Bali

. March 21, 2018 .
This post has been brewing for a while. Months to maybe a year in fact. Initially, I wanted this to be an informative piece about my upcoming pursuit to my favourite place in the world, but I wanted to set the scene a little. Let you guys know why I've made the decision to leave home to live in Indonsesia for a few months and turns out I have so much to say this has turned into a bit of a love letter to Bali. So grab a cuppa and get comfy, It's a long one.






Exactly one year ago today, I boarded a flight to Bali for the first time with one of my best friends. It was my first time in Asia, the furthest I'd been from home and the beginning of what would be an insatiable love affair with the Indonesian island. Bali had been the top of my travel list since watching Eat Pray Love back in 2010, I'd literally spent years daydreaming about the surf, the rice fields, the temples, the sunsets and Balinese life itself. So of course, finally visiting was a pretty bloody magical, cathartic experience. It opened my eyes to not only new parts of the world, but new parts of myself. The energy, the people, the general vibe of pure happiness everywhere you went – it put a lot of things in perspective and I was addicted.

We spent two weeks traveling around the island, soaking up every bit of Bali that we could. From daily doses of vitamin-sea and traditional spas to temple trecks and conquering my fear of the sea on my first scuba dive in the Gili Islands. I fell head over heels for everything about it and came home with not only my first tattoo but a heavy heart about leaving. I mean, I like to think this was tiredness induced, but I think I was even mopey enough to shed a tear or two in Denpasar airport.













At home, I had a severe case of the Bali blues. My brain itching with fresh memories, my body craving sunshine, salt water, and coconuts. I hadn't had enough. I'd always been a gypsy soul. I craved adventure and discovery of new places, no matter how low my bank balance was – I always somehow made it happen. Where would I go next? Where haven't I seen? But this was different, never had I had such a gut-wrenching desire to return to somewhere so soon, so immediately after coming home. In the three weeks that followed, I threw myself into work, the gym and ended a five-year relationship – told you it put things in perspective. And then, before I knew it, I was on Sky Scanner booking flights back to my new favourite island.

So a little over a month after returning from my first Bali trip, I was back at Heathrow, nearly collapsing under the weight of my backpack, ready to embark on my first ever solo trip. Shit scared? Hell yes. I'd be experiencing hostels for the first time in my life, alone, with no idea who I'd meet or what to expect. It'd been something I'd always wanted to do, so returning to my new favourite place seemed like the perfect excuse to do it.

Traveling to Bali alone was a different experience entirely. It pushed me way out of my comfort zone but I loved every second of it. I met so many amazing different people from all over the world, all doing the same as me, some for months at a time, some on holiday – generally there was just an amazing friendly vibe everywhere and it did amazing things for my confidence. I was headed to the beach with different people every day, jumping on the back of scooters, sharing meals with strangers and dancing 'till the early hours at beach clubs with new friends. Like I said, a totally different experience but it only made me fall in love with Bali all over again.

And, being the hopeless romantic that I am, I also managed to fall for a boy during this trip too. Yes, Bali is renowned for its relaxed way of life, and everything really is so damn chill. But it's also heady, hell romantic and the tropical air is thick with promise and excitement. It's hard not to feel the love. This relationship evolved into a holiday romance that stretched out over the duration of the summer, and I used to think that's why I loved Bali so much, because I fell in love there. But now I can see it was pretty much the opposite, I fell so hard because I was having the time of my life, was so in love with Bali and the dreamy places I was in at the time. So when my friends asked me if it'd make me sad going back, I told them no – because (besides being totally over that relationship and a stronger person for it) there's not one hard feeling. I'll smile if I see the places we went, because it'll just be a reminder of how special the place can make you feel, with someone or by yourself.











That being said, this past year has had some soaring highs and soul-shattering lows. I've been by myself for a good amount of time for the first time in my adult life and feel more self-assured in myself, my work and the people in my life than ever before. I'm a hell of a lot more confident, independent and a step like this next one couldn't feel any more natural to me right now. I'm ready for new challenges and adventures, but I'm also so ready to return to my favourite place on the planet.

I knew after my last trip the next time I'd be coming back to Bali, it would be to stay, to experience living there. For a good while at least. The place fills my thoughts on the daily, I'd say about 50% of the accounts I follow on Instagram are Bali related and when I see these pictures or read stories about it, I almost feel homesick. I don't think there's a cell in my body that doesn't want to be there. So, come mid-April, me and my backpack are setting off once more and this time I'm gonna hang around for a while. Sure, I'll travel a little, but I'll be getting my own place, own scooter (god help me), pouring myself into my work and content creation and be living on the island of my dreams for a good few months. It's scary and will be a different experience to my previous two trips entirely, but I'm so damn ready for it.

I asked you guys on Instagram if you had any questions about my move and how I'll be doing it and the main question that came up was funding. How am I affording to up and leave? Of course, being self-employed has its perks and I fully intend on working as much as possible on my content whilst I'm out there – I'm not treating it like a three month holiday. I've saved a little money up, but to be honest, the cost of living is actually so cheap out there my expenses aren't going to be much different to what they are here. And work-wise, I'm hoping to collaborate with local creatives and have a few things planned with some of my favourite UK brands too. But what I'm really excited about is to get back to basics with my content, focus on my photography and write about things I really want to write about, there are so many ideas swimming around my brain right now I could burst.

I have a rough return date, so I'm not running away forever. There are some work and family commitments I have later in the year and to be honest, there are so many places and festivals in Europe I would hate to miss out on this summer. And if all goes well, I can probably see myself running back to Bali to escape the British winter. But for now, I just know for sure that this is my next step and after that – who the hell knows! So long as I can keep doing what I'm doing, keep traveling and creating pretty pictures and words here for you (and me) – I'm pretty bloody happy about having an open-ended future right now and am so excited about what the rest of 2018 and the next few months in particular will bring.

If you made it this far, thanks for reading. I hope you enjoyed this personal post and some of my favourite shots from my last two trips. Stay tuned for a hell of a lot more coming this was so very soon <3

. March 13, 2018 .
I'd toyed with the idea of lip enhancement for years. We live in an age of perfected pouts and flawless faces thanks to the beauty gurus of social media and from friends to followers, I'd seen some pretty good results when it came to lip enhancement. So, as the possessor of pretty flat lips, I wanted to try it out myself. There's something about a pillowy pout I'd always loved the look of on other gals, it's feminine and a subtle enhancement of your natural beauty – when it's not done OTT of course. I mean, ily Kylie, but it's definitely all about enhancing what's already there for me. So last week, running on a few hours sleep after my late return from Berlin, I headed down to London to visit Viva Skin Clinics to finally try it out and I couldn't be happier with the results.



The best thing for me about my freshly enhanced pout is that they're still very much my lips. Same shape, just a touch fuller and my previously uneven lip line more perfected. My top lip no longer disappears when I smile, they're a perfect base for a coloured lip and in general, make me feel a touch more confident.

On the day, I headed to Viva Skin Clinic's Dental Art Studio in Old Street to meet the wonderful Dr. Rupert who would be doing my procedure. As well as being a talented cosmetic doctor, he's the loveliest guy who made me feel so comfortable and put my nerves at ease as soon as I got there (even though I was late!). We had a consultation beforehand and agreed on a minimal 0.5ml of Juvaderm for my first lip enhancement procedure to create the natural look I was after.  As my bottom lip was already fuller, we decided on a little more up top and Dr. Rupert said he'd use those injection points to create a deeper cupids bow for me as well. 

In terms of pain, I felt virtually nothing! We used an anesthetic cream that totally numbed the area and I only felt a minimal couple of pinches on my bottom lip and nothing on the top. So if, like I was, that's something you're nervous about – don't be, the procedures is over so quickly as well. 


without/ with lip colour


You can see from the before and after's shot on the day (below) there was an immediate improvement to my uneven lip line and though much fuller, they still held my own natural shape. There was some slight swelling afterward, but not enough to stop me attending a restaurant launch back in Bristol that same evening! It can take up to a week (today, when I shot the images with the red lip) for the swelling to totally go down, but I'd say mine were completely settled the following evening. 


Now they've settled, they should stay this way for up to six months and then, I'll be heading back to Dr. Rupert for a little top up. I may even be tempted to go even a little bit more fuller next time, but for now, I'm totally in love with my newly enhanced lips and can't thank Dr. Rupert and Viva Skin Clinics enough for a great experience from start to finish. You can visit their website for more information and their complete range of cosmetic treatments here.

On the day: Before and Afters


Reykjavík

. March 09, 2018 .
As promised here's my Reykjavik post. Iceland's capital and most densely populated area, it's one of the greenest, cleanest and safest cities in the world. Of course, as with the rest of the country, I fell head over heels for its Icelandic charm, adorable buildings, and cute eateries and thought it deserved a post of its own (you can catch the rest of my Iceland guide here).

When planning a trip to Iceland, there's definitely a checklist – most of which I covered in my last post. The blue lagoon, golden circle, northern lights etcetera and Reykjavik is usually the base point, but people often forget to mention what a wonderful little place it is in itself. In fact, I was surprised how trendy Reykjavik was for such a small town, but perhaps thanks to its booming popularity over the last couple of years it's full of the coolest bars, vegan joints and its music scene is pretty bloody impressive too. 


We stayed in the super convenient Swan House apartments, right in the heart of Reykjavik all restaurants and museums were within walking distance and we were just a couple of blocks away from the bus stops we needed to reach for our tours. The apartments themselves had a minimal clean and cool design with a contemporary Icelandic vibe. Think greys, textured blankets and woven wicker lamps – v cool. It was also a stone's throw from the bay so at sunrise (about 9am when we were there) I wandered down a couple of times and enjoyed the most spectacular firey sky views over the mountains – see pic no.2.

With spacious studio layout big enough to sleep four of us, complete with a kitchenette, dining table and cute bathroom it was our perfect base and frankly a little haven after long days exploring. Also worth noting Iceland can be pretty pricey, especially when you factor in all the costs of the tours, so having the option to cook our own meals some nights was so good. My family loved it here and I totally recommend the superior studio we stayed in for groups but they have a whole selection to choose from here.


That being said, Reykjavik is also a great place for solo travelers and backpackers and there's an amazing range of hostels on Hostel World here.  We actually visited one as its bar was renowned for being the one of the best in Reykavik, so on their Jazz night we visited Kex Hostel and ended up having a great night. If I was to go back again alone (which I'm definitely scheming to do) I would 100% stay here!

As I said the vegan scene is also amazing, but Reykjavik in general is incredible for food and nearly everywhere had great veggie/vegan options. Kaffi Vinyl is a new place which is basically the cooolest vinyl shop come vegan restaurant hybrid. Great beats and tasty grub, get there early for a dinner-time table. Brau∂ & Co is a bakery famous for the 'worlds best' cinnamon buns and it definitely lived up to the hype – so much so I went back there twice! It's colorful building is nestled on the main street leading to the Cathedral, so grab one and enjoy devouring it on the way up. Another favourite for dinner was Mikeller & Friends, a danish Joint that had a wonderful local-pub type atmosphere that served an extensive range of beers, cocktails and the best vegan pizza with cashew cheese. Other places you should hit up are Joe & The Juice, for coffee and/or juice before you set off on your tours, Aku Taktu – a Iceland's fancy take on a Maccas that do a smashing vegan burger and Reykjaviks Hard Rock Café ain't bad either.  

There's so much of Reykjavik I'd still love to see – I wish I'd had a chance to visit the opera house and some of the museums, but I hope you enjoy these tips anyway and be sure to check out this website for local events and music nights during your stay! And that concludes my Iceland posts, you can read my guide for everything outside of Reykjavik here or watch my Insta video below for some of the trip highlights. Thanks always for reading x


Iceland

. February 28, 2018 .
Iceland, you took my breath away. I mean, literally – it was bloody freezing. Of course, that didn't stop this trip becoming one of my favorites ever. Sneakily scheming and planning for months last year, my Dad, brother and I planned a week in Iceland as a surprise for my Mum's 60th birthday. It's somewhere we'd all always wanted to go and hadn't taken a trip abroad the four of us for more than 8 years. So, come Christmas day, we surprised my Mum with a travel journal and told her she could fill it on our trip to Iceland coming up two days after her 60th at the end of January. There were tears, a few weeks of excited anticipation and before we knew it we were up at 4am and off to Heathrow.


Having done so much solo travel over the last year, headed to the airport with my 3 faves, Dad in a panic about being late, Mum still cramming extra undies in the case at the airport carpark and brother still half asleep, was actually such a treat. I never take travel for granted, but for the first time in ages, I was reminded of that pure ecstatic feeling of holiday excitement I felt as a kid and I knew it was going to be one hell of a special trip. 

So yes, Iceland quite literally took my breath away, but not just because of the need for thermals. It was one of the most beautiful countries I've ever visited and each day I found myself pretty dumbstruck with the surreal natural surroundings. I always love discovering new places when I travel and immersing myself in the culture, it's really what I'm most passionate about in life these days. And sometimes, when it's super special, I'll be so mesmerized by a place I'll fall fully on head over heels for it. And whilst I can think of 100 reasons to love this place, I've structured my travel guide into some of the highlights of our trip. I'll be doing a whole separate post on Reykjavik (the main city) so stay tuned for that one, and in the meantime enjoy these delights that the rest of Iceland had to offer.


 The crazy beautiful, ethereal landscapes 

There are beautiful landscapes, then there's Iceland. The vast white mountains and glaciers scattered across the island are graceful giants, half the time it's like your sitting in a painting, especially when they're plastered against a pastel sky that's always dotted with soft hues of pink and blue. Then, by stark contrast, there'll be a beach with jet black sand and coastal cliff formations looking like something out of Game of Thrones. I actually had it on good knowledge from our tour guide that the cast were in Iceland filming during our trip, so naturally, I just took a seat on the beach waiting for Jon Snow to roll up to shore but unfortunately, all I got was a cold and wet derriére. 

But even sans the beauty that is Kit Harrington, these landscapes were utterly breathtaking – everything mostly so untouched and wild it felt like we were trespassing on another planet. We did two main tours to explore the island and they were my two favourite days of the trip. And there was me thinking, 12 hours a day on a minibus would be tiresome.

THE GOLDEN CIRCLE
The Golden Circle, the most popular and mother of all Icelandic tours. We went straight in on day one to experience the tours hot spots and it was the best possible start to our trip. We opted for the Classic Golden Circle tour with one of Iceland's most popular operators, Grayline Iceland. We had a wonderful local lady as our guide who delved into some of the incredible histories behind some of the sites we saw, as well as including a few of her own stories that got us chuckling as was a lovely personal touch. First up was Pingvellir national park where we learned about the home of Iceland's age-old democracy and some pretty twisted tales of witchcraft at the grislier sites – all of course whilst marveling at the panoramic scenes of serene lakes mountains blanketed with snowfall. Next got to see some giant geysers erupt which was again, otherworldly, and then it was onto the mighty Gullfoss Waterfall which was the highlight for me. A colossal force of nature it this powerful giant of a waterfall was the most incredible waterfall I'd ever seen, and probably ever will see. Special thanks to Grayline for having my family and me on such a wonderful trip – you can find the exact tour we did here but be sure to check out their packages too.

SOUTH OF ICELAND
With one day left out of 6 on our trip, we decided we wanted to go a bit further afield and explore some more rural Iceland. This trip we did on a smaller scale with Your Day Tours but very nearly had to miss it! It's no secret that Iceland's climate can be pretty extreme so following a huge storm the night before, there was a country-wide weather warning and the main road down to the south was closed. We were sat on the minibus ready to be disappointed with a turnaround back to Reykjavik like many other operators but our guide persevered, trusting his local instincts that the weather would brighten up as we camped out at a petrol station for a while. Sure enough, the sun started to peek through, the road opened up and off we went with our incredible guide who was both hilarious and knowledgeable with his commentry throughout the day.

The mixture of sun and rain actually melted away most of the snow so we were treated with a greener side of Iceland as the day went on. Cruising along the coast was an experience in itself, spying many a coastal waterfall and glacier on one side and miles upon miles of black sand on the other. The black sand beach was our first stop and as if by magic, the sun came out in full force and I actually led down to bathe a little in it, ski jacket and all! With gulls soaring above and mammoth waves crashing at the shoreline (a total surfers paradise if it wasn't so cold I'm sure) I was so damnn thankful we hadn't missed out on this. The journey back saw us stop at two more beautiful waterfalls, Seljalandsfoss (the more mega of the two) and Skogafoss to round up a perfect day, before enjoying some local snacks and drinks provided by our guide on the way back to Reykjavik. 

The Aurora Borealis

Bit of a given here hey? I'd told myself repeatedly not to get my hopes up about the northern lights, we'd had a few cloudy days, I knew they can be very temperamental and you've got to be super lucky to have a chance of seeing them. So imagine my sheer delight and amazement when not 10 minutes after stepping off our tour bus, we were blessed with a dancing green show of the Aurora Borealis that lasted well over 40 minutes. Staring up as they rolled through the night sky was so overwhelmingly surreal I actually welled up a little bit – this is what we'd come for and I couldn't believe how lucky I was to experience it all with my family. Hat's off to my brother for nailing these incredible shots.

Like I said, we were super lucky to see them on the one clear night we had in Iceland (it was actually the night of the blood moon too!) so I'd definitely recommend checking the weather before your trip and designating one, if not two nights to northern light hunting. We booked through Isandgo, but from the look of it, all tour buses and private jeeps head to the same spot every night (we saw them in the southern peninsula) as all the tour guides know the best-forecasted spots.


The Blue Lagoon

Now, did you even come to Iceland if you didn't go to the Blue Lagoon? This place very much lived up to the hype, and although it was pretty touristic it was still very much an unforgettable experience. As it's so popular, you do need to make sure to book in advance – even before you fly perhaps. Somehow, despite months of planning, we forgot to do this until the day we arrived. Fortunately, there was a 4pm slot left in the middle of our trip that thanks to booking with Grayline, would get us back in Reykjavik just in time for our northern lights trip. I was worried it would be a bit dark but it turned out being the most perfect time of day to go. 

In January/February, there are only around six or seven hours of daylight in Iceland so, wherever you are, the sun is always dancing on the horizon somewhere, making the sky turn those beautiful pastel shades I was talking about earlier. Nestled in amongst mountains and vast planes of snow about an hours drive from the city, the Blue Lagoon is was the perfect spot to marvel at it. The setting sun licked the mountains, turning them bright pink as the sky flamed colours of orange and blue above us. Basking in the milky blue waters of the blue lagoon at dusk, it was the most beautiful sunset of the trip. Not to mention, the natural hot thermal pools were such a welcome harbor from the cold and made for a surreal experience given the snowy location. And then, as if we weren't already spoiled enough, we caught a glimpse of the bloody moon rearing its head over the mountains as we were leaving.


It's just as beautiful from the sea 

So after exploring a lot of the mainland, it only seemed right we completed our trip with a venture out into the Atlantic out of Reyjavik's bay. We joined Edling Whale Watching in the hopes of seeing some sea creatures and they looked after us so well from start to finish. We borrowed some overalls (which were so necessary) from inside the boat and spent the morning enjoying the sights from the top deck. It was bloody freezing, but the views of the neighboring mountains in the low lying sun as it sparkled across the Atlantic waves were oh so worth it.

Whilst we sadly didn't see any whales, but if you have no sightings, Elding kindly offer you another trip free of charge. We did, however, see plenty of majestic birds and the trip was worth it to see Iceland from the water alone. Wind in my hair, sailing over the waves and breathing in the crisp Atlantic air was another pinch-me moment on the trip.


And that friends, concludes my first Iceland post! I hope you enjoyed reading about my adventures and I've inspired you to add this wonderful place to your bucket list. Read my Reykjavik post here where I share my tips on where to stay and all my favourite spots in town. 

lucia grace