Nikki’s Top Travel Tips

Packing
Be realistic about what you actually will wear vs what you think you’ll wear. You don’t need 1/2 the gear you think you do to travel anywhere. We’ve all done it. It’s a right of passage for travelers to slowly become better at packing less. My first suitcase was filled to the brim and almost at its weight restriction. You can imagine how hard it was to lug cross country around Europe then having to pay to send stuff home. Lay out everything you need on the floor or bed and cut in half. Roll your clothes instead of folding, takes up way less room and less crinkles on your clothes. Fill dead space by rolling undies and socks and filling your shoes with them. Make sure you pack a spare pair of clothes in your carry on. So nice to have something fresh on hand after a long flight.

Patience Is Important
Don’t sweat the stuff you can’t control. Life is much too short to be angry & annoyed all the time. Did you miss your bus? No worries, there will be another one. ATMs out of money? Great! Take an unplanned road trip over to the next town and explore. Sometimes freak-outs happen regardless.

Wake Up Early
Rise at sunrise to have the best attractions all to yourself while avoiding crowds. It’s also a magical time for photos due to soft diffused light, and usually easier to interact with locals.

Laugh At Yourself
You will definitely look like a fool many times when traveling to new places. Rather than get embarrassed, laugh at yourself. Don’t be afraid to screw up, and don’t take life so seriously.

Stash Extra Cash
Cash is king around the world. To cover your butt in an emergency, make sure to stash some in a few different places. I recommend at least a couple hundred dollars worth. If you lose your wallet, your card stops working, or the ATMs run out of money, you’ll be glad you did. Some of my favourite stash spots include socks, under shoe inserts, a toiletry bag, around the frame of a backpack, even sewn behind a patch on your bag.

Meet Local People
Make it a point to avoid other travelers from time to time and start conversations with local people. Basic English is spoken widely all over the world, so it’s easier to communicate with them than you might think, especially when you combine hand gestures and body language. Learn from those who live in the country you’re visiting. People enrich your travels more than sights do.

Pack A Scarf
This simple piece of cotton cloth is one of my most useful travel accessories with many different practical applications. It’s great for sun or wind protection, entering religious areas, a makeshift towel, carrying stuff around, an eye mask, and much more. I can’t tell you how many times a scarf has come in handy around the world.

Observe Daily Life
If you really want to get a feel for the pulse of a place, I recommend spending a few hours sitting in a park or on a busy street corner by yourself just watching day to day life happen in front of you. Slow down your thoughts and pay close attention to the details around you. The smells, the colours, human interactions, and sounds. You’ll see stuff you never noticed before.

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Take Lots Of Photos
You may only see these places & meet these people once in your lifetime. Remember them forever with plenty of photos. Don’t worry about looking like a “tourist”. Are you traveling to look cool? No one cares. Great photos are the ultimate souvenir. Just remember once you have your shot to get out from behind the lens and enjoy the view.

Break Out of Your Comfort Zone
Challenge yourself to try things. The more you do this, the more that anxiety will fade away. Not a hiker? Go on more hikes. Have trouble talking to strangers? Talk to everyone. Scared of weird food? Eat the weirdest thing you can find. The reason this works so well while traveling is because everything is already so different, what’s one more new/uncomfortable experience?

Back Everything Up
Keep both digital and physical copies of your passport, visas, driver’s license, birth certificate, insurance card, and important phone numbers ready to go in case of an emergency. Backup your files & photos on an external hard drive as well as online with software. Leave a copy with family here in Australia. This has saved me before.

Smile & Say Hello
Having trouble interacting with locals? Do people seem unfriendly? Maybe it’s your body language. One of my best travel tips is to make eye contact and smile as you walk by. If they smile back, say hello in the local language too. This is a fast way to make new friends. You can’t expect everyone to just walk around with a big stupid grin on their face. That’s your job. Usually all it takes is for you to initiate contact and they’ll open up.

Keep An Open Mind
Don’t judge the lifestyles of others if different from your own. Listen to opinions you don’t agree with. It’s arrogant to assume your views are correct and other people are wrong. Practice empathy and put yourself in someone else’s shoes. Embrace different possibilities, opportunities, people, suggestions and interests. Ask questions. You don’t have to agree, but you may be surprised what you’ll learn.

Pack Ear Plugs/Noise Cancelling Headphones
This should actually be #1 on the list. I love my noise cancelling headphones! Muffle the sounds of crying babies, drunk Australians, barking dogs, honking horns, and more. A traveler’s best friend.

Don’t Be Afraid
The world is not nearly as dangerous as the media makes it out to be. Keep an eye out for sketchy situations but don’t let that be the focus of your whole trip. Use common sense and you’ll be ok. Most people are friendly, trustworthy, generous, and willing to help you out.

Get Lost On Purpose
If you want to see the parts of town where real people live & work, you need to go visit them. The best way to do this is on foot — without knowing exactly where you’re going. Write down the name of your hotel so you can catch a taxi back if needed, then just pick a direction and start walking. Don’t worry too much about stumbling into dangerous neighbourhoods either, as locals will generally warn you before you get that far.

Eat Local Food
Think you already know what Mexican food tastes like? You’re probably wrong. Taste a bit of everything when you travel, especially if you don’t know what it is. Ask local people for recommendations. Eat street food from vendors with big lines out front. I’ve been very sick only twice in all my travels & it wasn’t from street food. Don’t be scared of the food.

Keep Good Notes
When I first started traveling the world 12 years ago, I didn’t keep a good journal, and now I’m regretting it. Information like the names of people I met, conversations I had, feelings about a new experience, or what a particular town smelt like. If you ever want to write about your travels, these details are handy. I started handwriting everything in a travel journal from Typo. If you’re App-savvy use an incredible note-taking app called Evernote. It’s so useful for all kinds of applications — from planning trips to journaling about them later.

Don’t Plan Too Much
The truth is I have no idea what you’ll enjoy or who you’ll meet along the way. I thought I’d rocket through Paris & New York in a week but I could have had 2 weeks in both. My advice is to pick a starting point, 1 or 2 must-do activities, then just let the universe determine the rest.

Listen To Podcasts
Podcasts are awesome. It’s like creating your own personal radio station and filling it with shows and music you always want to listen to. I never thought I’d actually look forward to a 8 hour bus ride. But with podcasts, it’s possible (well, as long as the seats are comfortable). Time will fly by as you listen to incredible storytelling, fun music, or interviews with experts.

Treat Your Body Well
Travel can throw your body out of whack. When you’re moving from place to place it’s difficult to maintain a workout routine, and many of us slack off. Or we don’t sleep enough. Or we eat too many cupcakes.  Remember to be nice to your body. Get enough sleep, stay hydrated, eat healthy, use sunscreen, and exercise often.

Stay In Touch
Remember to call your family & friends from time to time. Maybe surprise them and go old-school by sending a postcard (it’s in the mail, Mum!). Travel isn’t lonely, far from it. You constantly meet other people. But many of those relationships are fleeting. So maintaining a strong connection with the people who know you best is important.

Finally… Travel More
If there’s one thing I’ve noticed over the past 5 years in my job, it’s that many people love to tell me how lucky I am, while making excuses why they can’t travel. “It’s too expensive. They can’t get time off work.” When I suggest solutions to these “problems”, they still don’t take action. Why? Because they’re often hiding behind the true reason: they’re scared. Unfortunately most people who wait to travel the world never do. Just get out there more than you do now. Start with a weekend in a different state. Then maybe try a week in the country next door. The new car, remodeling project, and iPhone can wait. If you truly want to travel more, you can make it happen. It’s a big, beautiful, exciting, and fascinating world out there.

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It’s about QUALITY not QUANTITY.

I’m very picky with whom I give my energy to in my life and friends are no exception. As time goes on your circle decreases in size but it increases in value. Be with the people who know your worth. You don’t need too many people to be happy, just a few real ones who appreciate who you are.

The blunt friend…

She never shit talks me, if she has something to say I can count on her to lay it on me straight because talking behind her friend’s back just isn’t in her nature. She holds truth to the highest standard, but sometimes what she has to say isn’t what I always want to hear but it’s what I need to hear. She cracks me up every single day and how blessed was I to work with her by my side for 18 months. We can always have meaningful and nurturing discussions, if that wasn’t enough we would always have the most unforgettable nights out. This amazing girl has shown me that it is okay to stand up for myself and we support one another through the good and the bad without ever taking the other for granted.

The one who’s been around for a two decades…

We are comfortable with each other’s silence, we finish each other’s sentences and we go on trips of a lifetime together. The snapchats get uglier as time goes on, she knows all the deepest darkest secrets and she is the one my future hubby has to win over. She has been my therapist for more years than I can count and driving to one another’s house at midnight to comfort all the tears is never a burden. We have too many crazy stories that when they get retold we can’t speak, we just die of laughter. I can tell her anything without being judged. She’s the girl who has been through it all with me and still teaches me to never be afraid of love.

The girl who walked into my life and instantly we clicked…

Sometimes you meet a person through a friend or a boyfriend one night at a party and you just immediately click. This girl is a rare gem, cherish her! You’re comfortable with her like you’ve known each other your whole life and you don’t have to pretend to be anyone or anything you’re not. She is fierce, strong-willed and my voice of reason. We can go weeks without speaking or months without seeing each other, but when we do, we pick up like we just saw one another 3 days ago. She is my motivator and keeps me pumped to tackle whatever comes my way.

The sister I never had…

The day we were going meet I was so scared of her and I wanted to make a good impression, she was my boyfriend’s closest family member and yeah I wanted to win her over. The day we met, I knew she would play an important role in my life and has stuck by me for 8 years. Good friends with good hearts serve an incredible purpose in our lives and she is one of those. She needs me and I need her, spending time together goes way too quick. We don’t share the same genetic makeup but after all the sleep overs, heart to hearts, nights out and paying bills until our bank accounts cry, how could I not consider her family. She’s the one that if I murdered someone, I’d call to help me drag the corpse across the living room floor.

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I’m forever grateful for these chicks and I say to everyone else out there if you want to find out who’s a true friend, screw up or go through a challenging time and then see who sticks around. It’s because of these truly amazing girls, I laugh a little harder, cry a little less and smile a lot more.

Things I have learnt to keep a relationship alive.

Things I have learnt to keep a relationship alive.

Yes, I know I’m currently single but man have I learnt a lot from past relationships. Who hasn’t?! Some people think that being in a relationship in your early 20’s makes no sense at all. They assume you’re wasting away your youth; however I couldn’t disagree more. During this time it’s fun (and always should be no matter your age), you learn valuable lessons and you truly find what you need in a partner and what they need in you. Dating & Relationships should be an exciting time and you should never stop making effort for one another.  Here are some things I have learnt…

Making time for a “Date Night” 

Everyone is busy, I get it! Between being over-worked, having  family and social commitments, there is hardly time to fit in an episode of Netflix, let alone have quality time to spend with your partner. When was the last time you and your partner had a Date Night, just the two of you or put away your phones and switched off the TV to have quality time together? I love getting out of the house; I get cabin fever being cooped up all the time. But now and then I do also love a good night in with a movie, doona, a few bevvies and snacks. Date night doesn’t have to always be out of the house nor do you need to spend a fortune. Just carve time out to be focused on each other, once a week or fortnight. I saw on Pinterest this amazing Date Night idea, it a Date Night Jar. What an amazing way to avoid the “What do you wanna do?”, “I dunno, you?”
All you need is a Mason Jar, coloured icy-pole sticks and a Sharpie. Point to note: colour code to identify different categories and make a key on the inside of the jar lid. Make 100 date ideas; include what you love, what your partner loves and what you both love doing together. Better yet how about adding in a few of those Bucket List things you’ve always spoke about wanting to do. Now to categorise the dates; categories can be: Out of the House, Free, Indoor Activities and Outdoor Activities. For some amazing ideas click on link at the bottom of the page.

Set honest expectations from the start

Over the past 7 years of dating and relationships this would have to be in my opinion the most important rule when it comes to any kind of dating and that is to be clear on what your expectations are with the relationship. If you see it lasting for the long run, then make sure that your partner knows that. If you’re looking for someone just to have sex, then say that as well. Being honest with your expectations is fair on both of you, it shows confidence and respect. Too many of us by-pass this whole rule to avoid the awkwardness of not being on the same page and ending up alone. But I know I would rather be honest than to find out weeks later I have wasted my time and energy with someone who did not have the same feelings. Or even worse to actually be that person that lets the other cruise along, all the while they have more feelings on where this is heading.

You can still have friends

Never exclude yourself from your circle of friends to hang out with your partner 24/7. Your partner isn’t the only thing that’s important in your life. You still have other people who want to spend time with you. Be sure to keep up with your friends and do fun things together. They have been by your side for years and you need to give your partner space to keep the relationship fresh.

Nagging isn’t cool

We’ve all been told ‘chill’ and ‘stop nagging me’. If you’re anything like me I like sh*t done yesterday not tomorrow. I’ll admit it; I can be nag if I feel I am not being heard. Your partner will do things that piss you off, as you will to them. Don’t nag. This is immature and you will lose your partner’s respect for doing it. Openly and calmly discuss your opinion and why you feel the way you do. Say things when you think of them before they build up and you explode at your partner.

Keep your relationship semi-private

It’s ok to post a couple of cute pictures here and there on Instagram and Facebook, but the reality is that people really don’t want to see pictures of you kissing multiple times per day *cue the spew bucket*. While people may be happy about your relationship, they don’t want to hear about it 24/7.

Always be yourself and let your partner do the same

Let yourself and your special someone be themselves. You were attracted to this person for a reason, and there’s no need to try and change them. Never let someone try to change you; you are who you are, and if that’s not good enough for either of you, then lets be honest this isn’t really a relationship that’s going to work.

Communication is important

Open communication is critical in a long-lasting relationship. Each night, talk about your day, your concerns, your thoughts and your dreams with one another. There is nothing I love more than to reflect on my day with my partner, all the great things to celebrate and even the shitty things to help you wind down, re-focus and move forward. It can start to feel lonely not having someone to talk to at the end of the day, even just to be asked “How was your day babe?” can go along way. And always remember that when the other person is talking, be sure to listen and communicate your interests and feelings.

You need trust, but don’t be naive

Trust is the backbone of all relationships. Don’t hack your loved one’s phone, this isn’t going to solve anything. If you feel you have to do that, then question yourself “Why?” If situations arise make sure you trust only reliable sources and openly communicate with your partner.  On the flip side, don’t be naive about the situation either. You both deserve to be happy, and if things don’t work out, they don’t. Yeah, it will hurt but why put yourself through the pain and anxiety. There is someone out there who will treat you right.

Excitement

A relationship should inspire passion in both of you no matter what’s going on. When your partner walks through the door, are you excited to hold them in your arms? To kiss them? To want to do nothing but run your hands all over their body? Successful relationships turn on the passion at the start and never turn it off. Yes, of course it might cool slightly for periods of time – like after children are born – but it never dies completely, and it can always be rekindled.

Finally… be adventurous and enjoy your time together

You’re still in your 20s and you should be having as much fun as possible. Take time to do both of your favourite things. Be adventurous and try something new that you’ve both never done before. *cue the Bucket List dates from your Date Night Jar*. And remember don’t take yourself all too seriously.

DATE NIGHT JAR LINK

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A year in my shoes.

A year in my shoes. my twenty-sixteen

Twenty seventeen is here in 16 days and at first I was like ‘bring it effing on’. I’m exhausted, flat out broke, ready for a fresh start [all that New Year, New Me bullsh*t] as I felt my year had not been anything great.

Yes, I’ve travelled (5 countries this year), smashed goals and had some of the biggest career highlights; things I’d been chasing for half a decade, but I felt like a fraud looking back. Of course we only tell people what they want to hear and we only post on social media what we want others to see. #lifeonfleek

This past year has been probably my hardest one yet and there has been a lot I have not shared in its entirety nor have I been able to fully express my struggles and emotions. I seriously cannot remember having this many anxiety attacks, fits of rage and tears like I have in the past 12 months. Being so estranged from what I though was ‘my world’ and my own self; I don’t know if you know who you are until you lose yourself. This past year has been a journey of rediscovery; I truly lost who I was, what I loved and where I was going. You reach a point when you can no longer count the amount of devastation you’ve been through. But after each hardship, examine yourself. You’ll find that a better, stronger, more incredible version of yourself has emerged from the wreckage. Hopefully you realise to never regret the risks you’ve taken, or be ashamed of your failures, because they put you one step closer to your final destination. Every soul needs fire to transform; be brave whilst you burn, you are allowed to be both a masterpiece and a work in progress simultaneously.

This past year I have lived alone for the first time and I encourage anyone in their 20’s to do this once; you will be surprised on how much you learn about yourself. I will admit there was a fair share of lonely moments (especially living away my home town) and I did forget to look after myself. My emotional and mental health was on the verge of breaking point, I stopped socialising and threw myself into my work as an escape, I ate poorly and I gained close to 10 kilos. In my darkest days I felt that so much of who I thought I was, was taken away from me. But enough was enough; I could not live in self-pity anymore, one day I said to myself ‘girl, you cannot live like this, you’re fuelling the fire’. I’m glad I lived alone, as only you can fix yourself, only you can motivate yourself! I started to get out of the house, do more with family and make more effort with friends, minimalised my lifestyle and it was such a breath of fresh air. There is something amazing about self-discovery; you grow into a better version of yourself.

I find myself going back to what I am grateful for to remember who I am. Three places that make me feel whole: a plane – ready to discover the unknown in a whole new world. Two, being around those I love the most and lastly I’ve always loved the shower – having the hot water cleanse my mind body and soul. I challenge you to ask yourself what are your three places that make you feel whole again and why? Looking deep down to the very depths of who you are, what would you find? I would find that I am fierce, loyal, independent, intelligent, amazing at my job, a caring soul with so much love to give, beautiful, funny, I put others first, I’m daring and loveable.  Sometimes you have to step outside, get that air and remind yourself who you are and what you want to be.

After some gratitude journaling and reflection, my 2016 was also pretty darn amazing; I had the courage to leave behind a toxic relationship, I moved back to the people that mean to most to me to ensure I had the best support network around, I’ve booked an amazing holiday to Europe with my Biffle (BF4L), I’ve grown a backbone, learnt what to give a f**k about and what not to, learnt whose opinions matter and those that don’t and who to distance myself from and who I need to make time for. Slowly I’m learning to let go of the things I cannot control, I am finding a love for myself again & I know what I am capable of.

“I don’t know if you know who you are until you lose yourself.”

I leave you with this; the 7 Rules of Life:

  1. Make peace with your past so it won’t disturb your future.
  2. What other people think of you is none of your business.
  3. The only person in charge of your happiness if you.
  4. Don’t compare your life to others.
  5. Time heals almost everything. Give it time.
  6. STOP thinking so much, it’s alright not to know all the answers (something I have to tell myself daily).
  7. Smile. You don’t own all the problems in the world
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Because I’m twentysomething.

Because I’m twentysomething.

When I was thirteen, I couldn’t wait to be eighteen.  And when I was sixteen, I planned to be married by age twenty-six & have two kids by thirty. I’ll always smile to myself when I think about how time changes things.

A funny thing happens about the time you turn twenty-five. People start asking about marriage and kids and houses. You begin to worry about savings, retirement, and health insurance.  You start spending your money on plates, pots, new tyres, right? And sometimes you start to compare your 25 years with everyone else’s. You wonder if you’re on the right track, if you’re falling behind, you start going to your friends’ weddings and buying baby gifts for second birthdays. Suddenly you realize you’re at the exact age that seemed so far away just five years ago.

The older I’ve gotten, the more aware I’ve become of how quick these years pass and the pressure to fit the mould of all of the rest of the twentyfivers. How easy is it to become controlled by our age and the expectation of what that signifies? Well I say forget the expectation, forget the moulds. Live your life the way you want to, rather than the way you think you are expected to. Especially if that means taking a big jump, even if it feels like a free fall.  Maybe quit your job and go back to school if that feels right, get married or don’t, chop off your hair,  change your mind,  travel, end a relationship that no longer serves you, become a different or better person, maybe move away or move back home.

While you’re in your twenties, I hope you buy a plane ticket to anywhere in the world, I hope you get lost wandering all of the streets, meet new people, have interesting conversations over warm cups of tea, drink out of mason jars while dancing barefoot in the grass, spend time with those who matter. Set your goals and change them, say goodbye to all of the things that have held you back or no longer serve purpose in your life and vow to keep moving forward. Experience everything you can. My biggest fear is looking back on my life when I’m 80 and thinking ‘shoulda, coulda but didn’t’.

I hope you aren’t held back because of a number and that you don’t rush into things because it feels like time is slipping by. Do what’s right for you.  Your age is your age, but more importantly, your life is your life, don’t change your journey so that it matches someone elses. We need to walk different paths so the whole world can be explored.

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hard truths about dating in your twenties.

hard truths about dating in your twenties.

Cue that awkward point in your life when most of your friends have been in a serious relationship for years and you’re still yet to find that person you’re ready to settle down with or even find someone you’re remotely interested in. For those who can relate, you’re not single because you couldn’t snag someone; you are simply holding out for someone better, that someone who can really connect with. Don’t worry you’re not falling behind, it’s just not your time.

Many people would argue you have to date around to truly discover what you want, while others know what they’re after.  And if you’re the more guarded and picky type like myself, finding that special someone could take some time, but I know it’s going to be completely worth it. I have only had 3 “proper” relationships; I do not dive into these things lightly.  For me, the first “I want to date this guy” moment happened in my last year of High School. We grew up together, shared highs & lows, were compatible & comfortable with one another and fun; it was the idealistic love, the love that looks right. We spent our late teens to early twenties as ‘on-again – off again – on again’ but there’s always something special about our first love, something you can never truly let go of. After that I always seemed to date older guys; something has always intrigued me about an older partner. I guess I feel they will be more mature, at my stage of life, experienced etc. Then there is the ‘in-betweeners’, the ones you casually see for a few weeks or even months; the might-have-beens, the players and the Tinderfellas.

If we’re single for too long, we joke that we need to buy a cat. Or we think that Tinder is essential in our day to day routine. We start hoping dates include going back to someone’s place where they live alone in this amazing house,  you wake up wearing their button-down shirt looking cute AF and then you can go home and gossip about it at brunch with your friends. Almost none of this is true, except for the gossiping. Most of the time the one-night stand is awkward; you’re laying there thinking do I leave now or in the morning, what do we talk about now, did I even enjoy that, will I look like sh*t in the morning, god forbid will I fart in my sleep?!

So lets get real – here are some hard truths to dating in your 20s.

  1. It feels like the pickings are getting slim the more you travel through your twenties.
  2. Secondly only some dudes get more mature as they get older. Only some!
  3. As you and your friends get older, serious relationships become more serious, people actually go out and get freakin’ married. Some friends will start to slowly fade out of your life. It’s tough, but keeping up friendships is work – and you find out the ones that are worth it.
  4. Going to events without a plus one is low-key hard in your 20s. It’s certainly not the end of the world, but it’s definitely lonely. Try not to get too drunk at all those birthdays, engagements & weddings.
  5. At some point, you will become obsessed with the idea of the future and you won’t understand why. As the people around you get engaged, get married, have kids, and start adult lives, you feel the pressure, whether you want to or not. You’ll have days where you don’t give an eff, but you’ll also have days where you care. A lot. But you can get through it!
  6. You’ll do stupid things, stay with people you shouldn’t stay with, and get totally screwed over. It will happen to you too and it sucks.
  7. Ever seen He’s Just Not That Into You? The basic principle is that if a guy likes you, he will try for you. If he doesn’t call you back, it’s because he doesn’t want to. If he doesn’t make effort, he doesn’t want to. It’s harsh, but you have to be exposed to these harsh truths when you’re in your 20s. DO NOT SETTLE FOR LESS THAN YOU DESERVE!

Dating in your 20s is hard and can usually be heartbreaking. It’s also an exciting learning experience.  I do not regret any of my relationships, casual flings nor would I trade my single years for anything. They have shaped into who I am and I now know what I want from my future other half. Looking back on my past and current single years I had the most fun ever, I focused on me, achieved a lot at work, partied, I travelled and I really bonded with my friends and family. Don’t fret if you’re still single, love yourself first & everything will fall into line.

‘You don’t need a boyfriend, you just need sunshine & tequila’.