19 April 2017

So, I've quit my job and left home to travel the world. I've left behind my friends, all my worldly belogingings and (much to my dismay) the puppy. But not my makeup. A rather full, makeup bag most definitely made it into my teeny tiny carry on bag that I've been living out of whilst I travel. So I though today, I'd run you through all the details of why and what I packed in my makeup bag for my 4 month long adventure around the world. How does that sound?


When I go on holiday, it's normally to somewhere hot. You know the drill; palm tree's, long stretches of beach and PiƱa Colada's. Normally, that somewhere I'm going tends to be somewhere I won't be wearing makeup. And if I am, I won't be wearing an awful lot of it, that's for sure! Where makeup is concerned, I'm a fairly light packer (unlike other area's of packing, but we won't talk about that here). I tend to go for products that are multifunctional, so as though to save room in my bag for more necessary things. Ya'know an outfit for every occaision. A good cheek palette like the Urban Decay 'Naked Blushed' palette is my go to for the cheeks but looks absolutely beautiful on my eyes too.

On this occaision however, I'm hitting two completely different climates! It was in the minus temperatures whilst I was in Iceland a couple weeks ago, and the weather man says it's going to be highs of 30 in the Phillipines next week. And, if the climates weren't enough, I'll be hitting a variety of places too. I've seen Volcano's and Emerald lakes already, but currently I'm enjoying city life in Japan.

I literally have to pack for every scenario. Sounds crazy right. But I wasn't going to be hitting this adventure bare faced. I'll be reliving my memoried from this trip, forever through photo's and as silly as it sounds, I always feel more confident and like 'myself' with a bit of concealer and my winged eyeliner.

So, I bit the bullet and packed a full makeup bag of products for this trip. I have tried to be a little more frugal than my generic day-to-day makeup bag. I mentioned in a post earlier this year that I wanted my travel wardrobe (including my makeup) to be as minamalist and versatile as possible. So that's what I've tried. It was quite the treacherous task. Packing for all weathers was a tough one. But I think I've done it, and it's working for me well, so far. I'll definitely keep you updated on that one though!



ON THE FACE




So you know 30 seconds ago I was talking about being minamalist and frugal, yada yada. Well, that went straight out the window when I packed my foundations. Yep, plural. Well, sort of.

A couple weeks before I left, Kat Von D sent over their 'Lock It Tattoo' foundation which I fell in love with. Emphasis on the fell in love! The coverage is fantastic, the stay power is incredible and well, there was just no way I was leaving home without it. However, I was very aware that once I got to the Phillipines, it would be going back in my suitcase and not coming out again until I returned home. Because let's be realistic, no one wants high coverage foundation when it's 30 degree's outside. To replace it however, I packed my go-to travel staple; The Body Shop 'All-in-One' BB Cream. I always travel with this. In fact, if you were to go back and find some of my older 'What's in my Travel Makeup Bag' posts, you'll see it.

It's super light weight so you don't feel cakey and heavy, but it's got just enough coverage to make me feel comfortable and happy with my skin. AND, it adapts to your skin tone, so no matter how much you tan whilst your away, this is always the shade for you. It's magical.

For concealer I went with my favourite, Urban Decay 'Naked Skin' Concealer. It works an absolute treat on days when I can't be fussed for a full face. It brightens my under eyes and covers those pesky spots. And with the terrible diet I have at the moment because money is tight (we're literally living on packet noodles and soup!), there's been a few of those!

I don't tend to use powder an awful lot anymore because my skin in too dry. In it's place, is the NYX 'Matte Setting Spray' which is just delightful to just spritz on your face when you're hot and sticky! It's a necessity for places where it's humid as otherwise my makeup will disappear in T-Minus 5 seconds. However, it was super helpful in Iceland too when the rain and wind decided to batter us blind.

I am an absolute sucker for good highlight and I am addicted to the Becca 'Shimmering Skin Perfector' in Opal. I have a cute, travel sized version with a handy dauffer applicator so it's super small and I didn't have to pack a brush to go with it! Perfect for the minamalist traveller.



IT'S ALL ABOUT THE EYES




For eyes, I packed not one, not two but three liquid liners. I am a liquid liner addict, it's very rare for me to leave the house without my precious wings. Whilst that won't be the case once I get to the Phillipines and onwards, it's been most certainly been the case so far! The 'Supercat Liner' by Soap and Glory is my highstreet favourite, but it doesn't last consdierably long! Hence why it was necessary to pack three!

For Mascara I packed the Rimmel London 'Scandaleyes XX-treme'. It's been the only one I've used in the past 12 months and has impressed me far more than any designer brand has. It thickens and lengthens my lashes and I always get so many compliments when I use it.

In the last year, I've really fallen in love with shaping and filling in my brows. My go to always is the Anstasia Beverley Hills 'Dip Brow Pomade' but alas in my fight to be frugal, it didn't make it on this trip. I needed something that was simple and easy to apply, something that would be quick to put on whilst on the go. Which the ABH gel brow was not.

However, I picked up my next best favourite, the 'Archery' pencil by Soap and Glory. It has a super fine nib, so is really precise and looks beautifully natural. Again though, (this might be a theme with Soap and Glory products) the pencil doesn't last particuarly long, so 3 pencils were very necessary on this trip! Minamalist, no probably not. But I've already finished my first!


And that's that. One month into my four month travel stint and I think I've packed a really flexible, fairly frugal makeup bag. I'm very proud that I didn't cave last minute and add more. In fact I actually took a couple of items out. Like a bronzer and my Daniel Sandler 'Watercolour Blush'. I remembered I had a limit on liquids travelling with hand-luggage only. What do you think? Would you have packed your makeup bag any differently for a trip similar to this? I'm intrigued to know if anyone out there would pack any makeup at all! My attempt at being minimalist might be laughable but I'm always keen to learn from someone who can do it.

Before I leave you, I just wanted to pop a shameless plug in here. I've been taking a tonne of photo's from my trip and if you're interested, I've been posting them almost daily on my Instagram. My partner in crime and travel guide extrodinaire, George, has been posting some really sweet photo's too! If you head over there, leave him a little comment and tell him I sent you. I'll be swimming in Girlfriend points if you do!

Love always,
Melissa

12 April 2017

Iceland seems to be at the top of everyone's bucketlists at the moment and for very, very good reasons. The country is unlike any other but being cut off from mainland suppliers of almost everything, things get expensive and pretty fast. However, I have some tips that will help you to tick of Iceland from your wanderlust list and travel without breaking the bank. How to travel Iceland on a budget...


I did an awful lot of research before leaving for Iceland on how to make the most of my trip. Whilst blog posts on travelling the magical land of Iceland seem to be popping up a little more than they were a few years ago, the information within them seems to be more of the same. You can spend hours reading about the tourist hotspots on the Golden Circle and how to explore the eclectic city of Reykjavik. If you look hard enough, there's even a few posts on the alien landscapes once you leave the Golden Circle. However, the one thing all these posts have in common, is that they spend most of the post reiterating how expensive Iceland is and how much it's going to leave a gaping hole in your bank balance.

Now, I'm not going to tell you any different, Iceland is not cheap. But it's totally affordable if you're really dedicated to make it that way.

I got so fed up of hearing about how expensive Iceland is when I was researching my trip, that it kind of became my goal to make something else. Which I think I smashed. There are always ways to save money and Iceland is no different from that. Being frugal and budgeting isn't for the weak hearted when you're exploring somewhere new. The desire to eat at every restaurant and shop in every shop almost killed me. When you've been living off of dry cereal and packet noodles even for just a few days the withdrawel of 'real food' can almost be a game changer. George and I really went cold turkey, be all end all on this trip. But you can do anything you put your mind to, right!

What do you want from your trip to Iceland?


Depending on what you're coming to Iceland for, will completely depict how much money you're looking at spedning whilst you there. Most of the time, tourists come to Iceland for it's natural beauty; like the volcano's, waterfalls and geysirs. But Iceland has so much more to offer than just what you can find on the Golden Circle.

The trick to saving the most money, is to know what you need/want to see/do. Chances are you're going to leave Iceland after your first visit knowing that you want to go back many, many times after. Even with a reasonable budget, you'll never see and experience everything Iceland has to offer in one visit. So go into planning your first trip with the mindset that you're going to come back. If you're on a budget, and I'll put money on the fact that because you're reading this post you are, then figuring out a list on un-missables is you're best plan.


If your dream is to eat your way through Iceland's best restaurants, then you're not going to need to venture much further than the Golden Circle. Arguable I know, but if you're on a budget, then going all the way to Akureyri for the countries best hot dog is a little ridiculous. Scrap that, it's very ridiculous. If you're here for the food then there are some incredible eateries in the city which will satisfy your senses completely. No need to venture to the other side of the country. What's more, is when you're not eating you can spend your time on one or two of the guided tours to the Golden Circle, because you can't go all that way and not leave Reykjavik.

On the other hand however, if you're all about the sightseeing and the roads less travelled, then I'd get out of the city as fast as you can. Like I mentioned, Reykjavik is filled with so many incredible, deliciously smelling restaurants that compared to British prices, are so expensive. But they smell so good, you'll want to spend the money. Which is a big no, no when on a budget. If you're there for the sights then you'll want to hire a car, guided tours are great but there's nothing better than travelling at your own pace. But more on that later...


How to save money when you know what you want to do


I'm going to keep going back to those two scenario's, you either A) want to visit Iceland for the city life and food or B) want to see the sights. Because let's face it, Iceland has nothing on Scandenavia and you're most certainly not visiting for the weather.

But, once you figure out what category you're in, and honestly I can't say this enough, if you're on a budget it's not going to be easy if you're in both. Pick the one that you want the most, there's always room for comprimise later.

Anyway, scenario A), you're all about the food. Reykjavik has a plethora of restaurants on offer (I recommend Svarta Kaffid, seriously, check it out) and chances are, you'll be enticed by them all. Which also lends a good chance that you're going to be spending a bit of $$$. Realistically, a single course dinner with tap water and a tip is going to set you back at least 2300KR (£17) for just one person. So, if you're there for 4 days and eat out for every meal, which you can, you're looking at spending a minimum £200 on food.

Do your research, figure out what eateries you can't miss, like the Icelandic Hot Dog which they cover in cheese, garlic mayo and Dorito's. Yes, Dorito's. If you're staying in a Hostel or AirBnB then you'll have access to a kitchen. As far as I'm aware, there aren't any stand-out Icelandic breakfasts, so picking up some cereal or toast and eating in will save you money. If you can, maybe try cooking for yourselves at lunch time too. There's always a lot of 'different' foods sold in any 'new' grocery store than what you might find in your local at home. So taking the time out to experience home-foods from the Icelandic grocery stores will still be working towards your 'experiencing Icelandic food'goal, just not spending as much money!

TOP TIP: Only shop at Bonus when you're grocery shopping. And when you can pick the products with the EuroSave logo on them.

Scenario B); you want to walk the roads less travelled. As long as you don't go too far, for example staying on the ring road and not venturing too far North, then you've got quite a good chance at doing this on a budget.

George and I travelled the southern coastline in a Camper Van, which meant what we paid for the van, covered our transport and accomodation expenses in one. It also meant that we could be really flexible about where we were going in the daytime and where we could end up each night. We had no hostel reservations to abide by like you would if you hire a car. And no pre-booked tours to attend even if there was a torrential downpoor. We were truly free birds, going where we wanted and when we wanted. Which I'd thoroughly recommend, considering your itinerary will be 100% depicted by the weather when you visit.

When do you want to go? 


Summer is peak season in Iceland because the weather is slightly more predictable (although only by a fraction) and the days are long. Seriously long. I'm talking, the sun doesn't set in August. So you can expect to be spending more than premium prices to travel Iceland in Summer. It's the most popular time of year to camp and there are lots of celebrations, festivals and activities to keep you occupied all 24hours of daylight.

In winter, the prices are more affordable. Still quite steep, this is Iceland remember, but it's more accessible on a smaller budget at this time. The weather however is more unpredictable and the temperatures can be below freezing in winter too. However, if you're dreaming of seeing the Northern lights whilst you're there, you've got a good chance in the colder seasons. Particularly in March. George and I travelled in the last week of March and only paid to park our camper and stay overnight once. Wild camping in Iceland is illegal all year round however the campsights which are open 365days of the year seemed fairly flexible about charging in low season. We wern't trying to specifically elude the charges either, on our first night we asked the guy how much and he just shrugged us off.


I'm not going to pretend that Iceland was a breeze and super cheap, because it wasn't. We spent roughly £1100 on our 6 day trip, including flights, tours and camper hire (George and I went with Camp Easy for our Van which were phenominal by the way, I would 100% recommend). Not to mention insurance and all that nonsense you need when you travel. But it was 100% worth it and I'd do it again in a heartbeat. But to recap on how to save money when travelling Iceland:
  • Know what you want to get out of your trip, and remember that you can always come back if you don't get everything done first try.
  • The weather will define what you do, have an itinerary to make the most out of your time but be flexible about when you do your activities. Don't trust the weather report more that 3 hours in advance because it's seriously unpredicatable. You'll also save money on tours by not booking in advance due to weather too. A freak storm before your Ice Cave adventure would mean losing out on a lot of $$$ as you couldn't make it to the meeting site because of unsafe road conditions.
  • But, do do tours. Some of the most spectacular things in Iceland isn't accessible without a guide. And don't think it is. A four wheel drive is great but you will get stuck in the snow trying to get to the Ice Caves. There's a reason the tour guides drive monster trucks. No joke. Just remember to shop around, there are lots of tour operators offering the same thing for different prices. 
  • Go to fancy restaurants but eat from the kitchen in your hotel room too. You can eat in for three nights for the same price as eating at a restaurant for one! Experiencing the local delicacies requires you to experience the grocery shops too. When was the last time you ate vacuum packed shrimp?
  • When grocery shopping, stick to Bonus. All the other supermarkets stock imported food which is two thirds more expensive than the stuff you find in Bonus (look for a giant pig for the logo). Remember to look for items with the 'EuroSave' logo, that's Icelands equivilant of Sainsbury's 'Basic' range or Morrison's 'Value' products.
  • Why are you staying in a hotel? Tourism in Iceland is only just starting to make a break, meaning the hotels that there are sell out fast and are super pricey. There are a few hostels but if you're not up for camping, I'd recommend Air BnB. The Icelandic people are super friendly and accomodating and it'll definitely save you a lot.
  • Winter is the cheapest time to visit, think about the shoulder seasons when the temperatures aren't too extreme (October/November & March/April) but prices are still discounted.

If you're interested, I've been Instagramming like crazy throughout my trip so if you need some Iceland inspo or generally just fancy getting some wanderlust jealousy. I mean, who doesn't spend half their day scrolling through insane travel accounts? Because I most certainly.

Love always,
Melissa

5 April 2017

If you've been following me on social media, then it'll be no surprise to know about my dreams to travel the world. And how in 2017, they finally came true. Planning my circle the globe trip has been one of the most bumpy and uncofortable roads. So I thought I'd talk to you about all the things I wish I knew when planning my round-the-world trip!


It's no word of a lie that the planning process for this trip was the most stressful trip I have ever planned. Ever.

I read all the travel blogs you could think of. Nomadic Matt. Expert Vagabond. Hand Luggage Only. I read them all (Which I 100% recommend, they tell you about some really invaluable information!) I took notes. Prepared calendars and spreadsheets, and it was something I felt really prepared for! Yet, it was still something I lost a lot of hair over. Why? Beacause it's just impossible to know everything, and a first person account of what they did before you, is only as good as their honesty to the mistakes they made. I read a lot about what you should do, but nothing about what not to do and why they wish they hadn't.

Most of the blogs and books I read about travelling, whether it one country or many, mentioned that it's ideal to have a vague idea of what you want to do but go with open possibilties. No time constraints. You don't need to book every hostel, boat and tour. It's great to have an idea about what you want from each of your destinations but open dates and times make your travelling more flexible.

When I started the planning process, that's what my intentions were. I was going to book my outbound flights and my first few nights accomodation in Reykjavik, Iceland and the rest would be an open road. I'd go where the wind took me. Sounds dreamy right. Well it was, until I realised that there are restrictions to travelling the world as a free bird. And it's most certainly not as 'easy' as everyone makes it sound. Running with the wind is only as good as the wind blows. Ironically, the wind blows very strong in Iceland but accomodation and transport are limited. Plus, Iceland is a hot commodity on a wanderers bucketlist at the moment! It's not somewhere you can go and just 'see what happens.' 


Why are you going travelling? What you want to achieve? What is most important to you?


Knowing what you want to get out of your trip. If you want to go swimming with Whale sharks in the Phillipines, write that down. If you want to climb active Volcano's in Bali, right that down too. Figure out where in the world your dreams are taking you. Would you rather explore mountain tops in the snow or walk bare foot on the beaches in Asia? If you're on a strict budget, it'd be best to try to narrow your destinations down. East or West? Know that the further East you go, the cheaper things get. So if your mission is to be gone as long as possible, Asia is your best bet. However it's not impossible to do Europe and the America's on a budget either. If your dream is to tackle lots of cultures and multiple climates, then larger budgets and shorter time scales are ideal (but again it's not impossible).

Try to be as realistic as possible and as knowlegeable about what you want to do whilst you're away. Having a bucketlist of idea's will help you to filter down to the things most important to you, this will help you decide on a budget. Or if you already have a budget, whether there's enough money to realistically achieve what you want.

Whilst you don't need to plan every detail, it's great to have a list of hightlights. Or 'not to miss'. Things you know you must do and is part of the reason you're travelling in the first place.

Set a realistic budget and stick to it


The most important bit here is the word 'realistic'! I went into this whole planning process thinking that my money would go much, much further than it does here in England. Which is possible, but not with the countries I was travelling to. Anywhere in the west, bar maybe south America is notoriously expensive and you can look at spending anywhere up to triple what you'd be spending in Asia.

In Scandinavia prices are extortionate on an all around basis, North America is cheaper but transport and accomodation is where you'll spend the most money! Japan (I'm told), is a sort of middle ground. Accomodation and food can be super affordable, just as long as you look in the right places but if you want to ride the bullet train, you're looking at about £200 for a 7 day ticket.

My best advice would be to figure your budget out first, then decide where you want to go after. Research will tell you if your plans are feasible. And don't get misty eyed when you look at you bank balance. It's easy to look and see £1,000's and think the entire balance is spending money. It'll be a big shock when flights are booked, accomodation is reserved and you only have half left! It was for me!





"Sorry Sir. No Visa, no entry!"


The idea of buying a one way ticket and just flying free is dreamy, but not practical or realistic. Once you get out of Europe, you're pretty much restricted to where you can go next without the proper paperwork and permission. Most countries require you to obtain a Visa before entry, which can take up to 6 weeks to get. Definitely not ideal.

In Asia, the Visa situation is a little more relaxed and you're allowed to travel to and from without permission for up to 6 months in some countries. However, most Asian countries, including the Phillipines and Japan only offer 30 days travel without a Visa.

Once you have an idea about where you want to go and how long for, do a little research into Visa's and travel permits. If you're on a strict budget, this could change how long you plan to stay or whether you go to a place altoegther. I recommend your local Embassy website but the Lonely Planet were also great sources of information. Whilst I didn't have too much of an issue obtaining my Visa's where they were necessary, it definitely put a holt in the 'one way ticket' plan!

Ask a travel agent about a Round-The-World airfare!


If you're planning to circle the globe or visiting mutliple far set destinations, then round the world air tickets are a must. They're not something often advertised on online travel websites but they can help you save a lot of dosh.

They work by purchasing flights with airlines who are affiliated with one another, such as the Star Alliance. You can buy up to 15 flights and will get considerable discounts, so long as you're travelling in one direction. George and I managed to pick up our RTW flights for just £1,200. Which seems like alot. However, if you consider a flight from Iceland to Vancouver alone works out at almost half of that, and then factor in the 4 extra long-haul flights we have included in our deal. It's quite the bargain.

STA Travel were absolute rockstars at helping us to book our flights and getting us the best deal possible. They even offer flexi passes which allow you to change your flights for free if you decide you want to stay somewhere longer! Meaning the 'free bird' plan isn't as far from the horizon as it was measuring up to be!



When is the best time to go?


Now this really depends on where you go. George and I decided we wanted to visit Iceland in March because it's the best time of year to spot the Northern Lights. Plus, there's more daylight than in the winter at this time of year, but it isn't as busy as during the summer. This does mean however, that by the time we arrive in Asia we're going to be battleing the monsoon.

You're not going to get the best weather and the best time of year in every destination unless you're zigzagging back and forth across the globe. If you can, then by all means, but I'm willing to bet you don't quite have the budget for that! Decide what you to see, do or experience the most. What is the most important thing for you to return home with. For us, the Northern Lights was just that. We've been to Asia before, it's just a little bonus at the end of our trip. Plus the monsoon isn't always so bad.


How many times did I say the word 'realistic'? I think it's important for me to tell you the negatives of planning to travel the world. I read so, so many blog posts and travel guides and not one of them told me how easy it is to get carried away and forget to be realistic. I hope, I was insightful and helpful and not too much of a negative nancy!

I'm currently in Japan, but if you're planning to travel, whether it be round the world or just on a quick-nip-vacation, and have any questions let me know. I've got all the time in the world now I'm unemployed to help you out!

Love always,
Melissa