Lac Du Vernex Hike and Picnic Spot – Hikes in Vaud

❖ Length – 4km loop

❖ 1.5 hours needed at least

❖ Toilets at start and end

❖ Picnic spots around the lake on the banks.

❖ Family friendly and stroller friendly for 90% of the route which is gravel / paved but babies best in carriers.

You’d be hard pressed to find a calmer or gentler walking route for a beautiful Sunday hike than the looped trail from the quiet mountain town of Rossinière to Lac du Vernex.

It is an easy 4km walk suitable for adults, families and those with babies if they are in a suitable carrier. We did it with a three week old baby and it was really enjoyable and a great walk for some gentle exercise.

It should take just a little more than an hour to complete the loop, longer if your hiking group has little ones who prefer a slower pace. 

We started our walk at Rossinière train station, where we also parked our car to return to later thanks to the looped route. If you turn right with your back to the station, you begin the walk on the better paved side but then after around 40 minutes arrive at a beautiful grassy bank on the left where I would recommend you stop for a picnic. It is just past a house, and the slope eases down to the lakefront making it the perfect place to stop and refresh. 

The water is very cold, even in the summer months, so take a dip if you are brave enough (we were not!) but I would advise testing the water temperature first so you are not in for a nasty surprise when you jump in!

Continue the loop around after your lunch, ending right back where you started.

I love this walk as it is so peaceful, there’s great spots to pull out a blanket and read under the sun for a quiet afternoon, and it’s super accessible for all levels of hikers. 

All in all, you can easily spend half a day here if you walk, eat and spend some time on the lake. It’s a beautiful place to explore and especially nice on a warm Spring day.

Download the free PDF version of the guide today

Arnensee Hike and Boat Trip

There are many beautiful lakes in Switzerland, but the Arnensee easily makes it into my top five due to it’s incredible backdrop of mountains and forests, and the icey turquoise of the lake which shimmers in the midday sun at just over 1500m elevation.

It is easily accessed by either car or foot, both taking a trail through the forest and alongside a river until you emerge at the rewarding mountain lake. We drove there from Gstaad until we reached the town of Feutersoey and followed signposts to the lake. From Feutersoey it is around a ten minute drive, or an hour and a half (6KM) walk. With a newborn in the car, we chose the driving option, although one day would like to return for the hike as it was a beautiful path, albeit it mainly uphill. 

If you do drive, be mindful that you need to pay five francs entry in order to open the barrier and access the route to the lake. The machine at the barrier also only accepts coins, so make sure you’re prepared in advance. 

When you reach the lake you have several options after taking in the beautiful scenic view. We chose to first hire a row boat and head out on to the lake before it got too warm from the direct sun. These are easily hired from the restaurant ‘Huus am Arnensee’ on your left of the lake. We paid 15 francs to hire a rowboat for one hour, and you can pay by cash or card, but they also have stand up paddle boards and pedalos. The staff are really friendly and happy to help.

After your lake excursion, you can then walk the path around the water’s perimeter which takes around an hour and has some beautiful picnic spots, fire pits and places to enter the lake for a cold but refreshing swim if you wish to. It is an easy walk but only stroller friendly on the right hand side, so babies are best in carriers. 

Finally, round off your day with a refreshing drink and the delicious spicy tomato soup at the Huus am Arnensee restaurant. The prices are really reasonable and the terrace has great views for a midday or end of hike stop before heading home.

All in all, you can easily spend half a day here if you walk, eat and spend some time on the lake. It’s a beautiful place to explore and especially nice on a warm Spring day where you can row out without worrying about too much sun exposure.

Top Tips for the Walk:

  1. Get there early to avoid crowds and secure a boat. We arrived at 9:30am and it was perfect.
  2. You need 5 francs in coins if you want to drive up to the lake to pass the barrier 
  3. Parking is free at the top however
  4. If you want to swim, remember it’s a high altitude mountain lake and therefore a bit cold!
  5. Only a paved path on one side of the lake

Download the free PDF version of the guide today

Seven Secrets You Need To Know To Make You More Productive and Organised

As I have got a little older, I have become more self-aware of things I am good at, and things that I perhaps should leave to others (coordination sports, digesting lactose, long phone-calls for catching up, drawing and multi-tasking to name a few).

On the flip side, I am a good natural organiser and tend to thrive with tasks requiring self-discipline, productivity and planning. Recently, a few people have been asking for what it is I do each day to get stuff done, or get stuff done quickly. So I thought I would share a post on my top reflections and habits that I think contribute towards my productivity in case it’s useful for a wider audience.

With the above in mind, I also want to reflect that until recently I used to be pretty embarrassed of just how organised (read: borderline control freak) I was as a person. These days though, I welcome it with open arms. I think that because of these traits I find it easier to go after the things that make me really happy, and put a lot of energy and effort into events, trips and plans that leave a lasting impact and memories for years to come.

Top ways to keep organised and productive on a day to day basis:

One: Know your goals, and know your plan

It is so easy to get wrapped up in the hype of being ‘busy’ or hyper productive. There are methods that get you to write down 5-7 habits a day to do every day. Others encourage you to break down big tasks into more manageable chunks to make them seem more attainable.

Personally, I think that the most important way to keep disciplined and productive is to have three things established. One, a very clear vision of where you want to be in life in the next 3-5 years. I am not talking specific here (although feel free to be detailed) but a good understanding of what life looks like for you in the coming years. If you don’t have a good goal, nothing’s going to motivate you.

Secondly, an understanding of your main priorities in life and what matters most to you.

Lastly, a personal acceptance of the fact that you really can’t do everything, but you can do a lot.

If you know you want to be a full time writer, living in a small house in the remote countryside in the next three-five years. You are aware that your priorities are your family, your health, your friends, travel and writing. Then you can easily take a moment to assess your day to day and even week by week plans to see what is contributing towards that and what is distracting.

If in a week you spend two hours a day watching Netflix, but the above is your plan, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work out it won’t happen for you in the near future because it’s not where you are putting your energy.

Two: Do what makes you happy

This one isn’t really easy for all, but I am a firm believer that unless you are doing something that challenges you, makes you happy and feel fulfilled you’re never going to have the motivation to put 100% into it.

If you are feeling stuck in a rut, or like you’re limited because you are pursuing something you really don’t enjoy, make a change today. No one can be productive all the time for something that doesn’t make them happy.

Three: Do the hardest tasks of the day first, every single day.

Block out the first hour to get the rough stuff done. The stuff that makes you scared, a good dose of exercise, the email you’ve been putting off writing or the paperwork you have yet to reply to and file.

Often the things that are the hardest to do, or that we avoid are the ones that bring the biggest changes or impact on our day to day.

Honestly, if you can just change one thing this for me would be it. Before reading the news, before social media or joining a call, put aside an hour to just get stuff done.

Four: Know your own habits and routines

We all have our own habits and pitfalls when it comes to organisation and discipline. Personally, I know that after 6pm I am cognitively useless. If you check my blog and writing performance, I always have a dip in publishing mid-month.

Instead of being frustrated by these habits, I instead just work my projects and days around them. I write more at the start and end of each month, and during the middle I focus on other priorities such as getting outdoors, trips and down time.

It’s the same with household tasks like taxes, budgeting and planning for my husband’s business, I know if I don’t tackle them in the first week of the month I will lose motivation. So I make these a priority.

After 6pm I don’t do anything ‘mentally taxing’ and use this time to unwind.

Embrace your own ways of working and natural habits rather than consistently trying to overwrite and fight them. Make them work as part of your productivity.

Photo by Michaela on Pexels.com

Five: Time blocking

If you are always finding yourself too busy to do the things that matter, take some time to block out and organise your diary now to make room for the bigger priorities. Give yourself an hour every day to work on projects. Refuse meetings or calls on a Friday to use this time to turn your ideas into reality.

Give yourself an hour a day for self-development.

Six: Don’t hyper organise

An app can be incredibly helpful if you already know your goals and priorities. A notes site can be fantastic to collect articles to read later, if you actually are going to read them. A well-structured calendar will only be effective if you are actually going to stick to your agenda.

We seem to love technology and hyper-organisation when it comes to being disciplined and often think that certain apps, tools and tech will help us become productive. The reality is, these tools complement an already productive lifestyle.

Plus, with these tools we tend to want to add 7-8 habits a day rather than one or two that will actually get done, because otherwise the list looks bare.

Get apps if you need them to further habits you already have, or interests you already stick to. Don’t expect them to be the cure.

Seven: Outsource

This one took me a long time to firstly realise was a thing, and then secondly do properly. You don’t need to do everything yourself, and to go back to my first tip, in order to be productive you need to realise that you really can’t do everything, but you can do a lot.

Outsource whatever it is that distracts from your priorities or what you enjoy where you can. Obviously some aspects require financial freedom to do it, such as having a cleaner or someone or taking a load of laundry to be dry cleaned once a week.

Others however, not so much. Sites like Fiverr make getting all sorts of tasks done quickly and easily for less. They have everything from virtual assistants to data entry and video editing.

Same goes for things like present shopping, do you know many big online stores now offer free personal shopping services or AI powered Chat Bots to get you the perfect gift in next to no time. Or food shopping, have a service deliver a weekly pre-prepared favourites list to you and then add in things you fancy as you think about them.

Lastly, the biggest thing I think that has helped me be more productive is living a lot more minimally. I have less stuff to clean, no real clutter to sort through, I don’t spend hours worrying about outfits as my wardrobe is pretty capsule and I don’t spend hours working out how to get the new car I covet or striving after the next big material success. When you let go of the distractions, the must-haves and the noise, it becomes really easy to just get stuff done.

What are your top tips for being productive?

Ten Simple Ways To Live With Less and Save Significantly More

When we set New Years’ Resolutions, we tend to focus on how to enrich our lives further. Setting new goals, living a healthier lifestyle or travelling and adventuring more. Sometimes, there’s just as much benefit and opportunity to be found in setting goals which actually mean living and doing with less.

A core and often overlooked benefit of living more minimally is the financial freedom it brings to your day to day life. Even better, you don’t need to adopt a ridged minimalist lifestyle to benefit from the ways you can cut down and save more.

Below are the top ten ways you can reduce your consumption, based on key but simple changes I have made that had significant impact over the last five years.

Online Food Shopping

By moving to an online delivery, which we scheduled once a week, it made us prepare and plan our meals ahead of the shop meaning that we only bought what we needed for the following seven days. It also hugely reduced the ‘impulse’ shopping for treats that we tended to do when actually in the supermarket, especially if we were there when hungry!

If you online shop, you can set a clear budget, see how much your order is totalling to as you go along and also benefit from a lot of coupons and discounts supermarkets for e-orders.

Detox Your Subscriptions

If you have Spotify, Amazon Prime, Audible and Netflix then you are already paying out a significant amount for streaming services every month. Add in a phone contract, TV package and beauty box deliveries and you are nearing the average number of subscription services for a UK person in 2019.

This is great if they are regularly used and add a big impact to your life, but if they don’t, the costs quickly add up.

Once a year, we sit down and unsubscribe from everything. We allow ourselves to re-subscribe when we want to use the service. It is a good exercise to ensure everything you have signed up for is properly appreciated. You never know, you might not even realise you miss one once it’s gone.

Delete Delivery Apps

Getting fast food delivered to your home is easy, and often a quick way to feed yourself after a stressful day at work. However, one or two deliveries a week quickly can add up over a year. Easy solution? Remove the apps, unsubscribe from the mailing list offers and follow step one in the list (a weekly online shop and meal-prep) to reduce the temptation.

Demote Your Car

If you are able to quite easily, consider changing your car to a model that is similar in miles, performance and years, but with a different cost ratio. It is a really quick and easy way to build up savings if you are able to be in this position and are happy to ‘downgrade’ your car.

Photo by Thought Catalog on Pexels.com

Borrow And Share

As a couple, one of the biggest spends in our non-essential outgoings is on books. We both love to read, and between us we get through at least 3-5 books and an audible subscription on a monthly basis.

One easy way to both live with less, and save more here is to lend, borrow and share books with fellow avid readers. We swap with friends often, keeping our shelves clean and our to-read list healthily stocked with new books. We also regularly visit the library, and buy second hand where we can.

Obviously there’s many times where we need to buy new, especially living abroad and away from our friends at home, but it’s something we are trying to avoid more and more.

Think about things you buy often for hobbies, and try and work out if there’s a way to both save and reduce clutter by sharing or swapping instead. Board games, books, recipes, baby clothes, there’s a lot of opportunities.  

Find Peace With Older ‘stuff’

If it isn’t broken, then follow the old saying and really think twice before replacing it. It’s no surprise we regularly feel the need to upgrade the everyday items in our lives. Companies invest millions of pounds a year working out how to best to market us their latest models, seasons and versions of their products, so it’s almost natural that we are taken in by this clever messaging.

However, having the latest version of a product on average improves someone’s happiness for a period of just two weeks. After this, any effects from owning this new item rapidly diminishes. Why? Because there’s likely something even newer being released in the near future, or we come across someone else who has something better.

Key items we tend to upgrade regularly without much need include our phones, laptops, headphones, cars, designer accessories and home furnishings.

Try and find peace with your existing ‘stuff’ for a defined period of time. You may come to realise that you live quite happily without the latest products, and everything you do currently own is perfect for it’s job.

This is something I have really had to practice myself recently, after seeing how great the camera is on my husbands’ new phone. However there’s nothing wrong at all with mine, so I keep telling myself to wait and see how I feel in two months before making a rash purchase.

Unsubscribe From Emails

This is a big one, and requires you to set aside some time to make it happen, but it’s really valuable. Unsubscribe from all emails and companies whose primary role is to sell you more stuff.

If you want to get a great offer, you can always sign up again in the future, but for now it stops those free next day delivery, or 50% off coupons arriving on a Monday morning, which removes the temptation of buying more things you really didn’t need.

50% off £30 is still spending £15 you didn’t need to spend rather than an incredible half-off saving. Do yourself a favour and delete all the subscriptions and start afresh.

Plan In Advance

So much can be saved and organised with a little preparation. It can apply from everything to travel plans for a year, to decorating a room and meal-planning and preparation.

Carve out some time to schedule your annual leave and vacations for a year, and set up alerts for the best price deals. Plan your meals for one to two weeks, and then only buy what you need from the store. If you need to decorate a room, plan everything ahead of it from colours to furniture and even storage. This way, you won’t end up buying excess decorative elements or two sets of cushions as your mind changes as the plan progresses.

The more prepared you are in life, the more time you have day to day to spend on the things that properly enrich your life instead of these regular required must-dos.

Photo by Henry & Co. on Pexels.com

No Buy Month

If you are really struggling with living with less, and feeling a little overwhelmed by the amount of clutter, storage and stuff you have lying around, consider taking part in a no-buy month.

It will have a great impact in both reducing excess possessions, in addition to boosting your savings at the same time.

Set yourself some ground rules before starting. Examples include food, hygiene materials, medicines and transport as excluded, but anything else ‘non-essential’ is banned for 30 days.

It’s a great way to reset and really break the habit of consuming for the sake of consuming. Something we are all guilty of time to time.

One in, two out rule

Perhaps if you are finding the above idea a little extreme, you can instead replace it with the one in and two out rule. It’s as simple as, any time you buy anything you don’t ‘need’, you have to remove two other non-essentials in the same category to make room for it.

For example, if you pick up a pair of new shoes in the sale, two other older pairs that you rarely use need to go. If you get home and can’t really part with anything, ask yourself, did you really need the new item as well? Do the same for your kids toys, clothes and much more.

It might help you break any habits you currently have and stop the slow over-expansion of stuff in your home.

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.

Five Ways To Improve Your Environmental Impact If You Fly Often

Climate change, and the environmental impact travelling has on it, is rightly starting to command the level of attention it deserves.

However, even with the growing worry about rising temperatures, of which air travel is a big contributor, the desire to travel is not waning. In fact, it’s very much on the rise, and I personally can see why. The world is incredible, and there’s so much to see and experience out there.

However, that being said, a standard long haul flight, one way, has as much of an impact as you taking nearly 900 ten minute showers, watching TV for 920 days in a row, or 18% of the average yearly energy consumption of a Dutch household.  

The only bigger impact you can have personally, than choosing to fly less, is if you choose to have only one or no children, or you give up your car.

Couple this with the startling statistic that right now, only 20 percent of the population has ever been on a plane, it is clear there’s space for a continuous boom in travel. As the 80% begin to experience their first adventures in the sky, emissions and impact will rise.

I personally can hold up my hand to say that my personal footprint when it comes to plane travel is shameful. Thanks to a combination of business travel, living abroad and personal vacations, I have taken more flights in the last five years’ than I would like to count. There’s even a new word being coined in Sweden for this feeling of shame, flygskam. It roughly translates as either “flying shame” and is used to describe the increasing trend in Sweden of the shame felt by frequent flyers.

I definitely have been feeling a lot of flygskam over the last few years, and it’s getting worse.

Clearly, the best option to reduce your impact is to just not fly at all. In fact, many environmentalists argue that carbon offsetting is just a way to paint over the cracks, and doesn’t reverse the damage in the long run.

However, right now, I can’t just choose to give up plane travel and go cold-turkey. Unlike other personal environmental concessions, reducing air travel has a disproportionately high impact. Give up meat and you eat from a different menu. Give up a car, you walk or take the train. Give up flying and I may never see some members of my family, friends or be able to carry out a job I love effectively.

Therefore, this constant awareness of my impact led me to research how I could best mitigate some of this, and over the years’ I have come up with a series of standards I follow when it comes to travel.

One – Always choose eco-flights and efficient airlines

When booking your flight, try to fly with the airlines who have a strong environmental record. You can use the atmosfair Airline Index 2018 to help you understand where airlines fare when it comes to efficiency. For short haul, Air France and Jet2 airlines fare well. For longer haul, try TUI or KLM.

Even better, flight comparison sites such as SkyScanner use flags such as a ‘greener choice’ label which will highlight flight options that emit less CO2.

Two – Fly economy where possible

It’s not rocket science that the more people there is on a plane, the less an impact you will have per person for that flight. Considering business and first class tickets usually take up more space, and resources than economy tickets, it’s clear that choosing budget is best when it comes to the planet.

Photo by Jason Toevs on Pexels.com

Three – Always invest in carbon offsetting

Although many argue that carbon offsetting is nothing in comparison to not taking the trip in the first place, it definitely does more than choosing to ignore your impact overall. It still surprises me how little people actually do this when flying.

For every trip I take, I calculate my impact using either the built-in calculators you can use when booking, or this fantastic one from My Climate. According to their site, my last roundtrip to Tromso that I took in November would have emitted 0.954 t of CO2. They recommend that because of this, I contribute at least £25 towards a carbon-offset project in a developing and newly industrialised country.

You can choose the projects directly on their site, or you can use other providers such as Gold Standard or atmosfair to do so. Just ensure when you are choosing a provider, you do your research.

I recommend the above three based on the certification they have, the way you can trace the impact and the way they audit and publish their findings on a regular basis.

If easier, you can now offset your carbon footprint for most flights when you are booking them. I do this for the airlines which score well in the efficiency index, and who are transparent about what your money goes towards. For those like Ryanair, who has had their scheme referred to as a ‘green gimmick’ by experts, I prefer to do the offsetting myself at this time.

Four – Reduce short-haul flights

For shorter trips, consider taking a different means of transport where available to you. Yes, it’s likely going to take longer, but surely that’s a fair compromise you are willing to make if you consider the impact it can have.

Grab a book and settle in for a long train ride, winding through the countryside on route to your next destination. Consider car-sharing apps, buses and other means.

Often, the journey can be as much of a trip as the destination itself.

Five – Change your lifestyle

If you really will struggle to reduce your plane travel, think about other ways you can change your lifestyle instead.

Work out your own individual footprint here Then make some changes based on this. Personally, we have chosen to go without a car and rely on public transport for the last fourteen months, we rarely use internal heating anymore and layer up, we eat locally and sustainably where we can, often plant based, and our biggest choice has to be our commitment to avoid over or unnecessary consumption of material goods. A minimal life has many benefits!  

We are nowhere near perfect, and there’s a lot of people around us doing incredible and inspiring things on a much greater level, but we are conscious and we are trying.

How do you reduce your travel impact? What choices are you making?

EasyJet Travel Hacks – Ten Top Tips To Have A Better Budget Flight

Love them or loathe them, you can’t deny that the European budget airline carriers have opened up a whole host of opportunities and freedoms when it comes to short haul travel and city breaks. For less than you would normally spend on a weekend meal and night out, you can now fly return to most European cities. This year I managed to fly back to the UK for less than taxi to my hotel upon arrival cost.

However, it definitely comes with some strings attached. Often these carriers make up for their low fares in the extras they charge to provide you with a more comfortable and stress-free flight. Thanks to a combination of business and personal travel I have sat on upwards of twenty EasyJet planes in 2019 (I don’t want to count the actual figure in case it’s much higher).

Due to this, I have discovered some surprisingly little tips and tricks that may make your journey a little less budget, and a little more enjoyable when you next board.

Check in as early as you can to improve your seat

You can check into an EasyJet flight up to 30 days before you depart. However, if you are a bit like me, you tend to leave this part to the few days before when you are finalising your packing and gathering paperwork for a trip.

In the future, try not to put it off and do it as soon as you get the email saying check in is open. You will be allocated a better seat as more are available and the algorithm can do more magic this way.

Cabin bag plus duty free bag in many airports

In most major airports, EasyJet allows you to take your one cabin bag on board in addition to one bag of duty free shopping. This can be a genius travel hack if you prepare properly. Following previous airport purchases, I have kept a Boots, and a Duty Free plastic bag that I always fold into the front of my case.

Then, when I need to queue to board, I put my handbag or tablet into this plastic bag. If I purchase something in the airport, I don’t bring out my trusty old carrier and use this instead.

This way, you don’t get fined for having a second small bag when boarding, and it means that you don’t need to struggle with using a big suitcase as a handbag for little things like your phone, passport and mints in the airport and plane.

I now do this for practically every flight, and fingers crossed, no issues yet!

Obviously this has two disclaimers:

  1. It may not always work for you like it has for me, so if you take this risk and don’t have room for the second bag in your luggage, you will have to pay a fee.
  2. Make sure your duty free bag actually is from a shop in the airport (you can’t just take any plastic carrier!)

Use their fare finders to get the best prices

If you book directly on their site, and look for best prices using their EasyJet Fare Finder, you can find some great deals, especially if you can be flexible with your departure dates and times.

Become a regular and join their Flight Club

If you take enough flights a year, EasyJet send you an email welcoming you into their ‘Flight Club’. It has many benefits but my personal favourite is the ability to change your flights without paying the admin fee, instead you just pay any difference in cost if there is any.

Additionally, if you find your flight for less after booking, they will ensure you get this difference back.

If you take regular short haul trips, it can good to be loyal to one provider to benefit from their perks.

Photo by Jason Toevs on Pexels.com

Pack your own snacks (and drinks too!)

You can no longer bring full bottles through security at departures unless they are under 100ml, but you can bring an empty and reusable water carrier.

Then when you pass security, fill this up at the many free fountains before boarding. This way, you save yourself the £2-3 they charge for bottled water. On this note however, if you ask the crew they can give you free cups of tap water if you go to their galley and ask politely.

Additionally, you can bring through a pre-packed lunch if you don’t want to buy the food on board.

Buying food vouchers before you board

However on the above, if you know you’re going to eat on the plane, EasyJet do these great vouchers that allow you to buy their meal deals for less before you board.

If you are definitely going to want food and a drink, a little bit of prep before you buy goes a long way.

Board early to avoid your bag being placed in the hold

Although usually I hate it when people gather around the boarding gate before their class or zone has been called (if you are one of these people, I genuinely would be interested to know why you do this) an EasyJet flight is where I make an exception to this rule.

Primarily because they don’t board by zones like bigger airlines, and because they have a new rule where only the first seventy bags through the gate go onto the plane. The rest are taken to the hold, free of charge, for you to collect on arrival.

Honestly, I personally like the rule, as there’s nothing worse than your flight being delayed as people struggle to find space for their luggage and coats in the overhead lockers.

However it does mean if you want your bag with you in the cabin, you need to be one of the first seventy to board.

Photo by Tranmautritam on Pexels.com

Hand luggage limit is on size, not weight

As long as you can lift it, it can fly in the cabin. EasyJet are great in that whilst the cabin bags have a size limit, they don’t have a weight limit.

So if you have a few big items you need to take, and they risk your hold luggage going over-weight and incurring a bigger fee, stick them in your cabin baggage when packing.

This was a true lifesaver for me when I was moving to Switzerland without my furniture for four months. All my books came with me in my hand luggage to save weight-space in my two hold bags.

As long as you can personally lift it into the overhead locker, you can fly with it!

Extra legroom gets an extra under seat bag for free

If you book a seat with extra legroom (priced from around £10 up to £25) depending on the flight, you get to board first, and get a second piece of cabin baggage for free.

Sometimes this works out better than having to pay for hold luggage if it’s just a laptop or small rucksack you need to fit all your extra stuff in for a week away.

Going hands-free allows for boarding priority – can be for an individual or a group at a discount

You can pay to check in your cabin baggage for a little as £7 per person, or there’s a discount if you are a bigger family and travelling in a group.

This way, you put it in the hold but you get to board the plane first, and usually the luggage is waiting for you when you disembark as it gets priority status for offloading. A good way to avoid carrying heavy cases around and to get on the plane and seated before the rush.

Five Simple Changes You Should Embrace As We Enter A New Decade

There are only ten weeks left in 2019, meaning that in the blink of an eye we will be reigning in a New Year and saying goodbye to the last decade at the same time.

For many, this time of year results in a time of personal reflection. What have I achieved? What do I still want to do before the clock strikes twelve on December 31st? Did I meet the goals I set for myself at the start of the year?

Personally, I am not fond of New Year Resolutions; however, I do believe that the close of the year provides a natural opportunity for reflection and an opening for new lifestyle changes or commitments.

As we enter the new roaring twenties, I think there are a few simple and yet impactful changes we can all make to ensure the next chapter is our best yet.

One: Embrace the joy of learning something new

Too often, we let the day-to-day noise of everyday life get in the way of developing our personal self and our deeper understanding of things that interest or intrigue us. Honestly, it does not matter if you are studying in a classroom or learning something new via a podcast, it is the on-going discipline of pursuing new knowledge, which really matters.

When did you last master a new skill or discover something that really surprised you? Adopt this mindset from a quote I love:

‘Anyone who stops learning is old, whether it’s at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young. The greatest thing in life is to keep your mind young.’

On this note, I think it is incredibly important to read something. Anything. Every single day. Whether it’s a short newspaper article or a chapter of a good book, reading is our gateway to knowing more, and knowledge allows us to enact change, challenge what we know and escape into new worlds even for just an hour.

Two: Simplify and stop over committing

It is easy in the New Year, or any moment, to write a list of everything you truly want to achieve. Quite often, the problem we instead face is the complexity or sheer volume of the goals we then go and set.

Stay realistic, don’t set a goal to run a triathlon if you have neglected exercise for some time. Make your goals simple, clearly defined and achievable. Start with committing to running three times a week no matter what the distance, and work up from there.

Any time you’re about to make a big change, getting to the end result can be overwhelming. Setting small, easily achievable goals is one way to jump-start yourself and in a short period of time you can look back and see how much you have already accomplished.

Then look at how you are spending your time. We are all busy, but we are also in control of what we allow into our lives. Commit to what matters. Define your priorities. Try to enter 2020 with a view that being busy isn’t necessarily a good thing, and instead a life that makes time for what matters is instead a true sign of success.

Photo by Matt Hardy on Pexels.com

Three: Become a morning person

I love the golden hour before the world truly wakes up and you have some time for solitude, self-prioritization and spending time on things you cherish.

Personally, I use this hour for a variety of different activities rather than a set ‘routine’. One morning I may spend the hour writing posts such as this. Others I will dedicate to exercise, studying for my masters, planning personal travel or just snuggled up reading in bed with my cats before I have to tackle the day ahead.

By carving out this hour, I ensure that every single day I start my day right. I have done something that really matters to me, something that aligns with my priorities and contributes towards my own personal goals.

The impact an hour dedicated entirely to the structure of your choosing can have is huge.

Four: Consume less and consume better

It sounds simple but it’s surprising how we are often inclined to do the opposite. Try to enter the New Year with the comfort of knowing you are content with everything you have.

In Western society, we often attribute happiness and success with material goods and status. Ironically, almost all studies on this topic show that neither contribute to our long-term happiness.

If you believe that a better model of car or bigger house is the key to your happiness, then what happens when you obtain it and you realise there is an even more luxurious or bigger version within reach in a few years? You end up in a cycle of consumerism. Of seeing goods as an achievement of your goals, and every time you obtain that success the feeling is short lived as you quickly begin to covet the next best thing.

If you see goods as a way to fulfil the things that make you happy. A car to help you travel, see loved ones and visit new places. A house to make memories with friends and family around the dinner table, and shoes as a way to take you on new adventures, you realise you already have all you need.

Our planet, your happiness and your perception will thank you when you break out of the cycle of wanting and start living with what you need.

This doesn’t end with material goods. It means taking control of what you eat, drink and what you’re putting into your body each day.

Be conscious of your consumption. Start 2020 investing in what you truly need. Time, health, family and personal growth.

Five: Be kinder

We are statistically more stressed than ever thanks to online capabilities providing less of a ‘shut down’ window than we used to see in previous decades. We can email at any hour, online shop at 3am and check in with friends with the tap of a button.

Thanks to this, and a disengagement with real, in-person interactions thanks to the rise of social media, it’s hardly surprising that we have begun to put more pressure on ourselves and at times, not provide others with the time and kindness they deserve.

Being kind is something we do out of love and care, but research shows it also makes us genuinely happy in many ways. For those feeling disengaged, stressed and burnt out, a little bit of kindness can go a long way.

Smile at others for no reason; be open to making new connections and meeting new people. Treat those you care for to a thoughtful gift or experience ‘just-because’. Adopt an animal in need of a loving home; open your doors to someone needing an ear. Pay it forward by supporting someone’s goals with your skills or advice, or even just buying a strangers coffee that day.

Just as important as being kind to others, is being kind to yourself. We are our worst critics, and sometimes we need to take a moment to appreciate all that we do and all we are striving for.

Being kind may boost your mood, but research has also shown that being in a good mood can make you more kind. This makes it a wonderful two-way relationship that just keeps giving.

What do you think of the above? Is there anything you’re going to adopt moving forward or is there something you thing is missing from this list that people can do tomorrow to make a meaningful change for the years’ to come?

What Items Are Worth Investing In When Moving Often?

Over the last two weeks, I have started to pack for a big house move. It’s different this time for several reasons, one being that the house we are leaving is the place we have stayed the longest as a couple. Therefore, we’ve gathered a little bit more than usual over the last three years.

Note – I have nearly packed all my possessions and the rooms still look pretty full, which shows the dynamic of my relationship with stuff vs. my husbands!

One thing, which has made me think, is what has made me keep the possessions I have decided to hold on to. With all the minimising, and living with less, how have some goods retained their longevity when it comes to need and use?

We are really fortunate to have and cherish all the below. This is why I think it makes all of it even more valuable from a personal perspective.

Below is a collection of the items I have kept, repeatedly purchased or invested in over time. They will follow me around for years. I would love to hear about what ‘things’ you have that you will treasure forever or have invested in over the years. What would you class as your ‘keepers’?

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A quality, capsule wardrobe

Find your personal style, buy good quality over quantity, and consider the impact of trend, fashion or impulse buying on the planet, on people and on animals.

I have a set series of items in colours, cuts and styles that I know suit my body shape and frame. They can easily be mixed and matched, and it makes getting ready in the morning much easier.

If you don’t know what your style is, find you keep buying clothes you end up hating months later, or experience a regular wardrobe rotation, use this guide here to define it.

When I buy clothes I buy for good, not to fit in with the new seasons must-have trend.

A good coat, gloves and hat

Following on from the above, nothing can bring an outfit together more in the winter than a quality coat, pair of faux-leather gloves and a hat.

If you invest in a winter coat you should have something that can last you for a decade. Dry clean it each year, and store in a dry place ready for the colder season to come around again.

Want to mix it up, buy two or three and rotate them over a long period of time, rather than one ‘on-trend’ throwaway jacket a year.

Well-made candles

I light a candle almost daily. I use them as part of my bedtime routine, when I am soaking in the bath and when I am entertaining over Winter.

Locally made candles are my go-to when I buy for myself, however many of my bigger candles tend to be gorgeous gifts and last for months.

Cruelty-free, good quality, face creams, room sprays and bath oils

Spend a little more on your face when you are younger, and you’ll have to spend a whole lot less as you get older. Unless you are happy aging gracefully and naturally, which is brilliant.

Personally, I like to invest in good quality serums and creams to keep my skin clear, moisturised and feeling soft. My favourites are The Ordinary Range for face serums. Nuxe dry oil spray, and Dr Hauschka Soothing Cleanser.

For room sprays, a scent can quickly calm and sooth, especially Lavender pillow spray.

For bathing, I am a huge fan of the Neal’s Yard bath oil range.

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Plants

When my husband first started coming home with plant after plant I was a little apprehensive. Now however, we have over 15 houseplants and a little vegetable garden. Watering, spritzing and tending to them daily is so calming. Plants can be quite expensive if you struggle to keep them alive, so I would advise you buy one at a time and make sure you can tend to and care for them before buying another.

Art (ish)

We don’t have masterpieces to rival the Louvre in our little home, but what we do have is priceless to us.

A painting of our favourite bay by my talented mother-in-law. A print of York, the city we have called home for five years from our brother. A wedding present from our Best Man.

All the little photos, hand painted prints from our travels and commissioned pieces hang on our walls and not only tell a story themselves, but are filled with memories on where they have come from.

Bedding

You can never underestimate the power of high quality bedding. Years ago we moved from cheap and cheerful Ikea duvets to a set we got when we were gifted as a wedding present, and it marked the point of no return!

Sleep is so important, and I personally love my Sunday mornings reading in bed with a coffee. If you are able to, invest in a quality duvet of at least 400-thread count in a breathable fabric.

Books

Something I buy regularly, and will always treasure.

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Dinnerware and Tableware

We are fortunate to have a gorgeous collection of dinnerware that has been passed down from various strands of the family in different patterns of blue toile.

This inspired my love of collecting old but beautiful strands of other table and glassware.

They don’t all match, they certainly are not part of a wider collection, but they evoke a lot of memories, and together all their differences come together and make it just…work.

Tech

It’s a given, but we have quite a bit of technology around our house. Both working in digital, and one of us being incredibly creative (clue: not me) means that we have a small selection of cameras, laptops, drawing tablets.

Without them, we wouldn’t be able to do what we both love to do (write, design and work in data) as easily.

Simple, but sentimental, jewellery

I may not have a large jewellery collection, in fact it’s really quite small, but each and every item means something important to me.

Nearly every item I have kept for a long time was gifted to me by someone special, passed down or handmade for me.

Now I wear jewellery sparingly, but meaningfully. If I perhaps suited the layered rings and necklaces look it may be a different story!

 

Thirty Things You Can Easily Throw Away Today To Make You Feel Happier.

If my home is getting a little cluttered and busy, I can guarantee that it will start to have an effect on my mind and wellbeing.

We all know the feeling. Stressed about rummaging through drawers to find something. Fed up of moving everything aside to put something back. Struggling to find room to sit down and work when your desk has become the new temporary storage shelf.

There’s a simple fix, and I assure you it won’t take long at all.

Grab yourself three big bags, boxes or containers, and look around the house (or take it one room, one day at a time if you’ve got a lot to sort) and choose if you should trash, recycle or donate the below items.

30 Things You Can Instantly Declutter

Old Magazines / Newspapers
Letters you don’t need to file
Old batteries
Old electrical wires and cables
Takeaway Menus (all online now)
Socks with holes in
Clothes that don’t fit
Clothes with stains
Tights with holes
Old towels or bedding
Expired makeup / old samples
Old toiletries
Old Groceries
Expired condiments / spices
Non-recyclable bags
Excess coffee mugs

Excess glassware
Excess utensils
Books you’ve read
DVD’s you don’t need anymore
Old cards, decorations
Excess Tupperware
Unused kids / pets toys
Excess decor
Old recipe books
Old calendars, diaries and notebooks
Clutter in work or handbags

When you have worked through it all, you should find your drawers are clearer, you living space is less ‘busy’ and you feel a lot more zen. A happy home leads to a happy mind.

When I first started to live minimally, I found I had to repeat this exercise almost bi-monthly. Now however, I am a lot more conscious around what I consume in the first place, which helps with living with less on a permanent basis.

Repeat as often as you need to, and think first before buying something you know you recently rehomed before you need to repeat it all over again in a few months time.

Save the below to your phone for a quick reference guide, or Pin it to complete later.

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Invest in quality, over quantity.

Buy well, not often.

Choose need, not want.