My Ten Favourite Destinations Of The Decade

It has been an incredible decade for travel, adventure and experiences. I can honestly say that I practised what I preached over the last ten years, and made travel a main priority based on my personal goals, interests and hopes.

It has required a lot of sacrifice, financial discipline and preparation but it has also resulted in some of the best memories I have ever held. Since 2009, I have been fortunate enough to travel to thirty-seven countries and over eighty different cities. This post is a reflection on my all-time top ten destinations I visited during the last ten years. I hope it can provide you with some inspiration for your next adventure.

Some interesting things that stood out to me when I made the list included the fact that I am clearly happiest travelling in winter or colder conditions, I am more of a rural rather than city break adventurer and a lot of the attraction of a place has to do with the food.

Here are the top ten, ranking in order, with my favourite places first. 

Japan – Kyoto

A country which fuses modern and ancient traditions seamlessly, Japan is a melting pot of culture, tech, art and history. Everything you want to say about Japan can be summarised as a perfect juxtaposition. Chaotic but ordered, futuristic and yet so deeply rooted in tradition, high-rises circling around historic gardens and shrines. This place on paper doesn’t work, but in reality it’s a place which offers you a wealth of different experiences in such a short space of time, and it’s enthralling.

Arriving in Kyoto you quickly get the sense that this city is a cultural and spiritual hub of Japan. There’s over 2000 different shrines, temples and statues hidden amongst the modern city centre. Explore traditional Japanese wooden houses in the Gion district, taste local delicacies in the sprawling markets and enjoy traditional tea ceremonies or stay in a local Ryokan to truly immerse yourself in the historic culture of Japan.

Visit: March-May

Eat: Ramen, Okonomiyaki, Sushi and Korokke

Stay: In a traditional ryokan

See: Shrines, markets, Gion district, surrounding mountains

Full visit guide – open here

Iceland

A magical combination of glaciers, geysers and volcanos make Iceland a truly unique landscape. A place where you can experience the joys of wilderness, the warmth of the locals and the true power of earth and Mother Nature.

It is the stark juxtaposition of the fire from the volcanos and ice from the glaciers that give Iceland its staggering landscape and distinctive opportunities for experiences like no other for tourists. In just a day you can soak in a geothermal lagoon, walk on lava fields and black sand beaches, stand atop ice-covered volcanos and under ice cold waterfalls, and take in the sparse and captivating glaciers.

Visit: February / March for snow and Northern Lights, July / August for hiking and outdoors
Eat: Fresh fish, hearty stews and strong drinks!
Stay: In a Reykjavik hotel with a good spa
See: Waterfalls, Glaciers, Natural Hot Springs and Volcanos

Full visit guide – open here

Norway – Tromso

If you are looking for a magical break, to a place where nature truly delivers breathtaking experiences at every moment, look no further than Tromso, a cosy town nestled right in the heart of the arctic circle.

Surrounded by small peaks, icy fjords and covered in a blanket of soft snow for six months of the year. Tromso is Norway’s most northern city, located in the heart of the Arctic Circle, and it makes a great base for exploring the many wonders mother nature has to offer.

This small city is the gateway to the Northern Lights, in close proximity to several breathtaking fjords and home to the historic Sami culture. Visit and experience a weekend filled with Reindeers, skating on frozen lakes and late night chases to catch a glimpse of the rare but wonderful northern lights as they fill the dark night skies.

Visit: November through March
Eat: Local foods and plenty of Christmas Tea!
Stay: In the Radisson Tromso City Centre
See: Northern Lights, Arctic Fjords, Reindeers and Frozen Lakes

Full visit guide – open here

Switzerland

I am incredibly lucky that a place we as a family decided to relocate to nearly fifteen months ago is now one of my all time favourite countries. Switzerland has so much to offer, and I am thankful every day that I get to explore so much on my doorstep.

With glacier-topped mountains seemingly on every corner, incredible alpine lakes and long green valleys to hike through, there’s so much to offer in this picturesque Alpine paradise. There’s a plethora of outdoor activities to be enjoyed. From skiing and skating in the snow, to biking and hiking in the summer. Here we have experienced more adrenaline activities such as paragliding and climbing in a year, than we have in our lifetime.

Plus, there’s always the draw of the UNESCO heritage vineyards and local caves serving their finest produce every spring and autumn.

Visit: Year-round, depending on your activity and weather preference
Eat: Fondue, Rosti, Chocolate and Fine-dining
Stay: Zurbriggen Hotel Zermatt
See: Mountains, Gorges, Lakes, Valleys and Old Alpine Towns

Full activity guide – open here

Italy – Tuscany

When you think of romantic retreats, Italy is always a good idea. The Tuscan region brings together everything that Italy has to offer, and goes above and beyond with the delivery.

Rolling vineyards, rustic farmhouses and B&B’s, old winding Italian roads and some of the best local foods and wine money can buy are all found in this quaint and historic region on the Italian west coast.

Stay in the hillside outside of Lucca, Siena or Florence and spend your days walking, exploring local farms and producers and cooking at home with the best local ingredients you can source each day after a quiet brunch in town.

There’s so much history and things to do, especially in central Florence that I don’t have space in this post without boring you all. However you can read my upcoming guide to Florence specifically in the next couple of weeks’ if you are feeling inspired.

If you want a guaranteed break filled with delicious food, romantic walks and breathtaking landscapes then book a flight to Tuscany today.

Visit: April-September
Eat: Pasta, Stews, Wine, Bread
Stay: Old Farmhouse Hotels / AirBnBs
See: Vineyards, Florence, Old Tuscan Villages, Rolling Hills

Full visit guide – open here

Cuba

Cuba, the Caribbean destination for culture, history, Cadillac’s and true escapism. Although it’s not got the reputation of the nearby islands for luxury five star retreats and resorts, it offers so much more in the experiences and opportunities you can digest whilst exploring this magical isle.

Never has there been a better time to visit and experience the mix of faded and crumbling Spanish colonial architecture, a dose of communism, white sand beaches and dancing Salsa and drinking rum until the sun goes down. In the last decade, private enterprise has been given the green-light and so many Cuban entrepreneurs have started to offer new opportunities for visitors. From private tours in a vintage Chevrolet to delicious food served in someone’s own casa, there’s a lot more to sample, straight from the locals themselves.

A pastel paradise, Cuba is a destination for people who enjoy travelling but also can adapt to the unexpected and be prepared to slow right down and appreciate an unhurried way of life. While we were there, we got used to we came to call ‘Cuban time’. A little longer to be served, an extended wait to buy a ticket or the complexities that came with getting from A to B. However for us, all this added to the charm of being able to explore a country that seems to be hovering between the past and present.

Havana is an enchanting maze of a city, which we first glimpsed from the old Spanish fort El Morro situated across the bay, overlooking the vast capital. Instantly from afar we could see the patchwork of different architectures all woven together, Colonial, Gothic, American and Russian, illustrating the complex history of Cuba in just a glance.

We found the best way to explore Havana was on foot, weaving our way through the crumbling and pastel lined cobbled streets. Stop to absorb everything you have seen in the many bohemian bars, wander into the art-deco hotel Hemingway made his home for months and stand in one of the many squares that represent the different times and layers of history that have shaped this city like no other.

Our top sights included the Malecon seafront, the Plaza Vieja Square, Plaza de la Revolution and the old town. You should also make an effort to explore the less regenerated area of Centro Habana, in order to get a true feel of life and reality for many Cubans. It is filled with an energy and buzz, away from the crowded tourist hotspots, and showcases the less polished side of the capital, away from the pastel cafes and restored main squares.

Visit: December – April
Eat: Cuban Sandwich, Rice in Black Beans, Vaca Frita, Pastelitos
Stay: Homestay or classic beach front hotel
See: Havana, Cardenas, Varadero, Trinidad

Morocco – Marrakech

Listed as Trip Advisor’s Destination of the Year for 2015, Marrakech is an incredible sensory experience, from the warm smell of rich spices to incredible views of dusky red buildings and city walls situated in the shadow of the Atlas Mountains.

The heart of the magical city, the Medina, is bustling with excitement and history, and a maze of winding alleyways filled with souks, street food stalls and hidden Riads. If we had been alone, I am certain we would have found ourselves lost within the narrow passages, although that wouldn’t have been a bad thing. We could have stayed in the souks for hours, you could discover a new sight, smell or sound there every minute you walked around.

The city is home to many peaceful and lush gardens, which are perfect to unwind in after a morning in the medina. If you have some time, you can always take a carriage ride around several of the serene gardens to take them all in at once.

Also, make sure you head out to the Atlas Mountains, for a camping experience under the stars.

Visit: February – May
Eat: Cous Cous, Tagine, Mint Tea
Stay: Riads in the centre
See: Atlas Mountains, Medina, Souks, Spas

Argentina

Argentina is a sprawling natural wonderland, filled with peaks, forests and the lively city of buenos aires, there’s just so much to see in this incredible South American country.

Watch tango, explore the markets and enjoy good food in a local restaurant whilst people watching. Get out of the city to explore the natural waterfalls, Andes Mountain range and the huge range of wildlife. Spot penguins, whales, giant anteaters and more!

Head to Patagonia, the Perito Moreno Glacier and the south to truly immerse yourself in this naturally outstanding country. Especially if you’re a big fan of winter sports.

In the capital, there are heaps of vintage bookstores, creative boutiques and local stores and bars to sip on a cocktail under the sun.

Visit: Depending on where Argentina is a year-round destination
Eat: Chimichurri, Empanadas, Mate, Steak, Barbecue
Stay: Depends where you are based!
See: As much as you truly can, you need at least two weeks to see the best of the country

Australia – Great Ocean Road 

Drive along the coast of the wild southern ocean via winding narrow roads, small rainforests and amazing clifftop viewpoints. situated just a short distance from Melbourne, head out and explore all the striking coastal landscapes Victoria has to offer.

The Great Ocean Road consists of 243km of incredible landscapes, terrains and wildlife. Although it could technically be driven end to end in around six hours, I would really recommend doing this over several days to allow you to enjoy and experience the different sections of the route.

You will stop at world class surfing beaches, witness Koala’s and Kangaroos in the wild, and get to wander through lush tropical rainforests on your way to see the Twelve Apostle’s and other iconic sites towards the end of the route.

Visit: November – January
Eat: Whole foods, vegan treats, and fresh seafood
Stay: Beacon Point Ocean View Villas
See: 12 Apostles, Wildlife, Apollo Bay, Rainforests, Surfing, Lighthouses

Download my free visit guide here

Moscow – Russia

Somewhere I visited fleetingly but it left such a longing to go back it had to make this list. A historical city, sprawling out from the Kremlin and Red Square through to majestic surrounding streets, and tall imposing architecture.

Explore retro clubs and cafes nodding to the soviet era, experience luxury afternoon tea in fine dining restaurants and bars. Wander through ornate shopping malls and discover colourful hidden gems, historic fortresses and huge cathedrals dotted all across the city.

Visit: March – June
Eat: Pelmeni, Borshch, Pirozhki and luxury dining
Stay: Ritz Moscow
See: Kremlin, Red Square, St. Basil’s Cathedral, Lenin’s Mausoleum, Bolshoi Theatre, The Ornate Subway, Alexander Garden, State Museum.

My First Trimester Essentials and Personal Discoveries

Everyone has a different experience when it comes to pregnancy, with no two journeys ever being the same. However, during my first twelve weeks’ I gathered some pretty useful pieces of advice, or discovered a few things I wish I had known a little earlier that made the first trimester a little easier. 

Here’s a collection of things I discovered that may or may not help you if you have recently discovered you’re expecting, or are planning for a little one. 

Prenatal Vitamins

It’s incredibly important to start taking your vitamins as soon as you start trying to conceive and continue throughout your pregnancy. If like me, you struggle to keep any kind of food down, you can at least rest assured that your little one is getting it’s daily dose off vitamins, minerals and folic acid from these handy little pills.

Be mindful when buying them though, I got some at first which were GIANT and pretty difficult to swallow, and when I managed to gulp them down often they upset my stomach further and didn’t stay down. 

Look for smaller capsules and take at night for best results in my experience. I used and I am still using Elevit Vitamins.

Comfy Loose Clothes

Even though I have more of a ‘bump’ in the second trimester, I found that the first was where I felt the most uncomfortable so far belly-wise. If you’re feeling nauseous you don’t want something tight digging into your belly all day. Plus, bloating is a serious side-effect for the first twelve weeks, so anything with a little room is a blessing. 

Go for cotton, soft and stretchy clothes like loose dresses, leggings and longer line jumpers or blouses where possible. Side note – unless you really need or want to, I wouldn’t invest in maternity clothes at this stage. Just size up, buy belly extenders or wear the looser items in your wardrobe for now.

My favourite leggings were the HM Maternity range – they are affordable, keep their shape and incredibly comfy and long-lasting. Much better than the Mamalicious Maternity ones I quickly returned, and half the price. 

Mints and Gum

This is a trick I discovered from my pregnant cousin who is a few weeks’ ahead of me in her pregnancy. Ginger just didn’t keep the sickness away at all for me. I suffered from severe morning sickness (being sick 4-6 times a day, every day for nearly six weeks). Highlights included being sick on a thousand year old Glacier during a hike, practically sleeping in a long-haul plane toilet and shocking a poor passerby as I quite suddenly threw up into a bush on my morning walk to work. 

Mints were the only thing that helped to stop the constant nausea feeling. That, and McDonalds Hash Browns (don’t ask) when I finally got hungry. 

If ginger doesn’t work for you like most, don’t despair and try strong mints instead. 

Book Depository

When you feel pretty wiped during the first twelve weeks, you don’t really want to do much after work or during the weekends. This is where the fantastic Book Depository came in handy for me. It’s a brilliant site for used books, with free delivery worldwide (including Switzerland!) Thanks to my brilliant friend Katy I discovered this site which allowed me to keep a well stocked library next to the bed, for passing away the hours when you just feel…bleugh. 

Pet Deterrent

I don’t know the science behind this, but as soon as I was pregnant my cats were attracted to my belly like a magnet. They still are, and unless you want to deal with a heavy lump climbing on your belly when it’s already sensitive and you’re feeling nauseous, you’re going to have to find a way to distract them! I failed miserably, but I am adding this here in case anyone has any great ideas, and to let mums-to-be know that their furry friends may know before them if a little one is on the way.

Pregnancy Plus App

When I discovered I was pregnant, I downloaded a bunch of apps to track the babies development and to discover more about what changes were happening daily to my body (and, of course, to see what size animal it compared to each week). 

The one which stood out, and I continue to use now, is the Pregnancy+ App. It’s got tons of great guides, to do lists, kick counters and more. 

Patience

This isn’t something you can buy, but it’s something I recommend you all try to have with yourself for the first three months (easier said than done, granted). It can be hard when you find you can’t quite hike at a pace you are used to, when eating anything but beige food makes you instantly sick but you want to be healthy for baby, and when you find yourself crying because you realise you’re running low on your favourite crisps and the shops are closed (true story). Although it’s a big adjustment, try not to be too hard or demanding on yourself and give yourself time over these three months to enjoy what’s happening inside of you rather than being frustrated in what you can no longer do.

Body Oil and Moisturiser

Although they say stretch marks are hereditary and if you’re going to get them, there’s not much you can do to prevent it, it doesn’t hurt to take good care of your growing body and belly with a nourishing oil or moisturiser. 

The two which worked best for me and I use daily is BioOil and Palmers Cocoa Butter Stretch Mark Cream. The former is good for putting on regularly, especially after a morning shower, and the latter is best to lather on at night as it’s quite thick and takes a while to soak in. 

It can also be a nice moment for the dad to be, as my husband rubs it into my belly most evenings as a way to connect with the growing little one. 

Refillable Water Bottle

No idea why, but as soon as you become pregnant you suddenly are 1000x thirstier than ever before, take it from me. 

I would recommend getting a good refillable bottle you can carry about everywhere, to make sure you’re never without much needed hydration!

Maternity Bra

You don’t really need to buy maternity clothes this early on, but one essential I would recommend getting from the moment you get a positive line on your test is a good maternity bra. Honestly, this area becomes sensitive pronto during pregnancy and is actually usually one of the first symptoms you can feel. Stock up on a few comfy, non-wired neutrals and you won’t regret it. 

I got mine from ASOS basics and in a multi-pack of two, and they were great.

Lavender Pillow Spray

You may find yourself sleeping more than ever before during the first twelve weeks’, especially with the frequent naps you now crave during the day. Make it easier to fall asleep and maximise your rest with a good pillow spray. It’s always nice to have little luxuries to help you through this period of big change. 

I have used the ‘This Works’ Deep pillow spray for years now, and couldn’t recommend it more.

Black Out Eye Mask

Really on the same note as the above, and especially valuable for mid-day naps. A good black out eye mask is well worth the investment. 

What To Expect When You’re Expecting Book

It is a really good and comprehensive guide that helps you week by week know what’s going on with your body, and answers some common questions you may have but don’t know how to ask or word them. It shows you different ways mums carry and their bumps, diet guides and uncommon symptoms. I read it nightly at the moment, and would recommend it to all expecting mums. 

How To Decide Where To Include On Your Travel Bucket List

Modern transport, low cost fares and easier access to visas has made travel, adventure and exploring a lot easier and more accessible to all. With return flights to Spain costing less than most capital city train tickets for a daily commute it’s easy to see why we are often choosing Sangria over subway stations.

For people who love to explore and adventure, the question is less about how, and more about where. Where should we go to next? Like many people I have my own ‘bucket list’ of dream destinations I hope to visit over the next few years, but trying to decide what we included, or where we should go next, involves a lot of deliberation. 

Unless you’re a full time travel editor, blogger or don’t need to work, non-stop travelling isn’t a long-term reality. We may get a few weeks a year, a gap-year opportunity or a career break but still within these periods we need to make some hard choices about where we visit, what we see and what countries are non-negotiable in our explorations.

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Several factors helped to shape our destination dream-list, but overall, every place we put on there needs to do three things:

  • Are we going because it will provide us with an experience, memory, or taste of culture we want to experience and take-away? Not every experience is for everyone, so whilst one person may have loved the place, make sure you’re visiting it for the right reasons or you may be disappointed in your experience.
  • Do we know enough about it? It’s easy to choose a place down to photos or Pinterest inspiration alone, but before any place goes on our list, we make sure we know about everything from what the cities can offer, to the climate, food and adventures on offer at the destination. A white sand beach looks incredible on a photo, but if that’s all the place has to offer and you need daily action and activities, you may find the trip lacking.
  • Will a trip here make us happy? Make sure you’re going for the right reasons. I know many people who have travelled to a place because it’s the ‘hit’ place to be seen (myself included!) and yet when they get there, it’s not comparable to what they saw the online bloggers, travel journalists and influencers experiencing. This is because often they have the budget, know-how and infrastructure of a team working with them to make the trip look the best it can, because at the end of the day, it will be used to sell more of the same going forward. We’ve all seen and learnt from Fyre Festival right?! So choose somewhere that makes you feel happy and excited to go to, no one else.

But before we get to assess a place using the above criteria, and adding it to our list, we firstly need the inspiration. Now there’s no right or wrong way to get ideas for your next trip, but here’s some insight into how we discover places, in case it helps you.

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Visual search

Whether on Pinterest feeds, Instagram wanderlust accounts or a quick google search for iconic places, a picture speaks a thousand words.

Often, after seeing the photo, we start to do some research into the place it was taken. What else is there on offer? Does it always look like this or is this some clever influencer framing going on? If we discover that that photo is just the tip of the iceberg and the place has way more to offer in terms of adventure, good food and good views, it goes onto the list.

Interest based

Find something you love to do, and then find the best places to do this across the world. If you’re a top surfer, looking for the best places to ride waves worldwide is a good way to begin compiling your bucket list.

For us, we love good food, watersports (especially on boats), mountains and hiking, and photography. Often we use these as checkpoints to make sure a destination can offer us elements of all or most of the above. We know when we get to do all of this on a trip, we have the best times.

We won’t put anywhere on our list that’s just ‘I want to go to this country’. It has to be ‘I want to go to this country and do this’ because this way, it’s more concrete as to why this destination appeals.

Speak to others

So I know my point one of deciding if a place should be on your list says be wary of recommendations, but this is only if you fall in love with the idea of a place because someone says ‘it’s the best place they’ve ever been’ and you leave it at that and book your flights.

Often, the best travel advice I have got is from my close friends who also travel regularly too. I make sure when they are telling me about somewhere I ask for the details, like why was the place so amazing for you, what did you do there, or what was the food, culture and transport like?

If you go for more of the insider tip route and dig deeper into their passion, you will quickly discover if their experience is similar to what you are seeking. If they went for the best beach holiday, and you’re after more of a city hopping vibe, you’ll find out that perhaps it’s not for you.

Rely on the experts

Lonely planet, National Geographic, and many big travel editors and bloggers are still around and being listened to for a reason.

If you are looking for new inspiration, or want to check if a place really is for you, their websites are a great place to get ideas flowing.

I don’t visit any place without the latest Lonely Planet guide in my backpack.

Final thoughts

All the above is great for choosing where, but then you need to choose when. For this element, it becomes a little easier because you can think more pragmatically.

Budgets, weather at the destination, what kind of escape (City, beach snow) you are seeking or who you are travelling with will help you whittle down where’s next.

At the end of the day, there’s so many places to choose from, but there’s no right or wrong. Just choose places you dream of, that make you happy. Don’t follow the crowd to be disappointed, at the end of the day, it’s only your memories you’ll be impacting.

Five Emerging Trends I Am Going To Be Embracing

Usually I am not one for following the latest trends or fashions. I believe more in finding your own personal style, taste and passions and honing and curating that over a lifetime.

However due to my job, I regularly am aware of rising trends before they become a ‘thing’, thanks to the power of data and digital signals.

There are several key trends that I personally think I am going to get behind over the next year, which keep coming up in my reading.

Eating depending on your need or mood

This is a big one that I am starting to see more of both in my research but also when I am out and about, especially in London. The thing is, it really does make sense. If you are feeling tired, rather than just ordering your usual dinner in a restaurant, wouldn’t it be great if there was maybe a guide or legend that said all dishes with a little lightbulb next to it contained ingredients known to give you a natural energy lift.

I know you can take the time to work out this for yourself, but for convenience, I would love it if I could order a ‘calming’ or ‘energy’ coffee, rather than my standard Americano, which contained everything I needed to help balance my mood state.

There’s even an app you can use which suggests what you should eat depending on your mood called ‘Yolk!’.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Remote, more invested travel

It’s no secret that I try to travel a lot and I am happiest when my bag is packed and I am immersed in a new country, culture or cuisine. However I think I could be getting a lot more out of my trips if I tried a little harder. Remote hotels in unique places are becoming more popular, and it’s easy to see why. Away from the ordinary, a chance to recharge, rare that you’ll bump into fifty tourists all posing for the same selfie ten minutes after leaving the room.

Next year I am going to try and explore more of the extraordinary.

green leaf plant in brown pot inside room
Photo by Daria Shevtsova on Pexels.com

Outdoors indoors

Bringing nature inside has been a growing trend for some time now, and I have to admit I love it. The more plants we seem to fill our rooms with, the new botanical drawings we have acquired, and the more fresh local vegetables we are getting delivered, the happier, healthier and more relaxed we’ve become.

Getting back in touch with nature is an obviously popular new trend. It’s good for the soul. It’s good for the planet, and it’s good for you.

Natural beauty products

I used to buy a lot of my makeup, skin and haircare dependant on either friends recommendations or more often than not, brilliant advertising.

Now, I am seeking out the products that work best for me. Those which align with my skintype, intolerances, but more importantly, also are cruelty free, vegan and sustainable.

If you had told me years ago I would be putting a mushroom paste on my hair, washing my face with melon oil and taking my body lotion containers to get refilled rather than just buying online I would not have believed you. But now I do, and it feels good.

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Photo by Kaboompics .com on Pexels.com

Finding something to believe in

As we move to a more lonely, tech dependent age, more of us are turning towards spirituality or religion as a way to find purpose, collective values and a social community.

I again find this to be the case personally. I seek out groups of people with similar values and goals. Those who strive to live with less and minimally. People who love to travel. Those who like cats.

In a way, these small common interests begin to define us, and in a way we form little belief groups with a shared bond.

What trends, if any, will you be following this year?

Three Questions Everyone Should Be Able To Answer

Life isn’t always simple. There are times where it can feel overwhelming, and there are times where it might just feel like it is going to plan. However, one thing is for sure, life is here to be lived, to be enjoyed, and we only get one real shot at making the most of it.

Right now you may not be able to predict what life looks like for you in five years. In fact, you may not even know what you’re planning to eat for dinner tonight, and guess what, both situations are totally okay.

Nonetheless, I feel that you should always be able to answer the following three key questions if you are truly going to make the most of your lifetime.

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Photo by Natalie B on Pexels.com

What are your main priorities?

Honestly, days fly by so quickly for me now that it feels like I blink and a month has passed. With this is mind, it can be easy to let time pass without really thinking about what has filled it. Very suddenly frantic days turn into frantic months, and without realising I have transitioned into the second half of the year and people are already planning their winter sun holidays and festive gathering.

For me, this is okay as long as I regularly repeat and realign myself to my main priorities, and make sure that 80% of what I fill my days with complements what’s on the priority list.

  • Family, cats and friends first
  • Travel as much as possible
  • Write, read and learn. Never stop being curious.
  • Health is key
  • Be successful in a career I love

If you can’t easily list at least three main priorities when asked, take some time to really think about what yours are. Then, make sure you shape your life around them, rather than letting your life pass you be and always thinking ‘next year I will make that change to make things better’.

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Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

What are you truly passionate about?

Find your true passion, and make sure you devote your time to it. Do not be sat in twenty years’ time, filled with regret because you never started that night course, or choose to quickly do another load of laundry instead of putting in that extra hour to sit, paint and just enjoy yourself.

It’s never too late to find your calling. If you’re still not sure what it is, try out local classes, read about opportunities online, and speak to friends.

Quite often, people recognise you for something you haven’t even realised you’re good at.

Find what you’re good at, and then devote your time to it. Own it, make it your craft, and above all, enjoy it!

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Photo by Artem Bali on Pexels.com

What makes you happy?

It’s really important to know what it is that makes you feel good. Big or small.

Whether it’s a relaxing bath or spending time outdoors, know what makes you feel happy. Put aside time to indulge as often as needed.

For me, reading is almost a daily requirement. I love to take a long lavender oil scented bath at least once a week, and getting outside and disconnecting for hours is a regular must.

Know what you need to feel good, and don’t deny yourself. If you are feeling your best, you will perform at your best.

If you can’t answer the above. Spend some time reflecting on the questions and see if you can develop your answers over time. It’s powerful to know what you are passionate about, what drives you, and what truly makes you happy. 

 

27 Powerful Lessons That Have Shaped Me This Year

This year I turn twenty-seven. It is the middle ground between my early and late twenties. One more step closer to the next big life milestone, one more lap around the sun and one more year of experiences, lessons and opportunities.

I may be young, I certainly have a lot more left to learn and experience, but here’s what I have discovered so far.

One: Life is much better when you say yes to the right things

Saying yes is not always easy. It often comes with the knowledge that you will soon be stepping into the unknown. Yes opens doors, builds experiences and memories but also creates challenges, tests you, and gives you a very real possibility of failing.

This year I have started to say yes more when it is the right decision, and faced the challenges and consequences head on rather than shying away from them. I used to often say no and wonder what if instead.

So far, I have developed new hobbies, developed personally and in my career, and seen more places in a year than ever before. Here’s to saying yes.

Two: On the same note, it is okay to say no

You are allowed to put yourself first. You and only you know your own limits, boundaries and priorities.

Saying no doesn’t make you a bad friend, partner or person. Know your priorities and practice some self-love and care.

‘It’s only by saying no that you can really concentrate on the things that are really important’ – Steve Jobs

Three: Most people are really just trying their best
Four: Do whatever it is you truly, passionately, want to do, but do it well.

This is advice I have been given, and give the most often. Do what makes you happy, but put your everything into it. Your life, your career and your hobbies are your choice, and you can make any of them a success and reality if you really do give it your all.

Five: It’s okay to change your mind

On the above note, it’s also okay to change your dreams. Writer one day, chef the next. It’s your life. Live your best one.

Six: Love as much as you can
Seven: Be present in all that you do
Eight: Material things don’t make you happy if you are buying them for the wrong reasons.

A new TV won’t fix envy. A new car won’t make your self-worth improve. Buying something, which was £1000 on a 50% off sale, doesn’t mean you’ve saved £500, it means you’ve spent £500.

Nine: Health is easy to maintain, but really hard to fix

Eat well, get outdoors, and take care of yourself now. Of course, enjoy your treats in moderation. It is all about balance. For me, fasting between 6pm and 12pm the next day, as well as regular HIIT and Yoga is the perfect mix. Outside of that, I can eat what I want, drink wine and remain healthy. Find your routine, and stick to it.

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Photo by Kaboompics .com on Pexels.com

Ten: Read daily

Be it books, blogs, newspapers or interviews, never stop discovering. Read more, learn more, never stop discovering.

Eleven: Trust your gut
Twelve: Disconnect

Detox from digital, even if just for an hour a day. Charge your phone in another room at night. Delete the apps you check 100 times a day. It is too easy to lose a precious hour scrolling, and scrolling.

Thirteen: Build memories

With the people you cherish. Make a fuss of every event, accomplishment or milestone, no matter how big or small. Take photos, start a line a day diary. Life is all about the memories. Build things to look back on.

Fourteen: Don’t compare yourself to others

It is one of the hardest things to stop doing, but one of the most rewarding when you manage it. Every life is different. No way is right. You’re awesome for your own reasons.

Fifteen: Or think ‘what if’
Sixteen: Build yourself a strong network of brilliant people
Seventeen: Fear is your biggest motivator

Do one thing a day that scares you. If you feel comfortable, you may never learn what’s around the corner. For me, this is the biggest change I made this year.

Eighteen: The world is alive

Cherish it. Nature is wonderful, so think about your impact no how big or small. Live at one with everything natural and we will all have a better place to grow old in.

Nineteen: People don’t have to agree

A hard one to learn, but you don’t always need to have the same opinions or beliefs. Just listen, respect and embrace each other’s differences. Life would be boring if we were all the same.

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Twenty: Music fuels the soul
Twenty One: Let people know when they’ve impacted you

I am a big believer in letting people know when they have had an impact on your life. Often we don’t realise the implications of our actions. Had a mentor who has inspired you? Tell them. A parent who you are forever grateful for? Let them know. A colleague whose style you are always envious of? Share it.

It may not be a big deal to you, but I bet it will make their day.

Twenty Two: Ask questions

Too often, we leave it until it is too late. Ask about people’s lives, interests, hobbies and experiences. Everyone has something fantastic to share; it’s up to you to unearth it.

Twenty Three: Travel often
Twenty Four: Shout about your successes

After a Google workshop, I began to realise how important it is to be your own biggest cheerleader. If you don’t, someone else will be sharing their achievements and you may miss an opportunity. Recruiters, interviewers, friends and mentors are not mind readers. Share your successes, so they can help you leverage them for more opportunities.

Twenty Five: Laughter is the best medicine
Twenty Six: Be known for something

Find your ‘thing’ and then hone it into your craft.

Twenty Seven: There’s no age to have completed anything

There’s no perfect age for marriage, children, promotions, travel, degrees or anything else. Your life is written and shaped by you. Do what’s right for your own journey, and let everything else fall into place around it.

Explore Cagliari – What To Do When Visiting The Sardinian Capital.

A city blended and created by many different cultures. Cagliari is a buzzing Italian city filled with old architecture, flamingos and a buzzing tree-lined marina.

A long weekend is enough time to absorb all that this island capital has to offer, before you set sail or embark on your drive round the rest of the Sardinian coast.

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Day One in Cagliari

Start your visit with a coffee and gelato alongside the marina road, I would wholly recommend Gelateria PeterPan is the place you choose to fix your ice-cream cravings. It was never not full of locals and tourists when we walked past to our hotel just round the corner, and open until almost midnight. We definitely gave it our custom more than once a day (especially on our way back after a few Aperol Spritz). They do a big range of flavours, including dairy free and vegan varieties.

From here, walk along the bustling marina until you hit the Largo Carlo Felice, the big main road up the hill into the hub of the city and towards the distance Castello.

On your way, don’t miss the excavations beneath under the church of Sant’Eulalia where you can see an old Roman paved road, and a sacred temple remains.

I would recommend taking the route around the left of the city, dipping in and out of the backstreets where possible to get a little more authentic and crowd-free view of the pastel coloured city. This way also takes you past the botanical gardens, and the Roman Amphitheatre. Look out for listings of upcoming outdoor concerts that take place here during the summer. We unfortunately missed any showings but they are apparently fantastic.

Spend a few hours wandering around the above, and end your uphill hike by taking in the views from the Cagliari Castello District. There is a great terrace up here where you can reward your long hike with a drink from one of the outdoor bars.

Have a little rest back at your hotel, before heading out in the evening for seafood and plenty of late night live music.

Day Two

Take the bus to Il Poetto Beach. You will need to buy your tickets from a local newsagent before boarding, and all day passes are super reasonable (under three euros when we visited). It takes around twenty minutes to get there, and you’ll be rewarded by eight kilometres of sandy coastline lined with busy beach bars and plenty of watersport opportunities.

It is not Sardinian’s most beautiful beach, but it is really easy to get to, and a full day can easily be filled here.

Take a change of clothes with you, to dance the night away on one of the beach bar terraces which turn into luxury bars and nightclubs in the evening.

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Day Three – Cagliari at Sea

The best way to experience Sardinia isn’t from the land, but on the sea. Plan to get offshore and set sail around the southern coast, taking in the turquoise waters, quiet bays which can’t be accessed by road, and enjoying seafood on deck.

Sardinia is best seen, experienced and explored from the sea.

We booked our yacht day through AirBnB with Sardinian Yacht Charters. This trip gave you a chance to learn some of the key sailing skills and get involved with the journey, as well as including a delicious multi-course lunch and free flowing bar.

Whether by kayak, yacht or pedalo, experience the best of this Italian island from the water.

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Good Places To Eat

We really enjoyed eating at Nui Cagliari, where even your beer came in an ice bucket to keep it cool, and Antica Cagliari for delicious seafood. The mussels are incredible.

Top Tips

Public transport is really easy to get around by, however hiring a car gives you the opportunity to see more of the island without spending hours on local buses.

Taxi’s at the airport are cheaper than pre-booked private transfers. Just check your agreed rate before getting in.

As always with Italy, eating off the main squares and streets means much better quality food, and also more economical prices.

 

Six Brilliant Summer Reads You’ll Love

I will forever be envious of people who can take their time with a book, devouring a chapter at a time and making a real occasion out of reading a new novel. I am also jealous of how much less they probably spend on books if I am going to be entirely honest.

Ever since I can remember I have been an avid, and also frustratingly quick reader. I can digest a book cover to cover in one to two sittings if I am given the time and opportunity. Not skim reading either, I actually take less in if I try to slow down.

Therefore I have quite the library at home (and a well-used, well-worn library card too). One of my biggest pleasures in life is passing on a book to another to enjoy, and having a real good chat about it afterwards.

Discovering an opportunity out of this rather expensive hobby, I have decided to start sharing the books I read, with quick ratings and a really brief synopsis, as if you’re like me, you don’t want to know too much before you get stuck in!

These are all books I have read in June – July.

Happy reading.

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The Gringo Trail – Mark Mann

This diary of an adventure across South America had me laughing out loud (seriously) on the first page. It’s brilliantly written, and manages to be both entertaining and hauntingly dark at the same time. 4/5

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Bear Town – Fredrik Backman

A book that I had passed on to me by my mother-in-law and fellow bookworm. The first book in a while that actually had me questioning the way I look at things throughout, and gave me a lot of food for thought. It follows the day to day lives of a local small town Hockey team, and goes to show, you never really do know your neighbours. 4/5

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Into The Water – Paula Hawkins

The much awaited book from the brilliant Girl on The Train author. It was a great read, with plenty to leave you thinking about and hard to tear away from when real-life is needing your attention. Sadly though, I felt it was much too hyped up and therefore I left feeling a little disappointed. My advice, go in open minded and it could be brilliant. 3/5

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Nomad – James Swallow

It’s a best-seller for a reason. Tense, well-researched and provokes a lot of questions. I wouldn’t say it’s a book I will forever remember, however it’s a great read, especially when travelling. It fully absorbs you and you forget the world around you for a short space of time. 3/5

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Everybody Lies – Seth Stephens Davidowitz

I like to mix up my fiction with a peppering of non-fiction to appease my analytical side of my brain. This book really appealed to me as a data and analytics manager myself, and really opened up my eyes to how our computers really do know more about us as people than we share or tell others. Interesting take on how people portray themselves vs. what they really think (or ask Google). 4/5

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 Miracle in the Andes – Nando Parrado

A true story of existence, endurance and the remarkable instinct of humans to just survive. I personally didn’t know much about the story before opening up and reading, and I would recommend that anyone who picks up this book takes the same approach. I honestly couldn’t believe this was a true story. 4.5/5

Iceland: A Magical Wilderness. Top Tips For Travellers.

A magical combination of glaciers, geysers and volcanos make Iceland a truly unique landscape. A place where you can experience the joys of wilderness, the warmth of the locals and the true power of earth and Mother Nature.

It is the stark juxtaposition of the fire from the volcanos and ice from the glaciers that give Iceland its staggering landscape and distinctive opportunities for experiences like no other for tourists. In just a day you can soak in a geothermal lagoon, walk on lava fields and black sand beaches, stand atop ice-covered volcanos and under ice cold waterfalls, and take in the sparce and captivating glaciers.

Iceland has more than 125 volcanic mountains, of which many are still active. This knowledge that you are standing atop a thermal hot spot, where nature is at its most unpredictable, is very humbling.

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This breathtaking country, which rests just on the edge of the Arctic Circle, is a top destination for visitors across the globe at the moment. Most people, like us, fly into the Keflavik Airport which is around a fifty minute drive from the capital city, Reykjavik.

The city of Reykjavik is a modern and lively hub of colourful architecture, trendy bars, minimalist design and incredibly friendly people. It’s a small capital compared to many of its European neighbours, however for what it lacks in size it certainly makes up for in culture.

You can easily experience all that Reykjavik has to offer in a day, and then use the city as a base to return to after your days out in the vast interior wilderness of the island. Sample local cuisine such as whale, shark and warming soups, and try some of the locally brewed craft-beers.

Three places worth a visit for dinner that we personally loved would be the chic Café Paris, the Frederiksen Ale House, especially for their local cuisine, and the incredible and edgy Hamborgarabulla for reasonably priced meat or vegan burgers.

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Getting out on the road and exploring is key to having an incredible and memorable experience in the country with the world’s most northern capital city.

You can hire a car and drive around, or book on one of the many daily tours offered and led by locals. We chose the latter because Iceland is notorious for being unpredictable with the weather. Many roads get closed due to incredibly strong winds, and the ice-topped landscape is often best left to experts to navigate.

Visit the southern coast of Iceland and drive past lava fields, ice-topped volcanos and impressive mountain ranges as you journey towards the must-see black sand beaches at Vik. Stand under the many waterfalls running down between the Eyjafjallajökull and Mýrdalsjökull ice caps. A personal favourite had to be Skogafoss. You can experience the power of it and witness the incredible rainbows forming around it on a sunny bright day. Be prepared to get very wet though if you want to walk right up to it. To the right of the waterfall is a set of steps leading up to an observation platform, and it’s also a place where many people chose to begin a day long hike, after a night camping under the stars into the mountain ranges and many more waterfalls located above.

A hot-spring visit is a must, and there’s many to choose from across the country. Obviously the most famous and primary choice is the Blue Lagoon. Float around warm and misty waters, visit the swim up bars and mask-treatment huts, and experience true relaxation in the strikingly blue waters.

However if you fancy something a little less ‘touristy’ you could always visit the more remote, ‘secret lagoon’ where at night you may even witness the Northern Lights.

The golden circle is a top visit for most tourists in Iceland. Take in the iconic Gullfoss waterfall, and visit a rift where two tectonic plates meet.

Overall, there’s so much to see, do and experience in this country where nature really does rule supreme.

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Top Tips For Iceland

Iceland is an expensive country to visit. Make sure you have budgeted properly to get the most out of your visit. You can do certain things to help keep the costs down. Book your tours in advance, pack light snacks to eat on your treks and hikes rather than buying out there, and visit the less touristy hot spots. Happy hours run in most bars between 4-6pm, making your beer cost a much more reasonable £5 a pint rather than the standard £10.

Book your Iceland adventures in advance

Airport transfers, the Blue Lagoon and tours get filled up quickly. Make sure you book in advance, with the Blue Lagoon its mandatory, to avoid getting stung with expensive airport taxi transfers because the buses are full.

Shuttle bus about Reykjavik

We didn’t realise but there’s lots of great free shuttle buses to help you adventure around the capital. Especially if you are heading out to the Perlan museum right on the edge of the town. They stop at most of the numbered main stops around the centre.

Decide on when is best to visit Iceland

June to August is high season, and prices increase during this period. Many people come to experience the great outdoors, slightly warmer weather and the midnight sun phenomenon.

May is good for fewer crowds and better prices, however the weather is still quite temperamental. Expect anything from snow showers to sunny days and pack accordingly.

The winter is good for snow-sports, magical winter sights and possible Northern Light viewing opportunities, however the weather may mean that roads are closed, and travelling around becomes difficult if not impossible.

Dress appropriately

Take stock of your activities and the time of year you are visiting, and pack accordingly. Good walking boots, a water and wind proof jacket and gloves are essential. The weather can change instantly, so many wearing many layers is your best option.

Seek out the locals

Iceland has a thriving artistic culture, and we were fortunate to experience many elements of this on our trip. From listening to a musician play and sing in her own home, to watching people DJ late into the night, or knit the famous Icelandic woollen clothing, try and immersive yourself among some of the world’s most cultural and creative people!

Expect the unexpected

Iceland is a country like no other, pack your guide books and camera, and prepare to be astonished by the true natural wonder of this small island.

Why I Am Trying To Make My Instagram More Personal

Instagram has recently been ranked as the worst social media platform for well-being and positive mental health. Users stated that although the tool was fantastic for self-expression and creativeness, it also evoked high levels of anxiety and negative feelings. One main reason? FOMO – fear of missing out.

I think we are all guilty of only posting the positive. Sharing pictures where we look good, adding filters to hide the flaws and only uploading when we’ve been doing something particularly interesting. And why not? Our feed is something we curate. Something we want to look back on and feel good about the memories. We want to share with the world the good that is going on in our lives.

Personally it’s my favourite social media platform, however I too have to admit I am also the first to get pangs of insta-envy when I see good food, good travel or good experiences on a feed when I am sat in bed in my pyjamas.

I love that you can share updates with nothing more needed than a quick snap. A collection of your life through the eye of a lens over the many years. Like they say, a picture speaks a thousand words.

Which is why in a way I love the new stories option. I am also a big fan of these new Instagram story templates that keep popping up on my feed. I think they add a personal touch and insight into the lives of the people behind our photos.

It brings a little more reality, humanity and personalisation into a platform of perfection. People share a lot more ‘real-life’ on stories because it lasts just 24 hours. It’s erasable.

So in the spirit of being a little more ‘real-life’ and authentic, I am taking a break from posting about dream travel destinations and minimalistic lives to share some insights into the person behind the blog (also inspired by the great feedback from my insta-poll last week).

I am going to use one of the new stories templates I have created and you can save for use on your own platforms as a prompt.

Which do you prefer_

My Answers

Definitely a morning person – I can’t usually stay awake past 10pm most evenings. I am usually tucked up with a lemon and ginger tea and a book by 9pm.

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Staying in – I love to explore, but nothing beats a good night in. I’d rather a home cooked meal, a good book and a glass of red wine over a night in a fancy bar any day.

Read a book – Nothing beats a good book. The smell of a newly opened novel. The way you just lose yourself in an alternate universe.

Coffee – A self-confessed addict here. Also, it’s pretty difficult living in Yorkshire and not liking a standard cup of tea. I get a lot of odd looks when I state tea is not for me.

Winter – I love, love, love the warmth of the sun and the goodness that vitamin D does to our minds and body, but nothing beats a cosy winter feeling. Roaring fires, good food and jumpers galore. I’ll take a cold snowy night in over a summer BBQ any day.

Bath – Heaven in a tub. No further explanation needed.

Wine – Although don’t get me wrong, I love a good refreshing cold beer too.

Organised – If you get to know me well, you will learn I am frustratingly organised (and maybe a little bit of a control freak because of it). The true mother hen of the group, the designated passport holder, the one booking airport transfers and ordering birthday experiences nine months in advance. I love a good list, plan, rota and don’t get me started on itineraries.

Hopefully this has given you some insight to the person behind the blog. Is this a good format? Should I do the same for the story templates below?

Click to open and save yours to your phone, and upload to Instagram to make it more of an authentic, human behind the photos, place to scroll.