3 beauty products that will change your life

Living out of a single bag for 6 months and not having a great deal of extra time or cash to spend on my face has taught me two major things: 1) you don’t always have to spend a fortune, and 2) you will discover amazing new products. Here are 3 new additions to my daily routine that I need to share with the world.

White Flower Oil

£6.65, Amazonwhite_fl_OilA potent blend of eucalyptus, lavender and menthol oils, this is honestly the best thing on the planet when it comes to multi-purpose products. It has so many uses. I discovered White Flower in the Philippines. A kind taxi driver pulled over and handed me a bottle when I was feeling ‘car sick’ (hungover). The calming aromatherapy helps prevent dizziness. Reading the box a bit later, I noticed a long list of ailments White Flower claims to relieve: sickness, headache, muscular pain, blocked nose, itching, insect bites, and (best of all) acne. Inhale the oil for calmness and rub a small amount onto red bites and spots for a powerful anti-inflammatory. It. Really. Works. And although it did only cost about 50p in Asia, it’s available on Amazon.

 

Natural Collection ‘Barley’ Eye Shadow

£1.99, Boots

Barley nat collect

Before I went away, I treated myself to MAC’s Extra Dimension Eye Shadow (£16) in ‘A Natural Flirt’. I wanted something that wouldn’t crease on my eyelids or slide off my face in humid climates. It was rubbish. My backup, a pale gold, shimmery eye shadow from Natural Collection was a million times more resilient. It stays on all day, blends well with other eye shadows as a base and even doubles as highlighter for your cheeks. The colour also looks lovely with a tan. I still wear it every day now.

 

Bare Minerals Complexion Rescue

£26, Boots£26, Boots

i-022234-complexion-rescue-gel-spice-8-1-940

This ‘Tinted Hydrating Gel Cream’ is the answer for anyone looking to wean themselves off foundation. The silky, light formula manages to hide spots and dark circles whilst boosting skin tone. Plus, it won’t dry out your skin or clog your pores. I have oily skin, so I still apply a touch of Smash Box primer to my T-zone and around my nose beforehand. I then finish with a sweep of Max Factor ‘Crème Puff’ pressed powder. Using this combination rather than thick foundation has dramatically reduced the amount of time I spend applying my face, and it’s 100 times better for my sensitive, oily skin.

I would love to hear about any amazing new products you’ve come across recently! Please feel free to share your discoveries below.

Advertisements

How would you spend 3 weeks in South East Asia?

DSC_0490

I don’t know about you, but before I went away, 3 weeks used to pass me by like that. Blink and it’s gone, with not an awful lot to show for it. Numerous hangovers and some new shoes from Zara. My break from the clock-distorting rat race has thankfully taught me this: I was wishing time away, and not really considering what I spent it on. Never, ever do this. Time is our greatest asset. The more we have the better. I’ve had the absolute priviledge of doing something amazing for the first half of this year. I turned all my money into time. 6 months away from my life. The result? I know full well how much you can do with your time if you spend it wisely.

Now, there’s the small fact that most of us have a job. This takes up a great deal of our time, I know. I really do. I might have been unemployed since January, but once upon a time I had a real job. Time and your weekends are literally the most precious things in the world. Which is why I struggle now more than ever to understand the relationship we have with our phones, the TV and the internet. Myself included. If time is so valuable, why do we spend hours scrolling through Instagram and watching ridiculous videos of things that may or may not be real pandas? We might not be able to hike to the nearest waterfall, but surely there’s still a whole world out there to explore? Even if it’s just a stroll along the river and dinner with friends.

So anyway, as you know, our time away was cut short when we sadly flew home for my dear Grandad’s funeral in May. Our weeks away suddenly felt finite and we realised that if we flew back to Asia (which we did) we could only afford to go for just under 4 weeks. Having already travelled for 4 months, we knew full well just how much you could see of the world in that short space of time, so we repacked our backpacks and flew back to Bangkok.

I’ve written this post to demonstrate how much you can see and do if you really put your mind to it, and to show that it is possible to ‘go travelling’ for less than a month, which is much more achievable for most people. Last year Joe and I spent close to £2000 on a week in Ibiza. This year we spent roughly the same on 10 days in Northern Thailand and 2 weeks in Vietnam. Here are some of the most memorable things we were able to do in that time.

Watch the sunset over Pai’s famous canyon

DSC_0109

After a night in Bangkok, we flew to Chiang Mai and then took the 3 hour bus to Pai. A notoriously chilled out, tourist-friendly town in the mountains. The scenery is incredibly beautiful and it was so easy to get back into the swing of things.

Look after the elephants

DSC_0249

After our day with Wildlife Friends Foundation at the very start of our travels, I was determined to visit a similar elephant sanctuary in Chiang Mai, one that stands head and shoulders above the rest in terms of actually caring for the animals. So many of the parks claim to be rehabilitation centres when in fact they still let ignorant tourists ride on the elephants’ backs, scaring them into submission. Elephant Nature Park provides a safe haven for rescued elephants, and does a huge amount to educate tourists on the painful and complicated history of elephant tourism in Thailand, particularly when it comes to elephant riding, trekking, logging and shows. None of which are OK.

Learn to cook Thai food

FullSizeRender(39)

I’m so glad I did a cookery class in Chiang Mai. I was worried it would be too complicated for someone as useless in the kitchen as me, but it was so easy and chilled. ‘A’, the teacher at Thai Orchid Cookery School made it really fun. We cooked a load of Thai classics: spring rolls, pad Thai, green curry, yellow curry, sweet and sour vegetables and tom yam soup. AND we got to eat everything we cooked.

Visit lots and lots of temples

FullSizeRender(40).jpg

Chiang Mai is absolutely surrounded by temples. You can’t walk down the street without spying a looming golden Buddha, turret or passageway.

Drink cold beer after dark

FullSizeRender(41)

The thing about it being 40°C in the day is that it turns you into an even bigger night person. I’m not ashamed to say that my favourite part of the day was generally sundown with a beer in my hand.

Spend the night somewhere beautiful

DSC_0310

A must-do trip from Vietnam’s capital Hanoi, we stayed on a boat at Halong Bay with Viola Cruise. We had a really nice room, amazing food, trips to the floating village, beach and cave, lovely company on the boat and the most incredible view as far as the eye can see.

Cycle through rice fields

DSC_0351.JPG

You’re never far from scenic rice fields in Vietnam, and some tours include a spot of cycling if you’re after a dramatic backdrop for photos. We went to Ninh Binh from Hanoi, which took about 3 hours by bus.

Always take the scenic route, by boat

DSC_0401

Also in Nihn Binh are local people wanting to take you down the river in their boats. The scenery is astounding and it was a lovely tranquil ride but they did demand more money from us after we’d already paid so be prepared.

Help local students with their English

FullSizeRender(42)

We were approached by a group of students wanting to practice their English, but there are opportunities to volunteer with young adults if you’d like to lend a hand during your trip. These particular students study in Da Nang and have a drop in centre…

Find the best views

FullSizeRender(44)

Never exactly hard when you’re somewhere as scenic as Vietnam, but sometimes finding natural beauty when you’re staying in the heart of the city is hard. Bach Ma National Park is under 2 hours drive from Hue, and the view from the top of the 300 ft waterfall was one of the best I’ve ever seen.

Trek through the jungle

FullSizeRender(45)

Whilst at Bach Ma we also trekked through the jungle, ticking off 5 different waterfalls, each filling a crystal-blue pool. The national park is 2km up in the mountains, so the air feels cool and clean  after the stifling heat and stickiness of the city.

Get caught in thunder storms

FullSizeRender(46)

Despite visiting during the start of the rainy season, we only saw a couple of storms. One of them trapped us under the bamboo roof of a beach bar and the other soaked us on an hour-long motorbike ride back down a mountain.

Explore ancient ruins

DSC_0508

We originally wanted to spend a week in Cambodia as I’ve always wanted to see Angkor Wat, so Vietnam’s Mỹ Sơn was a bit of a substitute. Nowhere near the same scale, but a really interesting architectural site none the less, particularly because it was bombed in the war.

Visit a local village

FullSizeRender(47)

On the way to Mỹ Sơn from Hoi An there’s a small local pottery village overlooking the mountains. Stop for a coffee and test your skills on the pottery wheel. I was terrible.

Buy a custom-made suit

FullSizeRender(48)

We went to a wedding in the Cotswolds the day after we flew home, so it made sense for Joe to get a custom-made suit in Vietnam. Hoi An is famous for it, and it’s shockingly cheap. Joe’s was made by Yaly, and I was so impressed. You choose the colour, fit, fabric etc and they do the rest. £120 for a high-quality suit and shirt.

Eat incredible Vietnamese food

FullSizeRender(49)

In Hoi An, we stayed with a Vietnamese family who had just opened their homestay, Flame Flowers. We were their guinea pigs, and every day they served us a different Vietnamese breakfast to see what we liked best, usually consisting of coffee, noodle soup, green leafy vegetables and fruit. It was honestly some of the freshest, tastiest food I’ve ever eaten, along with the Pho, Com Ga, Bun Bo and Bahn Mi street food of course.

Fall in love with a city

FullSizeRender(50)

My favourite place in Vietnam, Hoi An is a beautiful, historial, ancient town. Every road is lined with flowering trees and decorated with lights and paper lanterns. French architecture in pretty pastel shades line the walking streets, with plenty of arty cafes, shops and restaurants overlooking the river. It is very touristy though, so we really enjoyed staying a short bicycle ride away from town with the locals.

End on a high

FullSizeRender(51)

Ho Chi Minh is either where you’ll start or where you’ll end up if you visit Vietnam. We ended our trip here in the chaos. Once you get over the insane traffic and noise you’ll notice the shopping, museums, bars and restaurants. We went to Pasteur Street Brewery for beer tasting, Hum Vegetarian Restaurant for a lovely last dinner, and Snuffbox Lounge 1920s themed bar for the best gin cocktails.

Whether you’re planning a trip of your own or thinking of ways to make this summer count, I hope this post puts into perspective just how long 3 weeks can be! Making every day count isn’t easy when you’re faced with an all-consuming job and daily routine, so remember to make time for the moments that will stay with you long after.

20 things I’m glad I took travelling

FullSizeRender(6)

Since I’ve been away, I’ve had a few messages from people asking for travel-related advice, from which backpack to which bank card. I thought I’d share a few things I couldn’t live without right now. After the whole lost-luggage incident, I feel like I’ve got a pretty good grasp on what’s actually useful.

There are so many things I would tell past me whilst I was frantically trying to plan what to take. It’s bloody hard knowing what you’re going to need, particularly when you’re exploring different counties with opposing temperatures, contrasting terrains and different currencies. I couldn’t get my head around trying to pack for the sweltering heat of Thailand, the wilderness and mountains of New Zealand, and Spring-time city life in Japan – with many variations in between – all in a single backpack?! Traveller friends kept on at me: “don’t take too much, you’ll instantly regret it.” But how to know what the necessities are? In all honestly, you just don’t until you get there. And some of the time, you will rely on buying temporary seasonal adjustments you can throw away with each new country. But mostly, it is possible to take everything you need for most climates and activities all in one bag. The bag itself is also paramount to your planning of possessions, so I’ll start with that in my list of things I’m so very glad I took travelling:

1. A ZIP-AROUND BACKPACK

I am completely in love with my backpack. I knew I didn’t want a top-loading one, which requires removing every single item from a tiny opening just to find a clean pair of knickers. I wanted one that zipped all the way around like a suitcase, and chose the Osprey Porter 65. 65L is pretty big when you weigh 45kg but this backpack has ‘straight jacket’ fastenings across the front so that you can reduce the size and keep everything compact when it’s not full. It also has a million pockets, is super lightweight and really comfortable. The only downside is that you definitely look like a tortoise when you wear it because of the rounded shape, but I’m ok with that. Osprey Porter 65, £79.99 from Surfdome.com

2. A TRAVEL LAPTOP

FullSizeRender(12)

I am writing and blogging my way through my travels, so naturally I needed to take a laptop with me. Rather than risk losing my trusty old Macbook, I bought myself a HP Stream for about £125 on ebay. At 11.6 inches, it’s small and discreet enough carry around everywhere. The memory space is terrible, so I save photos externally, but in terms of just having a solid laptop to write with, is definitely does the job.

3. A SLEEPING BAG LINER

Being an unfortunate morning sniffler prone to puffy eyes, I am apparently allergic to pillows, or dust or something. I use my sleeping bag liner as a layer of protection to keep my allergies at bay but they’re also amazing for when you’re confronted with questionable sheets. It folds up really small and is breathable, too.

4. A DECENT TORCH

In Thailand and Gili T, we had few days and nights of no electricity. Having a good torch that was able to light the whole room was a life-saver. My Nan bought us ours from Wilko. Good old Nan. Good old Wilko.

5. A POWER BAR

And the same goes for the power bar. When faced with no electricity, we were still able to charge our phones. It’s also great if you’re going to be out in the wilderness and risk running out of battery. Just remember to keep it charged! Teknet PowerZen 2nd Gen, £20 from Amazon.co.uk

6. A MICROFIBRE TOWEL

I have actually lost my micro towel which I’m most upset about. It folds up really small and dries quickly – perfect as a backup. Most places seem to give out towels but I’ve found New Zealand to be a bit stingy on the towel front, often charging you to rent a shitty old towel. Better to have your own. Microfibre Quick-Drying Towel, £9.99 from Kathmandu.co.uk

7. A FIRST AID KIT

Another nifty present from my Nan, a little first aid kit can go a long way. Stock up on plasters, painkillers and antiseptic because you will undoubtedly need them at a time where there are no shops. I would take sun cream too as it’s often cheaper in the UK.

8. A MAGIC UNIQLO JACKET

Have you seen those jackets in Uniqlo in all the colours of the rainbow? Well they fold into a tiny bag like a pac-a-mac, are water proof, lightweight and filled with down, making them really warm. My sister bought me one in khaki and it’s by far one of the most useful things I have. Perfect for an extra layer on chilly flights and overnight buses and for staying dry on boats and rainy days. Ultra Light Down Jacket, £59.99 from Uniqlo.com

FullSizeRender(13)

9. A TRAVEL WASHING LINE

Just a stretchy cord with hooks on each end. Genius when you’re forever washing swimwear and socks in the sink. Travel Clothes Line, £5.47 from Amazon.co.uk

10. A WATERPROOF PHONE POUCH

There may be times where you’re on a boat in rough seas, or you’re simply dancing in the rain. Invest in a waterproof pouch for your phone and money so you can be carefree about it. Dry Phone Waterproof Phone Pouch, £6.74 from Amazon.co.uk

11. PORTABLE SPEAKERS

I would avoid taking anything expensive, just in case. We took knock off Bose speakers  and they’re actually pretty good. I also made a shed-load of playlists on Spotify beforehand.

12. A GOOD CAMERA

I can’t stress enough how much you will wish you had a decent camera once you reach your dream destinations. This is the trip of a lifetime. Invest in a camera that can do your memories justice for years to come. It’s risky, so be sure to backup photos as you go and insure all your equipment just in case. I have a Nikon 3200 and it’s a great option for anyone wanting decent shots that isn’t a pro.

FullSizeRender(7)

13. AN INDESTRUCTABLE WATCH

It doesn’t have to be an expensive one, I’ve just got a little gold Casio. But it’s waterproof and very resilient. I hate not knowing what the time is, especially when I’ve got pre-booked flights, ferries and buses to catch.

14. A FOLD-UP DAY BAG

I bought a Homdox packable backpack from Amazon and it’s so handy for when you need an extra bag. It completely folds into itself so takes up no space at all. It also fits loads in!

15. TRAINERS YOU ACTUALLY LIKE

I was in two minds about whether to take old trainers or lovely new ones. I decided to treat myself to a pair of Nike Janoski Maxes because, to be honest, I’m going to be wearing them every day so better to start with a new pair, right? Plus they are nice enough to wear with all my clothes for pretty much any occasion so I don’t always feel like a tramp. And because I love them.

FullSizeRender(10)

16. BANK CARDS THAT WON’T CHARGE YOU

Without boring you all to tears, we decided to transferred all our money into a joint Santander 123 account. We also chose to have Halifax clarity credit card and a pre-paid card with a company called Resolut. The Halifax and Resolut cards are free to use aboard. We set up direct debits from the Santander account to pay off the Halifax and we top up the resolut card using an app on our phones as and when we need to. I would like to point out that this was Joe’s planning. I am hopeless with money and numbers. If in doubt, consult moneysavingexpert.com

17. DECENT DENIM

I’m so glad I took a good-quality pair of jeans and denim shorts (Topshop and Levis). I know they go with everything, are flattering and won’t go out of shape. They also require minimal washing. Light trousers and shorts are everywhere (and cheaper) in Asia.

18. PLENTY OF SWIMWEAR

This will probably be the thing you wear the most. It’s also the quickest thing to get ruined thanks to salt and chlorine, so take a good selection of swimwear.

19.INSECT REPELLENT WITH ‘DEET’

Well worth the extra couple of quid in Boots. We’ve found that, often, little corner shops in Asia only have crappy insect repellent that does nothing at all. It is so horrible being covered in bites, so check the ingredients for ‘deet’.

20. A KINDLE

FullSizeRender(11)

I love the romantic notion of travelling the globe with a pile of books under my arm, but in reality it just doesn’t work. You will suddenly find you have much more time to read, so treat yourself to a kindle and save some space in your bag. Alternatively you will find second hand book stores and book swaps in hostels.

If you are as clueless about travelling as I was a few months ago, I hope this post has enlightened you in some ways. Basically, try your hardest not to fill up your backpack with clothes (which, admittedly, I did do), and take it from someone who honestly believed she couldn’t live without them, you can, and you will.