Backpacking for beginners

Filling a backpack and leaving a note for your friend on which of your house plants need watering is something that will make you feel like you’re off to stand shoulder to shoulder with the great pioneering adventurers. Move over, Amundsen. Take a backseat, Earhart. Here comes some very decent walking boots and a backpack that cost a little above budget. Let’s do this. 

First, a quick message regarding COVID-19. The overall effects of the pandemic have left the travel and tourism industry with unanswered questions over whether travel restrictions will be in place at the time of travel, meaning your booking could be affected. Keep this in mind when planning your trip, and be sure to check the latest news (also, see this related COVID travel info). Now. let’s get on with backpacking for beginners.

You’ve packed way too much

When I was about 10 years old, I went to play golf for the first time. There was a golf pro on the course that day, carrying only two clubs – one for distance, and one for putting. I, on the other hand, had about 17 clubs, a golf bag on wheels, a thousand spare golf balls, a towel, sandwiches, water, a cap, a raincoat, and an umbrella. 

When it comes to backpacking, you do need certain things such as spare clothes, toiletries, tickets, travel documents, and your phone (and a charger and headphones), but beyond that you are taking things along that you probably won’t find regular use for, meaning you could just buy these things if you needed them. Expert trekkers take only what they need.

Choose hostels where breakfast is included in the price

Hostels come in all shapes and sizes. Some have luxuries that others don’t. For example, some hostels have bars. Some hostels have communal internet café type areas with vending machines and free to use computers. I’ve even been to one hostel with a pool area (although, in fairness, it was poorly maintained). Wherever you choose to stay, there’s one thing that you should look out for at the point of booking – breakfast. Underestimate breakfast at your peril. There is nothing quite as galling as setting off to find an early morning bakery because you forgot to ask about breakfast – starting the day on an empty stomach is no fun. 

Sleep tight…

Hostels do not supply you with sleeping bags (at least, certainly not in my experience – it doesn’t make good hygiene sense). They supply clean sheets (you hope) and a bed and a pillow. If you’re feeling relatively rough and ready, these arrangements may suit you just fine. However, if you think that sleeping under one thin loose sheet might leave you a little exposed (both to thieves and the overnight temperatures), you may want to look into taking along a sleeping bag. 

Not only will you feel more protected in general, but you can use the sleeping bag to store things like your phone and your money while you sleep – any potential thieves would have to have a deft touch to go unnoticed while stealing from the inside of an occupied sleeping bag!

My Nostalgic Music Playlist #MemoriesInMusic

My Nostalgic Music Playlist #MemoriesInMusicIf there’s one thing which is sure to evoke a lot of memories, it’s hearing a particular song which reminds me of a specific time in my life. Some of those memories are so strongly linked to the song that it can actually remind me of how I felt when I was hearing it, way back when. Chums, the online-fashion retailer have recently created a campaign to search for Memories in Music to help people bring the happier days back to life. With this in mind, I thought I’d share some of my most nostalgic songs for you:

Rhiannon – Fleetwood Mac

When I was 6, my Mum and Dad split up, and my Mum and I moved in with her parents for a while. We shared a set of bunkbeds in their small second bedroom and although it was cramped, I was happy. Mum had job in a bar and I’d sit with her in the evening, watching her get ready, listening to her music – the smell of hairspray reminds me of this, too! Mum had her stereo and a load of vinyl in our room, and one of her favourite bands was Fleetwood Mac (she had a bit of a Stevie Nicks vibe going on in the late 80s!) and Rhiannon reminds me so much of this time.

Mmmbop – Hanson

Anyone who knows me well knows that I was a MASSIVE Hanson fan when I was younger. When Mmmbop came out, I immediately fell in love and even to this day, I feel transported back to a really happy time when I hear it. My whole bedroom was covered in Hanson posters, including the ceiling, and I used to spend Saturday mornings sitting by the TV with a blank tape in the VHS, waiting to hit record, just in case they came on the telly!

Rewind – Craig David

When I was about 15, my friends and I would spend every Friday night at “Intrigue”, an under 18’s Nappy Night, located in an old bingo hall. We’d get dressed up in what were, looking back, some rather over-the-top outfits (a powder blue lace dress, white Wonderbra and a white feather boa was a personal fave, and NO, my mother did NOT know I was going out dressed like that!) and feel like we were going to a proper nightclub. UK Garage was massive around this time, and this song was a particular fave…still is, if I’m totally honest! It’s like my guilty music pleasure.

Everlong – Foo Fighters

I’ve loved Foo Fighters since the first time my friend Steven played The Colour and The Shape to me, back in the late 90’s, but Everlong has always been my favourite. When Husband and I met, one of the things we immediately bonded over was music, especially Everlong. We’d been together just a few months when we saw Foo Fighters play in Hyde Park on the day after my 22nd birthday, and it’s been something that brings back amazing memories ever since.

God Only Knows – The Beach Boys

Another song that is special to Husband and I is “God Only Knows” by The Beach Boys. When I was around 9, my family and I lived in a house which was just down the road from a second-hand record shop and it became routine for me to go there on a Saturday morning and buy a record. I started collecting vinyl and Pet Sounds was a personal fave. In those early days of our relationship, when we’d sit and talk for hours, learning about each other, I found out that Husband was a huge Beach Boys fan when he was a kid too. Back in September 2016, we were lucky enough to get tickets to see Brian Wilson perform at a local venue, and it was one of the most amazing experiences that Husband and I have ever had – it’s something I’ll remember until I’m old and grey.

What are your #MemoriesInMusic? I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

Helping Children Through a Divorce

Helping Children Through a DivorceIf two people no longer wish to remain together, that is their business. Divorces can, at times, be messy and complicated. A couple who once felt nothing but love and admiration may now only feel resentment and spite towards their former other half. It is known for individuals to get hurt quite often during the divorce process. 

Yet, in all this, it can sometimes be the children who bear the brunt of the pain of their parents’ lost love. Child custody rights when filing for divorce can be one of the issues that causes the most friction, particularly when children are made to feel like they must choose between one parent or the other.

Whether you are one of the parents, a relative, or even a family friend, there are multiple ways in which you can help children get through the divorce process with as little trauma as possible.

Offer to Babysit

If you are an outsider in the divorce, looking after the child while the parents are at a mediation, or in court itself, can take a weight off of everyone’s shoulders. This way, children do not have to be exposed to the divorce process, and parents can take some time to decompress afterwards to limit the amount of emotional strain that their children are exposed to.  

Fun activities during this time can also help to take the child’s mind off of how their world has been disrupted, which can be great for their wellbeing. 

Open Conversation

Communicating with children can be key. Their parents may be struggling with their own emotions and stresses and, therefore, be less available to the needs of their offspring. This can be a crucial time for other trusted adults to step up and be there for these vulnerable young people. Building trust and opening communications regarding the children’s thoughts and feelings can help them to work through their feelings in a safe and healthy way. 

Keep Bickering Away

If you are the child’s parent, you may be concerned about how your upcoming divorce is affecting them. One of the crucial ways of limiting their distress is to avoid discussing the divorce around them. Likewise, ensure that you and your former partner do not speak ill of the other around the children, as this may put them in an uncomfortable position. 

Unless there is a legitimate reason for doing so, such as a parent threatening or endangering the child, there is also no reason that they should be privy to the real reason behind the divorce. A child does not need to know about any adultery, or other marital issues, and relationships between both parents and their children should be maintained wherever possible. However, you shouldn’t just brush it under the carpet – explain to them what is happening in the simplest form and ensure they know it’s not their fault.

Going through a divorce can be stressful for anyone involved, but it is crucial that children are protected from as much of the emotional turmoil as possible. Likewise, it is key that they are reassured, as often as they need, that they are not at fault, and that they are loved. 

Reusable Shopping Bags and other Small Changes You Can Make for the Environment

Reusable Shopping Bags and other Small Changes You Can Make for the EnvironmentWhile there’s no doubt that the vast majority of global pollution comes from the mega-factories which produce the world’s retail offerings, there are still things that we can do which will contribute to a cleaner environment for ourselves and future generations. Small things which won’t have too much of an impact in terms of cost or effort, but will definitely contribute to a safer planet. Here are some ideas to inspire you:

Reusable Shopping Bags

It’s been quite a while since the supermarkets implemented their ban on free plastic bags for shipping with, but many people still spend the extra 10p for one, rather than bringing a reusable bag. In many shops, if you invest a couple of pounds in their branded totes, they’ll often replace them for free if they break, of if you want to be even more adventurous, there are some gorgeous personalised reusable shopping bags if you shop around. Top tip – keep them in the boot of your car when you aren’t using them and you’ll have them to hand when you shop!

Reusable Coffee Cups

If you’re someone who likes a daily latte, you’ll probably be aware that the disposable cups offered in many places aren’t the greatest thing for the environment. More than 1 billion coffee cups from 720,510 trees are made each year in Australia alone, and that’s just one small corner of the planet. There are even cups made from materials which look like plastic but are in fact bamboo, or other eco-plastics, making your impact on the environment even less.

Homemade Cleaning Products

It’s way easier than it sounds, especially considering white vinegar and baking soda clean pretty much everything. Making your own cleaning products not only reduces packaging waste from regularly buying them at the store, but it also saves you from using harsh and potentially dangerous chemicals on your everyday surfaces. Going Zero Waste has some great recipes for DIY cleaning products, including an all-purpose cleaner, a tub scrub and even all-natural bleach (yes, this is possible!)

Ditch the Drinking Straws

If you love drinking through a straw but don’t want to have the impact on the environment of disposal plastic straws, you should seriously consider investing in a stainless steel or copper straw. Many restaurants are also transitioning from plastic straws to more eco-friendly options, such as paper straws or even straws made from pasta!

Say Please to the Bees!

If you make packed lunches for your spouse or kids and end up using things like cling film or plastic bags for wrapping the food, you’re probably putting a LOT of single use plastic into landfill. Beeswax wraps are an amazing, hygienic alternative to plastics, are better for your health and you can even make them yourself at home.

Do you have any easy hacks or swaps that you use to make your life a little more eco friendly? Do you have a gorgeous reusable shopping bag that you love more than your Mulberry?! Leave me a comment below letting me know!

My Neighbour Has Japanese Knotweed – What Can I Do?

Japanese knotweedJapanese knotweed is an invasive plant species that grows rapidly and dies hard. While the law does not require you to take action if you find Japanese knotweed in your garden, you will get into trouble if you allow the plant to spread into the wild; for this reason, if you do have knotweed growing on your property, it’s a good idea to contact a qualified Japanese knotweed removal specialist who can get it under control.

But what if it’s your next-door neighbour who has a Japanese knotweed problem?

Well, ideally, your neighbour will act quickly and make sure the plant doesn’t spread onto your property. Unfortunately, not everyone is that proactive, so a certain amount of vigilance may be necessary on your part too.

Here are some tips to bear in mind if your neighbour has Japanese knotweed:

Start by talking to your neighbour. They may not be aware of the invasive weed that’s lurking in their garden—they may not even know what Japanese knotweed is, so be patient and politely suggest that they get in touch with a specialist contractor. It’s always better to resolve issues like this amicably if possible.

Remember, your neighbour is not breaking the law by having Japanese knotweed on their own property. UK law does not even require them to remove or treat the knotweed—only to prevent it from spreading elsewhere.

If your neighbour refuses to take action or acknowledge the issue, you should take the initiative and contact a qualified Japanese knotweed specialist yourself. They will be able to confirm the plant’s presence and can send your neighbour an official letter notifying them of their legal obligation to ensure that the knotweed does not encroach on your property.

Monitor the situation closely to see how it develops. Photographic evidence and regular reports from your knotweed expert will help you to demonstrate (if necessary) that your neighbour did not take sufficient action to prevent their Japanese knotweed from crossing the property boundary.

Japanese knotweed can have a significant impact on your property’s value and may even cause damage to the property itself, so it’s imperative to make sure you’re covered. A neighbour who has permitted Japanese knotweed to spread from their property to yours is legally liable, and you may be able to claim compensation—but only if you can prove what happened. This will be far easier if you have an expert witness to back you up (ideally a qualified professional who specialises in Japanese knotweed control and who has been monitoring the situation from the beginning).

Online Counseling and Other Ways to Care for Your Mental Health

Whether you’re back to normal and going out and about, or still trying to isolate as much as possible, there’s little doubt about the fact that lockdown had an effect on the mental health of many people. As humans, we’re usually social creatures who need to feel a sense of togetherness and community, even if it’s something as simple as a chat to the other school mums in the morning, or a cheery hello from the person serving you in your local shop.

With this in mind, I’ve been thinking about ways that we can galvanise our mental health, especially if we have a second wave incoming, and I’m sharing them with you today:

Find a Counselor

Never underestimate the amount of mental wellbeing a counselor can offer, and thanks to technology, you don’t even need to be face to face. BetterHelp offers online counselling services, and can match you to the right mental health professional for you. Booking yourself in for a weekly chat to vent your frustration and fears can have a profound effect on your mental health.

Find a Hobby

Unless you live in a house which is equipped with all sorts of entertainment areas, the chances are, you were bored at least once during lockdown. Boredom can be devastating to your mental health and the overthinkers amongst us can dread time alone with their thoughts. Finding a new hobby can really help to combat this – I’ve taken up cross stitch since lockdown began and it’s something that’s really helped to give me a focus and a distraction.

Depending on your likes and interests, some hobbies are easier to do at home than others are. If you’re good with your hands and you love solving puzzles, consider hobbies like picking a lock, jewelry making, pottery (if you have the space), or even calligraphy. You can certainly pass the time picking up new skills or discovering new things.

Get Some Exercise

Keeping your body healthy can have a really big knock-on effect on your mind, not least of all because you release endorphins, the “happy hormones”, when you work up a sweat. It’s difficult with gyms being shut, but there are lots of exercise tutorials on YouTube. If that’s not your cup of tea, simply stick some headphones on and go for a walk.

Have a Spa Day

You don’t need to leave the house to treat yourself to some spa treatments – there are plenty of things you can do at home which will make you feel like a new person! Face masks, hair masks, long baths and even self-massage can all help you to feel like you’ve been pampered and nurtured, and taking the time to care for your physical appearance is vital to better mental health.

Do Something Nice

You’d be surprised at the mental boost you can get from doing something nice for someone else. Write a letter, send a box of chocolates in the post, you could even just mow an delderly neighbour’s lawn without being asked. The glow you get from doing something nice for someone else can really bolster your mental wellbeing.

Make More Money Online as in 2020 with These Stunning Hacks

There are a lot of things that play a massive part in helping you to make more money online these days. It is so important to make sure you come up with some excellent ideas that will help you to make more money online. There are a lot of things you can do these days, and you are going to need to focus on helping you to make as much money as you can these days.

You have to think about some of the best ways of allowing you to bring in additional revenue, which is essential in this coronavirus era when people are losing jobs and not being able to work. Focus on some of the most effective ways of being able to make more money, and these are some of the best ways of being able to do this right now.

Pixabay.com

Sell Antiques

One of the great ways of being able to make money online is by selling antiques. Now, of course, you need to buy them first so that you can sell them on for a profit. You have a lot of things you need to work on when it comes to making a profit this way. Now there are plenty of tips to buying antiques online, but this is something that you need to be careful with so you are not losing a lot of money buying fake antiques.

Dropshipping

Dropshipping is one of the most effective ways of making additional money, and this is something that you don’t need any qualifications to be able to achieve. Try to make sure you work on the best and most effective ways of dropshipping – this is similar to ecommerce, except that you don’t take delivery of the items, instead having them shipped directly to the customer. You can make good money from dropshipping, but it is certainly time-consuming, and this is something you need to keep in mind.

Blogging

Blogging is a great way of being able to earn additional money and revenue, and this is a great way of generating additional money. Now, there are a lot of things that you can do when it comes to creating and managing a blog and monetizing the blog is one of the best ways of being able to do this. Make sure you look for some of the best ways of being able to make money as a blogger, and this is an effective way of being able to make the most of this.

Ebooks

If you are looking for some excellent side hustles that you can use to make money from home, and one of the key ways of being able to achieve this is writing ebooks. Amazon Kindle has made the ebook world explode, and you can enjoy self-publishing your own ebooks very easily. Trying to get a few ebooks published at the same time is a good way of being able to generate a bit of additional income.

These are some of the best ways of being able to make more money and raise additional funds online right now. You have to make sure you do as much as possible to work on bringing in more money, and this is one of the key things that you are going to need to work on right now. These are going to help you make more money, and this is essential for you to work on as much as you possibly can.

Stackable Rings: How to Wear Them Like a Pro

Anyone who knows anything about fashion knows that no outfit is complete without proper accessories, and no accessory is hotter right now than stackable rings. There are, however, some rules to bear in mind when choosing the right stackable rings for you, so I thought I’d share some of them with you to help you to make the right choice.

Size Matters

This point is two-fold – firstly, if you have big hands, wearing rings which are too big will make it look like you’re wearing knuckle dusters, and if you have super dainty hands you also don’t want to wear rings which will overwhelm you. Also, consider the fact that if you’re wearing several rings at once, you want to make sure they work together as several rings which are too big will be way too much, regardless of your hand size.

Styling

In the past, the idea of wearing gold and silver together was a huge no-no, but these days it’s actually really trendy to combine your metals. If you are new to this trend, you could try to stack rings by the colour of the metal – you could combine white gold with silver and platinum, as they all have a similar tone. Another idea is to stack them according to the metal. Wearing a rose gold ring along with a yellow and white gold ring looks great.

Ring Type

Something you also need to think about when it comes to stacking rings is to think about the style of the individual rings. While each ring can be different, you don’t want to try stacking rings which really don’t go together – for example, if you’ve got a gorgeous antique cameo ring, that’s not going to look right alongside something ultra modern and geometric. Try to pick a theme or shared attribute between your rings and stick to it.

Gems

Too many gems in your stackable ringsAnother thing to consider is whether your rings have gemstones in them – mix too many different gemstones and you’re going to end up looking like Thanos in the Infinity Gauntlet. If you have a statement ring with a large stone and want to wear other, smaller rings with gems, try to acth them as closely to the main stone as possible, OR stick to a scheme, such as rings with pastel stones so that they coordinate with one another.

Five Signs of Anxiety a Counselor Will Spot

Five Signs of Anxiety a Counselor Will SpotPhoto by Tonik on Unsplash

Anxiety is one of the most common forms of mental illness, with an estimated 1 in six people suffering from some sort of anxiety. For many of us, anxiety os something that we live with on  day to day basis, barely recognising the varying symptoms that we’re dealing with. However, knowing the different ways in which your anxiety manifests itself can be half of the battle in dealing with it, so I’ve put together a list of five of the most common signs of anxiety that your BetterHelp counselor will spot, even if you don’t:

Hyperactivity

While you may just think you’re being motivated and getting things done, going on a sudden overactive kick of doing something could be a sign of anxiety. Cleaning the house from top to bottom, overexercising or even talking too much can all be ways that we try to distract ourselves while dealing with the excess energy that anxiety can produce.

Irritability

Most people associate feelings of aniety with fear and worry, but for many people, aniety can actually look like irritability and snappiness. This is often due to the racing thoughts and feeling on edge that the excess adrenaline in your system causes. If someone close to you seems snappy and less tolerant than usual, try to remember that it’s not your fault and could be due to their anxiety.

Hoarding

We’ve all seen the “Extreme Hoarders” programmes on TV, where people live in houses which are so full of stuff that they have to climb over a virtual assault course just to get to bed, but hoarding doesn’t always look like this. Often, people who are hoarding because of anxiety will pick one item which is significant to them and hold onto it because it gives them some sense of comfort.

Dissociation

Dissociation is a feeling of being disconnected from your thoughts, feelings, memories, and surroundings. Often, when people are dealing with Dissociation, they don’t even realise that this is what they’re dealing with, and it’s only when they explain their feelings to a mental health professional that they realise thi is what’s happening. It sometimes resolves itself, but seeking help from a counselor is vital. 

Physical Symptoms

There are many physical symptoms which can result from having anxiety, and it’s not uncommon for sufferers to belive they’re having a serious health problem, such as a heat attack, when these symptoms occur. Sweating, heavy and fast breathing, hot flushes or blushing, dry mouth, shaking, hair loss, fast heartbeat, extreme tiredness or lack of energy, dizziness and fainting, and stomach aches and sickness are ALL symptoms which can result from anxiety and can all make you believe you have a physical sickness.

Online Counseling – Five Key Benefits

If there’s one thing that many of us have learned durin glockdown, it’s that it is possible to do things differently. Everything from shopping to learning to medical appointments have moved online to help limit the spread of COVID-19, which is something that we should be utilising even more moving forward, even after the threat of a pandemic is gone. With that in mind, I’ve put together five reasons why you should consider online counseling:

Convenience

The top reason for having online counseling with a service like BetterHelp is that you can do it any time, anywhere. You don’t need to take time off of work for appointments if you can go online in your lunch hour for your counseling session, nor do you need to find childcare if you’re at home with the kids. Online counseling is ultra-convenient – you can even stick to your appointments if you’re on holiday or working abroad!

Comfort

Sometimes, going to a clinic or surgery for counseling can leave you feeling totally out of your comfort zone. However, with online counseling, you can do it from the comfort of your own home where you’ll feel totally at ease. You don’t even have to put shoes on, you can sit curled up in your favourite armchair and have a chat with your counselor. What’s not to love about that?!

Cost

When you visit a counselor in an office, part of what you’re paying for, aside from their expertise, is their overheads. They’ll have expenses like rent for thier office space, business rates, utilities, staff etc. When you see a counselor online, it’s likely that they work from a home office and their cost can be very low, which means they’re able to charge less for their services.

Options

When you visit a counselor in person, you’re often limited by the type of counselor you’re able to see. Different mental health professionals will have different methods of being able to help, and by using an online counselor you can access the type of help you need which you may not have been able to find otherwise. You also benefit from an element of anonymity by using a counselor who doesn’t live or work locally to you.

Travel

Even when we’re not in the middle of a pandemic, travel can sometimes be tricky. We live in a rural location with one, not very regular, bus route nearby. If our car is off the road, getting to appointments is basically impossible, which means online counseling would be a really good option for us. Having an online session means that we only have to travel as far as our PC to get to see a mental health professional.