BONDI TO COOGEE COASTAL WALK

After living in Sydney for 3 months now, the Eastern coastline is probably my favourite part so far. 

Luckily, I chose a sunny day in Sydney to do the infamous coastal walk from Bondi to Coogee. I know, shock! Sydney actually rains a lot more than I expected…I think it’s been raining non stop for almost two weeks now. Who knew an umbrella would be my best friend in Sydney? 

There are loads of coastal walks in Sydney to choose from. This one was pretty easy to get to from where I’m based and it was a tourist attraction I wanted to check off my list. 

It’s actually not well marked but maybe it’s because you just follow the coastline. The entire walk, which took me about two hours more or less, was beautiful and really refreshing - a nice break from the city. It was busy but since the path is so long and splits into parks and beaches, there’s a lot of space to walk around people. You get to pass through Bondi Beach, Tamarama Beach, Bronte Beach, Clovelly Beach and Coogee Beach. 

The walk is close to the city but still far enough so you forget about the craziness that usually comes with a city. That’s the thing about Sydney - you can be completely immersed into a chaotic busy city or find yourself with your toes in the sandy beaches just around the corner. If you wanted to, you could easily use this path to beach hop - I would! 

DURATION: Around 2 hours (including time to take some photos) 

DIFFICULTY: Easy

ROUTE: Paths, rocky patches, mostly flat, passing through beaches and parks

VIEW: Ocean to your right and residential city to your left 

4 THINGS TO REMEMBER WHEN MOVING ABROAD

My first post of 2017 coming from Sydney! I’ve been experiencing a little deja vu recently. Two years ago, I made the move from my very comfortable home in Vancouver to London all by myself. Now, exactly two years later, I find myself on the other side of the world, Sydney, doing the same thing I did in London. I thought things would be a breeze since I successfully built an awesome life after two years in London. What I forgot is the beginning of moving abroad, regardless of how many times you’ve done it, is the hardest part - for me at least. Most people say the first 6 months living in a new place is the hardest part and I’ll have to agree with that, especially if you’re moving over with no friends, no flat and no job. You’re basically starting from scratch. So, here are 5 things I always try to remember when moving abroad:

vancouver

Relax and de-stress. In the midst of recreating your life in another part of the world, there is some pressure to get all the life admin stuff done ASAP so that means life will get crazy and overwhelming. Whether it’s going for a run or reading a book, always find time to unwind. Or maybe even take up a new hobby. I’ve had days where I spent hours and hours looking for flats to the point where I become obsessed. I can say it’s not healthy and you’ll drive yourself crazy if you don’t give yourself the me time you deserve. 

australia beach

Meet new people. One of the best parts about moving abroad alone is the opportunity to meet so many awesome people. It can get really lonely, especially the first couple of weeks when you’re sorting out your own life and don’t think you have time for friends but you just have to make the time. Meet up with old friends that are in the city you now are or get friends from home to introduce you to people. Or just go online - there are tons of expats in the same position wanting to make friends.

Remind yourself why you moved. There are probably multiple reasons why you moved so keep reminding yourself why to stay motivated. I moved to Sydney for the weather, beaches and travel which means I guess I have to beach more... I remember whenever I was down in London I would just go out to some of my favourite spots (Southbank or Regent’s Canal) and that made me think, ‘Wow, I live here’. 

manly beach

Breathe! Because eventually, everything will work out given you’re proactive. I’m prone to freaking out loads because of how unstable and disruptive my life is (ie. now). But as long as you put in the time and effort to make things happen, life will eventually fall into place. 

Without a doubt, moving away from home is always hard but home will always be there. There’s always the option of moving back. The first couple of months will be difficult but if you want it bad enough, you’ll do it and you'll look back and laugh about how stressed you were. It’s funny reading my own advice...now I just have to apply it! Sorry - not a picture heavy post. I haven’t even had time to touch my camera but promise to soon! Ok, back to job and flat hunting - BYE! 

sydney

MIDDLE OF NOWHERE, SLOVAKIA

After coming home from a two week long holiday at the end of summer in Central/Eastern Europe…I really wanted to explore more of that area. My goal for my time in London was to skip Western Europe and focus on new areas of Europe. While I was travelling in Bosnia, I heard of a hostel called ‘The Ginger Monkey’ in Zdiar a few times, which was meant to be amazing. I looked it up and I was sold when I read reviews about Wally the dog. The best part was the whole trip only cost me around £115 for two nights including flight, accomodation, transportation and food. 

Usually, a country’s capital has all the touristy attractions and is the most popular route but I wasn’t gutted on missing Bratislava…I wanted to hike and just roll around in nature before it got too cold. So, my friend Maddie and I took a flight to Poprad in the High Tatras in Slovakia. 

I didn’t really know what to expect - I didn’t do much research. It seemed like travelling back in time when we landed and we were pretty much the only tourists at that time. Of course I brought my backpack with my little Canadian flag on it so everyone can see. Barely anyone spoke English and everything was in Slovak. I was meant to do this trip solo but thankfully Maddie tagged along. 

Throughout our two days there, we did two massive hikes and I was so impressed by the landscape. I don’t remember the proper names of each hike but the hostel called the first hike the Saddle Hike which took us around 6-7 hours to complete. This was my favourite trek from the trip - the entire hike was stunning and since it was off peak, it wasn’t crowded at all. We went at the end of September so it was still warm and I did most of the hike in just a sports bra until we got to the river and I had to put my toque on... Also, no one warned us of bears but while we were climbing up the first part, we heard bears roar and for a second, I thought this is it… 

The other hike at Slovak Paradise National Park was south of Poprad so we had to take a bus and train from Zdair. This one was more like an obstacle course with ropes and ladders to climb. The views weren’t as great as the Saddle Hike but still a lot of fun to do. 

Slovakia is a place that is barely talked about and definitely needs way more credit. Maybe it’s a good thing it’s unknown so I can be one of the few annoying tourists snapping pictures every 5 minutes. Regardless, if you’re looking for an affordable holiday, a hearty bowl of goulash and an endless supply of beautiful hikes, I couldn’t rave about Slovakia enough. 

BEST DAY TRIPS FROM LONDON

I love going on weekend trips but when I'm poor or don't have a ton of time, I opt for day trips instead, which can be equally as exciting. I originally moved to the UK for London and never had much interest in any other city but after living here for almost two years, I've learned that a little breaks from the big city are much needed. 

I've managed to explore a lot of England actually - mainly the south because I love the coastline. So, here's my list of best day trips to take from London based on where I've been. 

BRIGHTON. 

Just an hour train ride south of London, there's no excuse not to go. I've even heard of some people living in Brighton and commuting to London for work. It's a cute city along the coast with rocky beaches, a huge pier and amusement park. Your bum will hurt if you sit on the beach for too long so make sure to enjoy the rest of the city including the cool cafes and shops. 

WHITE CLIFFS OF DOVER.

This was my most recent day trip and I didn't have high expectations because every Brit told me there was no point in going - it's just a ferry port from the UK to France. It takes two hours on the train but the views were so worth it. The White Cliffs of Dover is an hour long walk along white, chalky cliffs (similar to Seven Sisters which I mention below). At the very end, you reach a lighthouse where you can also get tea and biscuits. Loved every second of this trip! 

BRISTOL.

Bristol was an interesting city - very alternative I would say. Big student city. My friend convinced me into trying my very first couchsurfing experience, which was...interesting. We did get free accommodation and instant friends through this though. Bristol has got a lot of life and a massive art scene - we went Banksy spotting! Oh and also good food at half the London prices. 

BOTANY BAY. 

I googled coastal towns in the UK and found Botany Bay, saw amazing pictures and thought why not? I went here in January so it was COLD - really don't know why I was craving the seaside in winter. All things aside, it was still beautiful. A bit difficult to get to - you have to take a train to Broadstairs then a bus to get to Botany Bay. I can only imagine how nice the beach is when it's actually sunny out. 

SEVEN SISTERS WALK. 

This is, by far, my favourite place in the UK. I'll have to go again before I leave but there is nothing like this walk (ok, maybe White Cliffs of Dover is close but it's even more stunning). It's not that easy to get to - you have to train to Eastbourne, which can sometimes involve 1 or 2 changes, then take a bus from there. The whole trek is gorgeous with miles of white cliffs overlooking the beautiful sea. I think the entire walk is around 22km but you can decide which parts you want to walk and just take the bus.  

HASTINGS. 

Hastings is another coastal town about an hour and a half south of London. It's got a lot of history and you can climb the hill to get great views of the city or take the cliff railway up. It's a very small and compact town so you can explore everything within a couple of hours. 

BATH. 

Bath is only about a 15 minute train journey from Bristol so I did these cities together. Bath has got beautiful architecture and of course, the Roman Baths. My friend and I walked the entire city in a day - all the way up the hill to the University of Bath. It's a nice and calm city that you can easily do in just one day. 

CAMBRIDGE. 

Everyone knows Cambridge for the university. It's a small town that's largely based around the university - there's not a ton to do there but it's got nice architecture. It's also cool to see the campus of such a famous university. The main river is my favourite part of Cambridge where you can see the bunting action happening. 

The best thing you can do to explore the UK is buy a Rail Card. This will give you massive savings when buying train tickets to anywhere in the UK and is only £30 a year, which you'll end up getting back in savings after about four trips. If you live in London and need a nature fix, you can definitely get it by venturing out into the countryside - it just depends on what you like! 

5 THINGS I LEARNED LIVING ABROAD

After almost two years of London living, I finally booked my flight to go home today. It’s so surreal thinking I’ve spent the last two years of my life away from home. It’s weird because I honestly consider London my home now. I was delaying booking this flight because I didn’t want to go back to what I’m so familiar with - I’m not ready go back to a city I know everything about. 

Anyway, I thought it might be fitting to write about what I’ve learned during my time here. Obviously too much to fit into a post but I’ll sum up the most important things that I’ve taken away from this experience. Everyone should try living abroad just once whether it’s for work, school, travel or just because (I will be the first one to preach this). I think I grew substantially within these past two years - way more than I would have if I stayed back home. Don’t get me wrong, it’s definitely been a tough two years but I’m so happy I did it. 

You’re not stuck in anything. This applies to jobs, relationships, living arrangements, anything. I’ve had 2 jobs and lived in 4 different flats during my 2 years here. If you’re unhappy with something in your life, you can change it! I’m a very indecisive person but I knew as soon as I was in a position where I was unhappy or not getting any value out of something, I had to change it before I got miserable. I’ve learned moping won’t do anything about your current position and you're the only person that can do something to change it. I think a lot of people also don’t take the risk of moving abroad out of fear but what’s the worst that can happen? You move back so just do it. 

It can get really lonely. London has a population of nearly 9 million people…although it’s 100% possible to be very lonely in the city. I found myself always around people during my first 6 months which made the transition a lot easier for me after leaving a stable support group of friends and family back home. But there were definitely times I found myself feeling so alone in such a big city. I learned to get over it and accept that loneliness is a normal feeling. It's ok to do things on your own - how did it take me 24 years to realise that?! The key is keeping yourself busy and constantly doing things. That and putting effort into meeting new people and maintaining relationships. It can be hard in London but you have to put the time into building relationships no matter how busy/tired/stressed you are.

You become extra independent. Before living abroad, I’ve always lived at home so it was a huge shift having to find my own flat, cook for myself and so on. You really quickly learn how to be self sufficient and figure everything out by yourself because really, you don’t have a choice to rely on anyone else. After living in London especially, I feel like I could tackle living anywhere in the world now. 

You’re responsible for your own life. I always get ‘Diana, you’re so lucky. I’m so jealous of your life…You live in London and get to travel loads’. It’s only because that’s what I value so I’ll invest all my time and money into doing it. If you want to live abroad or travel, you can do it…For the most part, anyone can do it. Just save some money, plan a little and get the courage to book the flight. You control most of what happens in your life so if you want something bad enough, just make it happen. 

You won’t regret it. Moving abroad has been the best decision I’ve made so far. I’ve met some amazing people, embraced the English culture (which I'm obsessed with), completely immersed myself in one of the liveliest cities in the world and grown personally and professionally. For me, London will always be a massive part of my life - it was my first period of real adulthood! Even if moving abroad doesn’t work out, you always have a good story. 

Ok, I need to stop writing before I get too emotional but if living abroad is something you value, go for it and if not, don’t do it. I commend everyone who's brave enough to move away from the security of home though - it’s hard but worth it. Thinking that these are my last couple of months in London makes me very anxious but I know I’ll be back eventually. 

See you in 2 months, Canada. 

ICELAND ROAD TRIP VIDEO

I've finally gotten around to actually sorting out my footage and making a proper video of my Iceland road trip. I gotta say, this is my first video ever and it's not the best quality (the camera is VERY shaky) but I'll work on it. The video captures some pretty awesome moments between Annick and I from our little 4 day adventure speeding through Iceland. We drove from Reykjavik and did the Golden Circle, went up north via The Highlands on Route 35 to Akureyri and back down to Reykjavik through the Western part of the Ring Road. Iceland has got to be one of the easiest countries to drive in - it's literally all highways and single lane roads. That's probably why so many travellers hitchhike. Watch (in HD) below - my favourite trip of my summer. 

UNTOUCHED ICELAND: THE HIGHLANDS VIA ROUTE 35

A few weeks ago, I finally crossed something I’ve always wanted to do off my bucket list - visit Iceland. Iceland was never really on my radar until recently when I discovered its beautiful landscape through photos. I even remember when airlines would offer free layovers in Iceland to boost tourism and I never thought twice about it. Now, I would totally take advantage of that. 

I booked this trip spontaneously with my friend Annick, who I randomly met a year ago in London. We’re both relaxed but curious travellers so it was the perfect combination - a German and Canadian in Iceland. With really limited research beforehand, we booked a car because really, there’s no other way to do Iceland. I would’ve hated doing a tour because you can’t venture off to wherever catches your eye. 

We luckily got upgraded from a tiny car to a 4x4. Thinking back, I don’t know how we would’ve gotten around without a larger car. I’ll write more about my different experiences in Iceland but I wanted to share my favourite drive of them all. Every part of Iceland was absolutely stunning - don’t get me wrong. But our decision to go up north via Route 35 or the Kjölur Route was the best one we made all trip. 

We started the day at Vik and drove to the North to Akureyri via this road. I didn’t know what to expect since I hadn’t heard much about The Highlands. There is another inland route - Route F26 or Sprengisandur - but you need a proper, heavy duty 4x4 for that which we didn’t have. Apparently, you can do Route 35 with just a standard 2 wheel drive vehicle but I wouldn’t risk it…We drove 40km/hr for most of it, which was a gravel road, and we had a 4 wheel drive and lots of insurance!  

The entire drive along the 200km route from Gullfoss to the Ring Road up north was breathtaking in a sense that I’ve never seen anything like it before. The land was basically untouched and we only saw about 15 cars pass us for the 10 or so hours we spent on the road. The entire time Annick and I didn’t say anything but “Oh my god, oh my god, oh my god”. We kept stopping to take photos but realised we would never get anywhere at that rate. I felt like I was on another planet and it was so nice to drive along the route, just us, and Earth in the rawest form I’ve ever seen it. 

After some time, you get to drive between two huge glaciers on either side - Langjökull and Hofsjökull. Finally, near the end of the road, there’s a side road you can take to visit Hveravellir, a geothermal area which apparently has Iceland’s best natural hot spring.

We also ended up sleeping the night in a parking lot next to the only hotel we found which was more like a shed really. Other than freezing our bums off, we got to watch sunset and sunrise between two giant glaciers - it didn’t get any better than that! 

These are just some of the millions of photos I took throughout the drive that really don’t do justice. If you’re ever thinking of going to Iceland, driving through The Highlands should be at the top of your list. 

SURVIVING IBIZA

I haven’t posted in awhile because I’ve been travelling loads. Just came back from Iceland and have a few days until my next trip to the Balkans so thought I would take some time to write about my recent trip to Ibiza. 

When you’re a low key grandma like me, Ibiza can be a challenge. My Aussie friend, Bec, and I planned a little reunion on this party island last week. Last time I was there was three years ago so I know how crazy it can get but I was so excited to get the party and beach out of my system. 

I met Bec in San Antonio where our hotel was. We’re both mid to late twenties and felt ancient in comparison to everyone else that was staying on that side of the island. If I could book again, I would stay in Playa D’en Bossa instead - definitely more of an older age range out there but our 2 star hotel sufficed. 

We explored San An the first night as we prepared for a boat party the next day. That was the night I realised there is absolutely no dress code in Ibiza and anything goes. Next day we went on a boat party which took us around the island and out to Formentera. I wish we could’ve actually stopped on the island but we had a swim stop instead (but I can’t swim yet unfortunately so I just hung on to a rope for dear life). 

The next couple of days were just full on 24 hour days because Ibiza basically never sleeps. There was always a party on and I felt like I was wasting my days if I woke up in the afternoon…but then I remembered that my day won’t end until 7AM the next day. My favourite venue we went to was Ushuaia where we saw Avicii. The place itself was so nice and the show was amazing. I somehow snuck through to the front row - perks of being small? Ibiza is known for its legendary partying and honestly, it doesn’t fail to live up to that expectation. Still the best place in the world I’ve partied - the atmosphere and the music, of course, make it. Tickets are expensive though - I lived on grocery store salads during my stay. 

One of the best highlights of my trip though was venturing outside the big city to go for a little tanning sesh. On one of our last days we took a walk to Cala Gracio and Punta Galera which is a rocky area along the coastline where you can swim and tan near San Antonio. The views were stunning and the vibe was nothing like the normal Ibiza vibe - think topless tanning and hippies selling drinks near their shrine. 

Punta Galera

It was definitely a nice getaway from responsibility and finally a taste of sun for me which is a rare thing in London. 

A DAY IN SINTRA

Last month, I had the chance to go to Lisbon on a work conference. The last time I was in Lisbon was three years ago so I was stoked to go back. We spent a few days in Caiscas, which was more of a resort/beach town. There was really little time to actually see the city so I woke up extra early to go on a morning run to the coast and specifically Boca Do Inferno (or Hell's Mouth) - these amazing cliffs along the coast.  

After our conference, we got to stay a couple more days in Portugal and almost everyone decided to go to Lisbon. My friend Maddie and I decided to venture off to a smaller town, Sintra, since we’ve both been to Lisbon before. En route to Sintra, we stopped by Cabo da Roca, which is the most western point of continental Europe. The coast was stunning and very touristy. I climbed down further on the rocks to take in the view of the ocean blending in the with the sky. 

Once we got to Sintra, we found our hostel for the night called Almaa. I’ve stayed in tons of hostels over my years of travelling but nothing quite like this one. The decor was so unique with much of the furniture being made from recycled bits and the building itself had a nice charm to it. I could tell right when I walked in that this was a hippie hostel…maybe because of the intense incense. I wish I had taken photos of the interior because it definitely wasn’t a typical hostel - felt like more of a family home and there weren’t any locks anywhere. Honestly, I would go back to Sintra just to stay at the hostel again because it felt like a retreat. The hostel had its own natural swimming pool, offered yoga classes and had a nice garden overlooking the city. Also had its own apple trees and brought in fresh bread every morning for brekky. Oh and can’t forget about the hostel dog. It’s small things like this that really make a hostel for me. 

We spent our 24 hours trekking the hills of the city. It was lush - a mixture of beautiful trees and coloured tiles throughout the city. Definitely a good day trip but very touristy still. We pretty much roamed the main part of town in the morning and hiked up the mountain to see the palaces at night. Although we didn’t actually get to see the palaces (they were closed when we got up and closed when we hiked up again really early the next day), the view of the city at the top was worth it. 

Sintra is a nice getaway from Lisbon if you’re looking for something calm and peaceful yet compact. If I had more time, I would have definitely stayed another day to check out all the palaces but that’s just another reason for me to go back! It only took us about 40 minutes to get to Lisbon so perfect for a nice day trip. 

HIKE OF THE SUMMER: TROLLTUNGA

I wouldn’t say I’m an expert hiker but hiking is definitely one of my favourite outdoor activities, especially in the summer. I try to do at least one hike, small or big, every place I visit. I saw pictures of Trolltunga on Instagram and literally booked a flight to Bergen just to do this hike. Before going, I researched how long it would take to hike and most said 10-12 hours. 10-12 hours?!?! Even though I’m pretty active, I’ve never done a hike that long before so I was nervous. 

I flew into Bergen to meet my Canadian friend who lived there at the time. We spent the day exploring the tiny and cute town of Bergen before making our way to Trolltunga the next morning. We stocked up on loads of food and bought extra clothes - I must've had at least 5kg worth of food in my backpack (just in case). It took us three hours to drive from Bergen to Skjeggedal, the starting point of the hike. 

Drive to Trolltunga from Bergen

We thought we made pretty good time until we were stopped for two hours by a roadblock in this small town called Lofthus. Even though our hike was delayed, It was nice to stop and explore such a scenic area. 

Everything I read online said to start the hike at 10AM latest…We didn’t start the 22km trek until 2PM. I was so nervous the whole time that we wouldn’t finish or would have to turn around. 

It was 11km to the top. The first kilometre felt like death - maybe partly because I was so frazzled and nervous about finishing but it was a 45 degree uphill, muddy climb. The next 2-4 kilometres were steep as well but still not as bad as the first. The scenery was like nothing I’ve seen, I felt like I was on The Discovery Channel. I look back and the mountains were covered green but if I looked ahead there would be bits of snow. 

The second half wasn’t too bad - relatively flat. My favourite part besides the top was around the 7km area where we saw this huge lake from the top surrounded by the mountains. Lots of people chose to camp here and it was absolutely breathtaking. If I had more time, I would definitely spend a day or two camping on the mountains. 

It was so glorious when we finally reached the top around 6PM. It wasn’t the sunniest day when we were there but the little rock that sticks out looked exactly like it did in photos. I sat on the edge for a second, 700m above the lake with an epic view. I would say 100% worth the 4 hours to see that view. It wasn’t as nerve-racking as Pulpit Rock which I did last year because there was barely any wind.

We hung out at the top for an hour or so before making our way back down. Because we started so late, we luckily caught the sunset coming back down. We had the sun and mountains all to ourselves really…it was beautiful. It ended up being perfect timing. We made it down by 11PM just before it got dark. 

This hike was difficult but it was more about endurance than anything. Trekking through 22km in total was tough but we managed to complete the entire hike in 9 hours including an hour at the top for pictures. I was so shocked but impressed and exhausted at the same time. We decided to take a nap in the car before driving back to Bergen at 4AM and this is what it looked like... 

I'd definitely recommend this hike but I would say prepare yourself for the length of the hike and the views!