Please note, this post first appeared on World Nomads as my entry into their 2018 writing scholarship.

Formidable Joy - UK Lifestyle Blog | Personal | The one thing no one tells you about travel

When I stepped off the airplane and onto the soil belonging to a cold and drizzly Berlin recently, I felt a mixture of things.

Anticipation. Fear. Excitement. Regret. Optimistic.

I wasn’t supposed to be on this trip alone. I’d booked the last minute deal for my on-again-off-again boyfriend at the time, hoping the ability to explore somewhat foreign lands would help him him fall in love with travel the way that I did and kickstart the recovery of his depression.

But at the last minute, he changed his mind. Facing Berlin alone was not something I had wanted, nor was it something I was looking forward to. But, travel is always an opportunity that is hard to say no to – alone or otherwise.

Whilst there, I discovered a new thrill of dining alone in quirky restaurants. The Dungeons were particularly fun – gruesome history is kinda my thing – and one of my favourite experiences was stocking up on snacks and hopping on a sightseeing bus tour. Whilst it rained outside, I snacked away, warm and content, listening to Berlin’s history.

At Topographie des Terrors, I had a reality check and realized that though my heart hurt and though I was sad over a boy, my problems were nothing compared to the horrors that had gone on throughout Germany’s history. My situation and my feelings seemed almost laughable in comparison.

My realisation that maybe with time I would be okay came the evening I arrived at Museum Island and gazed in awe at Berliner Dom. With the sun just beginning to set and creating the most stunning backdrop for such a beautiful building, I realized that getting here wasn’t so easy, but it had resulted in a moment of clarity and content. I took in the astonishing view and knew deep down that he could not take that away from me.

But as I let myself into an empty hotel room at the end of each day, I did not expect to feel such a strong pang of loneliness. The sharp but dull ache I felt in that moment made me realize that there are some things people don’t tell you about travel.

Travel opens your eyes to new cultures, new experiences and memories to last a lifetime. It’s one of the best things anyone can do in the short lives we have.

But it can get lonely too, especially when you’re faced with an empty hotel room for an entire evening in a foreign country, not quite knowing what to do with yourself. I know now how to take precautions to avoid feeling this way.

I knew I’d feel a lot of things during my visit to Berlin. The last thing I expected was to feel loneliness.

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I have a confession to make. I’m what most people would call a ‘failed’ vegan. In January, I always pledge to try Veganuary and manage to go a full month of each year without any form of meat and dairy – but once 1st February hits, I begin to struggle.

The first time I messed up – back in January 2016 – I felt like a complete failure. I’d accidentally picked up something that wasn’t vegan and didn’t realize until much later on when I’d already scoffed it down. Then, in February, I pledged to try and be as vegan as possible still, but this still didn’t stop me feeling guilty when I gave into my cravings from then onwards.

It was meeting my ex boyfriend that made me try and go fully vegan again. As he was vegan – and I spent so much time at his place that I practically lived there – it was really easy – except for the days when I wasn’t with him. Now that we’re no longer together, it’s even harder.

Formidable Joy - UK Lifestyle Blog | Personal | The fundamentals of being a 'failed' vegan | Vegan | Food

I find it hard to commit to being vegan for a few different reasons. Firstly, it’s convenience. When I have money and go shopping for lots of vegan goodies in advance, eating green is like second nature to me. But when I’m skint and have nothing planned for lunch at work, it’s so much easier for me to run to Wilko’s and grab a packet of crisps and a chocolate bar than, well, fruit or otherwise.

My second reason is my cravings. I still get cravings for things like McDonalds, Chinese food or pizza on a regular basis. I think this is because I pencil being vegan in with being healthy – and when I’m on a health kick, working out and eating healthy, it’s only a matter of time before I think I deserve a treat like a burger or a pepperoni pizza. And of course, if I’m PMSing or I’ve had a bad day, it’s so tempting to go to the McDonalds drive through on the way home from work!

My final reason is that it’s hard to eat vegan when I’m at home, especially when my Dad is cooking one of his famous Sunday roast dinners or ordering our traditional Saturday night curry. I have learned to get better at this though – these days, I’ll swap chicken for a vegan pie and have pretty much the rest of a roast dinner, and often I say no to a curry altogether.

I think what stops me committing fully is that I’m not doing it for the animals. Well, I am in some ways, but I’m also mostly doing it for the health reasons. I know where meat and dairy comes from and I’ve read the facts, but perhaps I haven’t watched enough documentaries to put me off meat and dairy entirely. I’m still at the point where I’m ignorant to where it comes from – I know, but I don’t think about it – and so I don’t feel as guilty when I give into a craving.

However, I’m learning to take on a more healthy approach to being what some people would call a ‘failed’ vegan. I prefer to think of myself as a transitioning vegan and I’m a lot less harsh on myself now. You can never be 100% perfect, and even those who have been vegan for years may accidentally mess up from time to time.

Since joining some Facebook groups, I’ve learned that as well as cutting out meat and dairy and all non-vegan products from your life, essentially, being vegan means being as vegan as possible. It’s impossible to be 100% entirely vegan – simply because of things out of our control – but it’s also so much better to just try. It’s important to accept your mistakes and remember tomorrow is a new day. It doesn’t make you wrong or make you a failure. It makes you human.

Even if you eat vegan six days a week and have one day off, you’re still miles ahead than complete meat eaters. You’re still making a difference and you’re still doing something good.

I’ve also downloaded a habit tracker app, so I can see an overview of the days which I’ve eaten completely vegan and which days I’ve slipped up – seeing a calendar filled with green and red dots puts it all into perspective for me and makes me more and more determined to turn all those red dots into green ones.

But, mostly, I’ve come to accept that I try my hardest to be vegan and that even if I do mess up, it doesn’t mean I’m a failure or doesn’t mean I’m not a vegan. It just means I’m trying my best.

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2017 has been a simple year – no ‘major’ changes have occurred, but it’s been a good one! It’s been a mix of little (and big, I guess!) adventures here and there, as well as lots of chilled nights too. I’ve grown up a lot this year and have become more independent, deciding to start looking towards my future more.

It seems like this year has passed by in a blink of an eye and it’s going to be fun looking back at the year in review.
Formidable Joy | UK Fashion, Beauty & Lifestyle Blog | Lifestyle | My 2017 in review
1. What did you do in 2017 that you’d never done before?
I travelled! It was one of the scariest but most rewarding experiences of my life, booking onto a tour with TrekAmerica and then travelling around Mexico. Even now I still can’t believe I did it! I also finally got taken to Winter Wonderland.
2. Did you keep your New Year’s Resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
Hmm. These were last years resolutions, and I only stuck to three. I did start watching Black Mirror (but didn’t watch all of it), I began Pound Fitness classes (super fun) and saved money. That’s about it really – although I did take one drumming lesson, ha.
3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
My bestie Amy!
4. Did anyone close to you die?
We had to put down my dog, Jasper, earlier on in the year. It was heartbreaking but he was just so old, he’d lived a good life and lived longer than we imagined he would. He just didn’t have much quality of life anymore so at least he’s at peace.
5. What places did you visit?
Mexico! Romania! Also Blackpool.
6. What would you like to have in 2018 that you lacked in 2017?
I’d like a new phone or a proper camera for blogging. I’ll start researching options soon and maybe grab something in the January sales. I finally got a rockstar boyfriend though! Well he doesn’t play any instruments but he dresses like a rockstar. I’m a lucky lady.
7. What dates from 2017 will remain etched in your memory, and why?

So many memories from travelling, like getting on the plane at the airport and when I woke up the next morning in Mexico and opened the curtains to see the sights of Cancun. It was such a unique feeling that I’ll never forget. Meeting my boyfriend too. It was a very laid back simple date which turned into something amazing. Oh and meeting his family and seeing his hometown in Romania. It’s funny how a family who don’t even speak the same language as you can make you feel so welcome.

8. What was your biggest achievement this year?
Finally going travelling.
9. What was your biggest failure?

Nothing, really.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

Nope!
11. What was the best thing you bought?
That old TrekAmerica tour 😉 and my new car!
12. Who’s behaviour merited celebration?

Ah it’s got to be my boyfriend. If I’m upset, he’ll do the sweetest things to cheer me up, like go out in the cold to get my favourite food and sit down and watch corny movies with me. I also know I annoy the sh*t out of him a lot of the time and he still puts up with me. My sister, too. My niece is growing fast and my sister has been an absolute amazing mum.

13. Who’s behaviour made you appalled and depressed?

Apart from a lot of harassment and drama from my boyfriend’s ex (I was certainly appalled at how long it went on for, even well into our relationship), no one has irked me this year really.

14. Where did most of your money go?

Travelling. My car. Food. Haha.

15. What did you get really excited about?

Mexico. Romania. Blackpool. Christmas.

16. What song will always remind you of 2017?

Ride by twenty one pilots because it’s the song that help me turn my boyfriend into a fan and we listened and sung along to it constantly. I especially remember driving down country lanes in the summer with the windows down and this blaring loud out of the speakers, singing at the top of our voices.

17. Compared to this time last year, are you :

a. happier or sadder? Happier. Any guesses why?
b. thinner or fatter? Thinner. Going vegan does wonders for your weight 😉
c. richer or poorer? Richer. I’ve finally began to save more this year.

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?

Nothing!

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?

Nothing!

20. How did you spend Christmas?

At my sisters house. It was the first time in a good few years that I really felt the Christmas spirit.

21. Did you fall in love in 2017?

I did indeed.

22. What was your favourite TV program?

Stranger Things, obvs.

23. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate at this time last year?

Nah. I’m over hate.

24. What was the best book you read?

I Heart Forever by Lindsey Kelk or, more recently, Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. There’s probably others but I can’t remember.
25. What music did you get excited about?

Well when my sister and I went out for my birthday, there was a secret set by this amazing band called Dat Brass. They were so energetic and charismatic, we were moshing right down the front! I had a listen on their Spotify and it doesn’t do them any justice to how amazing they are live, but they were one of those bands that grabbed my attention instantly. I’ll definitely be checking them out live again.

26. What did you want and get?
I wanted a new bag and some perfume – perfect.
27. What did you want and not get?

Nothing!

28. What was your favourite film of this year?
Guardians Of The Galaxy 2 (I’m Mary Poppins, Ya’ll!) or Thor: Ragnarok which was insanely funny. I’m not even a fan of the Thor movies but this was a good one.

29. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I turned 28 and spent the morning with my boyfriend, worked, then had the family round for a curry. Simple, but exactly what I wanted.
 
30. What one thing would have made your year more satisfying?
Getting a job more related to my degree, but at least I see a future where I am now.
31. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2016?

Stylish. Slowly getting there since starting at H&M again, buying staple pieces etc. I still have lazy days though.

32. What kept you sane?

My boyfriend!

33. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
Probably either one of the twenty one pilots boys still. #SorryNotSorry Or Sam Thompson!
34. What political issue stirred you the most?
Nothing, really!
35. Whom did you miss?

My mum and Jasper. There’s still points now where I catch myself and forget they’re not around anymore.

36. Who was the best new person you met?
My amazing, thoughtful, kind, hard working boyfriend.
37. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2017.
Appreciate the little things. Adventures are fun, but so is just spending time with the people you love.
38. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.
I really don’t know! I’ve loved so many songs this year.
How would you sum up your 2017? Let me know!
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Let’s begin this post by looking at my life in a snapshot over the past three years.

Around about this time in 2015 I had just started my dream job. I was writing for a travel magazine, getting to write about (and sometimes review myself) attractions around the UK, working normal office hours and loving the benefits that came with the job. I’d finally passed my driving test in February and had recently purchased my first car. It was around about this time I found out I was going to be an aunt.
Fast forward to 2016 and things were a lot different. I was out of work. I wasn’t getting on with my dad; in fact we had fallen out so badly that I had moved into my Nan’s temporarily. My family was split, I saw no prospects for myself or any future and around about this time, I decided to put myself on a dating ban.

Now I’m back at an old job that I thoroughly enjoy, I get on with my dad better than ever and my whole family too, really. I live between home and my boyfriend’s flat and I am now eight months into this serious relationship where we are planning to move in with each other.

As you can see, a lot has changed. I suppose it’s natural for life to have it’s ups and down’s but of course the down’s can be terribly hard. I’ve always stuck with the mantra that you have to get through the bad stuff to get to the good – and to learn from the bad stuff – but lately I’ve also realized that sometimes you have to take a step back too, whether that’s to get a grip on your life and reevaluate where it’s going or taking a step back entirely.

Don’t believe me? Read on.

Formidable Joy | UK Fashion, Beauty & Lifestyle Blog | Personal | Why moving backwards is okay | Advice | Love | Family | Work | Life | Lifestyle

WORK
Over the past few years, I’ve definitely gone backwards a lot – especially in the last year or so. I struggled a lot when I was out of work and ended up signing on to receive benefits. There’s a huge stigma around this and it’s easy to see why. I often thought that by signing on, people would think I wasn’t good enough to get a job. Of course this isn’t true and I was definitely entitled to the benefits I received, but at the time, I was super embarrassed.

Eventually in the summer I found a job working at H&M again. To be honest, I didn’t want to go back into retail, even though I had enjoyed it at the time. But I always said if I were ever to go back to a retail role it would be with H&M – a reputable company who are great to work for. Still, considering I’d left my job at H&M for my ‘dream job’ only for that to fall through a year later and see me return back to H&M, it’s clear to see why I felt like I was going backwards.

On paper, it was going backwards in some ways – but for the better. I’m now in another store which, honestly, is in a lovely town and has nicer clientele, I’m on a regular income again and I work with a team who are really encouraging. People get promoted quickly in my store and just a few months in has seen my manager given me a lot of positive praise and promises about my future at the store. Although I loved my time at the Luton store, I was young and just wanted a job; I wasn’t bothered about future prospects and none were available at the time. With just a few months into my new role, I already feel like I’m moving further than I ever did during my two years at the Luton store.

FAMILY
After my mum died, cracks started slowly showing in my family when in reality this should have been a time that our family should have been relying on each other and growing closer. In some ways we did, but in other ways not so much. Things got so bad between my dad and I that I actually moved out of my family home for a few months. I regret that time so much now, but it helped me get a proper grip on what was important when it comes to family but that sometimes a bit of space can be a good thing. Over time, my dad and I started repairing our relationship by going to dinner once a week before I eventually moved back home. I actually don’t see him that much anymore as I now almost live with my boyfriend, but it works for us. He’s met someone so I no longer feel guilty at not being home. Although there’s still a split between immediate family and extended family, it has brought us immediate family closer together – my brother, sister and I are closer than ever now which is lovely.

Likewise, since meeting my boyfriend and since that time spent living at my Nan’s, my dad has commented that I have grown up a lot. I can see it too. Most of my money goes on weekly shops now or home accessories, and there’s something really nice about the regular routine I’ve settled into when staying with my boyfriend. My nan even gave us a slow cooker last week and I was over the moon!

Formidable Joy | UK Fashion, Beauty & Lifestyle Blog | Personal | Why moving backwards is okay | Advice | Love | Family | Work | Life | Lifestyle

LOVE
Before I met my boyfriend, I had been single for a long time. For the first year or two after my split with my last boyfriend, I sworn off men and relationships completely. Then when I came around to the idea again, let’s just say I struggled to meet a decent guy and fell after f*cboy after f*ckboy. I dabbled with online dating websites which led me to taking a break from dating altogether last year! You know my reasons and it actually went well. I concluded in the end that I was going to be a lot more relaxed about dating and was only going to go back to online dating by reinstalling Tinder and using it a little. Of course I gave in and ended up signing back to other sites, completely backtracking and going backwards into that bad habit.

It worked out great in the end though because in February I was lucky enough to meet Vincent and I’ve never been happier. We’ve travelled together – a little in the UK and also when he showed me his beautiful home country of Romania – we get on with each other’s family’s so well and, well, he just makes me so freakin’ happy.

So it’s clear to see my life has been filled with ups and downs over the past few years and the bad times got so bad that last year I ended up suffering from small anxiety attacks. Not only did I feel like my life was going nowhere, but I also felt like it was going backwards if anything. I couldn’t see anything getting better, though of course it did, bit by bit.

When living with my nan, I took a road trip up north with my uni friend Becky, to visit our old uni haunts and watch the airshow. During that trip, I purchased a beautiful art print stating that with each piece the picture becomes clear. At the time, this comforted me and I knew that hopefully better times were to come. In fact, I incorrectly took it as a sign that maybe the bigger picture was me moving back up north and having a fresh start! Thank god I didn’t, despite announcing to everyone that I 100% was at the time – oops!

During this time, my ex and I also briefly-sort-of-stupidly almost gave things another go – now we’ve put our negatives behind us and actually get on really well as friends now but my god that would have been a disaster just waiting to happen. Though luckily we didn’t go through with it – so no actual example of moving backwards here – we did consider it and I guess that’s proof of why moving backwards sometimes isn’t okay too!

Formidable Joy | UK Fashion, Beauty & Lifestyle Blog | Personal | Why moving backwards is okay | Advice | Love | Family | Work | Life | Lifestyle

However, now I see that it was all part of a bigger picture. I can see that I had to go backwards to move forwards. I understand that my downs taught me more about myself and made me stronger as a person. It has comforted me and makes me feel better, knowing that in future if I do have to step backwards again, it’s not necessarily a bad thing.

It sucked that my dream job didn’t work out, but if I hadn’t of been out of work for so long, I wouldn’t have ended up working at H&M again. No, it’s not a writing job, but it has prospects (including prospects involving that line of work) and if I hadn’t have gone backwards and searched for work, I might have ended up anywhere miserable. At least I fell back into a role I know and love and that I have a future at. And I have that amazing discount again, let’s not forget that! Other little benefits include the fact that I genuinely take an interest in my fashion sense again and have began building a wardrobe full of staple, must have pieces and I’m also in better shape. When you go from sitting down in an office all day to being on your feet going up and down stairs for eight hours a day, it really makes a difference, as you can imagine!

And not working gave me the time to finally give in and take my dream trip of travelling around Mexico! I mean apart from job hunting and this trip there wasn’t much else I did when I wasn’t working, unless you include falling in love with a boy and spending my free days binge watching a lot of things on Netflix…

Formidable Joy | UK Fashion, Beauty & Lifestyle Blog | Personal | Why moving backwards is okay | Advice | Love | Family | Work | Life | Lifestyle

If I hadn’t have given in and signed back up to online dating websites after my dating ban, I would have never have met my boyfriend who makes me so happy. The idea that I may have never met him otherwise scares me and makes me sad.

If I hadn’t have moved out of my family home and into my nan’s, my relationship with my dad and I might have been irreparable at this point. We were both so angry and so stricken with grief still and had I stayed at home for us to be at each other’s throats all the time, we could have fallen out for good. Living with my nan was tough – in fact we actually argued a lot too (she doesn’t even believe in the internet so imagine how hard I found it to blog all that time!) but it made me really grow up and stop being so selfish.

So although this post may seem a bit rambly and like the story of my life, I hope it helps some of you if you’re ever in a similar position. If you ever have to leave a dream job to go back to an old one or find your relationships with family members suffering, remember, everything happens for a reason and it could always be a lot worse. Use this time to take a step back from things and remember what’s really important. Understand that going backwards isn’t always a bad thing and sometimes it can work out for the better in the long run.

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The amount of travelling I’ve done may seem small and insignificant to some, but to me, the few places I have visited have given me memories I’ll never forget. 
I hope to continue adding to these memories by visiting new and exotic places, but one thing I’ve realized is that although I look back and appreciate and reminisce countries and trips as a whole, there’s also a few moments that really stand out for me.
There are experiences that reflect whole trips or really make a place and there are moments that you instantly think of when you hear the name of the place you have visited.

So today I’m going to share with you some of my favourite travel experiences; each of which I’m forever grateful for.
Formidable Joy | UK Fashion, Beauty & Lifestyle Blog | Travel | My favourite travel experiences | Mexico | Romania | Ibiza | Paris | Egypt | York | Amsterdam
WATCHING THE PERSEIDS METEOR SHOWER IN ROMANIA
What better place to stargaze/check out a meteor shower then at a remote cabin on a mountain; miles away from civilisation? My boyfriend and I picked the perfect spot to watch our first meteor shower together and even though we only got to see a few shooting stars – and an amazing storm – it really was one of the most unique experiences.
TREKKING THE JUNGLE IN MEXICO
Before my trip to Mexico, all I could imagine was plush green jungles and stunning waterfalls. Luckily my trip included visits to both and one of my favourite experiences from my time in Mexico was going off the beaten track to explore a jungle at Palenque. And, speaking of Palenque, the ruins were out of this world too. There are actually so many experiences I can talk about from Mexico, so I’m going to just stick with the one!
CELEBRATING NYE AT CHAMPS-ELYSEE
My sister took me to Paris a few years back for my birthday and we had the pleasure of seeing in the new year at Champs-Élysée. I loved every minute of that trip, but NYE was particularly special. We went for a seven course meal before legging it to the subway to get to Champs-Élysée, where it was PACKED at the other end and I was honestly scared about getting crushed. We made it out and onto the famous street with about sixty seconds to spare, and then popped some champagne to celebrate. It was without a doubt the best new years eve of my life.
EXPLORING THE SHAMBLES IN THE RAIN IN YORK
This might sound like an odd one, but one of my favourite moments in York was simply not doing anything touristy but taking a slow walk around the shambles with my ex boyfriend/boyfriend at the time. My ex boyfriend was never terribly romantic and although the idea of having a weekend away was romantic overall, it was that evening that I really felt the romance. We were walking along slowly, eating some chips from a chippie when it started to spit and a few streets away a busker began to play music. It was simple, but really bloody lovely.
WATCHING THE FAMOUS IBIZA SUNSET
Although the sunset in Mexico was arguably better, the feeling of seeing the Ibiza sunset was an amazing one. So many people gathered on the beach to watch it and there was a real nice sense of community; especially when the sun finally disappeared behind the scene to a heartfelt applause.
Formidable Joy | UK Fashion, Beauty & Lifestyle Blog | Travel | My favourite travel experiences | Mexico | Romania | Ibiza | Paris | Egypt | York | Amsterdam
GOING COCO LOCO IN AMSTERDAM
This is another odd one, but during my time in Amsterdam, my friend and I got up to so much. But I’ll always look back and smile/laugh about our first time trying space cakes (soz all family & potential employers but you can’t go to Amsterdam and not try space cakes!). We scoffed them whilst exploring the red light district, headed into a museum and not long afterwards fell out almost wetting ourselves with laughter. I don’t know what was so funny but all I know it that the next few hours were a whirlwind of emotions; from my friend getting scared and refusing to go in a pub because she thought the bartender was a waxwork to me being too scared to check the time because I thought everyone would laugh at how slowly I was being trying to get my phone. Oh and then we got stuck in a room because someone was standing in the doorway and we couldn’t comprehend how to ask him to move out the way. After half an hour of sitting at a table being too scared to do anything, we then realized there was another door…oh Amsterdam, you so crazy.
P.S I am not glamourizing or recommending drugs here!
RIDING A CAMEL & STARGAZING IN EGYPT
Riding a camel was one of the scariest things I’ve ever done, ha, but when I look back at the photo, I can’t help but think how lucky I was to do so. My sister and I travelled on camels into the Egyptian dessert to learn about Egyptian history, visit a traditional tent to eat some traditional Egyptian food, and, again, do some stargazing. The fact that I got to stand in an Egyptian dessert and watch the stars is a memory I’ll always treasure.
DRIVING TRANSFAGARASAN
Although it was terrifying at times, driving transfagarasan was one of my proudest experiences. It was really scary but the view at the top of that famous Romanian road was more than worth it; plus though it was a tough challenge, a lot of the drive was enjoyable too.
This is just a small list compared to so many experiences; it’s so hard to pick just one experience from each trip. I’m very much the type of person who wants to go out and do stuff on holiday rather than just sunbathing or relaxing by the pool, so I suppose I really throw myself into these things.
Still, I’m so grateful for these opportunities and can’t wait to see this list grow with time.
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