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A Little Life Update: Why I Took a Break from Blogging

Hi everyone,

I hope you’re all keeping safe and well in these strange and uncertain times. I started writing this blog post back in mid-March, but never got round to finishing it. It’s been a while since I last posted, and a lot in my life/the world has changed since then. I took an unintentional break from blogging at the start of the year, with my last blog post being published back in January, when I talked about my 2020 New Years Resolutions and travel plans for the year ahead. That seems like a lifetime ago now, and I can’t believe how much has happened in the past few months.

I took a break from blogging because, if I’m honest, I felt as though I had lost my way a little bit. After my last trip to Riga in December I hadn’t made any firm travel plans for 2020 apart from a weekend to Scotland in May to attempt to climb Ben Nevis (again!) and an overseas hen do for one of my best friends in June. Anyone who knows me knows how much I love to travel, and how much I thrive off planning trips, booking weekends away and maximising my annual leave, but this year I felt really different. Even before Coronavirus became a global pandemic and started impacting the world, I wasn’t excited about travel this year, and I have no idea why. Last year was my biggest year of travel yet; I spent 6 weeks in Australia, visited Italy three times, spent a week in both Spain and Portugal and took weekend breaks to Scotland and Latvia. I had some of the best travel experiences of my life in 2019, yet when it came to planning my 2020 travels, I just couldn’t seem to get excited about booking any trips. I did get invited on a last minute press trip to Montenegro, which I was super excited about, but this understandably got cancelled due to Coronavirus and so my excitement was short lived!

 

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🚨 CORONAVIRUS 1 – my travel plans 0 🚨 Feeling very sad today guys… I was soooo excited to let you all know that, a few weeks ago, I got invited on my first press trip of 2020 which was amazing news at the time, but is now sadly not 😭 I was due to go to beautiful #Montenegro at the end of April with their amazing tourism board for 5 days of mountain hiking, cave walking and lake swimming around Perast, Budva, Kotor & Podgorica with a group of other bloggers, but unfortunately the trip has been delayed until further notice given the current global crisis we are all facing for the foreseeable future 🌎 In what is sad and scary times for all of us right now I'm trying to be positive and look forward to planning future trips when all of this is finally over, whether that be in 2020 or 2021 ✨ Luckily the trip has been postponed and not cancelled – a great way to help protect all of us in the travel industry at the moment – so I know I'll be in Montenegro sometime soon, I just have no idea when 😩 For now, here's a sunny picture of me exploring #Kotor on my last visit to this beautiful country back in 2018 πŸ‡²πŸ‡ͺ Stay safe everyone, let's get through this horrible time together ❀️ #wanderlustwednesday #visitmontenegro #montenegrowildbeauty #gomontenegro #imisstravelling

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I guess without any major travel plans to look forward to, and no other trips to write about, I didn’t really have anything to say on my little corner of the internet, so I took a blogging break which I thought would only last a few weeks, but instead has lasted nearly four months. This is mainly due to me still not having any travel related content to write about, but also of course due to Coronavirus itself. One of the main reasons I haven’t continued to write blog posts is because it doesn’t feel like the right time to be sharing travel content at the moment. How am I supposed to inspire my readers to get excited about travel when we can’t even leave the country?! I feel it would be insensitive for me to write about/encourage travel whilst we are in lockdown but, having said that, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with sharing old photos/posts and allowing people to day dream about future trips or reminisce about old ones. I’ve not done that myself yet as I’m still not even thinking about travel, but at some stage I may do.

At a time where Covid-19 is spreading across the world, killing thousands of people, dominating the news headlines and ruling almost every part of people’s lives, I knew it would eventually end up affecting my life too, but I didn’t realise just how much. For my day job, I work at a luxury travel firm in Oxfordshire and Coronavirus first had an impact on my daily life when we were asked to start working from home on 18th March. Adjusting to my new daily work from home life involved walking downstairs instead of driving for my morning commute, wearing a tracksuit instead of office wear and having daily lunchtime walks with my dog instead of with my colleagues!

 

 

On 1st April though I was officially furloughed from work and unable to continue my role at the company, a job which I love so much. I was initially quite sad, but after lots of support from HR, my wonderful manager and my fellow colleagues who had also been furloughed, I started to think differently. I am extremely lucky to be in a position to be furloughed; I will receive 80% of my wages despite not carrying out any work for the company at all, and I’m hopeful that I’ll be able to return to my role when all of this is over.

A couple of weeks down the line and I’m slowly adjusting to furlough life and everything that comes with it. I’ve read three books, started baking cakes, enjoyed my daily dog walks, started doing gym workouts from home 4 times a week and am trying to fill my days so I keep busy. I’m extremely thankful to have a lovely garden at home which I can enjoy every day, and I’m grateful for this lovely sunny weather we’ve been blessed with recently too! Mentally though I am finding things quite hard. Some days I’m totally fine and can keep busy, but other days I just don’t know what to do with myself. I’m not sleeping very well, I cry at everything (even more so than usual!), I’m really snappy and short tempered and am finding some days hard to keep positive. I guess it’s natural to feel this way with so much uncertainty in the world, I’m just scared that Covid-19 will affect me or my family physically, and I think that’s what I’m feeling anxious about.

 

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I hope you've had a lovely Easter weekend staying at home 🏑 Every time I walk past this gorgeous cottage I want to live there! Haven't been to this little village in #Oxfordshire since we went into lockdown 3 weeks ago, and I can't wait for the day when we are able to drive 10 mins to the next village/town to enjoy a long walk or a pub lunch rather than being confined to our back gardens for the foreseeable future ✨ This easter has been a little different – last year I had just got back from being in Australia – but when all of this is over, I'll look back and be so grateful that I have my family, my health, a lovely home & 2 pretty gardens to enjoy in the sunshine β˜€οΈ Whatever happens over the next few weeks, we must continue to #stayhome ❀️ The world will be waiting for you to visit when we are able to, and the #Cotswolds certainly isn't going anywhere 🌎 . . . #happyeaster #uklockdown #minsterlovell #littleminster #lovethecotswolds #cotswoldstyle #thecotswolds #loveoxfordshire #weloveengland #visitbritain #instatravel #lovegreatbritain #capturingbritain #photosofbritain #loveengland #photosofengland #visitengland #thisisengland #igersengland #igersuk #igersoxfordshire #cotswoldslife #oxford #experienceoxfordshire #oxfordshire #countryside #oxfordshirelife #travelblogger

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I am trying to fill my days though and have things to do so that I can constantly keep busy during the daytime. Last week I enrolled on a course to get my TEFL certificate which will allow me to teach English as a foreign language online to children living abroad, something I can start doing once I’m qualified, and I can fit it around my job when I eventually go back to work too. I’ve always loved English and had been thinking about it for a while, but now I’ve finally got the course it’s given me something to focus on and I actually feel like I have some structure to my day now.Β I’ve also signed up to be an NHS Volunteer Responder, which I’m really excited about starting next week. I’m hoping to deliver shopping and prescriptions to people who are self isolating and to offer a friendly telephone service to those who are feeling a bit lonely and who want someone to chat to. I was recently in the Daily Mail after a whopping 750,000 people signed up to be an NHS Volunteer Responder too, and I’m proud to be a part of this wonderful community who are ready to help others during these difficult times.

I guess you could say that I’m feeling a bit more positive now. I haven’t really got my travel motivation back, and I don’t think I will until all of this is over and we are able to travel freely again. I think this will take at least 6 months or possibly even longer as I really can’t see us being able to travel again until autumn at the earliest. Eventually I will look forward to planning new trips but, honestly, the first thing I want to do when the UK lockdown ends is spend time exploring my own country. I want to go to Suffolk to visit my nan and cousins, aunties and uncles who I haven’t seen in ages. I want to go to Liverpool to see my cousin Amy who was supposed to get married in May and I want to go and spend time with my nan, grandad, other cousins, aunties and uncles up there too.

 

 

I want to go to Cornwall, the place I have holidayed almost every year since I was born, so that I can be by the sea. I want to go to York to see my friend Rachel who I was supposed to stay with in Scarborough during the May bank holiday. I want to go to Brighton to see my best friend Emily who I was supposed to be seeing this weekend. I also want to just be able to pop into Oxford and go shopping or eat dinner with my friends from home. I miss all of those things, and all of those people, so very much. So before I can even think about leaving the country and planning things abroad, I want to stay right here first!

I’m hopeful that, when all of this is over, I’ll look back and say I didn’t spend 3 months off work moping about and not achieving anything. I’d like to complete my TEFL course, do lots of volunteering for the NHS, continue my new exercise regime and stay healthy. I guess the reason I am writing this blog post now is to have a sort of diary entry to look back on in a few weeks/months time. None of us know what the future holds, but I’m going to try and be grateful for each day and to remember how fortunate I am to be in this position.

So, why am I writing a blog post now I hear you ask? After all this time? Well, the date has something to do with it too. This time last year I had just flown back from Australia, where I had the biggest and best adventure of my life so far. Fast forward 12 months and, not only has my life changed significantly, the world around me has too. That’s a lot to take in, and a lot to think about, so my way of dealing with it is to reflect and look back at all the amazing things I have done, and tp start looking forward to future, happier times too, when all of this is over.

Look after yourselves, and remember, we WILL meet again.

Love Jess x

 

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This time last year I was at Heathrow about to board my plane for the trip of a lifetime to sunny Australia!!! πŸ‡¦πŸ‡Ί I spent a whole six weeks running around on the sand, swimming in the sea, sleeping under the stars in the outback, skydiving over Uluru, snorkelling the Great Barrier Reef and enjoying every single thing about Aussie life!! 😍 I miss it more than I can put into words but am forever grateful for all the incredible memories I have, the new friends I made and the adventures I had! 🌎 My trip was totally life changing and I just wish I could have stayed longer! One day I will be back, I promise ❀️ #jessdoesaustralia #oneyearago #imisstravelling

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How to Travel the Great Ocean Road, the Ultimate Australian Road Trip!

 

One of the most iconic road trips in the entire world, Australia’s Great Ocean Road is up there with America’s Route 66, South Africa’s Garden Route and Scotland’s North Coast 500 as being an itinerary that’s on everyone’s bucket lists. Starting in Melbourne, Victoria and finishing in Adelaide, South Australia, the Great Ocean Road spans a distance of 243 kilometres, boasting fantastic coastal views and offering some epic scenery along the way. Listed as an Australian National Heritage Site, and the largest war memorial in the world, the Great Ocean Road is a sight not to be missed during your time Down Under. I kick-started my own Australian adventure there back in March with a three day Groovy Grape Great Ocean Road & Grampians tour booked through trendy travel company Ratpack Travel, so here’s my highlights from that tour, and my guide on how to plan the perfect Great Ocean Road itinerary…

 

Day One: Melbourne – Twelve Apostles

 

 

A 6am start is never fun, especially when you’re struggling with jet-lag, but after a couple of nights in MelbourneΒ travelling solo I was ready to embark on my first tour to kick-start my time in Australia, so I joined the rest of my new tour mates onboard the Groovy Grape mini van. After heading out of Melbourne, our first stop was the seaside resort of Torquay, the official starting point of the Great Ocean Road, and the home of global surfing brands Ripcurl and Quiksilver. Next up was Bells Beach, the setting for the final scene of hit 90s movie Point Break, and soon after we were on our way to the beach village of Apollo Bay and the pretty town of Lorne, which was our lunch stop. After lunch we headed back on the road and stopped off at the famous Great Ocean Road sign, where the iconic Memorial Arch is located. The road itself was painstakingly laid by hand and was worked on by 3000 soldiers who returned from the war and began the construction in 1919. Some soldiers even lost their lives building the road, which is now the largest war memorial in the world.

 

 

Our penultimate stop of the day was the Great Otway National Park, home to some of the oldest rainforests on the planet, where we roamed through trees and admired the sights. The Mait’s Rest Rainforest was a real treat and one of my favourite stop offs; it was pouring down with rain whilst we were there but I think that actually made it better! Our final stop of the day was the one I was most looking forward to: The Twelve Apostles, even though there are only 8 now due to erosion but supposedly there were never 12 in the first place! Anyway, we arrived just before sunset to catch a glimpse of the famous limestone stacks whilst it was still light and the views were amazing. The site itself was pretty crowded, but the boardwalk allows you to get around as slowly or as quickly as you like, and you can get some fantastic photos without feeling the need to rush. Our first night on tour was spent in shared accommodation (13 people in one room) at a local hostel, where we were treated to a delicious home cooked meal by our hosts.

 

Day Two: Twelve Apostles – Grampians

 

 

After a surprisingly good night’s sleep (I wasn’t expecting much after my first experience of sharing a room with 13 people!) we were soon back on the road ready for day 2 of our tour. Our first stop was sunrise at Loch Ard Gorge which was INCREDIBLE. I had a real ‘pinch me’ moment here, as I had zero expectations from this place, and watching the waves crash against the rocks whilst feeling the wind in my hair and the golden sun on my face as it rose above the sea was truly breath-taking. We then made our way along the Shipwreck Coast, stopping off at the Bay of Martyrs, The Grotto and London Bridge all in quick succession. Lunch was eaten at the spectacular Tower Hill Reserve, home to a dormant volcano which was active 30,000 years ago, and is now a nature park teeming with Aussie wildlife including emu’s, koalas, kangaroos and echidna’s.

 

 

After a long drive we reached our next stop, the magnificent Grampians National Park, where we paid a visit to the Brambuk Cultural Centre to gain a good understanding of the local Aboriginal history. We then trekked towards the Mackenzie Waterfalls, which were incredibly powerful and a real sight to behold; it was also here that I saw my first ever wild kangaroo, just bouncing around in front of me! We then headed to the Reeds Lookout Point for sunset in the heart of the Grampians, which offered panoramic views out to the surrounding mountains and dramatic landscapes below. Dinner and accommodation was in a shared wood cabin on night 2 and it was a really peaceful place to unwind after a busy day on the road.

 

Day Three: Grampians – Adelaide

 

 

Our third and final day saw us get up at the crack of dawn, ready for a two hour sunrise hike right in the middle of The Grampians.Β  We hiked a mountain called The Pinnacle, which was pretty tough going as some of the rocks/boulders on the main path were quite big, and the altitude was high so I struggled a little with my breathing. Any worries I’d had soon vanished though as I made it all the way to the top of The Pinnacle where my group and I were rewarded with the most spectacular views over the Grampians below. This was my first hike of many during my time in Australia and it was a really special time for me. I really enjoyed pushing myself out of my comfort zone and reaping the rewards at the end.

 

 

We didn’t do much else on our last day, other than having lunch and spending lots more time on the road driving before we reached our final destination and cruised into the vibrant city of Adelaide. Groovy Grape offer a very ‘hands on’ kind of tour experience, so breakfast, lunch and dinner was always made and served by all of us in the group, taking turns to do different jobs each day. We were also responsible for washing up and tidying away after meal times, and for sorting out all our linen etc too at our accommodation stops. This style of trip is pretty basic and doesn’t offer any luxuries so it may not suit every style of traveller, but your food is included, your accommodation is clean and tidy and your tour guides are excellent. I’d really recommend Groovy Grape for those travelling Australia on a budget, and don’t forget to contact Sammy at Ratpack Travel for all your Aussie needs!

Just FYI, here are the inclusions that were covered in this trip:

  • 2 breakfasts, 3 lunches and 2 dinners
  • 2 nights dorm accommodation (shared with the entire group)
  • All national park entry fees
  • All transport from Melbourne – Adelaide, or in reverse from Adelaide – Melbourne

NB. I received a small discount off this tour from Ratpack Travel in exchange for social media content and this blog post but, as always, all words are of course my own.

 

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Last night my Great Ocean Road tour came to the end 😭 I've had an amazing three days travelling from Melbourne – Adelaide with some lovely people from my tour and have seen some INCREDIBLE sights 😍 On day 1 we ticked off Bells Beach, Lorne and Apollo Bay, wandered through the Maits Rainforest & watched the sun set over the 12 Apostles. On day 2 we saw sunrise at Loch Ard Gorge, made our way to London Bridge & The Grotto, had lunch inside a dormant volcano (whilst emus strolled by!), marvelled at Mackenzie Falls and I saw my first ever wild kangaroo! On day 3 we took a difficult 2 hour hike up to the top of the Pinnacle, in the heart of the Grampian Mountains, and were rewarded with the most incredible views from the top before crossing the Victoria/South Australia border and cruising into Adelaide. What an adventure it has been! 🌎 I booked my trip @groovygrapetours through the fantastic team @ratpack_travel – go check them out for all your Aussie tours and itineraries! #JessDoesAustralia #Days2-5

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6 Weeks Down Under: How I Went Travelling Around Australia

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Swapping Scotland for Sydney 😎 Some of you may have noticed on my Insta feed that I've been reading a fair few travel guides lately, and that I've been on an awful lot of trips too, but there's one travel company who have really helped me whilst I've been away, and that company is @marcopologuides πŸ“š I absolutely love their travel guides, so it gives me great pleasure to finally let you know that I am one of their Brand Ambassadors for 2019! ❀️ I'll be putting some of their brilliant guide books to the test on my upcoming travels and telling you all about them in my blog posts tooπŸ’» First up is a round up of my epic 6 week Australian adventure which is now LIVE on the blog – go check it out for all your Aussie travel tips and to relive my wonderful experiences! (Link in bio)πŸ‡¦πŸ‡Ί Stay tuned for more epic travel guides coming soon to Journeys with Jessica – i can't wait to share more of my adventures with you! 🌎 #ad #brandambassador #gifted

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If you’ve been following me on social media over the past few months you’ll know that I’ve recently returned from the trip of a lifetime travelling around Australia, where I spent 40 wonderful days exploring this beautiful country, taking in 10 cities, 5 states and covering thousands of miles of land. I planned my trip totally on my own, but had the help of my trusty Marco Polo Australia Guidebook with me all the way. Here’s my full itinerary in detail, and a breakdown of all six weeks so you can see how I planned my trip, and just how much I fitted in during my time travelling around Australia!

 

Week 1: Melbourne – Adelaide

 

 

I kick started my tour of Australia with a couple of nights in Melbourne on my own, staying in a private room at the Melbourne Metro YHA, which was brilliant FYI. After a 24hr flight and HORRENDOUS jet lag, it was sooo nice to have my own room and just take things at my own pace for a few days whilst I started to adjust to life in Australia. You can read all about my time in Melbourne here. On my last day in the city I had an early 6am start as I embarked on my tour of the Great Ocean Road down to Adelaide. I booked this 2night/3day Groovy Grape tour through Ratpack Travel, a trendy travel company based in Byron Bay.

 

 

As I’ve mentioned, this tour was operated by Groovy Grape and there were 15 of us in total. Most of the group were solo travellers like me, but there were a few couples as well. There’s a fair amount of walking to do on this tour, including hiking the Grampians and trekking down to Mackenzie Falls, so you need a moderate level of fitness but it wasn’t too taxing. You can read my full review of this Great Ocean Road tour in more detail here, but my highlights included watching the sunrise over Loch Ard Gorge, visiting the Twelve Apostles and having lunch in the Tower Hill wildlife reserve, which is an active volcano!

 

Week 2: Adelaide – Alice Springs

 

 

Upon reaching Adelaide I spent 4 nights here with my lovely friend Jess, who I’d met in America three whole years ago! It was the first time we had been reunited since our US trip back in 2016 so I was so excited to get to Adelaide. Jess showed me allll the sights and we spent time wandering around the city itself (I was lucky enough to be there when the world famous Fringe Festival was on!) and we also headed to the German town of Hahndorf where I felt like I was actually in Germany and not in Australia at all. Other highlights included visiting the brilliant Cleland Wildlife Park, where I got the CUTEST kanga selfies, and we also drove to the seaside resort of Glenelg which boasted a gorgeous beach, promenade and plenty of shops, bars and restaurants. I was super sad to be leaving Jess behind in Adelaide but knew we’d be reunited once more in Sydney at the end of my trip.

 

 

In Adelaide I got picked up ready for my new tour, the Adelaide – Alice Springs Overland Adventure which was operated by Intrepid Travel. I’d heard great things about Intrepid but was super nervous about my outback tour as I had never been camping IN MY LIFE and I was about to spend an entire week sleeping on the floor with bugs and spiders ahhhh! I needn’t have worried though, from the minute I walked on board the tour bus to the minute I left all my new friends behind a week later I can honestly say I had the best experience of my entire life on that outback trip! Again, I’ll be blogging about the tour in much more detail separately, but my main highlights (god there were so many) included sleeping in an underground bunkhouse at Coober Pedy, skydiving over Uluru(!!), hiking Kata Tjuta and watching the sunset over the mountains in Alice Springs.

 

Week 3: Alice Springs – Cairns

 

 

After my outback tour ended I spent an additional 3 nights in Alice Springs just chilling out, walking around the town and spending time with some of my tour friends who were staying on in Alice too. I really wanted to spend a day hiking in the Western Macdonnells National Park, but unfortunately I didn’t have quite enough time to do a full day trip and I was exhausted from my tour so I just focused on recuperating in Alice instead.

 

 

My short flight to Cairns went smoothly and I spent 2 nights in the city ahead of my next tour starting. One of my outback friends, Rick, just happened to be in Cairns too, so I explored the area with him and we had a great couple of days wandering around the lagoon and esplanade, hitting up the nightlife and checking out the famous Rusty’s food market (which was recommended in my Marco Polo Guidebook). We also took a day trip to the Kuranda Rainforest after my Cape Tribulation tour was cancelled due to flooding. We got the cable car up to Kuranda village, stopping off at different parts of the rainforest and the spectacular Barron Falls along the way, and then hopped on the express train back to Cairns along the old fashioned railway.

 

Week 4: Cairns – Brisbane

 

 

My 10 day Cairns – Brisbane tour was operated by Topdeck Travel and I was so looking forward to joining another tour, especially as I’ve always fancied doing an 18-35 Topdeck one! The first half of the trip took us from Cairns – Airlie Beach, where we went snorkelling on the Great Barrier Reef (BUCKETLIST RIGHT THERE), went hiking and koala spotting up to WW2 forts on Magnetic Island, and we stopped off at the stunning Whitehaven beach after our epic overnight sailing on the Whitsundays.

 

 

After Airlie Beach (and it’s crazy nightlife) we headed onto Myella Farm for a traditional Australian farm stay. We got to see how everything works and how well the animals are looked after and we even hung out with the resident baby joeys! Next stop was the beautiful Fraser Island, the largest sand island in the world, which fast became one of the highlights of my entire trip. We went 4 wheel driving on the sand and river tubing down Eli Creek before stopping off at the Maheno Shipwreck then catching a scenic airplane flight over the island below. Our last stop was Brisbane and I was super sad to say goodbye to my new friends but also excited for the next part of my adventure.

 

Week 5: Brisbane/Gold Coast – Sydney

 

 

I spent the next 3 nights with my lovely friend Amy, another of my Contiki pals who I’d met in America 3 years ago. She showed me everything there was to see in beautiful Brisbane, including the vibrant Southbank and lagoon, the botanical gardens and the magnificent Story Bridge. Brisbane turned out to be one of my fave Aussie cities, and we then went on a road trip of the Gold Coast which I absolutely loved!

 

 

We spent a night at Byron Bay, hiking up to the lighthouse to watch the sunset and enjoying the nightlife on the main strip. We also stopped off at Surfers Paradise, Coolangatta, Tweed Heads, Rainbow Bay and Snapper Rocks so I saw a fair bit of the Gold Coast and really adored my time there with Amy! I then hopped on my last domestic flight of my trip and headed to Sydney for my final week of travelling around Australia.

 

Week 6: Sydney/Umina Beach – Bondi

 

 

I reunited with my friend Jess and more of my Contiki pals Tamara and James in Sydney which was amazing and we spent 3 nights exploring a city I have wanted to visit for sooo long. We did all the typical touristy stuff like the Harbour Bridge, Opera House and Darling Harbour as well as the quirky Paddys Markets and we even hopped on a ferry over to Manly Beach for an afternoon. I really loved my time in Sydney and feel like I saw such a lot there during my visit. After leaving Sydney, Jess and I headed to nearby Umina Beach to stay with Tamara for a few nights. We really enjoyed the laid back vibe in this pretty area and took a day trip to Palm Beach, where the long running TV soap Home and Away is filmed. We enjoyed seeing different parts of the set and hiked up to the lighthouse for spectacular views over the bay below.

 

 

After Umina we headed to Bondi Beach for 2 nights and I was pleasantly surprised by this place; it wasn’t what I expected at all! It wasn’t particularly touristy (probably because we were there before the weekend rush) and I really liked the beaches of Clovelly and Tamarama as well as Bondi. Jess and I met up with another of our Contiki pals, Matt, and the three of us spent an afternoon hiking the epic Bondi to Coogee coastal path (recommended in my Marco Polo Guidebook) which was amazing and boasted some incredible views along the way. Bondi was the perfect place to spend my last few days in Australia and it was so beautiful I just didn’t want to leave!

 

Ahh writing up this post has brought back sooo many wonderful memories from my Aussie adventure. What an absolutely AMAZING time I had on the other side of the world; I would go as far to say that this trip was totally life changing for me and I had the most incredible experience travelling around Australia! I hope this posts helps you if you’re thinking about planning your very own trip Down Under. Let me know if you need any tips as I’d be more than happy to help and share more knowledge from my own experience, but the Marco Polo Australia Guidebook will work an absolute TREAT as well!

NB. This post was sponsored by Marco Polo Guides as I am one of their brand ambassadors for 2019, but all words and photos are of course my own.

 

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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… πŸ™ˆ 1. I'm quitting my job (again) sorry mum πŸ˜‚ 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 πŸ’» 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 πŸ‡¦πŸ‡Ί 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 πŸ™Œ #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! βœ… 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 πŸ™ˆ 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 πŸ˜‚ 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! πŸ™ˆπŸ˜‚ #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 πŸ’» 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! πŸ—ž 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! πŸ‘‹ Ps. Omg forgot I'm there Tuesday to fly to Australia πŸ˜‚βœˆοΈ #whatislife

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Accommodation Review: Wombats Hostel London City

 

 

 

 

Whilst on my recent internship at The Sunday Times Travel Magazine, I had the pleasure of staying at Wombats Hostel for a couple of nights during my two weeks in London. I was in need of somewhere to base myself for the first week, and on the first two nights I didn’t want to have to worry about finding a friends to stay at, or having to get the train to and from Oxford each day, so I booked myself into Wombats ready to embrace London life. Wombats have a series of budget hostels across Europe, from Vienna to Berlin, with a variety of rooms and locations to suit everyone. Whether you’re travelling as a group or riding solo, Wombats is the place to be. Here’s the lo-down of this quirky hostel, and everything you need to know about what to expect from your stay…

 

The LocationΒ 

 

 

Set in a historic building Β that has been a hostel since the Victorian era, this place was first used in 1865 as a base for sailors before their overseas trips. Situated on Dock Street near Wapping, just 5 minutes from the historic St Katherine’s Docks, Wombats Hostel London City is perfectly positioned to explore everything that the Great British capital has to offer. After an easy 25 minute walk you’ll reach the likes of The Shard, City Hall, the Tower of London and of course the iconic Tower Bridge. I was working in offices at London Bridge, right opposite The Shard, and chose to walk each day so I could really get to know my surroundings and it was so much better to soak up the fresh air and riverside views rather than commuting by tube. If you do need to use the tube during your stay though, you’ll find Tower Hill is the nearest station, just an 8 minute walk away.

 

The Rooms

 

 

I stayed in a private, en suite double room which was comfy, clean and had everything I would need for my two night stay. I couldn’t believe it was a hostel as it totally had the feel and style of a hotel, but without the expensive price tag! The double bed was comfortable and there was plenty of floor, wardrobe and draw space to use. The bathroom was clean and modern with the most incredible rainforest shower which I just didn’t want to leave in the mornings! I definitely felt that my room gave me a little bit of luxury, and total privacy, which was really important to me for this particular stay. Obviously I can’t comment on the dorm rooms, but I’m sure they were of a similar quality throughout, minus the privacy of course. Wombats offer a variety of private and shared rooms at an unbeatable price.

 

The Staff

 

 

The staff at Wombats were so fun and friendly and really made me feel welcome throughout the duration of my stay. I didn’t check in until after 9pm as I’d had a long day at the office and then met a friend for dinner, but despite my late arrival everything went smoothly and I was shown to my room right away. I was presented with two breakfast vouchers and two drinks vouchers to redeem during my stay, and was told where to find the communal areas such as the bar, kitchen and dining area. Everyone was super friendly and I really felt that I was looked after during my stay.Β 

 

The FacilitiesΒ 

 

 

 

This hostel has everything you’d need for a comfortable stay and offers plenty of things to do whilst on site. The breakfast area doubles up as a bar in the evening, with comfy futons, plenty of chairs and a big screen for watching sports events with fellow guests. There’s a communal kitchen for those of you who want to cook instead of eating out, and there’s also a courtyard patio and a pool table. I didn’t spend much time in the communal areas as I was staying for business not pleasure (sadly) but I had breakfast both mornings and used the kitchen to cook a meal on one of the evenings and found both areas to be absolutely fine. There were plenty of people around, but I didn’t really stop to chat or get to know any of the other travellers as I was short on time what with having to get to and from work each morning and evening. There was a good atmosphere in and around the hostel though, with plenty of groups and other travellers staying, so I think the bar would have been a great place to meet new people if I’d had the time to check it out properly.

 

 

As you can see I had a great stay at Wombats Hostel London City and would definitely recommend this hostel to anyone looking for budget friendly accommodation in a fantastic central location. Having a private room was brilliant whilst I was doing my internship as it gave me somewhere relaxing to come back to after a busy few days of office life. I would most definitely stay at another Wombats if I ever needed accommodation in any of their other European cities and I wouldn’t hesitate to book their London hostel again.Β 

Thank you Wombats for an awesome stay!

 

NB. My 2 night stay was provided complimentary to me on a B&B basis as I was a guest of Wombats for the purpose of this review but all thoughts, opinions and photos are of course my own.