Friday, 22 September 2017

Planning a 5-Month Backpacking Trip

Planning a 5-Month Backpacking Trip
Being a Hobbit for a day at Hobbiton in New Zealand


I started planning for my 5-month backpacking trip around New Zealand and South East Asia a year ago. It's still so strange to think that I've been and come back- the time has just flown by as it always does. There was so much build-up and planning beforehand that it crept up on us and after we had booked the flights to New Zealand, the few months before we went were a complete blur! Now if you're planning a trip longer than 5 months then you may want to give yourself a bit longer than 6 months before you leave, but this is essentially the main process we went through to go from deciding to go traveling to sitting on a plane.



WHERE DO YOU WANT TO GO?

If you want to just book the first ticket out of the country and wing it then go for it! But for those organisational freaks among us (I see you), you need to have some idea of where you want to go. Now, this sounds easier than you may think- if you've got enough funds and time to travel the world then what are you still doing here?! Go explore! If, however, you have a set budget or time limit then do a bit of research for places that fit with these two. You may decide to do what we did and hit a certain continent in one go, or you could just focus on a couple of countries. You could easily spend the same amount of time in Australia than you do in South East Asia so it's just down to what places you want to explore. 

You will find if you want to visit multiple countries that travel between each of them is pretty straightforward and you'll have plenty of options of transport. Whatever you decide, remember not to keep it set in stone. There will be certain events that will happen while you are out there that could make you change course. This could be that you are starting to run out of money and either need to cut your trip short or think about going to a country to work to fund the rest of your travels. This could also be the wonderful thing of meeting fellow travellers along the way and deciding to travel somewhere together! Don't push opportunities like this away as being spontaneous with your travel can really make your trip that bit more special. 



WHAT IS YOUR BUDGET?

Something you can't ignore or run away from is the money situation. You either need to save up before heading off or fund your travels by working as you go. But it doesn't just end there as you can't just throw cash around when you're travelling. Working out how much you're going to be spending in each country and on what is super useful to help make your money stretch! I found Backpacker Banter and Lonely Planet's survival guide really useful as they give a rough estimate of what costs are like for spending a month in different countries. 

Work out how much you'll be spending each day for each of these categories: accommodation, food and drink, transport, activities and miscellaneous things like visas or big trips. Then from that daily budget add up how much you'll be spending for the time you're in that country. You then have a budget! To keep track of the budgets for each country I used the app Trail Wallet to keep an eye on what I was actually spending each day. At the end of your trip in that country, you can see how much you spent in each category to see whether you blew the budget or not. 

Remember, it's okay if you blow the budget a bit if you had fun doing it! Don't just use your money to get wasted (at least not all the time) as alcohol is a huge drain when travelling because of the tax in some countries- I'm looking at you Malaysia! We justified spending large chunks of money on big trips and attractions such Angkor Wat in Cambodia, Universal Studios in Singapore and Maerim Elephant Sanctuary in Thailand as those were things we really wanted to do.



HOW LONG WILL YOU TRAVEL FOR?

Nine times out of ten, this is determined by commitments like work or your money situation. We've already established your budget, so let's focus on time. You may find that you are limited to the number of holiday days your job allows, in which case you're probably not looking at doing 5 months like we did! We were thinking of travelling for much longer, but I was being a bridesmaid at my friend's wedding so that capped our time at 5 months. 

Working for my mum and acting means that I was lucky in the respect that I could go back to my job when I returned home. But for others, the only other option is to quit their job and go for as long as they can! If this is the case, have a look at the places you want to go and a rough amount of time you want to spend in each place to see everything you want to. You could start off looking at 6 months, and then if you feel like you want to go for longer, then maybe try a year! 

One thing to remember like I said previously is that you should try to be spontaneous with this. Don't plan where you'll be down to the week otherwise you won't get the most out of your trip! If you like a place, stay longer. If you don't, move on to the next. Once you've reached your last country, you can start to think about booking a plane back home. 



WHAT ROUTE WILL YOU TAKE?

This is where things start to get fun. This is the time where you can start planning what country you'll go to, when! If you have no clue where to start, a simple Google search will turn up lots of itineraries that will suit you. One thing to consider when you're planning this is what the weather will be like in each place. We found that it was better doing New Zealand in February as it was the end of their summer, and then we managed to only skim the monsoon season in Asia. 

Another tip that I found super useful was starring all the places I wanted to go to on Google Maps. Then, when it came to creating a route through each country, I was visually able to see a route. This also made it easy when looking for places to stay as we could make sure we were nearby the attractions we wanted to visit.



WHAT EXTRAS DO YOU NEED TO THINK ABOUT?

Unfortunately, it's not as simple as booking a flight and leaving. Before you go, you need to find out whether you need any vaccinations or visas for where you're going. You'll normally need vaccines for developing countries, and will need to buy malaria tablets to take with you. The NHS site fitfortravel and the gov.uk's foreign travel advice are two great sources of information about health risks and what medication you might need. Make sure you start getting your injections at least 6-8 weeks before you go to allow time between injections. I actually ended up getting my last hepatitis B injection out in New Zealand as my surgery messed up my injections, so make sure you get these done and out the way in plenty of time! 

When it comes to visas, there are a couple of options- you will either have to apply for an e-visa or send off your passport to the embassy of the country you're visiting. Or, you can just enter the country without doing a thing. Think I'm pulling your leg? Read on...

If you're from the UK or from other select countries, you are automatically given a free visa in some countries for a certain time period. Every country we visited apart from Cambodia gave us a free visa when we arrived, and this really helped the money situation!  A great place to check whether you need to pay for a visa or not is STA Travel. You can search for tourist or working visas and you can even apply for visas through them (though we did find their processing fees were sometimes a bit expensive, so do shop around on the country's official government website)!

If you do have to pay for a visa, you may be freaking out about applying for one. But believe me when I say this- it's honestly not that bad. Even when you're stood at the land border crossing and are told your visa is taking a while to process while your boyfriend has been let through...can you tell I'm talking from personal experience? If you would like, I would happily do a more detailed stand-alone post about applying for visas so do let me know if that's something you'd like to see! But for now here are some things to remember:

Most times you can apply for e-visas that will automatically apply to your passport when entering the country by plane and at some land crossings.

You can also pay for a visa on arrival, but make sure you have cash and a passport photo!

You can sometimes extend your visa while in the country.

Get your visa in plenty of time, otherwise, you'll be paying a hefty price for quicker processing times.

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Those are just some tips that helped us plan our 5-month backpacking trip! I hope this was helpful to you and if you want me to talk about anything in more detail, please do let me know! I learned so much on this trip and I am happy to share it with you all!


Gx


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Two Months Into Travelling New Zealand and South East Asia

Thursday, 31 August 2017

My Current Wardrobe Favourites

My Current Wardrobe Favourites

Now that I've got used to the good old British weather (she says begrudgingly) I've had to get used to living in jeans again. When you've been used to living in shorts or just a bikini, it feels pretty criminal to be hiding your legs away. But I've slowly been discovering old wardrobe favourites that I've forgotten about and pairing them with new favourites. There's nothing like having a shopping spree in your own wardrobe when you're broke!


THE BALLERINA NECKLACE


Firstly, let's start off with the star of the show- this little Ted Baker ballerina necklace. This was kindly sent to me and was my first piece of blogger mail since returning home yay! Those who've known me for a while will know that I've been dancing since I started walking. My mum teaches ballet so when I was younger I loved going to the ballet and couldn't wait to get my first pair of pointe shoes! This is a long necklace but I've looped it around my neck twice to get a layered necklace look, and the ballerina charm is just so adorable! The detail is amazing, from the moveable arms and legs to the little black net tutu. She even has little pointe shoes on her feet!! You can buy it from Jewellery4 here.

My Current Wardrobe Favourites

THE FLARE SLEEVE TOP


Next is this awesome mink flare sleeve top from New Look that I actually ended up taking with me travelling. It became my go-to evening top that I paired with black Levi shorts. It kept the mosquitos at bay while keeping me cool and looking great! I also found that the colour looked just as good when I had a tan than when I didn't, great for when you're travelling for a long period of time and trying to work your clothes as hard as possible. It also hasn't lost its shape too much after many hand washes and laundrette washes.

My Current Wardrobe Favourites

THE BLACK JEANS


I mean, who doesn't own a pair of classic skinny black jeans?! They are versatile, slimming and look good with pretty much everything! I decided to take a blue pair of jeans away with me as I knew black would have me sweating if the sun suddenly decided to heat things up in New Zealand. Since I've been back I've been practically living in these, and after wearing them so much they've still kept their shape and elasticity! Good old H&M.

My Current Wardrobe Favourites

THE FLORAL TRAINERS

And lastly, let's talk about these trainers! Mum very kindly bought them for me as a belated birthday present and I have since fallen completely in love with New Look trainers! They are so comfy and are a great alternative to Converse without the price tag. Also, the floral trend isn't going anywhere, so I know I'll be wearing these for a long time. But I'll let you into a little secret- these are from the kid's section! If you have a shoe size up to 6 (or more in some shops) you can get awesome shoes for less of the price as you don't pay tax on kids shoes and clothes. 

My Current Wardrobe Favourites

My Current Wardrobe Favourites

NEW LOOK MINK FLARE SLEEVE TOP
NEW LOOK TEENS FLORAL TRAINERS

photos by Lauren Evie

I cannot wait to get back to shopping again but in the mean time, these current wardrobe favourites will get me by. Let's just say my wishlist on ASOS is getting pretty full! Is there anything you're loving wearing at the moment? Also, I'm guessing a lot of you will be cracking out the jumpers as it's the first of September tomorrow, and that means AUTUMN! However much I love summer, I always get excited for this time of year to get back into my fave jumpers and add some more to my collection...

Gx


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Thursday, 24 August 2017

Fixing Up My Skincare

Fixing Up My Skincare

Since I've returned from backpacking, I've truly come to realise how much your body changes while travelling. For a start, you will lose weight, regardless of your metabolism and how much you eat! In Asia especially, portion sizes are smaller and you soon get used to this as your stomach shrinks. You're also going to be doing a lot of walking in sauna like temperatures which will shed the pounds.

As well as hair (which I will be touching on in an upcoming post), your skin takes a massive hit. Getting minimal sleep from long distance travel, moving continuously between air conditioning and 30-degree heat, and dipping in and out of salt water and sand equals dry, dull skin. So while you may be coming back with a glorious tan, your skin is crying out for some well-earned pampering. 

Now I'm back home, I've been fixing up my skincare using this pairing from Nip+Fab No Needle Fix range. I started using them before I went away, so was really happy to get them back into my skincare routine. These anti-aging products help reduce the wear and tear from neglecting your skin, as well as reducing dark circles and wrinkles. Perfect for my skin after taking a beating for 5 months!

The SPF moisturiser has a really nice consistency, but is oil based so make sure you give it a good shake before using! The oil, however, doesn't make your skin greasy and sinks into it really well. It also gives a slight shimmer to the skin, perfect for doubling up as a primer! After using this I found my skin looked rejuvenated and a lot more supple than it had been during the trip. This is perfect if you have sensitive skin but need your moisturiser to work hard for you.

The eye cream is probably my favourite out of the two, mainly because it is lasting me forever!! A little goes a long way, and still gives you a moisture hit that helps reduce puffy eyes. I normally use a little above and under my eyes every night, and sometimes in the morning if my eyes are looked especially tired. I've recently had another flare-up of eczema around my eyes and this has really been helping to depuff my eyes in the morning (if any of you have any tips on treating eczema around your eyes, send them my way)!

Fixing Up My Skincare

Fixing Up My Skincare



While fitting a bit more me time into my days, I'm adding fixing up my skin care as one of them! Because who doesn't love an at home facial to finish off the evening?! 

Gx


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Saturday, 12 August 2017

Returning From 5 Months Travelling: Feeling Lost and Starting Over

Returning From 5 Months Travelling: Feeling Lost and Starting Over

I guess another hello is in order! The last I spoke to you was 4 months ago, which in terms of my history of consistency is pretty tragic, but also not surprising. I've been away, you see. But if you stuck around this blog and my social, you would know this already. Instagram has become my happy place of traveling spam and is one place I've really loved using whilst I've been away. It's become a place of showing memories that I will probably never forget for as long as I live. It's also been amazing to speak to fellow travelers and pick up tips and recommendations. But one thing that it did most importantly was to make me feel close to home even though I was sometimes over 11,000 miles away! Home seemed like a strange place to me, I felt I still had my roots buried in the English countryside but I was being pulled away to rainforests and elephants, mountains ranges and deep oceans. 

But after a while, I started to settle into the life of a traveler. I became accustomed to packing up my belongings every 3 days to travel to a new place- on the rare occasions we stayed for longer I spread my stuff out like I was unpacking at home! I got used to getting minimal hours of sleep when traveling overnight on buses and trains and found small glimpses of familiarity in bustling cities and tiny villages. 

It was the scariest thing I've ever done, but it also changed my life.

Dramatic, yet completely and utterly true! If you talk to anyone who has been traveling for a long period of time, they will tell you exactly the same thing. It plants that seed of wanderlust inside of you. If you feel like you have wanderlust from a 2 week holiday, the overwhelming feeling you have when you come back from backpacking for 5 months beats that completely. Since returning, I've nearly broken down in tears because I miss where I've been so much. Don't get me wrong, I am a huge 'home bird', and I couldn't wait to come home to see all my family and friends. The feeling that caught me off guard was a sadness- sadness that I was no longer discovering new, beautiful, awe-inspiring places every day. Sadness that the freedom we had to spend our days how we wished without a care in the world apart from keeping safe was no more. 

I think this is quite a common feeling with fellow backpackers. You know that as soon as you get home, the stresses of your everyday life will slowly creep back. However, I feel that my time away has also given me a new drive for life, and to continue that magic feeling of wanderlust back at home. Sounds strange, right? Well, I live in a beautiful country that I've probably not seen more than 10% of. As well as doing days out, I want to do weekends away in the UK as well as traveling abroad. While I have 0 pennies to my name, I want to try camping (we've got a pretty darn good tent so we might as well make use of it)! I hope these little excursions will keep feeding the wanderlust in me until I can save up enough for another big trip.

So, what can you expect from me from now on? I will still be sharing my love for fashion, beauty, and acting, but alongside that I will talk a lot more about travel (of course) and different lifestyle genres like fitness, cooking and homeware (there are a couple of exciting things happening in my life that are inspiring this, that you will hear more about soon).

I can't wait to tell you more about my trip and share some of the amazing places and events I experienced. Thank you as always for sticking around, and here's to more travels on the horizon!

If you want you hear me speak about this some more, check out this video all about starting over after backpacking.



Gx



Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Two Months Into Travelling New Zealand and South East Asia

Two Months Into Travelling New Zealand and South East Asia

First of all, hello! It’s been so long since I’ve sat down to do some proper writing, mainly because I’ve been making sure I’ve been enjoying every bit of each place we’ve visited that I simply haven’t had the time to do anything! This was especially the case in New Zealand as we were driving around most days, and in the evenings we only had time to eat, plan our next leg of the journey and then sleep…but you will hear a lot more about this in upcoming posts. 

Even now after being in Asia for a just over a month, we’ve found that it’s not been as relaxing as we thought it would be (not yet at least). For instance, the amount of time we’ve actually spent on a beach is not a lot. As we’re travelling through the seasons, we’ve found that the weather has not always been on our side- for instance, one day on the beach in Lombok was completely overcast, while the previous day had been extremely hot. 

We’ve also been struck by the dreaded ‘Bali belly’. Without giving TMI, I spent a week sticking to water, bread and rice to ease me through; not great when there are so many amazing foods to try! When you’re doubled over with stomach cramps, you don’t really feel like doing anything, let alone try and think of what to write. 

While writing this I’m currently on a 3-hour boat ride to Langkawi, Malaysia. Times when I have been travelling has definitely given me time to relax and crack on with some content- for instance, I just put up the vlog of our first week in New Zealand which you can see here. As you can imagine, the WIFI isn’t as fast and reliable as it is at home, so just uploading photos to Facebook as sometimes taken days! 

One of the strangest things I’ve discovered while travelling around is the small things I miss about home. Dairy Milk is not the same as back home, especially in New Zealand as it’s made in Dunedin instead of imported. It got to the point where I asked my parents to save some Mini Eggs and Cream Eggs for when I’m back! Also, I’m really craving a good old British cup of tea, as in Asia they use a creamer instead of milk. This has led us to switch completely to black coffee, but I just can’t bring myself to drinking black tea just yet. 

Also to be completely frank, money has played a major factor in what we’ve done. New Zealand ended up costing a lot more than we thought, mainly because petrol was quite expensive (similar prices to the UK). As we were driving sometimes hundreds of miles in one day, we were filling up our tank every few days. Also, losing my two beloved cameras to a freak surge wave on the Ninety Mile Beach (more on that in my new video), I’ve had to spend money shipping them back to the UK and insuring the replacement camera I bought in New Zealand. Luckily I was able to get a loan from home to cover the cost of my new Canon 750D, but I still lost out in the long run. 

Less money has meant fewer places inevitably. We sadly came to the decision that we would be cutting out the Philippines as we discovered it was a lot more expensive than we originally thought, especially the cost of boats to each island. Cutting them out has freed up more money, allowing us to spend a couple of days in Singapore (something we never thought we’d be able to do) and longer in other places. In my eyes, as long as I have enough money for a plane ticket home, I’m happy. 

Living on a budget has been harder than I thought. For a self-confessed shopaholic, walking past spending opportunities has been hard. But one item could cost a night’s accommodation somewhere or a meal. Thinking this practically has been a challenge that I’m slowly accomplishing. I will definitely be doing some more content on budgeting a trip like this and will do an overview of how much our entire trip cost when I’m back home. But for now, I’m counting the pennies. By doing this, we’re able to look ahead at expensive things we really want to do and can budget them into our spending in the present. The less money we spend right now could pay for our ticket to Universal Studios in Singapore!

The main thing is, we’re safe and having fun. It may sound like we’re scrounging, but we have got up to a lot and I can’t wait to show you everything we’ve seen! This is probably one of the best things I’ve ever done, and I’m loving every minute- all the lows as well as the highs. So stay tuned to keep up with how we’re getting on!

I’d love to know if you’ve been travelling/backpacking, or where you’ve visited in the world! And if you’ve been to New Zealand or SE Asia, I would love to know how you got on and what you thought.

Gx