REFLECTING ON 2017: MY TOP 10 HIGHLIGHTS

Well hello there! Remember me? I did say I was going to be very bad at blogging this semester, but I’ve come out of my Masters-hibernation to write this reflection because I absolutely love reading other bloggers’ posts about their yearly highlights, and I really enjoyed writing one last year for 2016, which you can read here.

2017 has been one hell of a year, starting out living in the southern hemisphere all the way in Australia, and ending it back home in Manchester. It was hard to narrow down the list to just 10 favourite moments and I could have rambled on forever about each and every one, but somehow I managed it, so sit back and enjoy my brief highlights from 2017 before we welcome in the New Year.

Getting onto/Starting my Masters degree
Both of these go hand in hand really, as getting onto the course in the first place was such a big achievement for me. I’m one of 18 who got accepted onto it and couldn’t have asked for a better bunch of people to be suffering doing it with. It’s a really intense and difficult course and everyone is so supportive of each other and we’ve all become super close (I guess mutual stress and pain brings people together???). I don’t think I’ve ever said on the blog what my course actually is, just that I’m doing one and that it’s the most stressful thing I’ve ever experienced… Either way my MSc is in (take a breath) Neuroimaging for Clinical and Cognitive Neuroscience.

Au pairing
I wrote a post a few months ago about au pairing, and it is definitely one of my top highlights of 2017. I grew a lot as a person over those seven months, and it taught me that I can actually be a responsible adult when needed, and I’m capable of much more than I thought. Not only that, but I became so attached to Poppy and can’t imagine my Australian adventure without her.

Road trip through the outback
14 hours… 14 hours we drove from Orange to Adelaide, and was it worth it? Hell to the yeah it was worth it! I saw my first wild kangaroo, took pit stops in some proper rural towns, and got to visit my friend Toby in Mildura while he was completing his farm work. I also got photos at the NSW-Victoria, Victoria-South Australia, and South Australia-NSW borders which were such tourist moments but hey, it’s what I was there for.

Adelaide Fringe Festival
The Garden of Unearthly Delights was undoubtedly one of the most, dare I say it, instagrammable places I’ve ever been to. It was an incredible display of weird and wonderful lights and decorations, and pop-up bars and stalls had been derived from all sorts of things such as buses (yes, buses) and big-top tents.

Melbourne trip
Ah, Melbourne. Although Sydney was the place I called home, Melbourne is the city that holds my heart. Back in April I took a week-long holiday there and stayed with my Aussie friend, Issy. She took me to an AFL game at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, which I enjoyed a lot more than I expected, introduced me to a cafe dedicated entirely to bagels, and we road tripped along the Great Ocean Road. Her family were nothing but kind to me throughout my stay, and I’m so grateful for their hospitality that week. My friend Josh also took me on a tour of the city that included Hosier Lane, which was so cool, and I reunited with some friends I met in Sydney that I hadn’t seen in a while. At a time where I had been quite homesick this trip really cheered me up because, where Sydney is more like London, Melbourne is basically Manchester but with better food and better weather.

Boomtown
In August I experienced my first proper festival, and what an insane 5 days it was. Everyone I spoke to whilst there mentioned that I had picked an intense festival to start with, and, well, they weren’t wrong. Boomtown Fair is basically another city in itself, with different sectors and districts divided into Uptown and Downtown. Each year provides another chapter of its ongoing story, and there are actors all around the site playing out theatrical roles that make you feel like you’re actually living in this spectacular, made-up world. Another highlight from it was that I got to see Skindred live, who I’ve been a fan of since I was 15, and they certainly didn’t disappoint.

Glasgow Pride
During our annual visit to see the fam, Mum and I went to Glasgow Pride in the city centre, and it was nothing short of fabulous. Whether you were in the parade itself or just a spectator like we were, the whole day had a great atmosphere to it and I know we’ll be doing it all again next year.

Getting a job
After getting onto my MSc, my biggest worry was how I was going to fund my living expenses for the year, as my tuition fees take up my whole postgraduate loan. At the end of August though I got offered a part time job working for my University and I absolutely love it. Although working 20 hours a week alongside a full-time Masters is bloody stressful, I’ve never had a day where I’ve woken up dreading going to work, and I know that if I survive the next two semesters doing both then I’ll be a stronger person with a crackin’ CV.

Getting a car
I’m so in love with my Mini and extremely grateful for it. It’s improved my social life so much because I can just drive round to friends’ house without having to worry about walking around Fallowfield alone at night, and because I don’t drink I can drive to our local pub to hang out with my fave surf pals when they make last minute plans.

Tenerife and falling in love with surfing again
Although I vowed that I would never spend another Christmas in the sun, this year I spent it in Tenerife with my Mum. I’m so glad I went, not only because it was a nice break from the freezing cold English weather, but also because as part of my Christmas my Mum paid for me to do a surf school while we were there. I started surfing two years now but since the UMSC 2016 trip to Fuerteventura I’ve only been doing it every so often. Even in Australia I only surfed a couple of times, so I’ve not really improved much since I started. I also get quite anxious before getting in the water because my upper-body strength is basically non-existent and I always fall behind the group when trying to paddle out. Cue Tenerife and Kontraola Surf School! I spent the majority of my holiday in the water with the most amazing and supportive instructors who will always hold a special place in my heart. Surprisingly I was fine with paddling out back and over those two weeks I improved so much, with Miguel and Victoria teaching me how to turn properly and almost cutback (read: try to cutback but wipe out on rocks). I injured myself a lot over the week but hey, no pain no gain, right? I feel like I really needed that trip to make me fall in love with surfing again and get my confidence back up in the water, and now I’m sure as hell ready for Portugal in April with UMSC.

 

So there you have it, my top 10 highlights of 2017! I understand it’s quite a lengthy list, especially the last highlight, but amongst all the negative things that might have happened throughout the year it’s important to focus more attention on the good, and to continue doing so in 2018.

 

Until next year!

Liv

xo

9 THINGS I LEARNED BEING AN AU PAIR

Before I flew out to Oz I had done a lot of research (read: created multiple Pinterest boards) on traveling Australia alone and working whilst doing so. Au pairing was mentioned in multiple articles when talking about ways to experience the country more like a local than a backpacker, so it had already been on my mind as a potential job before arriving.

When I first moved to Orange I had no idea what to expect. I was putting all my trust into a family I had never met before and they were putting their trust in a backpacker they didn’t know to look after their most precious thing in the world; their one-year-old daughter. Yeah, Australians are weird…

So anyway, fast forward 7 months and I was heading back to England and making the most heartbreaking goodbye to Poppy; my little partner in crime, my number one gal, my BFF. I had the most amazing time looking after her and watching her grow and develop was truly wonderful, so I wanted to share with you guys a round-up of the main things I learned from being her au pair and add a few of my many favourite photos of my time with her too.

Kids are a hella lot smarter than you think.
They know that phones are meant to be put up to your ears, they know when you’re trying to hide something from them (read: biscuits), and I don’t know about any other child, but Poppy sure as hell knew when a camera was out and made sure she was looking her best.

Parents work bloody hard at what they do…
…and we need to give them more credit for it. Especially when their kid is throwing a tantrum in the middle of a store and they’re trying their best to calm the situation.

Peppa Pig is a bad influence.
She’s a brat. End of discussion.


I’m more responsible than I thought.
I no longer joke about how I’m not cut out for adult life because let’s face it, when you’re thrown into the deep end your instincts kick in and you realise “actually yeah, I’m pretty damn good at this whole adulting thing”.

I’m broodier than I thought.
This one makes me laugh because although I don’t want a child of my own for at least another 6/7 years, I just wanted to take Poppy back to England with me because I got so attached to her. I am excited about having my own kid, don’t get me wrong, but I think for now I’ll just stick to dogs.


Kids bring you so much joy.
My Mum always said this to me (because I’m the light of her life of course) and every time I would respond saying I very much doubt it. But through au pairing I’ve realised they will bring you all the happiness in the world when, for example, they say novel words or choose to bring a book over and cuddle with you rather than playing with toys.

Patience.
I’ve always been a relatively patient person, but that was truly tested over these seven months. I will never again take for granted how little time it takes for me to leave the house or how I can just run into a store to do a quick food shop, because a toddler who’s adamant on carrying the basket and making a run for it down the frozen isle when all you need is a carton of milk will get tiring very quickly.


Kids are not adults and we shouldn’t expect them to behave or understand like them either.
Before I became an au pair I would talk to young kids (by young I mean 1-3) using full sentences and expecting them to understand, but now I realise that using few-word sentences with only keywords such as “more or finished?” makes it easier to understand and respond. I would also expect them to behave as if they knew the consequences of their actions, but kids don’t, and that’s all a part of their innocence and they’ll learn as they go on.

Being an au pair is hard work…
…but it’s the best job I’ve ever had and I would fly back out to Oz to look after Poppy again in a heartbeat.

If you’ve been considering au pairing during your travels let me know in the comments below, especially if you have any questions you want to ask before applying! I seriously can’t recommend it enough.

 

Until next time,

Liv

xo

EXPLORING MELBOURNE: THE GREAT OCEAN ROAD

When I was planning my trip to Melbourne, I didn’t think I’d get the chance to do the Great Ocean Road, considering I didn’t have a car and didn’t want to rent one and do the trip all on my own. Cue Issy asking if I wanted to drive it with her. Of course I said yes! The road itself stretches along 243km of Australia’s south east coast from Torquay to Allansford, and was built by soldiers returning from World War 1.

Although the majority of the day was spent with an overcast sky, the views along the coast were so beautiful that the weather didn’t dampen our spirits.

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There was no way I was going to embark on this road trip and not stop off to get a picture at its famous memorial arch. Every person I know who has done the Great Ocean Road has taken the same photo, but hey, I’m a sucker for cliches.

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Along the way we stopped off at Urquharts Bluff, a beach hidden from view off the main road. Seen as we were the only ones around it was nice to just take a minute and bask in the peace and quiet away from the city, and the sun even made an appearance for the brief time we were down there.

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As Issy had to work that evening and we had set off quite late in the day we only made it as far as Lorne before heading back to the city, but not before stopping off at a pub on the main street for an early dinner. If we were doing this trip over a couple of days, which I would definitely recommend, I would like to have gone for a surf in Lorne, but instead we just settled for watching an ongoing lesson from the warm, dry confines of the pub.

Ideally I wanted to go as far as the 12 Apostles, which is around a 3 hour drive from Torquay, but I’ll just have to make that a priority for the next time I visit. Although a plus side of heading home early? RAINBOW ICE CREAM!

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Until next time,
Liv
xo

 

BREAKFAST AT HUFF BAGELRY, MELBOURNE

One thing I could eat every day for the rest of my life? Bagels. I went through an obsession in my second year of uni where that’s all I would eat, so imagine my excitement when Issy took me to a cafe dedicated entirely to bagels in Carnegie, Melbourne. Her Mum brought some home every morning for our breakfast which was super nice, and although I’m a picky eater and usually stick to plain or wholemeal, the onion and poppyseed bagels were my absolute favourite.


It wasn’t until my penultimate day in Melbourne that we actually sat in to eat. At first I thought, ‘how many bagels could there possibly be?’ and ‘will they only do bagels on their own? Or will there be proper breakfast meals with them?’. As we walked in the queue was already huge and there were no free tables in sight, but it didn’t take too long for a space to become available for us. I was spoiled for choice with the menu, ranging from sesame to blueberry and choc-chip bagels (I didn’t even know the latter two were a thing), alongside classic breakfast meals such as scrambled egg, a tuna melt, and a ‘Summer Brekky Bagel’.


Although the onion and poppyseed had been my favourite all week, I opted for the scrambled egg with a sesame seed bagel and an English breakfast tea (spot the Pommie). Even though I went with a simple option, it was still bloody delicious and kept me full for hours thereafter.


I was so sad to leave Huff Bagelry behind, so I’m hoping there’s a bagel cafe somewhere in Manchester that I’m yet to discover or someone gets the bright idea to open one themselves asap.

Until next time,
Liv

xo

EXPLORING MELBOURNE: HOSIER LANE

Hello hello! Now that I’ve got wifi back I can share with you all my little adventure to Melbourne a few weeks ago. I had heard countless times that Melbourne is way better than Sydney and that once I go I’ll ask myself why I stayed in the latter for so long. Now that I’ve actually been there I can say that this is 100% true. I really don’t know why it took me eight months to go visit the place, it stole my heart in so many ways and I wish I could have stayed there longer. This is the first in a series of Melbourne posts so I really hope you guys enjoy reading about what I got up to.

One of the main things Melbourne is known for is its crazy street art, so of course I was going to visit its most famous street and see it all for myself. Hosier Lane is just a short walk from Flinders Street station and Federation Square, and is lined with the most spectacular pieces of graffiti. Street art is widely celebrated here, which was refreshing to see, and the pieces of art were insanely good, making a once-normal laneway into an outdoor exhibition.

Just off Hosier Lane is Rutledge Lane, where not only are the buildings covered in graffiti, but also the wheelie bins that line the walls. Of course there were a ton of tourists (including Josh and I) walking along and taking photos, but it wasn’t so busy that I couldn’t stop to take some of my own and appreciate just how wonderful my surroundings were.


It was so nice to see graffiti art be appreciated as actual art, rather than just vandalism that makes a place look scruffy (which was most definitely not the case), and if you’re looking for things to do while you’re in Melbourne then Hosier Lane should be at the top of your list.

Until next time,

Liv

xo

STRAWBERRY PICKING @ BEERENBERG FARM

Good morning/evening wherever you are in the world! Aside from Fringe Festival, strawberry picking at Beerenberg Farm was also on my to-do list whilst in Adelaide. I had been told that this farm, located just outside the German town of Hahndorf, produces a really well known jam brand in Australia, and that it attracts a ton of visitors keen to pick and fill their punnets with the tastiest strawberries for themselves.

As a backpacker I wanted to see what fruit picking would be like, even if it was just for lesuire and not for regional work with the pressure of time and making money. This was a super fun way to try it out and made for a good day out away from the hustle and bustle of the city.

Entry to the strawberry fields cost $4 for an adult, free for children, and your punnets are weighed at the end, costing $9 per kilo. This works out to be more expensive than just buying them from a store but then you wouldn’t get the experience of picking them yourself right from the plant. Plus you can choose the best looking ones and Poppy came out looking like a serial killer from the amount of strawberries she had shoved into her mouth along the way.


It was so much fun hunting down the biggest and most vibrant strawberries, although I couldn’t do it all day long as it would kill your back! It didn’t take us long to fill our punnets to the brim, so we made our way back to the shop by the main entrance to pay and I couldn’t resist buying a jar of homemade strawberry jam to take home.

If you decide to visit Adelaide head to Hahndorf to explore the town and go strawberry picking yourself, or if you know of anywhere near your town that offers the experience, give it a go!

Until next time,

Liv

xo

ADELAIDE FRINGE FESTIVAL: THE GARDEN OF UNEARTHLY DELIGHTS

Hello hello! Last week Sophie and I embarked on a 14 hour road trip through the Aussie outback to Adelaide. It was a super fun week and I got to see a city I had never originally planned to visit. I had a list of things I really wanted to see and do while we were there, and Fringe Festival was at the top of that list.

Full of energy that was not at all dampened by the rain, the Garden of Unearthly Delights was the perfect set up for carnival-like venues and quirky stalls.  The street leading up to the entrance had been blocked off so no cars could pass through, so the sidewalk was full of outdoor seating for bars and restaurants, whilst the road itself was packed with people making their way to the Garden. Down one alley a pop-up bar had been put together using the scaffolding attached its neighbouring building, which looked so cool and definitely deserved a 10/10 for creativity.


As we walked into the Garden itself, the lights dangling from trees brought a magical feeling to the place already. Instantly I noticed the British double decker bus that had been turned into a bar, and an old single that was now a thrift store. Once again, top marks for imagination. The same can also be said for the rest of the venue. Every food and drink stall brought its own unique design, including Mojitos being served from a decked out caravan. I couldn’t resist buying some freshly cooked donuts from the hut next to the big top tent, and when I say “some” I mean 6. Whoops.

‘Market City’ offered a variety of shed-like shops selling clothes, handmade crafts, and Henna body paintings. I bought a super cute dream catcher for $15. It’s small enough to fit neatly in my suitcase or hand luggage when I fly home, but I would have gladly bought the larger version if travelling with it wasn’t an issue.

The Garden of Unearthly Delights wasn’t just food and drink stalls, there were ticketed shows and sideshows going on in all the venues scattered about, but I was happy just wandering around the garden itself.

Although Adelaide’s Fringe Festival has now packed up for the year, I would definitely recommend visiting during their 2018 season whether it’s to go and watch their performances or just bask in the wonder that is the Garden of Unearthly Delights,

TO THE PLACE I CALLED HOME


First of all, I apologise for being inactive over the past month. A couple of days after New Year I became really homesick and got myself worked up over what to do or where to go next now that my reason for staying in Sydney for so long had passed. However everything is sorted now and I’ve got my motivation back!

If someone had said to me a few years ago that I’d be living in Sydney for 5 months after graduating university I would have called them crazy. However since arriving in Australia this city been my home away from home and I’ve gotten to know the place like the back of my hand. My initial plan was to stay until the start of January so I could celebrate Christmas and New Year here and tick it off my bucket list, but I ended up staying an extra month, not just because it’s become my security blanket but because of the people I’ve met who have made it what it is.

I stepped out of my comfort zone when I arrived as a solo traveller, but made a load of new friends when I moved into Wake Up. I met my best friend here who I’ll be travelling the east coast with and going to live with her and her family for a month in Vermont, US. I saw two of my favourite DJs, Paul van Dyk and Eric Prydz, live and experienced my first proper festival. I tried sushi for the first time and ate it so much that Sushi Hub gave me a discount card and already knew my order each time I walked up to the counter. Queuing for two hours to get Rush tickets for Aladdin the Musical was so worth it and I would 100% recommend it if you ever get the chance. I spent Christmas Day on a beach and brought in 2017 watching the Harbour fireworks.

Living in a hostel meant spontaneous plans were always popping up, like when Maya, Kim and I took a trip to Skyzone trampoline park after deciding to go only half an hour prior, or when Maya, Meg, George, Worm and I got bored so we went and bought Monopoly, and let’s not forget MOANA SING-ALONGS! Albeit we got some odd looks playing friendship-wrecking board games in reception or the kitchen but when the hostel is basically your home you’re going to start treating it as such. And at the end of January I celebrated Australia Day even though I’m not a citizen, but hey it was a nice day out with nothing but good vibes. 

There are so many more amazing things I’ve done in Sydney but I’m sure no one wants to read an endless list. But now it’s time for me to move on and start my regional work, and although it stressed me out to no end finding a place to go (already breaking my new year’s resolution to worry less) I found the loveliest family in Orange, NSW. I’ll still be posting my unpublished drafts about Sydney such as the best things to do there and how to live in the city on a budget etc. because I feel it would be a waste of writing not to, and I hope it will help other travellers alike find their place in the big city.

So for now Sydney I bid you farewell, but don’t worry I’ll be back to visit soon enough.

Liv

xo

VLOG: TICKING OFF MY BUCKET LIST AND SPENDING NYE IN SYDNEY

Hello everybody and happy new year! I hope you’ve all had a wonderful start to 2017 and have a ton of exciting things planned for the year ahead. Within the next few days I’ll be publishing my New Year’s resolutions post, which is currently sat waiting to be edited, so keep an eye out for that!

Last week I finally bought the Canon Powershot G7X Mark ii which means I can start vlogging again, so what better way to kickstart the new year than to document New Year’s Eve in Sydney! I don’t want to go into too much detail about it because it’s all in the video, but it was such a good day/night and if you’re ever travelling Australia around this time you should head to Sydney for NYE, it certainly won’t disappoint! So without further ado, check out the vlog here!

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Until next time,
Liv
xo

REFLECTING ON 2016: MY TOP 10 HIGHLIGHTS

Hello everybody! I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and are just as bummed as I am that we’ve got to wait a whole year to do it all again. The days between Christmas and New Year provide an excellent opportunity to reflect on the past year and consider one’s expectations for the future. Although 2016 seems to the world like a year that has brought nothing but doom and gloom, it’s also important to notice the positive things that have happened throughout the year.

For me 2016 has been a year full of chapters closing, new beginnings, and opportunities that have quite literally dragged me out of my comfort zone. Whilst reflecting on all of this I put together a list of 10 of my highlights from the past year. It was so hard to narrow it down and I’ve missed out so much from this post, but I doubt you guys would want to read a neverending list of them all.

1. In the first semester of my final year of University I somehow achieved 80 in my qualitative research methods module. This went along quite nicely with the 79 I got for statistics the year before and I was in pure shock when I found out. These modules, no matter how tedious and stressful they might have been, were really important to be as I need them to stand out on my transcripts for my future PhD applications. At a time when I was so stressed it reminded me that hard work really does pay off.

2. Being on my university’s Advanced Irish and Intermediate Contemporary dance teams was so much fun, but the absolute highlight of my dance career this year was at Liverpool University’s dance competition, where our Irish team debuted our Lord of the Dance routine. Nothing can even compare to the feeling I got when we finished and looked out to see the audience and even the judges all cheering and giving us a standing ovation. We then went on to win first place at both Liverpool and Manchester’s comp!

3. In March the University of Manchester’s Surf Society went on an Easter surf trip to Feurteventura. Those 10 days were some of my best from this year and if I had the money I would gladly catch a flight out to wherever they decide to go for their 2017 trip. UMSC was such a big part of my final year of uni, and even now I still miss them all so much.

4. Graduating from university was a definite highlight from my year. The day itself was great and to spend it with my family and friends made it even more special. Everyone had worked so hard over the past 3 years and graduating felt like the end of an era, which was sad but at least I can now say I have a degree in Psychology from a Russell Group university.

5. Living at Willesden Ave for half the summer was something I won’t be forgetting anytime soon. Peter, Dale and Zim were some of the messiest yet most wonderful housemates, and I always find myself missing living with them (and Sophie, Taylor and Asa, haven’t forgotten you guys). Having the morning after debriefs in our duvet burritos, beating Peter multiple times at NBA 2K16 (I’m still in denial that I lost), and  cooking chicken nuggets at 2am whilst watching Wasted on E4 is something I actually really miss.

6. In August I took a 5 day trip to Madrid to visit Oscar before I left for Australia. I had never been there before and it was such a beautiful city. While I was waiting to be picked up after my flight I explored El Retiro park and stumbled across a huge, and I mean huge, crowd of people sat on the steps next to the lake. I later found out it was a Pokestop… Over the next few days I got to see the Temple of Debod, Plaza Mayor, Puerta del Sol, the Royal Palace, and got to eat at the Mercado de San Miguel. Watching Suicide Squad at a Spanish cinema was pretty cool, but at least it was in English with Spanish subtitles. Even now Oscar doesn’t find my Cazafantasmas joke funny…

7. Aside from graduating, the biggest and most definitely the scariest thing I’ve done this year is jet off on my Australian adventure all on my own. Doing this has so far taken me way out of my comfort zone, and although I still get homesick from time to time I’m proud of myself for plucking up the courage to move to the other side of the world.

8. Getting a job at Wake Up hostel in Sydney has to be one of the luckiest things to have happened to me since being in Australia, especially because it’s so expensive to live in this city. When I tell people I live and work in a hostel they don’t seem too impressed, but Wake Up is one of the best hostels in Australia, it’s more like a hotel, and it now feels like home. We’re basically family here and when we all start going our separate ways in January I’m going to be so sad. To keep this to a nice list of 10 I’m going to go ahead and add the staff boat party onto this one, which you can read about here.

9. Spending Christmas Day on Coogee Beach was different to say the least. A few of us went to Helen’s house first for a big roast that she so kindly cooked and I think that was the first proper meal I’ve had in four months. Maya and I then spent the rest of the day on the beach as the grassy area at Coogee was too crowded and not really our vibe. I’m glad I got to experience one Christmas away from home but I couldn’t do it again. If I stayed here permenantly I’ll be coming home for two weeks every year.

10. Over the past week I’ve been receiving all the packages my Mum had sent me for Christmas and today I received a card and a letter from my Dad. I can’t even describe the joy that I’ve felt every time I’ve gone down to reception to see that I’ve got mail, and when reading the card my Mum sent me and the letter from my Dad I had to fight back tears. Being so far away from home makes the small things matter so much more. Two of the items my Mum put in my package was a big bar of Dairy Milk and Galaxy chocolate and I was so happy (Cadburys taste horrible in Aus and they don’t even sell Galaxy). Also I don’t think I’ve ever been so excited to see a pack of Custard Creams!

So there you have it, 10 highlights from my year! I know I’ve missed off a lot and after I’ve published it I’ll probably remember something really big that I should have put on the list, but reading this makes me realise how lucky I am to have had these experiences. Here’s to a just-as-wonderful 2017!

See you guys in the new year,

Liv

xo