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5 Things I’ve Learnt from 5 Years of Blogging, and how Travelling Changed my Life!

 

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Sooo I just wanted to come on here and let you all know that Journeys with Jessica celebrated its 5th birthday this week! 5th!! That is CRAZYYYY! 😱 I remember when I started my little blog, back in 2014, when I was 21 years old and my world had just been turned upside down for all the wrong reasons. An awful relationship break up left me with no motivation, no energy, no desire to carry on and make something of my life. For 3 months I barely ate or slept. I was broken and didn't think I'd ever be happy again, until I started to travel and I started my blog. I didn't know it back then, but the decision I made to start travelling actually changed my life. 🌎 Instead of wallowing in self pity and worrying about trying to change the past, I started to look forward. I started to plan trips, book short weekend stays and long weeks away, and I started to live again. I couldn't fall in love with anyone else, but I did fall in love with travelling, and to this day it's been the best decision I've ever made. ❤️ I've driven across Route 66 in America, rode the Great Ocean Road in Australia, inter-railed around Europe, cruised around the Med and visited 28 countries by the age of 26. I've helicoptered over the Grand Canyon, parasailed on Daytona Beach, been on a gondola in Venice, climbed the Eiffel Tower, skydived over Uluru, flew over Fraser Island and snorkelled the Great Barrier Reef. Sometimes I can't believe how much I've done and I have to pinch myself that this has been my life. 🎉 So if anyone out there is ever feeling like I did 5 years ago, or if you're not sure where your life is heading and need to make some changes, I urge you to travel. To discover new places, to meet new faces, to live a different life. 5 years from now I hope I'm still in love with travel, that I'm going to more countries than ever before and that I'm even happier than I am now. 🌟

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In case you missed my epic Instagram announcement earlier on this week, I am absolutely THRILLED to let you all know that my little blog celebrated it’s 5th birthday this week and it has made me so unbelievably happy! I cannot imagine my life without my blog, or without travel in it, and sometimes I genuinely have to pinch myself that I’ve lived the life I have. 5 years ago, when I first launched my little space on the Internet, I had no idea how much it would change my life. I didn’t know the friends I would make, or the opportunities I would gain. I didn’t know that I’d reach almost 10,000 social media followers across all platforms, or that a whopping 5000 people would view my blog every single month. I thought it would just give me something to do in my spare time, and would be a little hobby for me. I thought that only my mum and dad would read it, and that no one else would ever take an interest, but boy how wrong I was! Here’s 5 things I’ve learnt during my 5 years of blogging…

 

It’s given me so much confidence

 

 

Let’s take it back to the beginning, back to 2014 when this little blog was launched. I had just come out of a horrific relationship break up and was at an all time low. For three months I barely slept or ate, I had no confidence, no motivation, no desire to do anything or make something of myself. I wasn’t excited about anything, I had no appetite, I didn’t even want to see my friends or do anything with my family. I was completely broken, and I was a shadow of my former self, until one day when I decided to book a trip to Barcelona with 2 of my best friends. I didn’t know it back then, but that day would shape the course of my entire life for the next 5 years. Once I had my trip booked I had something to look forward to, something to get excited about. Once that trip was over I booked another one, and another one after that. I started my blog, so that writing about my trips would keep my travel dreams alive until I got on my next flight. I was obsessed with all things travel, and blogging, and it gave me a new lease of life. I started attending events, networking, going to conferences. I started speaking to more and more bloggers online and consumed myself with this new world – it was amazing, I felt like a new person, and it really gave me my mojo back.

 

I’ve made some amazing friends 

 

 

One of the best things about blogging has got to be all the new friends I’ve made over the past 5 years since I started Journeys with Jessica. I didn’t know that strangers I would interact with online would later become some of my best friends, and people I still speak to now on a daily basis. I’ve even gone on trips with some of them, and attended new events and parties with them too. The turning point for me came when I went to my first ever travel blogging conference, Traverse in Cardiff back in 2016. I went with Lucy, one of the girls I met on Twitter, stayed overnight at her house and ended up becoming firm friends. We went on a trip to Bratislava and Vienna two years later, and next week we are going to be reunited in Italy as I attend my 4th Traverse conference in Trento! I speak to so many fellow bloggers online, and count many of them as wonderful, real life friends as they’re no longer just strangers off the Internet! That’s the beauty of blogging, it brings you face to face with friends you’d never meet in every day life and gives you the opportunity to connect with like-minded people from all over the world.

 

It’s given me some epic travel opportunities 

 

 

I didn’t start my blog in order to get free travel, it was never even something that crossed my mind, but 5 years later I have been lucky enough to benefit from some fantastic travel opportunities, and it’s all thanks to my little corner of the Internet! It took me 3 years before I started to go on press trips or get invites to go to things with my blog, so it’s definitely not something that happens overnight. A real turning point for me came when I went to my second Traverse conference, this time in London, and I met so many brands, bloggers and tourism boards who were ACTUALLY INTERESTED in working with influencers and creating content. I hit the jackpot when, just a couple of weeks later, I was invited to Menorca for a week long trip with Visit Spain, Turismo de Menorca and Traverse themselves for a weekend conference followed by 4 days of post-event adventures. I was selected as one of 50 UK bloggers and it was such an honour for me to be there. Later on that year I also went to Hamburg on a 3 day trip with 4 other bloggers and got to experience the best that the city has to offer with the German tourism board. Other press trips have included numerous hotel and restaurant reviews, gifted city cards and itineraries hand crafted by tourism boards ready for me to explore and share content on my blog. Sometimes I have to pinch myself that has been my job for the past few years!

 

I’ve pushed myself to be the best person I can be

 

 

Although travelling has made me the best person I can be, I would also say that blogging has too. I know the two go hand in hand, but before I started blogging I had no experience in the social media or marketing world, no idea how to present myself or pitch for work, and no clue on how to network and meet new people. Fast forward 5 years and I can now walk in to a room full of strangers and introduce myself and my blog. I can send pitch emails to brands who I want to work with, and I can tell them why I’m the right person they should choose to collaborate with. As well as the Traverse travel blogging conferences, I have also been twice to WTM, the biggest travel conference in the world, and have met with brands, tourism boards and airlines face to face to pitch directly to them and tell them all about me and my blog. I would NEVER have had the confidence to do something like this 5 years ago, and I think that shows just how far I have come in both my professional life and on a personal level. I push myself to do things that are out of my comfort zone because I know how much it will benefit me in the long run, and I think this has been a key part of my success as a travel blogger.

 

It’s taught me to appreciate everything in life

 

 

Travelling has taught me so much about the world, but also so much about myself too. When I’m on a trip I just throw myself into it every single day, I wake up early and go to bed late, I see as much as I can whilst I’m there and I enjoy every single second. When you’re travelling you realise just how small you are in comparison to the rest of the world. You see things in a different light, and you realise that some things just don’t matter. All perception of things become clearer when you travel, and I’ve had two life changing experiences through 2 different trips (4 weeks in America and 6 weeks in Australia) which have totally turned my world around. I also see things differently when I come home after trips like these too – they just open my eyes and make me realise there are things which aren’t important, and things that are, and they help to re-align my life and get things back on track.  Life is too short to be unhappy, so book that hotel, get on that flight and don’t look back! I honestly don’t know that I’d have done over the past 5 years if I haven’t had travelled, and I can’t ever imagine my life without it now.

 

Starting my blog was honestly the best thing I’ve ever done, and it definitely changed my life for the better. I cannot imagine what I would have done over the past 5 years if I hadn’t been blogging, or travelling, and I’m thankful every day that I decided to take my leap of faith and launch Journeys with Jessica back in 2014. If anyone out there is thinking of starting a blog, or if you’re hesitating about booking that dream trip my advice would be JUST DO IT! Life is too short to worry, too short to pass up opportunities and too short to be anything less than amazing. Travelling changed my life, I hope it changes yours too.

 

 

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Travel Writing Internships: My Experience at The Sunday Times Travel Magazine

 

It’s 2:30pm on a sunny Friday afternoon in February. It’s 15 degrees, unusually warm for this time of year given that we’re still in winter, and I’m sat on a rooftop terrace overlooking London’s epic skyline. Balancing my Uncle Ben’s rice pot in one hand, and my paperback book in the other, I’m savouring one whole hour of ‘me’ time whilst on my lunch break at the end of my first week as an intern. It’s a funny word, intern. It sounds alien, strange even, and makes me think of a character in some trashy American sitcom.

 

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This is the face of a girl who's just finished her last Monday at work! 😬😬 Really excited to share some news with you all… 🙈 1. I'm quitting my job (again) sorry mum 😂 2. I've been offered an internship at the Sunday Times Travel Magazine to see how the world of journalism works! Roll on 2 weeks in London for lots of learning 💻 3. In March I'm off to travel round Australia all by myself! This trip is an absolute dream come true and I can't wait to spend 6 weeks exploring the other side of the world 🇦🇺 After that I've got trips to Scotland, Spain, Italy & Greece lined up between May & September so I've got another busy year of travel coming up and I couldn't be more excited! 🌍 I've taken another leap of faith to give myself a better and brighter future and I'm soooo ready for my new chapter to begin!! 2019, let's do thissss 🙌 #MondayMotivation #NewBeginnings #BringItOn

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At 26 years old, I’ve become an intern for the first time. I’ve done work experience in the past (as a shy 16 year old at an estate agents whilst doing my GCSE’s) but I never thought that I’d be in a similar position a whole ten years later. The truth is, I’m at a weird stage in my life. I’ve just quit my full time job at a luxury travel company in order to take a leap of faith, step into the unknown and trust that it’ll all be ok. Last week I returned from my epic trip to Australia, where I was on a 6 week adventure to try and ‘find myself’. It’s something I’d wanted to do for a long time, and I finally had the courage (and money) to be able to do it. Before that though, I pushed myself out my comfort zone in a totally different way. My two week internship was at the Sunday Times in London, working on their travel magazine department. I applied for the position after seeing an advert on Twitter, and didn’t expect to hear anything at all until I got an email back asking when I could start! I was so excited, and completely nervous, but really looking forward to trying my hand at something new, and gaining an insight into the world of travel writing on a professional level rather than just in the blogosphere.

My first day didn’t get off to a great start. My train from Oxford was delayed after an attempted suicide on the line (poor soul) and it took me over 3 hours to get to London Bridge, where the office is based in the News Building, right next to The Shard. When I eventually turned up I was a bag of nerves; late, sweating, lost because Google maps had me running round in circles. It wasn’t ideal, but as I straightened myself out in the bathroom mirror and topped up my make up, I started to breathe and calm down; ‘you can do it Jess’ I whispered to myself, encouraged by a text from my mum wishing me luck.

 

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First day of my internship at The Sunday Times = COMPLETE! ✅ The day started horrendously when my train was delayed because of an attempted suicide and it took over 2 hours to get to London! 😩 Then I got lost and couldn't find the office (google maps is a liar) and I walked round in circles for 20 mins on what should have been a 3 min walk 🙈 Then when I finally turned up all hot and sweaty (and late) my friggin suitcase got stuck in the posh carousel door that twirls round and I got stuck with it and it was SO EMBARRASSING 😂 I'm not sure I'm made for London life but on the plus side I got to do some writing for the magazine today and tomorrow I'm doing some Instagram work with them so it's not all bad! 😍 Time to settle down in my cosy room and get a good nights sleep before day 2 begins tomorrow! Ya gal needs to catch some Z's 😴 I hope your Monday was less stressful than mine! 🙈😂 #internshipproblems #notcutoutforthis #londonlife

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Week one has certainly been an eye opener. It’s so different to anything I’ve ever done before and not what I expected at all. I’ve been fact-checking, reading, researching and writing and I’ve actually taken on more responsibility than I thought, after having visions that all I’d be useful for was doing a bit of proof reading and making the tea. Don’t get me wrong, there have been times where I’ve had barely anything to do and have been twiddling my thumbs but, for the most part, I have been a busy bee and have been getting totally stuck in.

Fact checking can feel like a chore at times, constantly having to read and re-read every word and every sentence to check that a) it’s correct b) it’s relevant and c) there are no grammar issues. It can be very repetitive, scanning through reams of text and analysing every single word, as well as ringing phone numbers and checking websites to make sure they’re correct. Although it’s tedious, fact-checking has been useful and has helped me understand just how much work goes in to a travel magazine, and how accurate you have to be before anything even goes to print.

I struck lucky on the third day, when I was asked to write a piece for the Take Me There section of the magazine, which is the part where words are needed to complement eye-catching images that take up the entire page. I was tasked with writing a piece about Gdansk, a destination I’ve never even been to. Although I was super excited, my hands were trembling as I took to the keyboard. Usually I can bash out a paragraph of text in less than 20 minutes, but when you’re writing for a magazine, and you’re trying to impress people, things become a whole lot scarier. It took me around 4 hours to put that paragraph together, and I had to re write it twice after my feedback was that my writing was ‘solid’ but a little ‘guide booky’. Finally, after 3 attempts, my piece was approved and sent off to the publishing team ready to appear in the May issue of the magazine! I couldn’t believe it! I was thrilled that the team had even liked my writing, let alone approved it to be published, and getting a by-line in one of the UKs biggest travel magazines will surely give my CV an added boost.

 

 

By the end of the second week I’d done even more fact checking and researching, as well as putting together some ideas for the next issues Take Me There section. I’d also spent a few hours going through the magazines’ Instagram account and giving it a little critique, sharing my feedback and passing on some ideas of how to improve it. This is something I really enjoyed, and it made me realise just how much I love social media, although I’m not sure I could do it as a job! The rest of the week was spent assisting the team with anything they needed and I got a real feel for magazine and editorial life. Unfortunately I had to cut the internship short by a couple of days due to issues with my commute from Oxford, but I still feel I had a good amount of time in the role.

Overall I had a great experience interning at the Sunday Times Travel Magazine. I got a real insight into the world of professional travel writing and now have a much better understanding of how editing, publishing and production works. It’s also made me realise two important things:

  1. I don’t ever want to live in London. Nobody talks to each other, everyone’s rushing around in a hurry and in truth I found it a little lonely. Sure I love visiting London, but gimme back my countryside life any day of the week, I am so not a city girl!
  2. I don’t actually want to go into journalism. I love writing, but I love blogging more. I love the freedom and creativity that comes with blogging, and I love the voice it gives me. Journalism is very strict and formal and I just don’t think it suits my style and my creative streak, but it’s not a bad thing, I’m glad I’ve discovered this now rather than paying to do a journalism course or taking a job on something I wasn’t sure about.

Have you ever done an internship before? How did you feel about it? I’d love to know what career breaks you’ve taken before. Big thanks to Alex and the rest of the Sunday Times Travel Magazine team for looking after me during my internship!

 

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That's a wrap! My internship at The Sunday Times Travel Magazine has come to an end 💻 I've had a great couple of weeks learning about the world of journalism and I even got to write an article that got approved and will be published in the May issue of the magazine which means… MY NAME WILL BE IN PRINT! 🗞 It's been a great experience but I can't wait to come home – I'm not sure London life is meant for me as I've spent the majority of the time getting lost and ending up in places I didn't even know existed, and no one smiles or talks on the tube which makes it soooo lonely 😭 Until next time, London, I won't be back for a while! 👋 Ps. Omg forgot I'm there Tuesday to fly to Australia 😂✈️ #whatislife

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My 2019 New Year’s Resolutions, Travel Plans and Life Goals

 

 

Happy New Year everyone! I hope you all had a lovely festive break and overindulged on all the turkey and mince pies? I’ll be disappointed if you didn’t! 😉 As we welcome January (I am SO glad to see the back of 2018) I’m kick-starting my year with some traditional new year’s resolutions. Ok ok, I know they’re overrated and we’re all sick of the ‘new year, new me’ Facebook statuses, but I actually LOVE this time of year and always relish taking time to make plans for a new year, and a new start. If you read my 2018 end of year round up you’ll know that I pretty much aced my resolutions from last year, if I must say so myself, and I’m now ready to take on a new challenge and to make some new life/travel plans. So without further ado, here are my goals and resolutions for this year, and what I want to gain from 2019…

 

Go Veggie for the whole of January

 

 

This is gonna be a HUGE challenge for me and something which I’m not sure I’m going to be able to but I want to push myself and I’m going to give it a real good go!! I’ve been thinking about trying to be vegetarian for a little while now, and a few friends at work have convinced me that it would be great for my health, so I thought January would be a good a time as any to trial it for a month and give it a go! It’s been four days already so far and I’m not missing meat at all. I’ve been quite creative with my cooking (well, my mum has also helped cos I get home from work late!) and I’m enjoying trying new foods and flavours. I haven’t eaten out yet this month but I have a few meals planned over the coming weeks so I’ll see if I can resist allll the burgers and steaks that will try to tempt me… but so far, so good!

 

Read 2-3 books a month

 

 

I was good at this last year despite not making it a resolution, so I thought I would try it again this year and give myself a goal of reading 2-3 books a month. I absolutely LOVE to read and it’s the only time of the day I allow myself to indulge and just sit in bed and turn the pages. I love escaping the real world for a bit in order to immerse myself in a story, and last year I managed to read 15 books so thought I’d try to beat that this year. I’ve already read The Light Between Oceans so far and I have The Tattooist of Auschwitz next on my list, plus plenty of others downloaded and ready to go in my Kindle, so I’m fairly set for the next few months and can’t wait to read more throughout the year.

 

Visit 7 countries

 

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Don't mind me, just posing in front of expensive boats like it's the most normal thing in the world 🙋 I'm currently writing up my #travel guide to #Kotor and can't wait to share it with you all! This pretty city is fast becoming the new go-to place for a European break in 2018, and with cute cobbled streets, an ancient old town and a glamorous waterfront like this, it's not hard to see why! 😍 I LOVED my time in #Montenegro when I visited as part of my recent #cruise and am already planning a return trip to explore more of this gorgeous country 🌍 Have you ever been to Kotor before? On this miserable windy day in England, I know where I'd rather be rn ✈️ #TBT #VisitKotor #VisitMontenegro #MarellaCruises #GoMontenegro #Insta_Montenegro #MontenegroWildBeauty #KotorMontenegro #KotorBay #CruiseLife #Europe #TravelGuide #TUI #ThrowbackThursday

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Last year I set myself a goal of visiting at least 5 countries and I actually managed to visit NINE! I went inter-railing and then on a multi-stop cruise so it was fairly easy for me to visit lots of countries in just a couple of trips, but I might find this year a little harder as I think I’ll be travelling a little differently. So far my confirmed trips are a week in Spain in May visiting Madrid, Valencia and Barcelona, a few nights in Scotland visiting Fort William and Glencoe as I climb Ben Nevis (!!), and a week in Italy in June visiting Verona, Lake Garda and Trentino. I’ve got a huge trip lined up before that but I can’t say what it is yet… watch this space for more news on that though! And later on in the year I’m hoping to do a trip around the Baltics and take in Riga, Tallinn, Vilnius and Helsinki all in one go, as well as do my first ever European Christmas Markets break, but we shall see what my bank account looks like after the summer! I don’t think 7 countries is unrealistic given that I already have a few trips lined up, and another inter-railing trip which means I can tick off lots in one go. Last year was the first year in two years I didn’t travel as much as I would have liked to, and yet I still ended up visiting a whopping nine countries so I am confident I can tick off at least 7 this year and am sooo excited for all my upcoming travel plans!

 

Take a leap of faith

 

 

So I know this is kinda vague and can apply to anything within life, but this year I really want to push myself out my comfort zone and do things that scare me. It might not be as drastic as jumping out a plane or booking a one way ticked to anywhere, but as I turn 26 I’m starting to realise that I want a couple more selfish years before I start to think about meeting someone and settling down with a house and kids. Don’t get me wrong, this is all I have ever wanted from life, but at the same time I have relished spending my 20s being selfish and putting myself first, as well as travelling to 25 countries and pushing myself to my limits. This year I already know what my leap of faith will be, even though I can’t share it with you guys yet, and I’m more than ready to ensure that 2019 becomes one of my best ever chapters. I promise to share my news with you soon, but after playing it fairly safe in 2017 and 2018, I think this will be the year that I truly ‘find myself’ and I’m going to enjoy every minute of it! I promise to share news with you as soon as I can!

 

Reach 10,000 social media followers

 

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#2018bestnine There's a brand new post on the blog today and it's all about my 2018 End of Year Review 🌟 This post sums up my highlights, lowlights and everything in between that has happened over the past 12 months. There's been ups and downs and what's ifs and maybes. There's been good times and bad times. There's been times when I've been so low I've not known what to do and there's been times when I've felt truly happy. 💖 2018 brought us the World Cup, a heatwave, 2 Royal Weddings & it marked 100 years since the Armistice, but it's also brought us GDPR, the Gatwick Drone and turmoil over Brexit. 😩 On a personal level, I experienced loss and grief when my dog and my grandad passed away. I've been told my job was being made redundant and I've ended up in hospital twice. I've watched my nan, dad and best friend battle serious health conditions and at times I've struggled with my own illness. 💔 But despite all of this, I've still continued to push myself and be the best person I can be. I've visited 9 countries on 4 different holidays, I've climbed Mount Snowdon and helped to raise over £25,000 for charity, my blog had its own stand at the biggest travel conference in the world, I've knuckled down and saved £10,000 in the bank so that I can try and buy a house soon, I've made countless memories with people I love and I feel blessed every time I wake up ✨ So whatever has happened in 2018, I hope you've had an enjoyable year. I'm completely ready for a new chapter in my life and am already putting plans in place to make next year my best year yet! 🌟 2019 I'm ready for youuu 💃

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You might remember that I set myself the same challenge this time last year, but unfortunately I was unsuccessful so I am giving it another go in 2019! 10,000 followers is an ENORMOUS number, and was probably a bit ambitious last year, but I’m on over 8600 in total across all platforms now, so I don’t think it’s unrealistic to gain another few thousand over the next 12 months! I’ve kind of fallen out of love with Instagram now to be honest so I’m not going to be wasting much of my time growing my followers on there, but I definitely want to focus on Facebook and Twitter as I get a lot of engagement and traffic from these two. It’s really interesting to know where your traffic is coming from, so that you can focus your energies on growing platforms that benefit you and your blog, so this is something I am going to pay close attention to throughout 2019!

 

Make time to meditate

 

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*NEW BLOG POST* ((Link in bio)) I feel like every single person right now is leaving their jobs to become full time content creators/bloggers/freelancers. It's been just over 2 years since I made that same decision to quit my job & work full time as a freelance travel blogger. I had an amazing year working for myself with plenty of ups including flexible working hours, no annual leave restrictions, press trips and new clients/collaboration projects but there were inevitably lots of downs & it just didn't make me happy. I was incredibly lonely, I missed working in an office alongside colleagues, and I struggled with the inconsistent workload and lack of constant wages coming in. After a year I ended up at a new 9-5 job (this time in the travel industry to satisfy my wanderlust) which I needed in order to bring some routine back into my life. In this new blog post I'll be showing the good, the bad and the ugly sides of freelance life and that there's much more to it than just press trips and Instagram posts! If you've ever considered going freelance, or if you are currently working for yourself and wondering how our experiences might compare, then this post is for you! ✨#wordpress #newpost #bloglife #freelancer #bloggers

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I tried doing this last year and I did enjoy it but I sometimes found I didn’t have enough time to sit down and meditate properly so I got a bit bored and just gave up. My sister is really good at this though so I’m going to try and take a leaf out of her book and make time to meditate, even if it’s only once a week. The last app I tried was Headspace but I found it a bit repetitive, so I may give Calm a go this year and see how I feel. The main reason for wanting to meditate is mainly just to give myself time to switch off before bed – I am the worst person for falling asleep with my phone in my hand or scrolling on Facebook just before I go to bed, so I am going to make a conscious effort to minimise my screen time during the evenings and I think meditation will really help me with this.

I’m trying not to set myself too many goals this year as I don’t want to overwhelm myself and set challenges that aren’t realistic, but I think these resolutions are all achievable and will all enhance my life during 2019. I think the hardest one to complete will be going Veggie for a month as I’ve eaten meat all my life, but I want to do it for health reasons and to see how I get on. 2019 will mark 5 years since Journeys with Jessica was launched, so I’m definitely going to have a celebration by the time the anniversary rolls around in May and I can’t wait to share with you all the fab new content I have planned for my blog this year. As well as the travel plans I have mentioned above, I’m also making a conscious effort to explore more of the UK this year and to take more day trips. Plus I’ve already booked tickets to loads of concerts including Westlife, Robbie Williams and the Spice Girls – I am SUCH a 90s kid!! – so will be having plenty of UK day trips too. What are your travel plans for 2019? Do you make resolutions and stick to them? I’d love to hear how you plan to spend your 2019.

Happy New Year everyone!

Love Jess x

 

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12 Things I Learnt From 12 months of Freelancing as a Full Time Travel Blogger

 

 

Hi guys,

You lot seem to like it when I do personal posts rather than just constantly sharing write ups of my recent trips, so I thought I should break up all the recent cruise content and write about something which is a really popular topic at the moment: freelancing. It seems like every single blogger I know at the moment is quitting their job in order to become a full time freelancer and live the digital nomad life. This is obviously amazing as it seems our work lives are ever changing and creeping away from the standard 9-5 working week, and I would of course encourage everyone to follow their dreams and live their best lives, but there is also a side to freelancing that isn’t shared online, and a side which makes the freelance/nomad life a little less glamourous than Instagram shows it to be. I took the plunge myself and went freelance as a full time travel blogger two years ago but spent just a year doing that (amongst other things) before I realised I needed to make another life change at the age of 24. Some days I loved it, other days I hated it, but overall I’m so glad I did it. Here’s 12 things that I learnt during my 12 months of freelancing from September 2016 – September 2017, both the good, the bad and the ugly…

The flexibility is fantastic

One of the best things I loved about freelancing was the ability to be completely flexible all the time. By steering away from the standard 9-5 life I was able to fit more in to my day, and alter it to suit my needs. A typical day for me would be to wake up and get dressed and ready to start work by 10ish – I never worked in my pj’s and always made an effort to get changed even if I wasn’t leaving the house as this helped get my mind-set into work mode. I’d then work for 3-4 hours at home before breaking for lunch (30 mins to 1 hour depending on how busy I was) and then continued working (with breaks) until I got everything done. Sometimes it was a 6pm or 7pm finish, other days I woke up later and continued working until 9pm or 10pm. Although I typically worked longer hours than a usual 9-5 job, I didn’t really feel like I was over-working myself as I took regular breaks, was at home, didn’t have a commute and could pick up my work/emails whenever I wanted. I took my dog out for walks every day, spent time seeing friends and enjoyed being at home.

It’s really lonely

Probably the biggest downside to freelancing is the crippling loneliness that goes with it. Working in a lively estate agents from the ages of 18 – 23 made me realise how much I love people, and how much I thrive off a busy, fun environment. When I took all of that away, I started to realise that I don’t cope very well on my own. I get really low sometimes, and feel the need to constantly talk to someone when I feel that way, which is why having supportive colleagues around me is something I have always relied on and will always look for in future jobs. Some people are fine on their own and could spend days without seeing another soul, but I’m just not like that and don’t think I ever will be! Loneliness was definitely one of the reasons I didn’t freelance for longer, and I don’t feel ashamed to admit that.

 

 

You can work wherever you want

In the same way that the flexibility I mentioned above was hugely liberating, the fact I could work wherever I wanted (Wi-Fi permitting) was amazing and opened my eyes as to how different my working life could be without feeling the need to be trapped in an office. I wasn’t a digital nomad during my freelance life and was very much a ‘work from home’ kinda gal, but I do wish I’d have taken a few more trips in order to experience what it might be like to work on the road. I didn’t really experiment much with co-working or with trying out social office spaces and I could have worked from anywhere with Wi-Fi to be honest, but I found café’s quite distracting and preferred to sit at home with the telly on if I needed some noise in the background.

Not having a routine is hard

Something else which I struggled with was not having a set routine. Yes I know we all get bored of the 9-5 life, but when I have a set routine I know where I am with things and I find it easier to make decisions, get myself organised and get on with my day. Don’t get me wrong, I loved having a few lay in’s during the week and starting later than usual, but sometimes I’d find myself working til almost midnight and forgetting to take regular breaks because I was stressing about getting things done on time and meeting deadlines efficiently. I am good at being organised and self-disciplined, but not having a routine really threw me sometimes and I’ve since found I prefer to be in a set routine to help get my work/life balance on track.

You can say YES more

The thing I loved most about working for myself was the ability to say YES in circumstances I wouldn’t normally have been able to do so. I went on 3 press trips during my time freelancing, one was a long weekend in Hamburg but still would have required taking 2 days annual leave, and the other two were week long trips to Menorca and Switzerland, which would have required me taking over 12 days of annual leave. I went to PR events on a Tuesday night in London because I could get there and didn’t have to worry about rushing home to get an early night for work the next day. I scheduled in blog collabs on week-days when the place/city was generally quieter because not everyone was there on a weekend. I said yes to sooo many things and it made me so happy and content with life. I was more spontaneous, more fun and way more exciting than I was when I worked 9-5, and this is something I really miss about my freelance life!

 

 

Motivation isn’t always on tap

Again, something I struggled with and still do even now. Having the motivation to constantly write blog content, constantly pitch for new business and constantly find ways to make money when you’re freelancing is SO BLOODY DRAINING!! I found this really hard when I was working for myself and I wanted to give up all the time. Although I am good at being organised and self-disciplined, trying to stay motivated whilst not having the support of colleagues and a manager alongside you was really difficult for me. I ended up turning to social media to find support from fellow bloggers/freelancers and that did help, and I made a real effort to attend events, listen to webinars and get inspiration from joining in with Twitter chats and Facebook groups etc in order to combat the lack of motivation that I regularly suffered with.

You aren’t restricted by annual leave

Kinda like the point I made about saying YES more, this was another huge bonus of freelance life; the ability to go on loads of trips or to take days off without the restriction of crappy annual leave. I really really hate the fact that I only get 20 days of annual leave and it is something which makes me want to quit my job and freelance allll over again. I hate being restricted by leave, and think we should be encouraged to take time off and travel more, as long as we don’t fall behind with our work load of course, in order to obtain a better work/life balance. I really believe that I would work better if I worked slightly longer hours over 4 days instead of 5 and had one day a week off to catch up with life admin or to treat myself to a nice day out, or to spend time with friends and family. Working for myself gave me unlimited annual leave, as long as I got everything done that I needed to, and I do miss that aspect of freelance life.

You don’t get legal work perks

However, the big downside to being self-employed is the lack of support we get when we aren’t able to work. Being freelance means you don’t get sick pay, or compassionate leave or a pension. You don’t get paid holiday or childcare vouchers or paid time off for dentist/doctors/hospital appointments. I always took time off whenever I needed to for things like this, but obviously when I wasn’t working, I didn’t get paid. Time is money when you’re self-employed, and that saying couldn’t be more true! I also had to make a note of my income and expenditure and had to create monthly spreadsheets of my earnings and outgoings so I could keep an eye on things. I hired an accountant who helped me put my spreadsheets together into a tax return for HMRC by the time the deadline for self-assessments came around, and this was something I hadn’t even considered when setting up on my own. Luckily my dad is self-employed so he showed me a thing or two, and my A Level Business Studies came in handy, but there is so much legal stuff to think about when you’re self-employed and honestly it can be so stressful!

 

 

You have a better work/life balance

Working from home gave me such a good work/life balance and I really miss it sometimes. I miss just working from my sofa, without the need to commute to the office every day, and I loved wearing what I wanted and not putting make up on etc, I felt so free and it was really liberating. I loved being able to start and finish when I wanted, and sometimes when I was quiet I would only work for a few hours and then spend some time walking my dog, catching up with friends, or doing boring stuff like house work which I never get time to do during a full working week. I do miss having flexible working hours and allowing my home life to be more important than my work life, especially when the long days and hour long commute to and from my current job each day really starts to get me down.

Blogging alone isn’t enough, you must diversify

There are obviously some bigger bloggers out there who just blog all day and make a full time wage from it, but honestly, I have no idea how they are doing it or how that is even possible. During my 12 months as a full time travel blogger, I learnt pretty quickly that I absolutely had to diversify in order to make enough money to survive, and it was really tough at first. Being sent on press trips (with free accommodation and flights) is all good and well, but you don’t get a fee for being there, unless you do and I’m not aware of it! But writing content and promoting it on social media all day just isn’t enough to bring the pennies in, unless you’re writing 5 articles a week at over £100 a pop, the reality is you’ve got to find another way of making money. Before I even started going freelance I had a good think about this and realised that I wanted to use social media as my secret weapon, and started advertising my social media services on LinkedIn to try and gain my first clients. I was pretty lucky as my old boss saw I was advertising for clients and mentioned me to some of his friends at his local breakfast networking club, and within a couple of weeks I had 3 new clients from this alone. These new clients had friends/relatives who also needed social media help, so I gained 3 more clients from them, and then my uncle down in Essex needed some help, and before I knew it I had nearly 10 clients all needing my help and I was absolutely SNOWED UNDER! It was brilliant on the one hand, but overwhelming on the other and I soon realised I needed to prioritise my time in order to work to my full capacity and do a good job for each of my clients. As well as offering social media management, I also wrote freelance articles for a few online travel magazines and did some blogger mentoring too, charging a small amount of money to cover my time to give Skype lessons to newbie bloggers who wanted tips on growing your blog through your social channels. Without diversifying, I definitely wouldn’t have been able to stay freelance for as long as I did.

You learn loads of new skills

You have to juggle so many plates when you’re freelance, and this certainly helped me to develop skills I didn’t even know I needed before I took the plunge and quit my job. I had so many different roles to take on in order to make everything run smoothly, from blogger, writer and social media manager to PA, accountant and marketer. I had to learn how to market myself and generate new business, so networking events were crucial and I was constantly sending out email pitches too. I had to be my own PA and organise my diary, my time and schedule in meetings whenever I could. I had to learn how to create income and expenditure sheets and keep a log of what money was coming in and out so that, by the time my tax return was due, I could input it all correctly. All of these skills were imperative to making my job work, and I’m glad I was able to spin all these plates at once – it was tough, but it taught me to be determined, to be patient, and to never give up! Hopefully the skills I learnt during my freelance life will stand me in good stead for future employment and will show how diverse I can be as a candidate, and how much responsibility I’ve had to take on in the past.

 

 

Your salary isn’t consistent – you need savings

I’ll end on this because, after all, money makes the world go round, and it is the most important part of freelance life! During my 12 months of freelancing I was still living at home so that took the pressure off having to make a large amount of money each month as my outgoings were quite low (just my mums rent, my phone bill and my opticians bill which all come to approx. £230 a month). For the first couple of months I really didn’t have many clients at all and was only making around £300-£400 a month, which is obviously not enough to live on and I did end up dipping into my savings in order to support myself. I had around £4000 saved up when I went freelance and knew I didn’t really want to go down past the £3000 mark, but the money was there if I needed it and it was a comfort to know that. As I progressed with my freelance career, I picked up more and more clients and took on more and more work, but it wasn’t consistent: some months I would earn less than £500, some months I earnt over £1500! If you’re looking at going freelance and you need to have a certain amount of money coming in each month, bear this in mind before you take the plunge. Towards the end of my freelance life the work started to dry up a little and I lost a few clients due to circumstances beyond my control, including some using their own in-house marketing and others employing someone more local to work for them, so I was starting to panic and realised I needed more wages in order to get by. It was during this time that I got a part time job at a retail store and signed up for an 8hour (min) a week contract. I really loved working in retail again (for the first time since I was 17) and the short 4 hour shifts 3-4 times a week really helped to make me feel less lonely, and boosted my bank balance too. I soon became an accessories specialist and was put on regular delivery shifts (7am-1pm) which meant that I could still have a decent afternoon by the time I got home, but I had the possibility to say yes to loads more shifts and I took extra hours wherever I could to make more money. Some months I ended up doing 40+ hours week at the retail store, and then working up to 20 hours a week doing my freelance work. I was exhausted but I knew I had to keep making money so carried on for as long as I could, before I quit everything to take on my first job in the travel industry.

So as you can see, there are good and bad reasons to quit your job and pursue your dreams as a full time blogger/freelancer, and I certainly had a bit of a yo-yo year during my 12 months of trying it, but I learnt so much about myself and I honestly wouldn’t change it for the world. I got to spend more time at home, more time saying yes to stuff I would normally have to turn down, and I got to pursue one of my passions at a professional level. I would say the good outweighed the bad, but after 12 months I was more than ready to get back to the 9-5 life and have a proper routine again as this is something I really struggled with when I worked for myself. I missed the social element hugely and realised how much I thrive off others when I am in a lively environment. I’ve seen so many bloggers quit their jobs and travel the world as a digital nomad which is absolutely incredible and I am so inspired by their bravery, but equally I have seen people who, like myself, tried it and realised it wasn’t for them, and I’ve realised that that’s okay too. Whatever happens in your working life, it’s good to take a step back to assess what works for you, and what doesn’t. I have no idea what the next 12 months holds for me as I have been told my current job at a luxury villa rental firm is being made redundant in the new year, but after almost 18 months of office life I may well be ready for a change again by the time 2019 rolls around… I’ll be sure to post more life updates on my blog as and when I know myself exactly what is going on in my little life!

Love Jess x

 

 

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Thoughts from a Pituitary Patient: What It Feels Like To Live With an Invisible Illness

Hi everyone,

I’m sure you might have noticed that my content over the past few months has been really travel focussed, which is obviously a good thing given that I’m running a travel blog(!!), but I wanted to do something a little different today. I haven’t done any personal posts for a while, and, although I love writing about my trips, I’m conscious that churning out travel guides and hotel reviews will make my blog seem less informal and less ‘me’, so I wanted to inject a bit of personality into this post and put myself at the forefront of it. If you know me personally, or you’ve been following my blog/social media channels online, you’ll know that as well as being a travel blogger I am also a proud ambassador for The Pituitary Foundation, a small UK based charity which supports patients, and their families, who are suffering with a variety of pituitary related conditions including Cushings Disease, Diabetes Insipidus and Prolactinoma’s. I have the latter condition, which is basically a benign tumor on the pituitary gland in the brain, and was diagnosed 7 years ago as a young 18 year old girl. I first told you about my condition in this post 2 years ago, and have since shared my story with The Daily Mail and even wrote something for Contiki Holidays last summer about how to travel with an invisible illness, but it just so happens that October marks National Pituitary Awareness Month, so I thought now was the right time to give you another little insight in to my world, and what it’s really like to be a Prolactinoma sufferer on a daily basis…

 

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Today is National Rare Disease Day, so what better way to share my news about a new challenge I have set myself this year… last year I turned my town orange, the year before I ran a 5 mile fun run, and this year I'm going all out and CLIMBING A BLOODY MOUNTAIN!! 🏔 For those of you who don't know, I've been living with a condition called a prolactinoma for the past seven years. Put simply, a prolactinoma is a small tumor on the pituitary gland in the brain and it's something which affects me every day. Although I'm on life long medication, I still need to have tests, scans and consultations regularly throughout the year. After becoming an ambassador for The Pituitary Foundation last summer I'm trying to raise as much money and awareness as possible for a wonderful charity who have supported me every step of the way during my diagnosis. I'll be climbing Mount Snowdon in June with my wonderful friends and family in the shape of my mum, dad & my lovely friends Tiff and Flo (if shes better as she's currently poorly!!) and can't wait to take on my biggest challenge yet! I'm trying to raise as much as I can, so please donate if you are able to – no matter how big or small, every little helps! 💰 In order to kick start the fundraising I will donate 50p for every like that this status receives over the next 24 hours… go go go! Please help me raise some cash for an incredible charity who are fairly unknown in this country. Please read my story on my JustGiving page (link in comments) and donate whatever you can! Thank youuuuu! Lots of love, Jess and the Snowdon team 😘💖 xxx #pituitaryfoundation #pituitaryawareness #charity #fundraising #mountsnowdon #uk #charityevent #ambassador #justgiving #prolactinoma

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My Diagnosis

Back in 2011, when I was just 18 years old, I started to notice major changes in my body. I was tired all the time, had horrendous headaches every day, blurred vision and constant nausea, so I knew something wasn’t quite right. Weirdly, I started lactating from my breasts and I’d come home from sixth form with cotton wool pads stuffed down my bra because I was worried I’d have patches showing through my top. Up until that point I wasn’t overly worried, but when the lactation started that’s when I knew I had to see a doctor. Was I pregnant? Was I going through some strange hormonal condition? I had no idea and, at first, neither did the doctors! I had MRI scans, heart scans, blood tests, hormone tests and every kind of investigation you could think of. After endless tests, prods and scans I was passed between the hospital, GP surgery and MRI departments until I was finally diagnosed with my condition. At 18, I was told I had a tumor in my brain. The medical term is a Prolactinoma, which is a small (benign) growth on the pituitary gland in the brain. That doesn’t sound so scary when you break it down, but when you’re 18 years old the only words you hear are ‘brain’ and ‘tumor’ and hearing those words together in the same sentence truly scared the life out of me. I was immediately put on long term medication (Cabergoline) and told that I most likely would be on them for the rest of my life.

 

My Daily Symptoms

 

The following months were a blur, but I do remember my symptoms starting to disappear as the medication slowly worked its magic on my body. The headaches became less frequent, the blurred vision eased a little and the lactation pretty much stopped completely. Fast forward seven years and, whilst I still get headaches on a daily basis and still suffer with nausea, most of my original symptoms have now disappeared. The medication lowers the level of the prolactin hormone in my body and helps to keep it under control. Whilst the medication does reduce the size of the tumor and improves my day to day wellbeing, there are inevitably some side effects which do impact me daily. The tablets cause horrendous mood swings; some days I’m so low I can barely get out of bed and all I want to do is curl up in a ball and cry, other days I’m loving life and am as high as a kite! It’s ridiculous, it’s stressful and sometimes it’s really embarrassing. I would say 70% of the time I’m happy and I’m pretty content with life, but I do suffer with terribly low moods and there are genuinely days where I’m just on auto pilot and I’m merely existing, not living, and that’s really upsetting when you’re a bubbly, outgoing person like me who tries to live life to the full every day.

 

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So this morning while everyone was tucked up in their beds I woke up at 3.30am, took 3 ski lifts to a height of 3300 meters, and attempted to watch the sun rise from the top of one of the highest mountains in #Switzerland! Sadly the sky was too cloudy to see the sun come up, but what an amazing experience to be surrounded by so much snow! Whilst I was halfway up I began feeling really poorly and started suffering from one of my #pituitary related headaches, but this one was so bad I could barely open my eyes. After we started our descent and had breakfast in an igloo at 2900m I started to cry. I cried because I was in so much pain and I didn't know what to do to make it stop. And then I realised that I could either let it get me down and ruin my Swiss experience, or I could wrap up warm, push past the pain and try to make the most of every second of my journey. With the help of my wonderful new blogger friends I chose the latter option. Sometimes being poorly is unavoidable, but today I made the best out of a bad situation and still managed to have an incredible bucket list experience. Travelling forever leaves me speechless, and it'll always teach me to enjoy each moment, live each day and remember every second. 💖 #InLoveWithNendaz

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How I’m Affected

 

Sadly the medication affects my life in other ways, and one of the biggest worries it gives me is that I may not be able to have children or conceive naturally if I stay on the tablets. If I come off them though, my tumor will most likely grow and I’d be back to square one. This is something that plays on my mind daily, despite being nowhere near ready to settle down and have a family, all I’ve ever really wanted to do in life is be a mum, and it breaks my heart to think that this dream might never come true for me. As well as living with my condition, I also suffer with recurring cysts on my ovaries and found out at a recent ultrasound scan that I have a tilted womb – it’s totally back to front – great! So even if I can have kids, I think I’d have a pretty horrendous pregnancy/birth/life for those 9 months! Obviously I try to push this to the back of my mind as I am not ready to start a family yet, but I’m 25 and the reality now is that I do think about this every single day. On a day to day basis though, I just take things one day at a time and deal with the headaches/nausea/mood swings first before allowing myself to be overwhelmed with thinking about the future, and what that means for me and my condition.

 

My Fundraising

For the past 4 years I have taken part in a series of events to raise money for The Pituitary Foundation, and in doing so I have met sooo many people who suffer with the same or similar conditions to me, and who are in some way impacted by problems the pituitary gland can cause. In 2015 I ran the Big Fun Run in Milton Keynes and raised over £350 for the charity. In 2017 I was honoured to become an official charity ambassador and turned my local town orange for The Pituitary Foundation’s Go Orange Day, raising over £100 as well as capturing press coverage in 2 local newspapers. This year I took on my biggest challenge yet as I climbed Mount Snowdon and helped to raise a whopping £25,000 for the Foundation which is absolutely phenomenal and such an incredible achievement for the entire team – we got press coverage for this event too! To put it into perspective, £18,000 covers the yearly wages of an endocrinology nurse to be available at the end of the phone and to offer support for patients – without this money from fundraising, support simply cannot be offered to patients in need. Next year, I’m joining the Snowdon team again, but this time we’ll take on Ben Nevis and this will undoubtedly be the hardest thing I have ever had to do, but I am more than ready for the challenge so BRING IT ON! I absolutely love raising money and awareness for The Pituitary Foundation, and for my little known condition, and will continue to be an ambassador for this fantastic charity for as long as they’ll have me!

 

 

 

My Outlook

 

My life nowadays consists of 3 monthly blood tests, 9 monthly eye tests, and annual check-ups at the hospital with my consultant to see if I am responding to the meds or if the tumor is growing. Things have pretty much remained the same for the past few years, but as I get older and my body continues to change, and as I inevitably discuss potential options for having children, I think I’ve still got a long road ahead and will continue to battle this condition for the rest of my life. If I want to come off the meds and want to consider surgery as a different option, this is something I can discuss with my consultant, but it involves evasive brain surgery (through my nose and up into my brain) which is something I am absolutely terrified of as it has dangerous implications and I will try to avoid at all costs! To look at me you may not ever think that anything was wrong with me, but that’s the trouble with living with an invisible illness – you can never see it, but it’s always there. My consultant and the endocrinology team at the Oxford Churchill Hospital (OCDEM Ward) are fantastic and I wouldn’t have got through the past 7 years without them! As well as that, the team at The Pituitary Foundation have been a constant source of help and comfort throughout my diagnosis and ongoing struggle, and I couldn’t have been more thankful for their support over the past 7 years. Not many people know about the charity, or the conditions that can affect pituitary glands, so I’m extremely proud to be an ambassador for them and will continue to raise awareness and money for them for as long as I can!

 

I hope this honest and personal post gives you a little insight as to what it feels like to be part of my world. It’s not all doom and gloom, I promise! I have good days and bad days, I take each day as it comes, and I always try to remain positive despite sometimes feeling like my world is caving in around me. I’ve learnt to live with my condition, and cope with it in the best way possible, whilst always putting things into perspective and reminding myself that people are suffering with far worse conditions on a daily basis. I’m stuck with this condition for life, but I’m sure as hell not gonna let it hold me back! I’ve worked hard since the age of 16, bought my first car, ran my own business, owned a successful travel blog and travelled to 25 countries, with many more on my bucket list! I’ve helicoptered over the Grand Canyon, celebrated Independence Day in New York, done extreme water sports in Menorca, climbed Mount Verbier in Switzerland and ticked sooo many physical achievements off my ever expanding bucket list. I will not be defined by my illness, and I will not let it hold me back! A huuuuge thank you again to the fantastic team at The Pituitary Foundation – I am honoured to be an ambassador for your incredible charity, and I hope I can continue to work alongside you for years to come. I also want to thank my amazing family and friends who continue to support me in every way possible, especially my amazing mum who is my absolute rock and the only person who can pick me up when I’m down – sometimes she literally has to pick me up off the floor when I’m crying and tell me that it’s all going to be okay. Sometimes I don’t believe her, but I know things will work out in the end, and if this post helps even one person suffering with this condition too, then it will have all been worth it.

Love Jess x

 

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🏃‍♀️WE DID IT! 🏃‍♀️ What an amazing day!!! 33000 steps, 4000 calories burnt, 18 kilometres walked and 7 hours long! One of the best things I've ever done, and definitely the hardest thing I've ever done, both physically and mentally. 🏔 Didn't think I would make it up to the top at one point but these amazing people got me through!! Couldn't have wished for a better group of people to climb #Snowdon with, and am hoping we've almost smashed our fundraising target! You can still donate if you want to 😘 Collectively our group have raised over £22000 so far for @pituitaryfoundation which is INCREDIBLE!! My illness gets me down sometimes, but when events like this bring people together I wouldn't change it for the world 🌍 https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/jessica-bucks-team

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