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My End of Year Review: 17 Highlights From 2017

 

Having no regrets is all that she really wants ๐ŸŒŸ

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OHMYGOD I literally cannot believe I am writing this. Like how did this year go by so quick? What the hell have I done over the past 12 months? Why does it only seem like 5 minutes since I wrote my 2016 end of year review? I cannot cope with how quick time is flying and how much life is passing me by. I didn’t think I could top 2016, I had the best year of my life to date when I quit my career to travel and become a full time freelancer. Surprisingly though, I think 2017 has been even bigger, ever better and even more amazing than I could ever have imagined. I’ve taken 17 flights, travelled to 11 countries and 14 cities and made memories that will last a lifetime. My blog has grown to the biggest it’s ever been and I’m enjoying countless new opportunities that I could only ever have dreamed of.

Although I’ve had an amazing year, sadly I’m ending it on a low as my beautiful dog Cassie went to sleep and left us just a few weeks ago. She had been poorly for a few months and just couldn’t go on anymore so we had to do what was best and let her go. We are all devastated and are struggling to come to terms with her loss; she has left a huge hole in our home, and in our hearts, and we miss her more than we ever thought possible. My heart physically hurts and I cry every single day, but I know with time it will get easier and I have amazing friends and family to support me. Love you princess, sleep tight my little snow angel. Despite ending on a low note, January – October gave me an incredible 10 months and I’ve found it so hard to narrow down just 17 highlights from my 2017 but I’m going to try and pick my stand out memories… Here goes…

 

I started the new year down in Cornwall – JANUARY

 

Bit late to the party after being on holiday but so pleased to have ended 2016 and brought in the new year down in Cornwall with my beautiful, crazy family. 2016 was my best year to date; I took my biggest leap of faith by quitting my job, travelling solo to LA and launching my freelance business. I road tripped across America, ticking off 30 cities & 23 states (making 52 new friends along the way) and inter-railed around Italy with my sister, visiting three of the most famous cities in the world. My blog turned 2, it underwent a major rebrand and it was nominated for an award. I've been bridesmaid for my best friend, celebrated my cousins wedding and my sisters 21st and have been to V Fest, the theatre and the races. I've made hundreds of new memories with my amazing friends and family and am entering 2017 feeling the happiest I've ever been! Here's to an even better year with many new adventures ahead as I take on Europe during my next 12 months of travel! Happy belated new year everyone, wishing you every happiness for 2017 ๐ŸŒŽโœˆ๏ธ๐Ÿ’–

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After a quiet Christmas at home we couldn’t wait to get away for a break in Cornwall, our favourite UK county, for five days of beach walking, sea fishing and new year festivities. We stayed in a little apartment at the heart of St Ives and enjoyed ice cream on the beach, walks high in the hills and fancy dress and fireworks over the harbour on New Years Eve. We had an amazing few days away and it really started off our new year with a bang.

 

I became a freelancer and worked part time too – JANUARY

 

This is how I feel right now. Today I calculated that I've earnt *almost* as much each month as I was earning in my old 9-5 job! I knew I could do it!!! I've started with nothing and built up my little business all by myself. At times I felt like giving up, like I wasn't good enough, and like I had no right to make a career for myself, but today I've felt so inspired and so pleased that my hard work seems to be paying off. Any doubts that may have been in my mind have now been dismissed and I am SO excited to continue my journey in my new career and see where this takes me! Here's to future success and many more adventures ๐Ÿ“๐Ÿ’ปโœˆ๏ธ๐ŸŒ #MondayMotivation #freelancer #bloglife #virtualassistant

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At the end of 2016 I decided to go freelance with my blog and I also set myself up as a social media manager too. I had a handful of clients with steady work each month and I was really enjoying working from home and being my own boss. After a few months though I realised that I missed working alongside people and started to feel incredibly lonely. On my birthday I landed myself a part time job at New Look and this actually turned out to be one of the best things that could have happened to me. I started to get into a routine, earned extra money and made so many friends after thriving off that social interaction again. My part time contract meant that I could work as little or as much as I wanted to, which came in super handy for the months ahead when Iย  wanted to travel as much as I could.

 

I celebrated my sisters 18th birthday – JANUARY

 

 

My little baby sis turned 18 at the end of Jan and we had a wonderful weekend celebrating with our closest family members up in Liverpool. We booked a large table at the gorgeous Titanic Restaurant in the city and then spent the night partying until the early hours. Soph had an amazing birthday and it was so lovely to spent some quality time with our nearest and dearest.

 

I took a winter city break to Copenhagen – FEBRUARY

 

 

My first overseas adventure of 2017 came in February when my sister and I hopped over to Copenhagen for a long weekend. We had wanted to do a winter city break for a while, as it had been two years since our February break to Prague, and the Danish capital seemed to be the perfect place to go. We had an amazing few days wandering around the beautiful Nyhavn Harbour, climbing the Round Tower and finding The Little Mermaid and even popped over to Malmo in Sweden for a day trip too!

 

I wandered around Bratislava and Vienna for 5 days – MARCH

 

 

March saw me take two more trips, and tick off two more countries, as I flew over to explore Bratislava and Vienna with my friend and fellow blogger Lucy. We had an epic 48 hours discovering Bratislava’s Old Town and it’s stunning castle complex before catching the train to Vienna to indulge in its musical history. We then spent two nights in the best hotel I have ever stayed in and were able to visit some of Vienna’s many palaces and impressive buildings along the way – what an adventure we had!

 

I went to my second Traverse conference – APRIL

 

 

After attending my first Traverse conference in Cardiff in 2016, I knew I just had to go back to the 2017 one when details were announced. This time the blogging extravaganza was held in London, right next to The 02 arena, and was even better than the year before. I caught up with Lucy, Seanna, Steve and some of my other bloggy friends and also met the lovely Rachel for the first time, who I have now become firm friends with! Highlights of the conference included the Jet2 opening party at Millbank Tower, a CityCruises boat party along the Thames and the closing party in Canary Wharf with Visit Spain. Oh and the workshops were pretty good too, obvs I didn’t go there just to party ๐Ÿ˜‰ I really interacted with all the brands and speakers this time round after being a little nervous during my first Traverse in 2016 and was lucky enough to be selected for two press trips after meeting sponsors in London. I’ve already bought my ticket for Traverse 2018 in Rotterdam and cant wait to go next May!

 

I went on a spontaneous city break to Sofia – MAY

 

 

After spotting ยฃ30 return flights with Ryanair, my lovely friend Toni and I decided to jet over to Bulgaria for a long weekend in Sofia. For both of us, this was the furthest we had gone in Eastern Europe and we absolutely loved exploring a new city, and a new country. We only had two nights there but spent it eating traditional Bulgarian food, taking a free walking tour, hiking up the Vitosha Mountain and admiring the stunning Alexander Nevsky Cathedral. Sofia is a really quirky place and I would highly recommend it to anyone looking for an alternative city break in Europe.

 

I went on my first group press trip to Menorca – MAY

 

 

After my successful weekend at Traverse, I was lucky enough to be selected for my first ever group press trip, Must See Menorca. Traverse teamed up with both the Spain and Menorca tourism boards to put together a fantastic week of conferencing, workshops and excursions. Highlights included kayaking in the crystal clear waters, strolling around the capital of Ciutedella and going to a party in a cave at the fabulous Cova d’en Xoroi. I made so many friends and had the most amazing week getting to know everyone, learning tonnes of new blogging tips and getting to explore new parts of Menorca that I didn’t know existed.

 

I had a girly week with my sisters in Tenerife – JUNE

 

 

After a hectic couple of months of back to back trips I couldn’t wait for a chilled week in the Spanish sun in Tenerife with my sisters by the time June came around. We booked a package holiday with Jet2 and couldn’t have had better service the whole time we were there. We’ve been to Spain fifteen times but had never visited Tenerife and it’s safe to say we will definitely be returning soon. We had an amazing week relaxing on the beach, swimming in the sea and even hiking up an active volcano! Seeing dolphins and whales swimming in the sea was a real highlight, as was being right in the heart of the action on the Las Americas strip and I already can’t wait to go back next summer.

 

I took another group press trip to Switzerland – JULY

 

 

After a relaxing break in Tenerife it was time to get back to my hectic schedule as I headed over to Switzerland for the first time on another press trip, this time with the Nendaz tourism board and with villa rental company Travelopo. Along with four other bloggers I had the chance to stay in a luxurious chalet in the heart of Swiss ski resort Nendaz. I’m pretty sure that a ski resort isn’t an obvious choice when looking for a summer holiday, but we were delighted to showcase this amazing place to a whole new audience. Both Travelopo and the Nendaz tourism board were amazing and put together a fantastic itinerary for us during our week there. We did plenty of mountain hiking (and biking), had a spa day at a 5* hotel, went cheese making in the Alps and climbed 3300m up to one of the highest mountains in the country at Verbier’s Mont Fort. I also spent a couple of days in Geneva at the beginning and end of the week and really pushed myself out of my comfort zone on this trip so it turned out to be one of the best weeks I’ve ever had!

 

I became an ambassador for The Pituitary Foundation – AUGUST

 

 

On a personal level, this is something I am hugely proud of and definitely one of my biggest achievements from 2017. If you’ve followed my blog from the beginning you’ll know that I suffer with a rare condition called a prolactinoma, which is a small, benign tumor in my brain. I’m on medication for life and have regular blood tests, eye tests and check ups with my hospital consultant to monitor my condition, but generally my health is good and I never let anything hold me back! The Pituitary Foundation are a fantastic charity who have helped me enormously since my diagnosis back in 2011 and so I was absolutely delighted when they asked me to be an ambassador for them in August. I said yes right away and couldn’t wait to get involved with fundraising and spreading awareness. My first job was sharing my story online, and I couldn’t believe it when The Daily Mail, The Mirror and The Sun all featured my story and reached millions of readers. Since then I have shared my story with other outlets and even organised a ‘turn your town orange’ day for Pituitary Awareness Month in October. I’m so proud to be ambassador for such an amazing charity and I can’t wait to work on new projects throughout 2018.

 

I hopped over to Hamburg for the weekend – AUGUSTย 

 

 

I got invited to another press trip after making great contacts at this year’s Traverse conference and was super excited to be heading to Hamburg with the Visit Hamburg team back in August. I spent two nights exploring the quirky and alternative sights of the city, including taking a street art tour, paddle boarding down the Alster river and attending the annual Vogelball music festival. We also went to an all you can eat ice cream festival which was INCREDIBLE and I spent some time wandering around the shipping port and exploring the old town with its famous Rathaus building too. Although it wasn’t my favourite city, I did really enjoy my first visit to Germany and had a lovely weekend making new friends and creating new memories.

 

I became a real life fairy godmother – SEPTEMBER

 

 

Ahh one of the best things to ever happen to me, I became fairy godmother to one of my best friend’s baby and we had such a lovely day! I’ve known my friend Kath for years, we even moved in together for a few months a couple of years ago, and I was sooo excited when she asked me to be godmother to her beautiful little girl Halle. We had a lovely day at the Church and Halle looked so cute in her little dress. I promise to love you and to look after you forever baby girl <3

 

I took on so many new blog opportunities – ALL YEAR ROUND

 

 

This year was my best year yet for new blogging opportunities and I’m delighted to say that I’ve had them in abundance over the past 12 months. From complimentary flights and week/weekend long trips in Spain, Switzerland and Germany to overnight hotel stays in The Cotswolds and boat tours along the Thames, it’s been an epic year of press trips. I really wanted to challenge myself this year and work on new collaborations with lots of new brands. As well as taking trips I’ve also worked with companies on sponsored blog posts, Instagram takeovers and competition giveaways. I’ve worked really hard to get to where I’ve wanted to be though, and I haven’t just waited for things to land in my lap. I’ve emailed brands, taken part in Twitter chats, created a media kit, networked, attended conferences and really got myself out there in order to be selected for some incredible opportunities that have really helped to grow my blog and make it the best it can be.

 

I inter-railed around Europe – SEPTEMBER

 

 

By mid September I hadn’t been on a trip away since Hamburg at the start of August and was desperate to travel again! When my friend Toni said she wanted to do the same, we knew we had to go on a real stand out trip and inter-railing around Europe seemed to fit the bill nicely! I’ve always wanted to go inter-railing, especially after my rail trip to Italy last year, so couldn’t wait to get planning our trip. After weeks of deliberation, flight/train searching and trying to find decent hotels at a decent price, we decided to do four countries and four cities within nine days. We started in the Polish capital of Warsaw then headed to Prague and Salzburg before ending up in lovely Ljubljana. We had an amazing two nights visiting each city and saw as much as we physically could during our time there. I’d visited Prague before but still loved it and I had a great time in Warsaw and Salzburg, but Ljubljana really stole my heart and I’m so glad we saved the best til last!

 

I got a new car &ย a new job – OCTOBER

 

 

When my beloved Vauxhall Corsa went to the big car heaven in the sky I found myself needing a new mode of transport and a new salary to support myself. After a year of freelancing and 9 months of part time work I landed on my feet when I got offered a brand new job that I’d had no intention of getting! I was starting to get fed up of unstable freelance income and I knew I definitely didn’t want to be in retail coming up to Christmas, so in September when I emailed my CV along with a generic cover letter to a local travel firm in Cheltenham I had no idea that I’d even get an interview, let alone get offered a job! I picked up my new car at the end of September and a few days later I started my new job as an operations co-ordinator at luxury travel firm Abercrombie and Kent. I work in the villas sector of the business and spend my days writing descriptions and editing photos for our luxurious villas, as well as contacting owners for availability requests and assisting the sales team with their holiday enquiries. My experience of property management from my estate agent days, coupled with my passion for travel through my blog, have helped to land my dream job and I’ve not looked back since I started! I believe that everything happens for a reason, and although having a full time job means I haven’t been able to blog as much, I’ve learnt to appreciate my weekends, use my annual leave wisely and have started saving a lot of money which will be used for future trips and treats for my nearest and dearest… Here’s to being a full-timer again!

 

I saw the most snow we’ve had in years – DECEMBER

 

Six weeks ago we were told the devastating news that our darling Cassie had a tumor in her tummy and she didn't have long left to live. We hoped and prayed that she would get better, that she would get back to her normal self, or that she would at least make it til Christmas. Sadly we don't think our prayers have been answered, as our little girl has been getting worse day by day. We didn't think she would ever see snow again, but this morning when she got up from her bed and walked out into the garden it looked like her last wishes had come true. Cass has always loved the snow and we feel so blessed that she was able to enjoy it for one last time. Soon we will have to make a decision that no pet owner wants to make and our hearts are breaking, but for now we are treasuring every second with our little snow angel and are loving her as much as we have done every day for the past 12 years. We just don't ever want to let you go baby ๐Ÿ’”

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Although I am devastated to be writing this because we lost our precious Cassie, I am so grateful that in December it snowed for the first time since 2009 and our darling girl got to play in the snow one last time. Pulling back the curtains and waking up to so much snow was truly magical and, if I closed my eyes for a few seconds, it really felt like I was a child again. My sisters and I were supposed to be going to Capital FM’s Jingle Bell Ball that day, but the snow had meant all trains/coaches from Oxford were cancelled so we had no way of getting there. This turned out to be a blessing in disguise as we spent the day with our little Cassie giving her so many cuddles, watching Christmas films and telling her we loved her. Although it was her last day with us, and we spent the next few weeks crying uncontrollably every single day, I will always be grateful that it snowed and that she spent her last day being surrounded by love. We miss you so much baby and our hearts are hurting without you. We wish that you could still be here with us, that we could stroke your head or play with your ears or snuggle you tight, but we know that you were in pain and we couldn’t bear for you to carry on. We know now that you are at peace and are looking down on us each and every day, and whenever it snows we will know that it’s you showing us that you love us. Forever in our hearts, princess <3

 

When I take a step back and look at everything I’ve done this year I can’t help but feel immensely proud of myself. I’ve overcome a lot and I’ve made so many life changes in just one year, all of which have made me happier and a better person. Oh and remember those New Years Resolutions I made back in January? I’ve nailed them all. Travel to 10 new countries – tick, I even did 11! Stop looking for love – tick, goodbye tinder! Spend more time with family and friends – tick, I’ve removed toxic people from my life and put my loved ones first! Stop buying scratchcards – semi tick, I buy one every few months but I’m nowhere near as bad as I used to be! I’m quite impressed that I’ve managed to successfully complete the challenges I set myself this year and it just reinforces my belief that, if you want something badly enough, you’ve gotta go out there and get it!

As for 2018, I have no idea what the coming year will hold, but that’s what makes it so exciting. I really love January, I know it’s my birthday month so I’m biased but I love the challenge of starting a new year, totally afresh, and I set myself goals and plans that I aim to accomplish. It really gives me a sense of perspective and helps to get what I really want out of life. Thanks to all of you lovely lot for supporting Journeys with Jessica for yet another year – this little blog will be celebrating its fourth birthday in 2018 and I can’t believe how far we have come! I’ve love every second of being a travel blogger and can’t wait to take you on more adventures with me next year.

Happy new year everyone!

Love Jess X

 

 

 

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6 US States that Should be on Everyone’s Bucket Lists

 

 

The good old US of A, home to 52 individual states offering every kind of town, city and village you can think of. Whether youโ€™re hitting the bright lights of Las Vegas or hiking in the remote Rocky Mountains, the US has it all. With so many places to choose from, youโ€™ll have the trip of a lifetime planning your American adventure. Exactly this time last year, I had the pleasure of spending all summer there, road tripping from LA to NYC and ticking off 23 states along the way, so Iโ€™ve seen a fair few of them! My epic trip was booked with Contiki and it was a once in a lifetime adventure, made even bigger because I had totally quit my 9-5 day job in order to jet off across the pond and spend my summer in style. It was also my first ever solo adventure and, for that reason, it will always be an incredibly special trip to me.

After popping into my local STA Travel store and finding out about all the big tours, I knew I wanted to spend my summer in America, and I knew I wanted to do a huge road trip and a big chunk of the famous Route 66 too. As well as visiting 23 states in 28 days I had the opportunity to tick so many amazing things off my bucket-list, including taking a helicopter ride over the Grand Canyon, swamp boating in New Orleans, parasailing over Daytona Beach and celebrating 4th July in New York City. I had the most incredible summer pushing myself to my limits, getting out of my comfort zone and doing things I had always dreamt about. Iโ€™ve line danced in Texas, partied in Miami, gambled in Vegas and ghost-hunted in Savannah. Iโ€™ve white water rafted in Durango, seen the White House in Washington and walked in Memphis. It was tough to narrow it down after having such an epic adventure, but here are my top six US states, and why I think you should visit them ALL at least one in your lifetime…

California

 

L.A L.A L.A โœˆ๏ธ๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ธโœˆ๏ธ๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ธ

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Beverly Hills, Hollywood, Santa Monica, Disneyland, California has it all. Stretching for nearly 900 miles along the Pacific Ocean, California boasts beaches, mountains, forests and of course the epic Mojave Desert. With the city of Los Angeles being the focal point of the state, and the hub of the worldโ€™s entertainment industry, youโ€™ll never be stuck for something to do in the city of stars. Other Californian highlights include the capital city of Sacramento, celeb haunt Malibu, wonderful San Diego, San Francisco with its iconic golden gate bridge and historic Alcatraz Island, as well as popular boating destination Lake Tahoe and the spectacular Yosemite National Park. I only got to spend one night in LA before my tour started so I saw barely any of it, but I know I want to return to Cali as soon as I can to explore everything properly!

 

Georgia

 

I left my heart in #Savannah ๐Ÿ’– @contiki @statravel_uk #contiki #grandsouthern #america #USA #noregrets #wanderlustwednesday

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Perhaps a little less well known than some of the other states on this list, Georgia is one of the most beautiful states of the entire country offering so much to see and do. The northern part of the state is home to the Blue Ridge mountains, an excellent hiking destination with the most stunning surroundings. Famous cities in Georgia include Atlanta, the capital, Savannah and Augusta, each home to museums, galleries, churches and Atlanta even boasts a number of large theme parks. Savannah is a real highlight though, with its cobblestoned squares, green spaces and fantastic architecture. Forsyth Park is at the heart of the Historic District and is a sight not to be missed when discovering this Georgian gem โ€“ unexpectedly, this place became one of my favourite cities on the entire trip and I canโ€™t recommend it enough!

 

 

Arizona

 

 

If national parks are your thing youโ€™ll be spoilt for choice in Arizona. Arguably the most visited attraction in the whole state is the UNESCO World Heritage site, the Grand Canyon, carved by the Colorado River and famed for its incredible landscape and natural beauty. Tourists and locals alike can choose to hike, bike, fly over or raft in the Canyon and all methods of transport offer the most breathtaking views of this geological wonder. Horseshoe bend, located near the town of Page, is a must see during your time in the state, even if it is just to capture those all important photos. Youโ€™ll also find the epic Antelope Canyon in Arizona, as well as the stunning red-sand desert of Monument Valley on the Arizona-Utah border, both of which are a spectacular sight to behold, and both of which gave me the most amazing photos for my Instagram page! Seriously, they blew my mind.

 

 

New York

 

Concrete jungle where dreams are made of ๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ธ #newyork

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Times Square, Central Park, Statue of Liberty, Brooklyn Bridge, Empire State Building, the city of New York in, yep, you guessed it, New York state, is one of the most visited in the entire world attracting over 60 million people every year. Catch a Broadway show, go shopping in Macyโ€™s, pay your respects at the World Trade Centre memorial or take a boat trip over to Ellis Island to learn more about the history behind this fascinating place. Venture outside of the city itself and youโ€™ll find the spectacular Niagara Falls (straddling the international border between America and Canada), the quirky Long Island and the stunning Lake Ontario, all of which are a world away from the buzz and bright lights of New York City. I was lucky enough to spend 4th July in NYC, watching the fireworks sparkle above the Hudson River, and it was so magical I wanted to stay there forever!

 

 

Texas

 

I miss you #Dallas ๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ธ๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ธ @contiki @statravel #grandsouthern #contiki #USA #america #traveltuesday #texas

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Grab your cowboy boots and your Stetson hat and head into the deep south for a true taste of America. The second largest state in the entire country, Texas is home to Houston, Austin, Fortworth, Amarillo and many more interesting cities, but be sure to check out Dallas during your time there to experience the famous Tex-Mex cuisine and immerse yourself in the cityโ€™s culture and history. Dallas is a thriving city with a zoo, an aquarium, museums and memorials and is well known for being the site of the assassination of President John F Kennedy in November 1963 โ€“ if you get time, check out the sixth floor museum, itโ€™s incredibly moving and such an important part of American history. If ranches and rodeos are your thing, head over to Houston for the worldโ€™s largest livestock show or stop by the Texan capital of Austin and enjoy their two week rodeo carnival extravaganza taking place every Spring.

 

Florida

 

 

The sunshine state of Florida lies between the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean and is one of the most visited areas in the whole country. Brimming with gigantic theme parks, designer shopping malls, gorgeous sandy beaches and vibrant cosmopolitan cities, particular highlights include Orlandoโ€™s Walt Disney World and its Universal counterparts, the luscious Everglades, and the city of Miami. Head over to the beautiful St Augustine to discover one of the smaller areas in the state, and to get away from the hustle and bustle of the larger cities, Iโ€™d definitely recommend doing this to explore somewhere new for a few days. Spend a week exploring the many theme parks, and then relax and recharge with a week on some of Floridaโ€™s many beaches. Head from Daytona to PCB and youโ€™ll soon be feeling fresh after a busy few days seeing the sights and hanging out with Mickey and Co!

So there we have it, the top US states that EVERYONE should visit! Iโ€™m just dying to go back to America as soon as I can, and I could have easily spent many more weeks and months there finding new places to tick off my bucket list. Have you ever been to any of them before? What did you think and which were your favourite? Let me know if I should have picked different states to include in this list, or whether you agreed with my top picks!

Love Jess x

๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ธ๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ธ

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Travelling with an illness… Happy rare disease day!

rarediseaseday

Hello everyone,

This is slightly personal and I wasn’t sure if I should post this at first but, after realizing that today was a special day, I couldn’t help but put this blog post together. 29th February is Rare Disease Day,ย an annual event which provides the rare disease community across the world the opportunity to increase awareness of rare diseases and highlight them as a public health priority to government departments. I actually have quite a rare condition which does impact my life, particularly as an avid traveller! Here’s my story…

When I was 18 I started to become poorly. I was being sick, weirdly leaking from my breasts, having severe headaches and generally feeling very tired, faint and dizzy. It took all of my energy to just do even the smallest of tasks. After endless tests, prods and trips to the doctors an MRI scan on my brain showed a small growth and I was finally diagnosed with a microprolactinoma. Put simply, a microprolactinoma is a benign, pea sized tumor on the pituitary gland in the brain which causes an imbalance of the hormone prolactin in the body. At first I was completely terrified, hearing the words ‘brain’ and ‘tumor’ in the same sentence was overwhelming and I was upset, confused and scared. I had no idea what a microprolactinoma was, and a Google search was filled with forums of other women, and even men, discussing how the condition had impacted upon their lives.

The thing that jumped out at me most was the subject of fertility, and the problems that a prolactinoma can cause. In many cases the hormones produced by a prolactinoma make it difficult for women to conceive, and this is something I really struggled to comprehend. Anyone that knows me will know how much I love children and that the only thing I’ve ever really wanted to do in life is be a mum. The thought that I may never achieve what I’ve always dreamt about is completely crushing, but I know there are other options available and many women have gone on to have children despite suffering with a prolactinoma.

Nowadays my life consists of regular doctors appointments, 3monthly blood tests, 6 monthly hospital appointments with my consultant, occasional MRI scans and 9monthly appointments at the eye hospital to check the tumor isn’t pressing on the back of my optic nerves. It’s been almost 5 years since I was diagnosed. At first I was told I’d be on tablets for life, but earlier on this year I came off them for the first time since 2011 as my consultant wanted to see how my body would react without relying on the tablets. I was feeling really healthy and doctors were pleased with my progress.

Unfortunately, just before Christmas last year I started becoming unwell again and symptoms from my initial diagnosis were coming back. My headaches were getting worse and I was feeling similar to the way I felt right at the start of my illness. In November I was advised to go back on my medication after blood tests confirmed my prolactin levels had increasedย significantly. I’ve been on the tablets since then and my next check up is mid March so hopefully there will be a slight improvement and I’ll start feeling better soon!

 

Back in October I ran a fun run for The Pituitary Foundation, a charity who have been incredibly supportive of my condition over the past 5 years. I managed to raise over ยฃ300 for the charity and you can donate to my JustGiving page at any time – better late than never! You can also donate directly to Pituitary’s Rareย Disease Day as well.

I suppose what I’m really trying to say is, even if you have an illness or a medical condition, DON’T let it limit your life! Make the most of every single day we have on this beautiful planet and, if you travel a lot like me you can still live your life to the full and do whatever the hell you want (within reason!) Although my symptoms affect me daily and my appointments limit me to the amount of time I can spend out of the country, I know that things could be so much worse and am just thankful that I am being well looked after by the fantastic doctors and consultants at Oxford University Hospitals.

If, like me, you live with a health condition and travel often I’d recommend the following tips on travelling safely:

– don’t over exert yourself or feel like you have to keep up with people, take it easy and take each day as it comes

– remember to take your medication, different routines often bring forgetfulness!

– don’t suffer in silence.. tell someone! Even if you don’t want to go into detail about your illness just inform someone so they can keep an eye on you

– don’t get fed up with your illness, remember that there are millions of people suffering across the world, most probably worse off than you if you’re still able to travel! Keep your chin up and carry on as normal

I also have another condition, a recurring cyst on my ovary which causes me pain every few weeks, but that is a WHOLE other story! So I’ll leave you with this parting line…ย Happy Rare Disease Day people – get out there and grab life with both hands… you’ll regret it if you don’t!

Love Jess x

 

 

Help! I'm having a mid (20's) life crisis!

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Hello everyone,

I’m writing this post because I feel a bit lost at the moment, I’ve sort of come to a bit of a crossroads in my life and I’m not sure how to feel about it. I’m writing in the hope that I might see some sort of light at the end of the tunnel before I get to the end of the post, or in the hope that there might be someone else out there feeling the same way as me! I’m kind of going to use some of my Instagram feed for some inspiration and to remind myself of the good times I’ve had in the last 12 months! So here goes, I’m just going to write from the heart and see what happens…

This week I’ve been feeling very low, quite upset, and I’ve been bursting into tears almost every day. I got upset yesterday at work and just broke down completely in front of my manager. ย I think the reason I’m upset is because I simplyย don’t know what to do with my life.ย I’ve never had this feeling before, I’ve always been quite content and grateful for a good job, nice car, fantastic family and friends and a good social life. However over the past few months I’ve realized that we are coming to the end of another year and I’m reflecting on what I’ve done/achieved in my life. ย I’ve just found myself thinkingย that I’m not truly happy, and I think that stems from my desire and ambition toย do something new.

I’m just itching to get away and explore the world, make incredible memories and meet new people, but I haveย no idea where to start.ย I’m torn between staying at home and just looking for aย move to a new jobย in the travel industry, moving abroad to work, or just upping sticks and leaving to travel as much as I can. I’d much rather leave my life as I know it now to do something completely different, then come back ย and try toย kick start my career, but what if it goes wrong? What if I run out of money? What if I can’t handle not having a routine as I have done my whole life? There’s so many ifs and buts, yet I don’t know a single person whoย hasn’tย enjoyed their experience of travelling.

I think I just need to stand tall, hold my head up high and take the plunge. If I don’t do it now,ย I never will.ย I’m in the perfect position, I don’t have kids, a boyfriend, no real financial commitments, and I have some substantial savings behind me – so why not just do it?! I’m dying to walk on beautiful beaches with the sea breeze in my hair, or to explore intimate cities and embrace their vibrant history and culture. I think I’m leaning more towards just travelling! Help! HOW DO I MAKE THIS DREAM A REALITY?!

 

I’d adore waking up to stunning sea views like the above, but I’d be equally happy with wandering the streets of ancientย cities and releasing my inner explorer! Do I go long-haul on a once in a lifetime trip to the US or Australia, or do I have fun interailing round Europe’s ย cities seeing their most famous landmarks? HELP!

On the other end of the scale, I’ve also thought about what skills I possess and whether I could make a living by working abroad rather than just travelling for a few months. I aced my GCSEs and A Levels and taught English to kids at school, I’ve been in employment since I was 16 and have good working/ customer service/computer skills that I’ve built on over time. I’m also getting more and more experience with my writing and I’m now freelancing and getting PAID for articles that I write. I suppose that in itself is an absoluteย dream come true!ย Who would have thought I could get paid to do the thing I adore?!

I still want more though, it’s not enough to just write a couple of articles a week – I need to earn a living from it in order to be successful, quit my day job and travel full time. I feel there are so many options I’m just not sure how to go about it!

Most of my friends have partners and are at different stages in their lives, and I can’t travel on my own as I have ongoing health issues which require me to go to the doctors and the hospital every couple of months. That in itself is a major issue – HOW LONG AM I SUPPOSED TO TRAVEL FOR?! I get check ups at the docs/hosp every three months – it’s so annoying!ย I’m sort of tied with that for the rest of my life which sucks.. and I get seriously lonely at the best of times so to go on my own just isn’t really an option at the moment.

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At my lowest point, when I was taken to hospital.

Ahhh I’m just going round and round in circles, I think I just need to reallyย take my timeย and make the best possible decision for me, and only me. Have you ever got to your mid 20’s (OK, I know I’m only 22) and wondered what the hell it is you want to do with your life? Please share any comments/advice/wanderlust/inspo in the box below and I would LOVE to hear your thoughts!

Yours,

A very unsettled Jess x

 

 

Family trip to Liverpool – up and down in 24 hours!

Hi peeps,

So last weekend was a super busy one for me and I have only just about recovered!! I spent Friday night down the local pub with some friends and then went back to a hot tub party in the garden – very sophisticated if I say so myself! However, rather than sipping champagne from a posh glass, I ended up glugging large quantities of Blue WKD straight from the bottle… told you I was sophisticated!!

hottub

After the eventful hot tub evening, which resulted in not getting to sleep til 5am, I was picked up by my mum at 7am (yes, really!) and had a mere hour to get ready for the long car journey to Liverpool, my second home, where we were going to my cousins 21st birthday party. I have been going to Liverpool around 5-6 times a year every year since I have been born; all my family live there, my mum was born and bred there, and I really do think of it as my second home. We usually stay for longer than just one night so we can make the most of what this brilliant city has to offer and can spend more time with the family, but unfortunately this time it was only a flying visit.

If you are planning on visiting Liverpool you will need at least 3 or 4 days to absorb everything that there is to see and do, from the historic Albert Dock to the buzzing new Liverpool One shopping centre which is home to an eclectic mix of high street and designer shops, eateries and department stores.

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Liverpool_1

Images above top – bottom (courtesy of en.wikipedia.org, liverpoolfilmoffice.tv,ย  telegraph.co.uk,ย  tridentbc.com)

The iconic Liver buildings, the historic St George’s Hall, the beautiful Albert Docks lit up at night, and the slick new shopping centre Liverpool Oneย 

Anyway, back to my weekend, and after spending some time with the family and meeting my new baby cousin (so cute!) we started getting ready for the party and got all dolled up. We arrived at The Crying Tree pub/club venue in Gateacre (we’ve been here for many family parties before!) and were treated to a lovely buffet and a brilliant Las Vegas theme.

jessvegas

After dancing the night away with all my lovely family we returned back to my nans for a good nights sleep and a hearty full English breakfast the next morning! We then made the hellish journey back down South (4 and a half hours stuck in aย  hot car!!) and napped for the rest of the afternoon as soon as we got home – I can’t keep up with this partying lark anymore!

That sums up last weekend, on to the next one soon … next stop is Majorca and I’m so excited! I’ll keep you posted on that one for sure!

Love Jess ๐Ÿ™‚ x