-term travel ideas in this blog post? Get in touch- I’d love to hear. 

 

How I’m staying in Australia for a second year WITHOUT doing my farm work

FeaturedHow I'm staying in Australia for a second year WITHOUT doing my farm work

Everything you need to know about bridging visas, student visas and working holidays in Australia

So, this week it’s been one year since I touched base down in Australia at the start of my working holiday. At the time, I had no clue how significant this decision to leave home in the UK and come to Melbourne was going to be. It was, in my mind, just another trip.

A year on and a lot of things have changed. I’ve had the opportunity to travel and explore a country that’s on a lot of people’s bucket lists and the chance to do iconic things like sailing through the Whitsundays, seeing the Sydney Opera House and encountering more Australian wildlife than I can name. However, what is more significant is the extent to which my working holiday has become so much more than that. I have made emotional ties here in Melbourne, I’ve developed a work routine, a network of friends, a deep knowledge of a new city.  I even managed to build my CV alongside all of this, doing multiple internships and freelance writing jobs while I was here.

I’d always presumed that by the time October came around, I’d be ready to leave Melbourne. But the reality is, I’m just not. However, I have a problem. You can’t just come and go to Australia as you please. To qualify for the second Working Holiday Visa, you have to have completed (and been signed off of) 88 days of farm work in rural Australia: something of which I didn’t do. So, what are my options?

In this blog post, I explain everything that came into my decision-making process of transferring on to a student visa, including the financial costs, the visa conditions and most importantly, how to do it. Here’s how to stay in Australia if you haven’t done your farm work. 

Student Visa Subclass 500 Terms and conditions 

The student visa subclass 500 allows you to stay in Australia for as long as you are enrolled in a course and for up to 5 years. To qualify this you must be enrolled in an eligible course of study (so you can’t just study any old course), study full time and hold overseas student health cover.

To adhere to your visa conditions you must participate in 20 hours of classroom time a week and not work more than 20 hours a week (apart from in school holidays where there are no limitations). Apart from that, the student visa is very similar to that of a working holiday. You enjoy all of the same freedoms, except for the bonus that you get taxed less- yay.

Finding a course in Australia

I think that studying at any age is a great thing to do, and having the opportunity to further my education in a city that I love seemed like a win-win. There is a range of courses that will allow you to stay in Australia on a student visa and these vary from full degrees to shorter diplomas and Certificate IVs.

Finding an eligible course that is relevant to you can be a bit overwhelming. It was because of this is decided to go through an agency called Australian Study Solutions. There are loads of these agencies around and for a small fee, they will help match you to a course that suits your educational and financial needs; as well as a course that matches the time that your WH visa ends. They will also assist you in the student visa application process, which is a lot more laborious than the WH one.

Applying for your visa

When you’ve found a course that you want to study, your first step is going to be to apply to that school, either directly or through the agency. When they send you a letter of offer and you have made the first payment, you then need to wait for your Certificate of Enrolment documents. When you have these, you can apply for the visa.

You need to do this on the Australian home affairs website (or you agent will do it for you). To apply you must fill in an official form 956 form, make the payment of $620, pay for your health cover and also write a Genuine Temporary Entrant (GTE) letter.

The GTE Letter

This is a letter to the government that explains who you are, what visas you’ve previously held, what and why you want to study in Australia and the details of that course. The thing to remember about the GTE is that it is an example that you only want to remain in Australia temporarily. You MUST make it clear that you plan on returning to your home country after your studies.

Bridging visa

Student visas can take anything from 43 to 77 days to process. However don’t stress, if your WH visa is coming to end in a matter of days, like mine, you don’t have to leave the country. Once your student visa application is lodged (and when your current visa ends) you immediately move on to a Bridging visa A.

This takes the role of your applied visa (so in my case a student visa). The only conditions are that you cannot work legally on that visa until the first day of your new course and you must not leave the country. If you do need to leave Australia, you need to apply for Bridging visa B- basically a bridging visa of your bridging visa for your student visa. Complicated right?

How much transferring to a student visa really costs

Moving from the WH visa to a student one can be painful as you initially have to make a lot of payments. However, after you’ve paid that first chunk, the rest is a lot less expensive. Anyway,  if you’re gaining the opportunity to study in a country that you love then it’s worth it.

Here’s a breakdown of the payments that you will have to make:

1 .The cost of your chosen course (and agent fee). Average costs are:

Certificate IVs: $4000

Diploma courses: $7000 a year

Bachelor Degree at University: $20,000 a year

Bachelor Degree at college: $12,000 a year

(Don’t stress as these can usually be paid in instalments during your course). 

2. The cost of your visa: Around $620 AUD per application

3. Your overseas health cover: Prices vary but usually around $500 for a year

So that’s it, that’s pretty much everything you need to know about applying for a student visa in Australia. Obviously, if you want to stay in Australia after your first Working Holiday visa then doing your farm work is a lot cheaper and easier. However, if there’s a course of study you’re genuinely interested in and if you run out of time to do your farmwork, then a student visa is a great option.

How I'm staying in Australia for a second year WITHOUT doing my farm work

The course I have chosen to study is a certificate and diploma in business and marketing here in Melbourne. It’s a great option for me as it correlates with my writing background and builds on the marketing internships and self-taught learning that I have done in the past. Alongside this, I am continuing at my cafe job, starting a new digital marketing internship at a startup company and even moving house next week. Updates coming on the blog.

Life on a working holiday in Melbourne has been out of this world and I’m hoping this year as a student will be even better. Now it’s time to do as you always should in Melbourne, head to a rooftop bar and have a drink to the start of something new.

City Girl Vs Small Town Girl: Life In Melbourne

FeaturedLife In Melbourne

When I was 18, I followed a life long dream and made the move from my small town of Brighton up to the UK’s capital of London.

At first, the hustle and bustle and novelty of walking past iconic landmarks like Big Ben and Buckingham Palace as part of my daily commute was overwhelming.

However, it was a brief stint that lasted just a few months until the loneliness and franticness of the city wore me down and I moved back home. That experience in London led me to believe that I just wasn’t a city girl and I was resigned to that: until I moved to Melbourne.

I arrived in Melbourne at the end of last year on a Working Holiday Visa- you can follow my travels from day one on this section of the blog.

The decision to do so was totally random and in my mind a short term one. At first, I said I’d be home by Christmas, then that extended into April. Then April came and I said I’d stay until summer. Then that brings us up to the current date now, almost one year on and still here. 

Although it’s been voted the world’s second most livable city for years in a row according to the Global Livability Index (coming in only after Vienna), Melbourne isn’t a place that’s particularly high on the tourist map- I’m guessing mainly because it’s so damn far away from the rest of the world.

So why Melbourne?

Well, I’ve visited quite a few cities over the last few years: Paris, New York, Bangkok, Copenhagen, Sydney and Hanoi, to namedrop a few. However, there’s just something about Melbourne that makes it so unique in comparison to other places that I’ve been to.

Life In Melbourne

 

Space

For starters, on the map, Melbourne is way bigger than London (almost six and a half times bigger) to be exact. However, Melbourne’s Central Business District or CBD is much smaller and way more compact so almost everywhere is in walking distance. Secondly, its population is proportionally lower than London at 5 million compared to 8 million. So, although Melbourne’s tourist attractions, bars and restaurants busy, it never feels overcrowded.

Australia’s cultural capital

Melbourne is Australia’s cultural capital which means that there’s an overwhelming amount of exhibitions and galleries to explore on days off from work. That goes without mentioning the countless festivals and events that are held throughout the year- and then, of course, there’s Melbournes ever-changing street art scene.

Eating and drinking

Next reason- Melbourne’s drinking and dining scene in the city is out of this world. If you’re a foodie then this is the city for you. Last week, my parents visited me from the UK and they commented about the huge amount of dining options available in the city: and it’s true. Next, there’s the city’s love affair with coffee. Melbournian’s are coffee addicts and Melbourne has more cafes per capita than any other city in the world. In fact, it’s actually referred to as the coffee capital of the world. 

The best of both worlds 

Like my hometown, Brighton, Melbourne is located on the coast. This means that in summer, there are plenty of beautiful beaches to relax on and enjoy the warm weather. What’s more, Melbourne is also surrounded with outstanding natural beauty in all directions such as National Parks, vineyards and of course one of the world’s most iconic drives, the Great Ocean Road. This coupled with everything that the city has to offer, means that Melbourne is the best compromise between city living and the great outdoors.

Life In Melbourne

I could go on and name lot’s more reasons why I love Melbourne so much but you only need to go and take a look through the posts on this blog to see why. Besides, that’s not the point of this post. The purpose that I’m trying to get across is that this move has proved to me why it’s important to keep expanding your comfort zone.

I’m from a small UK town of 600,000 people. It’s by the coast and it’s seasonal meaning that winters are quiet and sleepy. At home, I spend my weekends going for walks and baking rather than doing the rounds of rooftop bars and making coffees in a busy cafe with queues out of the door.

My time living in London led me to believe that I wasn’t a city girl but that couldn’t be further from the truth. I was content with my lifestyle in the UK but in Melbourne, I’ve never felt more alive. In a city where I have the space to express myself and do the things that I love but also an ever-changing list of places and events to keep me occupied, this year living in the city has been one of the best of my life.

It all goes to show that sometimes if things aren’t going to plan, it’s not you who needs to change but the place that you’re in itself. 

Have you ever had an experience similar to mine where changing the place that you lived changed your whole perspective? Please get in touch, I’d love to hear.

Living In The Ricefield: Inside Our Amazing Ubud AirBnB

FeaturedHow To Travel Long-Term And Build Your CV At The Same Time

What comes to mind when you think of Bali? Is it golden beaches or beautiful temples? Or maybe it’s vibrant coloured acai bowls or Eat, Pray, Love?

Well for me it’s rice fields. Lush, green, beautiful rice fields- that’s the image that always came to mind. That’s why having the opportunity to rent out a gorgeous Airbnb in the heart of Ubud’s ricefields was a dream come true.

The Airbnb that we stayed in was called the Firefly villa, and it is located in the ricefields, just a few minutes walk from the centre of Ubud.
Comprising of one living room, a kitchen and two bedrooms, this Airbnb can easily sleep three or four people and for just 45 GBP or AUD 80 a night, it’s fantastic value- especially if there are a few of you splitting the cost.

firefly villa airbnb ubudfirefly villa airbnb ubudfirefly villa airbnb ubud

The Rooms

The Firefly Airbnb consists of one beautiful, large and open living area with a cute kitchen that overlooks the garden in the back. Downstairs is the master bedroom, a huge and luxurious room that opens out on the most insane outdoors shower.

The second room is an upstairs loft which, despite being smaller, was by far my favourite. To get up to the top room, you had to climb a little narrow bamboo ladder. Once you’re up there, it’s more of a balcony than a room, comprising of little more than one low double bed.

What I loved about this room is that it’s completely open with just a mosquito net covering the bed. Getting woken up by the natural sunlight and the sounds of wildlife was such an incredible experience and it really is the nicest place to enjoy that morning cup of coffee.

firefly villa airbnb ubud

firefly villa airbnb ubud

firefly villa airbnb ubud

firefly villa airbnb ubud

Getting to our Airbnb

Getting to the Airbnb itself was such an adventure. The instructions from the host were to pass our phone over to the taxi driver when we got to Ubud so that he could receive the directions. It turns out the directions were to wait outside Starbucks- so we did. A few minutes later, our host arrives on a motorbike. He somehow manages to carry our three massive backpacks on to the bike with him before directing us to a cut-through down the road, telling us to walk through it. He will meet us with our bags outside the home.

Now I’ve got to tell you to find this cut through if you’re ever in Ubud. It’s accessed by a tiny narrow path that goes off of the Jalan Raya road. There is a signpost at the entrance of the cut through that says Subak Juwuk Manis (Magical ricefield in Ubud).  It looks like nothing at first but rest assured,  follow it through and you’ll come out at the most gorgeous, lush green rice paddies with virtually no one but the local farmers around.

firefly villa airbnb ubudfirefly villa airbnb ubudfirefly villa airbnb ubud

Eating and drinking

Although it feels secluded, this Airbnb is minutes away from the centre of Ubud where there are many restaurants and bars to choose from. However, one hidden gem when it comes to eating is the Sweet Orange Warung, located just a 5-minute walk from the Airbnb, a little further into the ricefield. This place did delicious and inexpensive food with unbeatable views- it’s the best place to go for breakfast.

sweet orange warung ubud

The views expressed in this blog post are entirely my own. If you’re interested in booking this Airbnb, click here to find out more. 

How To Plan A Backpacking Trip (Without Really Planning It)

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I know that the title of this blog post might sound a little bit cryptic but read on, I’ll explain what I’m talking about. After having spent the majority of the last couple of years travelling, one question that I get asked a lot is- ‘how do you plan your backpacking trips?’ Well, I’ll let you in on a little secret: I don’t- at least not in the hostel booking, schedule planning kind of way anyway.

Here’s why I don’t plan my trips

I find planning boring

I know some people find that planning a trip is part of the fun- I hate it. Whether it’s booking accommodation, coming up with an itinerary or researching what to do in each place, I find it so tedious. In fact, sometimes researching a trip puts me off even going in the first place.

You can’t plan for the unexpected

Travelling is all about embracing the unexpected and you simply can’t plan for that. Who knows what hidden gems you’ll discover along the way, the people you’ll meet or the things that happen that are totally out of your control. Trying to stick to a rigid plan while backpacking is just going to cause you more hassle than it’s worth.

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It’s better to follow suggestions from people you meet

One of the best things about travelling is meeting people that are doing similar things to you. This is great because not only do you meet like-minded people but you also get to hear all of their recommendations first hand. This is how you really discover those hidden gems while travelling.

It ruins the adventure

Lastly, planning trips totally ruins the sense of adventure for me. The thrill of backpacking is that it’s a journey into the unknown. A routine is non-existent, each day brings endless possibilities and you really get the chance to live in the moment. That’s what travel is about for me.

Here’s what I do plan

I know that turning up in a new country with virtually nothing planned might seem really overwhelming but trust me, it’s the best way to do it. Having said that, there are a few things that I do organise or at least research before I go. Here’s what.

The first few nights accommodation

I think that it’s practical and sensible to book your accommodation for the first few nights before you arrive. This is because wandering around looking for accommodation when you’ve just got off a long flight isn’t a lot of fun. It’s usually easy to extend your stay in person in hostels so I wouldn’t advise booking more than three days accommodation in case you don’t like the place.

How To Plan A Backpacking Trip (Without Really Planning It)

Looking at the weather

Before even booking your flights, I would advise to check out the weather. It’s easy to forget that ‘warm countries’ aren’t always warm and the last thing you want to do is book a trip in the middle of monsoon season or fly to a beach destination in the height of their winter.

The highlights

Once I pick a region or country to travel in, I’ll usually come up with a rough idea of some places that I want to visit. I like to do a little search before I go about some of the highlights in these places whether that’s beaches, cafes or hikes. Then I jot them down on a list for me to refer to when I’m away.

A Rough budget

I’m a naturally cautious spender so I don’t feel the need to stick to a strict budget or keep a note of all my spendings. Having said that, I do like to come up with a rough estimate of how much I’ll spend before I go. I do this by researching the average cost of accommodation, food, activities etc.  I then multiply this by the number of days I expect to be away, in order to make sure I have enough money for my trip.

Booking Flights 

Flights are the one thing that tend to get more expensive the later you book them so I tend to book the main ones as far advance as I can. By this, I mean booking any long-haul flights as well as any for countries that require proof of onward travel. (Some countries will not let you enter if you do not have a flight or a bus booked out of the country). Generally speaking, internal flights are ok to leave until the last minute to book.

How To Plan A Backpacking Trip (Without Really Planning It)

Obviously travelling without a plan doesn’t work for everyone. I understand that if you have restraints like a lack of time, a strict budget or even if you’re travelling in a group then it can be tricky to travel fully spontaneously. Even so, I urge you when you can, leave whatever you can to fate- You never know what surprises are in store for you.

Are you a travel planner or a travel winger? Let me know. 

Here are 10 things I accomplished instead of doing a journalism degree

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For as long as I can remember there has only been one real thing that I’ve wanted to do-travel. However, when I left school in the UK at 18, I made the ‘sensible decision’ to start university in London, studying for a journalism degree because that was what all of my friends were doing.

The thing is, for an impatient person like me, spending just three hours a week in uni, being tied to the UK, and the prospect of doing so for the next three years didn’t really make me very happy. I was anxious to start living the life I wanted to live, so I dropped out. Now as the summer arrives that I would have originally finished, I can say in all honesty that I am very happy that I did.

There are so many great reasons for doing a degree if it’s in something that you love and I’m not writing this post to say that going to university is a bad idea. I just want to show that there are other options too. So, here 10 things I accomplished instead of doing a journalism degree.

1. I started my own blog

I had tried and failed to start a blog many times before this one. The thing is, when you’re at home studying, keeping up a travel blog is pretty tricky as you don’t have that much to write about. It was only after I dropped out of uni and started travelling that I had the time to write and the experiences to blog about. Now two years on, blogging is quickly evolving from a hobby to a job and I couldn’t imagine not having this platform to express my own views on.

2. I went solo backpacking around Asia

Solo backpacking around Asia was my biggest dream and it was one of the first things that I did after leaving uni. I know that my friends and family had their doubts about my trip and so did I- but despite my fears, it was something I had to do. That first trip alone around Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia was one of the most liberating and exciting times of my life and it shaped me forever. I came out of that trip as a completely different person, with loads of confidence and a whole new perspective on life.

3. I did a working holiday in Australia

Travelling is amazing but having the opportunity to live and work in another country is something else. This is what lead me to make the decision to do a working holiday in Australia. Apart from getting to travel around a whole new country, my working holiday has taught me so much, from professional work experience to add to my CV along to life skills like living alone and travelling on a budget.

4. I completed an NCTJ Diploma In Journalism

I didn’t want to spend three years studying for a degree however that didn’t mean that I didn’t want to get some kind of training in journalism.  Instead, I decided to do an NCTJ in my hometown in Brighton which was a much better option for me.

An NCTJ is a short diploma in journalism, that can be completed in three months, studying full time. Unlike the degree I would have done, my NCTJ was both exam and coursework based, it was accredited, came with work experience at my local paper in which we would be published and it was a fraction of the cost. Of course, it didn’t have the social aspects of a full degree but I had a great class and I was happy to get the learning done quickly so I could get started with all of the other things I was desperate to do.

5. I worked (a lot)

The last few years have given me plenty of opportunities to work both during and in between my travels. Since leaving uni I’ve done everything from working as a social media executive and copywriter at home, working in cafes both in England and Australia as well as doing guest blogging alongside this.  All of this has helped me build up loads of confidence, gain experience for my CV and helped me to save money to entirely finance all of my travels.

6. I did loads of internships

Experience, experience, experience- that’s all it really comes down to, especially in an industry like journalism. The last few years have given me plenty of opportunities to do internships in everything from a media agency producing one of the UK’s most popular tv news shows to digital marketing and journalism, resulting in a whole portfolio of published work, all with my own byline. A lot of the other interns I have worked alongside have just graduated university themselves so it shows you that degree or no degree, we all end up in the same boat.

7. I backpacked through Central America

Another trip that I’ve always been desperate to do was Central America and that’s something I got to do for a few months last year on a tour with G Adventures. Countries like Mexico, Guatemala and Costa Rica had long fascinated me but I knew that the region had a reputation for being a little dangerous, hence why I ended up doing the tour. If anything, this trip awakened a whole new level of wanderlust in me and it gave me more friends and once in a lifetime experiences than I can name in this blog post.

8. I saved up a lot of money

I don’t know how many thousands of pounds worth of debt I saved from not going to university, but it’s a lot. The last couple of years have given me the chance to save up loads of money through working, enabling me to fund all of my travels.  What’s more, I’m now completely debt free.

9. I lived alone

I know that uni seems like the obvious way to move out of home but if independence is all you crave, there are easier ways to do it than signing up to a three-year course.  I love my home and staying back with my parents for a few months in between trips has helped me save up loads of money. However, for the last year, I’ve been in Australia where I have been living independently in a flatshare,  working and looking after myself. The whole moving out thing has been pretty straightforward and while it is harder to save up money now I’m paying rent and buying my own groceries, I get by.

10.  I made lots of new friends

The social aspect is another huge drawing point for going to university. However, I can vouch for the fact that the last few years travelling has given me more new friends than I’ve ever had in my life. I’ve met so many amazing and truly inspirational people from all over the world through work, internships, through my friend’s uni friends and throughout all of my travels. The only negative about having friends spread out all over the place is that it can be tricky to stay in touch. It’s hard when you do things on a daily basis with a person while travelling and then you suddenly have to say goodbye.

People are often surprised to hear that I didn’t do a degree. You see, not completing further education goes against the norm and it’s a shame there’s still such a taboo against not going. We have to realise that everyone is different and a degree isn’t right, nor is it necessary, for everyone. I wanted to write this post to discuss some of the benefits that come from not going to uni and to show that a lack of further education doesn’t mean you have to work in retail for the rest of your life either.

Do you have any more questions about any of the topics mentioned in this post or do you have a similar story? Feel free to drop me a message here. 

What You REALLY Need To Pack For A Working Holiday In Australia

Featured

Packing for a trip is difficult but packing for an Australian Working Holiday is something else. You’ve got to cram enough clothes, cosmetics and gadgets into your bag for at least 12 months, not to mention the fact that you have to accommodate for the cold Australian winter, hot summer and possibly think about work clothes too: It’s no surprise that packing for a working holiday can be overwhelming.

When I told my friends that I was going to live for a year out of what I could fit into a backpack, some of them thought I was crazy.  Now months on, I can say that it’s been pretty easy and despite picking up a few items of clothing along the way, so far I’ve managed pretty well with what I came with.

If you too now face the struggle of packing for a working holiday in Australia, don’t stress- I’ve got you covered. Here’s my ultimate Australia working holiday packing list.

Clothes

The majority of space in my backpack was taken up with clothes but in all honesty, if you are going away for a year then you are going to need quite a few changes of outfits. I’m really happy with the number of clothes that I bought to Australia and apart from a couple of things to get me through the Melbourne winter (like a coat and jumper) I’ve just been wearing what I came with.

  • 2x long flowy trousers (suitable for hot and cold weather)
  • 1x jeans
  • 2x skirt (one good for evenings)
  • 2 x shorts
  • 2 x dress 
  • 1 x trainers
  • 1 x converse
  • 1 x flip flops and/or sandals (suitable for evenings)
  • 8 x basic short sleeve tops
  • 2 x evening tops
  • 2 x bikini
  • 2 x sweatshirts
  •  1 x set workout clothes (leggings, shorts, top, sports bra) 
  • 1 x lightweight waterproof jacket
  • 1 x tote bag, 1 x evening, small bag, 1 x day backpack (for hand luggage) 
  • underwear
  • pyjamas: shorts and top

Essentials

  • Passport
  • Insurance
  • Your Working Holiday Visa
  • Australian Money and debit/credit cards

Gadgets

  • Laptop
  • Phone
  • Kindle 
  • Australian adapter
  • Portable phone charger
  • Extension lead

Cosmetics

  • Hairbrush
  • Dry shampoo
  • Shampoo, conditioner
  • Face Wash
  • Toothbrush/ paste
  • Basic makeup and something special for evenings
  • Nail scissors
  • Mosquito repellent
  • prescription drugs

Travel Accessories

  • Wallet to keep documents organised
  • Money belt/ bumbag 
  • Passport cover
  • Travel socks
  • Padlock
  • Travel journal and pens 
  • Waterproof cover for backpack

Other things

  • 1 towel
  • 1 x sarong 
  • 1 flannel/ small towel
  • Cutlery set 
  • Small sewing kit
  • Small year diary (useful when working)
  • Tea and favourite snacks from home
  • A notebook

The things I am really glad I brought (and what I wish I’d packed)

  • My travel Journal- I kept my journal the entire time that I travelled the East Coast and I am so happy that I did. Now I have a record of my travels that I can keep for years to come.
  • Workout clothes- Personally, I couldn’t have survived a year without exercising so I’m really happy I brought my workout clothes with me on this trip. I think its a good idea to have a pair of workout shorts and leggings so that you’re prepared for the summer, winter and cold air con temperatures.
  • Kindle- My backpack used to be 50% full of books so having a Kindle has been a game changer. I can’t recommend the Kindle Paperwhite enough. It holds loads of books, has a low glare and I hardly ever have to charge it. The great thing about the Kindle is that it’s compact and you can even read it in the dark- great for hostel dorms. 
  • Laptop- My laptop is the one thing I use every single day and I can’t belive I almost didn’t bring it. As I was travelling in Australia and then later in Asia, I was worried about it getting damaged or stolen however so far, all of the hostels have had lockers and I couldn’t have done either of my internships or blogging without it. 
  • Evening tops- Going out in the evenings is Australia is somewhat dressy so having a couple of nice evening tops is essential. 

What I wish I’d packed

  • In hindsight, I wish I’d bought my hair straighter as it’s nice when I want to make more of an effort in the evenings
  • Sandals- I only came with flip flops so I ended up having to buy nice sandals that I could wear out in the evenings to bars and nice restaurants.
  • A deck of cards- A necessity for all trips- not really a big issue though as I was able to pick up a pack pretty easily
  • Warmer clothes- I didn’t anticipate that I’d stay in Australia for as long as I have therefore I wasn’t that well prepared for the winter in Melbourne. It hasn’t really been an issue as I was able to buy everything that  I needed but it’s just a heads up- Australia isn’t always hot.
  • A cheap phone- Seeing as I needed a phone for Australia and also Asia afterwards, I decided to buy a cheap brick phone that I could use for calls and texts with a local sim card. This wasn’t expensive to buy but if you have one at home it’s better to bring it and save the hassle.

Packing for a working holiday can be overwhelming but it’s important to remember that the fundamental things that you need are just the same as any other trip. A year is a long time and it’s just not possible to pack everything you need. However, the great thing about Australia is that you can buy everything there so as long as you have your passport, money and your working holiday visa, all of the other stuff is expendable.

Do you have any more questions about doing a Working Holiday in Australia? Feel free to drop me a message or check out my guide on what to do when you arrive.  guide on what to do when you arrive. 

 

Melbourne In 48 Hours: A 20-Something’s Travel Guide

FeaturedMelbourne In 48 Hours: A 20-Something's Travel Guide

I’d go as far as to say that Melbourne is my favourite city ever. Yes, even out of the grandeur of New York, the glamour of Paris and the chaoticness of Hanoi, there’s just something about this Australian city that ticks all the boxes for me.

After living and working here now for six months on my Working Holiday, I can vouch for the fact that two days isn’t nearly enough time to spend in Melbourne- I mean, in my opinion, half a year hasn’t been enough. However, if you’re only visiting for a long weekend,  let me take the research and getting lost out of your Melbourne city break for you.

So, with everything from rooftop bars to street art and markets to choose from, it’s time to start exploring. Here’s how to spend 48 hours in Melbourne.

australia working holiday melbourne

Friday Night

Eat dumplings in Chinatown for under $10

You touch down in Melbourne on a Friday night and there can only be one thing on the agenda: drinks. Well, food then drinks. First stop should be Chinatown which is primarily located on the eastern end of Little Bourke Street. There are loads of places to pick up a cheap, quick dinner here especially when it comes to a Melbournian favourite-dumplings.

See the city from a hidden rooftop bar 

As you’re in the area, next head to the Rooftop bar on Swanston street. This fab bar is located in an unassuming building but it has great views once you get to the top, and it even doubles up as a rooftop cinema. My advice? Go for the Aperol Spritzes which are only an affordable $12.

If you fancy carrying on drinking, there are loads of great bars in the city. A few of my favourites are the Carlton Club rooftop, Garden State Hotel and Whitehart Bar.

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Go ‘out out’ in Chapel Street 

There are so many options when it comes to going out in Melbourne but for 20-somethings, Chapel Street is a firm favourite. You can get there by tram, or even easier by Uber, and there are loads of clubs and bars to choose from such as Lucky Coq and Melbourne Institution, Revs.

Saturday

I hope you didn’t get too wasted last night because there’s a lot to explore.

Stop by Flinders Street Station

To orientate yourself, head to the architectural beautiful Flinders Street Station, the centre of the city.

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Treat yourself to Brunch in Degraves Street or Centre Place 

From here cross over Flinders Street and explore two of Melbourne’s best Laneway’s, Degraves Street and Centre Place. There are loads of cafes and brunch restaurants here so it’s the best place to fuel up for the day. Melbourne is famous for its coffee so don’t forget to order a Flat White while in the city.

Stop by Melbourne’s Victorian tea rooms in the Block Arcade

The next laneway up from Centre Place is Block Arcade. This beautiful arcade was build in the Victorian era and it gets its name after an old tradition that locals used to do before a football match, in which the men would ‘walk the block’ in one direction and the women in the other.

Make sure that you schedule some time to stop off at the Block Arcade’s Victorian Hopetoun Tea Rooms for cake at some point in your trip.

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Enjoy Melbourne’s Famous Street Art 

After this, it’s time to see one of the things Melbourne is most known for- street art. There is so much great street art around the city but the best laneways to spot it in are Hozier Lane and AC/DC Lane. Unlike in a lot of cities, in Melbourne, most of the street art is done by licensed graffiti artists meaning that the quality of work is very high. Because of this the streets kind of double up like an ever-changing art exhibition as new graffiti is added on top of the old constantly.

Walk to the Botanic Gardens

Now it’s time to relax so pick up some lunch and head back to Flinders Street Station. From here you can cross over the river and walk along it until you reach the Royal Botanic Gardens. The gardens are by far tone of the most beautiful green spaces in Melbourne to relax and enjoy the sun.

See the city skyline for free at the Shrine of Remembrance

When you’re done, cross over the road and stop by The Shrine of Remembrance for fantastic views of the city skyline. Then you can hop on the tram back to Federation Square/ Flinders Street Station.

Make it to Southbank for happy hour drinks 

For the early evening, you have to head to Southbank for drinks. There are so many great bars here to choose from, with lots of them offering happy hours, so if it’s cocktails that you’re after then that’s the best bet. My favourite one is the Arbory Afloat, although this is only up in the warmer months, as well as Pony Fish Island.

Melbourne: Must Do's For 20-Somethings

Stop by Lygon Street for Melbourne’s best Italian food

When it comes to dinner, you have to go to Lygon Street in Carlton, Melbourne’s Little Italy. DOC PIzzeria boasts the best pizza in the city and it even has it’s own mozzarella bar however bear in mind that it’s only open for dinner. Other popular establishments on Lygon Street include Pidapipo for Melbourne’s best gelato and Brunetti, the best cakes.

Finish off at the Eureka tower for panoramic city views 

If you’re still itching to see more of the city, head up to the Eureka Tower observation deck for views over the whole city.

Sunday

Spend some money at the Queen Victoria Market

Sunday Mornings are made to spent at The Queen Victoria Market. Open 5 days a week, and also once weekly in the evening for the night market, the market is a Melbourne institution for foodies with everything from Turkish boreks, artisan chocolate,  fresh fruit and all kind of nic nacks available. The market is great any day of the week but it stays open longer on a Sunday and has a lot more going on such as live music and giveaways.

Admire the State Library of Victoria

As you’re at that end of town, walk over to Lonsdale Steet and stop by the State Library of Victoria, one of the most beautiful libraries around.

Melbourne: Must Do's For 20-Somethings

Relax on the beach at St Kilda 

No trip to Melbourne is complete without visiting the beach so from here hop on the tram to St Kilda. Melbourne’s most popular beach area, St Kilda boasts a long sandy beach, the historic Luna Park fairground and plenty of bars, cafes and restaurants to keep you entertained.

Treat yourself to a boozy brunch 

Sundays are made for bottomless brunch and there are so many places along the beach esplanade or on nearby Ackland Street to choose from.

Or admire the art at The National Gallery of Victoria (NGV)

If the weather’s not good, then alternatively head to the NGV gallery and spend a few hours wandering around and enjoying the exhibitions there.

Melbourne In 48 Hours: A 20-Something's Travel Guide

Useful things to know

Getting around

  • Melbourne’s city centre is very walkable and there are free trams in the city centre. If you want to get the tram further out of the city to places such as Lygon Street or St Kilda then you need to purchase a MYKI. You can get these from Seven Eleven, the train stations or alternatively just use the mobile app. Then once you’ve loaded this up, just tap on when you get on the tram.
  • City Mapper and the PTV app are both useful apps when it comes to public transport.
  •  If you need internet then you can use the free Vic wifi which works in most of the CBD. Melbourne’s CBD follows a grid structure so it’s fairly easy to orientate yourself.

Melbourne Hacks

  • There’s always another event or festival going on in Melbourne so if you want to be in the know, be sure to follow both Timeout and Concrete Playground on Facebook and Twitter.
  • If you want to find happy hours, then you need the app, the Happiest Hour. 
  • The weather in Melbourne is changeable so bring layers and an umbrella.

More things to do 

  • There’s so much to do in the areas outside of the CBD. If you have time then places such as Brunswick, South Melbourne and Fitzroy are all worth exploring.
  • Popular day trips from Melbourne include: The Great Ocean Road, The Grampians, Wine tasting in the Yarra Valley, Sorrento and Philip Island.

I hope that you have plenty of Melbourne related inspiration to help plan your city break. If you have any more Melbourne related questions then don’t hesitate to drop me a message or leave a comment below. 

Australia Working Holiday: Expectations Vs Reality

FeaturedAustralia Working Holiday: Expectations Vs Reality

Before I arrived in Australia, I wrote a blog post, 10 Things That Worry Me About My Australian Working Holiday (And Why I’m Going Anyway). It seems I had a lot of expectations and concerns before I arrived here. Now, six months on, I feel that I’ve been here long enough to address each of those points. So, here we go.

Australia Working Holiday: Expectations Vs Reality

1.Worry: The long flight

Yes, the flight here was long. In fact, I left the UK on a Tuesday and basically didn’t arrive here until Thursday… However, once you’re here, you’re here and it’s practically obligatory to break up the flight back home with a trip to Asia.

2. Worry: The Wildlife

Ok, to all the people scaremongering about Australian wildlife- please stop. Before I came, people made it seem like I’d be coming across poisonous spiders and finding snakes down the toilet on a daily basis. In fact, I’ve hardly seen more than a couple of spiders here, and that includes all the time that I spend on camping in the jungle and being outdoors 24/7 on Fraser Island. What’s more, in Melbourne I have seen nothing dangerous whatsoever.

3. Worry: Missing people at home

Of course, I miss people at home and if Melbourne was closer to England, it really would be the ideal place. However, I have made a lot of friends here too, people that I’ll now miss when I leave here.

Australia Working Holiday: Expectations Vs Reality

4. Worry: Not finding a job

Like I mentioned in my last post, not only have I managed to find two internships and two jobs here, but I’ve actually been getting more work experience here than I ever have in my life. In terms of money, Australia hasn’t been as expensive as I thought however with paying rent and not compromising on having fun, It’s generally more a case of money in vs money out than actually saving up lots.

5. Worry: The prospect of living in a hostel long term

I loved the hostel that I stayed in Melbourne called United Backpackers and I made some great friends there. In all honesty, I probably would have stayed there the whole time if it hadn’t have worked out so much cheaper to flat share.

Finding a flat is so easy on the Facebook pages like Fairy Floss for backpackers and in hindsight, I’m so happy that I did get my own place. I love having more space than in the hostel and I’m so lucky with my flatmates too. My favourite thing about my flat here is that it’s in the heart of the city, right over the road from the market so I can pick up fresh bread and fruit on an almost daily basis. I’m not embarrassed to say, me and friend still go back for a drink at our old hostel bar from time to time though.

Australia Working Holiday: Expectations Vs Reality

6. Worry: Not knowing what clothes to pack

I actually think I did quite well with packing and easily could have survived on what I brought here. However, of course, I’ve ended up doing a lot of clothes shopping out here. Now my biggest concern is not being able to fit in all into my backpack when I leave.

7. Worry: A hot Christmas

I’m not going to lie, Christmas was weird. Having a hot Christmas was an interesting experience and I was so lucky to have such a lovely group of friends here to celebrate it with. Going out on Christmas Eve and going to the beach the next day was a laugh, but I wouldn’t want to miss another Christmas away from home. Having a hot New year on the other hand, was fantastic.

Australia Working Holiday: Expectations Vs Reality

8. Worry: Not being able to drive

Now I’m in Melbourne, it would be nice to have the freedom to drive and take road trips to places like the Ocean Road and the Yarra Valley by myself. However, Australia was not without its road trips for me. I was very lucky that I ended up travelling with people who could drive so I got to do plenty of road trips including a fantastic five-day campervan trip.

To be honest, when it comes to the east coast, a car isn’t really necessary as you can do it all via Greyhound bus, which is how the majority of backpackers get around anyway.

Australia Working Holiday: Expectations Vs Reality

9. Worry: Balancing travel and work

I am really happy with the way I did Australia. I backpacked the east coast shortly after I arrived, flying up to Cairns and working my way back down to Melbourne. This worked well as the weather was better at this time, I had money saved and I got the wanderlust feeling out of my system. Now I’m in Melbourne, I am working a lot but I enjoy it and I have enough time here that I’m able to explore the city well too.

10. Worry: Not being able to get tea

Australia has two things, great coffee and great tea. There have been no tea issues here, in fact, they have Twinings just like at home (which is good because I ran out of my supply that I brought from home about a month in). In fact, the funny thing about Australia is that they have many of the same brands as at home, and contrary to what some might say, I really can’t taste a difference between Vegemite and Marmite…

So, six months on, it seemed I needn’t have worried. A working holiday, like most things in life, just ends up working itself out. 

Are you going on a working holiday and do you have any questions or concerns? Comment below and let me know. 

Melbourne: Must Do’s For 20-Somethings

FeaturedMelbourne: Must Do's For 20-Somethings

A 20-Something Travel Bucket-List for Melbourne, Australia

Visiting a city like Melbourne can be really overwhelming if you’re pushed for time. With its fantastic coffee culture, quirky hidden bars and an ever-growing calendar of events to go to, it’s easy to see why Melbourne’s voted one of the worlds most livable cities time and time again. After having lived and worked here for a few months on my Working Holiday, I’ve totally fallen in love with the lifestyle here. However, if you don’t have quite as long to explore, I’ve written this list of things you absolutely must do if travelling to Melbourne.

1. Eat cheap Dumplings in Chinatown

You haven’t done Melbourne until you’ve ordered a plate of steaming hot dumplings in Chinatown. Thanks to the cities huge Chinese population, there are countless places to eat dumplings throughout the city and they needn’t cost more than $10 a portion. Steamed, fried, pork or prawn, whatever your favourite, be sure to treat yourself to some of these delicious balls of dough.  Aside from Chinatown, you could also give the dumplings at Shandong MaMa Mini a go and tick off food and an iconic Melbourne Laneway all in one sitting.

Melbourne: Must Do's For 20-Somethings

2. Watch a Movie on a rooftop (or in the Botanical Gardens)

I was going to try and pick just one of these quirky cinemas to suggest in this post but I just couldn’t pick. Firstly there’s the rooftop cinema, located on the top floor of a tall building on Swanston Street. With its deckchairs, cocktail bar and fantastic city views, this impressive place would be an ideal place for a date that dreams are made of.

Secondly, the Moonlight Cinema is another fantastic outdoor cinema, only this one is located in the heart of the Botanical Gardens. Ideal for a chilled evening with friends, this cinema is only around for the summer and shows well-known movies every night. Be sure to bring a picnic mat, some blankets and plenty of snacks.

Melbourne: Must Do's For 20-Somethings

3. Spend Wednesday evening at the Queen Vic Night Market

Wednesday nights in Melbourne are for the Queen Vic Night Market. During Summer this popular Melbourne market extends its opening hours and packs full of street food vendors, boutique stalls, live music and other pop-ups. There’s an eclectic mix of food showcasing the best of what the city has to offer with everything from Polish dumplings and mini pavlovas to halloumi fries and juicy bao buns to choose from. Be sure to grab a Gin and Tonic from one of the pop-up bars and get stuck in.

4. See the Weekend off at a Day Party

Saturday nights are for going, Sundays are for day parties. Day Parties are a big thing at the weekend in Melbourne and are essentially a continuation of Saturday nights fun. Bottomless brunch, Aperol Spritzes and live music are essential. The most famous of all weekend party destinations? The ESPY, with weekend brunch from 10 and the best of live music gigs most evenings.

Melbourne: Must Do's For 20-Somethings

5. Bring a book to the State Library of Victoria

The State Libray of Victoria is one of my favourite places to spend a quiet afternoon in the city. This beautiful building is well known as one of the most photogenic places in Melbourne because of its stunning interior. It’s free to enter and with its wifi and plenty of desk space, there could be no nicer place to bring a book and relax.

6. Have a drink on all floors of the Carlton Club

The Carlton Club is one of those Melbourne Bars that I’ll never get bored of. Located right in the heart of the city, the Carlton Club has loads of differently themed quirky bars on each floor. From the Carlton bar with its eclectic decor of huge wild animal sculptures to the Hasti Bala jungle themed room, this crazy place isn’t your usual spot for Friday night drinks. My favourite is the Palmz rooftop bar on the top level with affordable drinks and crazy views of the city skyline.

Melbourne: Must Do's For 20-Somethings

7. Be a hipster in Fitzroy

Located just a short tram ride out of the city centre, Fitzroy is a must visit area in the city when it comes to eating and drinking. Known as the cities hipster area, Fitzroy is a popular place for 20-Somethings due to its many bars, vegan/ brunch style restaurants, its vintage clothes shops and vast street art. Popular places include Veggie Bar for vegan/vegetarian food, Naked in the Sky rooftop bar, Lune Croissanterie for the worlds best croissants as voted by Time out and Industry Beans for coffee.

Melbourne: Must Do's For 20-Somethings

8. Get a Flat White Coffee

Melbourne is infamous for its love affair with coffee and it’s true when they say that it’s hard to find a bad cup of coffee in the city. The city is packed full of Independent speciality coffee shops and there’s hardly a Starbucks in sight. To order your coffee like a Melburnian ask for either a Flat White (with milk) or a Long Black. You can check out my list of favourite Melbourne cafes here. 

9. Indulge your sweet tooth at Brunetti

Ask a local where to get the best cake in Melbourne and they’ll give you one answer: Brunetti. Set up in Melbourne in 1985 by an Italian family, Brunetti has been serving up the most delicious and aesthetically pleasing cakes and pastries in the city ever since. Now the Italian cake shop has expanded to several locations over the city but its exceptional quality of cakes is still as highly regarded. So, whether it’s cheesecake, cream cakes, fresh pastries or tarts, if it’s dessert that you’re after then it has to be Brunetti.

Melbourne: Must Do's For 20-Somethings

10. Philip Island Day Trip

Most people do the Great Ocean Road from Melbourne but another day trip that in my opinion is even better is Philip Island. This gorgeous island is located just 140km from the city and offers spectacular scenery. Spend the day driving around, taking coastal walks, stopping off at secluded beaches and spotting wild kangaroos. Philip Island really is a taste of the real Australia and the ultimate city break.

Melbourne: Must Do's For 20-Somethings

11. Take your Insta’s at the Brighton Beach Bathing Boxes

While St Kilda Beach has got all the atmosphere, it’s hard to beat the colourful bathing boxes located on Melbourne’s Brighton Beach. Each unique in their own right, these bright little beach huts offer an explosion of colour on this sandy Melbourne beach making it easily one of the most photogenic places in the city. The best way to get there is by train from Flinders Station and then you can take the short coastal walk to St Kilda after and tram back from there.

Melbourne: Must Do's For 20-Somethings

12. Hit the Arbory Afloat for Cocktail O’Clock

Arbory Afloat is one of my favourite Melbourne Bars. Located on a raft right on the river, this pop-up part of the Arbory bar is the nicest place to spend a sunny afternoon in Melbourne. It’s free to enter and offers affordable drinks, great music and unbeatable views of Southbank. Aperol Spritzes are obligatory.

Melbourne: Must Do's For 20-Somethings

13. Have the best Pizza in Melbourne at Lygon Street

Lygon Street in Carlton is Melbourne’s Little Italy and home to some of the best food in the city. Take a stroll along this street and be transported to Italy as you pass numerous Italian eateries offering alfresco dining and past locals tucking into mouthwatering plates of spaghetti. Lygon street is, of course, infamous for having the best pizza in the city with the best out of all of them being DOC Pizzeria. This popular eatery offers the very best artisan pizzas as well as a mozzarella bar in which you can sample cheese from all over Italy. (If you’re after something sweet for dessert, Pidapipo nearby has the best gelato in the city including Nutella sauce on tap).

I hope that this post has given you some Melbourne related inspiration. There are endless things to do in Melbourne as a 20-Something and even after spending a few months here, I’ve not covered half of the thing on my list. Stay tuned for more Melbourne related posts coming up on the blog soon.

What are your favourite things to do in Melbourne? Comment below to let me know. 

 

Melbourne: Two Quirky Cafes To Try This Week

Featuredmelbourne little rogue coffee

Little Rogue Coffee and Brother Baba Budan, Melbourne

I can’t believe that it’s already February! Life just seems to be going by way too quickly here in Melbourne. At the start of the new year, I decided that 2019 was going to be the year that I really push myself to achieve my goals (or at least try to). As I’m in Australia on my working holiday, I figured starting the year off on the other side of the world was a good place to start.

So far in between working, writing and seeing friends, It’s fair to say that I’ve not had much downtime. However, there’s always time for coffee (or in this case a Matcha) and I wanted to share a couple of quirky Melbourne cafe with you guys that I’ve stumbled across recently.

melbourne little rogue coffee

melbourne Little Rogue Coffee

melbourne little rogue coffee

Melbourne Little Rogue Coffee

Melbourne Little Rogue Coffee

L I T T L E  R O G U E  C O F F E E 

I’d never really got into the whole Matcha thing. That is until I came to Little Rogue. Their little menu has four main drink options: Black, White, Sakuratte (I’ll be doing a specific post about this drink soon) and Matcha. I’d seen photos of their Matcha lattes online so I decided to pass on my usual Flat White and give it a try: I’m so glad I did. The matcha latte comes slightly sweetened, with really balances out the strong taste of the green tea powder. It was so delicious and I honestly have been daydreaming about it ever since.

I was recommended this cafe by my flatmate’s boyfriend and I don’t think I would have found it on my own. Little Rogue is tucked down a graffiti-filled alleyway and there’s very little to indicate it’s there at all apart from the occasional person emerging through a non-descript door carrying coffee. This quirky cafe even markets itself as being ‘the blue door next to the white cat’.

The cafe is really small inside so the best way to guarantee a seat is to go by yourself. However, if you can bag a seat, It’s one of the most relaxing cafes in Melbourne to pass the time. Little Rogue also has a small selection of cakes to choose from including a delicious looking matcha cheesecake. I’ll be back soon.

melbourne cafe brother baba budanmelbourne cafe brother baba budan

B R O T H E R  B A B A  B U D A N 
I have been wanting to visit this eclectic cafe for a while now and I finally stopped by the other day. This cafe is hailed by coffee snobs all over Melbourne for its fantastic coffee and highly trained barista’s. However, what I went there for, was the aesthetics. Brother Baba Budan has the craziest decor around, with a whole load of chairs hanging off the ceiling: great for your Insta’s. They probably could have done with a few of those on the floor, to be honest, the only downside is that seating is pretty sparse.

There are lots of new blog posts and exciting projects coming up over the next few so stay tuned on the blog. I’m also always on the lookout for any Melbourne related recommendations so please drop me a message if you have any recommendations too.

El Salvador: Three Places To Add To Your Bucket List

Featuredtravel guide el salvador

El Salvador is a country that doesn’t see much in the way of tourism, which is a shame considering how fantastic El Salvador is. Often overshadowed by Central America’s more popular countries like Guatemala and Costa Rica, tiny El Salvador is often missed out by travellers backpacking in the region. However, with its colonial towns, friendly locals and diverse scenery, El Salvador is a must visit destination in Central America in its own right. Here are three places that you won’t want to miss.

travel guide el salvador el tunco

travel guide el salvador el tunco

travel guide el salvador el tunco

El Tunco

A line of palm trees is that separates the sleepy streets of El Tunco’s town from the sandy beach. This quiet town is made up of just a couple of streets and is predominately a surfing town due to its great waves. The small amount of tourism that it gets means that the town has it’s fair few cafes, restaurants and hostels, however, it remains largely untouched. El Salvadoran’s are some of the friendliest people in Central America and I guarantee you you’ll feel right at home in this chilled beachside town. If you’ve never surfed before then you can give the sport a go at one of the surf schools or simply spend the day relaxing at the beach.

When it comes to eating, you have to try Pupusas: an El Salvadoran speciality. These hand-made flatbread are stuffed with anything from black beans to pork and cheese and are then baked on a hot grill.  They are then served with sides such as cabbage slaw and tomato relish that you can help yourself to from the table. The best place to get these is at local pupuserias: bustling eateries, packed with local families grabbing a quick dinner. Pupusas only cost a dollar each and are freshly made upon order so it’s best to start with one and take it from there. You have to stop by Tunco Bonita in El Tunco for the best pupusas around.

travel guide el salvador suchitoto

travel guide el salvador suchitoto

travel guide el salvador suchitoto

travel guide el salvador suchitoto
View from Cafe 1800

Suchitoto

Sleepy Suchitoto is a fascinating colonial town in El Salvador. The colourful Spanish architecture and winding cobblestone street in this town give Central America’s more famous destinations such as Antigua, Guatemala and Granada in Nicaragua, a run for their money.

The town really is a photographer’s paradise and with so many winding roads and hidden courtyards to explore, it really is a delight to walk around. While it is largely untouched, Suchitoto experiences a small amount of tourism, mainly due to tour groups so there are a few international style cafes where you can pick up a nice coffee and some brunch food.

One place you have to visit is  Cafe 1800. This stunning outdoors cafe has unbeatable views over the lake below and is honestly one of the most stunning places I have ever had my coffee fix.

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Tamanique and Jauaya Waterfalls

For a tiny country, El Salvador packs in a large number of stunning waterfalls. Some of the most impressive ones are the Tamanique waterfalls which you can easily do on a day trip from El Tunco.  The ones located just outside of the town Juayua also looked fantastic but sadly I didn’t get around to visiting these on my Central America tour. Alexandra has some amazing photos and waterfall suggestions for El Salvador in her blog though.

One of the most common questions that I get asked about my travels in Central America is, was it safe? While there are some problems with gangs and political demonstrations in the region, it generally felt very safe and I never felt uncomfortable throughout my one-month backpacking. If you are anxious then I would highly recommend doing Central America on a group tour, like I did with G Adventures. This was great because I got to travel with a fantastic group of people and we had the advantage of travelling with a tour guide who knew the area.

You can read my review of my Central America tour here. 

10 things I learnt from a Thai monk

Featuredchiang mai wat scan don temple thai monk chat

Chiang Mai is a popular base for activities in Northern Thailand amongst backpackers. With everything from zip lining, cooking classes, bamboo rafting and visiting elephants to choose from, me and my limited time frame were completely overwhelmed. In the end I opted for one of the lesser known things to do in Chiang Mai and in my opinion, one of the most interesting: a Thai monk chat.

What is a monk chat? 

Being a Buddhist country, monks aren’t hard to come across in Thailand but for many tourists, monks remain shrouded in secrecy. However from Monday to Friday tourists can visit the Buddhist university campus at the Wat Suan Don temple in Chiang Mai and talk in a one on one session, or quite literally, a monk chat.

The sessions are held with young monks and are a chance for you to learn about their way of life and their beliefs. In return it’s a way to learn about your own culture and a way in which to practice their English. Monk chats are free but it’s polite to make a small donation.

At first the experience was a little daunting. It wasn’t until I got into the temple that I thought, “what am I actually going to ask this monk?” Of course once I got in, the questions kept coming.

Here’s what I learnt from my Thai monk chat.

1.What do monks do most days? 

Every day starts early for a monk. They wake up at 4am each morning and then pray and walk through the town to receive offerings from the public. They have lessons and then give thanks for their food and eat lunch. They spend the afternoon reading and teaching and then go to bed early at nine.

2. How many rules do monks have to live by?

There are 227 rules that monks must follow.

3. Who can become a monk?

Most Buddhist Thai boys will be a monk for a short period of their life. If a person wants to become a monk much later in life, they generally will become a novice. A novice only had 10 rules.

4. Do you have a rest/ sacred day? 

There is no set special day in the week, as Sunday is for Christians. Rather their sacred days are determined by the moon for example, full moon, half-moon and quarter moon.

5. What do you eat?

What they eat is dependent on what they get given on their walks in the morning. Monks should accept all the food they are given, even if they do not like it. This food can be shared out amongst them back at the temple.

6. Do you eat meat?

One of the Buddhist rules is that they must not harm another living being. I asked, why do some monks eat meat? Apparently as long as they do not do or the see the killing themselves, it is ok.

7. Do you ever get free time?

Monks are allowed leisure activities in their free time however they must participate in the ‘right kind of activities’. They are allowed phones and social media to communicate but it should be used only for that. The monk I spoke to told me that he just likes to nap and listen to music in his spare time.

8. Are you allowed to travel?

Monks are allowed to travel but it must not just be for leisure, there must be some greater reason, for example to learn or to teach.

9. Why do people become monks?

He said there are many reasons why people choose to become Monks. One is they have strong sense of belief. Another is that the level of education they receive is much better in monk school than in general schools. He also said many boys choose to be monks after suffering a loss such as the death of a family member.

10. I asked, what buddhist values should I take with me today?

He said everyone should adopt some Buddhist values in their life. He said we should all focus on spreading health, happiness, kindness and compassion in our lives. If there is no happiness in your life than that is no life.

* I hope you enjoyed this blog post. Feel free to send me a message or leave a comment below if you have any questions. I’m happy to help.

Feel free to check out the rest of my blog for more travel tales. I focus on 20 something travel and cafes around the world.  Alternatively browse my posts by destination.

Melbourne: The Best Cafes For 20- Somethings

FeaturedMelbourne: The Best Cafes For 20- Somethings

I thought that it was time for a bit of Melbourne-related cafe inspiration today and in particular, cafes that are great for 20-somethings. I know that there’s nothing more that my generation loves than spending all of our money eating and drinking but we’re very picky about where we go. It goes without saying that Melbourne with its endlessly growing choice of cafes, is a fantastic city to be a 20-something in, however with so many great cafes to choose from, it can be exhausting trying to choose where to go- especially before you’ve got that coffee in your system, right?

To help you out I’ve put together this list of my favourite cafes for 20-somethings in Melbourne’s CBD. These are cafes serving great coffee and food, with chilled staff, space to sit and work and most importantly, these are cafes that don’t feel imposing to go in to.

Here’s my list of the best cafes for 20-somethings in Melbourne’s CBD

Melbourne: The Best Cafes For 20- Somethings

V A C A T I O N  C A F E

1 Exhibition Street, Melbourne, 3000

Vacation is a really chilled, spacious and welcoming cafe in the heart of Melbourne’s CBD. It’s contemporary and bright decor makes it seem like it would be more suited at the beach than in the heart of the hustle and bustle of the city: hence the name I’m guessing. 

Melbourne: The Best Cafes For 20- Somethings

M R  T U L K 

32 Swanston Street, Melbourne, 3000

 Mr Tulk is probably my favourite cafe in Melbourne and it’s quickly becoming one of my regular haunts. This bustling cafe is located right next to the beautiful State Library (a place that everyone visiting Melbourne needs to check out) and its location, plus the fact it was named after the library’s first chief librarian, has transformed the cafe into a student hangout and an ideal place to work or study. If you’re after food then their house -made banana special is award winning- Just saying. 

Melbourne: The Best Cafes For 20- Somethings

B R O T H E R  B A B A  B U D A N 

359 Little Bourke Street, Melbourne, 3000

Brother Baba Budan is one Instagrammable Melbourne cafe for sure. This tiny cafe is tucked away on Little Bourke Street and has a really quirky decor with loads of chairs hanging off the ceiling. The baristas are super chilled and the coffee is fantastic. It definitely wins the cool for me.

Melbourne Little Rogue Coffee

L I T T L E  R O G U E 

12 Drewery Lane, Melbourne, 3000

This cosy little cafe is tucked down an alleyway and you wouldn’t know it was there if you weren’t looking for it. This cafe has such a chilled vibe and it’s the nicest place to spend an afternoon in the city. Little Rogue does great coffee but what’s it’s really known for are it’s matcha latte’s- in my opinion the best in all of Melbourne.

Melbourne: The Best Cafes For 20- Somethings

D U K E S  C O F F E E  R O A S T E R S

247-251 Flinders Lane, Melbourne, 3000

You know how I said that us 20 -somethings are picky when it comes to cafes, well you can rest assured that Duke’s really is one of the best in Melbourne. This well established cafe is really popular and it’s best to get there really early if you want to bag a table. Even if you do have a wait though, it’s worth it for a fantastic cup of their own roasted coffee and their huge cake and pastry selection. Great vegan options available.

Melbourne: The Best Cafes For 20- Somethings

J O U R N A L  C A F E

253 Flinders Lane, Melbourne, 3000

Journal cafe is about as Melbournian a cafe as you can get so it’s great if you want to feel just like a local. Journal is located in the city centre on bustling Flinders Lane in the same building as the City Library. It’s the ideal place to grab a bite to eat and a cup of coffee in the morning. The upstairs canteen is the best place to people watch from as its window seats overlook the crowds wandering through the busy Centre Place laneway. 

Melbourne: The Best Cafes For 20- Somethings

T U L I P  C O F F E E

7 Delgraves Street, Melbourne, 3000

I love Tulip Coffee so much. It’s a really tiny little place located on Delgraves Street right opposite Flinders Station and it’s absolutely gorgeous. The staffs are always welcoming, the atmosphere is always calm and the whole place is pink so it’s another place that is good for your Insta’s.

melbourne cafe brother baba budan

 

I’ve only just touched the surface of Melbourne’s coffee scene in this blog post but don’t worry, I’ve got plenty more time here to explore and copious amounts of coffee to drink. Keep a lookout for my next post where I’ll be exploring the cafes in Melbourne’s inner-city suburbs such as Cartlon, Fitzroy, South Melbourne and St Kilda. Any must visit cafe recommendations? As always, drop me a comment below.

A 20-Something’s Travel Guide To Australia’s East Coast

Featuredeast coast Australia 20 something travel guide

Australia’s East Coast 20-Something Travel Guide: Best Things to do and Hostel Suggestions

I know that a lot of bloggers have done Australia East Coast backpacking guides however I wanted to do this travel guide specifically aimed at 20 somethings. This blog post includes all of my top East Coast recommendations including most importantly, which hostels to actually stay in at each place. I’ve not included a time frame: how long it takes simply depends on how quickly you travel. You could probably do it all in a month however I did it in just under two.

There’s a lot to see on Australia’s East Coast so if possible I really wouldn’t rush it. I’ve been asked a lot of times about my highlights and while the obvious: Fraser Island, Whitsundays, Byron Bay etc were on there, it was actually the lesser known places, the outwardly ‘less exciting’ destinations that really stick out for me. I’ve included these places in the list below.

I predominately did the East Coast by Greyhound bus, taking a few road trips in between. I know a lot of people will say that there are cheaper bus companies out there other than Greyhound and it’s true, but I went for that option simply because it was the easiest to organise.

In hindsight, a lot of things surprised me about travelling down Australia’s East Coast. It surprised me how beautiful it was, and yet how certain stops reminded me so much of other places closer to home. It actually surprised me how much cheaper it was than I’d expected (if you’re interested in this I can do a specific budgeting post). The other thing that I found really nice about backpacking the East Coast was that I kept bumping into the same people time and time again because everyone’s pretty much doing the same thing (only north or south). This is so great if you are a solo traveller.

 So, are you sitting comfortably? Here’s my 20-something travel guide to Australia’s East Coast.

A 20-Something's Travel Guide To Australia's East Coast

Cairns

Like most people, I started my East Coast travels in Cairns, at the top part of the East Coast. It made sense for me to start there and head downwards because I flew into Oz in October meaning that the upper part of the East Coast wasn’t too hot at that point and the lower part would be warm and sunny when I got there in December.

There’s not a heck of a lot to do in Cairns (apart from a night out at Woolshed maybe) however it’s great as a base to explore from so give yourself a few days there.

Things to do: 

The Great Barrier Reef

In terms of things to do I would recommend doing the Barrier Reef from Cairns as this is where most of the tours depart.

Waterfall Loop 

If you are able to you should also rent a car for a day, I would recommend doing this amazing self-drive waterfall and swimming hole loop. To do it drive south via the gillies highway, route 25 to Josephine Falls and then loop back on the A1 to Cairns. You’ll pass lots of waterfalls, swimming holes and lakes along the way. Alternatively, you visit them with an Uncle Brian’s tour if you can’t drive.

You can see my wild swimming recommendations here.

A 20-Something's Travel Guide To Australia's East Coast

Cape Tribulation (Four-day road trip) 

(More info below)

Where to stay in Cairns

Hostel wise, I would recommend Mad Monkey Backpackers Village. It’s centrally located, chilled yet sociable with good wi-fi, free breakfast, a small bar and a pool.

If you really want to party then the obvious choice would be Gilligan’s hostel. This party hostel is infamous and its club is the biggest in town (and costs a lot of money to go in if you’re not a hostel guest).

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Cape tribulation camper van road trip

From Cairns we rented a Wicked camper van and took a four day, three-night road trip north to Cape Tribulation and back. This was without a doubt one of the highlights of my trip and something that I would really recommend doing if you can.

Cape Tribulation is the highest point of the Daintree rainforest, a stunning area full of jungle hikes, swimming holes and gorgeous, empty beaches. There are a couple of hostels that you can stay in at Cape Tribulation but I liked the way we did it, renting the van and parking up at camp sites over night, then dropping the van back in Cairns.

These are the main places that we stopped on our road trip:

Day 1:

Palm Cove

Captain Cook Highway

Port Douglas

We stayed overnight at Pandanus Tourist Park campsite

Day 2:

Mossman Gorge

Cow Bay

Crossed over river from lower Daintree

We Camped overnight at Noah Beach Free Camp Site (must pre-book permit online)

Day 3:

Emmagen Creek

Cape Tribulation beach

Wonga Beach Camping overnight

Day 4:

Crocodile Cruise on Daintree River

Drove Back to Cairns

A 20-Something's Travel Guide To Australia's East Coast

Magnetic Island

Magnetic Island was one of the most beautiful places that we went to in Australia. Located just off the coast from Townsville on the mainland, Magnetic boasts gorgeous beaches, hidden coves, wild koalas amongst other wildlife and scenic hikes.

It’s a really popular backpacking destination, partly because getting around on the island is so fun. The roads are pretty rundown in part and the only way to get around is by renting these 4×4 open top jeeps and driving right over the massive potholes.

You can read my 20 Something travel guide to Magnetic Island here.

Where to Stay:

There are only two hostels on Magnetic Island. I stayed at both and I couldn’t fault either one.

Base is the party hostel and is a stunning hostel located right on the beach. Be sure coincide your trip with the boozy bingo on Monday nights.

YHA is a quieter hostel that’s located in the jungle. it’s a lot more peaceful but it really showcases the beauty of the island. You can spot wild koalas in the hostel grounds and even feed them there at one of the ‘Breakfast with Koalas mornings’.

A 20-Something's Travel Guide To Australia's East Coast

Airlie Beach and the Whitsunday Islands 

Our next stop was Airlie Beach, the jumping off point for the Whitsundays. Because it’s the Whitsunday’s we are talking out- the postcard Australia pictures- It’s advisable to book your Whitsundays tour as far in advance as possible.  You could probably leave booking it until a few days before but I wouldn’t recommend just turning up unless you just wanted to do a day trip.

What I did and what most people do, was an overnight yacht trip. There are loads of boats to choose from but the most popular backpacker and more partyish boats are Avatar and the Clipper. I went on Hammer which was I enjoyed a lot thanks to the great crew, snorkelling opportunities, nice boat and good food. However, it wasn’t that sociable and in hindsight, I wish I’d picked one of the more popular ones.

Airlie Beach

Because almost every backpacker goes to the Whitsunday, Airlie is a real backpacker town and it’s actually a good place to stay for a few days. The lagoon area is really nice and it’s great for a night out.

Where to stayNomads

None of the hostels were much to shout about however we stayed at the two main ones:  Magnums and Nomads. Out of the two Nomads was a nicer and more sociable hostel.

A 20-Something's Travel Guide To Australia's East Coast

1770 (Agnes Water) 

Quiet Agnes Water or 1770, holds a special place in my heart. This little surf town is often missed but it was definitely one of my favourite places in the East Coast and it offers a nice little respite in between the full-on itineraries of the Whitsundays and Fraser Island trips.

Those backpackers who do come to 1770 come because of its surf lessons which are known to be the cheapest in Australia’s east coast. We did do the reef 2 beach surf school here on our first day which was great and then ended up staying here for almost a week after that. If you’re up for nothing more than days spent at the beach and evenings playing cards and having a few drinks then this is the place for you.

Where to stay: Cool Bananas Hostel

Cool Bananas hostel really made my trip to 1770. It was one of my favourite hostels in Australia, not because it was the fanciest or the liveliest but simply because it was the most chilled and homely. The staff were lovely and the outdoor common area was a great place to chill.  It was in walking distance to the beach and as a hostel, It attracted a more laid back type of backpacker.

A 20-Something's Travel Guide To Australia's East Coast

Rainbow beach for Fraser Island 

Fraser Island tours depart from a few different towns including Rainbow Beach, Harvey Bay and Noosa.

We booked on Pippies tour which I would highly recommend. It’s one of the cheaper tours and includes self driving cars, camping on Fraser and the price includes everthing even food. We booked a three day, two night trip and this specific tour departed from Rainbow Beach.

There’s not a whole lot going on in Rainbow Beach as it’s just a stopping off point for Fraser so I wouldn’t recommend going if you don’t need to.

Where to stay: Pippies Guesthouse

We got a nights accommodation before and after our tour included in the price and stayed at Pippies Guesthouse which was quite nice.

A 20-Something's Travel Guide To Australia's East Coast

Noosa

I loved Noosa. It’s a laid back and sophisticated coastal town: a little bit less touristy than Byron Bay. It’s great to chill for a few beach days, eat out and go shopping. One thing I really recommend doing is spending a day doing the coastal walk through the national park which is absolutely stunning!

Where to stay: Nomads

If you want a balance between chilling and partying then Nomads is the best place to stay. It has a large outdoor seating area and a bar and club that gets really busy in the evenings with travellers. It’s also only 10 minutes walking to the beach.

A 20-Something's Travel Guide To Australia's East Coast

Brisbane

Brisbane lacks the wow factor of Sydney and Melbourne but it’s a nice city all the same. I don’t think you need loads of time here but a few days exploring the city, relaxing in the botanic gardens and chilling by the lagoon is a nice break.

We were really excited to get to Brisbane because it was our first city in a while and it felt nice to be back in civilisation in a place where we could go shopping and stock up on the thing that was running out of. It’s an easy enough city to get around and the city hopper ferries are free to travel on which is nice.

Where to stay: Bunk hostel

Bunk is probably the best and most popular backpacker hostel in Brisbane. It’s big and centrally located, offering some of the cleanest and comfiest (and incidentally cheapest) rooms that we had on our trip,  plus it has free breakfast. It’s always pretty quiet there in the day but it’s bar/club, Birdies is one of the most popular in the city so it gets quite busy later on in the evening.

Surfers Paradise (The Gold Coast) 

We’d had enough of nights out at this point that we didn’t feel the need to go to Surfers’, which is primarily known for its nightlife, however, this is generally the next stop for backpackers after Brisbane.

In hindsight, I wish I’d checked out the quieter surf towns of Coolangatta and Currumbin so I might go back to the Gold Coast if I have time. Let me know if you’ve been and how you found it in the comments below.

A 20-Something's Travel Guide To Australia's East Coast

Byron Bay

Oh Byron- how I loved you. Yes, it’s touristy but it’s Byron: How can you not love it? For the few of you who have not heard of it, Byron Bay is a chilled Australian surf town that’s packed full of hippy style cafes, restaurants and bars with nothing much going on apart from surfing and beach parties.The only productive thing I did in a week here was do the Lighthouse walk (a must do for sunset).

Where to stay: Aquarius hostel

Aquarius is great. It’s just 10 minutes from the beach, it has a pool, great dorms with balconies, a fantastic bar and common room with loads of events going on each night, and the best thing: it has free dinner for guests every evening.

A 20-Something's Travel Guide To Australia's East Coast

Sydney

After Byron, it was time to get the overnight bus to Sydney- the end of our Greyhound bus pass. A lot of people are pretty divided on opinion as to whether they prefer Melbourne or Sydney, I liked both. I’ve found that while I feel that Melbourne’s more my kind of place, Sydney trumped when it came to its national parks, beaches and coastal walks. One thing I will say though is that Sydney feels a lot bigger and getting around is more complicated.

Things to do:

We were probably the most productive in our week in Sydney than we had been on our whole trip (or maybe it just felt like it after a week in Byron doing nothing). We stayed a week in the city and packed loads of different things into each day. These are some of my recommendations.

Darling Harbour to Circular Quay ferry

Bag a seat at the front of the ferry and take a trip from Darling Harbour to Circular Quay (The Opera House). This ferry goes right under the Sydney Harbour Bridge and past the Opera House so it’s a great chance to get some good pics.

Coastal Walks

I love a good coastal walk and Sydney has some beautiful ones to choose from. Here are my favourites:

Coogee to Bondi Beach

This is really lovely and quite easy coastal walk that takes you past a few smaller beaches. I think it’s best to get the bus to Coggee and then end in Bondi where you can get food and maybe cool off in the Bondi icebergs Pool?

A4663C4B-43D9-41D6-B45D-B9F56CB5E369.JPG

Spit bridge to manly coastal walk

This walk was a lot of fun and it’s a lot less well-known than the Coogee to Bondi one. Take the bus to Spit and then follow the trail past beaches, over rocks and via aboriginal paintings to the beautiful beach of Manly. From there you can get the ferry back to the Opera House.

Blue Mountains

You can do the Blue Mountain national park as a day trip from Sydney and it’s something I would really recommend doing. The best way to get there is on train from Sydney central station. You can read my budget Blue Mountains travel guide here.

Other recommendations for Sydney:

Newtown

When it comes to eating out, Newtown was one of my favourite parts of town. It’s full of vegan/veggie places including Gelato Blue, an all vegan gelato place. There are also lots of really great inexpensive Asian restaurants.

Sydney Botanic Gardens

Sydney’s botanic gardens ar beautiful and also located right next to the Opera House so you can sunbathe with a view of Australia’s most iconic building.

Where to stay: Ady’s Place

None of the hostels in Sydney are amazing but Ady’s Place was the best one that we stayed in. It’s really close to Sydney’s main attractions such as the Opera House, Botanical Gardens and Kings Cross, it was sociable, had a roof top and free breakfast. If you’re planning on working in Sydney they also provide job-seeking help and work for accommodation opportunities in the hostel itself.

Well, that’s a wrap. I hope that this guide has helped give you some inspiration for your East Coast Travels: There really is no better a destination than Australia for a 20 something traveller.

Let me know in the comments below if you have anything else you would like me to write about or if you have any suggestions.  I’m currently working in Melbourne so take a look here to follow my current and future travel adventures in Australia and beyond.

 

 

 

 

Vacation Cafe Review Melbourne

Featuredmelbourne review cafe vacation

Best for: Sitting in, Takeaway, Breakfast, brunch, early morning coffee, taking your Instagram’s 

I really wanted to go to Vacation cafe from the moment that I heard about it because of its decor. It’s bright, cheery, quirky, colourful and really the epitome of what I expected all cafes in Australia to be like before I got here. 

Located on Exhibition Street, a stone’s throw away from Melbourne’s Federation Square, Vacation is centrally located however it could be easily missed if you weren’t looking for it. The cafe’s venue itself is actually quite small however it packs in a quite a few tables and its bright decor and high ceilings give the impression that it’s a lot bigger than it looks. 

Despite its location, Vacation seems to lack the sense of morning franticness that a lot of other Melbourne’s cafes have. It’s actually a very tranquil and chilled place to sit for a while, so nice in fact that it would be a shame to just grab a coffee for takeaway. 

Vacation specialises in premium coffee and actually roast their own beans off-site. The coffee menu is fairly basic but like most of the city’s cafes, you can pretty much order whatever coffee you would like from the barista. Food wise, Vacation offers a small and affordable breakfast and brunch menu as well as a good selection of cakes and pastries.

melbourne review cafe vacation

melbourne review cafe vacation

melbourne review cafe vacation

melbourne review cafe vacation

melbourne review cafe vacation

http://itsavacation.com

Vacation cafe, 1 Exhibition Street, Melbourne 

Looking for cafes in Melbourne? Check out my other featured cafes here. 

 

Dukes Coffee Roasters Review Melbourne

FeaturedMelbourne: The Best Cafes For 20- Somethings

Best for: Takeaway, early morning coffee, cakes, pastries, locally roasted coffee, whole beans for sale

melbourne review dukes coffee roasters melbourne review dukes coffee roasters

In a nutshell

Easily one of my favourite cafes in Melbourne, Dukes Coffee Roasters is a must visit for all coffee lovers in the city. It’s not a sit down all morning and have brunch kind of cafe, in fact, it’s predominately a grab and go kind of place. However, if you can bag yourself a seat then it’s the best place to sit back and watch the hustle and bustle of mornings in Melbourne with a Flat White coffee.

The Decor 

In terms of decor, Duke’s really is your typical Melbourne cafe, meaning it’s small, a little atmospherically dark and quite minimalistic with an eclectic yet modern feel.

The Location

The cafe is located right in the heart of the city’s coffee district on Flinders Lane and Dukes is one of those cafes that I had meaning to try for a while but I’d never been able to get a table. My advice- go early on a Saturday. On Saturday mornings Dukes opens at 9am and you really need to get there then if you don’t want a takeaway.

The Menu

Dukes offers a range of coffees, teas and hot chocolates. They also have, what I think is the best selection of cakes, pastries and biscuits around. I had to cave in and get a peanut butter and chocolate cookie which was superb: healthy eating starts next week. 

 

https://www.dukescoffee.com.au

Dukes Coffee Roasters, 247 Flinders Lane, Melbourne

Looking for more cafes in Melbourne? Check out my other picks here. 

Mr Tulk Cafe Melbourne CBD

FeaturedMelbourne: The Best Cafes For 20- Somethings

Mr Tulk Cafe review, Melbourne CBD. Good for: Students, working, free WiFi, solo coffee dates, meetings.

It was a Wednesday in Melbourne, I had a day off and I wanted just two things: Coffee and WiFi. It sounds like a reasonable request but Melbourne’s healthy obsession with coffee means just one thing: no room. oh how I love the glorious array of quirky independent cafes that the city has to offer but one of the cafes many defining charms in the city centre is that they are all so tiny.

I decided to do a bit of a search online. I needed a cafe I could work in- I had blog posts piling up and travel research to do and none of this was going to get done without some caffeine in my system. After a bit of research, I settled for Mr Tulk Cafe. It was apparently spacious, it had WiFi, good coffee and it was located right next door the State library, somewhere I had been meaning to check out anyway.

melbourne mr tulk cafe review melbourne cafe review mr tulk

melbourne cafe review mr tulk

Mr Tulk Cafe Review Melbourne CBD

I really like Mr Tulk. It is large but not imposing to go in, there are plenty of seats including one large table that is great for solo cafe visitors. The decor is minimalistic and I guess, due to its good wi-fi and proximity to the library, it feels quite studenty.

The cafes name itself pays homage to its location, being named after the library’s first chief librarian, Augustus Henry Tulk, who helped build the library’s collection of books to what it is today.

Once your settled in with your coffee and buried deep in your work, you probably won’t want to leave; luckily Mr Tulks food menu has got you covered. Its lunch menu includes full dishes such as gnocchi, salmon and flatbread or you could just help yourself to one of their many cakes and pastries. They also offer a selection of fresh juices.  When the work gets too much, Mr Tulk is licensed so you could even treat yourself to a glass of wine: Sometimes it’s necessary.

Mr Tulk,328 Swanston Street, Melbourne, Open Mon -Thurs 7:30-5, Friday 7:00-7:30 pm, Sat-Sun- 9:00-4pm. 

http://www.mrtulk.com.au

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Journal Canteen Melbourne CBD Review

FeaturedMelbourne journal cafe

journal canteen melbourneBest for: Early mornings, solo coffee lovers, weekday brunch, sitting in, work friendly space 

I can’t believe that I’ve been in Melbourne for almost six weeks collectively and I’ve not done a cafe feature yet- believe me it’s not for lack of coffee drinking. Melbourne is an Australian city that’s famed for its coffee: supposedly there’s not a bad cup of coffee to be had here and so far I have to agree with that. As someone who has a severe caffeine addiction, I feel right at home in Melbourne and the irony is that I’ll look for food in the reduced section of the supermarket but will always splash out for a coffee or two.

Since arriving in Melbourne, having got myself a job and being busy with christmas and New Year, indulgent coffee dates with myself and lazy mornings have been a rarity. However today I had the day off work and made it my mission to wake up early and accomplish everything I wanted to- and that primarily included going somewhere nice for morning coffee.

Journal Canteen

Today I went to Journal Cafe which is located right in the heart of the hustle and bustle of the city in one of my favourite roads,  Flinders Lane. I though this cafe would be a good one to do a bit of a feature on as it’s about as Melbournian a cafe as you can get.

journal canteen melbourne

The Decor

Journal canteen is not quite a cafe, not quite a restaurant, a description that is apt for a lot of Melbourne’s coffee shops. However unlike a lot of the eating and drinking establishments in the city centre, Journal has lots of room to sit in. It’s open plan decor means that it’s spacious, bright and best of all it’s not imposing if you’re just wanting to have a coffee by yourself.

The Menu and prices

Whether you’re just after a quick coffee, a cooked breakfast or a sit down meal, Journal’s simple but accommodating menu has something to offer for everyone. The cafe offers all of the usual options for breakfast and then a small selection of pasta dishes and roasts for lunch and dinner. The staff were really welcoming and the service was so efficient. Prices in the cafe are average for Melbourne, around $16 for mains and $5  for a coffee.

melbourne journal canteen

I didn’t have anything that fancy this morning apart from a coffee and a croissant: obligatory despite having just had breakfast. The coffee was excellent and the croissant was warm and flaky. They have a handful of newspapers on the counter ready to read. All in all it’s a nice place to start the day off in the city.

Journal Canteen, 254 Flinders Lane, Melbourne, VIC, 3000

Combi Byron Bay Cafe Review

Featuredreview byron bay brunch combi

Best for: Brunch, lunch, vegan, raw, organic and gluten-free options

After a couple of months travelling down Australia’s East Coast, It’s almost time for the ‘holiday’ part of my Working Holiday to end and for me to start looking for some work back in Melbourne. The end of this bit of the trip also means that it’s sadly time to say goodbye to my friend and travel companion and instead embark on my own new solo adventure. 

However, our East Coast travels aren’t quite done yet as we haven’t reached Sydney and we still had one more place to tick of the bucket list first: Byron Bay.

Byron is infamous worldwide for being a little oasis of hippies and backpackers in Australia and as soon as we got here, it really did feel like this place is in it’s own little  bubble from reality. In a way Byron is how I imagined all of Australia to be: surfers everywhere, smoothie bowls galore, great coffee, beach parties and chilled clubs. Of course all of Australia isn’t like that- and I’m glad that it isn’t but Byron Bay really fits the stereotype.

Over the past few months I’ve had a hard time justifying spending $5 on a coffee when I can cook dinner for the same price, let alone spending four times that on brunch, which has resulted in an abnormally absent presence of cafe reviews on this blog.

However its turns out that two months of scrounging for leftovers in the free food section of the hostels and debating over which peanut butter is cheaper per kg has paid off and by some miracle I have some money left so, the other day we decided to treat ourselves to brunch out, in typical Byron Bay style. 

review byron bay brunch combi

review brunch byron bay combi

review brunch byron bay combi

Combi, Byron Bay

Out of all of the overpriced and ‘totally me’ cafes in Byron, we decided to go to Combi because it has everything you could want out of a Byron cafe: Beautiful smoothie bowls, buddha bowls, vegan cakes and a minimalist open decor. 

Combi isn’t cheap and I did have a bit of a- ‘how much?!‘ moment, when I saw the $20 veggie bowl prices, but the food is fantastic and if a girl can’t treat herself to brunch out in Byron, then where can she? When it comes to brunch I’m always divided between sweet and savoury (if it’s encompassing breakfast and lunch then I need both sections fulfilled right?) So me and my friend took the only sensible option and split two dishes. We went for Combi’s vegan veggie bowl: a really filling dish of lemony rice, tempeh, loads of veggies and an incredible peanut sauce, along with the organic acai bowl, topped with lots of fruit and granola.

If you’re after something smaller then Combi also do the most aesthetically pleasing range of vegan and raw deserts as well as a huge selection of coffees and smoothies.

Combi: 5b/21/25 Fletcher Street, Byron Bay, NSW 2481.  

Main dishes cost around $15-20 USD. Open for breakfast, brunch and lunch.  There are Loads of vegan, Gluten Free and Raw options to choose from.

The Wild Flour Cafe: How Cute Is This Campervan Cafe In Brighton’s Countryside?

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Best for: breakfast, brunch, afternoon tea, vegan and veggie options

Last Sunday I had planned on having a blog free day. No writing, no editing, no taking photos for blog posts. Nothing. Nada.

Instead I’d decided to treat myself to a proper Sunday off which involved: A walk in the countryside, making something nice for lunch, doing some baking then sitting down with some ginger cake and a movie.

We’re so lucky in Brighton that we’ve got the seafront at one end and the South Downs at the other. I love both places but the countryside wins hands down every time. There’s nothing quite like that feeling of freedom I get from escaping into the countryside, looking back over the town and breathing in the fresh air: Of course there is that whole matter of trying to avoid the cows muck.

Anyway when me and my dad parked up the car and set off on our walk I was thinking of anything but new blog ideas and edits or photos which was nice for a change so, imagine my surprise when we walked into the tiniest little village and found the cutest campervan cafe serving vegan and vegetarian brunches and homemade cakes in the middle of the countryside. Now how could I not blog about that?

Wildflower cafe BrightonWildflower cafe BrightonWildflower cafe Brighton

The Wild Flour Cafe

This gorgeous little cafe is located in Saddlescombe, a TINY village just a short walk through the countryside from Devils Dyke (which you can get the 77 bus to from Brighton’s town centre). There’s been a cafe here for the last few years (previously The Hiker’s Rest) but the new Wildflower cafe has really upped the game.

The cafe is located in a camper-van with its own little courtyard seating area that’s beautifully decorated with plants and hanging lights: Even its makeshift plant pots made out of used Golden syrup tins are quaint. It’s probably one of Brighton’s most peaceful cafes and the lack of phone service means that technology is kept at a minimum.

Open 10-5 Tuesday to Sunday from March to October and then weekends only in November, it’s a great place to come and get a cup of tea and some cake or a full-blown brunch in the brighter months. Everything is homemade and all of the cakes looked incredible (especially the freshly baked scones that came out just as I was leaving). Plus the best thing is because I’d walked through the countryside to get here, I felt like I totally deserved a sweet treat.

All of the brunches are Vegetarian or vegan and very reasonably priced. Options included Mushroom and Blackbean Ragu and Halloumi and Houmous Pita. Everything I saw looked absolutely delicious.

(The cafe doesn’t take card payments so just remember to bring some cash with you or you’ll have had a wasted walk).

Wildflower cafe BrightonWildflower cafe Brighton

Wildflower cafe BrightonWildflower cafe Brighton

 

Odette review, Paris, France

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Odette Paris reviewOdette Paris review

It would be a struggle to find a cafe as Parisian as Odette. With its colourful exterior, cute little tables and outdoor plants, Odette is as picturesque a cafe that you could ask for. With a selection of coffees and pastries, what Odette is really known for as its delicately decadent cream puffs, the perfect accompaniment to a cafe au lait.

The Location

This little cafe is located centrally in Paris a few minutes walk from the Notre Dame and the infamous Shakespeare and Company bookshop. It’s address is 77 Rue Galande, 75005, Paris. Be sure to bag a table outside if you can.

The Decor

Odette’s decor is unapologetically girly. Everything from the tiny chairs and tables to its gorgeous little cream puffs, are delicate and beautiful. The patisserie has what has to be one of the prettiest cafe exteriors in Paris. It was the first place that I stopped off at when I arrived in the city in the early morning and I felt like I’d talked right on to a Parisian film set. It’s pretty cosy inside with the best seats being out the front where you can catch a glimpse of the Notre Dame.

The Menu

Odette doesn’t do a lot, food and drink wise, but what it does, it does well. It’s cream puffs or ‘choux a la creme’ are somewhat legendary in the city and they looked so gorgeous with their colourful sugar paste flowers on top that it was a nightmare choosing between them. Unlike a lot of patisserie options, Odettes cream puffs are a ‘two-bite gone’ size meaning that it’s totally acceptable to try a few of them.  These gorgeous pastries consist of a light fluffy choux bun exterior which harbours a variety of gooey cream fillings with  tempting flavours like coffee, caramel, lemon and pistachio. My favourite has to be the praline one. The only negative is that Odette doesn’t have an extensive coffee menu.

The Prices

Odettes prices aren’t cheap but they’re not outrageous and I didn’t resent paying a little more to sit in somewhere as beautiful as it is. I paid around £6 for a coffee and a cream puff.

Nola Cafe Review, Hanoi, Vietnam

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Anyone that knows me will be aware that I am a huge coffee addict. I love going to cafes and taking the time to meet a friend or spend an hour by myself enjoying a coffee and slowing down. Having a coffee feels indulgent but not excessive, it adds structure to an empty day or reflection in a busy one, it picks you up, it calms you down, it’s a chance to be social or to get lost in your own thoughts and wherever you are in the world, no matter how different the place is, a coffee shop is a coffee shop and that’s a comforting thought.

I’m writing up a list of reviews on my favourite coffee shops that I’ve been to around the world for a new section on my blog so here’s the first one: a review of quirky Vietnamese Nola Cafe in Hanoi. Hope you guys enjoy reading about these cafes as much as I did visiting them.

Nola Cafe Hanoi

Nola Cafe Hanoi

Nola Cafe, Hanoi

I didn’t realise how big of a thing coffee was in Vietnam before I went but this South East Asian country is the ultimate destination for coffee lovers with no end of intriguing and alternative coffees and an endless choice of quirky cafes to drink them in.

In a city as wonderfully chaotic as Hanoi, coffee shops are the one place you can go to escape from the madness and I don’t think I found another place on my trip that was as serene and tranquil as Cafe Nola. Hiding in plain sight with an entrance through a narrow alleyway in the heart of Hanoi’s Old Quarter,  I would have easily missed Cafe Nola if I hadn’t been looking for it.

The Location

Nola Cafe is located at 89 Pho Ma May, Hang Buom near the Hoan Kiem lake. It’s probably best to plug the address in Google Maps as it’s tricky to find.

I’d read about this cafe in my Lonely Planet guidebook that I’d been religiously carting round the country with me so I assumed that the cafe would be full of guidebook loving travellers but I was the only person there.

The Decor

If like me, you’re partial to posting a few Instagram’s then the arty decor of this cafe will win you over. Undoubtedly, getting up to the actual seating area of the cafe was a bit of a workout as I had to climb a steep, narrow flight of stairs to get there but once I did it opened up into a beautiful, wild overgrown garden and outdoor seating area covered with multi coloured patterned umbrellas, little lanterns and dotted with mismatched furniture.

Despite it’s location in the centre of the city, all of the noises integral to the city like beeping motorbike horns were silenced and all I could hear were the sounds of birds chirping.  As someone on their first solo backpacking trip, this little sanctuary was just the mental escape that I needed for an hour or two from the fast paced city.

The Menu

Cafe Nola offers food as well as drinks on its menu however it caters for tourists and food prices are higher than you’d pay in most restaurants and the food is less authentic so I’d recommend coming here just for coffee. Its drink selection is very westernised serving all the usual coffees that I’d have at home like a Flat White, Long black and cappuccino’s as well as smoothies and cocktails. I went for a black coffee and an iced sweet jasmine tea.

I preferred traditional Vietnamese coffees: they’re much more interesting, (you can read more about them on my coffee guide) but this cafe is more about the aesthetics (Let’s be honest, a cafe tucked up and alleyway with colourful umbrellas as a ceiling is always going to be aimed at photo seeking travellers, right?)

The Prices

Prices are high by Vietnamese standards but low in comparison to the UK with coffees averaging £2 and food around £3-£4 a dish.

Surprising Things I Learnt From Solo Travelling This Year

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This time last year the idea of going solo travelling seemed like a nothing more than an unrealistic dream. It was something that I’d been talking about for years but I’d never built up the courage to travel alone before and the idea of just turning up in another country with nothing but myself and my backpack seemed crazy.

I wasn’t a particularly confident person, I didn’t think of myself as really sociable and I definitely wasn’t well organised. When it came to trip planning, I was happy to let other people take charge and I was known amongst my friends as a fairly unobservant person. All in all I didn’t fit the stereotype of a solo traveller.

However, the idea of a solo backpacking trip was so appealing to me. I loved adventures and I was really keen on challenging myself and proving that I could do it.  I loved the idea of having the flexibility and the freedom to travel where I wanted, stay where I wanted, meet new people and just go with the flow.

The hardest thing was finding the confidence to book my flights. For a few weeks I was in a constant mental battle between that voice saying ‘this is stupid’ and everything I knew about how amazing the trip would be. Eventually, it came down to knowing that I couldn’t not book this trip while I had the chance so, one day I just went ahead and booked my flight to Bangkok and once I was committed I didn’t think twice.

I mean I literally DIDN’T think twice (I don’t know if this was some weird self-protective strategy because I was really stressed) but I didn’t plan anymore for my six-week South East Asia backpacking trip apart from my first nights accommodation in Bangkok and I didn’t knowingly feel that scared about it anymore, even when I left home to go to the airport.

In fact it was only when I turned up in Bangkok, after getting totally ripped off by a taxi driver and sitting in my quiet hotel room all alone (always book yourself into a sociable hostel ladies and gentlemen) and that’s when it hit me, ‘what the hell am I doing here all alone?’

Little did I know as I sat in the room building up the courage to venture outside, my life had already been revolutionised from the very moment I’d stepped on that plane.

Here are some surprising things that I’ve learnt from solo travelling

1.I Became 10 billion times more confident 

One thing that really surprised me about solo travelling was how much more confident it made me from the get go. Travelling by myself really forced me to take control, make decisions and be brave because I had to be. Knowing that I can spend a day walking around Bangkok’s Chinatown, hitching a Tuk Tuk ride around Angkor Wat and spending an evening alone in Times Square makes me feel like I can do anything.

2. I’m so much more aware of what’s around me

One of my biggest flaws before travelling alone was not really paying that much attention to what was going on around me. If you’re travelling with family or friends then it’s easy to bounce off each other or let someone else take control. Travelling alone has forced me to take note of everything from big things like the address of my hostel and the route that I took to get from there to town to smaller things like noticing a pretty building or a great looking restaurant that I might want to check out later.

3.I learnt to make friends with perfect strangers

One thing I really feared when I first boarded that plane by myself was the idea of being alone for my entire trip. However, the world is full of solo backpackers and we’re all in the same boat. One thing that really surprised me about solo travel was not just HOW EASY it is to meet other travellers but also that I’m actually quite good at striking up a conversation with a complete stranger.

Meeting people travelling is a really strange concept. It requires you to do day trips, share rooms, have dinner and even travel with people who you’ve just met, however, it’s important to remember that meeting people travelling is a little bit like starting uni: You’re all in the same situation and you will make friends very quickly. Sure you won’t get on with everyone that you meet travelling but it’s important to remember that you’re all there because you’ve had the same idea so you must have something in common.  I still keep in touch with people I’ve met travelling so you might find friends for life too.

4. I’ve learnt about myself 

When you travel with other people it’s often hard to work out exactly what it is that you want because everything is a compromise. Travelling alone lets you work our exactly what’s important to you from the type of things that you enjoy doing when you travel to how much alone time you need or how much of a party person you are, plus having the time alone to think really helps you to get to know yourself.

5.How to eat alone in restaurants 

It may sound like a funny one but before I went travelling the idea of dining alone in a restaurant really stressed me out. Travelling alone taught me to not only be ok with dining by myself but also to actually quite enjoy it. While I spent lots of my meals out eating with people I’d met, I found that when I did dine alone I focused and enjoyed my food so much more when I didn’t have anyone to distract me.

6.I’ve learnt not to rely on others

This is probably one of the most liberating things that I’ve got out of solo travel: Being entirely self-dependent. It is so liberating to know that I don’t need to rely on anyone else to do the things that I want to do. So many of us are guilty of blackmailing friends into trips because we really want a holiday, solo travelling teaches you to just go regardless. In the past at home if none of my friends were free I wouldn’t go for coffee or lunch if I fancied it, now treating myself to a day out is something I do regularly.

7.I’ve learnt to ask for help

Knowing when and how to ask for help is something most of us struggle with. There’s a preconception that solo backpackers are really tough and confident people but it’s virtually impossible to travel alone without asking for help. Solo travel taught me to be ok with asking for directions, asking for advice and help with things that I physically couldn’t do ( Because sometimes when you’re tiny like me, you need help getting your rucksack in the overhead section on a bus).

8.To be tough

On the whole solo travelling was so much easier than I had excepted but of course, there are times when it feels like everything is going against you and travelling alone teaches you to be tough. Whether it’s standing up for yourself when someone is trying to rip you off, dealing with unpleasant travellers or even just when it feels like nothing is working out and no one is helping you, solo travel teaches you to make the most of it and just keep going regardless.

9.To ask people to take photos of me

I used to find asking strangers to take photos of me so embarrassing. However, I’ve learnt that just overcoming the embarrassment of asking someone to take a photo of me is so much worse than the tragedy of not having any pictures from an amazing trip would be. If you feel anxious about asking then try to find someone who’s also travelling alone. They’ll totally get where you’re coming from and they’ll probably ask you to do the same for them. You might even make a new friend.

10.To be adaptable

This is a massive one for me. You cannot go travelling alone and not be adaptable. Firstly because one of the best things about solo travelling is having the freedom and flexibility to go with the flow and secondly because you can’t prepare for the unexpected. This year alone, I’ve been caught in the middle of a typhoon with flooded streets up to my knees, I couldn’t enter a country because of political disruption, I witnessed Bangkok go into shut down because of the death of the king, I arrived at what I thought was a Boeing 737 flight that ended up being a tiny propeller plane and I’ve completely rearranged entire itineraries to travel with people who I’d just met. It’s all just part of the fun.

11.To deal with loneliness

I’m not going to pretend that I didn’t feel lonely while I was travelling this year. Sometimes there will be points where you don’t meet people and you’re mainly by yourself for a few days. Sometimes you have to hang around with people who you don’t really relate to and you’ll miss people at home who share your values and really know you. However, loneliness is something that happens to all of us from time to time and solo travelling teaches you to recognise and deal with these feelings because you have to.

12.To value my friends and family

You will meet so many amazing and inspiring people when you travel but travelling also teaches you to value how fantastic your support network is back at home too. I’m really lucky to have funny and supportive family and friends in my life. Sometimes when I’m travelling and everything feels a little too different, just talking to the people I love is all I need to cheer up and get the confidence to keep going. My friends and family who leave me little comments when I post a picture, who deal with me answering their messages at strange hours, who are always there to talk and who even read this blog are the reasons that I not only have the confidence to keep on travelling alone but also why I look forward to coming home.

13. What it means to truly be free

To travel is to be free but heading out with nothing but yourself, what’s on your back and whats in the world, well that’s when you really understand what freedom means.

Travel changes you. Solo Travel makes you unrecognisable. I don’t think there’s a year in my life that I’ve learnt as much about myself and about life than this last year I’ve spent travelling. Travelling alone has taught me so much more than what I’ve written in this blog post and I guess overwhelmingly it has taught me that there is no type of person who makes a good solo traveller.

You don’t have to be the loudest, the smartest, the funniest or the bravest. Also please don’t think that you must have months and months to properly discover what it means to travel alone. All of the points I’ve mentioned in this post, you will learn from just a couple of days travelling alone, whether it be a quick city break or few days somewhere sunny, the destination isn’t important, it’s the act of just deciding to go in the first place that really matters.

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How To Order Coffee In Vietnam

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Vietnam coffee guide: From Hanoi to Hue, How to order coffee like a pro in Vietnam (and where to get it from)

Whenever people ask me what my favourite destination I’ve travelled to so far is, I struggle but I usually come to the same answer: Vietnam, and that’s mainly for the coffee.

When I turned up to Hanoi in October as part of my first solo backpacking trip, it was an assault on the senses. Hanoi’s old quarter is a labyrinth of crazy chaotic roads, motorbikes coming at you from all directions, women selling eels at the side of the road, little alleyways with mismatched shops and street side restaurants with people perched on low seats slurping bowls of pho.

I was captivated straight away and couldn’t stop walking around with a huge grin on my face, although the traffic did take a little getting used to. (I spent the first evening eating a bowl of cereal for dinner because I couldn’t cross the junction to get to the restaurants).

However the one place I found solace in the city chaos was in the coffee shops. Coffee in Vietnam is as big as tea in England and wow, the coffee was good. There are so many different ways to have coffee in Vietnam and I couldn’t wait to try them all. What’s best is that coffee in the country is so dangerously cheap, (Costing around 20,000 dong or 66p) so it wont even make a dent in your budget.

Heres my guide to how to order coffee in Vietnam

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Egg coffee at Cafe Pho Co, Hanoi

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Egg coffee (Ca Phe Trung)

I will always remember my first coffee in Hanoi. It was an egg coffee or (Ca Phe Trung) at Cafe Pho Co. I’d read about this cafe and its trademark coffee in my Lonely Planet guide and finding it was a real adventure. Located by the Hoan Kiem lake the entrance to this hidden gem is entered via a silk shop that I only found by putting its location into google maps.

At first I wasnt sure if I was in the right place and as I walked in to the shop I was almost run over by a man on a motorbike who came racing past me out of the door. Welcome to the craziness that is Vietnam! I  kept walking through a narrow corridor and then sure enough the shop opened up into a beautiful cafe courtyard with a winding stair case going up several floors. I wandered up to the top floor where I was met with breathtaking views of the lake and I attempted to order my first egg coffee, with my very limited Vietnamese.

If you love coffee then you have to try egg coffee in Vietnam. I had no idea what to expect but I absolutely loved it.  This drink is particularly popular in Northern Vietnam and the consistency of the drink is that of a wet meringue but it has a sweet yet deep coffee taste that makes it totally addictive.

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Traditonal ‘Phin’ coffee at breakfast

Hot Vietnamese coffee with sweetened condensed milk (Ca Phe Sua nong: Translates as Coffee, Milk, hot)

I first got addicted to condensed milk in drinks in Thailand where it is used to sweeten the ashy coloured Thai milk tea, but Vietnamese coffee with condensed milk is something else. This is the most common way to have coffee and I go served this numerous times in restaurants, hostels and cafes.

The coffee is filtered through a Phin (picture above) which is placed on top of a cup that already layer of condensed milk in it. When the coffee has filtered through, simply mix it with the milk. If you’re not keen on milk then you can ask for this black (ca phe den nong: This translates as coffee, black, hot). This will come sweetened. I tried ordering this without any sugar once (when I was trying to be healthy) but it’s just not nice. Vietnamese coffee isn’t like at home and the pure coffee is bitter and sour rather than smooth and sweet like an espresso.IMG_1476.jpg

Iced Vietnamese coffee (White: Ca Phe Sua Da) or (Black: Ca Phe Den Da)

Iced Vietnamese coffee is another really popular drink served in cafes. In fact one day I went to a little roadside cafe filled with locals and no menu and simply asked for coffee and this is what I got. This iced drink is served in a tall cup with the condensed milk already added, so it is lighter in colour. It usually comes with a free glass of iced tea (Something sold for next to nothing in most restaurants too).

If you don’t want milk then order it black (Ca Phe Den Da: Den being black and da iced). This comes with some sugar added, you can usually choose how much e.g medium sweet. Again I wouldn’t recommend having it without any sugar in, it just isn’t nice.

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Iced coconut coffees at Hoi An Roastery, Hoi An
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Cafe Nola, Hanoi

Coconut Iced Coffee

Out of all of the towns in Vietnam, the enchanting riverside town of Hoi An is the coffee capital and one of the best drinks that I had there was a coconut Iced coffee. This fantastically decadent drink is made from a mix of coffee, thick coconut milk and condensed milk. It’s really more of a dessert than a drink and sitting out in the sun with one of these, well you can’t really beat that. The best places that I had these were at two local Hoi An coffee chains: Hoi An Roastery and Cocobox. All of their cafes are fantastic places to people watch with extensive menus serving everything from local coffee, tea to all the basics like Lattes and cappuccino

Espresso based coffee

Sometimes when you’re travelling for a while all you want is a normal coffee just like at home. There are plenty of places that you can satisfy your caffeine craving in Vietnam. If you’re after somewhere a little more culturally enriching than Starbucks then I recommend the Highlands coffee chain. This Vietnamese coffee chain has locations all over the country from Ho Chi Minh city to Hue and Hanoi. They have both the traditional Phin filter coffees and espresso based coffees such an Americanos, lattes and cappuccinos.

If you don’t have dairy then don’t worry as soya milk is very popular in Vietnam so it shouldn’t be an issue. I really loved this place because they give you a little phone that rings when your order is ready, it’s usually full of younger locals and they have great wi-fi. I sheltered in one of these cafes when I got caught in a typhoon in Hue.

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Goc Ha Noi, Ho Chi Minh City

So that’s it: Now you’re already to go to Vietnam and order some coffee for yourself. I hope this post has inspired you to dive straight into the country’s fantastic coffee culture. Vietnam is a country that runs on coffee, they produce it, they drink it and they value it and as fast paced, hectic and chaotic a country it might be, sitting in a cafe waiting for the coffee to filter through a phin, that’s when Vietnam slows down.

Why not step inside some of Vietnams best cafes and read my cafe reviews here.

 

 

Solo Travel In New York: What To Do In NYC

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A solo travel guide to New York City

Cities are often known as lonely places. Therefore, when I decided to go to New York spontaneously after my travels in Central America, I was worried about how I would find the city on my own. I’d been to New York with my family before which meant that it didn’t feel as daunting. However, after the low-key pace of life that I’d got used to in Costa Rica, I guessed it was going to be a bit of a culture shock.

I arrived in the city by overnight bus from Atlanta where I had been staying with my aunt. Sleepy but excited the bus pulled in at eight in the morning into a chaotic, distinctly New York part of downtown Manhattan. I grabbed my backpack and started walking.

The city won me over straight away. As I was on my own I noticed everything; smoke coming out of potholes, commuters running for subways, cafes opening, lost tourists and I realised I shouldn’t have worried about being in the city on my own: everyone in New York is busy writing their own story.

Here’s my guide of my favourite things to do on your own in New York City:

Scout Film Locations

There’s nothing better to do by yourself in New York than scout all the famous film locations. Whether you fancy taking a selfie outside the Friends building or posing for a snap outside Carrie’s House, there is an endless list of filming locations all over the city.

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Cheesecake at Juniors restaurant, 1515 Broadway, 45th St

New York Cheesecake

I’m not ashamed to say that the idea of sitting down and tucking into a slice of real New York Cheesecake was a huge driving force behind my decision to go to NYC. Being solo in NYC means that you’re entitled to eat as much cheesecake as humanly possible and what’s more, you don’t have to share it with anyone.

I went on a bit of a cheesecake pilgrimage and my tried and tested favourite was the original one at Juniors on Broadway. (I did reach that point where I felt like I couldn’t go on when I was about two-thirds through it but I’d left the best bit for last so I just had to push through).

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Inside New York Public Library

Spend some time reading in the New York Public Library

I have always wanted to bring a book and my journal and spend a couple of hours in the beautiful and iconic New York Public Library. (Speaking of film locations earlier, anyone who’s watched Sex and the City will know this from Carrie’s wedding scene). The library is free to enter and it’s just the ideal place to escape from the chaos of the city. As a book lover I could have probably spent my entire trip in here reading and writing. (Make sure to stop by Bryant Park after, just over the road, for a coffee).

Relax in Central Park

Central Park is the centre of the city and regardless of whether you’re visiting New York in summer or winter, it’s the ideal place to take yourself off to for a few hours. If you’re lucky enough to be visiting in the warmer months then you don’t need to do much else than bring a picnic or grab a pretzel and enjoy the sun. If it’s a little cooler then just spend some time walking or rent a city bike around the park.  If you’re looking for a break then there are lots of museums on fifth avenue (east side of Central Park) such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art (make sure to check out its roof garden) and the Guggenheim museum.

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Culture espresso, 72 W,  38th St, New York

Grab a coffee

Going for coffee is the ultimate solo activity and New York has no shortage of quirky independent cafes to spend your cash in.  There are plenty in midtown Manhattan such as Culture espresso (where these fantastic cookies pictured above are made) however my favourite area is Greenwich village. It’s quieter and more residential then midtown and going for coffee feels like you’re living your own version of a Friends episode. I’m in my element cafe hopping and blogging, plus its the best way to actually mix with the real New Yorkers.

Walk the Brooklyn Bridge 

For the best views of Manhattan’s skyline, you have to walk the Brooklyn bridge. Personally, I love a walk (because it means you can eat more) and the Brooklyn Bridge is one of the best. It’s free to walk across and be sure to explore Brooklyn once you reach the other side. Just be sure to pack a camera and good walking shoes!

Late night shopping: Broadway and Times Square

I wish shops at home in Brighton were open as late as they are in cities like New York as you don’t have to waste your days in the shops and particularly for solo travellers, you don’t have to spend your evenings sat in a bar by yourself. Most shops in Broadway and Times Square are open until late so explore the city by day and then get your shopping done after dinner. Be sure to stop by Macy’s!

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Broadway at night

Walk along the High Line

Walking along one of New Yorks newest attractions, the High Line park is one of the best ways to spend a few hours. This elevated park is located on an abandoned railway, running from Hudson Yards to Chelsea and is decorated with greenery and modern art, all with fantastic views of the city below. It’s also completely free to visit.

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Grab food in the deli buffets

I sometimes find the idea of eating in proper restaurants a little daunting when I travel solo but that’s not something I had to worry about in New York thanks to the delis. New York delicatessens are mini markets offering buffets of hot and cold foods and I literally lived off these in the city.  They work by filling up a box with whatever you want and then paying by weight (So watch the heavy veg). Not only are the deli’s cheaper than a sit-down meal but you can choose your portion size and they generally have loads of healthy vegan and vegetarian options. Most deli’s that have buffets also offer seating meaning that there the best option for eating if you’re on your own.

I hope this post has given you some ideas of things to do on your own in New York. It may not be the kind of place that springs to mind when you think ‘solo travel‘ but I had a fantastic few days exploring the city before I headed home and as much as I can’t wait to go back with my friends and family, it was nice not to have to share the city (or my cheesecake) with anyone else.

Useful Hacks You Need To Know Before Travelling In Central America

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Travel tips for backpacking in Central America

The little strip of countries in between the USA and South America is one of the most beautiful, diverse and fascinating parts of the world that I’ve ever travelled in. With some of the most beautiful landscape, towns, wildlife and beaches ever this tiny region of countries, stretching from Mexico to Panama really does have it all, and the fact that’s it’s so condensed means its more manageable and less overwhelming for travellers than South America.

Over the years some parts of Central America have got-bad reputation however if you stick to the backpacker route you’ll fall in love with a region that you’ll want to go back to time and time again. Here are my top travel tips to know before travelling to Central America.

1.Bring US dollars

Most of the countries in Central America have their own currency however US dollars are widely accepted so they are useful to have with you, especially if you have an issue withdrawing money from the ATM’s. In El Salvador USD is the official currency anyway and most other countries will accept them and then give you the change back in the local currency. In the bigger towns, there are usually ATMs that will let you take out dollars.

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2. Proof of onward travel

For most nationalities like Brits you don’t need to pre-arrange visas for Central America. When you arrive in Belize or Mexico you are allowed to stay for thirty days, and thanks to the Centro America 4 agreement between Guatemala, Nicaragua, Honduras and El Salvador, you can stay for 90 days visa free, then Costa Rica 90 days and Panama 180. One of the most important things to note is that although you don’t need to pre-arrange your visas, you are still required to show proof of onward travel when entering Costa Rica or Panama only. This can be really annoying, especially if you aren’t sure of your travel plans.

what is proof of onward travel?

Proof of onward travel can be a bus ticket or flight, basically, anything that shows you are leaving that country, and unfortunately it has to be out of the exact country, so showing a return ticket home from Mexico when you’re trying to get into Panama doesn’t help. You could risk it and not get proof of onward travel but if they do ask they may not let you board your plane if you don’t have it. As I wasn’t sure what to do I just booked a refundable flight with LastMinute.com which I could cancel. Just be sure to put the leaving date near the end of the total period you’re allowed to stay, as they may only give you until this date.

central america useful hacks3.Bring a Visa and Mastercard

I found that Central America was really troublesome for withdrawing money, especially in the smaller towns. A lot of ATMs only accept one of either Visa or MasterCard so it’s a good idea to have one of both in case there is an issue. Try and withdraw money before you run out so that you’re not left without cash. Paying by card isn’t widely accepted.

4. Change your money at the border

If you have currency left over then the best place to exchange this is at the border. There will be unofficial money exchangers there who will take the local currency off you and exchange it for the currency of the next country. Just be sure to double-check the rate you should be getting to make sure you’re not getting ripped off.

5. Avoid the capital cities

It can seem a given that you should always visit the capital cities however in Central America this isn’t the case. Not only is most of the beauty and culture located outside of the capitals but the main cities are also the most dangerous places and are often the reason that an entire country gets a bad reputation. So if you’re travelling in the region then do yourself a favour and skip San Jose for Santa Theresa, Belize city for Caye Caulker and Guatemala city for Antigua instead.

6.Know the expensive countries

Central America is one of the most diverse regions on the planet and this diversity is mirrored in its prices. There is a massive difference between the cost of living between say Belize and Honduras so adjust your time in the countries according to your budget. The most expensive countries from highest to lowest are; Costa Rica, Belize, Mexico, Panama, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua.central america useful hacks

7. Avoid the ‘Gringo’ food

Western food is becoming really popular in Central America but do your waistline and your budget a favour and stick to local food. When you’re travelling between destinations, the main eating options tend to be Pollo Campero (Central America’s version of KFC) or Subway, but there are usually independent local restaurants which are much better. Not only will the local food be tastier and better for you but it’s usually a quarter of the price and it’s nice to support independent local business rather than big chains. My favourite local dish was pupusas in El Salvador.

8. Learn Useful Spanish phrases’

It’s all well and good doing Duo Lingo before you go but it’s far more useful to learn some practical phrases than just the basics. Even in very touristy parts of Central America, communication can be an issue. The useful phrases I used a lot were; ‘Cuanto cuesta? (How much?), para llevar (Takeaway), bolso ( bag), numbers (otherwise you won’t understand how much things cost), regresar (I’ll be back) and sin azucar (without sugar).

9. Bring warm clothing

For such a small region, the weather in Central America can vary a lot. In the hot season, temperatures can easily reach 40’c and above although in the higher altitude areas like Monteverde, Costa Rica or Antigua, Guatemala, it can actually get quite chilly especially at night, so it’s a good idea to bring a couple of sweatshirts, long trousers and a rain jacket.central america useful hacks

10. Take the bus not flights

Travelling in Central America is not the same as travelling within Europe or Asia. Whereas in these places you can fly between countries for under £50, in Central America it can actually be cheaper to fly to the US than in between the countries. Save money and book yourself a bus or join a group tour that takes advantage of private transfers to travel between the countries instead.

11. Bring a refillable water bottle

I found that a lot of the countries in Central America offered very cheap (or free) water bottle refill services which is better for both your budget and the environment then continually buying new bottles. Also in Costa Rica you can actually drink the tap water so if you’re an environmentally conscious traveller then consider bringing your own lightweight bottle with you.

I hope you found this post helpful. There’s more advice I could give you for travelling in Central America however the best thing about this region is that it throws the unexpected, the unusual and the exciting at you no matter how much you plan or prepare. So really the best bit of advice I can give is just to go and experience the beauty and craziness of Central America for yourself.

 

10 Money Saving Hacks In Mexico

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How to save money backpacking in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula

If you’re backpacking in Mexico then you’ll find the prices pretty low, especially in comparison with travelling in other regions like Europe or Australia. However if you come to Mexico and find yourself going out to every spring break club event, drinking your weight in Margaritas and living it up at beach clubs every day, you’re going to get through your budget before you can even say ‘burrito’. I thought I’d write this post with a few money saving hacks that I used so that you’ll be able to have the time of your life in Mexico without spending all your cash in the process.
 1 Rent independent transport to get around

If you can drive then renting a car will make your life so much easier and save money in the process. Loads of Mexico’s best beaches are quite far out and the only option can be to get a taxi sometimes which soon adds up. Renting a car can be cheaper in the long-term, especially if you share with other people and split the costs. The other option is renting a bicycle. We did this everyday in Tulum as it was only 100 pesos for the day compared to the only other option of getting to the beach, a taxi costing at least 200 each way.BE66EBEA-5C07-4C35-A2AD-6D30F8FEF354

2 Stay in Hostels
Hostels can have a bad rep but the hostels we stayed in Mexico were fantastic. They’re the cheaper option in comparison to hotels and usually offer way more in the way of services for  travellers. You’re usually looking at paying around 200 pesos a night for a bed in a dorm and this often includes free breakfast, tours as well as laundry services, a bar and a common room to relax and meet other travellers.

3 Cook rather than eat out
Loads of hostels, apartment and Airbnb’s have kitchens so save some money by cooking. Although by Western standards, prices are cheap in restaurants, (you’re usually looking at around 200 pesos for a main), it can soon add up and it’s only when you go and get enough food for a couple of meals from the supermarket for 60 pesos that you really how much money you can save. Plus cooking in hostels is a good way to meet people, and I can’t be alone in feeling that going grocery shopping abroad and cooking your own food is fun.

4  Talk to people
Part of the fun of travelling is meeting so many different people, and it actually pays to strike up conversations too. If you’re travelling by yourself then not only is it more fun to do things with other travellers but you can split the costs and save money in the process. The other great thing about talking to people is getting tips on the area you’re in or for the places you’re going to next. travellers and locals are the best source of information on cheap transport hacks, local eats and budget hostels, so don’t be afraid to be nosey.B30A3A42-F18B-4A41-A89A-672B6011BD0F.jpeg

5 Share dishes in restaurants
Portions in Mexican restaurants can be massive so don’t be fooled in to thinking you have to order everything at once. Why not share a main and get a side of guacamole, you can always order more if you’re hungry. Because it’s so Americanized restaurants are used giving takeaway containers if you order too much so if you’re staying somewhere with a fridge then take back your leftovers for another day and save the cash and the food waste.

6 Get off the tourist track
The second you veer off the main tourist trial in Mexico you’ll see the prices drop. The Yucatan Peninsula is one of the most expensive parts of the country so consider lesser known regions or smaller destinations if you want to save the pennies. Even in the Yucatan, halving your spending costs is usually just a case of heading in to the backstreets and generally the less impressive looking, cheaper restaurants are the best.

7  Take the bus
Don’t take taxis, if you want to travel between destinations in Mexico then take a Collectivo or an Ado bus. Collectivos are usually the cheaper option but these can be harder to negotiate whereas Ado buses are very comfortable, reliable and don’t cost too much. You just pick these up from the Collectivo or Ado bus stations and pay for your ticket at the counter. It’s worth double checking the times before you go. Some routes run regularly like Playa Del Carmen to Tulum, but others like Tulum to Valladolid are less frequent.BFE38ECF-C859-4A20-AE56-6558FBAC4C32

8 Stay in one place

One of the biggest money saving hacks I learnt is that its better to stay in one place and do shorter trips from there. You will find you waste valuable time and money on packing, getting the bus, moving hostels, if you move about all the time. Its better to base yourself in one place for a few days than move about all the time. If your hostel runs tours then its usually easier and cheaper to do one of those. We ended up doing a tour with our hostel in Tulum that encompassed Chichen Itza, a cenote Valladolid in a day which saved us loads of money in the long run.

9 Learn some Spanish
If you speak Spanish then you’ll find it so much easier to travel around Mexico. Not only is it easier to communicate and negotiate, there are often cheaper prices listed for Spanish speakers so you’ll really reap the benefits. Either way its a good idea to get a few phases under your belt, even if it’s just to make your life a little easier when you get there.

10 Take advantage of happy hour

Let’s be honest, having as many Magherita’s as possible is high on your priorities in Mexico right? However there’s no need to ever pay full price for your drink. Most restaurants and bars in Mexico offer happy hour drinks. A lot of hostels also offer similar deals. In fact our hostel, Hostel Che in Tulum, even had a ladies night which meant that every night from 11- 11:30 (meaning free drinks for girls), and then the local bar always handed out free drink vouchers, so we managed to have a night out for virtually nothing. Also its the norm to get a free drink voucher when you check into a hostel in Mexico so save the cocktails for then.

Finding cheap flights
If you’re travelleing from further than the US then perhaps the thing that’s putting you off Mexico are the flight prices. You can spend loads on a return flight to Mexico, however if you shop around there are lots of cheap deals to be found. I always find Skyscanner is good for flights as it lets you compare prices over the whole month.

Generally speaking if you break up your flight it saves money, so look at flights going via the US. When I checked it was cheapest to fly via Housten or Ft Lauderdale. On a fluke my friend managed to find us some really cheap return direct flights with Tui which left from Manchester to Cancun for £200.  I ended booking this and wasting the return as it was cheaper than a one way. Sometimes it pays to look at prices from other regions in the UK and then just pay for the coach to get there.

 

 

Have you bean? Why coffee lovers should travel to these 15 countries

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From Guatemala to South Africa.  A unique travel guide for the worlds best coffee cultures and coffees (and where to get them)

I spend a lot of time in cafes when I travel around the world.  It’s not just the caffeine buzz that I’m hooked on.

Any coffee lover will know that its more than just a drink. Coffee a way to socialize, slow down and gather you’re own thoughts. No matter where you go in the world and how different it is from home, a cafe is always a cafe, and that’s a comforting thought.

Whether you’re in a busy city, or a remote village, coffee symbolises togetherness all over the world,  and so many cultures would grind to a halt without it.

One of the aspects that is so appealing about travel is immersing yourself in the local culture and I think you’re more likely to find that in a country’s coffee shop, rather than it’s museums.

There’s a world of unique and unusual coffees out there so, if you love nothing more than watch the world go by over a cup of coffee, then pick a country and whisk yourself off to it, espresso.

 

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Vietnam

Vietnamese food gets a lot of praise, but one thing you hear less about is its fantastic variety of coffees.  Its coffee shops vary drastically from place to place, from traditional street side cafes in Hanoi’s Old Quarter to a thriving cosmopolitan coffee scene in Ho Chi Minh City.

You have to try the traditional Vietnamese filter coffee, served with sweet condensed milk, and the weirdly wonderful meringue like egg coffee in Hanoi is one for the bucket-list.  Any coffee fanatics will love the beautiful city of Hoi An, with more Instagram worthy cafes, (and streets),than you could possibly fit in.

Be sure to visit: Cafe Pho Co in Hanoi, with a hidden entrance through a silk shop that’s famous for its egg coffee, and Hoi An Roastery in Hoi An for its coconut milk coffees.

 

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Italy

What could be nicer than sitting outside on an Italian summers day with a cup of coffee, a pastry and the warmth of the sun on your face?

The Italians are real coffee lovers and without it the country would grind to a halt.

When you order a coffee in Italy it will come as come as a short, strong espresso. Despite being invented there, its only acceptable to order a cappuccino before 11 in the morning as Italians believe that milky coffees are too heavy to have after lunch.We rushed on a lazy morning in Florence to get these coffees ( pictured above.)

Be sure to visit: Ditta Artigianele, Florence, for its modern coffees and superb brunch

 

Finland

As a whole, the Scandinavian countries drink more coffee than anywhere else in the world and the top coffee consuming country is Finland. It’s estimated that the Finnish drink around ten cups of coffee a day, that’s enough to help burn off all of the cakes they eat with it.

In fact coffee and cake is so important that they even have their own word for it. Kakkukakvi is a Finnish concept that literally translates to ‘coffee and cake’, so it shows you how integral it is to their lifestyle.

The most unusual Finnish coffee is Kaffeost. This strange drink is made by putting chunks of cheese into a cup and pouring coffee on top of it. You eat the cheese at the end with a spoon. Not sure if its everyone’s cup of tea though.

 

Be sure to visit: Good life Coffee, Helsinki, for excellent no-nonsense coffee and laid back vibe.

Greece

The Greeks love of coffee is so strong that you’re just as likely to see groups of teens sipping coffee at a rooftop bar, as you are a cocktail.

You’ll see plenty of locals sat outside drinking thick greek coffee while playing games of Tavli, (Greek Backgammon), but its the cappuccino and Espresso Freddo’s that are the real stars of the show. These popular iced coffees are usually served fantastically sweet, and the silky topping of the Cappuccino Freddo is somewhere between cream and milk, but I’ve never quite sussed out what it is.

Be sure to visit: Athens 360 rooftop bar for fantastic coffees, cocktails and views across to the Acropolis

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Guatemala

It makes sense that one of the main coffee exporters is a must visit destination for coffee addicts. Of course, the city of Antigua’s stunning multicoloured buildings and fun-loving Spanish culture are reason enough to visit this `Central American country, but drinking an espresso in the very country it was grown is one for the bucket list.

Be sure to visit: Fernando’s Kaffee in Antigua for its celebration of locally grown coffee and chocolate.

 Japan

Japan has some of the cutest coffees around so you’ve got to give them a shot.  Coffee in the country is all about the aesthetics. Expect to find cute latte art on your coffee and quirky snacks on the side when you order a drink in a cafe.

Japan also puts a new meaning to the concept of coffee to go and there are loads of canned coffee brands that can be easily picked up from vending machines and shops.

Be sure to visit: The Moomin Anti- Loneliness Cafe in Tokyo. This quirky little cafe solves the problem of having no one to go out with by placing solo diners opposite a giant moomin toy. Coffee dates have never been more fun.

Australia

Not only did they invent the Flat White, Australia revolutionised the way we drink coffee in the UK, from greasy spoon cafes into the artisan cafes of today. On my bucket list is Melbourne, known for its massive coffee culture and brunch spots.

If you’re visiting the country then be sure to look for a Bulletproof Coffee. (That’s coffee with butter in it and it’s supposed to be delicious).

Be sure to visit: Melbourne’s Brother Baba Budan cafe for its quirky decor with chairs on the ceiling and excellent coffee


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Denmark

Denmark is one of the happiest countries in the world and you only need to witness the sociable atmosphere in  one of  Copenhagen’s bustling cafes to see why.

The Danish have a concept called Hygge which is all about cosines, socializing and celebrating the simple things, and hibernating indoors with coffee and friends is integral to this.

If you’re visiting Copenhagen then be sure to check out the Vesterbro neighbourhood for the best independent cafes and brunch spots, and it would be criminal not to seek out an Apple Danish when you’re there.

Check out my city guide for more tips:  36 hours in Copenhagen 

Be sure to visit: Paludan Bog & cafe, half bookshop, half bustling cafe in Copenhagen’s city centre

 

Belgium

We all know Belgium is famous for its chocolate, but what about its coffee culture?  Belgium ranks highly on the world coffee consuming country, coming in closely after the Scandinavian countries.

Brussels is packed full of quirky and independent coffee shops serving all the blends of coffees, milks and syrups that you could ever want.

Probably the best thing about Belgium’s coffee though is the food that goes with it. Not only does the country make some of the best chocolates in the world, it has some of the most tempting breads, pastries and desserts.

Be sure to try a Mattetaart- a rich cheesecake filling enclosed within puff pastry, Beignets- small fluffy donuts dusted with icing sugar, gorgeous little cookies in the shape of hands in Antwerpn, and of course the infamous Belgian waffles.

Be sure to visit: Kaffabar, Brussels, for its superb coffee, brunch and pastries

 

Indonesia

The 18,000 beautiful islands of Indonesia are the perfect destination for coffee lovers and hedonists. Take a look at any Instagram photo of exquisite latte art, alongside a colourful smoothie bowl and I almost guarantee that photo was taken in Bali.

This island is really leading the way in the coffee scene at the moment and really, what better way is there to spend the day than alternating between Bali’s many cafes and beaches?

Be sure to visit: Bali bowls for its healthy brunch, coffee and juice options

 

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Cuba

There’s something romantic and nostalgic about how Cuba paused in time, and that goes for its coffee culture as well as its cars. A cafe Cubana is the country’s traditional drink and is made with whipped sugar and coffee, giving the drink a sweet and foamy top layer.

One of my favourite experiences in the country was driving along the quiet road from Havana to Trinidad and making a stop at a little roadside cafe, full of locals and joining the long queue for a coffee. It’s nice to think that as Cuba opens to tourism and start to change, that coffee will always be a certainty.

Be sure to visit: Café El Escorial, Havana, for an authentic Cuban Coffee shop with coffee roasted on site.

 South Africa

The coffee business is booming in South Africa at the moment. The country is home to Black Insomnia Coffee, officially the worlds strongest coffee, and its cafes have been ranked some of the best in the world.

In the past a coffee in South Africa meant an instant one. However a love of coffee has been brewing and in recent years the industry has boomed. Now if you take a visit to Capetown you’ll find it bursting with coffee shops and eateries.

Be sure to visit: Truth Coffee, Cape Town, previously voted the worlds best coffee shop for its quirky decor and hand roasted coffee.

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 UK

I had to put the UK on my coffee list. We’re a country known largely for our love affair with tea, but in recent years our love of coffee has steadily grown too.

We haven’t invented any remarkably different coffee drinks but what we have done is learnt from the best.

If you’re visiting London then head out of the city centre to find the best coffee shops. Camden, Shoreditch and Brixton have plenty of quirky cafes to choose from. Other UK cities such as Manchester, Bristol and Brighton also have thriving cafe scenes.

Be sure to visit: If you’re around Covent Garden in London then be sure to check out Neals Yard Courtyard. This little area is well hidden and has a bunch of good cafes, offering a little sanctuary in the heart of the busy city.

 

Portugal

Portugal often gets forgotten about when it comes to food and drink, compared to its Mediterranean neighbours but it’s high up there as a foodie destination. With its cobblestone streets, spectacular architecture and quaint trams, Lisbon is the ideal place to grab a cup of coffee.

The drink of choice is an espresso, that’s um Bica in Lisbon, (or um Combolinho in Porto).  You can also order coffees with milk like a latte, um Galao, but like in Italy it tends to be frowned upon to order these after lunch.

Of course no coffee in Portugal is complete with a Pateis de Nata, thats custard tart to you and me.

Be sure to visit: The best place to get custard tarts are at Antiga Confeitaria de Belem. This established pattiserie sells thousands of tarts each day and always has a queue out of the door, but a Portuguese tart warm out of the oven is something worth waiting for.

 

Mexico 

Everything in Mexico is vibrant and exciting, and that goes for its coffee culture too. Cafe de Olla is the country’s traditional beverage and is made up of coffee, cinnamon, sugar and orange peel

Traditionally these ingrediants are heated together in a clay pot, which contributes to the coffee’s unique flavour.

Be sure to visit: Cafe Passmar in Mexico city for its authentic coffee

 

Do you know any other great countries that coffee lovers should visit? Share your comments below. 

 

 

Local guide: Where to find the best brunch in Brighton

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A locals guide to Brighton’s most Instagrammable brunch and breakfast spots

I love going out for brunch. In fact if I didn’t go for brunch quite as much I’d probably be quite rich- I wouldn’t be as happy though. I don’t know if it’s the self-indulgent feeling of spending a lot of money on something I could have made at home, or the feeling of satisfaction I get from being so productive that I’m in town at 10 in the morning, but brunching has become the new going out for dinner, and there’s no better a city to get in on the trend than Brighton.

Whether you like you’re eggs runny, or your coffee extra strong, I’ve rounded up a list of the best places to ‘avo’ good brunch in Brighton.

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Mange Tout

81 Trafalgar St, Brighton BN1 4EB

This independent french bistro is the epitome of what a saturday morning should be for me. Although small this bistro packs tables in and offers a low-key brunch experience, all featuring the very best of ingredients. The atmosphere is always bustling and casual chic, and the food is always divine. The eggs Benedict are always cooked to perfection and the Hollandaise sauce is always rich but never too much. There is also a fantastic a-la carte menu, ideal for a relaxed dinner with friends.IMG_6119

The Trading Post

36 Ship Street, Brighton, BN1 1AB

You’d be far-fetched to get through this large brunch menu at one of Brighton’s trendiest cafes. Offering everything from Vegan breakfasts to Welsh Rarebit, this locals favourite spot is guaranteed to please everyone. The tea and coffee selection is extensive and the coffee beans are roasted on site. There is a large amount of seating here so its perfect for friends, but also has plenty of window seats and charging points, so it’s a great place to go and work too. IMG_8543

Black Mocha

103 Gloucester Rd, Brighton BN1 4AP

This coffee shop is hidden in the heart of the bustling North Laine and is deceptively large inside. There’s a small brunch menu that caters for everyone. The Shakshuka is particularly good, and there’s a large sections of pastries, cake and sandwiches that change regularly. Black Mocha is also the number one place in Brighton for hot chocolate, serving three varieties, including a vegan one, so it’s the ideal place for a hot chocolate and a morning pastry.IMG_8078.JPG

Red Roaster

1D St James’s St, Brighton BN2 1RE

This coffee roaster has always been known for its superb coffee beans but it’s recently had a refurbishment and its decor and cuisine is now cool enough to brighten up everyone’s feed. The decor is spacious, modern and suggests intellectual and inspiring conversations are happening. There’s plenty to choose from for brunch and lunch from burrito’s to waffles. The non-alcoholic cocktails are particularly good.IMG_2132

Cafe Plenty

3-4 circus parade, New England road, Brighton BN1 4GW

This trendy cafe is a 15 minute walk out of the main town which means that it tends to be frequented with locals rather than tourists. The ‘New York- modern’ decor is very Instagrammable and the food selection is extensive. This is the best place to go for fluffy american style pancakes, but there’s plenty of other options if you’re after something savoury. It’s the ideal place to base yourself for an hour with good company, as there’s plenty of seating. It’s very up to the minute with what’s going on in Brighton and regularly hosts artist private views, meet and greets and other events.

 

Know any other good brunch and breakfast spots in Brighton?Comment below and let me know.

Looking for more food inspiration in Brighton? Be sure to check out Happy Maki for their vegan sushi rolls: Eating My Way Around Brighton: Happy Maki Vegan Sushi Rolls

Forget Hygee: How we’re already living Danishly

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I am a massive fan of lifestyle guides. Any book promising to make me seem anything other than British is right up my street, and a few weeks ago I found myself strangely drawn to a little Danish lifestyle guide on Hygge.

For those of you that don’t know, Hygge is a Danish well-being concept that loosely translates as cosiness. Its claimed to be the reason behind the Danes dizzying high levels of happiness, so I thought that it was something I could really on board with.

However as I read all about it, I started to get really confused. Surely there was more to Hygge than just turning the lights down?

I decided the only sensible thing was to plan a visit to Copenhagen and search for Hygge myself.


 

As soon as I landed in the city I was on full on Hygge hunting mode. Danish lifestyle guides will tell you that Hygge comprises of Cosiness, togetherness, food and the simple things, but I thought surely there had to be more to it than that. I headed to a little cafe in the city centre because the cold weather had made me absolutely starving and I ordered  a bowl of tomato soup.

The food was warming and on each table were little tea lights, giving the place a cozy ambience. I looked around the restaurant at everyone socializing and it seemed very Hygge, but it was also no different from what I do at home with my friends, and the large bill definitely didn’t make me feel very happy.

Copenhagen’s streets are beautiful. They’re romantic and colourful and even a little spooky, maybe even a little Hygge, but I wasn’t quite sure what I was getting at. I went to the Design Museum and admired the brilliant simplicity of Danish design. If celebrating the simple things is integral to Hygge than this is no clearer than its decor, but there’s a trend for minimalistic furnishings at home so I was a little confused on where we were going wrong.

As the day came to an end I’d completely knackered myself out searching for evidence of Hygge. Then it came to me: if Hygge is a Danish mindfulness concept, then how can it be photographed? In fact by searching for Hygge I’d missed the very point itself, because Hygee has less to with what’s around you and more to do with yourself.

So maybe sometimes we don’t live Danishly. Sometimes we rush, we consume and we argue, but we don’t need a book on Hygge to tell us that we need to slow down. I know that anyway. I don’t think that I’d get through the winter months if I didn’t get exercise a little mindfulness, I don’t think any of us would.

So it seems that you don’t need to go and buy a whole load of candles and a whole load of lifestyle guides to live Danishly. Just slow down, make a cup of tea and see your friends because your life’s already Hygge, you just didn’t have a word for it.

 

36 hours in Copenhagen

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A two day travel guide for foodies in the Danish capital

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Brunch at Mad & Kaffe

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There are a lot of destinations on my travel bucket list, but Denmark has been up there for a while now. A perfect blend of old and new, Copenhagen’s colourful streets merge old tradition with modern innovation. Repeatedly voted one of the happiest countries in the world, take one look at the Danish capital’s colourful townhouses and anyone would be hard pressed not to feel bright.

With its awe-inspiring architecture and fairytale streets, this city will bring out the photographer in everyone. While you’re not ticking the cities’ famous attractions off your bucket list- the beautiful harbour of Nyhavn and the Little Mermaid statue to name a  couple, explore the city like a local and head out to one of the cities many galleries, cafes and restaurants.

Foodies will love the authentic Nordic cuisine, with a modern twist. The Danish have some of the lowest obesity rates in Europe, but that by no way means that their diet is boring. Dine like a local and head out for brunch in the trendy Vesterbro area, or try one of the Smørrebrød, (Danish open sandwich) and of course, it would be criminal to leave the country without trying a Danish pastry, in their very own country.

I’m in love with the Danish concept of  Hygge, a term loosely used to describe togetherness, family and a celebration of the simple things. Any country that has a word for cozying up in the winter months gets my vote.

Although prices in the country are high, flights can be cheap. I was browsing for last-minute flights last week, while looking for a place to go and it was one of the cheapest. So If like me, you’ve only got a couple of days in the city, there’s more than enough time to soak up the sights and enjoy the Danish lifestyle. Here’s my guide on how to spend 36 hours in Copenhagen.

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Day one

Starting point: Copenhagen Central Station

Once you land, take the train or metro to Copenhagen Central Station and head to the beautifully ornate city hall square to orientate yourself. From here you can walk down the Strøget, one of the longest shopping streets in Europe, and make sure to visit the original Lego Store.

Fuel up at Cafe Norden

About halfway down the street, gourmet eatery, Cafe Norden shouldn’t be missed. Its impressive architecture will draw you and its heavenly pastries will keep you there.  Cafe Norden is not budget friendly but its the perfect place to grab a cup of coffee and a bowl of tomato soup and watch the world go by.

Take your snaps at the iconic Nyhavn Harbour

With a much lighter pocket, and a full stomach, your next port of call has to be the iconic and beautiful harbour Nyhavn. Take your snaps, and then take it in. If you’re visiting in the winter months, then prepare for the cold, the area by the harbour gets chilly.

Wander through Snaregade and Magestraede Streets

As it starts to get dark take a walk via the beautiful streets of Snaregade and Magstraede. These winding, cobblestone streets are some of the oldest and the most colourful in the city, and you’ll start to get a feeling of what Hygge is all about as you wander down these streets, past cosy little cafes lit by candlelight.

Check-in to Accommodation: Steel House Hostel 

If you’re only staying for a quick break, I’d recommend staying near the central station. From here its easy to get to and from the airport, as well as walking to the main city sights and to trendy Vesterbro. Although accommodation in Scandinavia is not cheap, you can still find plenty of budget places to stay. I stayed at Steel House which was technically a hostel but really more of a hotel. You can opt to stay in a dorm or private room and it is super modern and clean with a nice computer area, pool, kitchen and common area. I really liked its minimalist Danish decor, and it was only five minutes walk away from the station.

Paludan Bog & Cafe for food with a literary twist 

After you’ve dropped your bag off, it’s time to eat again. Quirky cafe, Paludan Bog & cafe is  a good place to grab a bite to eat. This bustling place is half cafe, half bookshop, although really it’s more about the socializing than the reading. They serve coffee, cake,  along with a large food menu and alcohol so it’s the perfect place to settle down for an hour.

Late Night Cocktails at Bar 1105

It’s not a city break if you go to bed early and Copenhagen has lots of cozy bars to pass the time. We went for cocktails at cozy bar, 1105 in the city centre. Be sure to try one of their takes on a Gin and Tonic. IMG_7495.JPGIMG_7566.JPGIMG_7631.JPGIMG_7345

Day Two

Brunch in trendy Vesterbro

The next morning, wake up slowly and join the locals at popular brunch spot, Mad & Kaffe, in Vesterbro. Expect a little wait, this place is always packed and for good reason. The brunch menu contains lots of small dishes such as sourdough bread, scrambled eggs with chives, homemade cinnamon buns and chilli avocado, that you can mix and match. You can choose between three, five or seven dishes. The decor is cute and the atmosphere is infectious.

Visit the Design Museum

If you’re after something a little different from your regular museum then be sure to give the Design Museum a visit. This showcases the best in Danish design, from furniture to clothing and is a great place to get interiors tips. Entry is 115 DKK, or free if you’re under 26 or a student.

Stop by The Little Mermaid

You’re in the right part of town to pay a visit to the little mermaid. Head to the water, and walk along the coast and you’ll find her sat on the rocks, sadly gazing out.

Tuck into some Danish Pastries 

Before you leave the city it would be a crime to not make a thing out of Danish pastries and coffee. Apparently, the best cafes are Leckerbaer and Brød, but I just settled for a little bakery with seating, on my way back to the train station. The apple Danish was delicious but the stodgy and sticky cinnamon bun was definitely the one for me. IMG_7496

  • The local currency is Danish Krone
  • Getting to and from the airport: Catch the train from Terminal Three to Copenhagen Central Station. The trains run every 10 minutes in the day, or three times an hour at night,  and the journey takes 13 minutes.
  • Basic vocab:
  • Hello: Hej/ Goddag
  • Bye: Farvel
  • Thankyou: Tak

Koh Rong Samloem: Sunsets, beaches and plastic

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How rubbish and plastic pollution are littering Koh Rong Samloem and Koh Rong’s beaches and destroying these Cambodian islands

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For a tiny island, Koh Rong Samloem, Cambodia’s newest base for backpackers and hedonists, boasts a lot of beaches. Most of them are accessible only by boat and offer a refuge for those looking for complete and utter isolation. The island has been labelled ‘the Thailand of 20 years ago’,  before the influx of resorts and package holiday goers. There are no ATMs on the island, limited wifi and little stress. There is little of any outside intrusion here, apart from rubbish.

Many of the island’s idyllic beaches have been polluted with litter.

‘Don’t go on that beach, it’s full of rubbish’,  that’s the general consensus about a lot of the islands’ central beaches. Tragically, it’s no exaggeration, and it’s not just the odd bottle that’s causing a fuss. Some beaches are covered in piles of trash, particularly plastics, that have been washed up. The resorts on the islands main stretch, Saracen Bay, do a good job at keeping it clean, but head over to the more isolated bays like Lazy Beach to see the true extent of the issue.

Cambodia has got a massive problem with plastics. As a developing country, it lacks infrastructure and education to recycle properly. New statistics show that Cambodians use more than 2,000 plastic bags per year. That’s 10 times more than the average in China and The EU. The government is now looking at taxing plastic bags, but help is still needed to clean up the damage that has already been done, and the situation is critical. A new study from The Asia Foundation has shown that if things continue, Cambodia will run out of landfill space in as little as five years time.  On the islands, it’s not just a question of aesthetics. Each year 100,000 marine mammals die from plastic pollution, causing havoc to the biodiversity in the ocean.

Plastics are just the start of the problem in Cambodia. A lack of basic sewage disposal means that the island’s waste is pumped right out into the ocean via large sewage pipes running over the sand. This problem isn’t just limited to go Koh Rong Samloem, it’s even worse on neighbouring Koh Rong. Once the more popular island, most of its beaches now contain unmanageable volumes of rubbish. Furthermore, its frontal waters have been so heavily contaminated by sewage to the point that its inadvisable to swim in. The island is becoming a no go zone among backpackers, a fate that Koh Rong Samloem is surely set to suffer if things don’t change.

Dealing with the environmental issues on the Cambodian islands is no mean feat. It transcends beyond picking up the litter that already lines the beach, but it’s a start. Plastic pollution is a ticking bomb. If things don’t change now, Koh Rong Samloem looks set to become just another wasteland, and an example of how we’re destroying our planet, one place at a time.

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  • If you want to help, there are a number of volunteer projects available on the islands.
  • Frontier run a few projects on Koh Rong Samloem, where you can assist on a range of projects, from beach conservation, island community development and marine conservation. www.frontier.ac.uk
  • Marine Conservation Cambodia are a small conservation group, based in Kep on the mainland. Interns or volunteers can help assess the health of marine life, log species and assist in community development projects. This is good for those who already have a PADI license, but they also offer training. https://www.marineconservationcambodia.org
  • Save Cambodian Marine Life is an NGO charity based on Koh Rong Samloem. They offer a variety of projects, running from one week, upwards. There are opportunities to help with marine projects such as building a coral nursery, along with other tasks like increasing the company’s social media presence. https://www.savecambodianmarinelife.com

 

Plastic pollution in Cambodia is a serious issue and it needs to be addressed now. Please share this post so we can raise awareness before paradise really is lost forever. 

Read more about my adventures in South East Asia here: Asia

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Dealing with anxiety as a solo traveller

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IMG_6145.JPGIf you think your anxiety means that you can’t go solo travelling, think again. Anxiety is more common and less of a taboo than ever before and its a topic that came up in conversation as much among other travellers, as it did with friends back home.

Everyone thinks that to go travelling alone you have to be an overly confident, self-assured and adventurous person. It’s just not true. If you have anxiety, it may be harder to make yourself go, but you have so much more to gain from your travels than anyone else.

Anxiety is more prevalent than it ever has been. It may be because we’re more aware of it,  because of increasing social pressures and competition, or as an effect of social media. Either way, Anxiety can leave you feeling lost, isolated, nervous and a little angry. Making the decision to go travelling can seem massive but my advice is to just do it. If you’re really worried, book a small trip or a group tour, but I can’t stress enough the benefits of going solo. Either way, just that process of putting yourself out of your comfort zone means that you’re one step closer to tackling this illness.

When I was away I met so many people who had come through or were still suffering mental health disorders. There were those who’d had eating disorders, those who’d had breakdowns, those who had come through anxiety or who still suffered from it.  I’m not saying go travelling is the cure-all to all problems. I’m not saying you won’t get anxiety attacks while you’re away. But sometimes all you need is to put yourself out of your comfort zone, challenge yourself, meet new people and discover new places. Don’t let mental illness control your life, you might find travel is the best form of therapy you’ve ever been prescribed.

Five ways to deal with anxiety when you travel

Be organised

Sometimes, feeling out of control can make your anxiety seem worse. Being prepared can give you that extra boost of confidence that you need. Pre-plan an itinerary, have a list of accommodation options available and have a folder with all of your important documents in it.

Be open to meeting people

Anxiety can play havoc with your self-confidence but forcing yourself to meet people is what travel is about. Having new people to talk to and do things with can make you feel ten times more confident.

Look after yourself

Remember that you’ve really put yourself out of your comfort zone by going travelling in the first place, so don’t be too hard on yourself. If something is really worrying you, then listen to yourself, even if it mean paying a little more. If you feel like you need some alone time, book yourself into a nice hotel, or if you’re worried about visiting a place by yourself, book a group tour for a few days.

Bring snacks

Sometimes, something as simple as having low blood sugar can trigger an anxiety attack. Keep a plentiful supply of snacks with you at all times so that you’re never caught off guard. It’s one less thing to worry about also.

Don’t think about it

Worrying about your anxiety can be enough to trigger it. Luckily travelling offers a world of distractions. If you feel an anxiety attack coming on try distracting yourself by listening to some music, going to chat with others in a hostel common room, sitting out in the sunlight and even having a few motivational phrases that you can go over in your head.

Anxiety may be a part of your life, but there’s not need for it to stop you living it. The hardest thing about travelling with anxiety is making yourself go in the first place,  but just think about all the amazing experiences that you’re going to have. You might find that you’re so busy moving forward, your anxiety just won’t be able to catch up.

 

 

The Pros and Cons of being a young digital nomad

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7429AED7-243F-4CAF-8C16-C328BF76391F.jpegDigital What?!

First things first, what is a digital nomad? Well it’s a phrase coined to describe the ever-growing number of people who work from their laptops, not an office, and who do this wherever they are in the world.

Bloggers are digital nomads. Many entrepreneurs or creatives are. In fact more and more professions are moving towards this way of working. Next time you go to a coffee shop, look around you. There are digital nomads there.

Obviously you may find yourself working from your laptop at any age but with our technology skills and increasing competition in the traditional job market, its highly likely you’ll find yourself working this way, either instead of university, or after you graduate.

As someone with an interest in pursing journalism, and with a passion for blogging, working in this way is something that I’m really interested in. Journalism is changing and traditional media outlets and newspapers are being replaced with blogs and freelance submissions. The office is dying. The same applies to many other careers. Look at web designers, online english teachers or traders as a couple of examples.

So is this way of working suited to you? Here are a few things to bear in mind.

  • There are plenty of advantages to this way of working. The first is the freedom that being a digital nomad gives you. You can work from anywhere in the world. If you love travelling then finding a way to move about, while making money may be ideal. You also are likely to be your own boss. That means you set your own hours and your own rules. Working from your laptop means you have to be a pretty self motivated character. If you want to make money, you have to make sure you put the work in, but surely it takes the edge off that Monday feeling if you’re working from the beach?
  • Of course there are plenty of cons to consider too. It takes a special type of person to be able to work this way, particularly if you’re younger. The primary thing you have to bear in mind is loneliness. How good are you with your own company? Do you have a wide network of friends anyway? We’re social creatures and working from your laptop means its harder to meet people. When I travel, I’m usually surrounded by people, but sometimes at home, when all my friends are at uni, I feel a little isolated.

Being a young digital nomad doesn’t have to be this black and White. Increasingly people are striving for a balance between an office and a nomadic lifestyle. This may mean that you work in an office for a couple of days a week, then from home the next. You may disappear for months on end, submit work back home, then come back to the office for a bit. You may travel but have constant interaction via conference calls or Skype meetings. There are endless way to make this work for you and your career.

So whether you’re thinking about the next few months, or the next few years, think outside of the box when it comes to your career. Thanks to technology, your office doesn’t have to have four walls.  Find a job that works for you.

Useful Things You Need To Know Before Travelling In Vietnam

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Vietnam was a country that had been on my bucket list forever so when I decided to add in as part of my backpacking South East Asia Itinerary I couldn’t be more excited. I knew very little about the country or the culture when I turned up in Hanoi as part of my first solo backpacking trip.  Perhaps this was a little naive but I was just so damn excited to get out there and explore I didn’t really leave time for planning.

As a solo female backpacker I found Vietnam to be a safe, sociable and relatively easy country to travel in and the food was out of this world good. My biggest concern was the traffic- Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh are an absolute nightmare to even cross the road!

If you’ve got the time then I’d say don’t overly plan an itinerary for Vietnam as its much better to take each day as it comes. ( A typhoon in Central Vietnam totally changed my plans forcing me to fly from Hue to Ho Chi Minh City then back up later on).

Either way if you are planning on travelling to Vietnam here are a few things to bear in mind first. 

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The visa situation

Ok so first of all if you are visiting longer than 15 days then you need a visa. You need to pre-book your visa before you’ve arrived. There’s a lot of conflicting information online about what you need and how much you need to pay. Basically the thing you’re after is an approval letter. If you book an e visa, it’s the same, just a letter.

I went with http://www.evisa.com.vn which is recommended by Lonely Planet. They are legitimate and can process and email you your letter in 1-2 working days for 20 USD or 30 USD if you need it urgently, which is what I did the last-minute. You can apply from home or in another country if you’re somewhere else before. I applied while in Thailand. To apply you just need to send a photo of your passport and a photo of a passport size photo of yourself. If you’re backpacking in Asia you should always have passport photos on you.

If time is short and you’re only staying 15 days and you’re from one of the eligible countries like the UK, you do not need to get an e-visa. However YOU NEED PROOF OF ONWARD TRAVEL. A lot of backpackers heading to another country after will not have a flight booked out of Vietnam. You will not be able to get on your flight without this. They will make you book one at the airport and this can be expensive.

Now we’re over the visa hassle, the rest is a lot more straightforward.IMG_2347

Choosing where to stay: hostels or hotels? 

I’m not a fan of the whole, arrive in a place, have no idea where you’re staying and walk around for hours with your backpack trying to find somewhere. It is A: Either going to be very hot or B-Going to be raining,  so save yourself hassle and prebook the night before. Always book just one night at first, incase the place is awful. It’s also often cheaper to extend a night in person rather than booking it all at once online.

In Asia but specifically Vietnam, you get a lot for your money accommodation wise. If you’re up for hostels, you’re looking at no more than £6 a night. I always book mine on Booking.com and now get special discounts because of it. Always filter by distance from city centre, ( You want to be in the city centre. 4.7 k outside anywhere is annoying), best reviewed, lowest price and free breakfast. With the amount of value hostels competing, there is no need to ever pay for breakfast, saving you money.IMG_2354

Getting around

Vietnam is a massive country. Loads of people go on epic motorbiking adventures and they will tell you there is no point going to Vietnam unless you have one. There is.

The easiest way to get around in Vietnam are sleeper buses. These two-story buses pretty much have routes across the whole country and are much cheaper than the train. They have vertical beds in them and you can actually sleep, so long journeys are actually quite bearable. Do not book these online. The prices will be in US dollars and that is expensive. You can book in person but it’s best to do it via your hostel or a travel agent. They do add a small commission fee but it is  usually worth saving the hassle of negotiating with a Vietnamese ticket seller. Pre book your bus at least a day in advance.

For any journeys over 10 hours, I would advise you fly if possible. If you are near a main airport then this is cheap. For example Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh. Danang (Hoi An) to Ho Chi Minh is a good example. It’s a 17 hour sleeper bus or a one hour flight costing just £20. You can book via a travel agent but it’s usually easier and just as cheap on Skyscanner.

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Money

The money situation is very confusion. Inflation in Vietnam is ridiculous. £1 GBP is 30,000 dong so 300,000 = 10 GBP and 3000,000 is around 100 GBP. This is always good as a base to work from. Download the free XE currency converter app. It works without wi-fi and will be a lifesaver while you get to grips with the currency. Always double-check your change, it’s common to be shortchanged and organise your money in chronological order in your purse. There are no coins in Vietnam so your purse can get pretty full.

You can get Vietnamese dong outside of the country but the exchange rate is much better if you change your money once you get there.  US dollars are always good to bring as these are widely changed.  There are caps on how much you can withdraw so don’t freak out if the first ATM won’t let you. Some banks, generally bigger ones, let you draw out 5 million, others only 2. There is always a high fee for withdrawing. This is unfortunately unavoidable.

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Amazing vegetarian Cao Lau (A Hoi An speciality)

 

Eating and drinking

Vietnamese food is unsung hero of Asian cuisine. Everything in Vietnam tastes amazing and it should never have to cost you more than 100 thousand dong (£3.30). As per usual, eat from street vendors for cheap food, restaurants for a little more.  Try the regional specialties in each area. Northern, Central and Southern food varies a lot. Try Bun Cha up North, White Rose dumplings in the middle and Ban Mi in the South.

The thing that surprised me most in Vietnam is their coffee culture. You can spend 50 thousand dong on a coffee in fancy places but generally the best places are little cafes on street corners without menus that the locals frequent. Here you can usually get an iced milk coffee, served with free green tea for 15 thousand dong.

Read more about this here if you’re interested: How To Order Coffee In Vietnam
Alcoholic drinks are cheaper than at home but not cheap in comparison to Vietnamese prices. Beer will only set you back 30 thousand, (1 GBP), but apart from that, the less alcohol  you drink, the less you spend. In most cities, the authorities crack down on nightlife after midnight so most bars shut or go ‘underground’ anyway.

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I hope you found this post useful. Any more questions about backpacking in Vietnam? I’d love to help

Why Hoi An Is My Favourite Place Ever

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When I was planning my Vietnam trip, Hoi An was the place I was looking forward to most. Everyone that had ever been to Vietnam had said it was their favourite city and I couldn’t wait to walk around the dreamy, lantern filled streets. Sadly,  I didn’t account for the typhoon that hit central Vietnam while I was there, which meant I had to go straight from North to South of the country.  A week later I heard Hoi An had cleared up and although it meant going completely out of my way, flying from Ho Chi Minh to Hoi An, so that I could then fly back to Ho Chi Minh to go to Cambodia a week later, I decided that I couldn’t miss it.

It’s sunset when I eventually arrive in Hoi An and the sky is a beautiful shade of pink. When I get to the waterfront Hoi An takes my breath away.

Lanterns everywhere light up this little city. Their colours reflect in the river that runs through this Unesco world heritage site and in the background someone’s playing the guitar. I feel like I’ve walked straight onto a movie set. On the river are little long tail boats taking people down the water, on which little coloured lanterns lit by candle are floating. In the centre street vendors are selling sweet banana crepes at the night market and high-end restaurants and low-key bars are filling up with people.

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IMG_2350.JPG Hoi An’s old town is a Unesco world heritage site. It’s free to explore but if you want to visit the museums and five ancient houses then you need to buy an entrance ticket costing 120,000 VND.IMG_2354IMG_2355.JPG

There’s nothing that symbolises Hoi An better than Lanterns. originally the locals, started to hang them as they believed that they bring happiness, health and good luck if they have them outside of the house. Now lanterns have become an iconic landmark for tourists and the crowds pile into the night market every evening to take photos and to watch them being hand-made.

Even the bigger ones fold up pretty compactly, making them easy to transport back home. Or fancy trying your hand at making your own? Try one of the many popular lantern making classes.

 

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One of the best things to do in Hoi An is people watch, and there’s no shortage of places to do that from. The centre of the city is car free meaning it’s the easiest of places to wander around. Hoi An boasts many museums that paint an interesting depiction of life in the city, back in the past. As well as being fascinating in themselves, most of these museums offer great views over the city streets from their balcony’s and windows.

 

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Although distinctively Vietnamese, Hoi An’s strong foreign influence can be easily spotted throughout the city. If visiting the city it’s impossible to miss the beautiful and ornate Japanese covered bridge as well as it’s many Chinese temples such as Cam Pho and Quan Cong.

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Hoi An’s location in Vietnam and it’s proximity to the river mean that it’s prone to flooding. However the water clears up pretty quickly when this happens. Hoi An was flood free when I visited until the day that I left. I got down to near the waterfront and couldn’t understand why everything suddenly felt different and I felt complete lost with where abouts I was.

When I walked down a little, I realised what had been one of the central streets was now the waterfront and the front two streets had been engulfed by water. The locals are pretty resilient when it comes to dealing with this, and boats take the places of bicycle’s on the streets. Still, the economic cost of loss of trade can be massive for the cafes and restaurants on the river front.

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Hoi An has countless places to eat, from fancy restaurants and wine bars, to cheap dishes at The Central Market and snacks from street vendors. More than anything, Hoi An is a place to satisfy your sweet tooth.  Spending some time in one of the many cafes and dessert eateries and bakeries is a must do.

Make sure to try the vegan coconut milk coffee at one of the Hoi An Roastery cafes and a raw pressed juice at Cocobox when you need to detox from the sugar.  The ‘Watermelon Men’ one is so refreshing. You also have to visit the Cargo Club to try their infamous desserts. The mango cheesecake is insane. It goes without saying that visiting Vietnam without trying a banana crepe topped with condensed milk at the night market is a crime. They make the perfect post cocktail snack.

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Hoi An fun fact number one: There are over 100,000 bicycles on the roads in the city. So although you don’t need to watch out for cars in the old town, take care not to get run over by bicycles while snapping your pics.

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If you’ve got the time then why not take one of the boat rides down the river once the sun goes down? There’s plenty of people offering these and they won’t set you back much money for a half an hour or so.

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If you walk around Hoi An at night, you may see local people burning fires outside of their houses. Many families burn ghost money made from paper and other paper items in vats, believing that it will pass to deceased relatives and be deposited for themselves in the afterlife. In Hoi An this act has a romantic and dreamy connotation to it.

 

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Hoi An’s Central Market is the best place to grab something to eat, with most meals costing just 30,000 VND. The local specialities that you must try are; Cao Lau, chewy noodles in a flavoursome sauce, usually served with pork and fresh greens and White Rose shrimp dumplings which are delicate, light and flavoursome.

You also can’t visit Vietnam without trying a Banh Mi, and Hoi An is the perfect place to have one. A tribute to Vietnam’s French influence, these soft baguettes are sliced open and filled with delicious fillings like pork or pate, and then topped with fresh herbs, veg and sauces. They can be picked up from a street vendor at any hour of the day. Opinions are divided between where the best Banh Mi is: Banh Mi Phuong or Madam Khanh. So I guess you just have to try both.

 

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Hoi An translates as ‘peaceful meeting place’ and it’s fair to say that it would be hard to come to the city and feel stressed. If you’re feeling inspired to visit, (how can you not?), then the best way to get there is by flight into Danang city airport and then by bus or taxi from the airport to Hoi An’s centre. The journey takes around 40 minutes. Wondering where to go next? Head North to the imperial city of Hue or South to the beaches of Nha Trang.

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Cuba: Country of colours

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IMG_8579IMG_9029Cuba has got a lot of problems. One of the last truly communist countries left, it deals with poverty, crime and dictatorship but despite all that, it’s a country more vibrant and alive than I’ve ever seen.

Walking in Havana, between crumbling walls and decaying buildings are vibrant bursts of colour. A turquoise vintage car: still in use as new car imports were until recently, banned,  a stall selling homegrown fruit, a mural painted on the wall. However despite its oppression, the vibrancy of colour in the city shows that Cubans are getting their message out in other ways.

The winding paths connecting the most popular cities, Havana and Trinidad are run down beyond repair but this journey is still shrouded in colours. When we’re away from the vividness of the blue Caribbean sea, we’re by Cuba’s forest which is lush and tropical. On the road we pass vintage car after vintage car in exotic colours. By the road are fruit sellers with banana bunches and guavas in baskets to be sold by those driving by.

Arriving in Trinidad, we’re struck by the boldness of this place. Street after street of multi-coloured one floor houses make up this town. It’s a popular tourist destination yet under the intense heat, it’s empty.  With horses and carts going past us, Trinidad feels like we’ve stepped back in time in to an American Western film, except this scene definitely isn’t in black and white.

A need for money has meant Cuba is increasingly welcoming in more and more tourists with direct flights now coming in from the US. However the country still has a lot of problems to solve. Despite its recent openness, Cubans are still not allowed to leave the country freely. Our guide tells us that he dreams of going to Paris, London and New York but instead he’s forced to drive between Cuba’s’ cities. News of the world outside is closely monitored and regulated. Our driver tells us he was once a lecturer at university but communist ideals mean that everyone is on an equal wage, where even doctors and gardeners earn the same.   “It’s better working as a driver then a professor, because I get tips”, he tells us.

You can still clearly see evidence of US sanctions.  Food is limited and can be tedious. We enter a market with an aisle full of biscuits, all the same brand, the next aisle juice, all the same brand.  Although what it lacks in food, it makes up with its liquor. True to the stereotype, Cubans are a race of rum drinkers. It’s where Bacardi  rum originated from  back in the 1800s, and now most drinks centre around the liquor or Havana club rum.  The most popular drink being the Cuba Libre: Rum and Coke.

In Havana we are enticed into a bar by jazz music, while sheltering from a rain shower. We find a low-key bar, easily missed if it wasn’t for the music. Inside we had the strongest Mojitos. The bar is jammed full of locals and tourists united, captivated by the mellow music of the jazz band.

Inside this packed bar,  as we all shelter from the raging storm outside, there’s a feeling that change is coming to the country. Despite all of its problems: the rations and poverty, Cuba’s future is bright.

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I hope you enjoyed this post. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions about Cuba or any other destination. I’ll be happy to help. Click here for more inspiration for Central America and the Caribbean.

Move over Santorini, there’s a new island in town

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                   Introducing Folegandros: The Cyclades newest island

unnamedunnamedIMG_8155IMG_7929.jpgIt’s seven o’clock and the sun is casting shadows over the stone white buildings clasping to the cliff edge, bringing another day to an end. From our spot by the church, a church as quintessentially Greek I ever did see,  we begin the descent, following the cobblestone path back to the main town, Chora. As dusk begins this Cycladic town has come alive with bustling tavernas, local cats as skinny as my wrist, and the sound of live music. The restaurants and bars at the cliff edge are especially enchanting and there’s a rush to win one of the best tables. Just a few miles across the Agean lies Santorini, the most popular of the Cycladic islands, but it’s smaller sister, Folegandros, has much more to offer in many ways.

Just 32 kilometres wide, Folegandros’ size is nothing to boast about but it’s this very reason it’s often overlooked and is somewhat of a hidden gem of these islands. Folegandros has an air of exclusivity to it in the way that Oia in Santorini once would have before the cruise ships came in and the airport was built. The town, Chora, is quiet and authentically Greek but is equipped enough for the handful of tourists that visit that it’s not inaccessible.

In contrast to the often touristic menus on the caldera in Santorini, restaurants in Folegandros feel family run and genuine. Food is served outside in courtyards underneath olive vines and there’s not a photo menu in site.

The island is accessible via ferry which run infrequently throughout the week, and the little port, Karavostasis, is Folegandros’ second town. Nestled along this small cove are boutique hotels and little bakeries selling homemade produce. At night this little crescent offers the only glimpse of light along this part of the coast. Walk a little past the last hotel, along the beachwalk and you’re suddenly ecompassed by darkness, and then the sky is lit up with more stars than you’ll ever see.

By day the beaches here are remote, yet rugged and beautiful. Folegandros is a photographers delight. Untouched and unspoilt even corner of the coastline offers another enchanting beach to explore.

To do:

Make sure you watch the sunset from the Church of Panagia at the top of the hill in Chora.

To stay:

As you’ll be arriving by ferry the port is a good place to stay. There are limited ferries so the port tends to be sleepy and quiet but there are plenty of buses running to the town and it’s a good place to base yourself to get to the beaches.

We stayed in Vrahos Boutique Hotel which was really lovely.

If you’re after something a little livelier than look at staying in Chora where the restaurants are busier and there are a few bars in the evenings. Although don’t visit Folegandros for a bustling nightlife.

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Vrahos Boutique Hotel

Confessions Of A Melbourne Barista: Spilling the beans of what it’s like to make coffee in Melbourne 

Confessions Of A Melbourne Barista: Spilling the beans of what it's like to make coffee in Melbourne 

I love the routine that I have going in Melbourne- and when I’m not busy writing or out exploring the city, you’ll find me at my cafe job, making coffees.

Coffee making is something that I’ve been doing on and off for the last few years back in England- ever since I was seventeen and I got my first cafe job. It’s a job that I not only enjoy but it’s one that has enabled me to fund many a trip over the last few years.

If you’ve never done it and you too love drinking coffee and enjoy chatting to the public then I would encourage you to go on a barista course: it’s a valuable set of skills to have that you can use anywhere in the world- plus cafe work can be a lot of fun.

Having said that, before I got to Melbourne I was very doubtful that I’d manage to find a coffee making job at all. Melbourne is famous for its coffee and boasts some of the best baristas and cafes in the world.

I was worried that I wouldn’t make the cut.

Thankfully, by some miracle, I managed to find some work pretty quickly. Since then my coffee-making abilities and my caffeine tolerance have been pushed to the limit- but being a barista has never been more fun than here.

On difficult coffee orders

It’s always when I have a ton of dockets up that I get that request for- an extra hot, dirty chai latte with almond milk, please. To the average person, coffee is coffee, right? Well to many customers there are a lot of variables and common requests include everything from burning hot to weak, 3/4 full, in a mug, made using particular brands of milk or made with varying quantities of foam.

On coconut milk

Soy, almond and lactose-free are fine but I’m sorry coconut milk is just a nightmare to work with.

On regular customers

We have a lot of regular customers who come to get coffee and chatting to them makes my day. Most people are really friendly and will always ask questions about you and what you’re doing. I always try and remember the names of our regulars, but between staff members, we often refer to people by their coffee order instead.

On the people that don’t know what they want

In Melbourne more than any other city, there are a lot of customers who know exactly what they want when it comes to coffee. The other half- Well they don’t have a foggy clue. Requests for ‘just a coffee’ are the norm. Sometimes you’ll bring over a short mac and they’ll laugh or complain that their cappuccino is too foamy. Difficult requests are the worst but those customers that require a breakdown of every single coffee on the menu, well they come pretty close.

On making coffee

Melbourne is famous for its coffee and I’ve been giving a lot of thought to what makes the coffee different here to coffee at home in England- and I’m sorry, there is a difference. The fundamentals are that coffees in Australia are generally weaker, with a regular size containing just one shot of espresso. However, the coffee sizes are also smaller here so it evens it out. in Australia, a lot more emphasis is given to the espresso shot here- whereas in England its all about the aesthetics (aka latte art). Here the baristas know the importance of packing the coffee properly and they can spot the difference between an over and under-extracted shot: something that I had to get to grips with.

On coffee making hacks 

A barista will know that there is a difference between a latte and a flat white-despite the cup. That being that a flat white should have virtually no foam. However, if you’re inundated with coffee orders, you can use the same milk to make the two. Just pour the flat white first, holding the milk jug at a height so that the foam doesn’t sit on the coffee. Then use the remainder of the milk to make the latte.

On Magic Coffee 

Contrary to the name, no special powers are required here. Magic coffee is a special Melbourne creation- and it’s quite a particular one. Technically, a magic coffee is like a smaller stronger latte that is made over a double ristretto or restricted espresso ( that’s the first half of the espresso shot only). If you were to serve this is in a normal latte glass, you would then top it up to two thirds full with steamed latte milk.

On Melbourne

There are a lot of fantastic cafes and baristas in Melbourne. I don’t claim to be anywhere near the best however I wanted to assure anyone that’s coming to the city and hoping to find cafe work. There’s a lot of prestige that goes with being a Melbourne Barista- but you don’t have to be a latte art genius or a pro at grinder calibrations to get a job. You need to be chatty, hard-working, enthusiastic and most importantly, you need to have a love of coffee and a drive to find out as much as you can about making and drinking it.

So don’t let your fears hold you back. If you’re looking for a coffee-making job in Melbourne, just get out there, get chatting and hand out some CVs. After all, it’s worth a shot.

5 Things That Prove Collingwood Is Melbourne’s Coolest Inner Suburb

5 Things That Prove Collingwood is Melbourne’s coolest inner suburb

Carlton, Fitzroy, Brunswick- I thought I was familiar with all of Melbourne’s coolest inner suburbs. That was until I stumbled across Collingwood. Nestled in between Fitzroy and Abbotsford, Collingwood is one of Melbourne’s best-kept secrets and although small, there are plenty of reasons to visit. Need some inspiration? Here are 5 of my favourite things to do in Collingwood.

 

You can have a $6 beer in an old rooftop train overlooking the city 

Standing out in a city that boasts as many quirky and game-changing bars as Melbourne is hard. However walking past rooftop burger bar, Easeys, is sure to stop you in your tracks. 

Housed in a rooftop train carriage overlooking Melbourne’s CBD, Collingwood’s Easey’s is undoubtedly the quirkiest place to grab some burgers and drinks. Best of all, a trip to this Melbourne institution needn’t be expensive with cheap drink deals meaning you can enjoy the view with a beer or cider for just $6. What’s more, Easey’s burgers are rated some of the best in the city- and their vegetarian burger (your mate) is one of the best I have had in my life. Just be sure to book a table for a guaranteed spot. 

You can try some of Melbourne’s best coffee at Proud Mary

Known not only for serving the best coffee in Collingwood but also some of the best in the whole of Melbourne, Proud Mary is one cafe that you’ll definitely want to stop by. Their house-roasted coffee and freshly made pastries are just the start of it all. Proud Mary also offers an all-day breakfast menu that features the likes of lemon curd hotcakes and salted caramel french toast, meaning that this innovative cafe is bound to make it on to your list of Melbourne favourites.

5 Things That Prove Collingwood is Melbourne’s coolest inner suburb

You can hunt out great street art

Street art is everywhere in Melbourne but perhaps some of the cities lesser-known murals are located in the inner city suburbs like Collingwood and Fitzroy. So, don’t forget to bring your camera while you take a stroll around the area and be sure to wander around the lanes and alleyways that go off of Smith Street in order to find some of the best artwork. 

You can reinvent your look at Vintage Garage 

Melbourne boasts its fair share of vintage and op shops but perhaps the creme de la creme of them all is Collingwood’s Vintage Garage. This eclectic shop is a fantastic mismatch of vintage party wear, everyday clothes, old records and other bric and brac. It’s an easy place to pass a few hours and you’re bound to come away with a lot of things that you just didn’t know you needed.

5 Things That Prove Collingwood is Melbourne’s coolest inner suburb

5 Things That Prove Collingwood is Melbourne’s coolest inner suburb

Have brunch in a plant shop at Cibi’s 

Last but not least, Cibi’s is a cute little Japanese cafe and plant shop and it’s one of Collingwood’s best-kept secrets. Although the cafe has fantastic food, serving up a modern take on healthy Japanese breakfast and lunch dishes, what Cibi’s is really known for is its gorgeous decor. Set in a gorgeous open-plan setting, Cibi’s is an eclectic mix of a cafe, a plant shop and a speciality grocery store, meaning that you can get all of your errands done in one go. 

5 Things That Prove Collingwood is Melbourne’s coolest inner suburb

In a city where there is as much to do as Melbourne, It’s so easy to never leave the city centre. However, suburbs like Collingwood prove that some of the city’s best-kept secrets lie in the outskirts.

What’s your favourite inner city or outer suburb of Melbourne? And more importantly,  why? Share your thoughts in the comments below or alternatively get in touch. 

Solo In Bangkok: Survival Tips

Whether you’re starting out on a solo backpacking trip around Asia or you’re just simply passing through, the idea of being alone in a city as busy as Bangkok can be a little overwhelming.

I remember that when I first set out solo travelling a couple of years ago, it wasn’t until I was in that hotel room in Bangkok’s city centre that reality really set in: I thought, what the heck am I doing here? Since then I’ve been solo in the city a few times and I can vouch for the fact that not only is Bangkok an easy city to be a solo traveller in, it’s a really fun one too.

So, if you too are feeling daunted at the prospect of being alone in the busy Thai capital, don’t stress. Here are my top tips on how to enjoy Bangkok as a solo traveller.

Book a hostel

That moment that I mentioned, where I was alone in a nice hotel room in Bangkok freaking out about things, is exactly the reason why you should book a hostel if you are a solo traveller. While having a luxurious hotel room is nice, backpacker hostels offer the chance to meet people who you can explore the city with and have some fun. What’s more, hostels are generally cheaper, better located and fully equipped to help you sort out all of your travel arrangements.

Use Grab or Uber instead of taking a taxi

Whenever I travel alone, that initial getting from the airport to my accommodation is the thing that I always find the most stressful. Bangkok is notorious for its taxi scams so save yourself the hassle (and the money) and download one of the ride apps such as Grab or Uber. You can order a car from the airport by connecting to the wifi or alternatively pick up a cheap sim card once you land. This way you have a price set before you get in the car and you don’t have to stress about being scammed or the driver not knowing where they are going.Solo In Bangkok: Survival Tips

Solo In Bangkok: Survival Tips

Eat a lot

Bangkok is a great city to be solo in because you could basically spend the entire length of your day eating. Seriously, the Thai capital is a metropolis of mouthwatering spicy street food and sweet treats, all of it for very little money. Being a solo traveller means that you don’t have to comprise with anyone else so you can eat what you want- when you want it. What’s more, Bangkok’s incredible street food scene means that you could even grab your food to go if you feel stressed about dining alone.

Walk wherever you can

The best way to get orientated in Bangkok is to walk as much as you can. Many of the cities main attractions are in walking distance of each other so try and save getting a tuk-tuk or the Skytrain for when you’re travelling long distances. If you are looking for walking routes in the city, I’ve included a few links to some self-guided walking tours of Bangkok here.

Find a pool

Wandering around a city as hot and humid as Bangkok can get pretty tiring after a few hours. So, if you’re looking recuperate after a busy day out then I really recommend finding a pool. I stayed at Mad Monkey Backpackers hostel which had its own pool. However, if you don’t mind parting with a little more money then the rooftop pool at the Sofitel hotel is supposed to be incredible.

Do a cooking class

Travelling solo but don’t particularly want to be alone? Booking a class is a great option. There are loads of companies running them throughout the city and not only are they a lot of fun, but they are a great way to meet like-minded travellers.

Solo In Bangkok: Survival TipsSolo In Bangkok: Survival Tips

Be alcohol savvy

Lastly, on a more serious note, remember to look after yourself when it comes to going out. Bangkok has a wild party scene- and as fun as it is to drink out of buckets and dance to your heart’s content, remember not to get too carried away. The best thing to do is buddy up with a few people from your hostel and stick together. Don’t go home alone and make sure you get a taxi. When buying drinks, keep a hold of yours at all time and make sure that they mix the buckets and cocktails in front of you in the bars. Generally, though, going out in Bangkok has always been a laugh and I’ve never had any problems.

I hope that you found this advice helpful. If you’re planning a solo trip to Thailand and the rest of South-East Asia then trust me you’re in for a treat. I don’t think there’s a better or more exciting region to travel alone in.

Do you have any questions about solo travel or female travel in Thailand? Or any tips of your own that you want to share? Leave your thoughts in the comments below or feel free to get in touch with me here.