30 before 30

I’ve heard of this concept for years and never really gave it any thought. I have a bucket list with many many (probably unrealistic) things I want to achieve throughout my life scrawled in various journals (I’ve linked my favourite one here) and ingrained in my mind.

But this week I was just scrolling on social media (what else is there to do during lockdown?) and came across Hannah Witton’s YouTube video ‘Reacting to my 30 before 30‘. Basically, she had written this list a few years ago about the 30 things she wanted to achieve before she turned 30 years old, and had unearthed it as she now embarks on her final year of her twenties. It was a funny video to watch, as many of the things on her list were unrealistic and were heavily impacted by other life events. So it got me thinking, what would be my realistic 30 before 30?

For context, I’m 24, so despite the pandemic and not being able to do much right now, I’ve still got a good few years left to achieve these goals.

  1. Live abroad. I attempted this in 2020 and it didn’t last long enough so I want to do it again, properly this time! I’m thinking Singapore, Bali, Chiang Mai, Brisbane, Rome, Istanbul…..
  2. Go on a city break with my little sister
  3. Volunteer abroad. Again, I’ve done this before with the most incredible company ever but would love to volunteer somewhere a bit more remote, maybe Fiji or somewhere in sub-Saharan Africa?
  4. Go on a wine-tasting tour
  5. Visit 50 countries (total, currently on 24) – this might be a bit of a push given the current world crisis. I’m also more interested in really seeing the countries I visit, so if that takes longer, I’d rather do it properly.
  6. Learn to surf
  7. Start paying into a pension
  8. Buy my first house
  9. Have a fancy dinner party in said house
  10. Have a stable career which I love (finally on track for this, yay!)
  11. Go wild camping, something I haven’t done in about 10 years!
  12. Explore more of the UK. There are so many places which I’ve realised I want to visit, as staycations became more popular and accessible during last year’s summer restrictions.
  13. Try some weird foods, like oysters
  14. Do a long walk, run, or bike ride for charity (let’s face it I shall not be running)
  15. Send my friends postcards while I’m on holiday 🙂
  16. Go to a casino (and don’t waste a load of money)
  17. Go to a cooking class. Something I loved when I went to Thailand, so I will incorporate this into my travels more!
  18. See my nephews as much as possible and watch them grow up
  19. Read more than 30 books in a year
  20. Eat more plant-based meals
  21. Treat my parents to a holiday/night away/fancy meal out/something nice to show how grateful I am for everything they do for me
  22. Win at bowling at least once (it is possible, I have done in the past, but it’s a rare and prestigious occasion)
  23. Visit the British Museum
  24. Have a crazy reunion weekend with my best friends! #archsquad
  25. Read all 6 Jane Austen novels
  26. Pay for someone else’s order at a drive-thru
  27. Be able to do a pull-up
  28. Go on a cruise
  29. Get into a good fitness routine and join the gym
  30. Visit one of the wonders of the world, preferably the Great Pyramids of Giza

Ta-da! All done. I really hope these are realistic, although I can only imagine a couple of these being ticked off in 2021! I tried to steer away from the more cliché ‘get married and have babies’ because I don’t want to put that pressure on myself. To be honest I’m not bothered about any of that in the near future anyway, I just want to see as much of the world as possible, become financially stable, see more of my family and friends, and be happy 🙂

Maybe if this blog is still going in 5.5 years’ time I can revisit this and let you know how I did…

What are some of your 30 before 30?

How to set Realistic Goals for the New Year

Hey 2021!

***Disclaimer: This post is a little late, as I wasn’t sure that putting pressure on people to set goals for 2021 would be insensitive – after all, many of us have had few successes in 2020 and feel a little sad and anxious about setting ourselves up for more disappointment. However, I personally love that feeling of achievement, big or small. Ticking something off a list and feeling a little wave of joy. So whether you set goals for this new year, that’s totally up to you. Set a challenge, or something more achievable. One of your goals could be ‘get dressed once a week’ or ‘try a new recipe’ or ‘climb a mountain’. You do you, and find the joy in the little things. 🙂

Each year I start a shiny new journal/notebook and list all of my achievements from the previous year and then set out all of my goals for the next. There’s usually only 10 or so on each respective list, but I find getting both down on paper are hugely motivating and provide a sense of achievement and worth. I truly believe that lists are the greatest invention and seeing my hard-earned achievements and future goals written down on paper extremely useful to look at throughout the year during times of self-doubt or de-motivation.

2019 was a pretty great year when I look at what I wrote down. I was so proud to have graduated with a First Class Honours Degree, I bought my first car, started my blog, explored two new countries, and got my first tattoo (just to name a few!). When I wrote these down, I considered the variety of achievements and tried to channel that into my goals for 2020.

I was able to tick off about 80% of my goals for 2020, including moving to China, gaining my TEFL certificate, reaching 100 followers on the blog, and reading at least one book each month – but I wrote more about reflecting on 2020 in my last blog post. Some haven’t been attained due to Covid, but I acknowledge that those things have been out of my control and that doesn’t equal failure!

Here are some tips that I have found useful when beginning to look at my goals for 2021….

BE SPECIFIC

My only mistake with my 2020 list was that a couple of them were too vague and I therefore can’t really tick them off. For example, “give in to peer pressure less” and “drink less alcohol”…. I can’t honestly say I have achieved these because they are impossible to measure or quantify. So with that in mind, my list for 2021 is going to include goals which are more measurable and thus less frustrating.

MAKE IT AESTHETICALLY PLEASING

This might just be me but… if my list looks nice, and is written in a lovely new journal, then it just makes me even more motivated to start working towards my goals! You might be like me and enjoy handwriting them, or using different colours, tables and formats, or typing them up on a spreadsheet!

SET SMALL GOALS…

There’s nothing to say for certain that 2021 will be ‘back to normal’ as we keep hoping, but it’s always worth striving for the best we can and remaining optimistic that we can achieve our goals no matter what. Perhaps, if the idea of setting big goals for 2021 makes you feel a little anxious, simply set aside your bigger dreams for now (or add them to a Five Year Plan, which I’ll explain in a bit) and focus on the smaller goals instead.

… OR CREATE A 5 YEAR PLAN

If you would rather set goals which can continue moving forward after the year is up, consider creating a five year plan instead. This allows you to set long-term goals which you can divide into stages. For example, one of your goals for a 5 year plan might be “buy a house”. Your goal for 2021 can therefore be “save up X amount of money for a deposit” or “choose an area I want to live in”. This allows for you to ultimately continue working towards the same goal for multiple years in a row until it is fully achieved. I was originally inspired to do this after watching Hannah Witton’s YouTube video about Five Year Plans, which you can watch here.

BE KIND TO YOURSELF

It’s easy when writing down your goals to be very self-critical – this is not what goal-setting is about. Instead of aiming to change things about yourself, which may affect your mental health and how you value yourself, try to turn it into a positive goal. Change “be less —-” to “be more —-”. I was inspired to do this by the lovely Sophie Cliff AKA The Joyful Coach, whose podcast and Instagram are really uplifting. My main aim for 2021 is simply to be more joyful. ❤

CATEGORISE YOUR GOALS

A method I find quite useful is to put your goals into categories, such as ‘Financial’, ‘Relationships’, ‘Career’ and ‘Fun’. This means you aren’t solely focusing on career or financial goals; it inspires you to consider a wider range of goals that you may not have thought of originally. These varying degrees or levels of ‘achievement’ thus help to make your goals challenging yet attainable.

CONSIDER ANY OBSTACLES

Finally, I believe it is realistic to consider any potential obstacles that may prevent you from achieving some of your goals. Want to go on a road trip but don’t have a car? This might cause a problem so make sure your goal is realistic, or put a plan in place to get around obstacles.

I hope these tips are useful for some of you! One of my main goals is to read 20 books – I may even up this to 30 as my sister is doing it with me so we’ll motivate each other! Another is to walk more in the Lake District, specifically to summit 50 Wainwright Fells (out of 214) in an effort to get more fit and see more of my favourite place in the UK. Let me know in the comments what one of your goals is for 2021!

Reflecting on 2020

Did I really live in China? Like, did that actually happen or did I dream it all up?

I think about this on a regular basis, more so the past few days as I realised it has now been 11 months since I first arrived in Guangzhou to start my teacher training. To kickstart a year of teaching, learning, travelling and living it up abroad.

I know some people are probably bored of me going on about China, but it was a huge step for me (as I’m sure it would be for anyone!) and the disappointment I have felt in crushing waves since I returned to the UK has been so significant that I can’t just bury it all and never speak of it again.

The fact is, I am SO GRATEFUL and SO BLOODY PROUD of myself for making that huge leap – and making possibly an even bigger leap in deciding to come home when I felt that it was for the best.

I’m pretty sure no one’s lining up to say how amazing 2020 has been for them. We’ve all lost something, or someone, we cared about. We have all mourned in some way for the shitshow that has been this year.

But I feel that we will all have come out stronger for it. When the UK was first plunged into lockdown back in March, everyone was saying “I can’t possibly work from home! What do you mean we can only go out for essentials? But I have to see my friends and family every day!”. Well, we now know that actually, we can cope with these things, if a little reluctantly. So many businesses have remained operating from home, people have discovered that FaceTime and Zoom quizzes are a great way of catching up with their loved ones remotely, and with so many shops, restaurants and bars being shut, we have all been forced to reconsider the concept of what is truly ‘essential’.

For the last couple of years I have chosen a nice shiny new journal to write down my achievements from the year, and then the goals I have for the New Year. My achievements this year have been a little different to last year’s, but they shouldn’t be forgotten. I urge you all to take a few moments to have a think and write down a few things you’ve done this year which you are proud of. You’ll soon find that maybe 2020 did have some highlights after all. Here’s a few of mine for inspiration:

  • I moved abroad on my own
  • Came off my anxiety medication
  • Moved in with my boyfriend
  • Saved for future travels
  • Took a job I hated but grew in confidence
  • Started an apprenticeship alongside my dream job

The one key thing I have personally learnt from 2020 has been to not plan so much. Be prepared for disappointment. Have a Plan B, C, D…. Not everything will always go our way. And that is totally OK!

Look out for my next post on how to set goals for 2021 – sign up to receive email notifications here:

Don’t forget to follow along on Instagram @wheresliv_ for more adventures in 2021!

7 Places To Visit For a Winter Getaway

Usually around this time of year I’ve just been (or I’m looking to go) on a cheeky winter getaway. A long weekend somewhere in Europe, to stroll around beautiful cobbled streets, sip hot chocolates and mulled wine, browse the Christmas markets, and enjoy seeing a city from a totally different perspective.

Although this year I’ve been unable to escape the oncoming British winter, it hasn’t stopped me from looking back at past trips and scribbling down ideas for winter breaks in years to come. I asked on my Instagram a few weeks ago for others to share their favourite winter destinations, and got a wonderful variety of answers. In this article, I’ve chosen a few of my own favourites, as well as some unique suggestions from friends and family…

Berlin, Germany

Who can say no to a traditional Christmas market?! The history of Christmas markets goes back hundreds of years to the four weeks before Christmas, when market sellers would up the ante with seasonal produce, trinkets for gift exchanging, delicious food, and outdoor singing and dancing. Germany excels when it comes to putting on lavish Christmas displays, with their authentic open-air market stalls, Glühwein (hot mulled wine), stollen (fruit bread), gingerbread and Bratwürst. While you can find these things at almost any Christmas market around Europe nowadays, the treats are traditionally German delicacies and the first genuine Christmas market is thought to have been held in Dresden in the early 15th century.

There are multiple markets in Berlin, but the best are ‘Winterwelt’ at Potsdamer Platz, ‘Christmas Magic’ at Gendarmenmarkt, and the Royal Christmas Market at Charlottenburg Palace. Also, check out Stacey’s guide to Christmas Markets here!

The iconic Brandenburg Gate, Berlin

London, UK

One of the best cities in Europe for hosting epic Christmas displays is London with its Winter Wonderland! From November to January, this winter festival in Hyde Park boasts over 100 rides and attractions, from Santa Land to themed ice bars. This magical Christmas extravaganza is a must-visit for locals and tourists alike – I can’t believe I haven’t been yet! In fact, I haven’t been to London much at all so it would really feel like a holiday for me. I cannot wait to go there next year with a group of friends and soak it all up!

London’s Winter Wonderland

Budapest, Hungary

My first city break was to Budapest in February, and oh my goodness it was so cold!! It was there that I realised I really enjoyed a winter city break, as it was quieter, less expensive, and just totally different to what I expected – in a good way!

We were able to do all the usual touristy stuff, like going on a tour of the Parliament building, walking around Margaret Island, and getting the funicular up to Buda Castle and the Fisherman’s Bastion. What was unique about going during the winter, though, was that there was an ice rink outside Vajdahunyad Palace! During the summer the gardens are apparently beautiful and packed with families picnicking and basking in the sun – however I’d choose skating around next to the palace any day!

Read more about my trip to Budapest here.

Vajdahunyad Palace Ice Rink, Budapest

Kraków, Poland

If you’ve been following my blog (and Instagram) for a while now, you’ll know that Krakow is probably my favourite European city so far. It is the place where I felt most relaxed and at home during my 3 night stay, and I haven’t stopped recommending it to others ever since. The town is fairly small and quaint, with a beautiful market hall selling handmade trinkets and homegrown produce, a uniquely impressive castle overlooking the river, and the BEST dumplings I have ever tasted in my life. I would go back tomorrow purely to stock up on pierogi. A visit to Auschwitz is both easily accessible and hugely important (you MUST go, even though it’s terribly sad), and the Salt Mines are apparently a spectacular sight to see.

Check out my blog posts on Krakow here.

Grandvalira, Andorra

Ever heard of this little European country? It sits between France and Spain and is a great choice for a luxury skiing holiday at Pas de la Casa! Having visited Andorra myself in the summertime, the winding mountain passes are gorgeous and the shopping opportunities are plentiful as the entire country is duty-free! Andorran resorts are supposedly some of the best in Europe for beginner skiiers, so maybe one day I’ll try my hand at skiing (yep, I’ve never done it!) and enjoy the buzzing nightlife, which is much cheaper than resorts in the Alps.

Andorra, taken by my lovely friend Hannah

Bansko, Bulgaria

An alternatively cheaper and more unique skiing destination is Bansko in Bulgaria, which was highly recommended by one of my best friends. I don’t know about you, but I’d never really thought of Bulgaria as a holiday destination at all, let alone for a skiing trip! The rugged mountain landscapes look absolutely incredible, and I hear the food there is also to die for. Worth looking into as a more budget-friendly option next winter!

Bansko, also taken by Hannah

Marrakech, Morocco

When I asked on an Instagram poll a few weeks ago, I had lots of people suggesting a destination with a much warmer climate, to escape the cold and have one last summery getaway! There were plenty of suggestions, but to wrap up this post I thought I’d choose one of my own favourites: Marrakech, Morocco.

Just a 4 hour flight from the UK (costing less than £100 return), Marrakech is so close and accessible yet so culturally different. The climate is hot and dry – hello Sahara desert – so I can imagine visiting around Christmas time would be a welcome change from the rain and sleet we have here. Hotels are super affordable and often have swimming pools, the food is some of the best I’ve ever eaten, and there are loads of activities you can do in and around the city – see my page about my 3-week trip to Morocco last year to see what we got up to!

Any of these on your list? Or any more you think should be on mine? Let me know in the comments!

GUEST BLOG: Christmas Markets Ranked Worst to Best

by Stacey Cutten @ Stacey Explores

Given that this year we are all sadly missing our dose of Christmas festivities, I wanted to take a little time to reflect on all of European Christmas markets I have visited – so next year you can visit the best ones! I am yet to visit any German Christmas markets, so I have potentially am yet to experience the best myself. However, this task was so much tougher than I thought it would be! Do you disagree with any of my reviews? I would love to see your thoughts below in the comments!

6. Brno, Czech Republic

We visited between Christmas and New Year in 2019, and in hindsight maybe this market was a omen of 2020! Perhaps that’s a little harsh, but the market sadly seemed to be packing up by time we arrived late on 28th December – so we didn’t get to see it in it’s prime, and in truth it was a little dull.

Of the stalls that were left, they mostly consisted of mystery meat & mulled wine. The strange mystery meat matched the strange monument in the centre of the square, which interestingly enough, is actually an astronomical clock?!

Unfortunately, when the Christmas market has been exhausted, there isn’t much else to see in Brno. You can visit the catacombs and tower at the Cathedral of St Peter and Paul, but you will have to pre-book onto a tour. The city however, does has convenient train links to Vienna, Bratislava & Prague, so it is certainly worth stopping by or using as a central base to visit other major European cities. You can check out more on our trip to Brno here.

5. Luxembourg City, Luxembourg

I recall Luxembourg having a cute little market with Nutcracker style attractions and a great number of shops. Unfortunately though (unless you love shopping), it lacked a “wow” factor; which is why it finds itself so far down my list. A great benefit of travelling around Luxembourg is that all of the public transport is free. Although – be warned – on the flip side of that, if you stay out late and miss the last bus across town, taxis are VERY expensive. Honestly, that is one of the only things I can really remember about Luxembourg… expensive taxis.

4. Tallinn Old Town, Estonia

Tallinn was the first Christmas market I had visited outside of the UK and it did impress me. The Christmas market setting seems to suit the medieval old town, with cosy fire-lit restaurants presenting sword fighting, a lot of alcohol and also, the colder Baltic weather. Similarly to Brno, we visited in between Christmas & New Year, except we were instead presented with a market in full force. This was back in winter 2015 and we specifically has picked Tallinn because it’s famous for it’s market staying strong through to the New Year.

Tallinn does full further down my list that I wanted to place it, though. If this was simply a competition of Christmas markets, then it ticks most boxes. However, the Old Town & market felt like a false façade once you left the realms of the Old Town. The TV Tower is worth a visit, but please steer clear of Tallinn Zoo – we had to leave after a short visit because we were too upset with the mistreatment of animals there.

Also, be wary before visiting – Estonia has never received much of an English influence and hence, there is not much reason for many to speak English! I’m not ignorant and don’t expect everyone to speak English, but there are serious language barriers that aren’t similarly experienced in most European countries. To add to this, many restaurants seem to present “Russian meat” as a dish, and to this day I’m still not quite sure what is meant by that.

3. Vienna, Austria

Vienna was a pleasant surprise. We visited on the 27th December and the Christmas market in the Museumsquartier was still running strong! The food was probably the best of the Christmas markets I have visited, since traditional Austrian cuisine perfectly fit with the market setting. I also appreciated the low waste efforts: for hot drinks you had to put a 4€ deposit on a festive mug, which could be returned when you were finished.

Vienna is also a fantastic spot for finding other things to do, and has a historic LGBTQ+ culture. You can check out the other things we did with our time in Vienna here.

I really wanted to place Vienna first in my list. The only thing that bought it further down in the ranks was that it was just plonked in the centre of a city – without too much thought to setting aside from the wood cabin market stalls. It misses the natural appeal of being in a Old Town like Tallinn, but doesn’t make an effort to recoup some of that atmosphere.

2. Strasbourg, France

That old town/traditional setting that I just mentioned was lacking in Vienna… yeah, well I think Strasbourg stole it! Strasbourg is home an array of absolutely beautiful medieval architecture and hence, the Christmas markets are perfectly consumed by their environment and there is a seamless integration between market & city.

I suppose the downside is, the markets are SO famous that they are very busy and they somewhat don’t live up to the “perfect” image. Perhaps my expectations were set too high! I also didn’t find that there wasn’t much to do in Strasbourg outside of the Christmas market, unless you like shopping!

1. London, England

Ah, London! In all honesty, I didn’t want to put London first, because it inevitably feels biased. Maybe I am only placing it first because a Christmassy London feels most familiar to me and therefore hits the spot? Who knows. It’s also awkward that I don’t have any photos of Christmas in London… Oops!

In my opinion, I think Winter Wonderland makes the most effort of the markets I’ve visited – it certainly doesn’t pull any punches. In doing this, you receive the correct setting for a Christmas market, but then also have London to explore within arms reach… and London at Christmas certainly doesn’t hold back either! There’s just something unbeatable about the double decker red buses and the lights on Oxford Street.

The only things that let down London’s markets are firstly the cost, and secondly how busy it can get. If you have the opportunity, I would recommend visiting in the daytime on a school day. For those visiting from outside of the UK, school holiday generally fall between 20th December and the 4th January. Also, there in an abundance of activities to partake in at Winter Wonderland (Hyde Park), but make sure you book online to secure your place before your visit!

In the absence of my own photos, I’ll sign off by directing you to one of my favourite Instagram accounts: @lukepilky_locations.

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GUEST BLOG: Christmas Gift Guide For Travel Lovers 2020

by Sophie Wakely @ Sun, Sea and Solo

The festive season has officially begun!

I know that may seem a little early for some of you. However, after the recent lockdown 2.0 that has been imposed in England, November is cancelled, and Christmas has started in my household. Whether you think that it’s too soon to be decorating or not, it’s certainly time to start thinking of gifts to get someone if you haven’t already.

I’m extremely proud of myself this year, I only have a few more things to get. So whether you are a travel lover looking for Christmas list inspiration or you are looking for gift ideas for someone with a serious case of wanderlust, these are my top recommendations…

Etsy gifts

After the impact that this year has had on small businesses, I have been trying to get gifts from small businesses and have been using Etsy a lot. Not only does it mean that you can often get something for someone that is a little more personal, but you are also helping out an independent business.

Personalised Scratch Off Travel Map

There are so many scratch-off travel maps around, but the great thing about this one on Etsy is that it’s personalised and has some of the top reviews. You can either buy it in print for a more poster style gift, or you can have it framed it either black or white – From £12.99

Adventure Fund Jar

If you are someone like me and collect spare change to be banked later, I think this is a great idea. For £9.99, this is a sweet little gift for a travel lover but being under £10 makes it a fantastic secret Santa gift too.

Travel Gift Reveal Suitcase

If you are buying someone the gift of travel tickets for Christmas, this is a brilliant idea. You get to create a little scratch-off ticket to reveal the destination and put it together yourself – £5.67

Practical Gifts

Although not as fun, every person that loves to travel will be happy with a practical gift for Christmas – it’s one less thing they have to buy themselves! These are some of my top recommendations

Ankor Powercore 13000 Power Bank

Not only is a power pack always useful, but I have bought my fair share since I started attending festivals and this is by far the best one that I have used – £28.99

Anti-Theft Back Pack

This backpack is brilliant. You pack it from the back so it significantly reduced the risk of you being pick-pocketed. For me, it also makes me feel more confident when out and about, especially when travelling solo – From £12.79

Mac in a Sac

Anything travel-sized is a huge yes in my books. For something so compact and small, I can’t explain how great this coat is and even better, it’s the best wind-resistant coat I own – Price depends on product range

Benefit Cosmetic Minis

A little more than your regular travel sized products. These are a little more on the expensive side, but it makes them a great gift, great stocking filler and it makes it so much easier to take some make-up on holiday without struggling to find the space – From £12

Subscriptions

Something to fulfil yours or someone else’s wanderlust while stuck indoors?

Snack Surprise

For those missing the taste of travel. Snack surprise supply you with a monthly box of snacks, from a different country across the world. I think this is a great gift for those that can’t travel as much as they’d hope to right now – From £6.99 per month

Japan Candy Box

A taste of Japan straight to your door. I know a couple of people that either have or have had it and they loved it. Each month you get a variety of Japanese sweets, each box containing 10 treats. Although an American site, there is free shipping to the UK – From around £15 per month

This year is certainly going to be different for everyone. I for one wish that I was able to spend New Year in another country or start off 2021 knowing that I have a year of travel plans ahead. For now, things will be a little uncertain but you will find me putting up my Christmas decorations in November while singing Michael Bublé.

Sophie, SunSeaAndSolo x

WHAT TO DO FOR 3 DAYS IN THE YORKSHIRE DALES

A couple of weeks ago I went camping for a long weekend in the Yorkshire Dales for the first time and it was absolutely wonderful!! I honestly can’t believe it’s taken me so long to get there (especially as for the past 6 months I have been living less than an hour away) but now that I’ve been I will be making sure to visit again very soon… in fact, at the time of writing this post I will be going for a walk around Kirkby Lonsdale tomorrow!

Malham Cove

The other week we were incredibly lucky to have great weather; the sun was shining and it was still pretty warm, despite the occasional drizzle or gust of wind, which I don’t mind in the slightest. We stayed at Holme Farm Campsite in Horton-in-Ribblesdale which was in a great location (read: two pubs within 200 yards), didn’t dent the wallet, had average facilities (if you’re OK paying £1 for a questionably dingy shower and generally roughing it up for a few nights) and bloody gorgeous views.

It helps if you have a car to get around, as there are some great places to visit within a 10/20 minute drive from Horton. Just make sure to get up and out fairly early during peak times (summer/weekends etc.) as the car parks get quite full! Without further ado, here’s a rough itinerary for what I think you should consider doing on your trip to the Dales…

DAY 1: Kirkby Lonsdale and the Devil’s Bridge

Kirkby Lonsdale was our first stop in the Dales and what a lovely little town it is! Park up near the centre and wander around the antiques shops and boutiques, stop for afternoon tea if you feel so inclined, and walk up past the church to Ruskin’s View, a lovely viewpoint overlooking the Lune Valley below.

The main sight to see in Kirkby Lonsdale, however, is Devil’s Bridge. Notoriously, people (illegally) jump off this in summer, which seems pretty daft as the water doesn’t appear to be that deep and there’s some lovely jagged rocks at the bottom… Instead, be sensible and walk over the bridge and alongside the river, where there are plenty of places to stop for a picnic. There’s also some great footpaths around here so take yourself off for a wander and end up back in town.

Devil’s Bridge

There’s also White Scar Caves about 15 minutes’ drive from Kirkby Lonsdale, which are apparently good fun to visit (especially with kids); they showcase the UK’s longest cave system at over 6km! I hope to visit next year when it’s warmer and not so busy. More information about tickets and current opening times are on their website.

DAY 2: Ingleton Waterfall Trail and Ribblehead Viaduct

One day of your 3 day itinerary HAS to be spent walking the Ingleton Waterfall Trail. Get here early because it’s pretty busy (they are currently working on a one way system so that the paths don’t get blocked) and be prepared to pay a little more than you’d expect just for a walk, but trust me it’s worth it. Beginning with a short walk to Pecca Falls, the trail takes you through lush woodland and is, in places, built into the side of the rockfaces lining the valley.

Ingleton Falls

The trail is an 8km long (4.5 miles) loop so can easily be done in a couple of hours, but you will want to stop for refreshments and for photos along the way as it is one of the most scenic walks I have ever done in the UK! The ‘end’ of the loop is Ingleton Falls, a spectacular waterfall to say the least, and curves back around the take you through Baxenghyll Gorge, another prime photo spot!

Once you’ve completed the waterfall trail, drive 10 minutes away to Ribblehead Viaduct for yet another jaw-dropping sight! This 32-metre-high railway bridge looks like a miniature of Glenfinnan Viaduct (where Harry Potter was filmed in Scotland) and is super impressive to look at. Park up on the side of the road and walk across the fields to marvel at it up close, and explore some of the nearby footpaths if you’re up for another walk in the beautiful Dales.

Ribblehead Viaduct

DAY 3: More waterfalls & Malham Cove

Probably my favourite day of the weekend was our final day, a slightly longer walk from Janet’s Foss to Gordale Scar, up to the hilltop overlooking the valley and around to Malham Tarn and Malham Cove.

Janet’s Foss

We drove to Malham and walked to Janet’s Foss, another wonderful waterfall in the area. From there we ventured over to Gordale Scar; this was a pleasant surprise as the path leading up to it looks like it’s just going to a dead end at a cliff face… but how wrong was I! Gordale Scar is another small waterfall cascading down the cliffs and pooling in a little cove. It was beautiful enough but then we hiked up a steep path to the top of the ridge and were greeted with an incredible view of the Scar and the winding valley below.

Looking into Gordale Scar

From Gordale Scar we hiked a few miles to Malham Tarn. While there’s not much to write home about here (it’s a nice enough lake with a stately home over the other side), Malham Cove is really where it’s at. The Cove was a slight scramble down from the height we had been hiking at, and again didn’t look like much on the approach, until we reached the edge of the cliff and saw the magnificent view of the valley stretching for miles! Malham Cove is also where Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part I was filmed, so it’s a popular tourist spot.

After scrambling down more steps to the valley below, look back at the Cove and the tremendous cliff face above you – and try to spot the climbers making their way up!

I hope this is a useful guide if you’re planning on visiting the Yorkshire Dales – or maybe some inspiration if it’s never been on your radar before!

24 REASONS TO TAKE A GAP YEAR

August has been a bit of a turbulent month for many people. Covid continues to be a threat to everyday life, jobs are uncertain, and young people are now facing the long-term effects of the poor management of the A-level results system.

A* grade students were knocked down to D grades. Thousands didn’t get into university. My heart broke for all the students now unsure about their futures. Luckily, the following week this algorithm was scrapped and students were awarded their teacher predicted grades. A huge victory, but perhaps a little too late for some who still couldn’t get a place on their university courses.

Yet there is still hope! If you are a student who has been forced into taking a gap year, don’t be disheartened. From my experience (and many many others) having a year out is a great opportunity for a plethora of reasons.

I asked on my Instagram for others to share their experiences and anecdotes, and the results were 100% positive. Every single person agreed that it was right for them and they gained so much from their gap year. Some may have had one before uni, some after, or some have carried on living the ‘gap life’.

Here’s 24 reasons why taking a gap year at any point in your life is a fantastic decision!

  1. You have a year completely at your own pace. Enjoy it.
  2. A gap year can be a welcome delay before embarking upon the journey towards ‘real life’, and relieve the pressure of making big, important decisions.
  3. You can TRAVEL! Of course I’m a huge advocate of this one – travelling was my goal for my gap year and I learned so much about the world, other religions, cultures…. and just generally had fun!
  4. You have time to volunteer. Have you ever wanted to volunteer for a charity or great organisation but kept using the excuse that you couldn’t afford it or you didn’t have the time? A gap year can be the time to do that. I volunteered in Sri Lanka for 6 weeks and it was the best experience of my life.
  5. You can expand your CV. Probably what most people do in their gap year is get a job! This can be your chance to really expand your skill set and gain valuable work experience, as well as develop a strong work ethic.
  6. You have time to really think about your career, education and future. Loads of people end up on a totally different path at the end of their gap year, because they’ve had time to re-assess and follow their dreams.
  7. To get a break from education! Another common theme seems to be that a lot of people didn’t want to be the ‘eternal student’. Take a break from the books and relax.
  8. You can change your mind a hundred times, and that is OK. Kind of like point no.6, you have the time to look at the bigger picture and re-assess whether your goals from college/sixth form/wherever are still your goals. You can change your mind and your career until you find out what you really want to do.
  9. Decide whether university is for you. Maybe it could be your chance to look into other options, like apprenticeships, internships, alternative college courses or work abroad.
  10. Make new friends and strengthen your bonds with old ones, too.
  11. Gain some independence, even if you still live at home.
  12. You can focus on your personal growth – many people find they get a huge confidence boost from travelling, working, and being more independent for a year!
  13. Take up a new skill or hobby!
  14. Think about what makes YOU truly happy. Ignore your Grandma telling you to get a ‘real job’ or that uncle telling you to ‘stop being selfish’ or your auntie’s cousin’s dog’s godmother telling you to ‘settle down’. YOU DO YOU.
  15. Be selfish for a year. Embrace everything that comes your way.
  16. Save money.…. and spend it on whatever you want!
  17. There are no expectations from a gap year. It’s not one of those things where everyone has the same outcome at the end. It doesn’t matter where you are with your career, education, relationship… there is no expectation and therefore no disappointment.
  18. Create a bucket list and start ticking them off!
  19. Be spontaneous! Me and a friend booked a random trip to Budapest the following week – best spontaneous trip ever!
  20. Spend more time with family and friends.
  21. …… or just with yourself, if that’s what you need.
  22. Focus on your health – mental and physical.
  23. It’s only a year! I’ve heard so many people saying they’ll ‘miss out’ on uni if they take a gap year….eh?! University will still be there after if you want to go. Trust me, you will NOT be missing out on uni just because you take ONE year out. Have an epic year and then head to uni for another incredible 3 years – both are fantastic!
  24. It is completely flexible! If you want it to be. There’s zero commitment. Take a second gap year, or 3 or 5 or 10! It’s your life and you call the shots.

There’s many many more reasons why I recommend anyone to take a gap year, so I hope this can help any students who have been disheartened or upset by the events of the past few weeks. If you have any thoughts to add, leave them in the comments below!

WHY YOU SHOULD TAKE A STAYCATION THIS YEAR

Is it safe to travel during the current pandemic? A question a lot of us have been asking ourselves recently.

Unfortunately there doesn’t seem to be a straightforward answer, and to be fair there’s no right or wrong answer either. The only problem I have with this topic is that many people are calling it ‘post-Covid’ travel. Coronavirus is still a pandemic. It continues to infect and kill people around the world on a daily basis: it is current, not past. Just something to bear in mind, this isn’t over yet.

Over on my Instagram page (@wheresliv_) there have been a lot of discussions around the topic and it’s been really interesting to hear other peoples’ points of view from all around the world! The most popular opinion seems to be that we should all take a staycation instead of travelling internationally this year! Here’s the top reasons why you should choose to take a staycation in 2020…

There’s so much to see!

It’s pretty basic, but there’s reason number 1 for you! There’s soooo much in our own backyard that we’ve yet to explore. Some of my friends have been taking road trips around the UK and it’s made my bucket list grow exponentially! Whether it’s just going for walks around your local parks or villages, getting a train to somewhere new and exciting, or venturing into the city for coffee and food, you’re bound to have a wonderful time!

It’s keeping people safe

Possibly the most important reason to take a staycation this year is so that you don’t risk catching or transferring the virus to anyone overseas. Some countries have a really great handle on the virus at the moment and the UK isn’t doing so great – hence many people’s (including myself) moral dilemma with travelling this year.

They’re inexpensive

Most places in your own country are going to be cheaper than getting a plane and booking resorts or fancy hotels abroad, so save the pennies and have a look at holidaying nearby! It could also be an opportunity to try new methods of travelling, such as camping, glamping, or hiring a van for a roadie!

You can go just for a couple of days

Without having to travel further, there’s no need to take weeks off work! You can just take the odd day here and there and go for mini adventures over the weekends, making it super easy to snatch a break or two this summer!

It’s better for the planet

Staying closer to home makes it easier to reduce your carbon footprint, a huge added bonus if you’re conscious of your impact on the environment (if you aren’t, you should be ;).

Support the local economy

Travelling in your home country helps your local cafes, restaurants, shops and businesses. This is a really important reason to travel locally at the moment, as the pandemic has had a significant impact on not only the travel and tourism trade, but also small businesses.

…and eat local!

Instead of only heading to chain restaurants and multinational corporations, seek out local pubs and eateries to support!

Where have you been for a staycation this summer? I’d love to hear all about it, and maybe add them to my list!

72 HOURS IN… BUDAPEST

For my 50th blog post (!!) I thought I would finally get around to writing about my first ever independent city break, Budapest!

During my gap year, I was working and saving up for my big 3 month adventure around Southeast Asia. About halfway through my 7 months of working at a camping store, I decided to book a spontaneous European city break.

I didn’t have any expectations or ideas about where to go, so I just looked for the cheapest flights leaving the following week (in February 2016) and ended up with Budapest! I asked one of my best friends if she wanted to come with me and it was a resounding yes!

It is probably one of my cheapest city breaks to date, costing less than £200 for 3 nights/4 days, including flights, airport parking, accommodation and food! My sister also went on a solo trip there last summer and loved it (and shared some of her pics for me to use here, thank you Lottie!). Here’s my guide to having the best stay in Budapest…

Heroes Square
Fisherman’s Bastion

WHAT TO SEE & DO

  • Szechenyi Thermal Baths – these are the largest thermal baths in Europe!
  • Parliament Building – the most popular tourist attraction and iconic landmark of Budapest, the Parliament building is stunning from the outside and equally as ornate and interesting on the inside! Book a tour online or at the tourist office for around £10.
  • Buda Castle – first completed in 1265, the huge Baroque complex standing there today was actually built in the 18th century and now houses the Hungarian National Gallery.
  • St. Matthias Church and Fisherman’s Bastion – the uniquely tiled Church and Neo-Romanesque terraces of the bastion offer the most incredible panoramic views of the city and the famous River Danube.
  • Heroes Square – this iconic statue complex features the 7 chieftains of the Magyars and other important Hungarian leaders. It’s a huge sculpture and worth a visit!
  • Vajdahunyad Palace – in winter this is home to an ice rink, and in summer it is a boating lake!
Vajdahunyad Palace ice rink
  • St. Stephen’s Basilica – named after the first King of Hungary, the basilica is a beautiful building
  • Margaret Island – this island in the middle of the river is filled with flowers and a musical fountain in summer. Hire a bike and cycle around the island on your way across the river!
  • Jewish Quarter – now thought to be the trendier part of the city, the Jewish Quarter is popular with backpackers heading out on pub crawls and exploring the city’s galleries.
St. Matthias Church

HOW TO GET AROUND

As usual, I stuck to walking around the city! We hopped on a bus to cross from Pest to Buda which cost just a few pence, and when we visited the castle and Fisherman’s Bastion we got the funicular up the hill which cost around 1,200 Hungarian Forint, which is approximately £3. The view of the River Danube and the Parliament building on the other side as you go up is incredible, so it is definitely worth doing!

Looking down as we headed up the funicular
The view of the Parliament building and Danube from Fisherman’s Bastion

WHERE TO STAY

We stayed in a cute little Airbnb about 10 minutes’ walk from the Parliament building and it only cost £14 per night – split between the two of us that made it around £20 each for 3 nights!

There are plenty of other options for great places to stay in Budapest. I always recommend finding somewhere on Airbnb as having your own kitchen facilities is great if you’re on a budget. Flow Hostel is highly recommended, as is Hostel One Basilica.

Parliament building in summer

WHAT TO EAT & DRINK

  • Hungarian Goulash – this beef and vegetable stew is Hungary’s most famous dish and is absolutely delicious, especially on a cold winter day!
  • Chimney Cake – the official dessert of Hungary, Kürtőskalács is a warm spiralled sweet bread, crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside, covered in sugar and often cinnamon or chocolate. You can buy them freshly made on the street for about 800 Forint (~ £2).
  • Hungarian Pudding Cake – a classic dessert typically filled with sweet cottage cheese and vanilla cream.
  • Unicum – the national beverage of Hungary is a (very strong) herbal liqueur
  • Plenty of hostels run pub crawls, and there are loads of pubs and bars on the Pest side of the river (and in the Jewish Quarter) which are super affordable and popular among interrailers and backpackers in summer. For fancier cocktails, head to Warm Up Cocktail Bar where they make tailor-made cocktails to your preference!
Chimney cake, credit: Pinterest