Hidden Gems of Victoria: The Grotto

Saturday, 26 November 2016
With so many amazing sights to see throughout Victoria, it is often overwhelming where to start. It can be difficult shifting through the "touristy" spots to find places that embody Victoria but aren't going to be overflowing with tourists.

 The Internet makes it increasingly difficult to find these hidden gems and for them to actually stay hidden. I've debated writing an entire piece about my favourite place in Victoria for a while. It's purely been for selfish reasons.

 Roughly 20km west of the 12 Apostles you'll find The Grotto. Without fail, I've never been here, and it was overflowing with tourists. I'm not sure if it's because most tours stop at the 12 Apostles. Maybe it's because people are sick of driving and just want to go home. Maybe it's because everyone starts at Torquay and makes their way west. Whatever the reason, I'm grateful because it means I get this unique hideaway (mostly) to myself.

Formed from a sinkhole, the cavernous feel the Grotto provides helps seclude you from the world. You're able to get an excellent window framed view of the ocean while being protected from the harsh winds.

Even during the busiest time of the year, there isn't a lot of traffic. The people who do venture to the Grotto do not tend to stay long. I would guess this is because most have just come from the 12 Apostles. If you're going to compare the two, you're going to be disappointed. It's like comparing apples and oranges; you simply cannot do it.

On my days off, this is where I choose to escape. It is the perfect place to get away from the city, enjoy the ocean, and read a good book. The drive away from the city is long enough to clear my head so that I'm not distracted while reading. All I need to do is settle myself in and start reading.

On my most recent day off, I ventured here with my mum. She had finally come out to visit from the US, so I was incredibly excited to share my favourite places with her. We took the long drive out and spent some time relaxing and reading. Time slipped away as I read Incidental Hero. And before long, it was time for us to head off to our next adventure.

Even my mum loves to read.
If you're ever in Melbourne, this is definitely a must see on any list. If you've visited the Grotto before, share what you thought about it in the comments below! Do you have a favourite hidden gem of your city? Tell me about it!

And until next time...
Stay Curious!

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*This post does contain affiliate links. As always, all opinion expressed are 100% my own*

How to Find Motivation When You Have None

This entire week I’ve tried so hard to have the motivation to do anything. Even the simplest tasks have been incredibly draining. I’ve found leaving the house to be a daunting, terrifying task. My bed and cuddles with my extremely cuddly puppy dog have been difficult to move away from. My trips to the gym are being cut shorter and shorter. Frankly, I’ve had enough. As I sat today at the gym trying to find the motivation actually to work out, I knew something needed to change. But where do I possibly start?

Throughout my life, I have had days (sometimes weeks or months) where I simply do not have the motivation to do anything. I wouldn’t go as far as to say that I’m lazy, but just sometimes my anxieties inhibit me from functioning normally. Working in mental health, I’ve been given the tools to be able to identify and help combat these fears, but often it is easier said than done. As my anxiety gets stronger, my motivation decreases. So how does one fight back and regain their motivation?

Remember to Breathe
This is the most important first step in regaining motivation. Whether it's a lack of motivation to go to the gym, the lack of motivation to complete an assignment or any other reason you have zero motivation, one MUST remember to breathe. Try breathing in for 4 seconds, holding that breath for 4 seconds, then exhaling for 6 seconds. This type of rhythmic breathing will help relax your mind and body. Struggling to focus on your breathing? I often like burning peppermint oil or lighting a candle to release a refreshing smell into the room.

Create a List
For some, this task can further decrease the lack of motivation because the list becomes overwhelming. For me, it helps me to prioritise what needs to be done and what can wait. Writing a list allows me to see what needs to be completed visually. I write them in order of importance. The positive reinforcement of being able to cross something off the list is incredibly gratifying.

Get Out of the House
Sometimes only leaving the house for a quick walk is enough to jump start my motivation. Leaving the house seem like too big of a task? Try leaving your room. Force yourself to walk to the kitchen or the lounge room. Maybe do a few walks up and down the hallway. This might be the hardest part of your day, but if you wrote “Get out of bed” on your list, you’ve now accomplished two amazing things!

Do Something That Makes You Happy
To some, this step may seem counterproductive, but that is not the case. For some, allowing yourself the freedom to choose an activity that you really enjoy is enough to spark your motivation. Try to stay away from watching your favourite TV show because this could lead to binge watching. Instead, take a bath, read a book, read a story, cook a meal, whatever it is that will bring you some happiness, do that thing!

For me, nothing is more relaxing than taking a drive to the beach and reading a good book. I recently took a trip to one of my favourite hidden gems of Melbourne and spent some time reading. The book of the day was Optimal Exposure, a great murder mystery that involved two of my favourite things: travel and photography. I especially love murder mysteries because it allows me to focus on the book and (temporarily) forget about what is going on in my life.

Give Yourself a Break
Sometimes no matter what you do, you simply won’t be able to find motivation. That’s ok. Everyone goes through various struggles throughout their life, and if you’re struggling, it’s ok. Give yourself a break. Allow yourself the time to lay in bed and do absolutely nothing. Just ensure it doesn’t go on for too long. If you didn’t accomplish everything you wanted throughout your day, just find time the following day. No worries! It will get done.

Finding motivation can be extremely challenging. If you’ve tried all of these tips and found nothing was successful, try using an accountability buddy. Sometimes working with someone who’s experiencing something similar will help get things done. What do you do find motivation?

And until next time...
Stay Curious!

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*This post contains affiliate links. As always, all opinions expressed are 100% my own.* 


Cambodia | Angkor Temples: Sunrise at Angkor Wat

Thursday, 17 November 2016

After a rather short night out on Pub Street and relaxing while watching Ancient Aliens, I attempted to get some sleep so I would be more than rested for day two at Angkor Thom. It was an early morning, waking at 4:15 am to ensure we made it out front to greet our driver at 5 am. Does anyone else struggle to sleep when you know you have to be up super early? I was terrified I was going to oversleep, and we were going to miss out on experiencing the sunrise over Angkor Wats. A score to this one blonde chick for setting eight alarms and waking our booty's up on time!

I wasn’t really sure why we needed to get there so early if sunrise wasn’t until around 6:45. But at 5 am there were already a ton of people trying to find the ideal spot to capture the perfect picture. Many of the people standing around swore that sunset at Angkor Wats was going to be better. The time of year we were there did not allow us to see the temple at sunset. By evening the sky was littered with clouds, and it was generally raining cats and dogs. 

And so, we waited...and waited...and waited for that magical moment when the sun would disburse all kinds of amazing colours across the sky over this ancient building. There was a small window where you could see various hues of pink in the sky but nothing like some of the other photos I’ve seen of Angkor Wats. Nonetheless, it was still breathtaking. 

After capture the iconic shot I needed, we headed into the temple to explore the ruins. We had spent a good chunk of the previous two days watching YouTube videos about Angkor Wats to learn as much as possible about the temple. 

Angkor Wats was large and would have been very overwhelming if we had not watched the videos. The night prior, we watched a video about the art galleries that line the halls. Each hallway told a specific story. As I’m not very good at deciphering directions, we had a fun time guess which gallery was which. The galleries depicted stories of the gods fighting alongside the Khmer people, King Suryavarman II in battle, and other Buddhist carvings. 

This carving depicts a battle between the Khomer people & their enemies
The steps leading up to the main temple were extremely steep. King Suryavarman II did this to reflect the hardships to the path of enlightenment. It is not easy to reach enlightenment so the steps to the main temple should not be an easy climb. Unfortunately, as it was a holy day, we were not able to enter the highest tower. 
There is so much to see at Angkor Wat. In total, we spent nearly two hours exploring the various areas of the temple. I overheard a guide saying that one could easily spend 4 hours and still not get a chance to see everything. The later it got, the more people arrived at Angkor Wat. As it started to get pretty crowded and our bellies were starting to make heaps of noise, we decided to head off for some breakfast. 

Because we had done all the research on the temple, it made Angkor Wat even more intriguing. I was able to get a deeper insight to what the carvings represented, just how large the temple was, and the work that was put into building it. While I wouldn’t necessarily recommend one of the guides that wait out the front, I would recommend doing some research on the temple before visiting. This way, you can have a deeper appreciation for the temple. 

Have you ever visited Angkor Wat before? Share your experience in the comments below! 

And until next time...

Stay Curious!

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MyPhotography Competition: Nurture Your Talent // Guest Post

Friday, 11 November 2016
It is my delight to introduce a guest blogger, Danny Coy of Wild Coy Photography. Danny is an incredible travel photographer based in the UK. Danny has travelled the world and has had the opportunity to share his talent with the world. 

An Open Letter To The Person Who Gave Away Archer

Tuesday, 8 November 2016

When I walked into the North Melbourne Lost Dogs Home that day, I could have never envisioned how much Letho (now renamed Archer) would change my life. There he was. A small, five-month-old Border Collie cross was shaking with fear in the corner of his cage. As I approached, his eyes lit up, and he made his way to greet me, friendly as could be. Instantly I thought “why is this dog here.”

This little dog had a name and bio that made him sound like the world’s worst dog. “Letho” was unable to walk on a lead, chewed up belongings, required at least 2-3 hours of running per day, and needed constant attention or he would act out. I stood there questioning if this dog was the right dog for me. I work full time so could I care for “Letho” correctly?

The instant he came to the front of the cage, I knew he was going to be my dog. He was curious and excited to meet new people. He had a sense of adventure and wanted to explore the world around him. But he was hesitant. It was apparent he was afraid that we might leave him and he would go back to his empty cage.

His first car ride home, he sat so patiently in the back seat of the car. Still, there was a fear in his eyes. The rescue shelter didn’t give us much of a background on him. Only that he was brought to the shelter and was going to need lots of attention. I wondered about his origins and how they might affect him moving forward.

Meeting my little man for the first time.
I quickly found these worries were for nothing. Over the last year and a half, I’ve watched this teeny bundle of joy grow and share his personality with me. While yes, he does need exercise (what dog doesn’t), he has become NOTHING like his original description.

Sure, he gets pretty hyper when he hasn’t had a walk. But after his walk, he’s calm, cuddly, and wanting to be near his people. Did you just not walk him enough?

His first bath; he was not amused.

I quickly found that he has the Border Collie tendency of getting anxious when his people aren’t around. After a few trials and errors, this was corrected with puzzle toys and food to keep him occupied when he was alone. I’m curious, did you not realised that Archer just missed you? That he is an incredibly intelligent dog and needs mental stimulation?

Archer is one of the most intuitive dogs I’ve ever come across. But you never took the time to realise that. He is very perceptive of others emotions and does a fantastic job calming you down when you’re sad or anxious. Within the first couple of months, Archer was able to sense I was going to get a migraine before I would actually get them. He’d touch his paw to my forehead, warning me of what was to come. Are you aware this dog has literally saved my life?

Nap time cuddles.
I am forever grateful that Archer is my dog. That I am the one that gets the privilege of learning more about him every day. That I’m the one who gets to share in his unconditional love. That’s the beautiful things about dogs. It doesn’t matter if you’re rich, poor, beautiful, ugly, nice, mean, etc., they love you for who you are no matter what.

I wonder if you’ll ever know that kind of unconditional love. I wonder if you’ll ever realise how much you lost the day you gave away Archer. If not, it’s a pity. For I will forever be grateful that you decided that loving, adorable puppy was too much for you to handle. My life is better for your decision.

He occassionally tucks himself in.
I’ve been extremely fortunate to have a housemate that helps me take care of Archer. We’ve been lucky that we’re able to split the responsibility of owning our dogs. Because owning a dog is hard work! With the holiday season upon us, I cannot stress how important it is to understand this if you’re choosing to get an animal as a present.

Do your research because not all breeds have the same energy/maintenance levels. Are you going to want the animal still when they are no longer a tiny baby? Most importantly, please adopt! Do not shop! Animal shelters are so overfilled with animals that need a good home. Save a life by going to a shelter.

So much love for these two!
Here are some of the local shelters in Victoria if you're interested in adopting an adorable animal:

And until next time...
Stay curious!

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Cambodia | Exploring Siem Reap

Sunday, 6 November 2016
The city of Siem Reap is full of fantastic food, marketplaces, and incredibly friendly people. Of all the countries I’ve visited to date, outside of Australia, I’ve found the people of Cambodia to be the most helpful and incredibly welcoming. When we weren’t exploring Angkor Thom, we wandered around Siem Reap taking in all of the sites.

When we arrived at the airport, we were greeted by our driver who would be taking us to our guesthouse. The countryside was so beautiful. I instantly felt at home. Before even making it to the guesthouse, my friend and I frequently said how beautiful Cambodia was and how much we were already enjoying it.

We stayed at the Cashew Nut Guesthouse. The rooms were spotless and tidy. The staff were incredibly helpful, pointing us in the right direction of where to find various food places and the markets. I did not feel like they were pushy at all. In some countries, I’ve found staff and the drivers to be incredibly pushing, constantly trying to sell you more. Not here. They were super respectful of our requests and never pushed for more. I greatly appreciated this!

We spent some time wandering around the massive market. I was on a mission to find a book for my nephew and a very specific painting of the temples I had envisioned in my head. Through my travels, I have decided it is best to buy books about the country I’ve visited and find a souvenir that holds meaning to me. Trinkets break, clothes will eventually become torn, but books will allow for a deeper, richer emersion into that specific culture. Sadly, I did not find the painting I was looking for. But I did enjoy walking up and down the aisles of the market.

Cheap cheap!

What I found most interesting was that everything was listed in American dollars. I’m sure the prices were higher than if we paid in local currency but I was not about to complain. We found places on Pub Street that had $0.25 beer. At that price, I’d be in hospital before I was able to drink the amount one beer would cost in Australia. It was nice not to have to try and do conversion maths in my head at every restaurant and shop.

The food was just as cheap. It was incredible because it was evident just how strong of a western influence there was in this area. We were able to find Mexican, Italian, American, and Pub food everywhere. Of all the places we went to, there was a little restaurant walking distance from our guesthouse with fantastic Cambodia food. I believe we paid approximately $5 for a beer, two starters, and a main.

Jelly Fish Shots

We decided to have a bit of a wild night as we hadn’t drunk much the entire trip. While sitting and enjoying one of many $0.25 beers, we glanced over and saw a bar doing free cocktail tastings. Naturally, we went over and inquired about the process. Assuming we would need to buy a meal or a drink afterwards, we were a bit hesitant. But the place actually gave you a free tasting in exchange for your honest review of the cocktails. SCORE! Our wild and crazy night only last until about 9 pm. This was when we saw that Pub Street became packed with tourists. It actually reminded me a lot of the Gaslamp District in San Diego.

It was probably one of the only places where I walked around and did not feel afraid. I’m often quite paranoid when travelling overseas, especially in countries where I tend to stick out (5’10’’ and blonde hair makes me pretty easy to spot in a crowd). Even walking home at night, I felt at ease. This did not mean I let my guard down and did not practice safe travelling techniques, only that I felt less anxious.
Hooray for poor cell phone photos

If my Instagram is any indication, it is quite clear that I’ve fallen in love with Cambodia. While I wish we had decided to stay longer, I will definitely be visiting Cambodia again. If you’ve ever visited Cambodia before, please share your journey in the comments below.

Funny side note: In writing this post I've realised just how few pictures I actually took of Siem Reap. Oops.

And until next time...
Stay Curious!

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Lessons I Learned From Blogtober

Friday, 4 November 2016
I knew partaking in Blogtober would be a serious challenge, but I was not ready for the stress that trying to write a new blog per day entailed. From the simple “Did I write a new blog every day” standpoint, it is safe to say that Blogtober was a massive fail. Out of 31 days, I only managed to write 17 posts.

When I started to look back at previous months, I found that maybe I didn’t completely fail at Blogtober. I was able to take away many positives from undertaking this challenge.

Highest Blog Traffic
This month was the highest traffic my blog has ever had. Not only were more people reading my blog, but I was also getting more engagement. Not all of it was completely organic as I did join a few Facebook groups to help grow your social media but I did have people who weren’t in the group commenting on my blog! It was super exciting to watch engagement grow.

Allowing Myself to Be More Creative
In the past, I felt like I was putting myself in a box when it came to my writing. You’ll read everywhere that you have to “find your niche” and to “stick to your niche” but personally, I didn’t realise how much that impacted my creativity. I wasn’t worried about sticking strictly to travel stories and tips. I also remembered that I started documenting my health and fitness journey. It allowed me to write some more in regards to health and fitness.

Time Management
By even attempting the challenge I was able to actually understand how to best manage my time to stay on top of my blogging. It helped me figure out that I want to take my blog more seriously. Because of Blogtober, I’ve now given myself timelines to finish posts, I’ve made to-do lists to ensure everything gets done, and I’ve started to dedicate time each day specifically to improving my blog.

By failing, I’ve learned to be more flexible. Instead of being upset and beating myself up when I was unable to write a post, I simply used it as motivation to continue writing. It didn’t make me a bad person for failing; the world didn’t end. Life just got in the way. It’s important to note that there are times in our life where it is SUPER important to step back from our work and focus all our energy on ensuring our mental and physical state is ok. During October, I needed to time to make sure I was ok. If I wasn’t functioning properly, how in the heck could I expect myself to write.

Just because I wasn’t able to write 31 posts in 31 days, this does not mean I completely failed. I learned so much from just from attempting the challenge.  Have you ever taken on a difficult challenge before? How did you fair? I'd love to hear your stories in the comments below!

And until next time...

Stay Curious!

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