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A Little Life Update: What’s New For 2019

Hi everyone,

I’m not quite sure how it’s the middle of July all of a sudden, time is FLYING by more than ever this year and the last six months have certainly been a whirlwind! I thought I’d just do a little life update post for you as I try to do these a few times throughout the year, just to inject a bit more personality into my blog, and to break up all the travel content that I constantly seem to be churning out! As we are well into July, I thought now would be a good time to take a step back and see how things have been going, and to update you on some big life changes too! Here goes…

I quit my job & spent 4 months travelling and blogging full time

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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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After deciding I was going to hand my notice in at work in January, I left my full time job at luxury travel firm Abercrombie and Kent in February in order to backpack around Australia. Before that though, I spent 2 weeks in London interning at The Sunday Times Travel Magazine which was super fun! My month and a half in Australia was totally life changing and I had the best trip ever travelling from Melbourne – Sydney and everywhere in between! I blogged full time from March-June whilst also visiting Madrid, Valencia, Barcelona, Scotland, the Lake District, Verona and Trento after I returned from Oz in April, so I’ve certainly had a busy few months of travel!

I got a new puppy

Eeeek as well as backpacking my way around Australia, this was another one of the most exciting things to happen this year – we got a frigging PUPPY!!! Lola is a cavapoo pup which means she’s crossed with a cavalier spaniel and a miniature poodle. She was 9 weeks old when we got her and was the tiniest little bundle of fluff, but now she’s a spritely 8 month old who loves walkies, cuddles and running around the house chewing everything in sight! She has bought so much joy into our lives after we lost our beautiful Westie Cassie back in 2017 and we can’t imagine our lives without Lola now!

I celebrated my 5 year blog anniversary

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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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Back in May I celebrated my little blog turning 5 years old and I still can’t quite believe it. Who’d have ever thought that my little space on the internet would ever reach the grand old age of 5?! I certainly never thought it would happen, especially when I only set it up as a way of documenting my travels so my mum and dad could read them. Fast forward half a decade and my blog now attracts over 7000 page views each month, with almost 10,000 followers on social media. My blog has been a consistent source of income; I’ve been paid for my writing for the past 4 years, I’ve worked with brands on sponsored posts and campaigns and I’ve even been sent on press trips and attended travel conferences, meeting people that I simply would never have met if it wasn’t for my blog. What a 5 years it’s been – roll on the next 5, I can’t wait to see what new heights my blog will reach next!

I won a trip to Riga

Off the back of attending my 4th annual Traverse conference in Italy in June, I was lucky enough to win a trip to the beautiful city of Riga with tourism board Magnetic Latvia who were one of the sponsors this year. I have always wanted to visit Latvia, and Riga in particular, so I was absolutely over the moon when I found out that I’d won free flights and a hotel stay in the quirky Baltic capital. I’m not sure when I’ll be heading to Riga yet, although I’ve got my sights set on December so I can pair it with a Christmas Market visit too. Have you ever been to Riga before? Send me all your blog posts please!

I’ve bagged myself a brand new job

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New week, new month, new JOB! 😬 Eeeek been keeping this under wraps for a little while, but today's the day I start my brand new job at a luxury travel company in Witney. 🌎 I'm so excited to have swapped a 2hr daily commute for a drive that takes me just 8 minutes to get to my new office 🙈 Instead of finishing at 5:30 and not getting home til nearly 7 I'll actually be home before 5:30 which means I can actually have a social life in the evenings and can fit it around working part time on my blog too ❤️ So excited for my new chapter to begin, after 4 months of travelling and spending way too much money I can't wait to get into a proper routine again and start settling down (kind of 😉) Operation 'Jess is saving up for a house' has been resumed! 🏡 #MondayMotivation #NewJob #NewChapter #WishMeLuck

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If all of this wasn’t enough to take on in my life, I only went and got a brand new job too! On the 1st of July I started a new role at Oxford Private Travel, a luxury travel company specialising in tailor made holiday itineraries. It’s similar to my last job at Abercrombie & Kent, although I’ll be dealing with all types of holidays across the world, rather than just being a European villas specialist. I’m on my 4th week at work now and time is absolutely flying by! I’m loving it so much and the role is so varied, allowing me to deal with clients directly and host supplier meetings as well as being responsible for product and even website content meaning I can be creative and throw some writing into my day job rather than just saving it for my blog life. I’ve settled into the team really well, attending a few summer events already and even being asked to join the Social Committee! I feel so happy and content and having no commute (10 min drive as opposed to a 1hr drive in my last job) means I can actually have a social life and do things in the evenings like catch up with friends or focus on my blog. After I got back from Australia I wasn’t sure whether I should continue with the freelance stuff, get a new office job or start a completely new career, but I’ve definitely made the right choice in continuing in the travel industry and I’m super excited to see where this next chapter will take me.

Quite a lot has happened in my little life over the past 6 months, and it’s certainly been one hell of a ride! I spent so much time travelling between February and June (I wasn’t home for more than two weeks at a time for 4 months) and, whilst I don’t regret any of it at all, it’s made me realise I get burnt out so much when I travel and sometimes it’s nice to spend some time at home and take stock of everything once in a while. I am incredibly lucky to have travelled as much as I have done, but right now I want to spend some time at home and focus on building my savings back up so I can look to move out and get my own place within the next 12 months. It’ll mean that I have to cut down on spending, and that means I’ll no doubt have to stop travelling as much, but we all have to make sacrifices in order to achieve things we desperately want, so if not spending as much means I can afford to move out then so be it!

The next life update I write will be at the end of the year, when I’ll be sharing my 2019 round up and letting you know how I got on with my New Years Resolutions that were made back in January. In terms of trips, I’ve got weekends in Manchester, London and Brighton coming up as well as potentially a sunny week in Portugal, a Christmas market trip to Riga and my first work trip to either Menorca or Sardinia – exciting! I don’t want to wish time away so I hope it goes slowly, but in the meantime stay tuned for tonnes more Australia and Europe content from my recent travels coming right up!

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Happy #TravelTuesday everyone – I'm actually not travelling at the moment (for once) and you know what, I'm actually soooo happy about it! 🏡 I haven't spent more than 2 weeks at a time at home since February and have been on back to back trips since March, taking 10 flights in 3 months, and travelling thousands of miles across Australia, the UK and Europe which has made me bloody exhausted 😩 I know I shouldn't moan because I LOVE my life and I'm so lucky I get to travel so much, but all the constant running around from airport to airport and sleeping in different hotel beds every night has finally taken its toll and I've got so fed up with being on the road that I just want to have a base to come back to ✨ So I'm now totally ready to spend the next three months completely at home, as my next trip isn't until September, and focus on myself, my blog and something else which I haven't told you about yet but I will reveal all soon, I promise! 🙈 For now here's a pic of me loving life in sunny Italia and soaking up the stunning mountain views that were right behind me ⛰

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One Week in California: The Ultimate Multi-Centre Holiday

 

We all know that the USA is mind-blowingly huge, with plenty of incredible states, cities and towns just waiting to be discovered. It’s impossible to see it all in one go, but it is possible to choose one state and focus your time on that by booking a multi-centre holiday instead. Without doubt, one of the most popular US states to visit is California; with it’s glorious beaches, vibrant cities and bucket-list tourist attractions. Whether you’re looking to tick off the original Disneyland, make your way to Hollywood or take a ride over to Alcatraz, California offers something for everyone. With this in mind, I’ve joined forces with the wonderful team over at TravelPlanners to show how multi-centre holidays are a great way to travel, and I’ve included three of my dream destinations. Here’s how you can create your own itinerary and have the trip of a lifetime over in sunny California too…

 

San Diego – 2 nights

 

Fly to San Diego airport, hire a car and let your Californian road trip begin. In this super cool city, that’s thriving with nightlife and an abundance of things to see and do, there are attractions which will appeal to all ages. San Diego is located on the coast of the Pacific Ocean and boasts numerous beaches as well as its famous natural deep-water harbour. For those looking for an active start to their multi-centre holiday, why not check out one of the many green parks that are dotted across the city? The Sunset Cliffs nature reserve is worth a visit, with glorious walks, stunning coastal views and fantastic beaches to enjoy, but Balboa Park is arguably the most popular, with beautiful buildings, neatly manicured lawns and spectacular fountains. Spend your first night in San Diego checking out the bars and restaurants in the Downtown or Pacific Beach areas as you immerse yourself in ‘Navy Town USA’.

 

 

 

 

If you’re into your history, a trip to the USS Midway Museum on day 2 is an absolute must see. Enabling visitors to follow in the footsteps of former soldiers, this interactive museum offers an eye-opening insight into what life was like on board 20th century America’s longest serving US Navy carrier. Spend the afternoon chilling out at La Jolla, meaning ‘The Jewel’ in Spanish, and discover why this place is such a gem. Perched on rocky cliffs overlooking the ocean, La Jolla is the perfect place to swim, surf and kayak in the sea or just relax on the golden sandy beach. Other attractions include San Diego Zoo, SeaWorld, Legoland California and Coronado Island, a small peninsula between San Diego Bay and the Pacific Ocean that boasts its own beach, hotel and a funky Downtown district.

 

Los Angeles – 2 nights

 

Check out of your hotel and get straight on the road, heading 120 miles north towards the city of stars, Los Angeles. Most people choose to do this three hour drive all in one go, or with a couple of comfort stops, but if you do want to break it up and see some more of California, I’d recommend stopping at Anaheim for 4 or 5 hours. Home to the original Disneyland, this magical theme park should be on everyone’s bucket lists, especially because no visit to the States is complete without a trip to Disney, right?! Depending on how early/late you get to LA, spend your first afternoon/evening doing the famous Hollywood sign and visiting the iconic Walk of Fame, looking out for the stars of your fave A-listers along the way. Afterwards, why not wander down Rodeo Drive for the ultimate shopping experience, or spot Beverly Hills from afar? You’ll feel just like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman.

 

 

LA is incredibly busy, and with so much going on at all times of day, it can be a little overwhelming. If you’re looking to recharge your batteries after a busy day of sightseeing, why not head to one of the city’s many beaches? Santa Monica pier is packed with carnival rides, food stalls and has glorious mountain views. Continuing on from Santa Monica Beach, Venice Beach is fast becoming the hottest place in LA, with insta-models working out at Muscle Beach, volleyball or basketball nets up for activity lovers, and a fantastic boardwalk that enables you to walk the entire stretch of sand whilst soaking up the Californian vibes. If you’re a foodie, Downtown LA is a great place to go for an evening meal; there’s plenty of restaurants offering all types of cuisines, with Chinatown and Little Tokyo particularly popular with locals and tourists alike.

 

San Francisco – 3 nights

 

After a busy few days, and a huge 420 mile drive, you’ve certainly saved the best til last with super cool San Fran! Before you get there it’s definitely worth breaking up the journey with stops at the likes of Malibu, Santa Barbara and Big Sur (maybe a few hours in each/an overnight stop to do them all!) Once you’ve arrived in SF, three nights here is a good amount of time to see pretty much everything on offer, but you could easily spend longer exploring California’s 4th largest city. On your first day you’ll want to see some of the sights, so head over to the Golden Gate Bridge to take in one of the most photographed landmarks in the entire world. Next up is Fisheman’s Wharf, with Pier 39 and Ghirardelli Square to the East and West of the Wharf respectively. Both areas boast trendy shopping and eating areas, as well as rides, aquariums and San Fran’s iconic sea lions. Head to the Richmond neighbourhood or the Marina for the best restaurants/bars to soak up the lively nightlife that this city has to offer.

 

 

Spend your second day hopping on a ferry over to one of America’s most notorious islands; Alcatraz. A former federal prison, Alcatraz is located on a rocky island in the middle of San Francisco Bay, and is one of the city’s most visited attractions. Self-guided or audio tours are essential to getting the most out of your visit, and don’t miss the hospital area too for an insight into the medical care during the prison’s working days. On your third and final day why not head to Union Square to shop and people watch, and if you’re there during the Christmas holidays you can go ice-skating too! For something different, I’d recommend catching a ferry from Pier 41 and heading to Angel Island, famed for its history as a civil war fort and, more recently, its Immigration Station Museum. For a once in a lifetime experience you’ll want to go hiking right to the top of Angel Island, where breath-taking views over San Francisco Bay below will be waiting for you with open arms.

 

As you can see, I’ve based this itinerary on a one week road trip, but you could adapt this to 10 days or 2 weeks to spend more time in each destination, and to include more cities along the way too! Despite starting my own American adventure in Los Angeles three years ago, I never got to explore the area or see anything of California at all, so these three cities are at the top of my US bucket list and California is certainly a state I want to explore properly one day! Have you considered taking multi-centre holidays before? I think they are a fantastic way of seeing so many cities in such a short time and I’d recommend this style of travel to anyone looking to make the most of their epic US road trip!

NB.  This post was brought to you in collaboration with TravelPlanners but, as always, all words are of course my own.

 

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Hotel Review: Mollie’s Motel & Diner, Oxfordshire

 

Last week I had the pleasure of staying at Mollie’s Motel, a brand new motel and diner complex in Buckland, Oxfordshire. Located just off the a420, with direct links to nearby Oxford and Swindon, Mollie’s Motel is perfectly positioned to enjoy a short stopover in pretty Oxfordshire. I was invited, along with my friend Steph who came as my plus one, to stay over at the motel and check out the diner last Thursday. Steph and I had a great time during our visit and loved everything about it. Here’s my full review on Mollie’s, and why I think you’ll love it too!

 

The Motel Rooms

 

 

Created by the brand behind Soho Farmhouse, Mollie’s Motel has an exclusive, luxury feel to it but without the expensive price tag. The motel boasts 79 cosy, comfortable rooms varying in size and space and you can choose from double, accessible, bunk or interconnecting rooms. With an enormous double bed, ample storage space, a rainforest shower and Cowshed toiletry products, our room had everything we would need and more for our short stay.

 

 

The TV doubled up as a room service style menu from which we could easily see what items were stocked in the general store/reception and there was info about the room as well as the rest of the motel and the diner too. Our room was located on the second floor overlooking the neon Mollie’s Motel sign below and we could see the courtyard garden slightly to the left. We got a great nights sleep and had the most amazing shower the next morning! With rooms starting from as little as £50 per night, a stay at Mollie’s is an absolute steal!

 

The Diner

 

 

With its retro decor, neon lights and classic menu, the diner is a flashback to 1950s America and will instantly transport you back to that era. There’s music playing in the background, the smell of burgers and fries in the air, and enormous milkshakes brought right to your table. Mollie’s diner is the real star of the show, and the main reason this place is so popular. Guests aren’t able to book so mealtimes get extremely busy with queues for walk ins, but there’s also a drive-thru service for those who don’t have time to queue for table service. For dinner I opted for the buttermilk chicken sandwich with sweet potato fries whilst Steph chose the dirty double bacon burger with sweet potato fries too.

 

 

If you choose the Dirty Deals package you get fries and a drink added to selected dishes at a small extra charge, and a selection of soft drinks are refillable which makes it great value for money. The next morning for breakfast I chose the veggie breakfast, swapping the avocado for an extra hash brown just because I fancied it, whilst Steph went for the maple syrup and bacon waffles which looked AMAZING!


The Location

 

 

As I’ve mentioned, Mollie’s is situated just off the a420, the road that links Swindon to Oxford and plenty of other towns and villages in between. There’s a BP petrol station just next to the car park and the motel and diner are right opposite each other, with plenty of free parking. If you want to explore nearby Oxford you can reach the city in just over half an hour by car, or the pretty Cotswolds towns of Bampton, Witney and Faringdon are around a 10-15 minute drive away. The staff on reception at the general store will be more than happy to help with any sightseeing recommendations, and it’s a great place to relax if you prefer not to be holed up in your room, with lounge areas, charging stations, free wifi and complimentary tea and coffee too!


The Staff

 

Photo courtesy of Mollie’s Instagram Page

 

 

I always say that the staff are such an important part of a hotel or restaurant and for Mollie’s this couldn’t be more true. Natalie on reception checked us in and was on hand to answer any queries that we had. She recommended a fab cocktail for us to try on the bar menu and was so lovely and friendly, just the kind of person you would want to see at check in! Brandon & Dave both worked in the diner and looked after us so well during dinner. Nothing was too much trouble, even when we asked for a couple of cocktails that weren’t even on the menu! They recommended food and drinks to us and seemed to know the menu inside out. At breakfast the next morning we were looked after by Dave again and a couple of different waitresses who were absolutely lovely and couldn’t have done more for us. The staff at Mollie’s really went above and beyond to make our stay that extra bit special and they were absolutely brilliant – I couldn’t fault their service one bit!

 

The App

 

 

Despite its 1950s theme and old fashioned retro touches, Mollie’s is right on trend with their brand new app which is available on both Apple and Android. Guests are encouraged to download and book rooms through the app in order to make check in as smooth as possible. Upon arrival, guests who have booked through the app will automatically be connected to the wifi which then tells them which room number they’re in and enables their phones to be used as their room key. The keyless system brings a futuristic feel and I think it’s a real standout feature of Mollie’s, but with the general store/reception being manned 24/7, there’s always a friendly face to speak to as well should you have any problems with the app, or if you just want to speak to an actual human upon check in!

As you can see, my plus one and I had SUCH a lovely time visiting Mollie’s last week! I can see why Mollie’s has been so successful since its launch, with its modern motel rooms and its great value diner food, there’s something to appeal to all ages. I’m a local girl who lives just a 20 minute drive away, so it’s very close to home for me and I know I’ll definitely be back at Mollie’s with some of my friends again soon!

NB. I was a guest of Mollie’s for the purpose of this review, but all thoughts and words are of course my own.

 

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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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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 Melbourne 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.  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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